Getting Real, Real Fast

Oh, my. It’s been some time since we’ve published anything new. We actually have had some potential submissions and some ideas for content, but what really happened is that life got in the way. KaeLyn started writing for Autostraddle, where she gets to write about queer family stuff and also music and fashion and politics and art and life. KaeLyn also went back to grad school because her credits from earlier graduate work were about to expire and she didn’t want to start all over again. Plus she is still working her full-time job and another side job. Waffle is still working nights six days a week.

We both (but especially Waffle) got fixated on a fan blog for Sleep No More that we created about a year ago. And we went on a child-free bender, of sorts, becoming absolutely obsessed with an immersive theatre production in NYC and the international community of fans surrounding it. We have seen the show 35 times now over two years, mostly in the last year (which is actually not that much compared to some fans).

Just some adult kids in love with a building and giving no-fuks.

Just some adult kids in love with a building and giving no-fuks.

It cost an amount of fun-money that we are kind of embarrassed to fess up to. We like to think we were practicing for having kids a.k.a. throwing all our disposable income into a vast pit and burning it. (Current average cost of raising a child in the U.S. is $245,000!) But really we’ve just been having a great time being childfree adults who can jump into the car and drive to NYC on a whim. It’s been grand!

But we’ve finally decided to buckle down. We knew it would take us about two years to get it all together and it has. Financially, we have some money set aside and we’re realistic about what it might cost altogether and we’re prepared to deal with it. Emotionally, it took us a while to feel “ready” after we made the decision. We didn’t want to jump into it. We (especially KaeLyn) wanted to do the very queer work of over-processing, thinking about all the angles, discussing and debating what was important to us. This blog was an important part of that process. We met people online and IRL who had gone through these processes and many people who wanted to someday. We found the resources we were looking for. We wrote the words we felt we needed to write just to get them out. And we’re damn ready.

In fact, we had our first appointment at the fertility clinic exactly a week ago from today. Since then, KaeLyn has been back two times and will be going again tomorrow for tests. We’re getting ready for our first round of IUI in September. If we get knocked up, we plan to keep it hush-hush until we know for sure that it’s going to stick, but we are officially trying!

Our first appointments were efficient and helpful. The staff is phenomenal. They are trying to preauthorize her for coverage because KaeLyn actually has great infertility coverage through her health insurance. However, she has Cigna and we are fairly certain they won’t accept the preauthorization unless she is “medically infertile.” But we were prepared for that and we feel lucky to be able to afford this, even if it may involves racking up some more credit card debt once we run through our stash of savings.

We have (over)thought a lot about what we want, so we were fairly sure of ourselves going into the clinic. The info was helpful and thorough, but most of it wasn’t new to us. We had a very warm mandatory session with a fertility counselor and came out feeling reassured. We’d considered a lot of the questions already and we felt even more ready to do this damn thing. That said, the only thing we know for sure is that we know nothing. We won’t know how anything will be or feel until we get there and we both reserve the option to change our minds about the things we think we know, at any time.

All the paper we have accrued over the past week. It's getting real!

All the paper we have accrued over the past week. It’s getting real!

We plan to post a bit more now that we are coming back to earth from our year of irresponsible-but-really-really-fun-immersive-theatre-fandom life decisions. We have a couple more trips to the show planned, but it is slowing down. KaeLyn is about to go off of one of the boards she is on and will wrap up grad school after this semester (December 2015). She is quitting one of her three jobs this fall, too—one of her side gigs (but will still be writing for Autostraddle and keeping her full-time employment). Waffle is working his butt off, going in for overtime twice a week, when possible. We are holding off on any major purchases or home renovation projects. The time has come! We’ll make sure we keep ya’ll posted.

In the meantime, check out this post on baby-making questions KaeLyn wrote for Autostraddle. The post is similar to what you’ve already read here, but the comment section is really interesting and full of great stories and questions! She is hosting an AMA on queer parenting (with queer parents and parents-to-be) on Autostraddle very soon. We’ll let you know when that is happening, too!

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.

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.

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