Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

Here’s the reality. It’s been slightly over a year since W and K sat down and started talking about this baby plan. Since then, we have done a lot:

  • W read a poop-load of lesbian parenting books, pretty much immediately (leading us to realize that there are no queer parenting books yet);
  • K has, like, 85% come to terms with the fact that people are going to be weird and gender normative about all this;
  • K started fertility tracking, discovering that she is incredibly regular (yay?);
  • W & K decided on at least 1 possible gender-neutral name that we both do not hate;
  • We wrote lots of fun posts about stuff like debunking the “traditional family,” body love and parenting, and defining a queer fam;
  • We told our friends and family that we are heading down this path;
  • We started the blog because we felt isolated from other queer parents-to-be and because we felt there was very little out there for queer and/or trans* parenting issues.; and
  • We found amazing people IRL and in the blogosphere who get it, which made us feel embraced in a real way.

But it’s time.

make_the_donuts

We aren’t the type that typically sit back and take things slow. When we make a big decision, we usually find a way to bring it to fruition immediately. But here are the other things that have come up over the past year:

  • Money, money, money, money. We have lots of student loan and credit card debt that we want to reduce first, as we have a not-so-irrational fear that this might cost a lot;
  • K is going back to school in the fall to finish her Master’s degree, mainly because she found out that this is the last year she can transfer some of her credits from an earlier half-finished graduate program. So back to school, it is, because it is cheaper this way (see student loan and credit card debt, above);
  • We are really lazy about making doctor appointments and have been thinking about changing providers, anyway; and
  • We have been going on a lot of little vacations and trips and doodads, which is really counter-intuitive to saving money (see student loan and credit card debt, above), but we are kind of having an extended pre-baby fling. It’s just the truth.

It’s time, though. It’s time to take action. (Doo doo doo-doo! <–That’s a superhero theme diddy.) If we had the kind of parts that mash together in a reproductive way, we’d be doing this already. A little over a year in, we are fully realizing there isn’t ever really a good time. For some, there is never a time at all, because having kids in the way we want to do it is a privilege of us being comfortably middle class. The debt-laden, student loan-saddled, underemployed middle class, but still. So…by the end of 2014, we hope to be actually trying–like with the sperm and the egg salad. We’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, we hope to keep this blog more actively updated with posts about LGBTQI+ parenting issues and intersectional parenting issues, reach out to more guest bloggers (We keep finding awesome guest bloggers who are also super busy people.), and keep it fresh.

In the meantime, here is a very important video of a giant panda putting their baby panda back to bed:

“Mommy” and Me

This post is by K. I’m getting crushed at work lately. Just totally crushed. Doing awesome activist and progressive work that I’m proud of, but feeling like it’s hard to get back to center. Work/activism is my #1. As we keep moving down this path towards eventually trying to get knocked up (which should start late summer/early fall of this year), I get closer and closer to having to make work-life balance decisions that I’m sort of dreading. One of the reasons I planned to be childfree by choice is that I have created a life where work is my primary goal. Not just work, but work to advance goodness in the world–advocacy and activism. My mom used to say, “KaeLyn is always rooting for the underdog!” because I would try to reform the bad kids in my kindergarten class or help the loner kids that other kids made fun of. Helping others, serving needs greater than my own, is important to me. Up until recently, I didn’t see myself having kids because I didn’t see how that would fit with the other priorities in my life. I barely make time for myself. How could I make time for a kid? If I had to rank how I spend my time it’d be like this:

underdog cartoon character

I’m rooting for this guy, apparently.

  1. Work – primary job
  2. W time
  3. Work – second job (seasonal)
  4. Family & Friends
  5. Volunteer work (3 nonprofit boards, mainly)
  6. Self time (tv & netflix, internet, coffee breaks)
  7. Sleep?
  8. Self time (meaningful stuff like creative writing and reading–that I rarely do)

I know I’m going to have to slow down for a bit. Even though W wants to be the daytime parent and will split the work evenly with me, if not slightly more (I proposed a 60/40 split. LOL.), I will have to back off. I am lucky to have a job where bringing a kid to work, on occasion, wouldn’t be a big deal. But right now, I often have an evening meeting every night of the week. And those aren’t social meetings. Those are work and volunteer work meetings. I am going to have to quit at least 1 board. I am going to have to scale back my 2nd job. But I’m unwilling to give it all up. I don’t believe that makes me selfish. I think I’ll be a better parent and role model because of it. I applaud stay-at-home parents and I think they are deeply undervalued in our society.  Personally, I would not be happy in that role. I have a lot of privilege and comfort in my life and I want to use that to make meaningful change, to amplify the voices of those who do not have the kind of safety and privilege I have, to make things a bit better for my future kid and everyone else.

A close friend who I hadn’t seen in a while recently asked me if I was getting more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy (see my previous post on my mommy issues). It’s a hard question for me to answer. I am becoming much more comfortable with the idea of having a kid with W, and the idea of being a parent. Forever. I am getting more and more excited about it every day. In fact, these days, I’m more worried that we won’t be able to conceive than anything else. I am meeting and talking to more queer parents who added kids to their families or are trying to in multiple ways. That is really exciting, too. I am imagining a future with a kid, with W, and it will be super fun. Do I feel like I’m more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy? Ugh. The word “mommy” still sounds heavy to me. Sound like gendered expectations. Sounds like people getting up in my business about pregnancy and parenting decisions that are no one else’s business. Sounds like people assuming things about W and me because we look like a heteronormative couple.

keep-calm-and-you-decide-10Like with all of my identities, being a mom is an identity that I get to own–nobody else gets to tell me what it means. Only I can decide that. I need to own it the way I own being bisexual, queer, Korean-American, adopted, a women, a feminist, a vegan, an activist. I can be all those things and also be a mom. I can be a mom without being a “mom.” There is power in that knowledge. I am trying to remember it. I also need to accept that the “mommy stuff” exists. I will be affected by it. People will try to define it for me. And sometimes, maybe I will even play into that stereotype. When I told another close friend, who is also childfree by choice, that W and I had made a decision to plan for a future kid, she jokingly said, “I can’t wait for the first time you get up at a rally or press conference for some progressive issue and say, ‘As a mother…'” I laughed because she is totes right. I am totally going to milk that sh*t when it makes sense to to advance one of my causes. So I’m bracing myself. I’m going to give up some of my work priorities to spend more time as a parent, as a mom. I’m going to make life decisions differently because I’m a mom. Having a kid will affect me in ways that I can’t even begin to imagine now. I know that and I’m thrilled to see what is ahead. Some people (who do not know me at all) will see this as the natural order of things–that I gave in to my maternal instinct, that I changed my mind, or whatever nonsense. I will know that’s not true for me, but I don’t need to feel silenced by other people’s assumptions. I know who I am. W knows who I am. Future kid will know who I am. And that is enough. So yes, I guess I am becoming more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Honoring Trans* Families on Transgender Day of Remembrance

238 trans* people were killed in the past year, according to Transgender Europe’s 2013 report.

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when we mourn the beautiful people we have lost.

It is also a day to celebrate the lives of trans* people, to support each other, to demand that the rights and lives of trans* people be affirmed and treated with dignity, to acknowledge that trans* people are often multiply marginalized, to stand up and say that trans* communities are resilient.

Trans* folks know that relationships with their legal and biological families can be challenging. And wonderful. They know that the families that we create in trans* and trans*-inclusive queer communities are just as real as the families who raised us.

Here’s to all the beautiful queer and trans* families in this world. Here’s to a future world where all of our families are affirming of gender non-conforming people, where we can send our trans* kids out into the world without fearing for their safety, where we don’t have to worry about the legal system treating us differently because of our gender identity and gender expression, where everyone matters.

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