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!

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?

Privilege Check: The Right to Parent and Queer Communities

This post is by K.

W and I are both 100% in support of reproductive rights and health. I worked at Planned Parenthood for half  a decade. During my time there, I got into reproductive justice. I got in deep. I learned a lot from others in the movements. I also spent a lot of time helping others, especially those deeply rooted in pro-choice activism, to “get” what repro justice is. Pro-choice and repro justice aren’t synonyms. Here’s a definition of reproductive justice from SisterSong:

The reproductive justice framework – the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments — is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions is important for women of color.

It represents a shift for women advocating for control of their bodies, from a narrower focus on legal access and individual choice (the focus of mainstream organizations) to a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on our power.

Reproductive Justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that we have to control our reproductive destiny. Our options for making choices have to be safe, affordable and accessible, three minimal cornerstones of government support for all individual life decisions.

Repro justice takes the conversation beyond birth control, abortion, and sex ed and makes us ask questions like:

  • How do class and race play a role in reproductive rights work?
  • How are trans* and gender non-conforming people accessing sexual and reproductive health care?
  • How do the issues of education, literacy, and language access play into sexual and reproductive health outcomes?
  • What are the points of connection between taking care of the environment and taking care of our bodies?
  • How can we repair tensions between the disability rights communities and the pro-choice/repro justice communities?

I could write a whole post about any of those topics. There are lots of questions to raise. The question I want to address is this one: Who has the right to parent?

We can go on for days about the right now to be a parent, the right to make a personal abortion decision. We don’t talk as much about the flip side. What about the right to be a parent? Is there such a thing? Many would emphatically say, “Yes. Of course. Everyone should have that right.” But let’s get real. We don’t all have access to that right. And if you add some other factors in, you may start to feel more unsure. Continue reading

Meet the W

This post is by W.

So, you have met the K and the furkids.  Well, I am the W.  K is the writer and she speaks for the furbabies…much like the Lorax speaks for the trees. She was a writing arts major in college and I don’t write or read often. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully capable of both and I often rant on issues that perturb me on Facebook but it’s just not my jam in general. So why would I do a blog you ask?!? Well (aside from the pleading from K), I think this is an important issue. Not only the idea of parenting and families, but also the lack of resources out there for the T and Q in LGBTQ. After the initial shock when K told me she would be willing to do the baby thing, the first thing I did, like many other people, is to try to find applicable books or websites for me. That was less than successful.  It is great to see all the resources out there for gay and lesbian people. It shows me that the world is changing, but it also exemplifies the problems of inclusively of trans and queer people. So like many queer trans people I picked up a book on lesbian pregnancy  and “adjusted” the language and situations to fit my own. That makes this blog relevant and important for me. There needs to be more K and W stories in the world.

Another reason you have met the adorable furkids before me is simply because, although I love them, they are a bit of an open book. I on the other hand am that book-that-you-want-to-read-but-it-went-out-of-print-several-decades-ago-after-a-limited-print. I grew up in a family that didn’t communicate well or get along much at times. I am shy and guarded and hesitant to open up to people I don’t know. That carried over to my adult life, unfortunately. I get along great with my parents now and they have always accepted me for who I am, but looking back I had what would have been classified now as an abusive childhood. It fundamentally shaped my adult personality.

Continue reading

I really don’t want to be a mommy blogger. Even a queer one.

This post is by K.

I always thought if I started a blog, it’d be about sexual justice. Or rape culture. Or sex-positive sexuality. Or feminist rants. When I’ve dabbled in guest blogging, it’s been on those issues. I never ever, ever though it would be about parenting. In fact, the thought still kind of makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Not because I’m not excited about being a parent, but because I have worked SO HARD to be seen as more than the stereotypes of my gender.

Children assigned female at birth are generally socially conditioned to care about things like weddings and babies and home-making. And pink. All things pink. Even those of us that don’t follow the social script know that we are supposed to. My parents never pushed that girly stuff on me, but I got the message anyway through TV, peers, and subtle social cues.

I remember my older cousin asking me once, when I was a pre-teen, what I imagined my wedding would be like. I had never really thought about it before. So I made up a scenario that sounded fun. My supposed “dream wedding” included a waterfall, silk bohemian skirts, black tank tops, and flip-flops. It sounded more like a trip to a fancy hotel pool than a wedding. Looking back, there was some truth in my made-up story. I did end up having a very casual, affordable, and unique wedding that involved flip-flops and non-traditional apparel. Sadly, there were no water features.

Fancy wedding stuff never appealed to me. Being someone’s wife never appealed to me. Being someone’s mom never appealed to me. When I was little, I couldn’t articulate why I wasn’t into these things. I just wasn’t.

Continue reading

What is a queer family?

The first blog post is always the…awkwardest. So let’s start with this really basic question: What makes a family queer? What is a queer family?

When we think of LGBT families, we usually think of two moms or two dads. More specifically, we think of two cisgender lesbian moms or two cisgender gay dads. When the acronym “LGBT” is used, the “B” and “T” are often silent. The “Q” isn’t even there. LGBT is often used as a catchall acronym for our communities–it’s pretty common. But LGBT organizations, service agencies, and media outlets often focus primarily on cisgender gay men and lesbian women. That’s also pretty common. There’s nothing wrong with two cis moms or dads and those families could certainly be queer, but these representations are not inclusive of all queer families.

It carries over, we found, into the parenting realm. Parenting resources are already overwhelmingly heteronormative and gender-normative. The specifically LGBT resources that are out there are mainly geared towards gay men and lesbian women. By resources, I mean books, websites, social networks, “mommy” sites. So we decided to join the blogosphere, where there are some awesome LGBTQ* parents out there (see our blogroll) doing awesome stuff. There’s still a lot of room to grow. To my knowledge, there are few resources for parenting as an openly bisexual person. Few resources for parenting as a transgender or gender non-conforming person. For QTPOC (queer trans people of color), for poor queer folks that want to have kids, for anyone that wants to buck the norm of the traditional heteronormative family, there just isn’t much support or advice out there.

But I know queer families are out there. I know more than one seemingly-hetero couple where one or both parents are bisexual. I know single queer parents that are raising awesome kids. I know families where one or both parents are trans*. Some of those trans* parents are stealth. Others are not. I know lots of queer people who want to have kids in the future (and plenty who don’t).
In fact, such a large number that it’s inevitable that more people will eventually start writing and talking about queer parenting.

So what’s makes a queer family? The answer is, I don’t know. Or, rather, I can’t define it for you. People who identify as queer tend to want to be…queer. We don’t want to disappear or blend in. We want to change the systems, not conform to them. We want to check ourselves, check the systematic advantages we have and own our privilege. We want to be inclusive of diverse experiences across race, class, sex, gender. We want to be included in convos we’ve traditionally been left out of. We want to thoughtfully participate in “traditional family” or queer “traditional family” or throw “traditional family” out the window.

A queer family could certainly be a family with or without kids. Queer families can have two moms or two dads. They can have one mom and one dad. They have have one parent. They can have more than two parents. They can also include one or more people who identify as trans* or genderqueer. They can include bisexual, omnisexual, pansexual, polysexual, asexual, or queer people. Queer families have kids by marriage, kids from previous relationships and/or pregnancies. They can add kids through foster care, adoption, surrogacy, sperm donors (both on and off the books), and good old-fashioned P-I-V intercourse. They can include beloved furbabies (our pet children). They can include supportive queer family relationships that came about out of kinship or necessity in place of or in addition to our legal/bio families.

This blog is about our queer family–a queer power femme, pansexual, Korean-American adoptee, vegan, feminist, cisgender woman and a label-wary, fashion-forward, queer, trans* boi. With lots and lots of furkids. Looking to add 1 human kid to the family. We will blog about our baby plans, our furkids, our personal views and lives, social and activist issues pertaining to queer parenting. We will try to raise larger issues about queer parenting and welcome the perspective and feedback of others. We are excited. A little scared. Let’s do this.

– K & W