Coming out to Nana: “But I thought you were going to marry a doctor?”

My Nana was 81 when I told her I was dating a girl.

My Nana and I go way back. Obviously. She met me the day I was born. She lived close by when I was growing up. She came to my soccer games, she brought me to the aquarium (a lot) in our state, she brought me to a casino…thinking back on that I’m kinda like wow my Nana brought me to a casino….that’s weird. She loved the beach, and we spent a lot of time there also. She hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was much younger, and my memories in her home are warm and comforting.

When I was in high school and I had my license I would drive to see her at least once a week, and I even made her dinner once a week for my entire senior year. We spent New Years Eve at her house with my cousins every year, and we vacationed together in New Hampshire every Summer. She was a major influence on my life.

She and I had fun together, but we also could just chill and watch movies together. We also could fight. We were both stubborn. When she started using her walker I remember I wouldn’t bring her to the movies unless she brought the walker, and she was pissed. But she brought it, and afterward she thanked me for making her bring it.

Watching her age and go from being so active to not, has been very difficult for me. Losing the relationship we had has also been hard. Because I’m not just losing my Nana; I’m losing a friend.

The older she got the less politically correct she became. Meaning she asked me regularly if I combed my hair (it’s very curly) and when I said no, just in the shower, she would kind of make a face like it was wrong to not comb my mane down. She grimaced loudly when I got a tattoo and asked repeatedly what I was thinking.

When I started dating my now-wife my sister was already in a relationship with a woman and out as a lesbian. My Nana seemed okay with it. But I remember being very nervous about telling her because I knew she would say whatever she felt. I was worried about being rejected because I don’t care about many people’s opinions. But I cared about hers.

I told her about my then-girlfriend and she said she understood what I was telling her but she didn’t understand why. She looked completely shocked. She said about five times that day, “But I thought you were going to marry a doctor?” I didn’t really understand that. I guess because I was a nurse she assumed I would marry a doctor. Weird. So I told her that my girlfriend was an EMT, not a doctor. My Nana was by nature very polite to everyone outside of her immediate family. So my then-girlfriend now-wife was welcomed with open arms and told to call her Nana.

For the first year or so if we were alone, she would ask if I met any doctors. I would remind her about my girlfriend. She would say “Oh yes, how is she doing?” Then after a year she stopped asking about doctors. Later, when I told her about our impending marriage she was thrilled for me. She loved my fiancee by then, and never asked about a doctor again.

One day in the Spring of 2015 we were sitting on my parents porch and I told my Nana I was pregnant with twins. She laughed and clasped her hands together, and said “Well you always do things big if you are going to do them, I’m so happy for you.” I remember the joy we all felt sitting together knowing the wonderful times that would come.

By the time our sons were born my Nana was declining cognitively. She might not remember what day it was or who people were- in fact she often called me by one of my Aunt’s names- but she always remembered she had six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. And she never forgot their names.

She met the boys for the first time on Christmas 2015 and she held them and made up her own nicknames for them and as they grew into little toddlers she still loved to watch them play and try and hold them if they would stay still. Something that made it special was giving one of my son’s my Grandfather’s name as his middle name. As he grows we all can see the striking resemblance he bears to my Grandfather who passed in 1993. That meant so much to my Nana. When the boys were about six months we were visiting, and she held one at a time, and the one who looks like my Grandfather just calmly looked her right in the eye like he knew who she was and was at peace and content just sitting with her.

The last time I saw her when she was thinking clearly I told her stories about the boys and she laughed at their toddler antics. My sons turned two the day after she died. My Nana loved birthdays and cake. I knew she would want us to celebrate them and eat a lot of cake. So that’s what we did.

As I faced her impending passing I stepped back and looked at all she had been through. To have not one but two granddaughters identify as lesbians and to be able to accept that at her age and with her conservative background is nothing short of amazing. No one in my family made a big deal about us being lesbians because everyone just wanted to be accepting, but when I really examine it she pretty much kicked ass.

All my young LGBT clients fear coming out to their grandparents the most. They think they are the most conservative and the most rigid members of their families. I thought that way too, and was pleasantly surprised when she proved me wrong. Minus the whole asking about marrying a doctor for a year.

It’s sad that my sons won’t know her the way I knew her. It’s sad that I lost a dear friend. But I’m incredibly proud to have her blood run through my veins. Because she taught me that even age 82 is not too old to learn acceptance. Her demonstration of unconditional love for her two granddaughters will live in my heart forever.

I say the following sincerely and with much love and admiration; rest in peace Nana.

“What the F#%$ happened to your eye?”

This is off topic. Has nothing to do with being a lesbian.

Whenever I’m starting a blog post I think about starting it “This one time…” then I think about American Pie. Good movie.

Anyway. This one time a nurse I worked with came to work with a black eye. We had been working together in the emergency department literally since day one. And we were about four years in at this point. She looked up at me from her locker and I said, “What the fuck happened to your eye? Was it your husband because I will fucking end him.”

Now, I attended their wedding. Her husband was legitimately one of the sweetest men alive. I could not imagine him for a second laying a hand on her. So I was half joking. But also half not. Because how do people get black eyes? Especially married women in their late twenties. I had to lay out the possible though very unlikely reality as an opening in case it was true.

She laughed and told me a hilarious story that involved too much alcohol and a pile of ice in a parking lot. I myself had been victim to too much alcohol and icy parking lots that very winter but my bruises were luckily on my backside therefore hidden underneath my clothing. She unfortunately went face first. After we laughed about reality, she told me I was the only person to ask her about her eye.

She had been at work for four hours. In a place where we knew everything about everyone. Literally. We knew who was pooping regularly and who wasn’t. We knew who was having sex with who and who wasn’t. It wasn’t Gray’s Anatomy. Not even close. Gray’s Anatomy can’t compare. Can’t make it up.

I couldn’t believe that the people who ask regularly about our bowel regimens did not ask about her eye. She said patients and families also didn’t ask. She had been getting stares and side-eyes all day. People were making assumptions. Like I did. But I voiced it out loud because if there is a problem I’m not going to pretend it’s not there.

My friend and I talked more about how no one else said anything to her about her eye. How weird it was for her, because she felt that she had to then explain without being asked but also that she shouldn’t have to. She didn’t want people making assumptions about her husband though. The whole experience for her was weird, and at the end of our conversation in the emergency department locker room she said, “Thanks for asking though, but no we don’t need to kill him. Yet.” Then we laughed and walked out to the floor.

She came into contact with about fifty people before seeing me. Between staff and patients and families. Fifty people who all had the opportunity to act to intervene, and who chose not to. None of my business perhaps they thought. Don’t want to embarrass her or don’t want to get involved.

I honestly didn’t think twice before I opened my mouth. I have no filter obviously. It also would never occur to me to ignore the elephant in the room.

This whole #Metoo and #45 situation has gotten me thinking and reflecting a lot. I do individual therapy with rape victims and they carry so much guilt and shame. Part of the healing work is to help them put that guilt and shame onto the perpetrator. Why as a society are we more comfortable allowing a woman to walk around with a black eye instead of asking how she got it? Why are we more comfortable with a woman carrying the guilt and shame silently instead of stepping out with her story and placing it back onto the perpetrator?

Mental illness, rape, domestic violence- they all carry a stigma in our society. It runs deep. Shame. Guilt. Fear. How can we change this? To start with, if you see some one with a bruise ask how the fuck they got it. Look them in the eye and handle the truth.

You don’t have to save people. By asking doesn’t mean you have to be involved. But perhaps by asking you are opening a door for some one to tell the truth. To tell their story. If they tell their story once, maybe that will make them brave enough to tell it again.

What I consider a hard day as a nurse.

This day occurred two or three years ago.

I walked in at 7:30 AM to the inpatient psychiatric unit. I found out quickly I was the only provider for twenty-six patients. We were already short one, then one call out and one psychiatrist working in the interventional suite. I had a team of three residents and two medical students, and myself, so we all just buckled down and started seeing patients.

It was kind of wild in general on the unit that day. We had a run of manic/psychotic patients who were loud, up generally all day and night, refusing medication, and one out of all of them who was particularly rude and verbally aggressive in their unmedicated state.

The other part of the culture on that unit was there was a very anti-nurse practitioner view by patients. They always wanted to see the doctor. But that day they didn’t have a choice because there were no Attending physicians to be had. It was nice always having a resident with me because I could at least say there was a doctor with me, but I ultimately was the one making decisions. So, there were a lot of irrational unmedicated patients. Some were angry about being involuntarily hospitalized and they really had no time for me because they wanted to see the Doctor.

I was in the middle of a particularly trying interview with a patient who was becoming verbally threatening around not being discharged when I saw a nurse run out of a patient room. He looked frazzled. On impulse I got up and went out of the interview room mid-sentence and stopped the nurse who told me a patient was seizing.

I was now in charge of a medical emergency. We called for transport to the emergency department. I started an IV and we gave Lorazepam (an anti-seizure medication). The patient was large, and it was hard, and we were doing this all in a psychiatric room which is not at all equipped or set up for medical emergencies. I was literally holding the oxygen mask on the patient after just pushing in the IV Lorazepam when some one tapped on my shoulder. “What?” I asked with somewhat of an attitude, as I was clearly busy.

“Um, you need to come out to the front.” I heard the voice of a tech.

“Kinda busy here,” I replied irritated.

“Um, the Secret Service is here.”

I sort of stopped and turned my head.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me?” I said. But I knew they weren’t. Because at that point I worked there for a few years, and we had been visited by federal marshals, sheriff’s, and the FBI, so really all that was left was the Secret Service. Psychiatry is nuts.

The ambulance stretcher rolled in. Thank God for paramedics. I gladly gave over my patient and walked out the door to go talk to the goddamn Secret Service.

My day didn’t get better from there.

After all of that we still had to write twenty-six notes. We discharged four patients, and admitted four patients. We reviewed labwork, EKG’s, medication doses, changes, etc. etc. etc.

We had to do all the normal shit healthcare providers do on top of rescue a seizing patient and deal with the Secret Service while working with one provider on a unit where there was supposed to be four. We did all this while one of the patients yelled racial and religious slurs at all of us. All day.

It was a Friday.

I vividly remember this day. I remember thinking I don’t get paid enough to keep my brain sharp enough to deal with this shit. I remember thinking NFL players get paid way too much to get their brains turned to shit. I remember feeling thankful I had my colleagues: the nursing staff, the residents, the social workers, everyone was a team. That’s the benefit to working in a hospital setting. I remember feeling burnt out; physically and emotionally exhausted, and also gross because the seizing patient puked and I felt like I had flecks of vomit on me all day. I hope to God I didn’t. But it was a possibility.

I remember mostly though that whole day no one cared or thought to ask about my sexuality. It didn’t matter that I am a lesbian when I threw the IV into that patient’s arm and pushed the anti-seizure medication. The families I met with to review discharge plans for their family members, the patients who screamed and swore at me for not discharging them, and all the staff. No one could have given two shits that I was married to a woman. Because I was competent and I got the job done. I’d like to think I got it done well.

The religious right says the homosexual agenda is to “normalize” homosexuality. Well duh. Because my identity as a lesbian has nothing to do with the ability to perform my job as a nurse practitioner. It has nothing to do with my ability to be a wife or mother or daughter. Being homosexual is normal. For me. I am a normal person who happens to be gay. If that was your relative seizing, and I was the one running the response, would it really matter to you if I am a lesbian or not?

Would you want me to step back and let a straight person who might have less skills as a nurse step in because they are straight? Gotta be honest even if that’s what you want I wouldn’t let it happen. Because my duty as a nurse and a human being would not allow me to let someone potentially die because of some one else’s ignorance. I’d tell you to shut the hell up and get out of my way most likely.

My ability to function and to be a contributing member of society has nothing to do with my sexuality. And this debate over whether people have the right to refuse services to others based on sexual orientation or gender identity infuriates me.

Illness eventually touches everyone. Illness does not discriminate. Remember that every single person will at some point be in a hospital. Think long and hard about whether you want to give your nurse, doctor, tech, surgeon, anesthesiologist, the right to discriminate.

 

 

 

“I have two mom’s too.”

Today is Halloween. We do celebrate. Though this year has been a little sparse because we moved and I started a business. But we did dress the boys as little lumberjacks and brought them to their daycare parade. My three year old niece joined us for the day with my parents. My sons are obsessed with their cousin. They want to know what she’s doing and they want to be doing it to. They also start referring to my wife by her first name after spending time with her because she calls my wife by her first name. She calls me by my first name too but the boys still call me Mama. Weird.

Anyway, today my niece and the boys in their lumberjack costumes were playing and laughing in this big hall before the daycare Halloween parade. My wife arrived and my niece and boys said Hi then resumed playing together. My niece kept looking at my wife and I, and then yelled, “I have two mom’s too!” She said it to the boys but of course the entire room heard.

I think it was the first time she put together that she is connected to my boys in more than just a “cousin” way. They actually all have two mom’s. She was beaming when she said it.

My wife and I just smiled and said yup, you do. Then they all kept playing.

There are a lot of factors at work here. My niece recently started a preschool and maybe she’s been seeing a lot of mom/dad families. She loves Disney Princesses and all those movies are super heterosexual. She’s at an age where she’s realizing she doesn’t have a dad, but instead has two kick ass Moms. To be able to be connected by blood to two boys who will have a shared experience with her in terms of having two Moms.

That moment stuck out for me so much because she literally yelled her proclamation and was smiling ear to ear. She is young and innocent and while she’s figuring out that having two mom’s is not necessarily the “norm” she’s still naive to discrimination. So she yells it. I loved it. But it also made me want to cry. Because will all three of them yell it in five years? In ten years? When they are twelve and facing peer pressure and in the digital age pressure on social media will they be so forthcoming about their Two Mom status? Will they be taught subconsciously or consciously to hide it? Or at least not advertise it?

My heart aches when I think of how much I love those three kids.

Would I have it any other way if I could? Probably not. I’m a firm believer in fate and karma. These kids are going to be stronger for knowing adversity. They will be more open minded and more tolerant because unfortunately they will witness discrimination. Having two mom’s will shape them in ways I can only imagine.

There are moments in life I wish could be freeze-framed. Every time one of my sons spontaneously gives me a hug. The first time I saw my niece in a NICU incubator, fighting to breathe, fighting to live. The ultrasound tech shoving the monitor toward me when I didn’t believe her when she told me there were two fetal sacs both with heartbeats, and seeing those two beautiful circles with a little flutter in the middle. The night I knew I would marry my wife even before gay marriage was legal because I tried imagining living without her and physically couldn’t. The day my sister had a major surgery and we were reassured that all the cancer was gone. Every time my son’s reach for my Mom or Dad. These are pit in my stomach moments that I remember viscerally. Add to the list that time my niece shouted out proudly that she has two moms too.

These are moments that made me feel something. That made me connect with the world around me and see the past and future aligned perfectly. That may sound silly or whimsical but it’s true. Some moments are meant to be enjoyed because pure joy and pure wonder can be instantly knocked out with the next hand life has to deal.

Homophobia: dyke nurse experience.

There have been several times I’ve cared for homophobic patients. And staff. And friends. Let’s talk about a few.

I used to work with a member of the treatment team who was also gay. She and I ended up interviewing a patient together on the inpatient unit. The patient was slightly manic, history of bipolar. Overall rather pleasant and not too irritable but then they started in on politics. We did not bring up politics to be clear. The patient did. There was another patient on the unit who identified as Queer. The patient we were interviewing could not quite grasp that term and went on a long rant about the “Fucking gays”. The other clinician and I sat quietly with no observable response positive or negative to this diatribe. It went on and on. We sat there and listened to a hate rant. Meanwhile I am looking at my wedding ring and my engagement ring on my ring finger. So was the other clinician. The patient never assumed they were talking to two lesbians. Because we didn’t fit the “butch” expectation I guess.

We both had to care for that patient for another week before discharge. The Queer hate never came up again thankfully, because the first thirty minute hate rant was quite enough for us both. We treated the patient the same we treated all our patients. We briefly discussed the hate rant afterward and both acknowledged that we were uncomfortable but that we both also were just going to let it go.

Thinking back I’m like but why? Why did we have to just let it go? Because that was the expectation of healthcare workers? Because that was the expectation of women? Because we didn’t want to draw more attention to our minority status? It would have done no good for us to address this with the patient in that moment as there was a level of irrational thinking that comes with a manic episode. But why do I remember it vividly? Because it was uncomfortable. If I’m being very honest it was scary. I felt like there was a big fucking elephant in the room and at any time the patient would figure out we were both gay and lose their shit even more. I don’t know why because that’s also totally irrational.

 

One of my best friends from nursing school had a baby shortly after we graduated. I went and stayed with her and her husband for a few days. The husband and I never really got along. For many reasons. It happened at some point during my visit that he called me a dyke. Something along the lines of him not wanting the new baby to be around a dyke because then the new baby will be gay. This sounds really calm, but it wasn’t. It was angry and mean.

This was not me as a nurse obviously, but it was a connection I had due to nursing school. I remember I cried. I remember my friend cried. I remember I didn’t leave early though. Because she was my friend. I also remember he stormed out, then he came back in and saw us both crying. It was weird because I could see he felt bad and he didn’t know how to fix it. What man likes to see two women crying? But there was no fixing it. He couldn’t take back what had been said.

We did grow apart over the years because of him. Because I never forgot him saying that he didn’t want his kids around a dyke.

Well now that I have my own kids I can say I don’t want them around hateful people. I want them around loving people whether they are dykes or not.

These are two separate incidents years apart. Every time I experience discrimination it brings up all these past experiences. I have reasons why I fear making new friends who are straight. Will they have homophobic husbands? Will they want their kids around two dykes? I have reasons I keep my inner circle tight. Because I’ve been hurt and I’ve felt the sting of hate. I do not want that passed onto my children.

What do we let go? So much. I did not confront my friend’s husband about his hate. Because I didn’t want to destroy my friendship. I didn’t confront the patient because it was not appropriate as his healthcare provider to confront it. But even writing this it feels heavy it feels like it weighs on me. It evokes fear for the future.

It’s taken me a long time and I haven’t mastered it yet, but I’m trying to take a page from my sister’s book. Her resistance is quiet because she doesn’t come out and say she’s gay necessarily because she doesn’t have to. She does fit the butch description. And she owns it. She doesn’t give a shit when she is misgendered or called a dyke. She has never altered her appearance or her personality to fit others expectations. By being herself she’s sticking it to everyone who has attempted to discriminate against her.

So I will keep referencing my wife when appropriate in conversations. I will not stop my life or hide it. Because I’m not ashamed and I’m not going to be quiet. It’s just not me.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain or fear. I do. Nevertheless I will persist.

Only when you’re a nurse.

Tonight I had these two tender moments one with each of my sons. One of my sons crawled onto my lap with an afghan in his hands to pull over us, and then he laid chest to chest and put his hands around my face. He smiled and babbled because he still doesn’t talk coherently. I’m sure he was telling me a wonderful story. We had a fire going and it was just lovely. Then later my other son came and stood next to me on the couch, and wrapped his little arm around my neck and just leaned into me to cuddle. These small moments in life are just precious and if we had not been able to conceive I would be missing out. Big time. It made me start to reflect on how we conceived.

IVF sucks. I’ve talked about it here. The egg retrieval requires sedation by an anesthesiologist. My anesthesiologist was an anxious man with broken English. He sort of flitted around me when he was starting the IV (blood spurted out on the floor while he fumbled with the tubing- luckily I’ve started probably hundreds of IVs so I just put my finger over my vein and pushed hard to stop it while he figured out the tubing) and then when I was going off to sleep he told me to count backward from 99. I was extremely nervous and not really paying attention so I started counting forward from 99, he became more agitated and said no backward and literally didn’t give me the drugs until I started counting backward.

As I was coming into consciousness afterward I saw my wife. Eventually I was mostly coherent and the nurse told me what happened when I was waking up. She told me I cried and said over and over “I lost a patient, I lost a patient.” She knew I worked on an inpatient unit and asked if perhaps we had literally just physically misplaced a patient.

I had no recollection of my hysterical emergence from anesthesia. I had indeed lost a patient that week. They died. Not at the hospital and not related to psychiatric issues, but a long time patient we all knew well, and a rather traumatic death.

I remember feeling so floored by the questions from the recovery nurse. I hadn’t thought I was affected by that loss. But apparently that was the first thing on my mind waking up.

About six years ago I was still working in the emergency department and I was there for a code. The child died. I didn’t cry. I thought there was actually something wrong with me. It was the first death I was present for that didn’t cause at least some tears. I remember worrying that I was losing my empathy and compassion. I left for a vacation the next day. We went to New York City for a few nights. I was up around 1 AM reading a book, If I Stay, I got to a scene in the hospital. I remember I started to well up in my eyes. Then I started sobbing. I thought, “Aha, here it is,”. My wife woke up and was like what the hell? I just shook my head as I sobbed trying to tell her it was okay, this was good, this meant I wasn’t a cold hearted asshole who doesn’t cry when a kid dies.

This is the shit. It still happens. Nursing is hard work. Caring and empathy and then we have to come home and care for our own kids and families. It takes so much out of me.

Many people have funny stories about coming out of anesthesia. They hit on the nurse or they think they are on vacation. It loosens our inhibitions and opens us up to emotions. For me it allowed me to be in touch with grief. We take our patient’s losses and gains home with us.

When I went into psychiatry I thought it would be less emotionally draining than the emergency department. It is but in different ways. There are funny times too. People think because I’m a nurse I’m an expert in rashes. I don’t know why. I’m not. But people lift their shirts, drop their pants, and text me pictures asking my opinion about various rashes. I generally tell them to put their clothes on and stop showing me because I treat psychiatric illness not skin.

People tell me about their mom who’s a nurse or their cousin, as if all nurses just naturally know one another. One of our neighbors when we met said, “Always good to have a nurse around”. I thought that was weird. Why? Why is it good to have me around? Just in case some one needs CPR? An emergency rash that I can’t identify? I don’t know. People just feel safer when there’s a nurse around, more secure.

I know I am privy to more information about people than they may share with non-nurses. I don’t take that for granted but it is also exhausting. I refuse to go to the grocery store. Because whenever I go someone stops me and tells me their life story. Some times I just want to run in and grab bananas and run out but inevitably I hear about some one whose spouse just died or who just called DCF on their family member. I don’t solicit these conversations at all. I make no eye contact and I generally try to look completely unapproachable. But it still happens.

What’s fascinating to me is that none of these experiences have anything to do with my sexual orientation. When people are in crisis they don’t care if I’m married to a woman or not. It doesn’t enter their mind to even wonder. I saw clients for a few years before some knew I was married to a woman. It just doesn’t come up because it’s not about me. But I also know I’ve cared for homophobic clients and families over the years. Nothing about my care taking changes when I have homophobic patients. I treat every one the same. But apparently if a homophobic patient of mine has a business they want the right to be able to refuse my own business. This makes no sense to me. It’s okay to allow me to care for you often in the most vulnerable aspects of care taking but you can’t bake me a cake?

I don’t get it. As a human being and as a nurse with a brain and a heart I would never refuse care to some one even if they are the most homophobic person on the planet. Because it just goes against my value system and my duty as a healthcare professional.

But we can’t have it both ways.

I’m not sure what the solution is. However I’m very aware there is a problem.

 

That time a group I’m in made a “Christian” subgroup.

I enjoy connecting with other people. It’s sort of what I do. Today a client asked me how I knew they had ADHD because I have a reputation of being rather anti-ADHD. But there are clients I see who truly have it, and when they do I treat it. I wouldn’t say I’m anti-ADHD more like anti-overdiagnosing and anti-overmedicating. I told that client I have hundreds of conversations a day. Literally. If I really break it down, between clients, families, phone calls, insurance companies, office staff, my family, etc.

I have hundreds of conversations a day because my job is about talking to people. I’ve worked in healthcare for ten years. After a certain amount of time I got a feel for what it’s like to talk to some one with ADHD. The conversation is not linear, and they tend to interrupt a lot. Not in a rude way but in a they can’t contain themselves way. I often have to repeat myself, and I make sure they put any and all information I give them into their phone with alarms set for reminders. They are often generally disorganized. In adults they have multiple planners, or a planner that they can’t find in a ginormous purse. The list goes on. These may sound like gross generalizations, and to a degree they are. But like I said you just sort of get a feel for these things (I also make clients get formal testing- it’s not like if you have a big purse you have ADHD. Please don’t think that!)

I’ve talked about being discriminated against, and that’s something else that you sort of get a feel for. My life is about forging connections with others. I joined a nation wide group of mom’s who all work in psychiatry. It was a great way to connect with others with shared experiences. After a time the idea came up to form subgroups. The idea was to be geographical but some one also entered their idea to have a Christian subgroup. I talked to my wife about it because I said I really wish I strongly identified as Christian so I could try and join their subgroup. We laughed. Because we both made the assumption that the subgroup would not be welcoming of LGBT members. We were not wrong.

It reminded me of hearing a story from a woman at the Women’s March on DC earlier this year. She talked about seeing women with pro-life signs join the march. Marchers around them didn’t quite know what to do. People assumed that the Women’s March would be for liberal women only. But here were women coming forward to say they didn’t stand for the discrimination of the new administration, while identifying themselves as pro-life. It was confounding to everyone present.

My wife recently asked me if I thought she had a learning disability. She takes longer to process things and sometimes needs ideas or questions repeated in a different way for her to process them. She also has horrible short term memory but I’m not convinced that’s not volitional. She never forgets when she has a haircut scheduled. But her damn shoes in the doorway that I chuck outside every other day. Seriously.

Anyway, no I didn’t think she has a learning disability. I know her history. She spent the first nine years of her education in a private school run by her church. To review briefly- her church is similar to a cult. The education she received was no where near the education I received in the public schools. It was religious based with no true academic rigor. The science was based out of religion. I told her no, she wasn’t disabled. Based off what I knew about her schooling she had been stunted though by her formative years being spent in a school that did not teach. She was not challenged.

She did not disagree with me.

It’s actually something that’s come up several times over the years of our relationship because there are basic ideas and concepts we learn from kindergarten through eighth grade. She missed those. Knowledge I take for granted she may not have learned.

When either of us hears something starting with “Christian” as the descriptor our defenses are automatically up. As lesbians we can certainly identify as Christian. But there’s lesbian Christian and there’s orthodox Christian. Every time we hear “Christian” we just assume it’s orthodox Christian. Actually what I literally translate it to in my head is “Anti-Lesbian. Danger. Danger.” It doesn’t feel safe. Unfortunately I’m usually right.

I really loved that group of women I had been able to connect with. But when that sub-group option came up I got a pit in my stomach. Then when I confirmed through various channels that the subgroup was indeed anti-LGBT the pit turned into overall unease and now of course a blog post. The subgroup idea was to separate off so people could meet in person. So it’s not like I have to be a part of the subgroup. But all of those Christian members are still part of the group at large as well. Now knowing they are there, I feel like they are lurking in the background, waiting to pounce. It’s sounds so crazy when I write it, but discrimination breeds a certain level of paranoia.

A safe space has been taken from me. That’s two in one week. First New Hampshire, now this group. It pisses me off.

Some people I’ve talked to are like well it’s no big deal, discrimination exists. What are you going to do about it?

The truth is I don’t know. I’d like to join the subgroup and stir some shit up. But I likely won’t. Most likely. Maybe. It’s still a possibility.

I’d like to eliminate discrimination. But how the hell does one do that?

I’d like to not have Christian equate to discrimination. For many churches it doesn’t. But for many it does.

At the end of the day I’ve decided to form my own subgroup. I submitted it for review. The subgroup for all LGBT identifying individuals in the group. It has garnered a lot of interest and I think is going to actually happen. I like that saying, “I don’t get mad, I get even.”

I totally get mad. But after I get past that I get even. In this case it wasn’t about “getting even” but more like evening the playing field. Literally within one minute of throwing the idea out I had people responding that they would be interested. How many other women were sitting there feeling uneasy? Too many.

For those that know me, you know I love me some Disney.

Pocahontas: The ripples

John Smith: What about them?

Grandmother Willow: So small at first, then look how they grow. But someone has to start them.

 

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