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!

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

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


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

Call For Submissions: Brand New Queer Mamas

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

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

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

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

Please do not send us any word documents!

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

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

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

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.

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:

What’s in a (gender neutral) name?

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

Choosing a name for your kid is a kind of a big deal. We are both the oldest siblings of our families. Maybe that’s why we get along.

W is the oldest of three. His younger sisters both have names that are gender-neutral-friendly. His youngest sister’s name could be masculine or feminine, depending on how you spell it. His other sister’s name is easily shortened to a gender neutral version. Both W’s sisters are cisgender women and fairly gender-normative in their gender expression. Of course, W is the only one who has a very feminine name. He has one of those names that is just not gender-neutral at all, like Rose or Sarah or Penelope. There is no male name that sounds similar, even. So he has a chosen name that works for him, but mainly goes by his last name, which, as you may have guessed, begins with a “W.” W still uses both his given name and chosen name in different situations, but we both think it’s kind of funny that he is the only one out of three siblings that has a really girly name. Coincidentally, K also has a name that could be gender-neutral or easily modified to be a more masculine name.

Sometimes it’s a problem for W that his name is so feminine, but not for the reason you’d think. Anyone who looks like W, regardless of their gender identity, and has a name like W’s legal name, is going to have some awkward moments. At work, W goes by his legal name, by choice and for convenience. W hasn’t changed his first name or gender legally. He doesn’t feel like that’s something he wants to do right now…possibly ever. W could be out as trans* at work, but it hasn’t been necessary so far and it really doesn’t bother him, because he feels his gender is masculine, but somewhat fluid. He binds and wears men’s clothes at work. He presents as himself full-time, which is a little bit his legal name/identity and a lot of his chosen name/identity and living in that fluid space is comfortable for him.

Now, we should say, that for many trans* people, it is very important and very necessary to change their name and/or gender legally. Many trans* people are very uncomfortable and deeply hurt by being called their given/legal name. That is totally valid. For W, specifically, it just isn’t a big deal. His coworkers usually assume he’s a super butch lesbian and, well, at some point he did identify that way, so he doesn’t really mind.

However, getting a job with a name that doesn’t match your gender expression is another thing. When you show up for a job interview looking like W does, like a preppy 6’1″ dude, things can get awkward…and hurtful…fast. At one interview for a security job at Sears, W showed up for his interview a little early. The hiring person greeted him by his given name, looked at him for just slightly too long, and disappeared for almost an hour. He was left waiting in a hallway. Eventually, the hiring person came back out and told him the position had been miraculously filled and they were no longer hiring. OK… Any gender non-conforming person, whether cis or trans*, can tell you many stories of being treated like a freak. Or being misgendered…one way or another.

So for us, picking a name for our future human that is gender-neutral is pretty important. We don’t have a problem with gendered names and could really care less what people name their kids. But for us, our kid, we want them to have a name that is gender-neutral and unique. As we’ve started talking about names, we have found that even when talking about gender-neutral names, we have different feelings about what would make sense for a kid who is male assigned at birth (a “boy”) or a kid who is female assigned at birth (a “girl”). We like Spencer for a girl (female assigned at birth), but not as much for a boy (male assigned at birth). Those gender things just can’t stay out of our head, though ironically we tend to like names that are more masculine-associated for a girl and vice versa. One name that we just recently decided on, over dinner, that works for any gender, is Remi/Remy (spelling yet-to-be-determined).

We don’t plan to raise our future kid gender-neutral. It’s a nice idea, but it’s just not possible for us. We live in the real world. We want our future kid to live in the real world. They are going to see gender all around them, absorb gender norms whether we like it or not, but we do want them to have options.

We want them to be able to play with green plastic army men, like W did as a kid, or with pound puppies, as K did as a kid. Or, more specifically, we want them to be able to play with both, or whatever interests them. K’s heart will probably break into a million pieces if their future kids wants to be a “pink princess,” regardless of what gender they are assigned at birth, but we want it to truly be their choice.

We want them to be able to make up their mind about their gender expression or their gender identity, or change their mind. If our kid turns out to be gender non-conforming, we want them to have a name that works for their gender expression, whatever that is. Of course, if they want to change their name to match their preferred name and identity, that’s cool with us, but we want to at least try to give them a name that is not hyper-masculine or feminine. So, future kid, as of March 2014, we are calling you “Remi/Remy.” You get to decide what that means for you.

The K&W Secret to a Winning Relationship

This post is by K.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OMG. In Love with BUTCH portrait project by Meg Allen

On a related note to our last post, this documentary portrait project, BUTCH by Meg Allen, is awesome.

BUTCH is a documentary portrait project and exploration of the butch aesthetic, identity and presentation of female masculinity as it stands in 2013. It is a celebration of those who choose to exist and identify outside of the binary; who still get he’d and she’d differently throughout the day; who get called-out in bathrooms and eyed suspiciously at the airport; who have invented names for themselves as parents because “Mom” nor “Dad” feels quite right; and who will generally expect that stare from the gender police trying to figure out if they are “a boy or a girl”. It is an homage to the bull-daggers and female husbands before me, and to the young studs, gender queers, and bois who continue to bloom into the present.

Right. On. Here’s some of our favorite portraits.

Sinclair

michelle_140
Michelle

Judi_3Y0B3239-2
Judi

beck_274
Beck

Micah 13
Micah

Sara_51
Sara

Alisa_071
Alisa

Catherine_85
Catherine

See the whole project here.

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.

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