Let’s talk about… Gender – Part II

As I stated in the Part I of this post, everything that I have to say about gender falls into two categories:

  • Things I have learned and believe as a result of being the parent of two children
  • Things I have learned and believe as a result of my own experience as a human being

Turns out that I didn’t cover all of the things that I’ve learned about gender in that post so here is another installment…

A is just about to finish up his first year in school. This can’t possibly be. It seems like the first day was just last week.

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First Day
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He’s pumped

Not long after the school year started, we started to notice the influence that school had on him when it came to gender. Now before I go on, let me just say that he goes to a very open and accepting school. A school where he is not the only child of two lesbian parents. A school where kids can dye their hair whatever color pleases them. A school that doesn’t box kids in based on anything, let alone gender. But, inevitably he started to make comments about gender that seemed to be influenced by an outside source. Things like only boys can do certain things. Only boys are allowed in his room (being the only boy in the house, that didn’t got over too well for him). You get the idea.

We didn’t freak out. We knew it was coming. The influence of gender roles in our society is strong. So, we took this opportunity to talk about gender more with the goal being to help him frame the things that he heard at school. We gave examples of boys that he knows with long hair and girls with short hair. We talked about our family structure and other families that we know. We asked him questions about his own gender and preferences. He is clear (for now) that he is male. He wants people to know he is a boy and he makes choices that are consistent with that. For example, he prefers short hair (at least on the sides and back, his new thing is “long in the middle” which he now clips or wears in a unicorn style ponytail or multiple Mohawk style spikes).

When asked about his sister (who currently identifies as “princess”), he says that she is a girl. When asked about Mama-that-stays-home (a.k.a. my wife), he says that she is a girl. When asked about Mama-that-goes-to-work, he says, “something in between.”

Something in between! Can we just stop all the fuss around the world about gender identity and let kids solve the labels problem for us? Kids are great because they don’t take offense to gender or see why someone should be offended by being misgendered (take for example a conversation I had with a little girl at Disney World many years ago: Walt Disney World Gay Days 2010). People are what they are. Some people are this or that and some are something in between. Okay, fine. Who cares?

I remember the first time we posed the question to A. Both mamas were reading him a bedtime story (most likely as a way to have some discussion around the new found gender stereotypes that he was expressing). This is where the conversation went:

A: I like Mama [M] better.

Mama[A]: Why?

A: Because she’s in between a mom and a dad.

Obviously, this was just about the best answer possible. I was not at all offended by this statement. Both because it was an innocent statement and because it is entirely accurate. I carried him (and his sister) in my belly. I gave birth to them. I breastfed them both beyond two years. But, I also am the Mama that goes to work. I wear ties and bow-ties. I play video games and read comic books with him. Something in between pretty much covers it.

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woman and young girt standing in front of steps and holding hands
J visiting Mama-that-goes-to-work
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I’m the one in Blue

Trip to Remember

The last Friday in 2016, I got some pretty rotten news. My grandmother had cancer. She was given six months, maybe. Once we knew her plan for treatment, we booked a flight to Atlanta, a hotel, and a rental car. Having not been back to my hometown, the state of Georgia, or anywhere in “the south” (FL doesn’t count) in over five years, it was strange to think about. We knew it would be the last visit with my grandmother with the kids. It was timed so that she would be feeling well enough to enjoy seeing us, but as I’ve learned, things don’t always go as planned.

After we moved to Vermont, my grandmother, who the kids affectionately called “Gran Gran,” came to visit us twice a year. At 80 years old, she got herself to the airport, on a plane, changed planes somewhere, and after a full day of travel she would finally arrive excited and energetic as ever.

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The last time that she came, just three months before she died, she told me that she had been having some “spells” of dizziness and weakness. With her usual stubbornness, she also said that she hadn’t told anyone about it. A couple months later, after some questionably unnecessary medical intervention and assessment, we found out the cause. She was diagnosed with very advanced stage lung cancer which had spread to her liver. Just four days after we booked our trip, she died from an infection that she had gotten during her hospital stay. She was was septic and it happened very fast, just as she would have wanted.

She didn’t want a funeral and made me promise long ago that I wouldn’t spend money to send flowers or fly down for a service. Instead she wanted us to take the money we would have spent and go on a trip. So, that is exactly what we did. We already had one booked so it wasn’t difficult to decide where to go.

woman and young girl sitting on grey bench with grassy hill in background
Ocmulgee National Monument
little boy in blue shirt and hat walking in woods from behind
Vermont boy hiking Stone Mountain
boy in hat standing on rock at the edge of lake
GA Hiking
little girl and old man walking on paved path to front porch or house in sunny weather
Joey with Pa
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Kids headed home (Babyland General)

We saw family, took the kids on a tour of the town that I grew up in, and visited the sites including the Ocmulgee National Monument, Stone Mountain, and Babyland General. It was a trip for fun and family. It was a trip for Gran Gran. A trip to remember.

Milestones

They just keep coming. How does this keep happening!?

This time it’s A’s first baby tooth. It has come out. It was one of those dangler teeth, hanging by some tiny thread of gum until it finally succumbed to a bite of cereal. It happened at school during snack time. The tooth is mine now. It is living in a little canvas bag (with a gold outlined tooth painted on the front) waiting for an undetermined destiny. We made a trade, one baby tooth exchanged for one  $2 bill. And of course, one special gift for a first tooth lost, Ultimate Spiderman!

IMG_20170514_142105895I am amazed at every milestone, every new experience that comes along with parenting. Ten years ago, I would not have believed that I would be here. Here meaning Vermont. Here as a parent. Here in this place in life. It is surprising and extraordinary and fantastic all at once.

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One Happy Family

Today is Blogging for LBGT Families Day! We are an LGBT family! Two years ago we posted Blogging for LGBT Families Day 2010: A Baby in the Works. The blog post was about how we were thinking about having a baby or adopting. Last year we posted Reflections and a Little Ranting. I was 30 weeks pregnant (photo included but not a belly shot).

This year, we are living in Vermont (which legally recognizes our marriage), with a 9.5 month old babe. We are on our way to both being legal parents of our little one. The turkey that we were expecting last year at this time is now toddling around and we are loving it. We are also loving Vermont and the recognition that we get here. I will also take this moment to say that being around other LGBT families is one of the best parts about being in Vermont so far (though there are so many good parts). We have met another couple, two women, that have a toddler a bit older than Andy. We got together and went to the ‘beach’ (at the lake), went canoeing, went to lunch, and had a great time. Next week starts the softball season and I was recruited to play on a mostly lesbian team with other LGBT moms and families. We are quite excited about this also… Andy has already been enjoying some time at the softball field when Ashley and I took a walk to the park so I could practice. Though we miss dearly our friends and family that are now a distance away, we are quite happy to be in Vermont.

No teeth! Andy must have been 3 months or less in this photo…

Our first Christmas together:

Shortly after moving to Vermont:

Ashley’s greatest desire in life has come true, for Andy to love books as much as she does 🙂

And of course he loves water…

Andy’s first wave experience (on the outside):

One Happy Family:

Family Friday (a little early): Turkey Day 2011

One year ago today Ashley convinced (and by convinced, I mean begged) me  to take a pregnancy test despite that it had only been 11 days since trying. Eleven days is usually not long enough to tell if pregnancy has set in and even if you get a positive reading, it doesn’t always mean that it will stick.  But, after much begging and knowing that the begging would go on all through Thanksgiving Day, I gave in and took the test. You probably know where this story is going but here is the longer version…

I remember waking up Thanksgiving morning and Ashley begging me to take the test until I gave in. I got up and took it. It was still a little bit dark so I looked at it and said “I don’t think there is anything there” and I tossed it in the trash. Later we were hanging out in office and I went back into the bathroom and I don’t know what made me do it but I picked the discarded pregnancy test from the trash to look at it and noticed in the now-light-out brightness that there was the faintest of lines there. Now by faintest of lines, I mean that it was so faint that I wasn’t sure there was even a line that I was seeing or if I was seeing the absence of a line. So, I brought the test with me to the office where Ashley was and brought this to her attention. Of course we went back and forward for like an hour about whether it was anything of a line or not. We finally decided to call in help with this situation so we dialed up our lifeline, Morgane (that is right, Morgane was the first person to know). I remember clearly explaining the situation and getting this response, “Go to the store, take another test, and call me back.” So that is what we did. The second test had a faint line, not quite as faint as the first. Still not convinced, I took a third test(lol). It was one of those ‘heart-breaker’ pregnancy tests where it says the word “Pregnant” or words “Not Pregnant” after the time is up. When the word “Pregnant” popped up, I remember being in total disbelief.

The three tests that I took last Thanksgiving

We spent the rest of the day all giddy and making secret jokes about it being Turkey Day. So much has happened and so much has changed (in a good way) since that day one year ago… Our little turkey did arrive and is now three and a half months old! We spent our Turkey Day this year with family and friends and had a great time.

Jokes when no one was looking...
One year later
Fun with Papatumba
Go Team! I don't know which team but yay for football!
Turkey makes me sleepy...

Family Friday: Darien, GA and Sapelo Island

This past week we took a trip to Darien, GA and Sapelo Island. It was Papa-Utumba’s (Grandpa Titus’) birthday and we all went on a little trip to explore some Titus lineage history.

Getting ready to board the ferry to Sapelo.

Evidently, a few generations back, Francis Hopkins leased some land on Sapelo Island for a few years until a hurricane came through and wiped out the area. He then hightailed it off the island but for that short time the Titus ancestor lived at a place that was known as Chocolate Plantation (they actually grew cotton, corn and sugar cane).

At Chocolate's location on the island.

Anyhow, we spent the day on the island with our tour guide, Fran.  She is a descendent of one of the slave families that worked on Sapelo Island back then. She showed us around the private areas as most of the island is owned and protected by the state of Georgia but there are areas that are still privately owned. Fran took us in her white van down mostly dirt roads (some of which were very bumpy) and we saw Chocolate Plantation, Hog Hammock, the lighthouse, the Reynold’s Mansion (which is now a Georgia State Park), The University of Georgia Research Facility, Nannygoat Beach, and more.

Picnic lunch at the beach.
We stayed at a B&B in Darien called Open Gates. We ate at a lot of local restaurants that mostly served seafood. The day that we drove back, we took the very scenic route down A1A. We took a ferry in Jacksonville for fun and then ate at Cap’s, a seafood place in St. Augustine.
At the bed and breakfast
On the ferry in Jacksonville

We had a great time and Andy was such a good little guy in the car and the whole trip.

Taking a break from driving at the Georgia welcome center.
Hanging out on the 30 minute ferry ride to Sapelo.
Testing out the highchair at the bed and breakfast.