Receiving the ‘Hater Glare’ on vacation.

This past week my wife and two sons were in New Hampshire. We knew that it is a conservative leaning state at times, as Hilary only won it by about 3,000 votes. I thought fleetingly this year might be a different experience as we hadn’t been there since before the 2016 election, but I didn’t think about it too much. After all we had been there as a couple over a dozen times and had no negative experiences. Perhaps we did though and I just was completely unaware of them living in my Obama happy bubble.

My sons are two year old twin boys. We purchased them lumberjack outfits for Halloween at Carters in NH. Overalls and flannel shirts with work boots. It was chilly enough in New Hampshire for them to wear their new outfits when we were walking one day on the boardwalk down by the lake.

Now picture two two-year olds in overalls, flannels, work boots, and holding hands walking down the boardwalk. It was quite possibly the cutest freaking thing I’ve ever seen. They were chattering excitedly to each other in their “twin talk” (yes that’s a thing and yes they do it). One of my sons realized we were heading toward the beach so he was walking very fast pulling his brother along.

My wife and I were smiling ear to ear and holding hands with each other and the boys intermittently. “Herding cats” my wife says. Literally the cutest moment on earth. Not just because they are my sons. But because it was one of those zen moments. We are in our favorite place, walking next to the lake, the sun is out, but there’s a chill in the air, the leaves are orange and red…just a beautiful moment.

In the distance we noticed a group of about six people. Three couples most likely and all appeared over the age of sixty under the age of eighty. They were walking toward us. We made sure we each held a boy so that we could all walk nicely by them without one of the boys falling on them or something.

Now if I walked by us in that moment I would have smiled and said something obnoxious like “How cute!” Because you could not see those boys in their flannels and overalls and not smile. But I was wrong. Because all six of those adults did not smile at the boys. They gave the boys a once over and then their glares fell onto my wife and I. I made eye contact with all of them who looked, (one looked away), because I’m that type of person. I also was not expecting the hateful looks when there was such a spectacle of beauty occurring.

I’ve got pretty accurate senses about people. I work in psychiatry it’s what I do. These people were throwing hate around with their glares. The moment lasted about five seconds. Because one of my son’s was now trying to run as the beach was just within our reach. And there was no slowing down of either party. Neither one of my sons noticed this exchange. I wouldn’t have either honestly if I hadn’t looked right at them because I was expecting smiles and for fellow human beings to engage with my cute little boys.

It was a silent display of their objection at our family. In the moment it also made all of them look like they were constipated and I was going to ask if they needed to add fiber to their diets but thought better of it and kept walking.

There were so many beautiful connected moments on our vacation yet this is the one I am choosing to write about. Because this is the one that sticks with me that I can’t get over and that I need to get out.

What is the right thing to do in that moment? To acknowledge the hatred in some way? To call them out on it? To actually ask if they need emergency fiber administration? Or to ignore and keep walking?

When will my sons notice these behaviors of strangers? If they are like me, which I fear they are, when will they say something? When will they engage in a pointless battle with a small-minded person? I can’t make every one love my family and I don’t want to. But I do want to be able to walk in public with my family and not be glared at. What if the strangers were younger and more intimidating and more verbal? I asked myself that very question as I watched my sons play on the beach. What would we have done? Grabbed the boys and ran like hell? So many different “what if” scenarios ran through my head and so many scenarios of what I should have said or done differently also.

That moment ruined a safe space for us. A space we have travelled to literally since I was born. It doesn’t mean I won’t return there. Because we will. But I will be more cautious, more aware, and one day my plan is to own a home there and be a registered voter and fight for that swing state to remain blue.

That time my son reached for my wife and not me…

My sons are almost two. I think every mom goes through a period of nostalgia around their kid’s birthdays. I remember the birth obviously, and the horrible fertility crap leading up to the pregnancy. Then the horrible pregnancy that involved vomiting daily to the point that my eyes had broken blood vessels by the end of the pregnancy. Then the horrible C-section. My sons were born just before midnight on November 12th, 2015. Not many people remember, but November 13th was a Friday. I essentially told my doctor to get them out before midnight or I was going home until Saturday because my sons would not be born on Friday the 13th. My Doctor was true to her word and got them out just in the knick of time.

One night last week I came home from work instead of going to a meeting because my sons were battling coughs and I wanted to help put them to bed. I missed them. I came home especially early to spend time with them. Neither of them cared when I walked in, and they didn’t want to cuddle with me at all. It was like a punch in the gut. Then after they fell asleep one of them started to cry and I went up with my wife and he reached for her. Ugh. I literally felt tears stinging my eyes. In their almost two years the- them picking my wife over me- is a new development. For the first year I breastfed so they always picked me. I mean they were obsessed with breastfeeding so they practically leapt on me when I walked through the door. I know it must have hurt my wife to always be skipped over for me. But goddamnit I carried them, I nursed them, and I literally got cut open for them. I feel a little entitled to being chosen first.

To not be was freaking terrible. However, I know it made my wife feel bonded with them which is important.

Then this weekend we were traveling and I brought the worst offender in with me alone to a rest stop while my wife sat with his sleeping brother in the car. When I sat him on the counter while I paid for my coffee he clung to me. I don’t think he had ever been in a rest stop and the noises were a lot for him to manage. Then later we stopped at our favorite diner and he wanted to only sit on my lap and snuggle. All was right with the world again.

But then I was thinking about it and these kids have the ability to make me feel freaking bipolar. I was a mess thinking he didn’t need me like he used to as a baby. I was in mourning for the stages that passed, and here he was needing me again. It was fleeting and tomorrow he will probably make me feel like crap again but I reveled in it for today.

This whole being a mom thing has shaken up my reality. I thought I knew what it was like to be vulnerable to someone having been married and in love and sexually intimate with a partner. But kid’s man. They bring it to a whole new level.

Within a twenty-four hour span I can love him to the point my eyes well up and I think the pain of love can never be so profound. I can despise him for turning the freaking modem off for the hundredth time because he’s too damn smart and finds it everywhere and loves the freaking blinking button. I can laugh at him and with him. I revel in both of their laughs. And I can go through the full gamut of all of these emotions with not one kid but two.

I remember the day we came home from the hospital. I set myself up on our futon in the living room because it was lower than our bed and I could move on and off it more easily with the incision. The boys were swaddled and we laid them on the futon with us and I said, “I just can’t believe there are two,” over and over. It’s totally mind-blowing going from a family of two to a family of four in a matter of ten minutes in the OR.

I feel like some days we’ve got this Mom thing down. Then some days I’m like what the fuck were we thinking? And seriously how do mom’s of triplets or more do it? Because I would die. Literally. I would drop dead if I had more than two. I met a mom in a store right after I had the boys. She told me she was pregnant with triplets. I started to cry. So did she. We both just knew.

So this week with me going through my bipolar mom moments #45 decides to speak at an anti-LGBT convention where they are spreading around pamphlets that call homosexuality a “public health hazard”. While I was cuddling my son today in the diner, and my wife was making my other son laugh his deep belly laugh in the booth with us. I sighed because it was a perfect moment of love. And all I could picture was that pamphlet. This, this moment of light and love, is being called a hazard because of our family make-up. I felt sad, slightly defeated, and scared for what’s to come.

If love and light and acceptance are now considered a hazard. I fear for the future of our country. I fear for my sons. As I go through my every day because I’m a lesbian mom every interaction within my family has a tinge of fear. Will this be the last day we can do this in public? Will this be the last time we are welcomed in this restaurant? I try to see beyond the fear and just live in the moment and breathe it in. But it’s taxing. I try and shelter my sons from the hatred engulfing our administration. But it’s exhausting. I try and enjoy being a normal mom. But I’m not. According to some I’m a hazard.

Don’t be silent.

Stuff on my desk.

That book in the picture is an amazing reference guide for any one who is transgender or who treats transgender clients or who knows some one who is transgender.

Background. I’m a big fan of books. Paper books- not the shit on kindle. First order of business in our new house was not the potentially leaking roof but the built-in’s I want built in our new living room. Irrational…yes. I’m okay with it.

Back to Trans Bodies Trans Selves. I wrote a blog post about coming out as a provider. Putting pictures up of my family in my office was a big deal for me. Then I started treating transgender clients and I realized me being a lesbian was not enough. Because there are plenty of lesbians who unfortunately may discriminate against those who identify as transgender. I also felt like some families were okay with me being a lesbian but maybe not accepting of transgender individuals. And not for nothing but they could potentially be in the waiting room at the same time and I don’t want my transgender folks feeling anything but acceptance.

Hence the big green book on my desk. It sits right on the edge facing out towards all my clients. You literally can’t miss it. I have a few other books about transgender clients scattered around my office too. I’m anything but subtle.

But my ploy worked. One of my clients made a lot of “should” statements about transgender individuals and then said, “But I wanted to ask you about it, because I know you see a lot of them or something, and one of my friends thinks he might be transgender,” and gestured toward the books.

It’s not my job to educate others about being transgender or agender or non-binary. But it’s a role I fully embrace. Because my clients who are not transgender may have no understanding of it, and they have a safe nonjudgmental space to now ask about it. We can explore their biases around it and they can ask questions in a judgement-free zone that may be inappropriate to ask a transgender individual. I’ve pulled out the Trans Bodies book and we’ve looked at pictures and read parts of it.

It is not my intention to make clients be pro-transgender people. But it is my intention to provide education when it is asked for in an objective manner. It’s a hard line to walk, because I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others. But at the same time I’m making it known that I am a lesbian provider who is accepting of all people who enter my office. I think providing a space to air beliefs wether I agree with them or not is important. Open dialogues are necessary in order for people to grow and learn and really feel another person’s perspective.

I had never mentioned to that particular client anything about my work with LGBT individuals prior to them raising that question. But because they saw my books laying around, and my other LGBT welcoming signs and posters they knew that they could ask a question.

I’ve had other clients bring up their transgender family members or friends. I’ve gotten referrals from people based only on these books laying around my office.

Non-verbal messages are incredibly powerful.

If you own a business or you are in healthcare or have the ability to create a safe space for LGBT individuals just do it. You may think it’s a small thing to put a rainbow flag or the transgender flag on your bulletin board or the human rights equality sticker on your car, but it’s not. We take notice. We feel safer and we are more likely to open up to you. We are more likely to come back to your place of business and to refer our friends there.

Instead of our country focusing on how to shut out people from business perhaps we should talk about how to bring our business in.

There are people who probably disagree with me for utilizing my office space to put a controversial issue out there. I respect your opinions and we have to agree to disagree. If #45 can use his office to trample on transgender rights in a loud/abuse of power type of way then I’m going to use mine to provide safety to a marginalized population in our society who are dying by murder and by suicide.

My books provide an opening to a dialogue. The dialogue can be uncomfortable and eye-opening, and painful. But those are the only dialogues worth having…no?

Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

Albus Dumbledore

“I’m a good person” maybe.

I love working in psychiatry. I am enlightened in so many ways every day. Recently a patient said to me, “I’m really a good person. You know, I am heterosexual, I had kids, I worked, I did what I was supposed to do.” The litany went on but I was still stuck at her first statement. I am always being exposed to viewpoints that completely go against my own and then I have to remain totally objective and unaffected.

I had to continue my interview with that patient as if I was not homosexual. As if her statement that her being a good person by being heterosexual hadn’t just sent my brain into a tailspin. That takes some self control and an amazing poker face. I’m happy to say I’ve mastered both…in that particular situation. In other facets of my life there is no poker face. People who know me well can attest to that.

There is SO much negativity in the news about the LGBT community lately. I mean since November 2016 really. Because we have an administration who apparently thinks the death penalty is okay for all us gays. Fuck you very much. But anyway, not only am I accosted by anti-LGBT news on my Facebook and WordPress feed but also in my work. Because in case people haven’t notice, the LGBT community has never tried to not care for others who are straight. We’ve never turned away people from our businesses because they are straight. We are an eclectic, diverse, but overall rather accepting community.

I continued my job in that moment with that patient as if what they said made no difference to me. I provided the same care to that patient that I provided to all twenty-five of my patients that day. It’s only after work that I let that statement sink in and resonate with me. It brought up some stuff.

The one time I met my wife’s mother she preached a lot about religion. She asked at one point how my moral compass was guided. Not those words but same message. I told her that I follow the laws of our community and I try and be a good person. She started talking over me and said something like “Yes so you try and be a good person just like most of the people in society.” But in a rather condescending like “Poor you, you actually don’t know what you are talking about and are actually far beneath me in terms of morality” type of tone. That didn’t sit well with me. Obviously, because I still remember it almost eight years later.

It irks me that because I am married to a woman my morality and ethics are questioned by others. It angers me that the choice of my life partner apparently has bearing on what kind of a person I am. Because I am married to a woman I have to prove that I am a good person?

I’m a firm believer in “actions speak.” It’s a philosophy that to me is raw and honest and that’s how I roll.

So what makes a good person? Apparently not sleeping with the same gender so I’m already off the list. Perhaps owning a gun? I’m definitely out then. Being white? That’s one check in my column. Protesting birth control and abortion? Yeah screw that.

So by the #45’s rules I’m a bad perhaps even “nasty” woman.

I’m cool with that.

If being bad means I provide comprehensive care to all my patients regardless of their religious beliefs then I’m there. If being a bad person means being open to all religions, all ethnicities, and all genders (pre and post op)…then I’m horrible. I never want to own a gun. I never want an abortion but should I need one I better be able to get one. And I’m not divorcing my wife anytime soon, but I’ll fight to the death for my right to marry and/or divorce her.

There’s this private practice I know of that advertises itself as being “transgender owned”. I thought that was weird at first. Because I was like why does it matter? But now I get it. I opened my own practice with a business partner so it’s partially lesbian owned. And I’m damned proud of it. It’s important for the LGBT community to own businesses, to work in our community, to be accepting when others are not. To continue living our lives, to not move to Canada but to move to freaking Alabama.

I personally will not go silently into the night. I’m going to grow my business to be a huge success. And maybe #45 will do one freaking thing he said during his campaign and lower taxes for small businesses (there’s an automatic federal 30% business tax off our profits) and then he will be doing this nasty lesbian woman a big freaking favor. And I will happily hold a sign standing outside the white house wearing a nasty woman shirt with a big thank-you sign while holding up my middle finger (seriously if that happens I will post the picture and write a blog post. That’s a promise and you know I take my promises seriously).

It’s hard to live in today’s world as a lesbian trying to work, raise children, pay taxes, and “live the dream” seeing the constant chipping away of our rights by the government and not feel anger. I am angry that Obama and Clinton haven’t come forward with harsh words for our current administration. We need leaders and voices. Thank-you Jimmy Fallon. I’m angry the democrats in congress and the senate haven’t been more forthright in their defense of us. I’m angry that we are such a freaking polite society that people are sitting back and watching the LGBT community victimized on a daily basis. I’m angry that I’m not a bad person yet I’m being categorized as such because I fell in love.

My heart also breaks for all the younger LGBT individuals whose entrance into our community is marred by hatred. You are not bad people. You are beautiful. And I’m standing next to you.

 

Death. And this Dyke.

I’m no stranger to death.

The first death I witnessed was in a NICU in nursing school. A physician held her finger on the infant’s heart and literally kept the heartbeat going until the parents were present and she yelled out to the room of about fifty people “I’m open to suggestions” but her voice cracked on suggestions. The room went eerily silent and then she pulled her finger off the infant’s heart and that was the end.

In the pediatric emergency department I was called the “black cloud” because I was usually on when shit went down. Meaning kids died. There were a variety of ways in which people died. There were also times when we would have to give heartbreaking diagnoses to unsuspecting families and terms like “inoperable” and “comfort care” were tossed around.

That part of my life was rough. Watching kids die takes a toll emotionally and physically. It’s not a job I could do forever and I was in tune enough with myself to know that.

But now I hear my clients talk about death in a myriad of manners and I am brought to my knees in a whole new way.

A common fear among my transgender clients is being murdered. One of their biggest fears and obstacles sometimes to transitioning is being murdered.

Every day I see an article of Facebook about transgender individuals who are murdered, and so do my clients. Then I have to sit in a therapy session with them and explore this.

Here’s the deal. When one of my anxious clients has an irrational fear I can usually in good conscious say “That’s not going to happen” (I mean I say it more therapeutically than that but that’s the general idea). But when a transgender client fears for their safety I can’t negate it. That literally fucking kills me.

How horrible is it to sit across from an individual and want to support them in their journey to their authentic self, but have to also support them in their fears that by being themselves they might be murdered.

That’s heavy.

I think somewhere in my head there is a fear for my safety as a lesbian. But based on where I live, the people I surround myself with, and my karate experience (this is a j/k moment. I literally only got my green belt but in my head I feel like I’m actually a black belt super ninja). I don’t live with that fear minute by minute or hour by hour. It’s only there when I’m somewhere down South if I’m being really honest. And if I fear for my safety I may fear verbal abuse or discrimination, I don’t take the leap in my head to murder. But transgender people are being killed. It’s a real thing. If you don’t know about the cases then educate yourself.

Honestly seeing something happen fast in the emergency department was almost easier to cope with then being let into clients private hopes and dreams and feeling the fear with them and overall I guess just caring more deeply.

Clients are not always aware of the impact they have on providers. Because we have to remain somewhat detached and objective during sessions.

Speaking human to human though, it is impossible to sit with someone and hear that their fear of being murdered is stopping them from living life the way they feel they should and not feel something.

It is impossible to sit with them in that knowledge as they proceed bravely toward their transition and not feel something.

Watching and supporting someone courageous enough to face death for being themselves is awesome and inspiring and terrifying and beautiful.

Your providers are feeling all of this for you. At least this provider is.

Perhaps there will come a day in my career when I can tell a transgender client that they do not have to fear discrimination or hate or murder. But today is not that day. Today I can tell them I admire them and as I sit in my living room with a fire blazing on this cold October night, I am thinking of them.