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:

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.

Privilege Check: The Right to Parent and Queer Communities

This post is by K.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the W

This post is by W.

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

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

Continue reading

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

This post is by K.

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

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

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

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

Continue reading