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.

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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?

 

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.

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

No More Hating Yourself: Body Love, Self-love, and Parenting Decisions

This post is by K.

People, let’s be frank. We all have complicated relationships with our bodies. Oh, yeah, we do. This couldn’t be more true for W and me. We have both struggled with body image for…most of our lives. We are both fat people. We both have been fat for most of our lives, except for little periods of time when we dieted heavily or were really stressed out and unhealthy. I can only imagine I’ll have even more feelings about my body after pregnancy (assuming our plans go off as we hope).

(EDIT: I have personally gone back and forth between what is considered “average size” and plus size, but I have felt  fat my whole life and I’ve been “overweight” compared to the little doctors’ charts my whole life. It is only recently that I’ve claimed fat as a positive and affirming identity, but I’ve benefited from average size privilege in the past, even if I had crappy self-esteem. There are people that have suffered much harsher and crueler fatphobia than me and I totally get that.)

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Fat Positive Manatee, best Tumblr in the world.

As an adult, I have made it my goal to love my bod the way it is, to really love myself, not in spite of my size, but inclusive of my size. I have stopped saying things like, “Oh, I’m so fat,” or “Dude, I really need to lose 10 pounds,” to myself. I’ve stopped saying things like, “Wow, have you lost weight?” and “You’re so skinny!” to other people. I tell myself that I look fabulous. I look at my body with and without clothes on and think positive things about myself. I buy clothes that look and feel great. When something doesn’t fit my body, I blame the garment, not my body. I accept that my body is changing as I get older and I try to beat those negative messages out of my head when they pop up. They do pop up. Of course they do. I’ve spent a quarter of a century learning the negative messages, crying over bathing suit shopping, telling myself that I’d be more attractive/desirable/healthy if I was  #   pounds lighter. And I’ve just spent the past few years unlearning it all.

It’s not easy to embrace size acceptance, fat-positivity, body love, whatever you want to call it. We don’t see much body diversity in the media. We see a LOT of negative messages about our bodies all over the place. For those of us who identify as women and/or who were female assigned at birth, we know this experience well. We probably saw women in our life model this self-loathing behavior. For those who grew up as teen girls, we internalized this message hard. By the time we were hitting puberty, we knew to be ashamed of and angry at our bodies, to be jealous of stereotypically hot girls, to always be on a diet, to hate ourselves.

For those who who did not identify strongly as feminine or who were gender non-conforming or just didn’t feel comfortable for whatever reason, this body hate was likely even more intense and confusing. And the reaction may have been to hide under baggy clothes, to be jealous of other kids who were able to better fit into gender norms, to always be obsessing about covering up our bodies, to hate ourselves.

For those who identify as male and/or  were male assigned at birth, you picked up on this vibe, too. For those who grew up as teen boys, you learned pretty quick what a “real man” looked like and acted like. Body image issues disproportionately affect young women, but they affect men, too. Especially queer, bi, or gay men. According to a 2007 International Journal of Eating Disorders study, more than 15% of gay and bi men at some time suffered anorexia,  bulimia or binge-eating disorder, or at least certain symptoms of those disorders, compared with less than 5% of heterosexual men.

So regardless of gender, many people can relate to this feeling of self-loathing, of actively hating your body.

Of course, now that we can look back on our youth with clearer vision, we realize that everyone hated themselves, including the stereotypical  hot guys and girls, the popular ones. This stuff runs deep and it is toxic.

These are the reasons I never wanted to have a kid. I don’t want to expose a lovely innocent little kid to this world that is so full of negative messages and bad stuff. There’s so much bad stuff out there. I’d rather spend my time fighting it.

According to a 2011 national study, the median age of onset for eating disorder diagnoses is 12- to 13-years old. The majority  of adolescents with eating disorders express significant impairment (inability to cope) and a higher risk of suicide. By age 6, girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls, ages 6-12, are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat.

Need more proof? Here’s some stats from the National Eating Disorders Association. Be aware that eating disorders have been on the rise every decade since the 1950’s, so some of these older statistics are possibly even higher today.

  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (1991).
  • In elementary school fewer than 25% of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves and can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively (2011; 2009).
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (1991).
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (1992).
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (2005).

What can parents and/or caregivers do to combat that?! To balance it out? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers! Part of the reason I never saw myself with kids is that I want a better world for a future kid. Even though I’ve decided to become a parent, I still feel deeply that we need to do better.

I will continue to fight for better and more diverse representation of bodies in the media, for better info about the link between weight and health (which is greatly exaggerated), and for more inclusivity everywhere. But it won’t be enough. There will still be magazines and t.v. and peers and THE REST OF THE WORLD to tell my future kid that they are not pretty enough or good enough.

I know one thing I can do. It is simple, but it’s kind of really really really hard, too. I do not want my future kid to hear negative messages about fat, size, bodies, in our house. I want to model positive attitudes towards bodies, especially as a fat person. Future kid will get plenty of negative messages from everywhere else in the world. I can’t do much, but I can give them another perspective, genuine positive reinforcement, and maybe a little emotional armor. So that means I won’t complain about my pant size or weight in front of my kid (or ever). I will compliment myself and my partner as much as I compliment my kid. I will wear things that make me feel great. I will speak positively about other people’s bodies and looks. I won’t comment on other people’s weight. I will encourage healthy habits, but I won’t focus on diet or weight. I won’t starve myself or deny myself dessert and I won’t talk about “good food” and “bad food.” I will probably mess this up sometimes. It’s easy to say now, but may be harder to do than I think with a real, live kid in front of me and a post-pregnancy body. But I’m really going to try. And I’m going to keep practicing being kind and loving to myself in the meantime.

I just don’t think you can tell a kid that they are beautiful just the way they are, then go on to say how much you hate your thighs and think that they aren’t going to pick up on it. I picked up on it as a kid. Future kid will, too. It’s not enough to say the rights things to our kid. We have to say the right things to ourselves, too, or this cycle of self-hate and body-shame will never change.

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.

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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.

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