Baby T. Rex is Due August 20th!

Hey folks,

We know we’ve been on hiatus for a while now. But we did need to tell you, if you haven’t caught the news on Autostraddle or Instagram yet, that we’re pregnant! More specifically, Kae is pregnant and we’re both excited!

KaeLyn is going to blogging about it for Autostraddle in a miniseries called “Countdown to Baby T. Rex.” Follow her thoughts, feelings, and snark there! If you want to find our why the name is “Baby T. Rex,” head over to Autostraddle for the first installment: “Crying Over Masterchef Junior and Halfway There (23 Weeks.”

Some other queer baby stuff you may have missed:

Gayby Maybe? The Epic Queer Parenting Roundtable! – foster adoption, adoption adoption, IUI, feelings, heartbreaks, and more from queer parents and parents-to-be

Caitlin’s Pregnancy Stories for Autostraddle – Caitlin’s thoughts on loss, miscarriage, birth, joy, and pregnancy

Queer Mama Video Blog for Autostraddle and the birth of Juniper Jude – Haley and Simone’s journey from pre-conception to parents!

Thanks for reading and following our blog, as always, and wish us luck!

❤ KaeLyn & Waffle

My Top Five Promises to My Queer Childfree Friends

This post is by K.

Up until recently, I identified as childfree by choice. Even though my life circumstances and my personal decision have shifted, I have a lot of warm feelings and a deep understanding of the joys and principles of being childfree. I still contend that I wouldn’t do this on my own, that my relationship with W and his desire to actively parent, and the strength of our relationship are huge pieces of this decision.

Since I’m in my 30’s and this is the era of baby explosion for my generation, I’ve also watched a lot of my friends become parents and witnessed how their lives have changed. There’s a lot of fluffy mommy pieces on the internets about childfree folks vs. parents and, while it’s sometimes funny, it smacks of blatant sexism. Yeah, we need to build affinity with people like ourselves and absolutely, we all deserve respect, but we are battling this BS patriarchy together, whether that is by opting out of kid-having or raising awesome kids. So here’s my revised version of that top ten list. With a queer angle.


My Top 5 Promises to My Queer Childfree Friends

1) I won’t ever ask why you don’t have kids or when you are going to have them.

For queer people, especially, this is a really loaded assumption. For one, even if we want kids, it is not as easy as hopping into bed for many of us. (Of course, that method does work for some queer folks!) Also, some of us grew up in times or places when having kids as a queer or trans* person just was not a thing you could do. Or we have kids from a previous relationship, before we came out, and they are no longer in our life. Compulsory marriage and kid-having is a thing of the heterosexual world. Let’s not conform to that BS in queer communities.

2) I will continue to include you in my life.

Sure, shared experience is helpful. It’s why community is so important. I will probably make some new friends that have the shared experience of child-raising with me, but I will still need and want my close friends who share other experiences and identities with me. I will still be the person who wants to talk about politics and feminisms and theory, about pop culture and reality TV, about work and life issues. I also don’t want to relegate you to some obsolete pod of non-parent-friends and only do baby stuff with my parent friends. I want you in my life, in every way. In fact, I’m going to need childfree people in my life more than ever that keep it queer and keep it real while navigating the very heteronormative world of “mom-ness.” Please come over and talk about non-baby stuff with me and baby stuff, too.

3) I won’t act like my life is way harder than yours. 

Because that is some ridiculousness. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s gonna’ be pretty challenging and there will be days I feel like it’s the hardest thing ever, keeping a kid alive and healthy. But that doesn’t mean that you have it easy or that your problems are not just as hard or hard in a different way. This is not a competition. This is not “the struggle is real” Olympics. Let’s support each other through the hard times, like we always have, OK?

4) I promise not to take it personally if you don’t invite me out.

I’m going to have a live human person who needs me 24/7. For a while, this may make it hard to hang like we used to. However, I know this is about my life, not yours. If you choose not to invite me to things (like bars or late-night hangs or last-minute movies) because it’s damn obvious that I won’t be able to come, I will not take offense. I will take it as a sign of respect that you get that my schedule has changed. If you do still invite me, that is really awesome, too. I’m going to assume best intentions all the way around. Let’s both assume best intentions all around.

5) I will still be there for you, even if my life and priorities have shifted.

My kid is going to be my #1, obviously, but that doesn’t mean you’re not my #2 (OK, my #3 if Waffle is still around, which he probably will be). Will I still be able to dash out of the house to bring you coffee? No, probably not. But it is 2015 and there is chat and texting and Skype and a million ways to connect. I may have more strains on my time and energy, but for my closest, bestest friends, I will always have time for you. I’ll make the time. Just be patient with me if I have to go check on a crying infant halfway through our conversation.


If we are successful in all this, we could have a babe at this time next year. And I imagine it will be absolutely ridiculously more hard than I could ever imagine. I bet it’ll be surprising in a lot of ways. I may fall off the face of the earth for a little while as I figure out how life works with this additional person in it. But I don’t think that means we have to forget about each other. I don’t plan to “close a chapter” on my childfree friends. I don’t plan to graduate into “true womanhood” vis a vis my uterus. Let’s not let the patriarchy tear us down like that, OK?

Autostraddle is Looking for Queer Mama Writers! (Paid Gig)

I can think of some cool queer moms who should totally submit to do this. Deadline is 2/9. See call for submissions below:


http://www.autostraddle.com/call-for-submissions-brand-new-queer-mamas-275381

Call For Submissions: Brand New Queer Mamas

We’re growing up a lot around here and we want desperately for this site to grow up with us. In fact, Laneia and Riese have made this their #1 priority for 2015 — to get more stuff on this site geared towards gay ladies in their thirties, like them!

First up? We’re looking for a columnist in a same-sex relationship who is either currently pregnant with their first baby, or who has recently (within the last few years) birthed a brand new human into this glorious world and would like to write  ~1,500-2,500 words about it every other week or so. Basically you’ll be talking about the joys, trials and tribulations of becoming/being pregnant, getting ready for a baby, and being a new mom. We’ll want some of this to be about the period of time immediately after your human burst onto this planet, but that can be done in retrospect if it’s been a year or two since that time.

To apply, send an email to riese [at] autostraddle [dot] com and laneia [at] autostraddle [dot] com with:

  • YOUR MOM in the subject line.
  • A brief cover letter that tells us who you are, your writing experience and the kinds of things you imagine you could write about in this column.
  • Either a draft of what would be your first column (preferred, but we realize you’re probably very busy and might not be able to pull this off for an application) or links to examples of your writing online that will give us an idea of your writing style.
  • If you have a clever title idea, we’re all ears.

Please do not send us any word documents!

The main thing we’re looking for is a witty and intelligent writing voice and somebody we can count on to meet deadlines. Payment is $50/post. Deadline is Monday February 9th!

While you’re all here, we’re also interested in hearing from adoptive parents, step-parents, and parents whose babies aren’t really babies anymore! And we’ve had multiple requests for a story about sex after childbirth. If you can speak to any of these things, please hit up our submissions page!

Also, if you’re in your thirties and have requests for the types of stories you’d like to see, let us know in the comments!

The Library is Open – LGBTQ Picture Books for Kids

Seriously, who doesn’t love picture books?! If you were lucky enough to grow up in a home with books and an adult to read them to you–unfortunately not everyone is–you probably have a favorite picture book. K’s favorites, in no particular order, were:

kaefavbooks

It used to be that there were very few kids that featured queer or, really, any non-normative characters. Heather Has Two Mommies was revolutionary in its time–truly groundbreaking–and still shows up on Banned Book lists regularly. While we would kill to have a copy of the original print of Heather Has Two Mommies  (before they removed the artificial insemination section), there are thankfully many, many books for queer families now. The world of LGBTQ* kids’ literature is ever-expanding to include books about gay and lesbian parents, friends, children, and trans* and gender non-conforming kids. While not always readily available at your local book store, thanks to the handy dandy internet, you can have a little queer library with some disposable income and a few clicks. Here’s a round-up of queer and trans* picture book lists:

1. 40 LGBTQ-Friendly Picture Books for Ages 0-5 (Autostraddle)

2. LGBT Children’s Literature list (Goodreads)

3. Books for Kids in Gay Families (a little dated language, but a HUGE list)

4. Flamingo Rampant (not a list, but an exciting new micro press for feminist, LGBTQ-themed picture books for and about gender-independent kids and families)

Get to reading!

Here are a couple on our must-have list, if you’re looking to buy us a present or whatever–you know…

Look at that adorable sperm and egg hanging out together!
whatmakesababy

Love this concept as a way of normalizing gender nonconforming or gender-free kids!
backwardsday

We got this book for our niece because she likes penguins. We like them, too.
tangomakes3

Let them have it, kid!
fabulous

Um, obviously for the anthropomorphic guinea pigs. Duh.
unclebobby

Having three!
mommiescando

The main character, Bailey, is the cutest.
10000dresses

Pride and Parades: A Reflection on Queer Family

This post is by K.

This past June, most of the world celebrated pride month. In our city, the pride parade and celebration always happens in July. Pride is something special for many of us. It has gone pretty far off the path from its radical roots. Some question the co-opting of pride by corporations and the assimilation of LGBTQI people into the mainstream by participating in such events. Some have organized other subversive events for queer and trans* people who oppose the commercialization and commodification of pride.

1st Annual Gay Pride March 1970

First gay pride march in NYC, 1970

I certainly wonder what pride means in 2014, with ticketed entry and parade registration fees and a whole generation between Stonewall rioters and today’s glittered and rainbow-spackled parade. It is much more party and much less political. To some degree, this is a marker of success. As with many activist movements, radical dissent dies down once discrimination becomes more subtle. It’s easier to celebrate marriage equality than to deal with the real issues we still face. Health disparities, violence, homelessness, poverty, discrimination… Many would be surprised to know that the murder rate of LGBTQHI people is on the rise and 90% of LGBTQHI people murdered are people of color–not good material for a float.

I have lots of thoughts about pride.  However, W and I still enjoy pride because it still brings us together with our larger community. There is still a feeling of comradery when hundreds of folks take to the streets, a feeling of liberation in walking through the city in nothing but your sparkly underwear. There is value in honoring the legacy of gay and queer and trans* rights activists, for those of us who know our history, or lived it. It is important to celebrate what we have–in other countries, being queer or trans* is illegal and people are arrested and worse for being out.

Growing up in a rural area, I never could have imagined something like pride. Many queer & trans* folks remember their first pride fondly. Or their first trip to the gay bar. There is a startling, overwhelming sense of familiarity and excitement the first time you step into a crowd of people with whom you share a deeply personal identity. It’s like coming home, except you didn’t know it was home until you got there. It’s why we call our communities our “family.”

As in, “Oh, her? Yeah, she’s family.” Or to a newly out person, “Welcome to the family!”

We create real queer families, too. In college, W and his former long-term  partner were often referred to as “mom” and “dad” by younger queer friends. And they did “raise” many of those “kids,” counseled them through coming out, drove them to the gay bar, loaned them books and movies, listened to their breakup stories, gave fashion and drag tips. Queer families are kinship through love, not blood (something that makes sense to me as an adoptee). For many of us, our queer families kept us alive in our hardest times.

One of the things I miss most about being in college was that queer family was, literally, down the hall or across the quad. It was easy to find each other, if you wanted to be found. It is harder now, in our 30’s, to find and nurture queer fam relationships.

Queer family is at the core of gay and lesbian movements, historically, too. In the 60’s and 70’s, many gay and lesbian folks were abandoned by their bio/legal families when they came out. Or were not out to their bio/legal families at all. Folks flocked to San Francisco and NYC (and still do) to find queer family. Lesbian separatists created all-woman collectives that disrupted heteronormative family structures. During the height of the AIDS crisis in the 80’s, gay men relied on their queer families when, quite literally, no one else was there to support them.

Today, though we have made huge strides in terms of social and cultural equity, there are many folks who are still left out. Within LGBTQI culture, white white-collar gay men have taken the lead, with white white-collar lesbian women right behind them, in terms of who gets the most representation and access to community. For people of color, for trans* people, for bi people, for poor queer & trans* people, and others who don’t fit the mainstream picture, there is a need to form queer families within the larger LGBTQI community. Queer family is ever-more important in a culture where we are being pushed to conform to a “safe” notion of what LGBT looks like.

As W and I embark on adding a kid to the mix, I think about what it means to look like a “traditional” family, in the most conservative context–a dad, a mom, a baby, two cars, and a mortgage. As it has been important to both Waffle and me to be openly queer in our relationship, it is important that our family is not “the new normal.” While some LGBTQI people want to be “normal,” I really do not. As I venture into the tricky world of parenting, I will need my queer family more than ever. It is the reason we started this blog. It has been a joy finding other queer parents and queer parents-to-be. It has also been amazing sharing this process with our current friends, including many who are childfree.

This year, at pride, I’ll be thinking about queer family, who has access to it and who does not, what it means. I’ll be thinking about my own queer family members who have nurtured me along the path to where I am today. I’ll be thinking about future-kid and our little queer family, the one they will be born into. And I’ll be thinking about the extended queer family I hope they will be exposed to and loved by, as we have been.

Heart Cockles Warmed: You are You Photo Project by Lindsay Morris

Buzzfeed published this photo story about Camp You are You today, a camp for gender non-conforming kids who are male assigned at birth, feating photographs of campers by Lindsay Morris. The photo project itself isn’t new. Morris’ photos have been featured in many high profile publications over the past few years, including the cover of the New York Times.

Morris’ is currently wrapping up a Kickstarter campaign to publish a fine art book of the photos, which is 7 days and less than $300 away from the goal. For $25 or more, you will be acknowledged in the book and invited to the launch party in New York. For $50 or more, you get a signed copy of the book!

The photos are beautiful. They give you that happy heart feeling.

youareyou5

 

youareyou1

 

youareyou8

 

youareyou3

 

youareyou2

 

youareyou4

 

youareyou6

Lesbians are Not Better Parents a.k.a. Put Down that (Racist, Classist) Study Right Now

Every time some new study (like this or this or this) comes out that praises lesbian parents for being the cream of the crop, we look at each other and groan. Inevitably, this study spawns many posts and articles, which then clog up our Facebook walls with self-righteous shares. Don’t get me wrong. Same-gender couples have a reason to want to prove themselves. There’s a lot of hate out there and, especially when it comes to the fight for marriage equality, the issue of same-gender couples not being acceptable or safe parents comes up over and over. The stereotype about predatory LGBTQ pedophiles is still out there, deeply rooted in some parts of the U.S. and world. We have reason to celebrate being declared not only fit to parent, but better at it.

Cue the music:

OK, I get it. But let’s shine a brighter light on those studies. As the researchers themselves will often assert, the study conclusions are more about the lack of difference between same-gender and different-gender parents than anything else. The success of lesbian parents is less about inherently being better people (Of course, we are, but you know…forget that for a second) and more about the kind of lesbian parents who are studied. For the 2010 study that got a lot of attention, the subjects were studied for 25 years. The study originated in 1986. If you were alive back then, think back to 1986. Remember where queer and trans* rights were in 1986. Or, rather, were not. 1986 is the year that the SCOTUS upheld Georgia’s sodomy laws, which banned oral or anal sex between “homosexuals.” It is the year that Surgeon General published the first government publication on AIDS and safer sex practices for gay men. It is the year after Rock Hudson died of AIDS and the year before ACT UP was founded. Yup, that’s 1986.

On top of this, the 2010 study only looked at a sample of parents who used artificial insemination to have kids. OK, now remember all we know about the cost of insemination procedures. Yeah, some of the parents may have used the turkey baster method, but more likely is that they were recruited for the study because they were inseminated by a fertility specialist. And that costs big bucks. It also means the couples were relatively young because they were able to conceive through insemination.

It also didn’t take into account the many same-gender couple who are raising kids from previous relationships, who got pregnant accidentally or on purpose through sex with a partner, or who are single and LGBTQ. Many of the folks I know who are LGBTQ parents have kids from previous relationships or partners–especially those who came out later in life. I only know a handful who conceived through fertility treatment. Those I do know have done so in the last decade or so, as LGBTQ rights have come a long way, as well as reproductive technology.

So who, in 1986, was able to, with their same-gender lesbian partner, have access to artificial insemination? Middle and upper class lesbians, mainly. Most likely, though I haven’t seen this data, they are probably college-educated and mostly white. The author of the study admits that the studied group was not geographically or socially diverse and suggests future studies try to correct this.

Studies like this are important to prove that queer and trans* parents are just as capable of raising kids as heterosexual couples. This info is necessary to combat the stereotype of the superior “traditional family.” However, writing a headline or status update that basically says that same-gender couples are better parents is not really true. Or at least, that hasn’t been proven. It ignores that these studies are looking at a small and very privileged few.

There-is-no-normal

From the awesome Strong Families Movement–Click on image to check them out!

What it may prove may have more implications for reproductive justice than lesbian and gay rights. It may show that families where pregnancies are planned and wanted have more successful parenting outcomes–even more reason we should support and fund the health care people need (contraception, abortion, fertility care, etc) to plan pregnancy. And even more reason we should support parenting options like adoption–especially for same-gender couples who want kids but can’t get pregnant (by choice or by chance). It may prove that talking openly with your kids about self-identity and issues like sexual orientation and gender identity result in better parenthood outcomes. It may prove that relying less on outdated gender stereotypes results in emotionally healthier kids. Of course, we need different studies to prove these things, but if we want to draw sweeping conclusions, these conclusions make more sense than “Hey Conservatives! Gays are better parents than you!

Even more troubling than making the sweeping conclusion is what it means when you create a higher standard of parenting for LGBTQI parents. Based on a standard set by very privileged LGB couples. The pressure to be perfect LGBTQI people and couples is already out there–the pressure to be normal, to have healthy relationships, to not make us look bad to the public or each other. But the reality is that our communities experience intimate partner violence at about the same rate as heterosexual couples. You can bet that child abuse, unfortunately, does happen in households with one or more LGBTQI parents. Let’s not sugarcoat the truth in the quest to be seen as valid and capable parents. Let’s not forget that there are many LGBTQI parents who live in poverty, who have children from previous relationships or partners, or who are single parents. Let’s not forget that class and race play a part in how we frame same-sex parenting…and how we make invisible members of our own community.

Bisexual Parents are Twice as Likely to Be Invisible

biumbrella

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.

Rainbow letters: 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.

What’s in a (gender neutral) name?

Male and female symbols with the words "boy" and "girl" inside the symbols.

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.

The K&W Secret to a Winning Relationship

This post is by K.

This month, we celebrated our 9 year dating anniversary and 3 year legal wedding anniversary. 9 years into our relationship and 3 years into marriage, we are going strong. We’re not perfect, but we are pretty darn happy together. And we sometimes are asked, “What’s your secret?”

The secret is not what you’d think. The secret is that our relationship was really horrible at some points. By horrible, I don’t mean we fought a lot or broke up a few times, though we did both of those things in those darker days. I mean horrific, immature, and emotionally abusive behavior. Really bad stuff. The worst. It’s hard to admit, because we want to make it look easy and because we’re ashamed of some of our past, but it’s the truth. We had to make a decision, early on, to work hard on ourselves. Over time–lots of time–we finally got to a point where we could be this happy, this safe, and this close. And to do that, we have to own up to our past and be honest about it.

We got together in our early twenties and were still figuring ourselves out. I don’t know for sure, but I hope that, if we met today and had those same problems, we would both walk away from a relationship that was so toxic. I would never advise a friend to stay in a relationship that made them unhappy or made them feel unsafe (emotionally or physically). There is no guarantee that it will ever get better. I can’t stress this enough.

Because there is so much pressure on LGBTQI people to be models of equality and integrity, unhealthy relationships and intimate partner violence in our relationships is something we just don’t talk about. Our own communities sometimes shame us into silence. We’re already seen as deviant and perverts, so we have to only show happy, healthy, “normal” LGBTQI couples. Additionally, domestic violence or intimate partner violence is framed in public discourse as an issues between cis men (abusers) and cis women (victims), in a really heteronormative way. Still, multiple studies show that people of any gender can be abusers or survivors/victims. Statistics for cis men and for LGBTQI people are fuzzy because of underreporting–lack of organizations and resources to report to, fear of law enforcement, fear of being outed, lack of support networks, shame from our own cultures and communities, etc. What statistics are available show that same-gender domestic violence happens at about the same rate (25% or 1 out of 4) as in heterosexual relationships.

To read stories of intimate partner violence in queer relationships, check out this article from the Atlantic (TRIGGER WARNING). If you think you might be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, please contact the National Coalition of Anti- Violence Programs, which keeps a national list of LGBTQI domestic violence/partner violence resources or call the NYC-based hotline: 212-714-1141.

I think W and I are the exception to the rule. We are not the norm. Again, I’d never advise someone to stay in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Or to get back into one. I wouldn’t advise 20-something me to stay if we had to do it over again. Some people might not consider our relationship abusive because it involved mainly emotional abuse and because it doesn’t fit the typical narrative of the “cycle of violence.” Some might argue that we were just immature and unhealthy. But that’s just not true. I’m going to call it out and talk about it publicly. Because it needs to be talked about and if we hide it, we allow it to become a place of shame for both of us. And we continue to hide the fact that abuse and unhealthy relationships happen in LGBTQI families.

Here’s the silver lining for us. Because of our horrible, terrible, very bad relationship past and the trauma we had to work through individually and as a couple, we came out the other end way stronger. We feel like the worst is behind us and we could tackle almost anything now.

I set out to write this post about tips for a healthy relationship, but I felt I couldn’t do it without being honest about our history. I couldn’t sugar coat it. But we are in an awesome place now. We wouldn’t be bringing a kid into the world if we weren’t. So here are a few of the things we learned and practice today…and none of that flowery crap about keeping the romance alive. This is for reals stuff.

1) Learn how to fight.
kittens fightingSeriously, this is so important. We don’t see a lot of good models of healthy fighting on TV. Watching two people “talk it out” isn’t great for ratings. If anything, we see abusive behaviors spun as hot and sexy romance. Like in this really not-OK commercial for Haagen-Dazs gelato. Many of us don’t get a great model at home, either. Some of us come from abusive homes and have no framework at all for what a healthy fight looks like. This is something every couple has to learn. It is essential to a healthy relationship.

Conflict is a part of every healthy relationship. I would be more concerned about a relationship where there is no fighting because that probably means that conflict is going unaddressed. There are lots of articles and resources with advice on “fair fighting” or “healthy fighting.” Read up. Agree to some ground rules. And if there is more to work out individually or as a couple that is keeping you from fighting and communicating about conflict in a healthy way, consider talking to a counselor.

2) You do you.
RuPaulPicturewithQuoteBeing a pan/bi/queer cisgender woman, I’ve had long term relationships with straight cisgender men and, therefore, been well-curated in heteronormativity. One thing that is different in stereotypical hetero relationships is that the gender line is drawn in the sand very clearly. It is normal for the cis man to have his friends and the cis women to have her friends, separate from each other. So you can talk about beer and boobs with your boys if you’re a guy. Or talk about makeup and tampons with your girls if you’re a woman.

In queer and trans* communities and relationships, you often have the same friends and spaces and communities. Of course, none of this is universally true, but I do feel there is even more pressure to meld into one big sparkly queer entity in queer relationships. It’s easy to lose yourself. Healthy couple are not identical twins. It’s OK to disagree, even to disagree a lot. Hold onto the things that make you, you. Whether it’s your style, your music, your favorite activities or bigger things like your career goals, your personal ambitions, your dreams and aspirations…nurture yourself. And nurture your partner’s individuality, too. This means, yes, spending time alone or separate from each other. It also means being open to compromise and hard work when your big different things come into conflict with each other. (See #1.)

I will never like football with the passion that W does. W will never love Tim Curry with the fevered burning of a thousand suns like I do. W will never really like leopard print, but he will buy me leopard print things because I will always love it and wear it proudly. It’s OK. W will never love the idea of living in a really big city (NYC, SF, DC). I will never be down to move to a rural area or a rich white conservative suburb. These things are OK, too. W will probably never go back to school and will probably never want to move to another place. I might and have considered graduate or law school more than once–including going full-time to law school far from our home. We can make these things work, too, because we trust each other and respect each other as individuals.

3) Own your own sh*t.
dog poop scooping with words: "Clean Up Your Own Shit"This is the hard part. You are going to mess it up. Maybe you’ll make a really selfish decision without consulting your partner. Maybe you are going through some stuff personally (depression, anxiety, stress) and you are bringing it into the relationship without talking about it or working on it. Maybe your partner is going through some stuff personally (depression, anxiety, stress) and you are holding it against them without talking about it. Maybe you freaked out for absolutely no reason. Maybe you are acting angry, but you are really sad or frustrated or disappointed…or hangry (Hanger = hunger-induced anger. It’s a real thing, people.). Maybe you are saying or doing really not-OK racist, ableist, classist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic stuff without realizing it. Maybe you have your own stuff that you need to work on before you can be healthy in your relationship. Maybe that involves getting counseling or focusing on your health. Own your sh*t. Check yourself. Apologize when you mess it up and really mean it. No passive aggressive apologies! Work on yourself first. And, on the flip, hold your partner(s) accountable. Don’t make excuses for their bad behavior. Don’t let problems fester for days, months, years–talk about your issues before they becomes a huge, monstrous, insurmountable problem.

Sometimes W and I joke that we stay together because we’ve put so much work in and couldn’t imagine starting from scratch. When people tell us how good we are together, we are really appreciative. Because we agree. And because that was not always true.