The Moment Your 3 Year Old Figures Out Mommy’s Family is Missing.

That moment happened. The one we’ve been dreading since I got pregnant. My sons and my wife were watching The Good Dinosaur. A horrible trippy Disney movie that for some reason made it past Disney editors. My sons are obsessed with it.

There’s a part when Arlo, the dinosaur, is explaining to a human critter what and who his family is. My sons learned awhile ago that their family is Mommy, Mama, Declan, and Jackson (and Rajah and Maddy the cats but they fight over who can have Maddy because she’s more friendly to them).

They are watching that scene, and they are holding pictures of my Aunt and Uncle and cousins, and my parents- Poppy and Ba (Gramma), because they tend to walk around with those pictures and chatter about their family.

Declan looks at his pictures, then he looks at my wife and says, “My famwe Mama, Mommy, Chackson, and Decky, Rara, and Maddy.” My wife says, “Yes, good job.” He wasn’t done though. He looked perplexed and held up his pictures and said, “Who your famwe?” That little three year old brain had put it together. All of these extended relatives were Mamas famwe. So where the heck are Mommy’s people?

My wife responded perfectly and said, “You’re my family. You and Jackson, and Mama.” Declan is too smart for his age. He looked at her, and at the pictures, like he knew that couldn’t be right. So he asked again. And again. And again. Because he’s three and he’s my son. I’ve been told I’m like a dog going after a bone. I won’t stop until I get my answer. Apple doesn’t fall far apparently.

So eventually my wife said, “Well I don’t really talk to my family baby.” He responded, “No talk to your famwe?” and she nodded. Then he became engrossed in the movie and seemed to accept this as an answer.

My wife told me as soon as I got home that night. We were both a little surprised and caught off guard. He’s too young for us to explain this. He’s too…innocent. We don’t want him to know that her family cut her off, left her homeless, has never met them because she’s a lesbian. But he’s also too damn smart and nosey. He’s going to know sooner than we would have liked.

His brother likes to live in happy oblivion. HIs brother accepts reality as it is and doesn’t question it. But he will know too, because if Declan’s talking about it Jackson’s going to be listening.

So here we are. Three years and two weeks into their little lives. That’s how long they lasted without knowing or asking.

It feels weird. Kind of a relief. Kind of terrifying. Sad. The way they will be introduced to discrimination is through the grandparents they will never meet. Not how we would have liked it or planned it. But that’s our reality.

It all feels so stupid. Such an easy fix. Yet so impossible at the same time.

There’s no guidebook for this whole parenting thing. There’s also no guidebook for the whole lesbian mom disowned by her parents thing. It’s a lot of stumbling through. Waiting for the questions to be asked and wishing we had different answers when they are.

When a Farmer Told my Wife to Stop Buying Firewood From Him. Because She’s Gay.

We live in a rural area where there are farmer’s who put firewood in bins to purchase on the side of the road. It’s labeled 20$/bin or whatever. My wife went to the same one, right up the road three times. The fourth time, today, the farmer came outside and asked her what she was doing. Clearly she was buying more firewood.

He was upset she swapped one large piece for one smaller piece in another bin. He said he’d seen her there three times before. She hadn’t swapped any pieces before. She said, “Yeah the big piece is too big, we don’t have an axe to break it down further, I’m sorry, I didn’t know, and it was just one piece for one piece…” he cut her off and started unpacking her car. She already had most of the bin loaded.

I asked what she did while he unpacked it. She said she helped him. Piece by piece. Silently. Side by side. Homophobe and homosexual.

He then put some of the wood back into a different bin. Which completely goes against what he had just said. She didn’t argue. She said she could tell he made up his mind before he even came down, and wanted to just get off his property as it felt unsafe.

When you are a minority you get a sense from when some one is just an asshole vs. when you are wrong yourself vs. someone who is homophobic. She said she knew he was homophobic and was looking for a reason to engage with her and cut off her business.

My wife is somewhat naive and very kind. She wouldn’t have misread that. I am very cynical and expect the worse. So I would be one to immediately assume discrimination. She’s not. So if she says it, then it must of been bad.

For her to be in tears when she was telling me. Yeah it was bad.

I don’t know how many more blogs I will have to write about the discrimination that faces my family in a supposedly blue liberal state. I don’t know how long it will take for people to get that this is an issue. It’s not going away. If anything it’s gotten worse since 2016.

It’s a heinous few seconds or minutes when some one lays his cards on the table and then you have to be in their presence. It feels unsafe, scary, and shameful. But I will not own that shame. I’m putting it back on the homophobes. Discrimination and hate is your shame. Own it. Because it was my wife who helped this man unload her car giving him back all his damn wood (yes the irony was not lost on us either) because he didn’t want a lesbian on his property and doing business with him.

These posts are hard to write. I hope they are hard to read. I hope they create change.

To my wife: We are now not supporting a homophobic person’s business. That is a good thing. I wouldn’t of helped him put the wood back which is why you are better than I am.

 

 

 

Celebrating Birthday’s LGBT Style…

I was recently visiting my best friend and we had a lot of fun…as lesbians tend to do. One straight dude that was with us that night said, “Lesbian’s are fun, I should hang out with them more often!” And I’m like, yeah we are pretty fun…all Gru style from Despicable Me 2 (he has a Russian accent and it’s all throaty and cool).

I haven’t blogged for a little while because I’ve been cranky. See here for the reason for my sleepless nights recently…freaking two and a half year olds able to run out in the hallway at all hours for all reasons…but it’s more than the lack of sleep due to twinning. It took a glass of wine, a free 50″ tv (I won a raffle hell yeah), my Fall decorations on the mantle, and another viewing of Nanette to get me to acknowledge why.

My wife and I have both been cranky. For the whole week leading up to her birthday. If you haven’t read my blog before, her family doesn’t speak to us because we are gay and they have religious beliefs that are at odds with the gay thing. She was homeless. Lots of therapy. Lots of birthdays. Lots of Christmas’. And every time we wait. We wait for them to contact her or not. Either way is going to lead to something painful.

We both get irritable leading up to her birthday because it’s painful to not spend your birthday with people who gave birth to you. It’s painful to have the people who created you cut off contact because they are in disagreement with their own creation.

So yes, lesbians have fun. Because we know horrific pain. We have been through so much to be who we are. So when we have a night to let loose. We do. In a big way. We have been brought down to our knees so we literally have nothing to lose.

My wife and I have had fun times on our birthdays. But hers specifically are overshadowed by something deeper. A pain so deep I can’t even describe it.

So yes, I’m sorry to my co-workers who had to deal with me this week. I was cranky putting it mildly. And when I step back and think about it, it’s not because I was sleep deprived…well mostly…it was because I was worried about my wife’s birthday because it’s never a truly happy occasion. There’s an undercurrent because we both know what’s missing.

I have so many LGBT clients in the same situation. They have made their own families with partners and friends after being disowned by their own blood. It’s a common story unfortunately. It’s our story.

So my theory is yeah, gay clubs and the LGBT community is always more fun. But it’s because we know more pain. We have lower lows, we have deeper wounds, which allows us to experience and seek out higher high’s. It allows us to seek ways to forget the pain for just one night or one hour. It’s similar to nurses. My nurse friends are freaking fun. It’s because we see people die. We know how tenuous life is first hand so we party hard in order to feel alive.

To live among the LGBT community is to know some one who has committed suicide, perhaps even to have been the one to find them. To live among the LGBT community is to know at least one but likely multiple, people who have no contact with their families. To live among the LGBT community is to seek acceptance among the only people who will “get” your experience because heterosexual’s and gender normals just will never understand. And it is beyond frustrating to watch them continuously take for granted their privilege.

Perhaps it’s a sign of our maturity, or perhaps it’s because we were freaking tired, but this year we went to our favorite brewery had good food and a couple drinks, and came home and went to bed. Not a night to write home about, but a night together, celebrating her life. Because her life matters to me.

If you love any one in the LGBT community, let them know their life matters to you. Because too many of our lives are lost due to feeling the pain of being alone.

Love you babe and Happy Birthday.

A Dyke’s Best Friend.

Seeing how I’m visiting her and she never reads my blog I thought it would be appropriate to write a post about her. I’d say I have a core group of maybe four or five close/best friends. My bestie from age 14 going forward is one of those five. We didn’t like each other in high school. Sort of. It was love/hate. We had a LOT of fun. Neither of us can drink or even smell Captain Morgan spiced rum anymore because we drank way too much of it in high school. Yes underage drinking is bad. I don’t condone it but I definitely did it.

She is probably the opposite of me in most every way which is funny because we are both Aquarius. Where she is the life of the party and makes friends as if it were nothing, I am usually in the corner by myself and like I said, carry a few trusted core people of close friends. We have some underlying traits in common though. We both love to laugh and have fun. We have A LOT of fun when we are together. Her wife and my wife tend to worry a bit when we make plans together because we either go all out or pass out watching Netflix by 9 pm. My wife says, “You seem to lose all track of your judgment when you are with her.” I say, “We’ve never been arrested and you gotta admit we have some great times.” My wife mutters, “I mean you probably could have been arrested you just weren’t…”

There is much I admire about my friend and I think she inspires me to be more adventurous and more motivated. She’s always very proud of me and shows me how to be a better person in so many ways. She also has seen me through the last twenty years of my life. She was my friend for my first hetero-romance in high school, and the one that gave me tequila and told me to “just do it” when I was debating dating my wife. She watched me morph into a lesbian-ish and helped me figure it all out along the way.

So it totally pisses me off when she’s discriminated against. She’s worked in industries that are male dominated- white heterosexual male dominated. She has to work twice as hard to get ahead in her field. She always has to prove herself.

She recently relocated down South for a job. Which is wonderful because now I have a place to go to by a beautiful beach that we visited today. But I am always scared for her because she’s such a dyke. In the South. She told me she was at the beach and a guy came up and put his finger in her face pointing, and yelling about “you people” and “the gay’s” and she was literally just sitting in a chair on the beach. What. The. Fuck. She has to be careful where she goes and who she goes with.

The admirable part to her is that she stays here anyway and it doesn’t do a thing to lower her mood or energy. I always find discrimination insulting. But it seems to be doubly insulting when the discrimination targets some one who is actually someone I think of as one of the greatest human beings in the world. I know it’s weird to think about but it does seem worse when discrimination and hatred targets someone who is the opposite in every way of hateful. It’s like people discriminating against my wife. They are literally two of the nicest and kindest people I know. Discriminate against me, I’m kind of a bitch, I can take it, stay away from the nice people!

I tend to have a calculating/thoughtful expression (I just don’t like the term resting bitch face, but perhaps that could be accurate here). My friend- never. She is literally always smiling. She has this bubbly energy that just draws everyone in. Whenever we go out she talks to EVERYONE. She is so friendly. So to know she of all people, has to worry about being blindly discriminated against on a daily basis just because she lives in the South; well that pisses me off.

The other thing is she doesn’t talk about it. She doesn’t complain about it. She just accepts this is how the world is and she’s still going to walk in it the same way. She hasn’t become jaded or resentful or cynical. She remains hopeful. Hopeful for change.

So while she’s always going to be a dog person and I will always be a cat person. And she will always hate my cats and I will always despise her dogs…we have this lesbian thing in common and we both know discrimination and she teaches me on the regular to never give up hope and to never stop being kind to people just because they may discriminate against us.

When we were 14 and this bubbly annoying blonde skipped up behind me in line at a basket-ball camp and started blabbing my ear off I would never have guessed that twenty years later she would be the person I’d sit on a beach with reminiscing about why we can’t drink Captain Morgan and how we are hopeful that in another twenty years we won’t have to worry about discrimination anywhere in our country.

Like her freaking dog is literally jumping on me as I type and I’m screaming at him to get away and screaming at my friend who is calling the dog who doesn’t listen to her…that’s how we roll.

 

“Gender Not Normal” Why Nanette Made Me Laugh and Cry.

I watched “Nanette” the comedy show by Hannah Gadsby. Freaking amazing.

“Do you understand what self deprecation means when it comes from somebody in the margins? It’s not humility it is humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak, I simply will not do that anymore. Not to myself or to anyone who identifies with me.” Gadsby…Nanette

Her show is profound in so many ways. She brings light to so many dark issues in a beautiful voice that is funny and also brought me to tears. She allows herself to be vulnerable and puts tension onto the audience to look at the ugly side of discrimination and rape and leaves it on them. She dares them to own it.

She defines herself as “Gender not normal” which I love because she does not identify as transgender at all, but she presents as masculine and knows it and owns it  and doesn’t mind being misgendered. She also discloses she was physically assaulted at age 17 for being gender not normal. The lesbian population has many “gender not normal” lesbians. I live with one. My sister is another.

I did actually call my sister once, about six or seven years ago, and I asked her, “Are you trans?” I remember she laughed and was like, “No. I’m definitely a girl, and fine with it.” But she presents as more masculine and always has…well since about tenth grade, before that she did have long hair and wore feminine clothing.

Lesbians who wear make-up and are passable as straight are often more acceptable more palatable to society than “gender not normals”. Because they don’t fit the norms. As Hannah says they live in the margins. People see me with my sons and they smile because they are subconsciously categorizing me- white, straight, woman with her two toddler sons who are white little boys.

People in the grocery store today with my “gender not normal” wife and me and our sons…well we got side eyed, very few smiles, and I recognize that we were in a conservative town next to the conservative town we live in surrounded by white heterosexual cisgender individuals who are discriminatory jerks. The older gentleman at the checkout didn’t even look us in the eye.

My wife and I made a conscious decision to move to a Republican heavy town. We had a lot of reasons for moving there and even though I didn’t have language for it at the time I do now. I was fine moving to a ‘red’ town because if we make people tense, well they can just sit there with the tension. I’m not going to make them feel better about it. They have to look at us, they have to see us, they have to experience us as a family, as individuals, as human beings, so that maybe that will look beyond the label of lesbian and gender not normal and see that we are just people.

That we may never agree on politics but we could agree on perhaps the fact that we should be allowed to exist outside of the margins.

I’ve spoken with lesbians who live in Tennessee and Louisiana and Kentucky and they lose jobs because of their sexual identity and their gender not normal presentation. Their kids face horrible discrimination at school. I’ve asked people before, “But why do you stay?” They don’t always have a good answer. Because like I said, I think it’s hard to find the language for it. It’s hard to describe that you can’t leave because this is home. This is my rightful place in the world. I will not be put into the margins. We will be the light in the darkness we will make people sit with their tension we will make people see us. We won’t let them look away.

It’s hard to bring to words the gut feeling you get when you know that your community may not support your family but you can’t leave because it’s your home. You shouldn’t have to leave because it’s your home. So there are lesbians living in the hearts of Republican counties and towns because we have made a conscious choice to integrate ourselves and not separate ourselves as much as some would love for us to just go away.

Not everyone has the voice and the audience of a Hannah Gadsby or an Ellen. But it’s the lesbian family living and existing out loud and proud in the middle of Kentucky or Louisiana or a red little town tucked into the Northeast, it’s these families that are creating tension by being where society says they shouldn’t be. By forcing discriminatory individuals to make eye contact with me as I pay for my groceries. By living with tension in our bellies every day as we know we could be attacked verbally or physically by being outside the margins. But doing it anyway.

“Diversity is strength. Difference is a teacher. You fear difference and you learn nothing.” 

Gadsby…Nanette 2018.

 

 

Why Two Married People Need to do a Second Parent Adoption. And How No One in Tennessee Will Represent Them.

My wife and I are both on my son’s birth certificate. We also live a generally LGBT friendly state. So if I die my wife would likely have no issues retaining custody of my children. My family wouldn’t fight her for the boys, and frankly I can’t think of many people who would actually want twin boys after they spend maybe ten minutes in my house…but that’s beside the point.

In other states such as Oklahoma and Tennessee- a couple things to know. It is legal to discriminate against individuals based on their LGBT status. It is legal for an extended family member or even an anonymous sperm donor who gave up parental rights to sue a Mom or Dad for custody in the event of the death of departure of the second “birth” parent. So to be fully protected in one’s parental rights a second parent adoption- meaning the Mom or Dad who is NOT biologically related to the child even if they are on the birth certificate- is absolutely necessary. It is also necessary in the event of divorce.

Picture this- two mom’s. One gives birth to a child while married to second mom. Second mom is child’s mom in every way. Biological mom divorces and leaves non-bio mom. Non-bio mom seeks joints custody in the divorce. If she lives in TN the judge may very well say you have no legal rights to this child. Doesn’t matter that you’re on the birth certificate. You did not birth them. Your ex-wife does not want to share custody with you. So peace out. Never see your child again.

This happens.

Really let that sink in. Imagine as a Mom or Dad in a heterosexual co-parenting situation. You would never just imaging that your co-parent would never see their child again. I would never imagine saying to my wife who has literally been there since conception that she cannot see them again and has no rights to them. But that’s happening. In TN and Oklahoma and all those other douchebag intolerant states. It’s going to happen more perhaps even federally if SCOTUS changes the way it’s planning on changing.

My message is this- do NOT think there is no discrimination. There is. I’ve heard from a family in TN who is seeking a second parent adoption. They have called every attorney within an hour of them. Not ONE will represent them to do a second parent adoption. They have all cited religious beliefs as their reason. So this family who is desperate to just protect their rights as Mom’s cannot even find someone willing to help them. And this is ALL legal. They went to the Human Rights Campaign and never heard back. Because their case is actually low priority because there is so much worse discrimination going on in our country right now.

Imagine calling every single attorney within an hour radius of your home. NOT ONE. How would that feel to know that all of those individuals would not represent you for something as simple as a second parent adoption. What about if they actually needed representation for a criminal matter or a lawsuit? Who would help them? The answer is no one.

No one has stepped forward to help them.

How incredibly painful and isolating and terrifying.

There are so many stories like this. So many families who are scared to reach out for help when they need it because they have been told politely or not so politely to fuck off so many times before due to other people’s “religious beliefs.”

This makes me sick. It should make you sick. If you voted for #45 it should literally make you vomit. These are your neighbors at the very core just trying to protect their families.

If anyone knows an attorney willing to help families with second parent adoptions in the states of Tennessee or Oklahoma please message me. Those particular states, unlike CT, require a family to be represented by an attorney. It’s another barrier they put up for LGBT families.

These are desperate times for the LGBT population. We need allies.

 

SCOTUS and LGBT Allies Walking the Walk

I was all set to write this really cute blog post about how my two year olds think I’m their pet. (“Come Mama”, “Sit Mama”, they expect me to eat whatever they put in front of me, and sometimes they make me beg after yelling and asking nicely don’t do it.) It was going to be really funny. Then I saw the headlines. SCOTUS sided with the damn baker. If you don’t know what that means Google it. Educate yourself.

Now what it does not mean is that people can discriminate against LGBT individuals nationally. HOWEVER, seeing as over half the country voted for #45 I know that unfortunately half or more of the country is not very intelligent and they will not read the actual SCOTUS ruling they will just see this as their rightful opportunity to be louder and more discriminatory toward LGBT individuals and families and they will feel justified in doing so because the SCOTUS said it’s okay…(which they didn’t. Again read the ruling and educate yourself.)

What I’ve been saying since I started writing this though is that people who identify themselves as allies of the LGBT community need to walk the walk. I’m going to explain what that means in case you don’t know.

It means more than just putting a rainbow flag over your profile pic for Pride month. It means more than commenting on FB posts that are homophobic.

Let me teach by example. I own my own mental health practice. I have let it be known to my clients and colleagues that I am an out provider and that I’ve got the backs of all LGBT individuals. That means when I get a call from a transgender identifying individual I stay late, I come in early, I work on my day off, in order to expedite their intake. Will I do this for a heterosexual individual? No. Because they have heterosexual privilege. They didn’t have to wait weeks, months, or years to find a transgender friendly provider. They didn’t have to call a dozen places and be asked what transgender means or what their “real name” is. I’ve seen transgender clients for almost pennies because they didn’t have insurance. And in doing so I’ve built a reputation among the trans community as being a trans-competent and trans-friendly provider. Same for gay men, lesbians, drag queens and Queer identifying individuals. I’ve walked the walk. I’ve gone to bat for my people and they know it. I’ve also seen such interesting characters and the secretary in my building has mastered a deadpan expression no matter who walks in.

I do this because I’ve always been a fan of the underdog. I worked in the two most hated areas of hospitals. Emergency department and psychiatry. Those people who have been opposite me in an argument or in seeing my advocate for patients know that I am loud but that I have strong silences. I also tend to get my way. So trust me, you want me advocating for the most unprotected and vulnerable population in our country right now. But I can’t do it alone.

By walk the walk I mean if you know the corner store is owned by a homophobic family or person but you buy your coffee there every morning anyway because the closest coffee shop beyond that is 30 minutes….buy a freaking keurig or drive thirty minutes. Know who is homophobic (ah hem Home Depot and Chick Filet and Barilla past) and stop frequenting their businesses and stop buying their products. Living without Home Depot has been rough at times but we survive. Don’t just talk the talk with your “love is love” crap. Put your money where your mouth is.

And stand up to your family and friends in person NOT just on social media. If you hear them use dyke and fag terminology: speak up. Don’t remain quiet because it’s easier because you are complicit. It’s hard. Been there. I was recently at a picnic and some one started talking about transgender people and how they just didn’t get why “they need to do that, why can’t they just be happy with what God gave them?” I could have shut up and turned away and started a new conversation with some one else. But that would make me complicit. And if I could just educate one person and change one person’s views it can make a difference. So I didn’t turn away. I took a deep breath and did a down and dirty transgender education session in less than five minutes. It went fine. There were no punches thrown and we both felt safe expressing our viewpoint and experiences. I could see movement toward understanding and while I didn’t want to talk work at a picnic how could I not address that?

Don’t call yourself an ally unless you are ready to walk the walk.

When you do, don’t expect thanks or praise- I sure as hell didn’t. I mean I’ve been thanked and stuff and that’s great but at the end of the day it’s the right thing to do and actions speak. I didn’t get my education to take care of rich white heterosexual entitlement. I got my education and my license to help those in need. The LGBT community is sorely in need right now.

I personally will not turn down friends, but at the same time only put out your hand if you know what you are truly offering.

When it’s “Not my problem”

One of my most painful memories from the emergency department was a mom dropping off her toddler and claiming the Safe Haven law. She walked out in tears. Refused to give us her name. Did leave the child’s name. We were able to track down family members. And DCF. And the police. Eventually there were about ten family members in the room with this drooling babbling almost two year old. The DCF worker was trying to establish who would take the baby among the ten adults present. The room went totally silent. Then it was like a buzzing of bees. “I have kids already,” “I’m in school,” “I work full time,” etc. etc. Not one of those family members who so quickly came down to the ED took responsibility for that beautiful baby.

If you’ve read my blog you know I really try my hardest not to judge other people. Because being judged is not fun. But in that moment I was judging the crap out of that family. Especially now that I have kids and a niece. If I got a call that my niece needed a new home you bet your ass I would be there in a heartbeat. Because she’s my family and she is my problem to solve. I have two year old twins. Would I want another child if I had a choice? No. But I would never let a family member of mine go into state custody over coming to live with me. But that’s how I roll I guess. I have a deep sense of loyalty to my family and my friends. I’d make it work. My wife jokes because she thinks I’ll just come home one day with a stray kid. Because she knows if I was in that situation I’d grab that baby and be like I got you.

How many times a week do I sit with a kid who is being bullied. Who tells me the teachers know, the other kids in their class know, and no one does anything. I believe them. Been there. At what point will we teach our children to step up and say “Stop.”

The level of indifference in our communities astounds me. Facebook groups are incredibly active regarding social justice, yet my wife and I still got severely side-eyed big time in a more conservative part of our state recently at a Job Lot with our kids.

Within the past couple months someone in a FB group I’m in wrote about why Christians receive a bad rep and that it’s not fair. It rubbed me a certain way. Not because I am anti-Christian at all. But because it felt like a white person complaining about a Person of Color being suspicious or skeptical of a white person. It’s easy for a person of Christian faith to say “But I’m not homophobic or racist” talking the talk. It’s the whole walking the walk that gets more complicated. Who’s going to stand up for a lesbian family being discriminated against? Especially if the discrimination is subtle. I can remember so many times facing discrimination and it wasn’t private it was very public with good people sitting by and watching, hearing, and remaining silent.

I offend people sometimes because I don’t shut my mouth when it is socially expected to do so. But I’m not going to change that because there have been too many times when no one opened their mouth for me. So I will continue to call people out on their bullshit. I will loudly call out discrimination. I will set the example for my children to not turn the other way when kids are being bullied in front of them. I encourage you to do the same.

Silence makes you complicit.

Silence is easy. Speaking up and fighting the fight is tiring and scary. But I keep remembering that little baby on the stretcher surrounded by people who would end up walking away from him. Breaks me a little. I won’t be that person who walks away.

Religious Freedom in an Emergency Department

I worked as a staff nurse in a pediatric emergency department from the time I graduated nursing school through when I received my master’s degree in nursing, in total between 6-7 years. I started at age twenty-two.

I enjoyed being twenty-two. I lived in a left wing land with Obama soon to be entering office and even though I attended school in very conservative upstate New York I never really internalized the level of conservatism that abounds in most of the country. I was working in an inner city hospital in the Northeast happily back in my liberal bubble.

The Emergency department was a hodgepodge of characters. Attendings, residents, nurses, techs, EMTs, police, security, administration, social workers, psychiatrists, surgeons, pharmacists…you name it and we had them at some point working in the emergency department. At that age and in that geographical area I basically assumed every one was pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights, and pro-healthcare for all.

I was wrong.

One day I was taking care of a patient who was raped. She was young (children’s hospital being under 18), and scared, and traumatized. The physician spoke to her mom and her about all the options available to her. Rape kit, medications, etc. One of the options was the morning after pill which prevents pregnancy from occurring. The mom and the patient wanted to discuss it and they agreed to certain things but initially did not want the morning after pill. No one pushed it, as that’s not our role.

Later, after all the tests and interviews and near time for discharge the mom approached me and said they decided she would take the morning after pill. I said sure, and went to the desk where the physicians were sitting. The Attending and the resident were sitting next to each other making my life easier. I told them the patient changed her mind and wanted the morning after pill.

The Attending looked awkward and said, “Okay, but I can’t order it,” and he looked at the resident, and she looked awkward and said, “Yeah I can’t order it either,” I stared at both of them like they had two heads and genuinely asked, “Is there something wrong with your computers?” They both shook their heads and avoided eye contact with me. I stood there staring at both of them and said, “Well some one has to order it because this kid was raped and she doesn’t want to get pregnant. So what’s the freaking problem?”

It still had not penetrated my head that they couldn’t order it because their religious beliefs prevented them from ordering it. I literally was still thinking there was a technical issue and for some reason the system was not allowing them to order it. I know it sounds so stupid, but I was young and naive and hopelessly liberal.

Another Attending overheard our exchange and likely heard my statement, and saw me standing there with my hands on my hips glaring at the computers and the doctors, and quietly said, “I’ll do it.”

That’s when I got it.

I remember walking away silently to the medication room. Later I was with the Attending who ordered it and I asked what would have happened if it was night shift and they were the only two doctors in the ED? He told me they would have ordered it. But I wasn’t so sure. I’m still not. I’m thinking if it was night shift and they were the only ones in the ED I’d be trekking up to the ICU and finding one of their Attendings to place the freaking order.

This happened eleven years ago. I still remember it vividly. For many reasons.

For starters I never envisioned patient care being affected by some one’s religious beliefs. I remember we had a travel nurse from North Carolina. She told me they don’t even offer it to rape victims where she worked down south. I thought that was shitty. Still do.

If birth control is against your religious belief I would hope that murder, rape, pedophilia, burglary, tax evasion, etc. are also against your religious beliefs. Do physicians regularly screen their patients for committing tax fraud? Because let’s be real, everyone in America who owns a business probably has kept cash for themselves and not reported it as income. Do you not treat them because they are stealing and committing tax evasion? Do you not treat men who’ve committed rape when they arrive in the ED for a heart attack? Do you not treat the man who arrives in the ED after having a heart attack while he is screwing a prostitute who also arrives with him, but quickly exits when she hears the wife is on the way (Yes that’s happened)? Why is it that you can pick and choose what religious beliefs you follow at work and which you don’t?

You shouldn’t, hence why religious beliefs should not affect the delivery of healthcare.

Here’s one that will totally trip you up- would you refuse to treat a pregnant transgender man who wants to have the baby? What about all that pro-life chatter? Or does pro-life mean you’re only going to treat the lives that matter to you? 

The Health and Human Services Department recently formed a committee to explore religious freedom within healthcare. Per LamdaLegal article the aim of the committee is to protect from consequences health care providers who refuse services to patients due to religious beliefs. It makes me sick that in the United States we have one of the highest Maternal mortality rates in the Western world, but no we aren’t going to form a committee to save women’s lives during childbirth.

In 2009 a study out of Harvard wrote that about 45,000 deaths in one year were attributed to people not having health insurance. But we are focused on decreasing access to care instead of increasing it. Psychiatric hospitals are losing funding, states are shutting down facilities, families with severely autistic individuals have no long term plans for placement. The United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the Western world. But we can’t focus on that. Our current administration is instead focusing on restricting care.

But I digress. My patient got her medication preventing pregnancy. Thanks to an Attending who was not conflicted about ordering it.

My heart aches for the number of people within the LGBT community, who if this committee actually makes progress, will hesitate to receive healthcare services because they are fearful of being refused services.

Religious freedom is a beautiful component to American society and the foundation on which our country was built. But religious beliefs do not belong in healthcare delivery. Science, education, and clinical experience should be the basis of medical decision making.

 

Bigotry down the street buying a Christmas Tree. 2017.

This holiday season brought a lot of decisions for us. We always celebrate Christmas. We were both raised Christian though our religious experiences left us with different tastes in our mouths for sure. We agreed on Santa Claus from the start. We sort of agreed on Advent breakfasts. That’s just a thing my family does every Sunday in Advent we have a nice breakfast at the dining room table and light an additional candle each week until we have five on Christmas day. I grew up reading certain passages from the Christmas story in the bible, so we do that too. However we also have the “Yule” book at the table, written by a Wiccan, and flip through that to find blessings and legends outside the Christian tradition.

Our advent breakfast sounds so austere when I read what I wrote above, but in reality it was me flipping pancakes, the boys screaming because they don’t do well without eating first thing upon opening their eyes. Waiting the ten minutes for pancakes is torture. But they do love pancakes. Then we served them their pancakes in their highchairs at the dining room table, we brought out the coffee, placemats, then by the time my wife and I sat down the boys were basically done. I read the passage from Luke and the boys babbled the entire way through with my wife “shh-ing” them, and telling them to be quiet, and me telling my wife to be quiet. Then they got down and wanted to help us eat our pancakes and one of my son’s knocked over my water bottle…the chaos just goes on. So in reality our peaceful advent breakfast was a clusterfuck but we don’t regret it. Traditions start out as clusterfucks I’ve decided, or maybe that’s just in my family.

The one tradition my wife and I never disagree about is the Christmas tree. We get one every year. We cut it down fresh, drag it to the parking lot, watch them wrap it in twine, struggle and swear at each other as we lift it onto the car, tie it down. Then the ENTIRE way home I ride the breaks and make my wife practically hang out the window to make sure it’s not going to fall off (it never has. I’m just a freak). My wife meanwhile bitches about hanging out the window and tells me to drive faster and the tree is fine.

This year is the first year the boys had any clue what was going on. All four of us went out into the field, the boys frequently falling and tripping over all the stumps and holes. We finally found “the tree” thinking it wasn’t too big, when in fact it was the biggest freaking tree we’ve ever gotten and literally would not have fit in our living room if there was furniture in there. Which there isn’t because we just moved in, thank God, so it’s still unfurnished. Well except the big ass tree.

So we are out in the field, I’m chasing the boys around, we are all getting trapped in prickers, my wife is sawing down the tree yelling at me to push it, I’m yelling at her that I have to watch the two boys. It finally comes down. We try and get it onto the cart. We fail miserably. It’s not going on the cart. Then she’s yelling at me that we picked a tree that’s too freaking big, and I’m like I wanted the little one back near the car. And we are losing the boys.

So I take the empty cart, and yell to the boys who follow me like little ducklings, still tripping over every hole in the freaking field. My wife drags the tree that’s literally five times her size, and then a very nice gentleman sees our struggle, and probably hears me scream at her “I hate doing this with you every year!” And she screamed back “I hate doing this with you too!” then we both are cracking up, and one of the boys is stuck in a hole.

Anyway the nice man helps my wife carry the tree to the twine thing. The boys and I and the empty cart make it out alive. Covered in scratches from the prickers. The lady by the twine says the tree is too big for their twine machine and has to be brought to the “main farm” for their “industrial twiner”. I’m like Motherfucker. At least they transported it there in a pick-up.

We put the boys in the car, we drive up to the main farm, and see the ginormous twiner. Now back at the tiny twiner we put a tag on the tree with our last name. Pretend our last name is Smith. We are hanging out at the big twiner. The boys are drinking “cider” (it was warm apple juice, gross, but it was free), and sucking on candy canes, watching the trucks and dogs and everything. The four of us are standing together watching our tree go through the big twiner, it’s kind of a kodak moment. It’s bitter cold and we are all snuggled together loving life.

There were three middle-aged white guys working the twiner. And one woman supervising the “cider”. They put the Smith tree through then looked around and only saw the four of us. The guy in charge looked at us, and said “Are you the…uh…” and he looked back and forth between my wife and I, pointed at me directly, “Are you Smith?” he says. Kodak moment broken. Stupid bigot alert. It wasn’t what he said, it was the hesitation, the understanding that flickered in his eyes as he was putting it together, and the downturn in his expression when he did.

I gestured toward my whole family, and smiled and said, “Yes, we are the Smith’s” (in my head it continued with some profanities). He took us all in. The boys had on fleece hats. I mean come on. Cutest thing ever. And one had a cut on his cheek from the prickers. Battle wound. We just survived a family bonding outing from hell. And we wanted our damn tree twined up and put on our car. It was an awkward moment, and the other men  there were clearly sizing us up and deciding whether they would help us or not. I think because we were the only people there and they had literally no escape and my eyes did not leave them for a second, they gave in.

They helped us put it on the car. But they weren’t nice. They didn’t interact with our sons and barely with us. They essentially acted like we had lesbian germs and they wanted to throw the tree at us and run. Which of course made me want to slobber all over them, but now that I have kids I can’t be that annoying lesbian calling every person out on discrimination.

Takes family bonding to a whole new level. Because all of the sudden we were not safe, and we were only a mile from our home. Suddenly I didn’t give a shit about the tree. I wanted to protect my sons. Because those guys could have spit on us, could have thrown the tree at us, could have destroyed our car. They could have followed us home and realized we were practically neighbors.

Some day the boys will be old enough to notice. Some day they might have a mouth like mine. Some day I hope middle aged white guys who live on farms will be nice to us.

And some day I’d like to actually estimate the size of the tree correctly.