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.

 

Lesbian Mother’s Day

Having two mom’s makes the whole Mother’s Day situation interesting. First off, is daycare or preschool or school going to let my kid make two Mother’s Day crafts? Luckily we have twins so they each make one and it works out. I know lesbian couples who’ve had to fight with the school system to allow their child to make two Mother’s Day cards.

Then there’s also just the logistics of Mother’s Day with twins. There’s no Dad to sort of coordinate the “Mom” having a special day. It’s special for both of us. And the boys are two. So really what am I expecting? A hot yoga class and take-out that my parents are buying for us.

Not a bad way to spend the day, but surrounded and covered by two year old snotty nosed eye crusted boys is how we spend every day! The lesbian’s I know actually say Mother’s Day is not a big deal in their families. Likely because they’ve hit the same snags we have, and over time it’s just not developed into much of a holiday.

For many in the LGBT community, such as my wife, it is also a painful reminder that we don’t have her Mom in our lives because of her Mom’s religious beliefs. The boys are missing an entire side of the family and my wife has been an orphan since the age of twenty. This year, it’s also a reminder that my Nana died in November. Bittersweet is a way I like to describe Mother’s Day around here, and in many LGBT households.

For me, I’m a mom every day. I worked really hard to be a Mom, and I don’t regret a second of it. My kids are not at an age where they have a clue about Mother’s Day. Except that they want the cards they made us, likely to destroy, and I keep saying no they are Mama’s and Mommy’s and I keep being told, “No dat’s decie’s and Chackie’s” (Declan and Jackson).

We do the Mom thing 24/7 around here. Kissing boo boo’s, putting drops in green eyes for pink eye, holding them when they are sad or feverish or just looking for some loving. We give baths, pick up the 35 lb two year old like it’s nothing, read Goodnight Pirate at bedtime, and a million other things in the day to day.

We love being Mom’s, but at this point Mother’s Day will be just another day. But perhaps with some tears over the Mom’s we have lost by choice or not.

I’ve been asked in the past when or how I made my “lifestyle choice” by religious assholes. Obviously it offended me. But the older I get, the more discrimination I witness, hear about, and experience, the more I think this is a choice.

It was a choice for me to marry my wife. Thank-you Supreme Court. It was a choice for my mother-in-law to never be in our lives. It was my wife’s choice to live authentically as herself at age twenty knowing she would be leaving behind everything and everyone she ever knew. It was my choice to sleep with her. To fall in love with her. To continue to share my life with her on a daily basis. And it sure as hell was a choice for me to choose to be a Mama with her as my partner Mommy. It’s a choice to raise our sons in a two mom household surrounded by love.

Mother’s Day means different things to different people. Don’t create assumptions within the LGBT community about what it means to us as individuals. We have all experienced pain and unfortunately it has often been at the hands of those who are supposed to love us most.

For my wife and I, like I said, take-out and hot yoga. And two year old twins. And my Mom and Dad. For that we are lucky and thankful.

When My Son Sleeps With Our Wedding Picture…

Last week my son grabbed a wedding picture of my wife and I that has been sitting in a 4×6 black metal frame in our bathroom since we moved in last June. Our bathroom is obnoxiously large so yes there’s room for pictures. He was sitting on the counter while I put on make-up and he leaned back, swiped it, and has literally been walking around with it ever since. He brings it in the car to daycare. I put it in the diaper bag for the day when we get inside. He brings it home, sets it up next to him while he eats dinner at the table. He also sleeps with it every night. As we shut the door and say a quiet good night we can hear him whispering in baby talk to this picture taken on December 17th, 2011 on a bitter cold night in Connecticut during one of the best nights of my life. We both look younger, happy, and full of hope.

My wife wore a feminine black suit with a white silk shirt. I wore my dream come true princess wedding gown.

I’ve written before about kids of lesbian mom’s. There are studies showing there is no long term damage to kids of gay parents, I have friends who are kids of gay parents and gay parents of kids who have all turned out fine. But there is always a doubt in the back of my head because of our hetero-based society and homophobic administration that I am doing my son’s wrong.

But as he babbles peacefully while completely enthralled with an old photo of his two parents, Mama and Mommy, those doubts go out the window. Because instead of his soft doggies and his big blankies he chooses to fall asleep and wake up every morning cradling the images of his lesbian Mom’s. I try and put myself in his head and realize that he doesn’t think of us as “lesbian” Mama or Lesbian Mommy. We are just Mama and Mommy. He doesn’t know he’s missing anything, because he’s not. He is so loved and cherished, and that’s all he knows as he drifts off to sleep hugging a cold metal frame carrying the image of his two smiling Mommy’s.

I proudly identify as a lesbian Mama loudly, because I live in a place where I can and there are so many who live in places that can’t. But to my son, I won’t be his lesbian Mom, I’m just his Mama.

He doesn’t know that even having a wedding in 2011 was groundbreaking and new. He doesn’t know our wedding was not just a wedding but also a political statement as all gay weddings were when it first passed. He doesn’t know the location where we had the wedding had never had a gay wedding, but was completely open to it and had a couple gay waiters request to work that night, unbeknownst to us until they came and shook our hands during the reception. He doesn’t know that night was a night of hope and love and unity and acceptance. He just knows he loves his Mama.

 

 

p.s. Yes I wore a tiara. It was my damn wedding and I was a Disney Princess for one day. Through some twist of fate my Prince Charming came with the wrong parts and no horse. Love you babe.

Holding Hands with my Wife

Before I dated my wife I dated men. I went on dates in public places with men including places like the beach and the movies. At all of these places I engaged in public displays of affection otherwise known as PDA. This could be as simple as holding hands or as much as kissing, or cuddling. I never thought twice about it.

I have been with my wife for ten years. A full decade. In that time I can probably count on both hands the number of times I’ve held hands in public or engaged in any type of PDA.

I am by nature private and am not one to be extremely affectionate in public. But being married to a woman has made me even more cautious.

Recently a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in awhile messaged me on facebook and told me how much they were enjoying my blog and how much they really had no idea what my wife and I went through to be together. That’s not the first heterosexual friend to tell me that since I started this blog. Many have told me they had not idea that I didn’t dance at their wedding because it was a heterosexual wedding full of heterosexual people, or that they didn’t know about the decisions we made when selling our home in terms of our family pictures, or about the decision to be an “out” provider. That’s basically the point of my writing. Heterosexual individuals including some of my dearest friends and beloved family members, take for granted the hetero-normative culture we live in.

I vividly remember my wife and my first date. It was at a restaurant. I felt like we had a big neon red sign flashing over our table, “Lesbian Date Here” and I was terrified. I had witnessed too much discrimination with my friends and sister who were gay to be relaxed. I waited for someone to peg us as being on a date and start making comments.

We didn’t go on another date for a long time. I mean, we went out places, but I kept it very neutral in public. I still do to some degree.

In a decade we’ve been on countless dates to the movies, the beach, vineyards, hikes, etc. As I’m sure any couple who has been together a decade can attest to, we’ve spent a lot of time together privately and in public spaces. I can say that unless we were in a gay bar though, we were not holding hands, we were not putting our arms around one another, we were not pecking on the cheek if she dropped me off a coffee at work, or any other hundreds of reasons why we interact on a daily basis in public.

Not all lesbian couples are this way. Many don’t give a shit and more power to them. I personally am generally hyperaware of other people and I just don’t want to deal with discrimination. If we are with another lesbian couple we are more likely to feel comfortable holding hands, and definitely if we are in a gay space.

Something that has brought this to the forefront for me lately is our sons. We are a very affectionate family in general. Our sons are all over us and we are all over them. Since we had them and since we started venturing out in public with toddler twins I’ve realized that I still care about facing discrimination as a result of PDA, but I also don’t want my sons to see me acting differently than they are used to. They’ve sort of turned our world upside down in every possible way.

I’m not going to turn into a PDA slut, and the point of me writing this is not to be some major transformative moment for me. It is to bring awareness to my hetero-audience.

You take for granted your freedoms.

If you know a lesbian couple who has been together a long time you should take stock of what you’ve witnessed in terms of PDA and recognize if there’s a general lack of PDA that it’s not because they are not or do not want to be affectionate.

It’s because they don’t feel safe being affectionate.¬†

Straight people have privilege to be natural all the time. If you want to reach out and touch your spouse’s hand as they walk by you in a crowded room, out of reflex, you can. I have been with my wife for ten years. I have literally held her hand in public less than ten times. If I really sit here and think about that it brings tears to my eyes. Next time you hold someone you love in public think about the freedom that gives you the opportunity to do so and don’t take it for granted.

 

What I consider a hard day as a nurse.

This day occurred two or three years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Kinda busy here,” I replied irritated.

“Um, the Secret Service is here.”

I sort of stopped and turned my head.

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

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

My day didn’t get better from there.

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

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

It was a Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Only when you’re a nurse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we can’t have it both ways.

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

 

Stuff on my desk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-verbal messages are incredibly powerful.

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

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

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

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

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

Albus Dumbledore

God and the two of us dykes.

In many relationships there’s a nice one and a mean (or less nice) one. My wife is definitely the nice one. I’m less nice. I wouldn’t say mean, but well, you know that part in Into the Woods where Meryl Streep is singing that amazing Last Midnight song? She says, “I’m not good, I’m not nice, I’m just right.” Well that’s kind of how I feel. I’m not overly warm and I have a very low tolerance for stupid. I’m also brutally honest. Don’t ask a question if you don’t want the answer is my motto. My wife hates that motto. But she definitely knew what she was getting into when she married me.

Religion for my wife and I is super complicated. (the above paragraph will make sense shortly, hang in there)

My story- I was raised in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. They don’t like gay people or abortion. I was totally unaware of these beliefs growing up though, and I just thought church in general was boring. I also fought A LOT with my pastor during confirmation classes. As stated above I am honest and cynical. I had a lot of problems with the bible. Seemed to me there were a lot of holes. Like if Adam and Eve were white where the hell did Asians and African American’s come from? Why didn’t the bible mention dinosaurs? Noah’s Ark…for real? What happened to Jesus’ childhood and teenage years? And where were all the freaking women? These were just some of the questions I posed over the years and I was never quite satisfied with the answers I received. There were some things about church I liked. I thought the sense of community it provides is nice for some people. I liked singing hymns. I liked taking time each week to sit and have time to think and I always thought of praying more like meditating. I never listened to sermons and barely paid attention to anything about the service but the lighting, the music, and the symbolism were all comforting in a way. I also love Christmas. The Christmas story was one I never questioned. Well except for the angels in the dream. That was odd to me. I liked the religious overtones to the month of December, it made the holiday feel deeper. I also liked Christmas pageants and the living nativity. There were fun activities for kids during the Christmas season and I have fond memories of those. As I grew up and took religion courses and developed my own sense of self I don’t have animosity toward religion. I just don’t believe that the bible is anything more than an extremely important historical artifact. But I am respectful of those who believe otherwise, and I am not opposed to church in general.

My wife’s story– she was raised fundamentalist Christian. It was stifling for her. She was brainwashed. It took a long time to get over. She lost her entire family over leaving the church and the religion. Needless to say she has strong feelings about religion and church.

Enter the emergency department. We both worked in an emergency department, that’s where we met. I was a nurse. I was taking care of a patient who I will never forget. It was a little girl and she had cancer. She was going to be admitted to the medical floor and I had been taking care of her for several hours. At one point I walked into her room and she was talking with her parents. Her mom and dad were saying, “Yeah, but honey not everyone believes…” they trailed off when they saw me. She looked at them like they were stupid and then she looked at me, and said “Do you believe in God?”

Talk about a punch in the gut. I knew in that moment that my idea of God and her idea of God were very different. I do believe in a higher power and in fate, but the biblical God not so much. But she had cancer and she was so young, and then there was my baseline personality of brutal honesty…it was a tense three seconds in my brain. Her parents and her stared at me expectantly, and I finally said, “Yes, I do.” Even though everything in my being screamed “NOOOOO”.

She then looked at her parents and smiled the smug “I told you so” smile. Then she asked if I would pray with her and her parents for her admission to go well. I dimmed the light, and we all stood there hands clasped while she said a prayer for her admission to go well, for her fever to go away, and for her cancer to go away.

I never told anyone that story because it still unsettles me for many reasons. In that moment I felt surreal. I tell the people I work with “Everybody lies” on the regular. I know because I lied to that little girl. But then when we were praying together it felt like such a moment of connectedness and in my ten years in healthcare no one else ever asked me to pray with them or have a moment like that. It was intimate and that girl didn’t realize the chance she was taking by asking if I believed. Because I could have said No and then missed out on that extraordinary prayer. That was probably eight years ago, and I remember it vividly.

If I asked my wife if she believes in God I think she’d say yes. But it’s such a loaded question for her. And for a lot of lesbians. Because a lot of gay people were raised in conservative churches and for all the reasons I stated church holds a place of warmth and comfort for many people. But for us dykes it also is threatening and a place of discomfort and judgement.

I would never pressure my wife into thinking or believing anything about religion. I would never set an expectation for her to go to church if I decided to bring the boys. But if I decided to go then I would have to find a church that’s welcoming of lesbians, and even if they say it are they really welcoming? Are there actually gay families that go there? It all gets complicated fast. I don’t have the answer for my family right now. For me right now I think the yearly Christmas Eve service after the boys go to bed by myself is all I want to commit to.

For any lesbian or gay person struggling with religion, I’m sorry. It’s not easy. The whole Sodom and Gomorrah story kind of fucked things up for us. But seriously why didn’t the Cain and Abel story make it a little bit worse for people who commit murder? If murder and crime was protested as aggressively as homosexuality maybe our crime rate would go down. That’s the part that gets me. The picking and choosing of the bible stories and lessons. Anyway, I digress.

I don’t regret lying to that girl with cancer. Because seriously who wouldn’t have? I don’t regret the Christmas pageants and the Good Friday services over the years. I’m glad I have a solid understanding of religion. Religion and church can be such a welcoming and safe environment for people. I wish it could be that way for all gay people in all places of worship. We need safe spaces. We need judgement free zones. We need faith in humanity. We need compassion and kindness. Church can provide all of these things. But it depends on the church and it depends on the people there. That’s unfortunate. Maybe some day it will be all churches and all people. But that day is not today.

 

That Time My Wife Became Manic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop the stigma.

Love you babe.