Continuing to Come Out

They say that coming out is a lifetime process. As our identities evolve, as we meet new people, there’s always new opportunities to tell our stories. Such has been the theme as of late.

I’m an active member of an online chat group that is a social spin-off of a cloth diapering focused community. The group of mostly women and a few men is raunchy, sassy and uplifting. There are few rules, but the ones they have mostly involve not judging each others’ choices, especially as it relates to parenting. I’ve developed a really good rapport with the group members and the moderators have become friends of mine.

To that end, I decided to take a risk and come out to the group. I posted the photo of K and I holding our legal marriage license and told our story. Group members had a lot of questions, which I answered openly and honestly. I talked about E’s birth story and told them how proud I am of my amazingly brave husband. I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and encouragement from people who know so little about transgender identity and the complexities of gender, sex, and reproduction.

Ever since Saturday, I’ve been hearing from friends and coworkers that they keep seeing the footage of K and I holding our marriage license in local news broadcasts. It occurred me late on Sunday night that someone at E’s daycare may have seen one of the broadcasts and could very well ask us about it. We decided that we should prepare for this possibility and coordinate the messaging we felt comfortable conveying to them. Nothing is worse than being caught by surprise, stammering or rambling while coming out to someone. It certainly doesn’t communicate confidence in your identity.

It’s a good thing we prepared because when K picked E up from daycare on Monday, one of the teachers in E’s room said that the lead teacher mentioned that she’d seen us on the news. K told the teacher about his trans identity and explained that the law views us as a same-sex couple, even though that’s not how we identify. We decided not to tell the daycare, at this point, about E’s birth story. As we suspected would be the case, the teacher was really supportive.

It’s nice to feel a renewed sense of authenticity and feel the warmth of new allies. What was your last coming out experience and to whom?

Advertisements

We Did!

Many of you by now have likely heard about Judge Bernard Friedman declaring Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on Friday evening in the case of DeBoer v. Snyder and Schuette. Because of this decision and our awesome ally of a County Clerk deciding to open for special hours on Saturday to issue marriage licenses, K and I were one of 142 couples to legally wed in our county that day.

It all happened so fast, but we knew that, even though K was miserably sick and I was doing everything in my power to not succumb to the same illness, we needed to make this happen for our family. We knew that a stay was likely inevitable and that we’d have this very tiny window before another potentially long wait for the rights we all deserve. To that end, we got up early on Saturday morning, hustled to get out the door, and made it to the courthouse about 45 minutes before they opened.

I’m not quite sure what I expected but I was surprised that there weren’t more people already there. There were maybe 30-40 couples in line in front of us and there was enough room for us to squeeze inside the building instead of having to wait in the cold. There was very few members of the media present, despite the historic day. At around 9 a.m., security began letting people through and the line then snaked down a long hallway toward the Clerk’s desks.

10147514_10154010548020287_171026002_oA former coworker and her partner were in line behind us and it made the experience even more enjoyable. It was fun to see so many people we knew being able to share an anniversary with us. The Clerk’s staff were all so chipper on their day off, working so hard to make sure as many people as possible could get their licenses before the office closed for the day. We completed our paperwork, paid the fee for the license and to have the clerk preside over our ceremony, and then walked down the long hallway to the County Commissioners’ Auditorium, stopping to change E’s diaper on our way.

When we reached the auditorium, couples had their paperwork confirmed by the Deputy Clerk, and then we were legally wed in a mass ceremony of about 40 couples. It was really meaningful to us that our officiant was The Honorable Lisa Brown, our County Clerk, who had actually been called by the defense in marriage equality case. When she was called to testify, she essentially said that she hated being in the position of having to bar people from accessing the institution of marriage, but had to because that’s what was required of her by law, and that she could not wait to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The words she uttered during our mass ceremony were uplifting, heartwarming, and affirming of the struggle we’ve endured and will continue to endure. K and I kissed each other and then kissed E.

We then waited in a long line to have our paperwork signed by the Clerk and two witnesses. Once that was complete, we walked back down to the other end of the building again to the Clerk’s desks, walking past other couples waiting in line for their chance to legally wed, and were immediately issued our official marriage certificates. Each time a couple emerged with their certificates, the crowd cheered, and though I didn’t know all of them and the circumstances were hardly ideal, it felt like a large, loving family supporting our union.

One of our dear friends, who was there waiting for her own marriage license and certificate, took a photo of us with our official documents and, while she did, a local news station filmed it. They asked for an interview, which I gave, but they thankfully never aired my rambling. They did, however, air at least six seconds of us standing there, having our photograph taken with our marriage certificate, and several of my friends have mentioned seeing it on the news at different times.

Despite the stay being granted only a few hours later, the attorney who represented the Rowse-DeBoers in the marriage equality case is urging families to seek second parent adoptions, as she does not believe the stay will impede their ability to do so. I will be contacting local attorneys in the morning to try to move the process forward for the sake and stability of our family.

I have mixed emotions right now. I am elated that I am now K’s legal wife, though also baffled because, after living through the adoption of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, I never thought I’d see this day. I am heartbroken for the families who continue to wait for the day when they will see equality. I am furious that Attorney General Bill Schuette continues to waste limited state resources on a losing cause, simply so he can kowtow to his party. I am grateful to those like Judge Bernard Friedman and Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, who believe that equality is just. I feel forever indebted to April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who have bravely fought for the rights of their family and so many others. I feel awash in the glow of love and support from my community, friends, and family members.

I have mentioned several times that this union was one of the least romantic set of circumstances one can imagine – snot pouring out of K’s nose, me wearing dirty, day-old jeans and unwashed hair, scrambling to make it in time. Upon further reflection, I’ve decided that sometimes love looks a lot more like loyalty, stability, and protection, and a lot less like passionate romance. We need room for all of this, and more, in our relationships, and I’m so thankful to have it with K.

Our Anniversary

K and I have been together for the better part of a decade, but today is the two-year anniversary of our wedding. In honor of this special day, I wanted to share with you my vows to K on our wedding day:

our feet K,

I have loved you from the moment I met you when, as if by foreshadowing, I directed you in a play.

My heart contains an endless list of the things I treasure about you and our relationship:

  • I adore your sincere, musical laughter, which lifts my mood whenever I hear it.
  • I cherish your sweetness, devotion to bettering the world around you, and your supportive nature.
  • I love that you patiently teach me every day, through your generous words and deeds, how to be a better version of myself.

From this moment, I vow to always be your fierce protector and loyal advocate, and to nurture you when life bruises your tender heart and gentle spirit.

It is my great joy and honor to lovingly walk by your side through this world with you, honoring our independence and individuality, while celebrating our unity.

Nothing I could say or write could ever entirely capture the depth of my love and respect for you, so I will conclude by saying that I am so very proud to become your wife.

Family reunion

Yesterday, K, E and I attended an event that’s hosted by the reproductive endocrinologist who helped us conceive E. It was held in a park with a bouncy house and free ice cream from an ice cream truck, and was meant to be a sort of family reunion for families who have expanded because of the staff’s loving expertise. K and I wanted to attend because our lives had gotten busy and we had never gotten the chance to take E into the office and thank the staff.

It was a lovely park that we didn’t even know existed, and the weather was perfect for the event. Staff members ooed and ahhed over E and other babies in attendance. The oddest part was an unofficial receiving line of sorts where parents and babies waited to speak to the doctor. It felt a little bit like an unintended “meet your maker” sort of moment, but likely only because there were so many thankful parents (like us) who wanted to say hello to the doc.

The doctor’s practice is located in a very upscale nearby community, so K and I weren’t sure what sort of crowd to expect at this gathering. I was pleased that so many of the families seemed down-to-earth and friendly. We chatted with some of the parents about each other’s babies, milestones, etc. K and I confessed to each other later that we each spent time wondering about each of these family’s experiences with infertility. Thoughts of, “I’ll bet you were a cycle monitored, fertility med sort of family,” and, “IVF with egg donor for sure,” kept swirling through my head.

There was one family that was among the demographic I expected to see at this event: a privileged blond woman with her equally privileged mother and baby. They were, as K put it, a spectacle. The baby’s grandma clearly had a lot of plastic surgery and the entire family was decked out in a wide array of upscale clothing brands. The baby was cruising in a $5 bajillion stroller and had no short of seventeen toys dangling in front of her glitter beret topped head. I imagined that the mother had been married to a very wealthy older gentleman and, upon his death, had a doctor harvest his sperm so that she could conceive her miracle baby and secure a larger part of his estate for her and his postmortem spawn.

I wondered what others assumed our fertility journey was, and mused that they were all likely very far off from the accurate story.

Commence heteronormative parenting group

The hospital system through which E was born offers optional parenting groups based on a baby’s age and family’s location. For six months, a group meets every other week for two hours – the first half of the session is typically dedicated to a topic of interest to the group and the second half is for social time. While we have a lot of rad parents and kids in our lives, we liked the notion of connecting with parents whose children are experiencing similar milestones and challenges around the same pace. K and I decided to be brave and enroll in one of the evening groups and our group started this week.

Birth story aside, I knew that we’d be the weirdos of the group, and I say that mostly with pride. Even most of our mundane parenting choices and preferences (cloth diapering, baby-led weaning, babywearing, baby with a hyphenated last name, etc.) put us on the fringe of most circles. Oftentimes, the knowledge of our stark differences leaves us with the expectation of needing to defend our identities and choices, which doesn’t make for a very comfortable setting. Still, we figured that we’d be interacting with mainstream parents eventually and decided to dip our toes in when we still had the option of dropping out of this particular group.

I was right in our assumption that we were rather different from other parents, but I was expecting more judgment or hesitation from the other members. Instead, we were greeted with warm smiles and friendly questions. I also expected more stay-at-home mothers in the group, but I believe all are households in which both parents work outside of the home, likely because it’s an evening group offering. I imagine that our group feels and looks a bit different from the groups that are offered mid-morning and likely attract only mothers. I was also surprised to see that one of our group members is a local elected official who is very progressive.

K and I are on the fence about whether or not we will eventually tell the group members about E’s origins. We plan on being very open with our baby, family members and friends, but when it comes to the rest of the world, we’re kind of the standpoint of disclosing on a need-to-know basis, and I realize the privilege in our ability to make that decision. Ultimately, I want E to have as much agency as possible with regard to the disclosure of his birth story, and that can’t happen if we’ve told everyone and their brother. With that in mind, K and I were a little nervous when our icebreaker was to tell our birth stories. To sidestep the issue of needing to get into something so complex with literal strangers, I opted to tell a very vague but hilarious tale surrounding E’s birth, when he made his debut and promptly peed an arc above everyone in attendance. “He has enjoyed making a big first impression since day one,” I quipped.

E was very social and smiled at parents and babies alike. I think he might have been the only baby present who didn’t cry at least once. He had a great time wiggling on the floor with some of the other kiddles, and when we took a group picture of the babies, E had his arms casually slung around both of his neighbors, as if to say, “I’m hangin’ with my bros!” (There is only one girl in the entire group!)

One thing that I greatly dislike about the group relates to the hospital’s organization of it. At the time of each baby’s birth, the hospital promotes the parenting groups and gives everyone the option of signing up if it sounds interesting to them. Before we were discharged from the hospital with E, I sent an email to the parenting resources coordinator at the hospital to sign up for the group. In my email, I relayed the requested information including my full name, my husband’s name, our location and our baby’s date of birth. When the group was formed, K – not me – and a list of clearly all women received a mass email with the details, even though I had never sent his email address to the parenting resources coordinator. Then, the night of the group, our volunteer facilitator passed around the group roster, saying that this information was provided by the hospital, and asked us to update or change anything we needed or wanted. Luckily, she handed me the roster first, which allowed me an opportunity to black out inaccurate/inappropriate information before others saw it. The roster was a bolded list of all women’s names, including K’s legal/given name (again, I never disclosed that to the parenting resources coordinator), their contact information, babies’ names, and husband’s names with the word “father” in parentheses after the men’s names. E’s last name was listed as being K’s last name, which isn’t on ANY paperwork anywhere, and my name, which was in the “husband” area (not labeled, but clear that’s what the intention of that spot was) had parentheses with nothing inside of them, like they couldn’t even figure out what my relation to this family was! Now, it’s clear to me that the parenting resources coordinator used health information on file at the hospital instead of the information provided to them by the parents as they were signing up for the groups, and that does NOT sit well with me. I plan on reaching out to the coordinator right away to let them know that we are displeased by this fact and that we never consented for this information to be relayed to others.

For now, K and I plan to continue going to the group unless or until we decide it isn’t meeting our needs, or if the downsides end up outweighing the benefits. Hopefully, there are more interesting anecdotes to come..!

On privilege

[This post was written on December 28, 2012, but since we weren’t yet making Falco’s sex public, I couldn’t post this until now.]

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it will mean to be parents of a small person who, from the time of his entry into the world, will already be gifted a whole lot more privilege than either of his parents received and experienced. Falco’s privilege gift basket includes but is definitely not limited to:

  • Being a cisgender male. Sure, Falco, your daddy walks through the world as a man and, as such, receives a lot of unearned privilege as a result. It is so very different to be a cisgender male, to have your biology and body match your gender identity, and to have a penis in a world that seems obsessed with the phallus. How in the hell are we going to deal with this when neither of your parents can relate?
  • Being a white person in a world that values whiteness, equates beauty with white standards, and routinely and systematically oppresses people of color. Your mommy and daddy believe that parenting around white privilege will be quite a challenge, but as people who have experienced white privilege their entire lives and actively and carefully work to consider and address issues of racism, we feel prepared for this particular challenge.
  • Being a person whose parents are perceived to be a heterosexual couple. Nevermind that you were birthed through your papa’s vagina, Falco, or that your mama will not yet have legal recognition as your mother, as the majority of the world will never know this. Once you are here and in our arms, the public will see what they perceive to be a mama and papa wearing you, carrying you, and loving on you. They will interpret our family unit as “normal,” which is gross and unfair. Luckily, you will have a lot of people in your life who are queer, have queer parents, and love queer people. Your father and mother also grew up with parents who were perceived to be heterosexual, and we will make sure that you have access to all sorts of family structures and thoroughly understand that family is not about biology, gender, sexuality, or number of adults that one might have in their lives.

Everytime someone tells me how I will soon see that raising a son is “easy” – and trust me, it happens with shocking frequency – I want to scream at them, “If raising a son is so ‘easy,’ you’re fucking doing it WRONG!” One of our friends, badass feminist blogger Cristy C of UpRoot fame, has uttered the following many times and it really resonates with us: “It is easier to teach someone to resist their oppression than it is to teach someone to refuse their own privilege.”

Raising a son who understands and rejects the nuances of the privilege he is handed simply for being born who he is will quite literally be the largest challenge we will ever experience. Bring it.

An open letter to my baby at 33.5 weeks

Dear Falco,

Lately, you’ve been doing the weirdest things and have caused us a lot of laughter, head-scratching and slight concern. I’m writing to ask that you please stop torturing your Papa.

We’ve discovered lately that the consumption of sugar – and we’ve been consuming a LOT of it with the baby shower bonanza – really makes you hyper. When Daddy has a piece of cake or a delectable brownie, you pretend that you’re Michael Flatley a la Riverdance. I sure hope you don’t expect this trend to continue when you’re out of Papa’s belly, because we’re going to be “those parents” who make sure you’re consuming very balanced meals.

You hate when your Dad places things on your belly, and I understand your need for space, but it’s not very nice to kick the TV remote or laptop off of your Daddy’s tummy. We need to watch as much crappy reality television as we can before you make an appearance, when we’ll be too sleep deprived to do much beyond feeding you and changing and washing your diapers.

You’re getting SO BIG and the exertion from carrying you around in his belly is exhausting your poor Papa. A few nights ago, because space has been so cramped in your Dad’s belly with you taking up so much real estate, Daddy went directly from a loud snore, into a Homer Simpsonesque belch, and back into a snore. It was equal parts gross and hilarious. I’m not sure about the exact physiological reasons for this phenomenon, but I am certain that it’s somehow your fault.

Since you’ve been head down for weeks, your Dad and I had assumed you’d likely stay that way for the next few weeks until you’ve made your debut. Always one to keep your parents on their toes, you decided to make the most epic flip of all last night and are now wedged horizontally in your Papa’s abdomen. We know that there’s still plenty of time for you to get back into the appropriate position, but you must realize that your parents have the tendency to be anxious, especially as it relates to your wellbeing. As such, we’ve spent a lot of time researching ways to get you back into position. Please make it easy on us and put your big melon back down where it was before. You’re making your Dad’s bump a little lumpy, and that’s never a good look.

Even though you’ve caused a lot anxiety and comical moments lately, I sure can’t wait to meet you, snuggle you and sing you lullabies. You are already my favorite tiny human, even though you’re still a stranger.

Love,
Mommy

P.S. Cut it out.

We are so incredibly spoiled

Sunday was our friends shower and K and I are still overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from our chosen family. As K told our friends, we truly could not have gone down this rather unconventional path toward parenthood without their fellowship. I’m not typically a sappy person, but I keep getting teary-eyed when I think about how lucky we are for our chosen family.

Not only did they spoil us with their affection, but our friends really went above and beyond to help us secure items we need for wee Falco. We received so many practical gifts like adorable clothes, all of our feeding supplies, wet bags, and a diaper/wipes pod, as well as treasured, handmade items like a custom baby quilt, a crocheted hat and wool diaper soaker, and perfect decor items like a framed print that says, “You are loved.”

the stash

clothes

crib

toys

I think this is K's favorite gift: a box of Thin Mints we'd previously purchased from a friend's daughter.

I think this is K’s favorite gift: a box of Thin Mints we’d previously purchased from a friend’s daughter.

Our friends really got into the group craft project: an ABC book for our little one. We created pages that say, “A is for…” and brought a ton of craft supplies for people to create depictions of what could begin with those letters. Some favorites include, “Z is for zombie,” “X is for X-Men,” “Q is for queer,” and “Y is for you,” which has a really touching message about how treasured Falco is. I set aside the letter M so, when I have a free moment, I can create my “M is for mommy” page.

K secured a delicious gluten free sheet cake (vanilla with raspberry filling – YUM) from my favorite gluten free bakery. Despite having spelled out Falco (“F is for Frank…,” etc.), the baker wrote “Salco” on the cake. Really? SALCO?! She “fixed” it for us while we waited, but her version of fixing it just made it look smudgy and worse than it already did with a misspelling. We got a really great chuckle out of it, plus it makes for a funny story. The cake was de-freaking-licious, though, which is what matters most. I consumed two large pieces at the shower and considered a third before bed.

Falcocake

We revealed the sex of the baby but swore our friends to secrecy, as we do not intend to tell our family members or anyone else before Falco’s birth. We recently had some family members start following our blog (welcome!), and there might be some incidences in the near future where we need a more private space to process or discuss some deep topics that I don’t feel comfortable sharing with everyone in my life. A few password protected posts, including one that’s a sex reveal, might be on the horizon. If you’d like to be able to read them, please email me at thefalcoproject(at)gmail(dot)com.

K and I are truly the luckiest people in the world. I know that Falco is going to love all of her/his aunts and uncles!

Titty Committee

I received an email today that caused a literal tidal wave of emotions to flood to the surface and I feel like one of the few places I can truly express them is in this semi-anonymous setting.

K and I used to work for an organization that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Dysfunction was rife and took many forms at said agency, but one of the most horrifying was their health insurance policy that specifically excluded transgender-related healthcare. This agency’s own equal employment opportunity policy referenced treating people equally, regardless of gender identity/expression, and the policy extended to benefits, hiring, firing, etc.

Since K clearly wanted to be able to access healthcare needs that were relevant to his identity, and his job at the time involved healthcare advocacy, he approached the CEO at the time to inform her of the extraordinarily problematic nature of these exclusions, and how they personally impacted his life. She basically told him, “Yeah, well, we can’t afford inclusive coverage, and since it doesn’t impact me, tough $%^&.”

The only other option was to file a formal grievance with the President of the Board of Directors. We were the first in the several decades’ history of the agency to file a grievance. Upon filing the grievance, according to documented procedure, the Board President convened a group of people to discuss the grievance and to make a decision. K and the President served on the committee, and they each selected a representative to serve (K chose me), and, if memory serves, there was another person who wasn’t affiliated with the agency who was asked to serve.

The committee met several times, during which we openly and awkwardly discussed K’s body and identity (why is having chest reconstruction surgery relevant to your identity?, why is this a medical expense vs. cosmetic surgery?, but do you really NEED a “breast reduction” in order to look/feel like a man, and why should we pay for it?). It was such a objectifying and demoralizing experience that, in order to maintain our sanity and trudge through it, K and I jokingly referred to this group as the “titty committee.” At the end of the process, the President basically said, “Yeah, we’re not equally providing benefits, but we can’t afford inclusive coverage, so tough $%^&.” I’m fairly certain that, to this day, this agency still does not provide inclusive health insurance to their transgender employees (if they even HAVE trans-identified employees these days).

Time marched on, and K and I have found much better employers that provide us with great healthcare coverage and celebrate our identities. We have mostly healed from the trauma and humiliation that this agency caused us on a fairly regular basis. I still avoid the place like the plague, though I continue to receive their email updates, mostly as a way to remind myself just how far we’ve come since then.

However, as I referenced above, I received an email from them today that triggered me and stopped me in my tracks. Their new Executive Director was trying to help a media outlet locate LGBT people who have experienced employment-related discrimination and would be willing to talk about it on the air. It took everything in my power to not reply with, “YOU! YOU DISCRIMINATE AGAINST TRANSGENDER PEOPLE, YOU F***ER!” I’m still so damn angry that, more than an hour later, my hands are ice-cold and my heart is pounding in my ears.

I will keep repeating, “We have survived and we are safe.” But what about those who come after us? I sincerely hope that they’ll find a way to create the change we were unable to make (or find another opportunity), because I need (and WANT!) to focus my energy on my growing, loving family.

Deep breaths.