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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I’m the one in Blue

It’s better on the [out]side…

Three days ago, two days before the first day of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, I was reading a literary journal, a journal of poetry to be exact. I had just finished writing one of my Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day posts. I scrolled to the author bios, as I usually do, and skimmed. Among the trans poets, and the non-binary theys, there was a bio that started, “[This] is a pen name.” I was caught on it. I am fascinated by pen names. People that write under another name. Why do they do it? Why would you say that it is a pen name? Isn’t the point of a pen name, that people don’t know that you aren’t who you say you are? Except in this case, that was the point. The author bio explained that the writer, a celebrated and award winning poet, lives in a closet.

I consider my own coming out to have been a long, drawn out, and exhausting process. Living as a straight, cis female was not just draining but incredibly detrimental to my mental health. But, to live in a closet… I cannot even imagine a life now, where that is an option. Coming out is exhausting. It is sometimes gruesome. Sometimes you get kicked out of your home. Relationships end. I am not saying it is easy, but once you make it to the other side. The side where you know who your friends are, the side where you can build relationships and family beyond blood (#chosenfamily, please go here: Chosen Family: Stories of Queer Resilience), the side where you can be who you are. That side is worth the struggle.

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Perhaps on the very same day, I read this article: The Secret Life of Secrets and it struck me how invasive of a secret it is to live in a closet. It’s not something that comes up in conversation once in a while, or something you think about a couple times a month. We are talking about hiding who you truly are. When I think back to my own time in the closet, I’m not surprised by my emotional state or actions. I am in awe that I made it through. And mostly, I’m in awe at how amazing life can be when you come out.

Stigma, it must go…

So May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Do you know anyone with mental health issues? And I’m not just talking about people with Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression, and any of the other more publicly known mental illnesses. I’m talking about your friend that struggles with depression, your sibling who has a drug or alcohol addiction, your neighbor who suffers from anxiety. You get the idea. Mental health issues affect everyone in some way. And they affect the LGBTQ+ community even more (image below from the American Psychiatric Association data on Diversity).

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Why, then, is there such stigma around this topic?

We must be able to talk openly and honestly about our mental health.

I say this with such confidence, but here is some back story… Like many baby gays (and I use that term to mean any LGBTQ+ individuals), I struggled with figuring out and accepting myself. This struggle was a lonely and sad place to be for a long time. But, I didn’t talk about it. It was (and still is) customary in my family to not talk about our problems. Some delusional assumption that if we don’t say it out loud, it isn’t really happening or true. Unfortunately, the only thing that creates in my experience is shame and fear (and depression and a load of other problems).

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Baby Gay

I was born and raised in Macon, GA and I grew up attending a southern Baptist church. Some of the people that I was most nervous to come out to, were the most supportive, including my (at the time) 75-year-old grandmother who was also born and raised in Macon and an avid church going Christian. I remember being incredibly nervous. I worried about what might happen for weeks, probably months, before telling her. But I had decided that if I was going to continue to be close to her and share my life with her, I had to tell her. She called me when I was driving home from work one day and I remember her reaction very clearly. She told me that everyone had to live their own life and no one on this earth has a right to judge other people. It made no difference to her. She never blinked an eye at me, my wife, our family.

Coming out can be a truly exhausting process. One that I hope one day is not necessary. But what I gained when I came out to my close friends, and then family, and then co-workers is the realization that you don’t have to live in that place of secrecy and fear. In fact, I found through coming out that communication about things that were rarely discussed is very powerful. It is more powerful than the absence of communication.The way to end stigma, stigma of any kind, is to talk about it. So, let’s talk about it… This is something that I have done for many years as it relates to LGBTQ+ issues. I’ve taken the stance that if I am open and honest about who I am and that impacts just one person’s acceptance of the gay community in a positive way, then it was worth it. It’s time to take that stance for mental health issues also, which I personally find even more difficult.

Below are some fantastic resources for anyone who is looking for support, interested in providing support, or just looking to learn more about LGBTQ+ and mental health issues… I challenge us all to talk more about mental health. How is your mental health today?

Resources:

The Trevor Project

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Mental Health America

Family of Four: Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day 2014

One day I will stop blogging about babies. That day is not today. Today I am blogging about babies and more specifically my babies and their two moms. Today is Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day 2014.

 

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This is the 5th year that I have participated in this blogging day. A look back over the years:

Blogging for LGBT Families Day 2010: A Baby in the Works

Reflections and a Little Ranting

One Happy Family

Blogging for LBGT Families Day 2013: Another Big Year

This year I am typing with our newest addition, Joelle, laying across my lap. She is a bit over three months now and if you do the math you will see that as I typed last year’s post and said, “I suspect that the upcoming year will prove to be an exciting one as well” that I was keeping one major detail quiet. We had already begun to try for baby #2. We found out on June 15th (our anniversary) that we were expecting again.

Over the past five years we have gone from being two women in an unofficial relationship living in Florida to a lovely family of four living in Vermont. So many changes have occurred (mostly good ones) over the years that it is sometimes hard to remember what it was like before.  This month we will celebrate five years since we said “I do.” In August, our little boy (yikes!) will turn three. In December, I will complete my Master’s Degree. Time is flying by… I am trying to savor every moment (good and bad) knowing that one day I will look back and wonder where did these teenagers come from? For now, I am happy with this age:

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Until next year…

 

 

Blogging for LBGT Families Day 2013: Another Big Year

It is that time again. This is the fourth year in a row that I am Blogging for LGBT Families. You can check out the previous years here: Blogging for LGBT Families 2010: A Baby in the WorksReflections and a Little RantingOne Happy Family.

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The first year that I/we participated in this special day, we were just considering starting a family and had not ironed out all the detailed and had not even started the TTC process, the second year I was 30 weeks pregnant and we were waiting for our little turkey to arrive, and last year we had moved from Florida to Vermont with our little man. Reflecting back over the past year, I am not sure that we have experienced quite the level of dramatic change that occurred between each of the previous years though we did go from having a baby to having a toddler which is crazy. Where did this kid come from?

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Swinging!

I suspect that the upcoming year with prove to be an exciting one as well. We are currently in the midst of subdividing our property in Vermont to enable Grandma and Papa-U to build a house very, very, very close to ours. We cannot wait to have them up here with us full time. (Heal fast, Grandma!) I am currently in the middle of a master’s program that will be nearly complete by this time next year. Lots of exciting things are happening at work and at home (possible remodel and improvement projects, yay!).

I have been rather absent from blogging as sometimes there is just too much happening in life to find time to write about life. I am hoping to schedule in a little time here and there to keep up with blogging and mostly just documenting our life and those special moments that we don’t want to forget as time flies by us.

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Egg Hunt at the Ford Dealership Easter 2013
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One cool dude
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Family time with Donald
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Cute little family

I cannot wait to see what life has in store for this little family over the next year!