2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Advertisements

A Little Thank You from K&W

This post is by K.

It feels really weird to write about parenting when you are not a parent because really, we won’t know what we know until we know it. And we know that parenting will be a wild ride, take us to unexpected places, and generally challenge everything we think we know now. We don’t feel like we know everything…or anything…about parenting kids. Ask me about parenting our furkids and I can tell you exactly how I feel about the care, feeding, and loving of small critters. I have many opinions about everything from the best quality foods to alternative pet medicine to behavior modification techniques.

And I guess that is why this blog happened. W is pretty clear about why he wants a kid and, quite frankly, his feelings about having kids are pretty normative…meaning, he wants a kid for the reasons many people want children. He loves kids. He loves babies. When he imagines his future, he  imagines a family that includes children. He has a strong desire to be a parent. When we decided to go down this path, he ran out and got as many books on kid-making from a LGBT perspective he could find. In that process, we found there are pretty much only books for lesbian and gay parents. That was disappointing and it meant switching things up a bit in his head while reading those books (which he devoured faster than I’ve ever seen him read…anything…W is not much of a reader), but W could still read those books and find himself and his feelings reflected in them.

(The books he consulted were The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians: How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Pre-Conception through Birth by Rachel Pepperand Confessions of the Other Mother: Non-Biological Lesbian Moms Tell All by Harlyn Aizley, in case you’re wondering.)

W also bought me a book after we had this discussion. It was Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and HappinessThe fact that W got this book was for me was pretty insightful. It made me even more sure that we could do this together, because he gets it, where my hesitance comes from, and validates that my concerns are real. It was the perfect book for me at that moment, especially considering that Valenti’s argument was essentially that “mommy myths” are bullshit. She took on classism in breastfeeding politics, forced or coerced c-sections, the “having it all” debate, and feminist parenting. There were many parts that resonated for me. If you are a person who is interested in kids, but tired of the gender crap that comes with being a “mom,” this book is great. However, while I enjoyed the feminist take on parenting, the book was pretty heteronormative. Discussions about gender norms are often heteronormative and really only spoke to cis women as mothers.

As we continued on this path of learning and discussing and coming up with a plan to add a boobaloo to our family, I, especially, felt a big lack of community. A good number of my friends have kids. I know I could call on them for kid talk and kid advice. I’m sure I will. Many of my friends are queer and those that aren’t are obviously allies, but I didn’t know how to introduce the conversations I really needed to have, about negotiating the place between radical queer politics and culturally normative families–like us, this middle-class, queer married, monogamous, house-owning couple planning for a baby. I didn’t know how to talk about this stuff with our real-life friends without making it weird.

We also have radically queer friends who are probably kind-of a little weirded out by us having a kid. Or, rather, that is something they just totally can not identify with. I get that. I was there. I’m not going to barf my privilege all over them by making them work through my baby stuff with me.

Finally, we have childfree friends, who I strongly identify with. I know they would talk about it with me, but I also totally get why they are childfree and I enjoy talking about other things with them, like life, work, politics, music, etc. I felt weird approaching them with my baby-having issues.

So this blog happened. It’s been amazing. Friends who are we don’t really talk much about queer stuff with have reached out about their identities and experiences as queer parents. Acquaintances from our local queer and trans* communities have told us that they have also been trying and/or have been navigating some of these same issues as hopeful parents-to-be. Strangers from all over the place have commented or messaged us with their own stories. We’ve gotten a lot of support from friends all around and found other bloggers to follow and learn from. It’s all been really, really great.

So thank you for reading and for all the messages of support. We didn’t really know what this blog would look like when we started. We toyed with the idea of pitching a book, instead. But I’m so glad we created this blog. Looking back, what I really needed, more than anything, was affirmation that I could be queer and be a mother, be a feminist and be a mother, be an activist and a busy professional and still a parent. Thank you all for helping me process my feels, for making me feel even more confident about this decision. I’m ready and I’m excited and I know we’ve got this and it’s all because of ya’ll.

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.

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.

After these messages…

afterthesemessages

we’ll be right back!

Sorry for the downtime in posts. Weekends are our family time a.k.a. the only daylight hours that we have together to run errands, (maybe) clean the house, catch up with friends together, visit family, etc.

We work opposite shifts during the week, so K goes to work in the morning before W gets up.  We don’t see each other until late at night when W gets home–10pm or later. It’s pretty normal for us–we’ve been on this schedule for over 6 years now. But it means our weekends are even more hectic and life-filled and there isn’t a lot of time to write or even think about blogging. If we’re lucky, we get to sleep in and have a few afternoons of laziness on a Saturday.

So we are back to posting now that the weekend is over. In fact, we have some posts ready to launch starting tonight. So stay tuned!