That Time My Wife Became Manic

I’ve talked about my wife before. A lot. So maybe acquaint yourself before you continue. Or not. Suffice it to say her parents disowned her and she was pretty messed up about it. For a long time. It took a really long time but I convinced her to seek therapy. Eventually her therapist convinced her to see a psychiatrist, and bingo bango she ended up on anti-depressants.

I’m a huge fan of psychiatric medication. I know many people are not, and that’s fine. But I’ve seen them save lives so I’m cool with them. I’ve also seen these medications have horrible side effects so, as I tell my clients on the regular, I have a healthy respect for them. When my wife started an antidepressant it made a huge difference in our lives. She was calmer, less angry, less depressed, and morphing before my eyes back into the woman I originally fell in love with.

It took a long time for her to get to that place though. For her entire life she was told to take her problems to God and that was all she would need. When faced with the ultimatum of the end of our relationship or a psychiatric consult though she finally went to some one other than God. Because no offense but He just wasn’t cutting it. She was crying all the time, irritable, and close to suicidal at times.

The antidepressant she took really changed her outlook on life. She became more  positive and hopeful and it was amazing. Enter ghosts from the past. She totally decompensated. I asked her to speak with her prescriber about what else they could do with medication because of the added stress of our current situation. Her prescriber added another antidepressant. Not an unreasonable thing to do, but in my wife’s case it totally backfired. She became this other weird person whom we now refer to as “manic-wife”. It was so gradual and I have such a high tolerance for crazy that it took us awhile to realize this was an adverse effect of medication.

When I say manic I mean- staying out until all hours of the night with people she met online, wanting to quit her job and drive across the country to California, but mostly wanting to leave me on a daily basis. Some days she seriously only stayed for the cats. This was not her. I felt like I was living with a stranger and she knew that her wires were not connecting correctly. It took me a couple months of hell before I connected the dots. This all started around the time she added the other anti-depressant. She immediately stopped it and agreed to not make any major life decisions for two months.

I cried a lot. Because even though I knew this wasn’t her, it still was her saying awful things to me. If there was ever a time I thought we wouldn’t make it, that was it. I came home from work every day expecting her to be gone. I went to work every day expecting to get a phone call from a hospital in Idaho or something telling me they had her there. And by the end of that horrible summer I just wanted to crawl into a hole and sleep for a long time.

Her psychiatrist was less than nice when we went for her follow up and I explained that our relationship literally almost ended because of her mania which was clearly induced by the addition of the second antidepressant. He spoke to us like we were wasting his time and he didn’t think it was true mania because she hadn’t gone more than 3 days without sleep. I wanted to strangle him and told her she was finding a new psychiatrist. She didn’t disagree that he was an ass but she despises change so that was another battle.

Her new psychiatrist is a gem and has never made me feel likes I am unworthy of his time or energy. (My wife loves him too). I’ve been to exactly two of her appointments ever. One post-manic episode with old psychiatrist and the intake with the new one. I try to stay out of it because it’s not my treatment, it’s hers. But when she got manic and her judgment was impaired I had to insert myself a bit.

My wife gave me permission before I wrote this. Because this is all very intimate knowledge to have about someone. But there are a lot of lessons to be learned here. My wife and I went through something totally awful separately yet so intertwined. Her experience of being manic was terrifying for her because she felt out of control of herself. My experience of her being manic was horrifying because I was literally living with a stranger, but I knew she was in there somewhere. Then when we finally realized what was happening and went to the healthcare professional responsible for her we were completely invalidated and talked down to. I don’t think he was homophobic but I do feel he was sexist. Then we saw a second doctor who was the total opposite. I am so thankful for that experience and to have him in my wife’s life. Because he’s extremely validating and though he could prescribe her something with adverse effects his reaction would never be one of skepticism or condemnation.

Through my navigation of mental health with my wife I learned what it feels like to sit on the other side. It’s not comfortable. As a woman and as a lesbian I was terrified. I was scared for my wife, my relationship, and that we weren’t being treated fairly because of our gender and our sexual orientation.

I feel like a blog post can’t do justice to the level of emotional turmoil we both experienced that Summer. We don’t talk about it much because it’s painful for us both to remember. It was also incredibly isolating. Who do you tell that your wife is manic? What friend or family member could possibly understand what the hell that even looks like? You tell some one your wife has cancer (God forbid) and I’d get casseroles and offers to take her for treatment or something. But you mention mental illness and I just couldn’t predict the responses I would get so I didn’t tell anyone. I also didn’t want any of my friends or family to judge her. But that was years ago and I’m sick of stigma. Stigma against mental health, stigma against homosexuals, stigma against women. Everything. I’m sick of it.

So that’s our story. One summer of absolute pure and utter Hell due to an adverse reaction to medication. Complicated by an asshole provider followed by a provider sent from Heaven. It took her awhile to fully reconstitute and it took our relationship awhile to fully recover. I was scarred by her unpredictability and her apathy. When she came out of the fog I remember her crying and apologizing. I know she didn’t have control of herself but at the same time I was so angry for everything she put me through. It was a bizarre and conflicting set of emotions to walk around with. It took a lot of time to heal but we did.

When we moved recently we had to pack up our house. There was a bike in the garage. It was really expensive and it was during “manic-wife” phase. She became obsessed with the fact that she didn’t have a bike. She also didn’t want a cheap bike from Wal-Mart she wanted the name brand 600$ bike from the name brand store with a warranty. It made no sense because she never even rode bikes. Like ever. And after she bought it she only rode it maybe twice. It became the symbol of manic-wife and over time it got shoved to the back of the garage covered in crap. But it was unearthed during our move. We both kind of stared at it, and she was like “I should sell it,” and then there was this awkward silence as we both remembered the pain of that Summer and then I looked at her and said, “Listen if this is all that’s left of manic-wife I’m glad. Because it could have been a lot worse.”

It’s true. It could have been a hell of a lot worse. We brought the bike with us, and then my Dad asked if he could use it at his house. We said sure and we haven’t seen it since. All traces of manic-wife are now gone. The thing about mental illness is that we both know at any time she may rear her ugly head. But for now we take one day at a time and we are thankful for every day we make it through with each other. I am some one who lives with no regrets. I don’t regret that time period and I firmly believe what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

People who meet my wife for the first time assume she’s this kind compassionate little person. Which she is. But I’m always thinking in my head you have no idea what this woman has been through. She’s a survivor of growing up in a cult, being disowned by her family, embracing her identity as a lesbian, embracing me as her wife, and a survivor of a horrendous psychiatric episode. She’s so much more than what you see on the surface and what would have broken so many people just moved her forward into the woman she is today. She’s not perfect. I mean if she leaves her shoes and dirty socks directly inside the doorway where I step on them one more time I’m going to lose my mind…but she embodies the beauty of freedom. Freedom to be her own self at a great cost.

Stop the stigma.

Love you babe.

When Humans are Brought to Their Knees

Through my ten year career thus far in healthcare I’ve been around people who have been brought to their knees. It doesn’t happen often and when it does it is so powerful and emotional to witness that it becomes scarred into one’s memories. To see another human break whether from physical or emotional pain is in some ways indescribable.

I have seen the moment parent’s witness a physician call the time of death of their child. I’ve been the one doing compressions when the time of death is called. I’ve witnessed patients being given devastating diagnoses. I’ve seen people so crippled with pain from detox they literally fall to their knees in the hallway as they crawl from their rooms begging for relief. These moments are so overt in visceral agony that it is hard to bear witness to them.

It struck me recently though that these are not the most painful situations that come to mind if I think of the worst things I’ve seen.

What comes to mind is the look of defeat on a teenager’s face when her parent calls her a him throughout our session though they have been identifying as female for two years. The fear in the eyes of a young adult when they tell me they are gay and they haven’t come out to their parents because they know their parents will stop paying for college and kick them out of their home. It is the shaking hands of a client who came out to me as transgender terrified of rejection. It’s the hundreds of moments I have personally witnessed when LGBT teens and young people have been horribly invalidated, unaccepted, and in their own eyes unloved because of who they are.

What weighs on me day after day is the intolerance and the hatred facing so many youth in our country, in my state, and in my own town. The scary hatred in America is not just the neo-nazi assholes scattered about our country. The scary hatred is the nice middle class suburban families holding their children hostage through their financial and emotional dependence on them with no acceptance of their sexual orientation or gender identification.

The scary hatred is the “normal” families with children living in fear because of the intolerance in their own families.  Because they have to live with them on a daily basis. They have to live in fear of rejection every day, fear of emotional rejection, fear of homelessness.

It feels defeating to me sometimes because intolerance is so pervasive. It starts to feel like a heavy burden we are all carrying around. As an adult, confident in my own self and in my own skills professionally, it can still pull me down to face a homophobic family who doesn’t know I am married to a woman. It creates uncertainty and fear if I’m being honest. This is also why the religious freedom laws piss me off. So a religious person can say they don’t want to bake my wedding cake, but I as a lesbian have to treat every person who walks through my door because I am a healthcare provider.

I don’t treat homophobic people any differently than LGBT people. But it feels scary to sit with some one who doesn’t know who I am and who would potentially threaten me if they find out.

There is acute pain such as a sudden loss, and then there is the pain that grates at you, day after day. Every day being misgendered or every day having your parents try and set you up with boyfriends even though they know you are a lesbian or vice versa. Every day being told you are confused, it’s a phase, you’re evil, you’re going to Hell…

That kind of cruelty chips away at a person’s soul. It’s like slow torture. It’s quite possibly the most painful human experience I bear witness to.

To all the parents out there- it’s not a phase, they are not confused, and you won’t just bring your kid to their knees you will push them down a path into deep depression that can end in suicide. People don’t get up from suicide.

I don’t know how to fight this other than what I’m doing. I provide safe space for LGBT youth who are living in fear. I make sure they have lifelines in the event of suicidal thoughts. I talk and talk about the suicide rates and acceptance and love and I’m hoping maybe some day I will see news stories about the declining suicide rates in LGBT youth instead of the increasing rates. I will see news stories about families who love and support their children without discrimination. Unconditional love will be just that, unconditional.

On days when I want to fall to my knees from bearing witness to the fear, pain, and depression in youth the hope for acceptance keeps me going. Knowing I am raising two sons who will never know that fear of rejection also propels me forward. But it’s hard. It’s hard to be a minority because it is tiring in so many ways. I’m tired of the hatred and I’m tired of watching parents inflict pain onto their kids.

Create safe spaces for youth, be a lifeline and if you are a parent please just love your kids. If you are not LGBT don’t put your head in the sand. The nice suburban neighborhoods outside of the South and Midwest are filled with intolerant families. Don’t look the other way.

 

 

Mommy-ing

I remember seeing Into the Woods in theaters when I was about four months pregnant with the boys. The baker’s wife longs for a child, and they agree to help the witch break a spell in order to lift their curse of infertility. They lie, cheat, and steal essentially to get what they need. I remember being very hormonal at the time with memories of our infertility journey still quite fresh. I rested both my hands over my stomach protectively throughout the entire movie. I was moved to tears by their struggles because I could empathize with them.

There is a general view in society of women as weak and fragile, especially around pregnancy and children. I’ve had clients in my office at the age of 50 who have never had children for one reason or another and they are practically in mourning because of that emptiness from never conceiving.

Becoming a mother changed me. I never knew I could love some one so fiercely and be made so vulnerable by them so easily. Those boys simultaneously melt me and drive me insane. Every sleepless minute in that first year when I was so close to breaking down so many times I would remember the longing I had to be a mom and that would keep me going. I frequently just changed my mental state by remembering that hollow feeling I had every time we had a negative pregnancy test.

I’ve said it before and will say it again. Children of lesbian and gay couples are wanted. Yearned for. That doesn’t mean we all know how to be great parents. Because we are human. There are days I’m like just give me five minutes in the bathroom please. I came into my bedroom once and saw one of my sons twisting my 200.00$ pair of eyeglasses around and totally lost my shit. When the same son later bit my arm, hard enough to leave a bruise, I also lost my mind a bit. I placed him in timeout and walked away for a minute because I needed to not see him for a period of time. But then there are times when they talk to each other, and hug each other, and the first time I ask for a kiss and they come and kiss my cheek, or the times I nursed them and they would wrap their little arms around me in such serenity.

These mommy-ing moments make me and break me. Same for my wife.

It physically pains me to think of not seeing them or not speaking to them, or having them grow up and leave forever. That’s why woman to woman and mom to mom I’m talking to every woman who has disowned her gay or transgender kid. How the hell did you do it? I’m not asking out of judgement just frank curiosity. Because I literally could not imagine doing that. I can imagine setting limits with them as adults if there were things I didn’t agree with. For example if they were stealing from me or something wild like that, then I would set boundaries. To be clear I wouldn’t cut them out of my life, but I would take their house key or something. At the end of the day they’d still be my kid. I’d still think back to that emptiness that overwhelmed me while we were trying to conceive. Then I’d just melt.

It’s like in The Birdcage. Robin Williams tries telling his 20 year old son if he gets married he’s done with him. His son says okay dad, if that’s how you want it, and he goes to shake his hand and say good-bye. Robin Williams pulls him into this tight embrace and looks like he is smiling and crying, “You little fucker you called my bluff” . That scene is so powerful and has always stuck with me. They do an amazing job at portraying an unbreakable Father-Son bond. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how it would go with me and my sons if they ever came home with a bombshell like that. I’d talk tough but they would know that no matter what I’d pull them back into that embrace and just never let them go.

I’ve spoken to mom’s of all ages and when they hear my wife’s story of being disowned they all just get this look, I think it’s the pained Mama Bear look, like they are trying to imagine any one hurting their child in such a deep way and it pisses them off. Most of them just can’t fathom it. I’ve never talked to a mom who’s said, “Oh yeah I can totally see myself doing that to my kid.” It’s unimaginable on a visceral level.

When I became a Mom at some point during the first couple months I made a conscious decision. No more judging other parents. Because I realized how freaking hard it is to be a parent. Gay or straight parenting is hard. I have stuck by that decision and it has been so good for me. Passing judgement is easy but it’s not helpful for anyone. I’m trying very hard to not judge these decisions made by mothers but I’m also trying to understand them and that’s where I’m getting a little lost. Because I just don’t understand and no matter how much bible verse is quoted at me I still won’t understand.

Every child no matter her age yearns for love, acceptance, and approval from her parents. To every Mom who has disowned your child for their sexuality or gender identity. My heart aches for your child and for the unnecessary heartache you’ve brought upon you both. It’s never too late to reach out with acceptance and love. There are women who literally lose their minds because they are unable to be a mother. I know I almost did.

Being a Mom is more than just a gift or a blessing. It defines you in so many ways, and it tests you, and to just walk away from that because your kid wants to sleep with someone of the same gender is mind-blowing to me. There are so many worse things that could happen. Kids die. Mom’s are not made because they cannot conceive. Why would you not take every second you possibly can having a relationship with your child?

My children are like my oxygen and I struggle with not passing judgement. Every day. Because without them I literally wouldn’t want to breathe. And I would never willingly give up my relationship with them.

My “Homosexual Agenda”

I’ve always found it fascinating to hear the “homosexual agenda” (HA) referenced by individuals. I feel like it’s usually said with a touch of disdain, anger, and can be used to invoke fear among the more conservative leaning section of the population. Watch out for the homosexuals and their agenda! Like part of our agenda is to steal children and rape women or something.

I did some cursory research on the HA and came to find out that we do actually have a published Agenda. Who knew? Two Harvard educated gay men wrote After the Ball in 1989 and outlined the direction gay rights activists should take. What I got out of it is that they essentially wanted to normalize homosexual relationships in the mainstream media so that people would be more accepting. They demanded equal treatment instead of living in the shadows. They wanted to change the perception of the public to homosexuals being a minority and a victimized minority at that. They worked toward removing homosexuality as an illness from the DSM (diagnostical manual for psychiatric illnesses). They suggested ending the perception that homosexuality is subversive and evil and work toward acceptance. I found the following list on a conservative website that outlines what that author’s perceived goals of the HA are:

  • promote gay pride parades
  • demand non-discrimination laws
  • insist on homosexuals’ adoption of children
  • push the homosexual agenda in schools[2]
  • legalize various alternate forms of marriage (i.e. man and man, woman and woman, man and three women, woman and box turtle, man and sex toy)
  • demand public funding to deal with increased homosexual-related social problems
  • promote the transgender agenda
  • impose a large-scale loss of free speech
  • legalize homosexuality
  • ban counseling for kids confused by homosexual issues
  • attack churches

Most of this I don’t actually have a problem with. The loss of free speech seems a little whiney to me though. If by loss of free speech he is referencing the homosexuals demands to end hate talk against us then I agree. If by ending free speech it means I can walk into a room and not be called a dyke in a derogatory manner than I also agree. If by ending free speech it means that no one is allowed to feel or express themselves against homosexuality then I disagree. No one is telling anyone that they can’t have their beliefs. But just like you would be offended if my wife and I had sex in front of you, I would be offended if you demeaned my family in front of me. I also am not down with the attack churches statement. That doesn’t make sense to me. Churches can do what they want to do and believe what they want to believe. If their beliefs are forced on people that’s a problem. If their beliefs cause pain to a member the member should be free to leave without guilt or fear of reproach. Counseling should be readily available to children struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. The counseling should be neutral, and not trying to sway the child any particular way. A counselor’s job should never to be to tell a child he or she is gay or not gay, transgender or not transgender. A counselor should be a support and objective guide on his or her journey.

Gay pride parades are fun. Don’t watch if you find them offensive. Just like I don’t watch when there are pro-life rallies.

Martin Luther King Jr. is a hero of mine. I love his writings. He developed an amazing agenda for African American’s in the 60’s during the Civil Rights Movement. Without an agenda how can a minority make any advances in a society that is continually pushing them down.

I always said my agenda is just to live with my wife and kids, and be normal and happy. In a nutshell that apparently is the HA. But according to our opponents by seeking normalcy as an American family we are infringing on other people’s rights and freedoms.  By seeking acceptance as a normal family we are promoting a lifestyle that is so sinful and so evil it is causing other people to say we are limiting their freedom of speech. By seeking equality in the workplace and by hoping to buy a wedding cake at the bakery we like without being turned away because it’s a gay wedding we are stepping on other people’s rights. It’s taken me some time and a lot of reading to wrap my head around the other side’s case. And what I’ve taken away is that I wholeheartedly and respectfully disagree.

Because I still want my children to be treated the same as other children. I want the same rights given to every other tax payer. I always think of Bad Boys 2 when Martin Lawrence screams at Guantanamo “Don’t shoot! We are Americans! I pay my motherfucking taxes!” That’s essentially how I feel every time I see anti-LGBT legislation put forth and/or passed. Why is my money good enough for this government but not my family? If my family is so evil then isn’t our money tainted? You really want gay money funding the military? Won’t that just gay it up? What about the repairs at the White House? Careful it might be taken out of the taxes from those lesbians…don’t paint anymore gay up in here!

I found this on the department of treasury website. “The signers of the Declaration of Independence set out to establish a new form of government for the “protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. To this end, the framers of our constitution enumerated the proper fiscal functions of government as “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States”.” The government was formed to protect my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. But according to some, only certain lives and liberties and happiness should be protected.

The argument from the right is religious in nature, and I firmly believe in the separation of Church and state; that’s on the top reasons our country was founded. The government should not be utilizing religious arguments to combat the HA. And religious entities should get themselves back on their pulpits and out of the government.

To my conservative compatriots I agree that we as a gay community have an Agenda. Sorry it took me some time to realize what it was. But I get it now. I disagree that I am looking to take away any of your freedoms. But if by vilifying homophobia and discriminatory acts as hate crimes you feel that impedes on your freedoms then we are at a stalemate. If by wanting my family accepted as normal that tramples your freedoms then allow me to sigh and shake my head and gather my thoughts. We are not going away. We pay our taxes, and as a citizen of these United States we are going to continue to demand full protection for our welfare just like every other citizen. Every time you talk about the HA maybe take a step back and recognize that you are talking about normal people and children who are just wanting to live in peace. Our Agenda is not scary, it is beautiful, it’s called the American Dream.

 

Angry Dyke.

When I first started dating my wife I was young. It started as a one night stand. I was single, happy, and venturing out into my twenties. At first our relationship was fun and games. The “honeymoon period” is a real thing. Then after about a year I remembered that I am straight and the reality of being in a same sex relationship started sinking in. It didn’t go well for awhile after that.

I remember feeling angry. I was angry that I was in love with her, I was angry that I couldn’t imagine my life without her. I was angry that I wasn’t a “real” lesbian and she was, and I had it so easy with my family and she didn’t. I was angry that I was straight but fell in love with a woman. I was angry that I already knew what discrimination feels like just from being related to a lesbian. I was angry that I couldn’t just have sex with my husband if I wanted kids. That was a big one. I could not wrap my mind around the whole how a lesbian gets pregnant situation. I was mad that no one told me to walk away from her. This sounds very petty and childish but in the moment it’s so intense.

I sort of forgot all of this until I started seeing more and more young adult LGBT clients at my mental health practice. They are all angry. Transgender clients are angry that they are in the wrong body, that they face discrimination, that no one truly understands and everyone asks about their genitals (note to reader don’t do that!). Young lesbian and gay clients are angry that they are gay. They are angry that they are forced into this lifestyle that they don’t necessarily want. They are angry they had to fight with their schools to bring a date of the same gender to prom. They are angry that they have faced verbal and physical violence from peers and/or parents and/or strangers.

At the core of their anger is absolute and utter fear.

Thinking back I recognize that underneath my anger was so much fear. Fear of being a minority. Fear of discrimination. Fear of fertility. Fear of living my life with my wife but also finding it physically painful to imagine my life without her.

It was no picnic for my wife either. She was living with this mess of a human being who one day was firm and solid in her commitment to the relationship and the next day was sobbing because she wanted this whole lesbian relationship to just go away.

People who met me after my wife and I got married just assumed I’m a lesbian. It’s just too freaking hard to explain that actually I identify as heterosexual but happened to fall in love with a woman. People are into labels and our relationship defies labels. I am not bisexual, I am not gay, and obviously I’m not totally straight. I prefer to think of myself as beautifully and happily curved.

For me there was anger for a multitude of reasons. For every LGBT youth who firmly identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender- and for the occasional straight person who finds themselves in love with the same gender- there will be anger. There will be days and moments of pure anguish. I’ve lived it personally and I’ve observed it professionally. Being a minority is hard. Being a minority in a country half full of homophobic individuals is harder. Coming to terms with one’s identity at the age of 18-22 is a normal occurrence, but what about when your identity doesn’t fit with society’s heteronormative culture? So many LGBT young adults become stagnant- they can’t finish college, they can’t hold a job, because developing into a young adult is freaking difficult. Developing into an LGBT young adult is beyond difficult.

It puts every friendship and every singly family member’s relationship on the line. It affects career choices and geographical choices for living. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, coming to terms with one’s own Queer identity will make you or break you.

If you are a family member of some one who is grasping and clawing their way through this journey please reach out to them in any way you can. Let them know their life is valued, let them know that though there are more and more anti-LGBT laws being put forth that you want them to live and you want them to be part of your life. Be a lifeline. Because we all need one.

In the depths of my anger and sadness and fear my lifeline was my wife, my friends, and my family. I got to go through my struggles with only my own judgement, no one else’s. Every one else encouraged me to stop being angry and be grateful I found love. The love is love platitude made me want to vomit though. Because love is love, but it was making my life more difficult.

Don’t dismiss a person’s anger because it generally is a cover for fear. We do have much to fear.

Looking back I regret nothing. Because I love my life and I love my family. But the journey from there to here was intense in so many ways. To anyone gasping for air through your anger and fear- it gets better. But it takes a lot of work.

And to any LGBT individuals who fall in love with a person who identifies as heterosexual but is potentially moving toward “beautifully curved”……gear up, you’re in for a wild ride.

(My cat is not a dyke. She loves boys. But she’s got the angry look nailed)

LGBT Politics

I’ve tried to not comment on politics in this blog because they cause me to feel ill. But in the last 24 hours there have been some major developments in terms of anti-LGBT legislation/executive orders (aka tweets) which have made it impossible for me to focus on anything else.

The first time I really engaged with politics I was 19. I got on a bus by myself with strangers. We drove overnight straight through to Washington D.C. I attended the March for Women’s Lives. It was during the Bush administration. Now personally, after being pregnant, I could not have an abortion. Like ever. But I will die defending my right to make that choice. Because it’s my own choice and no one else’s. I have met and treated women who have history of abortions and I’ve seen it cause heartache and pain. I’ve also seen it allow a woman to live.

I make no judgements about other people’s choices. Because again, they are not my choices. Hilary Clinton spoke at that march, among many other people. She was inspiring. I was so young, and naive, and hopeful. I took a stand for something important to me at a young age with no support from anyone. I look back and I admire that bravery.

Flashforward. I married a woman.

Then our current administration came to power in the wake of Pulse. I have written about how Pulse affected my life already, so I won’t rehash it.

There are many ways politics directly influenced my life and my life decisions. The federal recognition of gay marriage not only made me feel comfortable in my own country because it finally recognized my family, but it made my taxes a hell of a lot easier to file every year. The length and the lack of paid time I received for my maternity leave is based out of laws. Our decision to proceed with a second parent adoption even though my wife and I are both on the birth certificates was due to a pending legal case in another state. Thus far the lesbians are losing and the anonymous sperm donor is winning. Just an fyi. Thanks Mississippi.

Having a white house that is full of anti-LGBT people is terrifying. Being a minority on a daily basis is already fear-inducing, but add in people who are in charge of our country who actively hate us and put forth legislation, statements, and tweets that put us down is just fucking alarming. The way the media and social media works today means there’s never a break. I am always inundated with how the new politicians in the white house are kicking the LGBT population today. It creates stress today and fear for tomorrow. I don’t like fear. It pisses me off. I am angry that I live in a country that nominated two people who inspire fear in minorities. It’s not a good feeling to sit with.

So after we moved and after #45 I channeled 19 year old me who took a bus by herself to march for a cause that meant something to me. I decided to attend our new towns democratic committee meeting. I can’t complain about the property taxes here, and the legislation there unless I do something about it. Just like I came out as a provider after Pulse, I decided to come out as a democrat after #45. The town we moved to is represented by republicans. That makes me scared too, and again angry that it makes me scared. I’ve been reluctant to go to town halls with our republican state representatives because I don’t want to know their thoughts on LGBT rights. I just feel like I can’t take another blow. But that’s not fair, because they may be pro-LGBT rights just anti-fiscal irresponsibility or whatever it is Republicans are always going on about. Sorry. That sounds judgmental.

My first move was the Democrats. And it was the Slate meeting- I didn’t know what that even meant. But I do now because somehow my name ended up on the Slate. I’m running for something. I thought I was offering my name as a place holder, but then I was signing a paper saying I was running for some board of something. I’m sort of okay with it though because I figure I can’t be scared and angry and not do anything about it.

Some people are not into politics. As a minority you can’t avoid it. Laws and polices and Supreme Court decisions shape our lives. We live and breathe it on every level because we are scared. It’s like when you drive past a car accident, you don’t want to look and see the severed head but you just have to because you can’t not look either. That’s how it is with me and the news. I don’t want to see the newest betrayal against us, but I also can’t bury my head in the sand. That’s not how I roll.

To all my LGBT folks, stay strong, we will get through this. To all my non-LGBT folks- step it up and help us. We need allies. To all the people working against us…you make me tired and sad and angry. Add hungry and that means you really don’t want to mess with me.

The democratic town committee meeting started with about forty of us standing and placing our hands on our hearts and reciting the pledge of allegiance. It was something I haven’t done since I was in high school. It felt weird but it was a moment of unity. And I needed to be reminded of the pledge.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

We must all stand for liberty and justice for all.

 

Dancing Dykes

One of my sons loves to dance. There is a specific scene in Moana that comes on and he will run around the house looking for me to dance with him to the drum beats. Dancing with my sons brings me and them such joy. I cannot imagine a household without music and dance.

My wife was not allowed to dance in her household growing up. It was among the religious beliefs her parents held that was preached at their church. Dancing leads to sex, and sex is bad. End result- no dancing. No music with a beat that would encourage dancing. Yes even “Under the Sea” in The Little Mermaid. When we started dating and we went to a gay bar and we danced it was not just the dancing it was the freedom to dance. Together. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I started dancing. It was a mixture between awe, excitement, fear, and hope.

Our dancing evolved over the years. We danced at gay weddings, at gay bars, and then once a year we went to this earthy crunchy herbal conference for women and we danced around the fire circle with a bunch of ladies to the drums. It sounds so witchy and old school weird, but it was wicked fun. I know that makes us sound earthy crunchy, and I’d like to say we are but we are not. I literally want to die after two nights in a tent during that weekend. All the food is provided, and there are showers and bathrooms and a lake. But literally, I want to die. I hate camping, I hate tents, I want a nice hotel room with attached bathroom and shower. But I suck it up once a year to go dance around the fire circle with amazing women including my wife. I may complain a little…okay a lot. We bring wine.

People in general take so much for granted. I can tell you because of our lesbian marriage status, our current administration, our past life history, and our journey forward we never take our life for granted. We bought a house in the midst of this presidential turmoil. We literally had the discussion of do we rent and see if we have to leave the country in exile, or do we buy knowing we could lose everything and still have to leave the country in exile? We bought. I like to take chances. I like to hope. I hope that the world we live in will not be as damaging to our future as we fear.

We do not feel comfortable dancing together at a straight wedding or a straight bar. Other lesbian couples might, but we just don’t. We don’t like the sideways glances or sometimes outright staring. We don’t want to offend anyone and we don’t want to deal with the drama if some one is offended.

Pleasantville is one of my all time favorite movies. There’s a lot of stuff in that movie. It’s a coming of age story for an entire town. It addresses racism and sexism in a beautiful way. It addresses sexual intimacy and love and passion and lust. There’s a part when the “black and white” people start to ban things including dancing and music. Then all the “colored” people (they are literally in color versus black & white) are at the diner hiding and someone turns on the jukebox. Someone yells at him and says they aren’t allowed to do that anymore, and then Toby Keith stands up and says Yes, we are. He lets it play and everyone slowly starts tapping their feet to the rhythm. It’s a powerful moment when the audience is shown they are not going to go quietly into the night without any dialogue, just the gentle tapping of people’s toes in rhythm to the music.

We bought our own house here because we decided we are not going quietly into the night (a.k.a. Canada). This is my country too. We were born here and we want to live here. We own a piece of this country now and like it or not we are lesbians.

We dance too. Every time that scene is Moana comes on and my son’s smiling face comes for me I pick him up and I twirl us both around and around. He laughs and giggles, and clings to me and I think how could my wife’s parents choose to miss out on this? How could they ban dancing? Because banning dancing would ban laughter and these moments where we feel so connected with our children. Every time we dance together I cherish it. Because there will come a day when the thought of dancing with his mother brings a shudder to him instead of a smile. Then I guess it will be my wife and I dancing together again. Dancing will always be our moment of connection to each other and to freedom. Whether we are on a dance floor at a bar, at a wedding, or under the New Hampshire moon around a bonfire, dancing unites us in a way nothing else can.

Suicide

I was a huge Chester Bennington fan. Specifically because Linkin Park sings a song on one of the Transformers albums that I love. Whenever a famous celebrity commits suicide and we bring a spotlight onto this horrible subject for a hot second there are a lot of contentious viewpoints. At the core humanity is uncomfortable with two things- death and mental illness. Combine those together and many feelings evolve. You may ask what the hell this has to do with being a lesbian. Absolutely nothing. That’s the point. I do not go through my entire day in the mindset of “lesbian”. I go through my days as a human being. I am affected in the same way other human beings are by negative news. I also work in mental health so suicide is kind of a big deal to me.

I worked with a psychiatrist for a long time, and the first time we had a patient suicide after discharge he said to me, “Psychiatric illness has a mortality rate.” I thought he was callous. Now I realize that he was right.

Family members often feel like they failed their loved one who suicides. When in reality we failed them. We as healthcare professionals and scientists have not cured mental illness. Just like oncologists have not cured cancer and cardiologists have not cured heart disease. Every single medical illness has a mortality rate including psychiatric illness. That’s what he meant, he was trying to normalize psychiatric illness and view it as a medical illness.

People will bring you lasagne when your family member is hospitalized with cancer. They may not even know if your family member is hospitalized for psychiatric reasons because of your own shame in revealing it.

There is stigma around brain illnesses because we can’t see them and they are based mostly on subjective reports of feelings. But I promise you they are real. People are suffering. People feel desperate and hopeless and isolated because in their desperation and hopelessness they know there is a stigma around mental illness and they are terrified to reach out for help.

I’ve had patients sobbing telling me the only reason they haven’t killed themselves yet is because of their dog, cat, brother, mother, etc. I tell them whatever it takes to get them through the day I will support. I see people at their worst and in their worst when they are hitting rock bottom it is then that I see their best. Because I have seen people drag themselves to my office for therapy they don’t want. Pay for medications they detest needing. Drive to the job they are fearful of losing on a minute by minute basis. Take care of their family- kids, husband, wife etc.- when they  feel like they are barely surviving themselves. We call people who fight cancer survivors, but what about those silent victims of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and PTSD? Every day they draw a breath they are as much survivors as anyone battling an illness.

I’ve heard people say suicide is selfish. I can tell you from my experience with patients they feel living and being a drain on their family or friends is selfish. In their eyes they are actually providing relief to everyone around them. Reaching that point of depression, self loathing, desperation, and hopelessness is unimaginable to most people. Just like hearing that diagnosis of cancer, Parkinson’s, MS, MD, etc. Until we re-evaluate our views on mental illness and pour our hearts and souls and money into treating it and finding the cures that are so desperately needed then more people will die.

Rest in peace Chester.

10 Reasons Being a Lesbian Rocks

When I initially thought about writing this I’m not going to lie, I had a hard time thinking of 10 reasons. Because my brain was inundated with negatives. Discrimination, religion, families, coming out, disowning, the list goes on. I could think of a hundred reasons being a lesbian sucks and they just kept overpowering me. So I took some distance from this piece and came back to it when I was in a better frame of mind. I also talked to some lesbians. They helped. So here goes…

  1. Lesbian sex is awesome. 
  2. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Those words have never been more true than for LGBT youth today. An estimated 44% of adolescents who kill themselves identify as LGBT. That’s a huge percentage considering we only make up an estimated 4.1% of the general population (Gallup Pole 2016). All of the negatives that come with being a lesbian- discrimination, religion, disowned by family, etc.- literally kill us but also have the ability to make us stronger. I would not be the woman I am today without facing the adversity I have faced and seen others face. I’ve talked in previous posts about the experiences my sister and my wife had with discrimination within our towns, friends, and families. I learned so much from watching them both over the years. I know so many other painful stories of lesbians who have faced discrimination. Seeing them all traverse adversity with grace and dignity has made me a better person. I could tell you story after heartbreaking story of these people, and they are not all at home lying in the dark because they can’t bear to live. They are working, living, making families, going out, having fun. They are survivors, not victims. They are amazing human beings walking beside you  and luckily walking beside me too.
  3. Fun fact- hospitals will let people of the same gender stay overnight in a double room if needed. So if I was married to a man and was hospitalized and felt I really needed him to stay over night with me, he wouldn’t be able to stay because he is not the same gender as my roommate. But when I was hospitalized for throwing out my back they let my wife stay overnight in the chair next to the bed because I couldn’t move literally, and she was a girl as was my roommate. This also works for any same gender situation. We get to be in the locker room together at the gym (I’m laughing because she NEVER goes to the gym but if you are fitness inclined and so is your wife that would be cool). We get to go into bathrooms together anywhere, and some spas have female only areas and we could be there together too. Sometimes being the same gender works to our advantage.
  4. People find lesbians intriguing. As a result- any time anyone is invited to a lesbian wedding or party they show up. I mean literally we even had people show up at our wedding who we sort of jokingly invited. I don’t know why, but it happens. So for any lesbians reading this- think about that when planning parties, weddings, showers, etc. They will ALL show up.
  5. Being a minority has it’s perks. Not many. But they exist. I live in a wonderful state that has laws stating I cannot be fired based on my sexual orientation or gender. For the lesbians that live in other anti-LGBT states (ahem Texas, North Carolina, Mississippi, Arkansas, etc.) I’m sorry. You can be fired and that’s just fucking wrong. But the states that recognize we make up at least 4.1% of the tax-paying, economy driving, population- Thank-you New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, California, Massachussetts, etc.- they want to attract the LGBT population to their states. Because like I said, we pay taxes, we drive up the economy with the money we spend, and those states are happy to have anyone who will stimulate the economy regardless of sexual orientation. We are sought after to move to areas right now because those states know we are being discriminated against elsewhere and want us to spend our money in states that welcome us with open arms. I’m cool with that.  Remember that awful Mayor in California who said crime is down and the economy is up in his city because of “the gays”? As politically incorrect as he was he was right. We rock. And the states that want us, I say should have us. You can guarantee I will not be planning a vacation to any of the states passing anti-LGBT legislation, which means they lose out on all those vacation dollars. I purposefully plan vacations to LGBT friendly states, as do many LGBT families. Remember when the NCAA threatened to pull their finals from NC after they pass the infamous bathroom ban? It was a big deal, NC stood to lose A LOT of money. I don’t really care that it’s motivated by money, because we need people coming to the defense of the LGBT community. I love Target. I never shopped there before the CEO came to the defense of transgender individuals and breastfeeding mothers. Then they recently introduced a line of gender neutral clothing. I mean come on! That’s amazing. For every evangelical Christian they lose as a customer I guarantee they are gaining two more who are raging lesbians. Highlights magazine. I would never have bought three subscriptions to it because I thought it was overpriced. But then they did stories around same sex couples. I was sold. I strongly encourage all LGBT folks to utilize the almighty dollar. It’s one of the few bargaining chips we have. Be mindful of where you spend your money and support LGBT friendly businesses, states, cities, etc.
  6. Ellen Degeneres. Rachel Maddow. Jane Lynch. Rosie O’Donnell. Jodie Foster. Lily Tomlin. Ellen Page. Kristen Stewart. That’s a list of some formidable intelligent sexy women. Glad their on my team. Being a lesbian is a real thing. And the more celebrities who come out the better, because it’s a way to normalize it. Also, lesbians automatically have something to talk about if we run into any of these people ever. I can see it happening, “Hey Ellen, I’m a lesbian too.” Then we high five and become besties.
  7. It’s never weird asking your partner to buy you tampons for the first time.
  8. We don’t have to pay for condoms or birth control. (Public health message to all lesbians- this doesn’t mean we are immune to STDs and this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a pap smear as recommended by your OB-GYN. We can still get cervical cancer. Drives me nuts that lesbians don’t go to the OB-GYN.)
  9. Lesbian parties and weddings are so much more fun than straight parties. Going out to gay bars is also more fun that straight bars. People are crazier, more “out” there, and happier. I have a lot of theories as to why, but not sure if any of them are accurate. I thought this even before I was dating and married to a woman. There’s something more laid back about lesbian weddings and parties. All of that gayness in a room I guess, it’s just more fun.
  10. The best part about being a lesbian is that I am married to someone I truly love. We have both sacrificed so much to be who we are to be with the person we love. And who better than Optimus Prime to summarize “The greatest weakness of most humans is their hesitancy to tell others how they love them while they’re alive.” When you meet a lesbian couple I can guarantee they have a story. They’ve been through some shit individually and/or together. Lesbian relationships are special because they almost always require sacrifice. Never doubt that lesbian couples love each other fully and deeply living in the here and now with no expectations for the future. To be a part of a deep relationship that faces a society of hatred and discrimination sounds scary, and sometimes it is, but it is also fulfilling in ways that heterosexual white couples just won’t ever understand. Every negative about being a lesbian carries a positive. Why do you think our symbol is a rainbow? We are the calm and the beauty and the different fighting to emerge through a dark storm.

Coming Out to the Plumber

I work with many young adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, agender, etc. One of the most common questions I am asked is about telling others they are LGBTQIA. Recently a client said she would rather identify as lesbian with other lesbians because there is a stigma around being bisexual with lesbians. She also said she would not want to tell guys she is bisexual because they might assume she wants to be involved in a threesome. For transgender individuals they feel compelled to tell people ahead of time if for instance they meet on internet/app dating sites. They do not want to be accused later of misleading some one. But then they are stigmatized online. Then there’s everyday life that happens. I have told some of my clients my journey about coming out and how that has changed and grown over time.

There are situations that are not appropriate for me to disclose I am married to a woman. However the older I get and the more solidified in our marriage we become (and the more of an I don’t care what you think of me attitude I develop) the less I care about correcting people. The person I was at 22 would not tell anyone at work or in everyday life I was dating a woman. I was not comfortable with it. I faced discrimination in high school, I saw my sister face discrimination. I was scared and unsure of myself. I thought telling my family and friends would be the hard part. For me, that was easy. They didn’t care. Literally no one close to me cared. They all basically said “I just want you to be happy.” I know I was lucky to be surrounded by accepting people.

I found out quickly that coming out to one’s family and friends was only the beginning. Every day of my life I am faced with the decision who and when to come out to. Every time I meet a new person I have to try and slip it in somehow, or do I? Every time I am with my sons with or without my wife we navigate questions.

Recently we moved into a new house. We had the plumber over within a week to deal with some issues. He was very nice. My sons were obsessed with handing him tools which he tolerated with a good sense of humor. At one point he asked me about their dad. I said, “Oh actually I have a wife.” He smiled and said “oh okay,” surprisingly not awkward at all, because some people get real awkward there. They start to stutter and then they often tell me how their cousin’s friend is a lesbian. Or their stepsister. Or their Aunt. I generally stare at them like they are nuts. I don’t tell straight people how many straight people I know. You don’t need to tell me your distant connections to gay people. It’s okay. But the plumber handled this all in stride, until he looked at the boys again and then he said, “So how did you get these guys?”

I sort of laughed out loud to myself in my head. I actually wanted to pull up my post on how lesbians get pregnant. But instead I smiled and said “Oh I had them,” end of discussion. He moved on, and asked if we have family around who helps. I said “Just my family, hers doesn’t talk to us because of the gay thing.” He looked genuinely sad, and said “I just don’t understand.” Then again calmly moved on in the conversation and told me we would likely need a new toilet because this one basically sucks.

He was so nice and appropriate and in the span of 5 minutes I disclosed a lot to him about my life. By him asking very general and seemingly innocent questions he hit on two very hot spots. We are gay and my wife was disowned. And those two things come up more than you would think in casual conversation. Because it’s what every one talks about. Who’s your spouse, wow you have twins, you must need a lot of help. These are all natural comments to make. Not many people are prepared for my responses. Honestly, five or ten years ago I wasn’t in a place where I could make those responses comfortably. I was younger and less sure of myself.

I still like to think of myself as young-ish being only in my early thirties. But I am more sure of myself. I told this story recently to a client because I wanted to demonstrate that while I did “out” myself it happened naturally, in the comfort of my own home, with only one other person. The middle of a Baptist church may not be the place to confirm your sexuality. There may be times in your life when you don’t feel comfortable and you don’t have to disclose to anyone. You can always say “It’s none of your business.” It may sound rude, and there are nicer ways to say it, but the message is the same. Everyone wants to be liked, and the LGBTQ community walks around with a core piece of themselves that not everyone likes. It breeds a certain amount of discomfort and fear when meeting new people.

My message to all young adults and teens questioning or firm in your own sexual identity would be to not feel pressured to say anything to any one. You can come out in your own time in your own way. Be prepared for people to become immediately awkward and embarrassed at times. Be prepared to instantly have a soft spot for some one because of how amazing they are when you come out to them. And unfortunately be prepared for negative responses. Because they happen too. I reached a point in my life though where I just don’t care about negative responses. I am who I am, I love my family to death, and I am not ashamed of myself or my family. Like I said, it’s been a decade. That’s a long time. I’ve grown a lot, and still have more growing to do. I also have been through a lot personally and professionally that made me stronger and less vulnerable to fears and insecurities. Whenever someone mentions my “husband” I correct them to wife. But that only started in the last couple years. Previously depending on who it was I wouldn’t engage in that discussion. Or I would just agree. There are certain times and places that I was not going to allow that vulnerability. It sucks that the world is like that, but it is.

For all the friends and family members of gay people just be aware that the coming out phase isn’t a phase. It’s a lifelong dilemma.