Bisexual Parents are Twice as Likely to Be Invisible

 

This post is by K.

I’ve been openly bi/pan/queer since I was 17. I came out as bisexual to my parents and close friends during my senior year of high school. I’d known for a long time that I had the feels for the ladies. In 7th grade, I told my girl friends at a sleepover that I thought I might be a lesbian. DRAMA! I don’t remember what they said, but it couldn’t have been that bad…because…I don’t remember what they said. However, I developed a crush on a cisgender boy shortly after and decided that I definitely wasn’t a lesbian. Phew.

But my crushes on girls didn’t stop. I just stopped talking about them. And I got a funny feeling whenever Christina Ricci came on the screen in Now and Then. By the time I was in high school, I knew who I was–a bisexual chick.

It didn’t help that I lived in a relatively small-town area, where, back in the 90’s, there was no GSA (gay straight alliance). There were no out lesbian or bi girls. So I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to explore or think about my sexuality. There was no one to potentially date–though two of my closest girl friends from high school later came out as queer. I guess we found each other, whether we knew it consciously or not. I even found out that one of my friends had a major crush on me. And I realized, years later, that I had a bit of a crush on my other friend, though I didn’t have words for it at the time. If only we’d actually felt safe to be out…well, high school could have been so much more fun.

I came out in college 100% with rainbow lasers (PEW PEW) and I never looked back. I now identify as queer, because queer feels more true to who I am: political, unapologetic, overly analytic, glittery, & activist. I am still, at my core, bisexual, which I’d define as finding people of many genders attractive. By primarily identifying as queer, I unfortunately aid in the erasure of bisexual identities and stigma around bisexuality. I make things even more problematic when it comes to how others perceive me.

Being out as bi is a constant process of coming out. When I’m dating a guy, people usually assume I’m straight. When I’m dating a woman, people usually assume I’m a lesbian. When people don’t know who I’m dating, they assume I’m straight unless I’m in an LGBTQI space. Then, they assume I’m a lesbian. We all make assumptions. I get it. I’m guilty of mislabeling other people, too, though I actively try to turn off that part of my brain and not assume anyone else’s sexual orientation–regardless of what they look like, their gender identity, or who they are dating.

So what does this all have to do with parenting? Well, what is the most heterosexual assimilating thing you can do? Make the babies. I just know, with my cis femme looks and my (hopefully) future baby bump, that I’m going to have to deal with a lot of assumptions. Even more so because my spouse is an openly trans boi and I don’t out him as trans unnecessarily in our daily life. (“Hi. I’m K and I’m cisgender and this is my spouse and he is transgender. I’ll have the #3 meal with a large diet.”) So people will definitely assume I’m straight. Or, if they see us together, they might assume we’re both lesbians.

Similar to the lack of resources for trans parents, there are also very few resources for bi parents. I have yet to encounter an organization, book, or online resource (other than blogs) specifically for bisexual parents. If anyone knows of something, please send it in my direction.There is a growing number of resources for gay and lesbian parents.  Much that is bi-inclusive in that bisexuals get lumped in with gay and lesbian parents, but specific issues for bi parents are never addressed–and it’s assumed bi parents are in same-gender relationships.

I have three sets of couple friends who are bi/pan/queer, but are in what appears to the world as heterosexual marriages/relationships. For all these couples, both partners identify as bisexual and they have kids together–conceived the old-fashioned way. I have other friends where one partner is bisexual and the other is not, but they are in different-gender relationships that read heterosexual to rest of the world. I can’t speak for their experience, but I have to imagine it is often silencing to be sitting with other moms or dads, with other couples, letting them assume you are straight. Or uncomfortable constantly coming out and correcting people when they assume you are straight because of how your family looks. Or sad to feel left out of the pride parade…literally, when people assume you are an ally when you’re actually in the family.

Some of my queer couple friends are made up of one lesbian/gay person and one bisexual person. I know from talking to them that people, in our own LGBTQI community, typically assume they are both lesbian/gay. And then there is us, W and me, who sort of fall into the male-female couple category, but who are both actively invested in being out as queer, because we don’t want to become invisible to our own communities. But W defines queer for himself in a different way than I do for me…which is what I love about queer as an identity, but it also can add to the invisibility of my bi-ness. I fear being invisible to my own community. I was for quite a while and I don’t want to go back.

What does it mean to be an openly bisexual/queer parent? For me, it means politely correcting people when they make a verbal assumption about my sexual orientation, whether they assume I’m a lesbian or straight. I’m not going to go around with a bi flag sign around my neck, but I will kindly correct people if they mislabel me, as I do now.

W and I work opposite schedules, so we’ll have plenty of times when we are out with future kid alone. It will be interesting to see how other parents interact with us and how other queer families interact with us.

It also means that I plan to be out to my kid. Being out to your kids, as a bisexual person, is a deeply personal choice. I want my kid, when they are old enough to understand concepts like gender and love, to know that there are many identities out there. I want them to know that a woman can love a woman, or a man, or a genderfluid person, or all of the above, or none of the above, or…something else. I want them to know who I am, all of me, and that it is perfectly fine to be bisexual or lesbian or gay or straight or asexual or some other identity. There are things I will keep from my future kid, for sure, but I don’t want my sexual orientation to be one of those things.

Lastly, it means that I plan to write and speak about my experiences as a bisexual parent, adding to the growing voices around the diversity of queer families. We need at least one Google hit for “bisexual parent” that is…actually for, by, and about bisexual parents.

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What’s in a (gender neutral) name?

 

Choosing a name for your kid is a kind of a big deal. We are both the oldest siblings of our families. Maybe that’s why we get along.

W is the oldest of three. His younger sisters both have names that are gender-neutral-friendly. His youngest sister’s name could be masculine or feminine, depending on how you spell it. His other sister’s name is easily shortened to a gender neutral version. Both W’s sisters are cisgender women and fairly gender-normative in their gender expression. Of course, W is the only one who has a very feminine name. He has one of those names that is just not gender-neutral at all, like Rose or Sarah or Penelope. There is no male name that sounds similar, even. So he has a chosen name that works for him, but mainly goes by his last name, which, as you may have guessed, begins with a “W.” W still uses both his given name and chosen name in different situations, but we both think it’s kind of funny that he is the only one out of three siblings that has a really girly name. Coincidentally, K also has a name that could be gender-neutral or easily modified to be a more masculine name.

Sometimes it’s a problem for W that his name is so feminine, but not for the reason you’d think. Anyone who looks like W, regardless of their gender identity, and has a name like W’s legal name, is going to have some awkward moments. At work, W goes by his legal name, by choice and for convenience. W hasn’t changed his first name or gender legally. He doesn’t feel like that’s something he wants to do right now…possibly ever. W could be out as trans* at work, but it hasn’t been necessary so far and it really doesn’t bother him, because he feels his gender is masculine, but somewhat fluid. He binds and wears men’s clothes at work. He presents as himself full-time, which is a little bit his legal name/identity and a lot of his chosen name/identity and living in that fluid space is comfortable for him.

Now, we should say, that for many trans* people, it is very important and very necessary to change their name and/or gender legally. Many trans* people are very uncomfortable and deeply hurt by being called their given/legal name. That is totally valid. For W, specifically, it just isn’t a big deal. His coworkers usually assume he’s a super butch lesbian and, well, at some point he did identify that way, so he doesn’t really mind.

However, getting a job with a name that doesn’t match your gender expression is another thing. When you show up for a job interview looking like W does, like a preppy 6’1″ dude, things can get awkward…and hurtful…fast. At one interview for a security job at Sears, W showed up for his interview a little early. The hiring person greeted him by his given name, looked at him for just slightly too long, and disappeared for almost an hour. He was left waiting in a hallway. Eventually, the hiring person came back out and told him the position had been miraculously filled and they were no longer hiring. OK… Any gender non-conforming person, whether cis or trans*, can tell you many stories of being treated like a freak. Or being misgendered…one way or another.

So for us, picking a name for our future human that is gender-neutral is pretty important. We don’t have a problem with gendered names and could really care less what people name their kids. But for us, our kid, we want them to have a name that is gender-neutral and unique. As we’ve started talking about names, we have found that even when talking about gender-neutral names, we have different feelings about what would make sense for a kid who is male assigned at birth (a “boy”) or a kid who is female assigned at birth (a “girl”). We like Spencer for a girl (female assigned at birth), but not as much for a boy (male assigned at birth). Those gender things just can’t stay out of our head, though ironically we tend to like names that are more masculine-associated for a girl and vice versa. One name that we just recently decided on, over dinner, that works for any gender, is Remi/Remy (spelling yet-to-be-determined).

We don’t plan to raise our future kid gender-neutral. It’s a nice idea, but it’s just not possible for us. We live in the real world. We want our future kid to live in the real world. They are going to see gender all around them, absorb gender norms whether we like it or not, but we do want them to have options.

We want them to be able to play with green plastic army men, like W did as a kid, or with pound puppies, as K did as a kid. Or, more specifically, we want them to be able to play with both, or whatever interests them. K’s heart will probably break into a million pieces if their future kids wants to be a “pink princess,” regardless of what gender they are assigned at birth, but we want it to truly be their choice.

We want them to be able to make up their mind about their gender expression or their gender identity, or change their mind. If our kid turns out to be gender non-conforming, we want them to have a name that works for their gender expression, whatever that is. Of course, if they want to change their name to match their preferred name and identity, that’s cool with us, but we want to at least try to give them a name that is not hyper-masculine or feminine. So, future kid, as of March 2014, we are calling you “Remi/Remy.” You get to decide what that means for you.

Your New Fun Hobby: Fertility Tracking & Charting

This post is by K.

So since we’ve decided to move up the date on our baby-making plans, I’ve started practicing tracking my fertility. Oh wow. Props to the folks who have been tracking for months and years. Props to anyone who practices natural family planning–the fertility awareness method. This is a whole new level of commitment, dude.

So, because it is 2014 and there’s an app for that, I decided I didn’t have the time or patience for a paper tracking method. I went searching for the best FREE fertility app I could find. Apparently, there are quite a few. If you are looking for the app for you, there are some good reviews here and here.

kindarascreenshotAfter much hemming and hawing, I went with Kindara, mainly because it seemed to be the most comprehensive app I could download and use for free. I’m a little less than one month into fertility tracking and it is kind of a fun game. Except when I forgot to take my temperature when I wake up. You don’t get any do-overs on that. Also, I am sorry to report that pretty much all the apps are super “womanly.” You know, pink and purple, flowing lines that resemble a “woman’s body,” pretty little sparkly things. So if that’s not your jam or it feels offensive to you to be putting your cervical mucous and body temperature into a “lady app,” maybe stick to the paper tracking. Or make an excel sheet.

mcalc

If you haven’t ever tracked your fertility, it could certainly be a fun new hobby for you to obsess over. There are four main ways. And I’m gonna’ present them here in a totally gender-neutral way:

EDIT: A couple good friends have suggested Mcalc, the gender neutral menstruation calendar, made by the folks at Sexmind.com. I checked it out and it seems really nice, gender neutral color scheme. Unfortunately, it doesn’t track other fertility indicators (like 1-3 below), but there is a place for you to enter notes. I couldn’t actually download it because the beta version is only available on Android. Sexmind was raising funds to release the beta version on IOS. It doesn’t look like it has been released for IOS yet.

1) Basal Body Temperature – Nope, not like the tasty herb that pairs well with Italian or Thai food. Your basal body temperature measures the slight changes in your body temperature that occur after ovulation and remain elevated until your next period. You can get a fancy basal body temperature thermometer for about $10 at a drug store. Why the special thermometer? Because your body temperature can change by as little as .04-1 degree when you ovulate. You’ve gotta take your temp right when you wake up, after your body has been at rest for some time, before you become active and your body temperature starts changing. This is actually kind of fun, as long as you remember to take your temperature. It’s a little silly when traveling, which I’m doing for work right now, because you have to pack your basal body thermometer and put it next to your bed. I’m glad I’m not sharing a room with anyone because it would be a hard to be discreet about my beepy little pink thermometer. (Pink because fertility is for LADIES! My only option was pink.)

2) Cervical Mucous – Yeah, yummy, good stuff. Nothing is more fun than tracking your cervical mucous. Or saying “cervical mucous.” Maybe we can rename it something less gross-sounding, because it isn’t as gross as it sounds. Like, “happy body fun stuff” or something. So basically, you use your fingers to check what kind of “happy body fun stuff” is coming from your vaginal opening. That part is easy. Then, you track the wetness (how much “happy body fun stuff”) and the consistency (what kind of “happy body fun stuff”) and the feel of it (is your “stuff” slipper, stretchy, dry, wet, etc). You are looking for the day when you have the most clear, slippery, and stretchy “stuff.” That’s your ovulation day. It’s a good way to get in touch with your body…literally. It is also something that you may need to practice. I’m pretty in touch with my body and I still have a hard time deciding whether I’m “sticky” or “creamy” or both or neither. It will take some practice for me to figure out exactly what I’m looking for.

3) Cervical Position – Your cervix is rocking and rolling during your cycle. Well, maybe not that dramatically, but the cervix does respond to hormonal changes. During the infertile phase, the position of the cervical will be low and feel closed  and hard. As fertility increases, the cervix rises higher in the vaginal canal and becomes softer and more open. That means it is ovulation time! After ovulation occurs, the cervix goes back to the low and hard position. Tracking cervical position over several months can help you estimate when you are ovulating. Of course, many people have never touched their cervix because…well, I don’t know…it just never came up. So this can take some getting used to, as well as some time to figure out what your cervix feels like at different times during the month.

4) Menstrual Cycle Tracking – This is the most basic way of tracking your fertility, but one of the most important. Track your period on the calendar for a several months. If you are fairly regular, it should give you an idea of how long your menstrual cycle is. Day 1 of each cycle is the day you start menstruating. After you’ve done this for a while–8 to 12 months–look at your cycles and pick your shortest cycle and your longest cycle. This will help you determine your fertility window. Subtract 18 days from the last day of your shortest cycle. This is the beginning of the fertility window. Subtract 11 days from the last day of your longest cycle. This is the end of your fertility window. You will ovulate at some point during that time frame. Obviously, this method alone is not very specific. If you have the goods at the ready and they are free to you and you can do multiple tries/daily tries each month, by all means use this method alone. However, if you’re like us and will be paying cold hard cash each time you try, I suggest using the menstrual cycle tracking method combined with one or all of the other methods.

I am doing basal body, cervical mucous, and menstrual cycle tracking because I’m an overachiever. Also, frugal. Once I master those, I’m adding in the cervical position method, too. I want to be working with a 2-3 day fertility window, not a 2 week window. So far, I’m loving my app choice because it allows me to track all four–basal body temp, cervical mucous, cervical position, and menstrual cycle. It also charts them for me so I don’t have to struggle through that nonsense. You can add additional things to the chart if you want to track them and see how they effect your fertility. For example, if you wanted to add exercise or diet choices and see if that makes a difference, you could make fields for those in your Kindara chart.

Oh, you can also pee on a stick these days, but that can get expensive if you have truly no idea when you are ovulating, so I plan to incorporate the stick-pee method once I have a pretty good idea of what my body is up to and I’m planning to get fertilized.

So, you know, if you are over your feminist knitting circle or your queer cookie swap, you could take up fertility tracking. If you are a DIY person, you can download an ovulation calendar & chart to proudly display your work.

Here’s to things I never thought I’d be doing! 🙂

Doing Away With Gendered Parenting Roles

“Two moms are better than one!”

“Moms do it best!”

“He’s a really good dad!”

“Just wait ’til your father gets home!”

As we began exploring what parenting might look like for us, we knew pretty early on that W was going to be just as active and probably slightly more active in raising our future kid. In our Western cultural norms, this means that W, being a dude, is a super-duper amazing dad. Or a Mr. Mom.

Because deep deep down (OK, actually not that deep down), we equate “parenting” with “mommy.” W wants to be a great dad. But he’s not a Mr. Mom. He’s a Mr. Dad.

PROOF: Go to the Parenting website right now. Parenting is the largest magazine for parents in the US market, known for their 3 magazines: Parenting, BabyTalk, and Working Mother. Just go to the regular homepage. Count how many times you see mommy vs. daddy vs. gender-neutral articles. Yup, told ya’ so.

The outdated notion that women are better at parenting is boring, cliché, and simply untrueWhile it may seem like not-a-big-deal, perpetuating the idea that mom=parent is dangerous. There is no biological argument to be made that kids need a mom and a dad, though that is exactly what has been argued in court time and again by anti-same-gender marriage folks. Any person can be a great parent. Or a horrible parent. Any person can be a nurturing parent. Or a stern parent. Or teach their kid to cook. Or to throw a baseball.

This way of thinking is also damaging to single parents. If you need a man and woman, single parents are lacking one half of the ideal parenting structure. The unspoken stereotype is that a single parent is, or should be, someone who is looking to not be single anymore. About 1/4 of U.S. families are headed by single moms and about 6% by single dads. Our system doesn’t do nearly enough to support single parents, making it so that many single parents live in poverty, but the issue with single parenting is not that the person lacks a partner. Some single parents may feel that they would prefer a partner. Some are happy with their families, just the way they are. It makes the stigma even higher for single dads, who are either viewed as super men or as incompetent idiots when it comes to parenting, by nature of their gender. (Also see, man can’t cook/clean stereotypes.)

It is the reason we can’t stop talking about “working women” or ,”Can women have it all?!” As long as women are the ones expected to do most of the housework and parenting, it doesn’t matter if they are also the CEO of a Fortune 500. They truly can’t have it all and not because it is too high of a goal. Because the gendered system is flawed. This is the reason K never saw herself having kids. Because you can’t have it all. So K picked career and community activism and social justice over family. Even now, K is having to think about which boards she will resign from, how many after-work meetings she can rationally commit to each week (since W works nights and someone has to be home). Until parenting is gender neutral, seen as something that anyone has equal skills and responsibility for, and until we really address reforms that make it possible to work AND parent, like, you know, PAID PARENTAL LEAVE, we’ll have to keep reading annoying pseudo-feminist pieces about women “having it all.” Noooooooo!

Lastly, this thinking continues to put gender into a binary system. What about folks who, like W, don’t identify strongly as Man or Woman. Like many people in the transgender community, W doesn’t feel strongly that he is the man of the family, but he definitely isn’t a woman. He is definitely not cisgender. So he leans towards the man box. But just slightly outside of it.And, of course, there are also people who identify as genderqueer or genderfluid. What about them?

One of the discussions we had early on was whether there was another word for “dad” that would be more fitting for W. We found some lesbian dads and queer parents using “Baba,” but we’re not sure if that works for us. There really aren’t widely recognized words yet for parents who fall outside of “mom” or “dad.”

Until we start challenging the notion of gendered parenting roles, all of us, not just queer parents, we will continue to struggle to break free from the weight of socially ingrained parenting stereotypes. First step, change the way we talk about parenting. Celebrate all types of parents and families. Affirm that a good parent can be a parent of any gender or relationship status. Stop saying that kids need “male role models” or “a mom’s love,” even if you have the best intentions. Maybe one day we will be like Sweden and have a gender neutral toy catalog. Until then, keep on keeping on, mamas, papas, babas, and parents of all stripes.

Updates from the Birthday Grrl

This post is by K.

It’s my birthday today! I’ve spent all day writing for work. Somehow, I managed to procrastinate on multiple writing projects in such a way that they are all due at the very same time. Or overdue. Don’t judge. Procrastination is how I organize my life. Truth.

We’ve also been procrastinating a bit on the blog. There is so much we want to say! But putting it down in words takes some focus. Here’s where we are, two months in to this blog:

Blog Updates

  • We are still floored by how little there is out there for queer families, but we’ve discovered some awesome queer bloggers along the way. We’ve reached out to some faaaaabulous potential guest bloggers so our blog is not just about our queer family, but a diverse range of queer family experiences. Look for that in 2014.
  • We realized that K is really going to do more of the writing than W, by nature. W’s perspective is really important and his first post was super awesome (and popular–one of the most popular posts). It is just more up K’s alley to pump out a blog post, where it take W some time to get a post ready. So don’t despair if you’re holding out for more W. It’s coming!
  • We have over 218 followers of the blog and 225 on Facebook (and a small following on our underutilized Twitter), which is kind of shocking considering how long we’ve been around, but really validating that people want to read this stuff. With that in mind…
  • We officially bought our domain name. All old links will still work and will redirect to www.queerfamilymatters.com. Ta da!

Personal Updates

  • We decided to move our baby plan up. A lot. We want to start trying this summer. Which makes everything feel more intense. Money has been stressing us out more, as has wanting to cram in more couple-stuff time. These two worries are in conflict with each other. We are planning a very queer return trip to NYC to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Cabaret with Alan Cumming, and maybe Sleep No More (again again) in May. We’re also trying to figure our where to spend and where to save to scrape together the cash for the first rounds of IUI and donor sperm. We are both feeling the pressure. This will all be fleshed out more in a longer blog post, but we basically came to a point recently when we were like, “Wait. What are we waiting for?” Yes, it makes a ton of sense to pay off more debt before incurring baby debt and costs, but on the other hand, we could make it work. We always do.
  • I’ve been having lots of feels about adoption lately–maybe because my birthday was coming up. I even brought up the topic again last night to W, but I know it’s not the best option for us (#homophobia #transphobia #closedvsopen). Another longer blog post on that topic will come eventually, but I have been feeling some sadness that we won’t be adopting. I always thought adoption would be my first choice…but then again, I never thought having kids would be a thing I’d do in real life, so I didn’t really think it all through until recently.
  • I continue to struggle with not being weird. It’s so haaaaaaaaaard. I need a not-being-weird life coach.

Thanks to everyone who has reached out to tell us about their boobaloo baby plans or their queer families or just how much they are enjoying the blog. We’re enjoying writing it, and having these meaningful and helpful conversations with ya’ll. Onward to 2014!

Sleep No More or Our Last Kids-free Couples Vaca and Why It Matters

This post is by K.

We just got back from a weekend trip to NYC. Back when we had fewer grown-up bills and responsibilities, we used to go to NYC once a year or so to indulge in some musicals and theatre. It was our thing. The last couple years, we have taken short trips here and there–Toronto, Florida–usually to catch a concert or event. But this was our first NYC trip together since 2009.

When we first decided to make a boobaloo, we made a list of the things we’d need in order to feel ready, our pre-baby baby plan. One, which I put on the list, was a last adult vacation. No, not like a hedonist resort a la Rosie O’Donnell in Exit to Eden. Like, something memorable we probably wouldn’t do after we had kids. Because having kids limits your vacation time and your social time. A 2011 study found that parents had 90 minutes a day of free time. Yikes.

W and I go out when we want to go out. We can eat in a quiet restaurant. We go grocery shopping at 3am sometimes. We stay up until 3 or 4am most nights. We have been known to sleep in until the early afternoon on Saturdays. On special occasions, we splurge on things that we probably couldn’t afford if we had kids, early admission floor seat Lady Gaga tickets, a one-on-one beluga whale interaction experience at Sea World (I had some vegan ethical feels about this, but it was very cool, and it was on W’s bucket list), an unplanned shopping spree. We put ourselves first and there is nothing wrong with that.

I think the biggest thing that I feel I’ll be giving up is autonomy over my free time. I’m sure that it will be worth it, but there will be days when I will really miss being childfree. So I wanted one last adult couples vacation. We looked at Olivia lesbian cruises (after finding out that they are relatively trans-friendly), other cruises, a Cape Town vacation, swimming with great white sharks (another W bucket list item). Continue reading

Try Not to Be Weird

This post is by K.

Sitting in the driveway in my car, early autumn, W in the passenger seat, engine off:

Me: “I think [having kids] is going to be a super interesting project. Like, probably the most interesting project I ever take on.”

W: “Uh, K…you can’t call kids a ‘project.’ It’s weird.”

Me: “But it is going to be a cool project. I mean, really. Because, you know…I’m not necessarily excited about having a kid. I mean, about actually HAVING a kid. That part sounds kind of horrible. I’m interested in, like, how we would raise a kid together and being openly queer parents and how to raise a kid through a feminist lens without being ridiculous and supporting you in being a primary parent as a dad in a mommy-centric world. So it will be an interesting project–a really interesting project.”

W: “OK. I get that, but if you say it that way to other people, you’d better be prepared.  They’re  going to look at you funny if you talk about kids like a ‘project’.”

Me: “Yeah, I know. People are going to want me to say, ‘OMG, I can’t wait to be pregnant!’ or, ‘I’ve always dreamed of having a baby!’ or,  ‘I’ve always wanted to be a mommy!’ But none of that is true for me. I’m not going to lie.”

W: “Well, you don’t have to lie. Just…try not to be weird.”

When we first made this decision, W wasn’t sure how to react. He tiptoed around me for a couple weeks until I finally asked him why he was being strange. He said he was waiting for me to back out; that he couldn’t believe I would ever, ever be OK with this; that it was more than he imagined was possible; and that he didn’t want to get hurt when I changed my mind back.

As W says frequently, he “knew what [he] was getting into” when we started almost a decade ago, as did I. We were great friends, but poorly fitted in terms of long-term relationship potential. Continue reading

No More Hating Yourself: Body Love, Self-love, and Parenting Decisions

This post is by K.

People, let’s be frank. We all have complicated relationships with our bodies. Oh, yeah, we do. This couldn’t be more true for W and me. We have both struggled with body image for…most of our lives. We are both fat people. We both have been fat for most of our lives, except for little periods of time when we dieted heavily or were really stressed out and unhealthy. I can only imagine I’ll have even more feelings about my body after pregnancy (assuming our plans go off as we hope).

(EDIT: I have personally gone back and forth between what is considered “average size” and plus size, but I have felt  fat my whole life and I’ve been “overweight” compared to the little doctors’ charts my whole life. It is only recently that I’ve claimed fat as a positive and affirming identity, but I’ve benefited from average size privilege in the past, even if I had crappy self-esteem. There are people that have suffered much harsher and crueler fatphobia than me and I totally get that.)

manatee-001

Fat Positive Manatee, best Tumblr in the world.

As an adult, I have made it my goal to love my bod the way it is, to really love myself, not in spite of my size, but inclusive of my size. I have stopped saying things like, “Oh, I’m so fat,” or “Dude, I really need to lose 10 pounds,” to myself. I’ve stopped saying things like, “Wow, have you lost weight?” and “You’re so skinny!” to other people. I tell myself that I look fabulous. I look at my body with and without clothes on and think positive things about myself. I buy clothes that look and feel great. When something doesn’t fit my body, I blame the garment, not my body. I accept that my body is changing as I get older and I try to beat those negative messages out of my head when they pop up. They do pop up. Of course they do. I’ve spent a quarter of a century learning the negative messages, crying over bathing suit shopping, telling myself that I’d be more attractive/desirable/healthy if I was  #   pounds lighter. And I’ve just spent the past few years unlearning it all.

It’s not easy to embrace size acceptance, fat-positivity, body love, whatever you want to call it. We don’t see much body diversity in the media. We see a LOT of negative messages about our bodies all over the place. For those of us who identify as women and/or who were female assigned at birth, we know this experience well. We probably saw women in our life model this self-loathing behavior. For those who grew up as teen girls, we internalized this message hard. By the time we were hitting puberty, we knew to be ashamed of and angry at our bodies, to be jealous of stereotypically hot girls, to always be on a diet, to hate ourselves.

For those who who did not identify strongly as feminine or who were gender non-conforming or just didn’t feel comfortable for whatever reason, this body hate was likely even more intense and confusing. And the reaction may have been to hide under baggy clothes, to be jealous of other kids who were able to better fit into gender norms, to always be obsessing about covering up our bodies, to hate ourselves.

For those who identify as male and/or  were male assigned at birth, you picked up on this vibe, too. For those who grew up as teen boys, you learned pretty quick what a “real man” looked like and acted like. Body image issues disproportionately affect young women, but they affect men, too. Especially queer, bi, or gay men. According to a 2007 International Journal of Eating Disorders study, more than 15% of gay and bi men at some time suffered anorexia,  bulimia or binge-eating disorder, or at least certain symptoms of those disorders, compared with less than 5% of heterosexual men.

So regardless of gender, many people can relate to this feeling of self-loathing, of actively hating your body.

Of course, now that we can look back on our youth with clearer vision, we realize that everyone hated themselves, including the stereotypical  hot guys and girls, the popular ones. This stuff runs deep and it is toxic.

These are the reasons I never wanted to have a kid. I don’t want to expose a lovely innocent little kid to this world that is so full of negative messages and bad stuff. There’s so much bad stuff out there. I’d rather spend my time fighting it.

According to a 2011 national study, the median age of onset for eating disorder diagnoses is 12- to 13-years old. The majority  of adolescents with eating disorders express significant impairment (inability to cope) and a higher risk of suicide. By age 6, girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls, ages 6-12, are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat.

Need more proof? Here’s some stats from the National Eating Disorders Association. Be aware that eating disorders have been on the rise every decade since the 1950’s, so some of these older statistics are possibly even higher today.

  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (1991).
  • In elementary school fewer than 25% of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves and can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively (2011; 2009).
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (1991).
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (1992).
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (2005).

What can parents and/or caregivers do to combat that?! To balance it out? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers! Part of the reason I never saw myself with kids is that I want a better world for a future kid. Even though I’ve decided to become a parent, I still feel deeply that we need to do better.

I will continue to fight for better and more diverse representation of bodies in the media, for better info about the link between weight and health (which is greatly exaggerated), and for more inclusivity everywhere. But it won’t be enough. There will still be magazines and t.v. and peers and THE REST OF THE WORLD to tell my future kid that they are not pretty enough or good enough.

I know one thing I can do. It is simple, but it’s kind of really really really hard, too. I do not want my future kid to hear negative messages about fat, size, bodies, in our house. I want to model positive attitudes towards bodies, especially as a fat person. Future kid will get plenty of negative messages from everywhere else in the world. I can’t do much, but I can give them another perspective, genuine positive reinforcement, and maybe a little emotional armor. So that means I won’t complain about my pant size or weight in front of my kid (or ever). I will compliment myself and my partner as much as I compliment my kid. I will wear things that make me feel great. I will speak positively about other people’s bodies and looks. I won’t comment on other people’s weight. I will encourage healthy habits, but I won’t focus on diet or weight. I won’t starve myself or deny myself dessert and I won’t talk about “good food” and “bad food.” I will probably mess this up sometimes. It’s easy to say now, but may be harder to do than I think with a real, live kid in front of me and a post-pregnancy body. But I’m really going to try. And I’m going to keep practicing being kind and loving to myself in the meantime.

I just don’t think you can tell a kid that they are beautiful just the way they are, then go on to say how much you hate your thighs and think that they aren’t going to pick up on it. I picked up on it as a kid. Future kid will, too. It’s not enough to say the rights things to our kid. We have to say the right things to ourselves, too, or this cycle of self-hate and body-shame will never change.

Happy Family & Feast Day!

It’s the official American holiday of gorging yourself on unrefined carbs (yay!) and gravy-laden proteins and gourd-related delicacies until you can’t move and falling asleep in front of the T.V. with your closest loved ones. Hooray!

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that has troubling roots–colonialism and whitewashing, to be specific. Native Americans are still fighting for basic protections and equal rights in this country and Thanksgiving can be a sad reminder of a bloody past. The cultural appropriation this time of year is a bit out of control. This week, little kids all over the country learned in school about how the Native Americans and pilgrims sat down to share some corn. They probably made construction paper pilgrim hats and feather headdresses. This story is kind of (not really) based in truth. What they didn’t learn is about the Trail of Tears, the displacement and mass genocide of indigenous people, and the stealing of people’s homes and land.

But putting aside the problematic “pilgrims and Indians” imagery that goes with the holiday, it is a day that many of us still celebrate for two important reasons:

  • Thankfulness: Being grateful for all the things we have and giving back to those that have less.
  • Family time: Spending quality time with the extended family over comfort food and lots of desserts.

Celebrating family and reflecting on who and what we are grateful for is a great reason to get together and to enjoy that part of the holiday every year. We celebrate with both our families every year and love the excuse to eat loads of food and hang out with our siblings and parents. We are grateful to have families that are awesome. Sometimes we have a separate gathering with our other family, our close friends.

On Saturday, we’ll celebrate with W’s family. Tonight, we ate with K’s parents. Or, rather, K’s parents cooked us an awesome (and deliciously vegan-inclusive for K) meal with all the fixings. As we posted pics from our dinner on Facebook, K realized that all four of us look totally different. Even though we are a 100% legally bound family, none of us are blood related (though we look fabulously cute together). Family is so much more than who is legally bound to each other or who shares genetics. It is the people who love us, who raised us, who supported us, at any point in our life.

Many queer and trans* folks struggle around the holidays because they are estranged from the families they were born or adopted into or far from their families. Many, especially those without supportive parents, create close friend relationships and community relationships that are just as valid and real (and just as drama-filled and ridiculous) as the families we were born or adopted into.

Today, some people are celebrating with their partner(s). Some with their furkids. Some with their human kids. Some with their huge extended families. Some with their partner’s family. Some with their parents and/or grandparents. Some with their siblings. Some with their closest friends and loved ones. Some with their communities. Some are alone. Some are working horrible hours at some Black Friday-related job. Some folks are having a challenging time today, having lost a loved one or spending the day caring for a sick loved one.

We hope that wherever you are, however you celebrated (or didn’t celebrate) this holiday, you know you are loved and that we are thankful for the amazing awesomeness you bring to the world!

W: I’m thankful for my best friend Jeter, K, the wiggles and buns, and…that’s probably it.

K: I’m thankful for stuffing, stretchy-pants, the furbabies, and W…in that order.

What are you thankful for today?

There is no such thing as a “traditional family.”

K had a great IRL conversation with a friend recently about family, what a traditional family means, what queering a traditional family means. We realized that the idea of “shamelessly queering the traditional family” needed some…explanation. First of all, “traditional” should really have airquotes in our blog’s tagline. Why? Because there is no such thing. Families are diverse. Families are weird. Families are not static–they are always changing and growing. Families are unique–like special snowflakes. (Aww.) The idea of the “traditional family” is a myth and one that has no place here.

“Shamelessly queering the traditional family” is not meant as a dig towards two-parent households or heterosexual parents or anyone else. It’s a dig at the idea, and the perpetuation of the idea, that there is such thing as a traditional family, as “traditional family values,” any way of talking about family that leaves people feeling less-than. Our intention was never to leave our own peoples feeling less-than or not-queer-enough or not-liberal-enough.

Let’s consider this the companion piece to our very first post, What is a queer family?

This is an actual picture from the Stepford Wives website, an org devoted to “traditional family values.”

First of all, there is no such thing as a traditional family. It is not even a thing! It’s a buzzphrase that was, literally, made up for political gain by the GOP. So what is meant when we typically discuss traditional family or traditional family values (usually from right-wing, religious extremists)? Usually, what is meant is a 2-parent household with 2 cisgender parents–one male and one female–with 2.5 children and a male breadwinner and a subservient wife. Of course, this describes many families, including many very non-traditional families. What is different about the “traditional family values” rhetoric is that it implies that this family configuration is the only kind of family that matters, that it is the right kind of family. “Traditional family values” rhetoric tends to be anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, anti-single parents, sexist, racist, classist, and based in dangerously conservative religious beliefs. In other words, traditional families are actually the minority–the very vocal minority. Most families couldn’t fit this rigorous moral standard if they even wanted to. This is the type of “traditional family” we want to “queer.”

The reality is that most families today (and always, really) are not “traditional.” We have no close friends that we would put in that category. Our friends are generally pro-feminist, anti-racist, pro-LGBTQ rights, and politically and socially progressive. Regardless of their family demographics, even if it is one cisgender dad and one cisgender mom with the 1.5 kids and picket fence, our friends are not “traditional families.” Not in the loaded, close-minded sense of the word anyhow.

Our families wouldn’t shame single parents. Our families wouldn’t shame poor people. Our families don’t look down on multiracial couples or multiracial kids. Our families wouldn’t shame our kids, relatives, or friends for coming out as gay, lesbian, bi and/or transgender. Our families think gender norms are meant to be broken. Our families work really hard to be inclusive and want our kids, nieces, and nephews to grow up in a world where folks are treated equally. When our families do seem to line up with the plastic picture of the “traditional family,” it is by choice or circumstance, not because it is the right way to have a family or the best way to have a family.

So to  readers who may not identify as a “queer family,” we by no means intended to imply that you are a traditional family, or that all families that are not super-progressive and super-queer are bad. Unless you are a bigot, you are welcome here.

We also didn’t mean to imply that family traditions are bad. We love family traditions. We love celebrating holidays with our families. We love the traditions around food and culture and the passing down of family things. We talk about the things we want to pass down to our future kid from our childhood. We talk about the family recipes that no one else can replicate. We love our non-traditional traditional families, both which fall into the 2-parent cisgender heterosexual category. W’s family that was welcoming of a lesbian and then trans offspring. K’s family that adopted two kids from the other side of the world. We both grew up with family values that racism and sexism are wrong, that you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up, and that we’ll be loved unconditionally forever.

In an ideal world, “traditional family” wouldn’t be a term co-opted by the religious right. Maybe there wouldn’t need to be a distinction at all. There would just be families.  Families would have their own traditions and values specific to their own beliefs and cultures. And wouldn’t try to press them on anyone else.