High School as a Lesbian in 2000

I started high school in 1999. My sister was a senior and I was a freshman. My sister at the time had a girlfriend and most of our small school knew she was gay. I was not gay at the time. I know that’s hard to understand, but I truly wasn’t. I was into guys. Anyway, my sister faced a lot of shit for being gay in a small town. She never complained about any of the discrimination she faced. She never talked badly about other people at the time. She just took it. I was angry for her. Because we are very different people, and her way of handling situations was not at all how I would have liked to handle it. But she had to do it her way, and she did. It sucked being powerless. And unfortunately that would not be the last time I felt that way.

Fast forward three years. I am now the senior. I still am not gay. I know, it’s weird, but I really wasn’t. I was dating a boy and I was definitely still heterosexual. My sister graduated three years earlier. But it’s a small town, and people don’t forget. I would sit in  history class and every day some boys in my class would make “gay” comments and then crack up, and literally point and laugh at me. I was not gay. My sister was. Every day I would fume, and I, unlike my sister would have done, would stand up and tell them to shut the hell up in the middle of class. Then my teacher would get mad at me for interrupting class. After a month of this I finally yelled at my teacher in the middle of class, “Are you ever going to do anything?” and he got angry and basically said no. His exact words were, “I shouldn’t have to be the authority figure here.” Which looking back is super messed up because he was the authority figure. I stormed out of his class and went straight to my guidance counselor. I didn’t visit the guidance office very frequently. Maybe twice in four years. But I had known my guidance counselor since I was ten because he was also my sister’s guidance counselor.

I told him the situation. I cried, and I told him how some other kids brought in a bible to show me where it specifically says “Man shall not lay with man”. I told him the guys in my class were making derogatory statements to me daily. I needed help. He asked me how far I wanted to take this. He suggested I withdraw from the class so as not to make a big deal about it. He said he would put me in an independent study and it wouldn’t affect my GPA at all. I remember I instantly stopped crying, because I realized he wasn’t going to help. I mean he was, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t going to help me fight this. He was telling me to let this go, sweep it under the rug, hang in there until graduation. Don’t challenge those guys or my teacher because it could have lasting repercussions.

I remember feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and scared. If some one I knew since I was ten didn’t have my back then who did? I remember I left his office and got into my car and drove away from school. I couldn’t do it. I cried a lot that day. Then I went back the next day, and I told him with swollen eyes that I would do what he suggested. Because what else could I do? I completed an independent study with a different teacher, and I never spoke to the other history teacher again. Except one day he asked me for a hall pass when I was walking by his classroom and I gave him the middle finger.

As a teenager there is already a feeling of powerlessness in almost every situation. Because adults always win. But as an LGBT youth or even a sibling of an LGBT youth there is a sense of vulnerability in addition to being powerless. There are so many adults willing to help nice little White kids. But that list dwindles when you are a minority. Thinking back there is one teacher I can remember from high school who would have been “safe” for me to talk to about my sexuality, the bullying, and my sister. After I graduated I found out other teachers were gay but none of them were open during my school years. That one teacher who was there for my sister and I was not gay, but openly supportive of all kids. But she couldn’t solve everything. I wanted desperately to fight that battle. I wanted to go to the Principal and tell him everything that was happening throughout my high school years, but the teenage code of not being a snitch was strong. And when I finally got overwhelmed with it all and reached my breaking point I was told to essentially sweep it under the rug. I sort of understand now why that was his advice. We literally had five months of school left, and I would be making some serious allegations against students and a teacher. I was accepted at that time at a prestigious college, I was in the top ten of my class academically, and I think he truly wanted me to just try and get through my last semester of school. I don’t feel he was malicious in any way. I can see now he was trying in his own way to protect me from a protracted unpleasant battle. But at the time it felt awful.

I’m all grown up now though, and I have some things to say about that experience. To the guys in my high school history class; I forgive you. I hope you have grown into better human beings; better men than the boys you were. To the one teacher who did not take a stand for an LGBT youth being bullied on a daily basis in your classroom- I hope above all hopes that no other child has suffered because of you. To the bystanders who saw it all and said nothing- I hope you speak up in future if you are a witness to bullying. To my sister- rock on with your bad self, I have no regrets about my life and neither should you. To the one teacher who created safe space for us both…thank-you.

To any LGBT youth being bullied reading this please comment so I can reach out to you. You are not alone. There will be times when you have to let it go, and move on, and sweep it under the rug. But there will be times when you can take a stand and fight. Seek out those who support you, and whatever adversity you may face now I promise it will pass. None of it is worth taking your own life.

In the current climate of our country LGBT youth are especially vulnerable. They live daily with fears that normal teens don’t have to worry about. Please be mindful of this and be that supportive adult, teacher, friend, or parent. Be the safe space.

And in closing, this happened seventeen years ago. I still remember much of it vividly. Bullying leaves lasting marks on people. Bullying literally has a mortality rate. Youths kill themselves due to being victims of bullying. Speak up, speak out, and be kind.

After Pulse

It’s been a year now since the Pulse Nightclub Shooting. I have been doing a lot of reflecting about the past year and how my life has changed since the murders that night. I did not know any one there, but I was deeply horrified by what occurred at Pulse. As a lesbian I immediately thought of our local gay club where so many people go for a night out. The local gay club in our community is a safe haven, and a bastion of light cutting through the darkness of heterosexual life. In many places in our country it is not safe for a gay couple to hold hands or have public displays of affections. Gay clubs are often the one place where we can just be ourselves. We can hug, we can kiss, we can dance, we can be who we want to be and not who society expects us to be. We can do things heterosexual couples and people take for granted. Gay clubs are not just a club, but literally they are pillars in the gay community because they are safe zones.

I remember the morning after Pulse, finding out about the murders. I had so many feelings, and I have tears in my eyes as I write this even now a year later. Because I am angry and terrified that this happened on US soil and that this could happen again in my own town. I am angry that it took the deaths of FORTY-NINE individuals for a running Republican President to even acknowledge the gay community. How many more have to die before we are not just acknowledged but for people on both party lines to take a stand for us? Being gay should not be a partisan issue. Human rights should be fought for by every individual in our country for every individual in our country. Not just for the individuals people judge are deserving.

But I digress. After feeling many different feelings in the wake of the murders, I made some life changes. I had never been an “out” provider before Pulse. I didn’t think it was necessary. At least that’s what I told myself. I think at the core I was scared. I also worked primarily at an inpatient setting where it’s not appropriate to disclose one’s sexual orientation. I worked very part time at an outpatient setting where I had been seeing some of my patients for about three years. None of them knew I was married to a woman. I did a lot of soul searching. I realized that I was doing a disservice to the LGBT community by not being out as a provider. Because as a lesbian I am scared of healthcare providers reactions to finding out I am married to a woman. Why would my patients be any different? And why was I not working in the best capacity I could to reach the LGBT community? Our suicide rate is so high, and because of my own personal experience with my wife and her family I knew firsthand how unaccepting society can be. I talked with my wife a lot, because at that point we had infant sons. I wanted to do everything I could to protect them in the future. But in my heart I knew I had to take this step and change my life. So I did.

I quit the hospital, I met with my boss at my outpatient job and told her my plan. I wanted to come full time outpatient. I wanted to market myself to the LGBT community, I wanted to start an LGBT support group for young adults, and if patients asked about my husband I was going to start correcting them and telling them I have a wife. I also wanted to put pictures in my office of my family. Because that’s what people do, and I felt I couldn’t do that before. I was so scared of that meeting, and my boss laughed and said “Did you think I wouldn’t be supportive of you?” I remember feeling so relieved and within two months I made the move. I also subscribed to Gay Parent magazine and leave copies out in the waiting room. I told her we had to gay it up a bit around the office.

It’s been six months now since I took that leap and I have not regretted a second of it. My LGBT client base has soared. My support group is filling up. And there have been countless moments when I know I did the right thing. LGBT clients come not knowing I’m married to a woman, and when they figure it out or ask outright and I confirm it there is such relief and relaxation that overtly flows through them. My clients feel safe with a lesbian provider because I get it. They don’t have to educate me on LGBT issues or concerns and a couple of my clients I had been seeing for three years were extremely pissed that I didn’t come out to them sooner. I’ve said that my sexual orientation shouldn’t make a difference because I treat all my clients the same way. But now that I’ve been able to step back and think and experience being “out” as a provider I know it absolutely is different. It’s different not for me but for them. It makes them feel safer and like they have an instant connection. Now, not all gay or transgender people want me as their provider. And that’s fine, I still have a personality and a style that is independent of my lesbian status. But for those who I do fit with it’s been a very positive experience on my end to see how much more quickly our therapeutic relationship develops.

I recently did an intake on a gay client, who asked if I would be willing to do therapy with him in addition to medication management. I said, “I usually reserve my therapy spots for my LGBT clients, so yes that would be fine, as long as we are a good fit,” when I started talking his face fell, but by the end of my sentence he was beaming. He was so effusive with his thanks, and said, “I’ve just never been put first by healthcare providers, it seems like gays are always last, so thank-you.” That moment alone made it worth it to me. He was so young, and already had been brought so low because of society’s judgements.

My own insecurities put up barriers and boundaries around myself as a provider. It took 49 lives for me to wake up and realize that I was wrong. That I couldn’t have one foot in and foot out. My heart aches still when I think of that night and those murders- the innocent lives taken, the parents and family members affected, and all of the ripples that extended from that night. Nothing can take away that pain, but in my own way Pulse helped me shape my future. It made me take a firm stand for my community and create a safe space for LGBT individuals.

Dyke Versus the IRS

Before the Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage federally, people asked me why gay marriage was a big deal. Here’s some of what it meant to me.

When I was twenty-two and my wife and I started dating. We did the cliche lesbian thing where she moved in almost immediately. After four months together she started to have some health problems. Nothing serious, but it made her and I realize that if she were ever to have serious health problems I would have no “claim” to her, and in fact her immediate family (who had kicked her out literally to the curb when she came out) would have more of a say in healthcare decisions than I would. Whether we were together for two months or twenty years the same rang true. Without a legal document binding us together our relationship didn’t matter. It terrified me that she would get into a car accident and I would show up at the hospital only to be denied seeing her by her family. So at the ripe ages of twenty-two and twenty-three she and I sat down with a lawyer and had a healthcare proxy and living will drawn up for her. It was two hundred dollars. That is a lot for two girls one still in college with no financial support from her family, and me fresh out of college and paying rent for the first time ever. She kept a copy in her car and at home. I did too. Heterosexual couples likely don’t think about this stuff, unless their immediate family has cut them off for some reason. But hospitals are also less likely to bar a heterosexual partner from seeing their significant other than a homosexual partner. I can tell you from experience there are hospitals all over the country that would bar me from seeing my wife without my legal piece of paper saying to let me the fuck in prior to gay marriage. Even post gay marriage in conservative areas gay couples still take the steps described above to protect themselves in case disaster strikes. When it was state by state we would still all need this documentation because if we travelled to states that didn’t have gay marriage we could face the situation described above. We travelled with healthcare proxies and living wills whenever we left out state. Federal gay marriage allowed me to breathe a little. I could now travel outside of my state and be recognized as her wife anywhere.

Then there were the taxes. We were married in our state for about four years prior to the federal gay marriage ruling. For four years we filed the most fucked up taxes imaginable. For four years the IRS sent me letters telling me how I fucked up my taxes, and for four years I refused to do it any differently because it just pissed me off on principle. Here’s how it went. I filed “single” federally for both of us. Then I had to make a dummy “married” federal tax return in order to file “married” in our state. Then we would get a state tax return of a certain amount of money. That’s where the IRS got mad. Because you have to claim a state income tax return on a federal return, but it was never clear to me who I should file it under because we received our state back as married, so it came to both of us. The IRS would then send me a letter that I never claimed that return as income. However they never sent my wife a letter. For some reason they decided I took all of the state income tax return even though it was split between my wife and I. For four years I called the IRS. I sat on hold for several hours combined, and I always spoke with Ms. Queenie. I explained my sad story to Ms. Queenie every year. I then asked how the IRS decided I got the full state return when I clearly filed jointly under both my wife and I. Ms. Queenie was always very polite, but ultimately she would tell me to just do what the IRS was telling me to do. Claim it fully under myself as income and pay what I owed the IRS. Every year for four years we had the same discussion. Every year for four years I posted on Facebook about how this system made no sense. How was it I could be married in a state but not the country? How could I step out of my state and all the sudden not be married? Why would I live in a country that didn’t respect the decision and court ruling made by my state? And why didn’t the fucking IRS make my wife claim half the income tax from our state? Why did they pick me? Did I knowingly break the law by not reporting my state income tax. Yes, sort of. I thought it didn’t make any sense, and I didn’t know who to claim the income under because as stated above our federal was two single returns. And I couldn’t get the IRS to admit that the money from our state went to BOTH of us, not just to me. Quite frankly that pissed me off. How could the IRS decide our relationship, our joint state return didn’t exist?

There are many more reasons that gay marriage is beyond important to me as a lesbian. Having children, and being legal parents of our children is another blog post in and of itself. But honestly for me, the tax situation was my biggest complaint. It really got under my skin. The main one being this. I have stated previously I work in healthcare. I devote my life and career to helping others. I also have a father who is a Vietnam Veteran, and a Grandfather who is a World War II Veteran. My family sacrificed so much for this country and for our freedoms. I give of myself daily to people of all races, sexualities, and religious backgrounds without judgement. It hurt me deeply that I could not enjoy the freedoms my family sacrificed for. It hurt me that I gave of myself selflessly to a society that was not willing to give back. It hurt me to live in a country that I would die for that would not even acknowledge one of the most important and valued relationships of my life. Gay marriage to me represented my country finally putting my family at the same level as every other citizen. It felt to me for the first time that we were truly free. And when I settled down at my laptop with my arch nemesis Turbotax, I actually got tears in my eyes when I submitted our married federal tax return for the first time. It sounds like something so small and simple, but to me it was a freedom we didn’t have before.

Who’s Your Daddy?

One of the arguments I hear a lot from people who are homophobic is around raising children without a father figure. Even people who are not homophobic, but let’s say homo-ignorant, often ask “But they won’t have a dad?” or “So who is the Dad?”. My immediate gut response is one of instant defensiveness because I do not want to think that I am in any way endangering my children or providing them with anything less than the best. When I started this blog I promised myself to uncover the good and the bad, the dark and the light. The darkness around this post is there is a constant fear as a lesbian mom that I am not enough, that my sons will not learn to be good men being raised by two women. They will resent me for bringing them into a family with no father and I will have them in therapy when they are twelve because of their hatred and resentment of my wife and I. There is an insecurity within me that those homophobes who believe in a family consisting of a mother, father, and children are right. When people ask “So what about a dad?” I hear “You know you are not good enough right?” or “You and your wife will never be enough for them.”

I am a fact finder and researcher by nature. I like to know true statistics (thanks ironically to my Dad who makes shit up half the time and the other half knows random weird facts that end up being true- with love Dad!) So here are some facts I found for this article and my own peace of mind.

 The American Academy of Pediatrics writes in an article titled “Promoting the Well-Being of Children Whose Parents Are Gay or Lesbian”– “The US 2010 census found that only 65% of children in the US are living with two biological married parents…Current estimates state 2 million children in the US are being raised by at least one lesbian and/or gay parents…Many factors confer risk to children’s healthy development and adult outcomes, such as poverty, parental depression, parental substance abuse, divorce, and domestic violence, but the sexual orientation of their parents is not among them. Many studies have assessed the developmental and psychosocial outcomes of children whose parents are gay or lesbian and note that a family’s social and economic resources and the strength of the relationships among members of the family are far more important vari- ables than parental gender or sexual orientation in affecting children’s development and well-being.20 A large body of scientific literature demonstrates that children and adolescents who grow up with gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual.

I think the above challenges in a concise fashion all people who argue that my children need a father and relieves many of my own insecurities. My children need to be loved, nurtured, and protected. They need to be tucked in at night, brought to the doctor when they are sick, kissed and hugged when they are sad, and taught to be respectful of oneself and of each other. I agree that potty training them without an adult penis and with very little experience with penises is going to be challenge. But my wife and I will face it. Just as we will face every challenge presented to us parenting our sons. Just as single mom’s do, and grandparents, and auntie’s, and adopted families. The face of “family” has already changed in the United States. It’s time we all caught up with this fact. 65% of children are in homes with married parents- that means a whopping 35% are not. That’s a lot of kids, and that was 7 years ago. The days of a mother, father, and two children are past. We are a beautiful blended society today with stepparents, adoptions, single parents, married gay parents and as long as all of those children are loved and especially as long as my children are loved don’t ask me where their dad is. It’s insulting and demeaning of the family we are.

Ask me how their Mom’s parent two challenging and sweet toddlers. Ask me what I am doing right, and don’t rush to judgement that because there are two Moms I am doing something wrong. I shouldn’t have to defend my family to any one, but here I am. The reality is many people think our family is not a real family and that we are not deserving of being parents. I am not anti-Dad. I have a Dad who I love very much. I am anti-judgement. I decided a long time ago not to judge others, and after I had my sons I doubled my efforts to not judge other parents and I shut other people down who are around me if they start judging parents. I remember one day I thought my nipples were going to fall off (I breastfed twins for eleven months), my wife was back at work, my C-section pain still wasn’t gone, and my sons just would not stop crying. I cried with them. In that moment I realized that parenting is so freaking hard. If at the end of the day your kids are loved and alive then I’m thinking it was a good day. I make mistakes parenting. I lose me temper sometimes when I’m telling my son not to touch the television for the thirtieth time that day. I forget their jackets for daycare some days. But never would I say that a mistake I made is having them. Because I love those little guys even on our worst day, and I wouldn’t want to journey through this parenting debacle with anyone but my wife. So the answer is, my sons don’t have a dad, they have two kick ass Mom’s who love them.

Dykes on a Cake

Individual states passed gay marriage before the beautiful Supreme Court ruling. My wife and I were lucky enough to live in one such state, and thus we were married back in 2011. There was a lot that went into planning our wedding. I’ll break it down for you, in case you’ve never planned one- music (we went with a DJ), cake (my priority), outfits (my second priority), photographer, food, venue, flowers (we didn’t have any, because we were married in December and wilting flowers irritate me), guests, and family. There certainly can be other aspects to wedding planning but for us those were the main issues. Venue, food, centerpieces, and music we nailed down relatively quickly…the cake took some time.

I wanted the cake to be delicious but also a decoration. Our wedding was Christmas themed, and I wanted the cake to be Christmas themed with two brides topping the cake. I was wearing a wedding gown, that I loved, and my wife was wearing a suit. It was tailored to look feminine, but two brides in gowns on top of a cake just wasn’t accurate. And clearly a male and a female on top of the cake also was not okay. I decided ultimately to ditch cake toppers. There would be no lesbian lovers adorning our cake. Instead I designed the Grinch cake.

My wife and I started dating in December four years prior to our marriage. It was a special time for us and still is for many reasons. It was the first period of stability my wife had after being kicked out of her parents home. It also was her first Christmas out of her family’s home. My wife grew up being told that she could only listen to orchestra music or religious themed music. The first time she heard Christmas music that was not religious themed was with me, baking cookies, singing loudly to the Grinch Soundtrack- the one with Jim Carey and Busta Rhymes rapping about How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I remember rolling out the dough for my candy cane cookies, covered in flour and peppermint oil; in my happy place listening to my favorite music. I remember looking up and seeing her face. It was a mixture of shock, delight, guilt, and curiosity. I remember I laughed and then asked what was wrong. She told me she had never heard Christmas music before that had a beat, or that did not revolve around the bible story of Christmas. I would also find out that she never saw any movies not based in religion.

Our first month we were together we both experienced many “first’s”. My wife because of her strict upbringing. For me, it was my first time ever dating a woman and I had never let myself be so vulnerable before as I was with her. She was introducing me to a whole new way of life, and vice versa.

There were dark times too, then and in the years to come for my wife. Deep pain and sadness that would erupt from her because of the years of repression and suppression.

At some point that month we watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas and that scene, at the end; when his eyes start watering, and his heart triples in size was especially meaningful for both of us. She was feeling and experiencing a new world of freedom and being herself when for twenty years she hadGrinchCake to be someone else to live up to her family and her church’s expectations. I was experiencing a new world emotionally, connecting with someone on a new level. The Grinch says, “I’m feeling” in this very squeaky, scared, and bewildered voice. That’s how it was for us both that first year. We were both feeling our way through a brand new world.

The cake was three tiers. Different flavored cake and frosting on each tier of course. It was topsy-turvy like Grinch Mountain. On the top sat the Grinch himself with his sled and Max on the tier below.

Many people that night asked us why we chose it, they loved it, but they wanted to know the story. I told people we couldn’t find two appropriate dykes to top it off so we went with the Grinch. I was not ready to share then what I am now because at the time I could hardly even articulate what it meant. That cake and the Grinch represented to us freedom, new beginnings, and our love. It represented the darkness we both came from, and the light we brought to each other. We cut the cake to the song “This will be an everlasting love…” and I thought there was never a more perfect moment.

 

Lesbian Family Portrait

My wife and I are in the midst of house buying and selling hell. For any one who has bought or sold a house you know what I mean. We have buyers…we have a house we would like to purchase and well the seller’s being difficult. We are supposed to close in ten days and don’t have anything finalized, and in fact we may have to walk away. Needless to say I’m on my way to developing alcohol dependency and thinking that though I’ve never needed Xanax, now may be a good time to find some.

But let’s back up. Because this post is not about buying and selling hell. Sort of.

About a year ago we put our house on the market. We had several showings and no bites. Three months in I looked at our house with a critical eye. We packed up half our belongings to make it look more empty, we had it painted, and overall I thought it looked good. Then I realized our living room was plastered with pictures of our beautiful family. Professional pictures, framed in lovely frames, tastefully done in my opinion; but I realized that our gay family was on display. I wondered if that was why we hadn’t received any offers. I called my realtor. She is lovely, she assured me in all her years she had not seen that. But she’s kind and compassionate, and I think she would not have told me even if she knew every family coming to look at our house was calling us dykes on their way out.

I stewed on this for a couple days before I approached my wife. I told her my concerns, that our house wasn’t selling because there were pictures of a lesbian family in the living room. She didn’t disagree. She told me she had been having those exact same thoughts.

I remember having this sinking feeling in my stomach. I am by nature cynical and my wife is not. So if she was having those same thoughts that meant there was definitely some truth to them. We were trying to have this conversation around our two toddlers, which was poor planning on our part. Due to frequent meltdowns and normal toddler intrusiveness we tabled the discussion until after bedtime.

Two hours later we were sitting on our couch, in our living room, surrounded by our favorite pictures. Our sons in their newborn shots, the two of us on the beach for our maternity shoot, and their most recent birthday shots at the park nearby. As mentioned in a previous blog post about lesbians and pregnancy, we worked very hard to have my sons. I loved being surrounded by beautiful photos of my favorite people. We faced a decision. Do we take down these pictures to try and make the house more anonymous for potential homophobic buyers? Or not.

We talked about it a lot. There were few different factors that went into our decision.

First off, we didn’t know how long it would take to sell the house. What if it took another year? I’d go an entire year without seeing my pictures? Second, my sons were and are toddlers. There are about a hundred times a day they try my patience. Which means there are about a hundred times a day I need to look up at their smiling faces in their individual 8″x10″ photos in my wall collage and be reminded that they are my happy boys. Because the wild beast in front of me is a far cry from that smiling face. Third, my wife and I collectively reached a point in our lives when we were comfortable enough with ourselves that we were able to say fuck it. Selling our house was absolutely important to us. But if it came at the cost of hiding who we are, when we have both sacrificed so much to be the family that we are, then it was not worth it.

We decided after a long dialogue to keep the pictures where they were. It’s unfortunate that we had to talk about our family photos as a potential turn-off to our house. Normally it’s discussions about the landscaping, the scratch on the floor, or the old appliances. But my wife and I had to discuss the fact that beautiful, professional photos of our family could detract from our home’s value to a potential buyer. It was painful, poignant, and once again brought to the forefront that our life is not the same as other heterosexual people’s lives. Our decisions are harder and our fear of discrimination always lurks beneath the surface.

Rationally we also knew it might have nothing to do with our photos and family composition. Our house has one bathroom. Maybe potential buyers so far wanted two. But being a part of a minority that faces discrimination brings with it a level of paranoia that it is always about our sexual orientation.

Buying and selling houses has so many components. Every tiny step along the way we had to face as a lesbian couple. Our attorney asked if we were legally married. He didn’t know gay marriage “was a thing”. I told him that gay marriage was actually a major legal case at the level of the Supreme Court. Then I thought maybe I need a new lawyer. Every contractor and inspector I spoke with asked what my husband’s name was and when they would meet him. It was small, innocuous things, but they build over time. An ever present reminder that we are different, more vulnerable. And it started with our family pictures.

We are moving in ten days. I packed the pictures today, wondering if the seller is holding off because he knows he is selling his home to lesbians. I packed the pictures lovingly in bubble wrap, hoping that in ten days they will christen a new lesbian home.

 

How a Lesbian Gets Pregnant

If some one is heterosexual and they become pregnant, most people say “Congratulations”.

I was pregnant with twins and I am a lesbian. People initially said “Congratulations” but I was huge, because there were two, so eventually it came out that it was twins, then I would get asked “Was it natural?” “Did you do IVF?” “Do twins run in your family?”

Then God forbid they find out I was a lesbian, “Oh really, how did you do it? Did you get sperm somehow? From some one you know? Did you do it at home? Did you have sex with someone? Did you do IVF? Will your wife still love them if they are not hers? But how will your wife bond with them? Will your wife breastfeed too, because that’s a thing you know? But so they won’t have a Dad? Who will their Dad be? Wait so how do lesbians have sex?….”

Yes. People asked me all of those questions. Everywhere I went. From total strangers to very good friends. I found all of those questions insulting, intimate, and irritating. Let me phrase those questions a different way, “How did the sperm get into your vagina?” “What penis did that sperm come out of? Was he masturbating or having sex with you in your vagina?” “Did the sperm get stuck up your vagina by a doctor or did your wife stick it in your vagina at home?” (the how do lesbians have sex will be a separate blog post…)

If you really think about the above questions, my translation is actually what people want to know. And honestly, what goes into and out of my vagina is my business, and no one else’s.

So to spare other pregnant lesbians from these horrible questions I decided to write this blog post. If you are a pregnant lesbian, print this out and carry it with you. If you are straight, read it and learn how to be polite. You don’t need to know the details about a person’s fertility journey because you are essentially asking about that person’s vagina. Unless you want her to ask you about yours in return I recommend sticking to the script.

In order to get pregnant a person basically needs three things- a uterus, sperm, and an egg. Lucky for lesbians we have two uteri and multiple eggs between us. So our pregnancy journey generally starts with deciding who will be pregnant and finding sperm. I knew I wanted to be pregnant, and my wife knew she didn’t, so it worked out for us.

We decided to use a sperm bank because we did not want to go through potential legal issues by asking someone we knew. Many lesbian couples use sperm from men they know which is fine. I’ve known people who have used family members (in-laws so not related by blood, e.g. brother of one wife gives sperm to other wife), friends, and even acquaintances. In these instances people generally ask the man to get a battery of bloodwork and screenings done. Then they work out the logistics. If they are in separate states, careful tracking of ovulation is required, and when Mama starts to ovulate there are emergency calls to sperm-man, long car rides and potential masturbation and then inseminations on the side of a highway. I’ve known couples who have flown their sperm donor to their home monthly during ovulation so the person can stay there a few days, and masturbate a few times to provide more than one fresh sample. Then one partner inseminates the other. There are home insemination kits, and turkey basters work too. Before any of this happens, a legal arrangement is usually worked out. Will the man give up parental rights? Will he have parental rights? Will the kids call him by his first name, Dad, or Uncle? An attorney is required to work all of this out.

Because I have an underlying medical condition we chose to go through a fertility doctor and a sperm bank. We chose one particular sperm bank because it did the most genetic screenings and was reasonably priced. Sperm from sperm banks is expensive. Anywhere from $300.00-$1100.00. I was lucky that my health insurance covered at least a percentage of the fertility care I received. Using a fertility doctor was great, but also extremely time consuming, painful, and expensive.

We tried three intrauterine inseminations (IUI)- the sperm is “cleaned” and inserted directly into my uterus. My cycle was tracked via transvaginal ultrasound (yes it sucked a lot) and bloodwork almost daily (yes that sucked too). When I grew an egg or two I would do what’s known as the “trigger shot” to time the release of my eggs with the insemination of the sperm. Then I started the progesterone shots after the insemination. Daily intramuscular shots in my butt that my wife administered, or my friends. I work in healthcare so there were plenty of people willing and able to give me a shot. The IUI’s were stressful because of the time, energy and money that is put into them. All three of mine produced a negative pregnancy test. I went through a lot of blood tests, ultrasounds, shots, and inseminations. After the third time using Clomid, we knew my eggs were not the problem. I was growing a lot of beautiful eggs. But the sperm wasn’t making it to them. It was time to do IVF. I took a few months off, fell into a deep depression, turned thirty, booked a cruise, and while jumping off a pier in Mexico realized my life was good, and I could handle whatever was coming next.

IVF sucks ass. I was on hormones for six weeks leading up to the actual retrieval (egg retrieval= being put under anesthesia while the doctor goes up your vagina and cervix and uterus out the tubes and collects the eggs that have grown). I had to take birth control for 3 weeks, then start Lupron shots. I developed an allergy to Lupron so every night when I injected myself I had big red welts pop up. I told my doctor and he said, “Huh, that’s not good, but we really need you to be on it, so maybe take some Benadryl every time you take it.” Great. For two weeks before the egg retrieval I was on a total of three subcutaneous shots daily, one of which I was allergic to. I was running out of skin and space. I had bruises and hives everywhere. It was so painful by the end I couldn’t self-inject and was having a friend do it daily.

I grew an amazing number of eggs. We did the retrieval. Then five days later I went back and the doctor put two embryos into my uterus. I got to watch the two embryos, who would eventually be my sons, implant on the ultrasound. That was cool. We chose to do two because I didn’t think it was going to work. I thought for sure, after three failed IUI’s, that I was doomed for failure again. Ten days later we had our pregnancy test, and it came up positive. I remember crying and smiling. Then I had the six week ultrasound. I didn’t think there would be two sacs. I truly thought I only had one. The ultrasound tech said, “There are two fetal sacks, both with heartbeats.”

I asked her to look again. She showed me the monitor, and there they were. Two beautiful little circles with heartbeats.

There are other ways that lesbians can get pregnant, but sperm meeting egg is a must, and the resulting embryo landing in a woman’s uterus is also a must. Some lesbian couples who have excellent fertility coverage or who are wealthy, can do a retrieval from one woman, and implantation into the wife’s uterus. This makes both women feel connected to the baby as one is genetically the mother, and the other can carry and breastfeed. Some lesbian couples do have both mom’s breastfeed. It takes commitment and hormone treatment, but it is possible.

In response to questions about bonding. I can only speak from my personal family, and the other lesbian families I know. My sons know that my wife and I are their Mom’s. They are equally bonded with both of us. I breastfed them for eleven months, but my wife was there literally from conception through birth. She held them first, and she took care of them on her own for the first twenty-four hours because I was bed bound due to complications with the delivery. She is as much their mom as I am. To ask a lesbian couple who is more bonded to their kids, or if their kids love one mom less is insulting and hurtful.

Just as love is love, family is family. My sons do not care what vagina they came out of or where the sperm came from. They care who cuddles them in the middle of the night after a bad dream. They care who greets them with smiles and hugs every morning, and kisses them good-night every evening. They are still toddlers, but they know intuitively that their two mom’s would literally walk through fire for them. To say that my wife is less of a mom because she didn’t carry them is bullshit. She held my hair while I vomited on a daily basis. She gave me many of those injections. She cooked, cleaned, and cared for all of us while I was recovering from birth. She did more than her share of nighttime feeds with pumped breastmilk. Just as she will continue to be there for all of us going forward. My son’s do not have a Dad, they have a sperm donor, two Mom’s, extended family, and many friends. My son’s are happy, sweet, and most importantly they are loved. They were wanted. If there is one thing you can be sure of when you meet lesbians and their kids, it’s that they really wanted those kids. Because as stated above, we are missing sperm and penis’s, so there’s a lot that goes into baby-making for us. Every prick of a needle, every test, and every journey up my vagina by my doctors and nurses was painful emotionally and physically. But I look at my son’s faces, I smell their beautiful scent, I hug their chunky little bodies, and it was beyond worth it.

I went through a hell of a lot to have my kids. All together it was one year of hormones, testing, and procedures. My marriage went through a lot too. But my son’s are beautiful and loved. I have no regrets.

I ask you to not demean or diminish any lesbian’s fertility journey by asking heart-breaking and intrusive questions about her vagina, her ability to love, and her wife or partner’s ability to love. Just hug her, and say, “Congratulations, your baby is so lucky to have you both.”

 

How a Dyke Made Her Foul Shots

First off, I’m allowed to use the word dyke. Because I am one. It’s a process known as “reclaiming”. We are reclaiming that word so it cannot be derogatory any longer. If you have never been called a slur as part of a minority, you don’t get it. That’s okay. You don’t have to, you just have to know lesbians can say dyke, and you can’t. But I digress. This post is about making a foul shot in basket-ball. For those of you who have watched or are familiar with the game you know a foul shot is taken when a player is fouled. They get two shots, one point each, and they take it at the foul line. Not rocket science.

My high school basketball coach was…I don’t want to say insane because he wasn’t actually clinically mentally unstable…let’s say extremely intense about winning. My sister and I were both on the team when I was a freshman and she was a senior. My sister and I are very different people. At the time she was “out” and I was not at all even thinking about being gay. I was actually very much into boys. We lived in a small town, and she and I both faced discrimination because she was gay. As I said, we are very different, and her way of handling discrimination is very different than mine. For example, if some one muttered a slur like “dyke” under his breath within our hearing my sister would likely ignore it and move on with her day completely unaffected. I would turn, look at this person directly, and in front of every one present ask him to repeat himself and then likely engage in some verbal argument. I confront directly whereas my sister is more indirect in her approach. And I have to say that her approach is awe-inspiring at times. Because literally without saying a word she puts people in their place, and it is stunning to watch.

The one time I remember her doing this quite vividly was at the girls basketball state finals. Life leading up to the state finals was chaotic. We shouldn’t have won all the games we did to make it there, but miraculously we did. We were then reminded at every practice in between by our slightly intense coach that we shouldn’t have won those games and that we likely wouldn’t win anymore. He meant it with love. Sort of.

I was on the bench, which as a freshman was an honor to have been picked to sit on the bench with the varsity team and dress for the games. My sister didn’t start, but she definitely played. So we made it to the state finals, we were at a state university gymnasium and it was full. I mean completely full. Hundreds of people were there. Many who wanted us to lose. The opposing team’s fans were behind our bench, so that was fun.

We were down by a lot in the third quarter. Then some one made a 3-pointer, then some one made a lay-up, then we were only down by 3 or 4 and we were in the fourth and final quarter and my sister got fouled. She had a buzz cut at the time. So naturally about fifty of the fans behind our bench yelled “dyke” “butch” and “bitch” repeatedly before she had even placed her feet at the foul line.

We all knew these were crucial shots. We were running out of time, and we needed her to sink these shots. My coach knew it too, and for once he wasn’t screaming his head off. He actually came directly to me on the bench as I was about to turn around and give the finger to every one screaming “Dyke” at my sister. In a very not-insane moment he tapped my shoulder told me to turn my ass around, sit down and shut-up. He knew something I didn’t. My sister wouldn’t be phased by the jerks in the stand. She would be distracted if she saw her little sister upset or getting picked on. Smart man. I very angrily turned around and sat in the seat. I was hoping my coach would go back to the other end of the bench but he didn’t budge. He knew me pretty well at that point and likely knew I would eventually peel my ass off the bench and dive into the stands throwing punches.

The gym did not go silent when she got the ball. All she could have heard were guys yelling “dyke” “butch” and “bitch”. My sister didn’t even look over. She did her routine at the foul line that I had seen hundreds of times before, she bent, released, and freaking sank that first shot. My coach, my team, and I went wild. The jerks in the stands didn’t stop for the second shot.

“Dyke” “butch” “bitch” “dyke” “butch” “bitch”

She was only seventeen. She bent, released, sank it a second time. Again she didn’t even look at the fans in the stands. She just slapped her teammates high five, and jumped into her defensive stance.

We won the state finals. My sister got to cut a piece of the net. There were a lot of clinch moments in that game, and I know for a fact my sister’s foul shots were one of those moments. She helped our team turn it around and regain the lead. She kept the momentum going, and in her own way she gave all those discriminating jerks the finger. She also taught me something.

What’s interesting is I’ve never talked to her about those foul shots. Because I know her, and she would just shrug and laugh and say, “No big deal,” but it was a big deal. It was a big deal to our team and it was a big deal for her as a lesbian. It was a moment when she could have gone low but she chose to go high. In going high she taught everyone in that gymnasium what it looks like to go high. It looks like someone poised in the face of jeers, hatred, and intolerance. It looks like someone who doesn’t have the time of day for ignorance because she was going to win the game. It looks like someone who practiced thousands of foul shots over the years and she wasn’t going to let anyone or anything interfere with her regimen.

Her grace under immense pressure at age seventeen has clearly stuck with me, because now almost twenty years later, I can still see her at the line, staring intently at the basket. I can hear the guys behind me “Dyke, butch, bitch” and I can see her stance and when she bent her knees and released and then the swoosh of the net…it was a beautiful moment.

For lesbians something as simple as taking a foul shot can turn into a statement for our sexuality. Everything we do is suddenly defined not just by our ability to do it, but that a lesbian did it. We represent a minority at all times, and in that moment her representation for lesbians was perfection.

How a Lesbian “Meets the Parents”

There’s a lot of angst in heterosexual relationships about “meeting the parents”. I can tell you from experience there is the same if not more angst in lesbian relationships. Not only are you meeting the parents, but you are meeting their judgements. Are they okay with their daughter dating a woman? What are their expectations? If their daughter is more femme are they expecting some one more butch? Are you letting them down? Are they going to ask you about grandchildren and how the heck that is supposed to work? Are they going to ask you about your parents and their beliefs?

The answer to most of that is yes. They will have preconceptions and inappropriate questions. Now, I was lucky. Sort of. My wife’s family disowned her due to their religious beliefs when she came out to them at the age of twenty. They gave her two hours to pack a bag, leave her keys, and get out. They kept her phone and her car, and just about everything else. Obviously she was devastated, and still is in some ways, but that’s not my story to tell. What is my story is the one time I did meet her mom. It was in Starbucks. She found out we were getting married. She asked to meet. I didn’t know what to expect, I thought they were evil because I saw my wife’s hurt and suffering through the years when she had to cope with being separated from them. I was wrong. They are not evil. Her Mom was clearly a warm, caring, and kind person. It made the refusal for them to be part of my wife’s life even more painful for me. Why couldn’t she be evil? Then it would be easy to separate from them.

She pulled out a bible. In Starbucks, while I was sipping my lemonade. She read a few passages. I’m familiar with the bible. I was raised hard core Christian. I went to a Catholic college. I took religious courses throughout college. I interrupted her and told her how familiar I was with the bible. She said, “You must hate me,” I said, “No, I pity you. I pity you because this woman is so worthwhile I have agreed to be her wife. To spend the rest of my life with her. And I pity you because you have chosen to not be a part of her life. You have chosen to miss out on the life of one of the best women in the world. For that I truly pity you.”

My statement didn’t go over well. The rest went downhill. She basically told us if we got married we were going to Hell. That was truly the one meeting I had with my wife’s Mom. Her Dad I met very briefly another time, and there was really no discussion about anything.   As you can imagine this meeting was very painful for my wife. And now that we have children, knowing that her parents are good people, just close-minded due to their own set of beliefs, it is painful knowing they will not meet our sons. Our sons are amazing. I mean what parent doesn’t think their kid is the best kid in the world? We are no different. And again when I think of her parents, I feel such pity because they are missing out. This divide between us because of religious beliefs is so great, such a chasm, that it has broken the bond between mother and daughter, father and daughter, grandparents and grandchildren. That is what lesbians have to deal with when we meet our “in-laws”. That is one of the reasons I started this blog. Because people want to hear the happy, fun side to being lesbians/gay/queer. Well there is a dark side. It’s icky and painful, but I’m not scared to rip off that band-aid. Light needs to shine into the dark.

I said I was lucky in the beginning of this. I’m getting there. I am lucky that my wife is so kind and compassionate like her own parents. Because in her handling of being disowned I learned so much. She handled it in a way I would never have been able to. My respect and love for her grew tremendously as she navigated something so painful with such grace. I am lucky that I only had to meet her parents once. I am lucky that my wife faced a choice- her parents or her sexual orientation and she had the courage and strength to choose her true self. She chooses me and our sons every day. There are heterosexual couples who have those same devastating choices, but not as frequently as lesbians. And it adds a layer of depth to our marriage because of everything she had to sacrifice to be with me. It made the growing of our family with our sons even more profound for her because we are all she has now. Except for my family too…but I’ll get to them later on! Meeting the parents is usually awkward for any one but for me, as a lesbian, it was so painful for all parties involved. It was filled with intolerance, discrimination, and judgement. And not just on her parents end. I am guilty of judging them as well. I absolutely judge them for not being a part of her life- I’m working on it. I try and respect them and their beliefs, but it’s hard because I disagree so completely. I post this with the hope that people reading will understand meeting Mom and Dad (or Mom & Mom or Dad & Dad) when in a same-sex relationship is fraught with emotions and different scenarios then heterosexual couples may face. Be supportive, be accepting, and be kind.