Category: Queer Identity

When Is a Good Time to Mention That I Gave Birth to This Kid, But Not That One?

Let’s just say that I’m talking to someone I don’t know well, and the fact that I have a toddler comes up. This might be, say, when I’m talking to the only other nursing mom in the office, and we’re joking about the pumping room. Then, the conversation goes something like this:

“How old is your son?”

“He’s 16 months, and my older son is 5.”

“[Generic commentary about having kids. Sleep deprivation, childcare amiright!, aren’t they cute / don’t they make you crazy, haha.]”

At some point, we reach The Moment. Do I explain that I carried the younger one, and that my wife carried the older one? Does it matter? Probably not. But it can be awkward to NOT explain, especially if I’m going to see this person again. My supervisor, for example, recently said to me, “well, you’ve given birth twice, so you can handle anything.”

Which is a nice thing to say, but isn’t true…

…and I didn’t correct her, because the moment passed quickly. It’s bugging me, though.

It also comes up sometimes when someone mentions genetic resemblance. I don’t know. On the one hand, the world does not need to know. On the other hand, I know, my kids know, my wife knows, and it does affect our family dynamics – not negatively or positively, mind you, but it just IS. I’m reminded of writing this post, years ago, when Jaybird was little. I’m reminded of feeling like I was going “non-bio incognito” when I was out alone with Jaybird as a baby. I wonder, actually, sometimes, if Jaybird thinks about this when it’s just the two of us and someone refers to me as his “mom,” singular. He usually corrects people – “that’s my mama” – because of course, to him, that distinction is really important. Will it be later? I don’t know.

I mean, it’s not their business. I guess it’s most on my mind when I’m talking to other moms, like the other nursing mom at work, and I just know that she assumes that I nursed Jaybird too. It’s funny, for me. There’s the whole question of relating on a first-time-nursing-mom level, which I’d argue is different than relating to a second-time-nursing-mom.

Really, it’s not unlike the question of whether to come out when people assume that you have a husband. The answer to that is usually easier, for me. I try to say “WIFE” clearly at some point before things get awkward. But when it comes to the kiddos, it’s not so obvious.

Does My Hair Look Gay?

I am having a shallow moment, one that affects me every year until I forget and resume lazy indifference to my ‘do. Uno scheduled us for back-to-back cuts at a Hip Salon staffed by Hip Gays and I am freaking out. Should I cut it off? By this I mean, should I get a cut that will clearly signal that I’m gay? I have struggled with how I “signify” to the world. Never one to feel very masculine in my gender expression, neither am I someone with a particular affinity towards the femme. I like earrings. Not dresses. I have long hair, but that’s because it’s low maintenance. I know very little about makeup, but I wear some these days, for my professional life. I like a good blazer. Maybe some heels, but I then I can’t walk, so maybe not. Lately I’m aspiring to a bit of the Power Dyke look. Is that a thing? Bette in the L Word, anyone?

I don’t care, but I do. I care when people ask — yes, they’ve asked — which one of us “wears the pants.” (Phrase it how you will, it’s the same question underneath. And it comes from lesbians as well as straight people!) I take offense when strangers ask if we’re sisters, which has happened more than once. I want to reassure myself that gender expression falls along a spectrum and fuck ’em all, but I do think about it. Sometimes when we’re going somewhere to meet other lesbians I will rifle through my closet thinking, which jacket makes me look more butch? I have also done that when we go to pediatrician appointments. Yep.

As Jaybird’s NGP it’s been exacerbated, this desire to differentiate via external signifiers. If I had cool short hair, then I would be easily identified as the non-bio mom. If I had short hair, people would be less surprised when I’m out alone with Jaybird, going “non-bio incognito,” and I reveal that I have a wife rather than a husband. At the same time, I am very aware of the power of passing, and I know that signifying as queer can make one a target, can make life hard and complicated when one isn’t among friends.

Oh, hair! Maybe it wouldn’t make a lick of difference even if I shaved my head completely. Maybe I should.

After The Wedding

Thanks to all for your lovely and supportive comments r.e. the wedding and my sadness over my grandma not coming. As it turned out, though she stayed away, many, many of my relatives did show up. As did friends from all over. I still can’t believe it all happened! Everything went perfectly, pretty much, thanks to a crew of pals who took it upon themselves to decorate, coordinate, dance, cook us brunch the next day, and generally be awesome. Uno’s mom made me laugh when she said to my mom — these two are about as different as can be, i.e. Uno’s mom is bi and an artist and dyes her hair shocking colors, and mine is a nice Catholic girl — that if you want to get something done, you need a bunch of dykes to do it. True that. Anyway, it was a sweet, sunny day, full of good cheer and wine and toasts and flowers. It’s all a blur, though certain moments stand out in clear relief:

-My long-time friend frantically applying our makeup in the rattly old house we were renting. Same friend showed me how to use lip gloss in eighth grade. (I probably still need a tutorial in that department).

-Driving down into the woods towards the ceremony, running late, all dressed up and with Baby J strapped in his car seat behind us. To quell our nerves we bellowed Brandi Carlile’s “Dying Day” while Baby J crooned along in imitation and made hilarious frowny faces.

-Uno and I walking down through the trees and seeing everyone seated there, snapping photos. Cousins! Uncles! College friends, grad school friends, my grandma’s best friend, cousins’ babies, you name it.

-The sun, trees, view of the water, Uno’s raspberry colored dress, the tears in her eyes.

-Putting the ring on my baby’s finger. In front of all and sundry. And then kissing. Whoa.

-Baby J shoveling jellybeans into his mouth during the ceremony (our distraction tactic. Worked!)

-Uno’s dad’s toast, which was filled with more feeling and sheer words than I think I’ve ever heard from the man. Yeah, a few glasses of Malbec probably helped him along, but it was shockingly wonderful to hear him emote.

-The toast in which our friend – her words – “gayed it up.” Asked everyone to vote yes on Ref. 74, which is our gay marriage amendment in the fall. Joked that the first time she met me, she thought I was flirting with her and Uno’s other friend. (Okay – MAYBE I was. I was, you know, twenty-three). What was remarkable was knowing that my uncles, Uno’s dad, grandma’s friend, my niece, etcetera, were all hearing this too. Hello, Life. Meet the Other Part Of My Life.

-Our after-party. Yes, we’re hard core. Friends piled into a rental house in the middle of nowhere. Leftover eggplant caponata, wine and amber ale. Meteor shower. Could it get better? Probably not.

So, now we’re home. Friends have left. We’re recovering. Moving slow. A bit off-kilter, including Baby J, who has been more tantrumy these days than usual. I suppose that’s all par for the course, given the big build-up, and I know that we’ll settle back into routine and normalcy soon enough. I love the ring on my finger. I understand now, much more clearly, why marriage is what we want. Not a civil union, domestic partnership, legal agreement or whatever: we want an actual marriage. Called that. Celebrated like that. Recognized like that. A few years ago I was uncertain about doing a full-on wedding, wasn’t sure we really needed one, but now I’m relieved and thrilled that we went for it. Having everyone gathered there as witnesses: that’s not something to be taken lightly, not something we’ll – or they’ll – forget. Our parents, who have been supportive of us, really stepped up. Even Uno’s super religious, Southern Baptist grandmother, who couldn’t make the long trip, SENT US A WEDDING CARD. Uno and I used to joke, a little bitterly, that it was too easy for our families to write us off as “the girls” – nice friends who don’t actually kiss, right? We no longer run that risk. Plus, Baby J will have the photos now, if not the memories. He’ll be able to refer to his parents’ wedding day. That’s everything, as far as I’m concerned.

Now, if only the vote goes our way in November. GAH.

A few more pix:

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We had a pie table, rather than a cake, all assembled by friends and family…Image

Our Big Gay Wedding

So: we are getting married in two weeks.

Two weeks!

TWO WEEKS. It’s going to be a small and woodsy ceremony. We’re wearing bold colors and filling the barn’s rafters with bright garlands; we’ve got family lined up for various jobs, we’ve splurged on catering, friends are flying in from different corners of our lives. It feels right. We’re ready. We’ve been together seven-plus years and have been raising our son together for two of those. We met fresh out of college, intense about our ideas (our first involved conversation was about whether the “Born Into Brothels” director was exploiting her subjects) and our commitment to staying up late (we met for the first time at a packed and sweaty club). We were so young! Since then … well, everything. Just everything.

When we met, our lives were wrapped up in our friends-bubble far away from either of our families. And neither of us were really, fully out to our families, especially not to the extended parts. Our journey has included coming out to grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins, in various ways. There’s been plenty of easy acceptance and some hard tears and some awkward in-between. We’re both oldest granddaughters and daughters. We’re the good girls. It’s been hard, I think, to “rock the boat” just by being ourselves.

It’s all just to say that getting married is the bravest, boldest, most empowering thing I’ve ever done. To make a public claim to each other, to display our affection and romance in front of friends and family, to say this is who we are, this is what we want… it is exactly right and sort of terrifying and mostly awe-inspiring. I’m going to be a blubbering mess the whole damn time!

Meanwhile, I’m sad that my grandma won’t come. That hit me harder than I expected – unlike my uber-Catholic brother’s refusal, which I’d seen coming. I don’t want to dwell on who won’t be there, but this thing with my grandma is hard. We’ve always been close.

I’ve never had a cathartic moment of coming out with her. The closest I ever came to saying “I’m gay” was telling her about the pregnancy (I wrote about that here). She is feisty and mercurial, but when it comes to the big stuff, she avoids discussion. She does: hug Uno, ask about her family, count Baby J among her great-grandchildren with delight. She also: subscribes to evangelical Christian publications and watches FOX News 24/7. It’s confusing. I’m sure for her as well as me.

I’m her oldest granddaughter in a whole slew of grandchildren; I spent oodles of time at her house. She loves and displays this little bowl I made for her when I was seven, my clumsy fingerprints frozen into the clay. When I was having a hard time my sophomore year of college, at a time when my mom was pretty out-of-commission due to a rough divorce, she flew down and scooped me up. We talk often and play cards and laugh. I love to gather up her stories of growing up in rural Montana. She loves to hear about my work and goals.

When I told her about the wedding, I put an arm around her and one around my uncle, who was also there. I said quickly and brightly that I’d been meaning to tell them that Uno and I were having a wedding ceremony at such-and-such time and place, and that they should expect invitations. My uncle mumbled and said he’d be there, great, and my grandma’s eyebrows were simply raised to her hairline, an odd smile plastered across her face.

Now I have my answer: the RSVP card without her name, but with my uncle’s (who lives there as well – it’s actually his house). I can’t help but feel stung. Why did I have my hopes up, anyway? I could confront her, but I know it would go badly. And I don’t really feel like it’s worth it, nor do I have the energy.

My internalized homophobia whispers things like, “if you were marrying a man everyone would come,” when I don’t fucking want to marry a man, I want to marry Uno, and that is fucking it. I hate that I’m aware of the what-if like that, of how it might be if I toed the line and did what was expected of my gender. If only I could just make everyone comfortable. When it’s who I am, when it’s my most important relationships and commitments that make others “uncomfortable.” If I look at that head on, I feel angry, which is refreshing, honestly.

And then I think about everyone who IS coming. We’re lucky to have so much support. Our parents are providing tons of help. Lots of family will be in attendance. My sister made the invitations, my brother-in-law will DJ, Uno’s brother will play music, one of her closest friends will officiate, a family friend is catering, my cousin is doing the flowers, our friends are decorating: all amazing. A communal lifting-up of our little family.

That’s what I want. Not people who merely “accept” or “tolerate” us. I want joy. I want to be embraced. I want to be celebrated. We deserve it!

Domesticated Bliss

After seven years and a baby, we have made ourselves domestic partners. That’s right: we finally filled out the forms, signed, paid, got that business notarized and dropped it in the mail. So romantic, I know! We did cap it off with Indian buffet for lunch before I went back to teach. And we dressed baby J in his best new duds for our trip to the bank. Picture the young, small town notary (on her training day, no less) grinning earnestly at us, a hint of curiosity behind her smile, her trainer saying, “and now you just make sure this is all correct, so they can, um, so they verify they are doing what they want to do.” Baby J flirted mercilessly with them as he is apt to do. We winked at each other. This is what progress is, I was thinking, in addition to thinking about how much I adore my Uno. It’s mundane, in its way (progress, that is.) I am proud of us. Not as annoyed by the domestic partner language as I might be because we didn’t even have this option in TX…and because the governor has recently announced plans to change this whole deal to marriage for all. Yeah, gov!

So, now we are back to laundry, night weaning (more on that soon, whew), cleaning the floor around the high chair, buying eggs and cat food. But don’t worry. A little something fancier and more proper all ’round is in the works…this summer.

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