Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Life as the Gay Military Partner

This Christmas, I’m away from my partner, Kristin, a piano player in the Army band. Though we met and formed a friendship nearly two years ago, we discovered a romance between us about a year ago. We refer to each other as “partners,” because sometime after we became “girlfriends,” it was apparent that we share something incredible. Not only is she awesome as a lover, but she is also my very best friend, my buddy for any new adventure we wish to embark upon, and last but not least, my co-parent to my two children that originated in a previous marriage (and failed attempt at “straight”…that’s another story though…I guess I wasn’t always strong enough to be who I really am….anyway…).
The funny thing is we probably had a few opportunities to potentially date each other, but something always stood in the way. The first time I ever met her was through email. She caught my attention with her profile on Planet Out, so I emailed her, only to discover she was the woman my first ex-girlfriend, the only ex-girlfriend I’m not on civil terms with, had gone out with a couple of times (though nothing came out of it). Then one night in Feb 2006, a friend of mine introduced me to her and I, not realizing she was the woman I had emailed before, was struck by her instantly (This doesn’t happen to me, okay?). We really hit it off in conversation. I thought I felt a warm vibe, only to realize she was actually on a date with this friend who introduced us (I promise, it was not obvious though). About 6 months after that, we hung out with the same group of people on a skydiving trip and discovered we had not only the same musical interests, but the same zest for outdoor adventures. We started hanging out often, except this time, I was involved with another woman. That relationship failed, of course, but I still needed some time. By this point, I was adverse to relationships and thought I would probably never partner up with someone. However, the friendship really blossomed, and like I said, I always felt something spark in me whenever she was around. After a while, I just couldn’t deny how I felt and we got ourselves together. Due to my issues in getting too close to others, the relationship wasn’t always easy. Yet, she stuck by me…good days and bad. the time we got together, she had already re-enlisted on the condition of a yearlong tour in Korea. No, she won’t be making a career out of the Army. It was only a challenge she decided to face while dealing with her mid-20s crisis. Yet after 3 years, when it was time to think about re-enlisting, she faced the possibility of being transferred to a division band and being deployed to the war zone. Yeah, they even send the band to war these days. So, by re-enlisting and agreeing to a year in Korea, she was able to specify that she wanted to return to the same post from which she left (Ft. Gordon, GA, near Augusta). This way, she’ll be only a couple of hours away from me as opposed to a hemisphere away.
She’s been gone since October 9th of this year. What I’ve faced has been tougher than I expected, and yes, being gay didn’t exactly help matters. See…Kristin and I don’t call ourselves “married,” because we are waiting to have our ceremony when we can actually live together. If we were straight, though, it would benefit us to get married. Now, I don’t advocate doing such a thing just for benefits, but in our case, we were ready. Both kids, Chandler (age 8) and Morgan (age 10), adore her. I have let Kristin in way farther than anyone else, and it took a lot of risk on my part as well as a lot of patience on hers. We really did start functioning as a family unit. For the first time in my life (including the time I was married in the past), I knew what it felt to experience true multi-faceted love, to give it to someone, and to have it given back. It’s amazing how much the quality of life changes when you have this. It’s good for us and it’s good for the kids. The physical, mental, and spiritual support is more than I can put words on. So…since we aren’t straight and can’t get married, what happened is that I have gone back to being a single parent. On days I feel weak (and I am human and do have moments of exhaustion and frustration), there’s nobody to help pick up the slack. This makes parenting more difficult, and this makes life, in general, more difficult. Don’t getme wrong, I have some amazing friends. But, I haven’t fully opened myself up to any of them, because I don’t want to be a downer. In fact, I see any given friend on occasion. I don’t seem to have a “regular” group, and it seems there’s no two weekends in a row I’m with the same bunch of people. I know….heterosexual military spouses go through that as well, but there’s more.
How many military spouses, at home with kids, refer to a one-room efficiency (essentially a weekly rate hotel) as their home? This summer, I moved from Augusta to metro Atlanta, to take on a job teaching in an alternative school…it’s a job I love and it’s a move that was good for me and the kids…but with only my income, I just haven’t come up with all the tremendous deposits yet. Although I had an apartment back in Augusta and wouldn’t have needed to deal with moving expenses, we just weren’t thriving in that place. So for now, I’ve had to work two jobs, so I may be able to get ahead and get a permanent address (as well as a few Christmas presents). If we were straight and married, though, housing wouldn’t be a problem. Healthcare is another issue. I always hope we have no emergencies, as the co-payments would do me in. How ironic that I pay so much for health insurance (which would cost the same even with a working spouse on the plan), but truly hope I don’t have to use it, because I cannot afford to use it! We’d have healthcare if we were considered “real” family. Last week, when I was battling the flu and a hacking cough, I could have gone to a military doctor without sweating over co-payments. I haven’t even got to the part about how much Kristin is underpaid. After all, salary is based on family size, among other things. They pay her at the single rate and she would make much more if they could see her as “married with step-children.” Therefore, she and I cannot pool our resources together like we will after she gets out of the military.
I really shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about the worst case scenario…like, if heaven forbid, something terrible happened to me, she wouldn’t be able to come home on emergency leave. Let’s not think about the worst right now. And to think that many heterosexuals wonder why we make such a big deal out of marriage equality.
I guess those who oppose extending marriage benefits to gays believe that we are doing something wrong. They are entitled to such beliefs, but the point is that the law isn’t supposed to be based on personal beliefs. Fortunately in America, even though we can’t have the legal rights (and Kristin is actually out-of-the closet…her commander said he “doesn’t care”), we still get to live the way that feels natural to us. We won’t be hung in public for having a family together, and we freely walk around holding hands and sharing affection considered “normal” to heterosexuals. Most of all, it’s important to realize that our lack of benefits or equal rights won’t break us apart…that true love does prevail nonetheless.

Guest Columnist
Brandi A.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tripped Up By a 4 Year Old

Today, as my just two year old daughter was happily playing with a 4 year old classmate of hers, the little boy innocently asked "does Maggie have a daddy?" I was stunned by the question. I don't know why I wasn't more prepared to answer. I knew this kind of thing would be coming, but somehow I wanted to believe she was still too you to have to deal with the issue.

This little boy is a smart, persistent little guy, probably a future prosecutor. After looking to his dad who was on the phone and hadn't noticed the question, I finally mustered up "no, Maggie doesn't have a daddy, she has two mommies." The standard, gay textbook answer, right? Nope, not enough for the little guy.

"Why doesn't Maggie have a daddy, he said." He never questioned that she had two mommies, as he only has one. Not knowing what his parents would want me to share with him, my head was all jumbled up. Tripped up by a four year old...

Thoughts of Maggie's adoption, poverty, the complexities of gay baby making, and all sorts of other random stuff ran through my head.

I didn't know what to say next, so I just repeated myself "Maggie has two mommies. She doesn't have a daddy." The bright four year old looked a little perplexed, but let up on the prosecution as my daughter distracted him with a game she was playing.

I am sure the topic is just beginning as my daughter and family are growing closer to her classmates from mostly straight households.

Will I really need to talk to all these parents about how they want me to handle it, or do I just say what I think should be said? Probably the former, as I would want parents to talk to me first about what I would want said about other topics.

Oh, the work and joy of parenting...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Passing ENDA Without Transgender Americans

The Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) is up for vote again at the national level. Once again, the issue has come up to exclude transgender people from the employment protections ENDA would offer.

This battle has been waged for many years with people reasoning that ENDA is more likely to pass if we exclude transgender people from the legislation. In today's climate, most gay-right's organizations and activists around the country have said they oppose passing ENDA without including transgender people. In fact, people feel so strongly about it they have said it is better not to pass any legislation than to leave out our transgender brothers and sisters.

It's complicated and it's simple.

Yes, I sure would like a law passed that would protect gay and lesbian Americans from being fired simply because of their sexual orientation. Many people aren't even aware that it is legal to fire someone for being gay or lesbian (or even perceived as gay or lesbian). There are no protections. Nothing. ENDA would make it illegal for employers to fire someone for being gay or lesbian.

Gay Congressman Barney Frank thinks we should pass this legislation without including transgender people because it is more likely to pass. He says we will come back later to legislatively protect the transgender people in our community.

Though I am no fancy lobbyist or politico, I know enough to know this:

1. we identify ourselves as the LGBT community, and it just doesn't feel right to suddenly abandon a part of our community because it is convenient for the rest of us. We all know that society can generally tolerate the idea of two women being together better than 2 men. Imagine if we started trying to pass legislation that excluded men because we knew it had a better chance of passing (adoption legislation comes to mind). We would never do that, so why are transgender people any different?

2. If we pass ENDA without transgender people now, will we really come back to help pass one later that includes them OR will we move onto issues that affect a bigger majority of the community? Also, what are the chances of an ENDA passing that only addresses transgender people? Slim-to-none.

3. In my personal experience, the people in our community who need employment protections the most are transgender people. Most LGB people have no idea the employment discrimination transgender people face. It is one of the most heart-wrenching realities in our community.

For those in our community who would prefer to see transgender people as not really part of the community, you are wrong. Their discrimination is our discrimination. It is all the same.

Therefore, I must agree with the majority of our courageous leaders from around the country that it is not worth passing ENDA if we are to leave out a very vulnerable and important part of our community. I can only support legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

I hope you feel the same way.

Kathy Kelly
Executive Director
MEGA Family Project

Friday, August 17, 2007

First Week of School

As so many parents before me know, that first week of school is really stressful (for both parents and kids). This should be titled "Be careful what you ask for," as many of you know how much stress went into our family's choice of getting our daughter into our particular school.

Here's the summary:

It has been really hard to drop off my daughter each morning. She looks at me with this mad look while asking me to come along, and then walks off with another child or a teacher in a pouty walk. It is hard to let your child go into the world without you--especially when she isn't pleased with the decision either. Though I can't complain. I have witnessed my share of kids being dragged screaming into their classrooms. At least I only get the look (so far).

Our daughter didn't have a single potty accident this week, so it looks like we might not get kicked out for not meeting the potty training contract! When I drove up each day, first I looked to make sure my daughter was still alive, then I always looked to see if she was wearing the same clothes I dropped her off in (she was). This was way more stressful than it needed to be. Can I tell you how relieved I was the first day when I noticed a 5 year old little girl had peed her pants on the play ground!!! I know that may seem awful, but it was a RELIEF to see this.

As expected, we were surrounded by straight parents, with at least one other same-sex couple in our daughter's class. This hasn't been nearly as stressful as I had planned for myself so far. The school stresses diversity, so when talking to other parents solo (without the other mom), I couldn't let the conversation go too long without letting them know our daughter has two moms. From the first day, the other parents were already talking about play dates, car pools, etc. I thought if we were to be rejected by any of the parents, let's get it over with early instead of waiting for some parent to find out later. Who knows if this is the best strategy--it wasn't even thought out, just what jumped out of my mouth.

I did see two parents whispering when I ran off to catch my daughter. I don't think I am being paranoid when I say I am fairly certain they were talking about us. But, if that's the worst, that's nothing. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bumbling toward equality?

If you had a chance to see the You Tube Democratic Presidential debate, then you witnessed a pathetic, bumbling response from the majority of candidates on the issue of marriage equality.

Dennis Kucninich seems to be the only candidate who clearly understands the issue of marriage equality, and is also clearly articulating full support for marriage and other LGBT rights. But, the Queer community doesn't seem to back him at all, and overall, he seems to get the more attention over his new wife than anything else.

So why is much of the LGBT community behind candidates who sound like bumbling idiots when it comes to our equality? Hillary, Obama, and friends won't take a stand for us, yet we are once again driving their campaigns.

Why would a candidate take a courageous stand for us when we continue to just give away our votes?

We will only get justice when we demand it. Otherwise, prepare for more bumbling...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Redefining Family

As a queer academic and activist, I believe that the power of linguistic redefinition is critical to LGBT politics. Often times, when I use the term "family" to refer to the relationsihp between myself and my partner, people assume that we have children. We are so saturated with normative definitions of "family" that even in our progressive LGBT circles we still assume that when one uses the term "family" they are implicitly referencing children. My partner is my family and whether we have children or not has no bearing on my use or understanding of the term "family."

I see my work not simply as a call to attain equal rights for LGBT persons, but also to redefine terms such as family so that they can account for all types of configurations of loving individuals. (I suspect that many of you are thinking right now "this is exactly what the Right is scared of...what are we advocating for polyamory now?! My response: Sure, as long as it is between consenting adults who share love for one another.) We have the power to push the barriers of language and to redefinie terms in order to make them more inclusive.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Just Because...

Just because one can have a child, doesn't mean one should.

Just a few thoughts:
1. Children are little human beings who need to be loved and nurtured.
2. If your child is terrified of you, you shouldn't be a parent.
3. You are no hero if you adopt a child from an orphanage in a poor country, or from the crappy US foster care system, and then treat them like dirt in your own home.
4. Children are not accessories to be used when convenient.

Many of us, gay and straight, stand by quietly as we witness some parents killing the spirit of beautiful children. We rationalize that people have the right to parent with their own style of discipline, their own values. Who are we to question someone else's parenting style?

To a child, we could be their savior.

Whether we know these abusive parents or not, whether it is in the grocery store or at the local restaurant, if we don't stand up for these children, then are we any better?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Why Marriage Matters to a Twenty-Something Year Old

Please allow me to introduce myself-My name is Rez Pullen and I am the newest MEGA employee. I am thrilled to be working with Kathy and everyone else who has made MEGA the incredible organization it is today. My partner Sara, and I moved from Boston (go Sox!) to Atlanta (somewhat reluctantly, I'll admit) so I could attend a PhD program at Emory.

I have many debates with my peers and colleagues who argue that the only way to assume equal rights for all citizens is to overturn the institution of marriage. And I agree that the institution of marriage is discriminatory against single people or families who complicate the dichotomous coupling arrangement. And while the institution of marriage may be inherently flawed, it would be an irresponsible and politically foolish move to abandon it all together.

Regardless of what you think of the inherent institutional problems of the marriage system, it does offer benefits which are critical to the survival of LGBT people. I'm tired of hearing people say the fight for marriage represents the privilege of the persons advocating for it. I fight for marriage equality not only to secure the rights my partner and I gained at our wedding last year, but also for the lesbians and gay men who remain "illegal aliens" because they cannot obtain citizenship through their US partners. The issue of marriage equality cuts across race, class, citizenship and every other category. If you'd like more examples, let me know and I will send you my entire diatribe on the subject :-)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Too busy to be gay?

How is it possible that someone who works full-time for the LGBT cause can forget her sexual orientation, and more importantly the significant implications of being gay, a gay parent, a gay activist, etc.

I realized today in my place of worship that I have been so busy focused on getting my daughter into the "right" school, getting her potty trained, and trying to grow the MEGA Family Project I have forgotten about some important issues facing us as LGBT people. Not exactly what you want to hear in your gay leadership folks.

But, I insist on being honest if I am to do this work.

Just a few minutes ago I was glancing at one of my gay news sources, only looking at the headlines, and I realized they were all about violent and awful things happening to LGBT people. A gay person beat up by a police officer. A murder charge in a Brooklyn gay killing, and on and on.

It's so easy to forget the scary bad stuff when you have the privilege of living in a neighborhood that appears on the surface to be very supportive of our family (despite our differences in the voting booth).

Today, our place of worship focused on both Pride Sunday and Father's Day. A lot to get into one service, which is partially to explain the length of the service (which I actually thoroughly enjoyed because it was such a wonderful service).

Our guest minister today, a lay minister by the name of Duncan Teague, just has a way to bring people to the right place, a place of integrity, a place of hope. Though he shared many of his difficulties growing up gay in an African American household, he also shared many of his triumphs along his journey. It was nice to hear.

When he started his service reflecting on the murder of Harvey Milk, it became crystal clear it is easy to forget those heroes that have gone before us and the tragedies we have faced as a community. They say we Americans have short memories...

Personally, I have become so involved in helping people create families, and working with all the beautiful children and parents in our community, I have forgotten about the hostility, danger, and pain we experience. I have been blessed with the beauty within our community.

I almost didn't make it to my place of worship today because I had planned to spend the next 3 days completely at home with my daughter to work on the dreaded potty training (you try controlling someone else's bodily functions if you want a real challenge!). I am so glad I made it to hear our Pride service, to here the beautiful and funny sermon Mr. Teague so generously shared. There are so many days when it feels as though I am just exactly where I need to be...

The wake up call was heard, and I am glad to be awaken.

On a happier note: Happy Father's Day to All Our Wonderful Dads!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Planning for School

My daughter was finally accepted into the school of our choice (yeah!). Boy, no one prepares you for the stress of figuring out the best school for your child, and then how to get your child into that school. At a time when most parents are just trying to survive sleepless nights, the reality is they should be looking at the various school and child care options available at least a year in advance.

And then we have the added diversity issues: how does the school handle gay families, holidays, and children of color (our daughter is hispanic/native american)? One supposedly great private school in our area of town fell all over itself being proud of all the gay families it had. They didn't have much to say when we asked about how many children of color they had (the pictures in the classrooms were almost all white kids). Our daughter already has 2 white moms, we know we have a responsibility to expose her to a lot of diversity--starting with where she goes to school.

Our family missed out on the first go-round of getting little Maggie into a Montessori program, so we ended up waiting almost a year later until we got her in. Of course, I believe we were supposed to miss out on that first opportunity so she can end up where we now want her in school.

In that year where we missed getting Maggie into a Montessori program, I went around to a couple of the nicer-looking childcare facilities to see what they were like. 3 facilities later, I was horrified by what I saw. Kids terrified of the "teachers." One place was feeding 5-6 kids in a circle with the same spoon and bowl for all the children. Nope, I wasn't ready for that, so another year of nanny help was in order (whether we could afford it or not).

What started as a plan for let's keep Maggie home for one year and then find some type of childcare program, quickly turned into 2 1/2 years (not in the budget).

It's scary as a parent to turn your child over to others for care. You don't hear many people talk about it.

So, off to School Round 2:
I have to say, going through the interviews, school tours, the pressure to make decisions about various schools, and what feels like a major life decision, has added gray hair to my already graying head. This was definitely much harder and more stressful than my own college admission process.

I know many of you probably think I just need to lighten up. I can't. It's our only child, and we want the best for her, and I hope somehow we deliver her the best we can provide. This parenting stuff is hard, folks.

The message here: if you are new with a baby, or thinking of baby, also start slowly thinking out your childcare and school plan.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Living with Fear

Living in Georgia as a gay parent sometimes takes courage, strength, and a tolerance for living with fear. Sometimes, I feel as though my family should just get the hell out of this damn state, but I never have a real clear vision to where my family could run to and live happily-ever-after. These feelings of running pass when I talk to my neighbors, strangers in the grocery line, enjoy an afternoon at one of Georgia's wonderful outdoor parks or festivals, or look out into my peaceful backyard. There are kind, decent people living in this state, and it offers most of us a nice quality of life.

This past week, a news story about a would-be adoptive gay mom, Elizabeth Hadaway, has rocked many in the LGBT parenting community. A scary/evil judge by the name of Judge John Lee Parrott in Georgia has denied a woman an adoption based on her sexual orientation citing in part the marriage amendment. It doesn't matter that the child's birthmother asked Hadaway to adopt her child, nor that her adoption homestudy found Hadaway suitable to adopt; apparently this Georgia judge thinks he should have the right to choose who adopts over the child's own birthmother (this is scary folks, it has huge ramifications for every parent straight or gay).

In January, Judge Parrott ordered Hadaway to return the child to her birthmother within 10 days. According to Hadaway, the birthmother refused to take the child back and again told Hadaway to raise the child. After learning of this, in February Judge Parrott took the 6 year old child out of Hadaway's home and placed her with strangers in foster care. In March, the judge charged Hadaway and her attorney with criminal contempt for not following his order to transfer custody of the child. The two women were sentenced to 10 days in jail, or five days plus a $500 fine, but are currently appealing Parrott’s decision.

Scared. Startled. Not at ease with the universe. Parents in Georgia.

Are we all at risk for losing our children, or do we rationalize this was just an isolated, freak case?

Some people say these things are starting to happen because we are so close to winning our battle for equality for LGBT people. I know we sure are changing the hearts and minds of our fellow Georgians and Americans about who we are and whether we're fit to receive the same rights as straight people. Polling results show it, especially among the youth in our country, and this has to make those who obsessively attack us nervous.

I don't think this is an isolated case, and I think we are going to start seeing more and more of this type of stuff in Georgia before it is all settled. You can thank Sara "Leanne" Wheeler for getting the ball rolling against gay parents when she selfishly decided to try to terminate her ex-partner's second-parent adoption rights. She has been unsuccessful, but she has the anti-gay establishment rolling over to help her.

So, I am scared for my family and your families. For parents-to-be and parents who already are. I am afraid our legislative or judicial system will take away everyone's right to decide who should parent our children if we become unable. Even straight people won't have the right to have their gay brother or sister raise their children should something happen to them.

Scared, you bet. Nothing is more precious to us than our children. The lack of legal rights in this country under the Bush administration should be enough to make us all fearful.

As for Georgia, I believe LGBT families will remain under attack, most likely through adoption issues. The burning question, what are WE going to do about it?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Barack Obama

Today, I saw Barack Obama speak in Atlanta. He was inspiring, not that he really said anything new, but because he appears to be a man of integrity. He is clearly not as polished as Hillary Clinton and others, but I would rather have integrity over all else. I don't think I am alone, as I think many of his supporters are craving integrity.

While I was chasing around my 2 year old at the rally, I was excited to hear two important references regarding gay people that showed Obama's courage (you know they usually ignore the gay topic unless they absolutely have to say something). He first criticized many in Washington for blaming gay people for many of the problems our country is facing. He got applause!

In his second reference, he said something to the effect if you are gay, straight, etc... that we should all come together as part of his vision (sorry for the lack of specifics, but my daughter was a distraction). Applause again from a predominantly African American crowd. The fact that he clearly and purposely included gay people in his vision for America is something we should all take notice of when we are looking for courageous leaders to defend our families. Let's see if any of the other front runners follow his lead and start giving a damn about us as human beings.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Do We Change Ourselves For Our Children?

As I get older, more-married, and more tired trying to balance work, friends, and being the primary parent, I realize I don't care much about what I am wearing or how I look. Like the classic Desperate Housewive's mom scene, I find myself talking to people or going out with toddler food or ickyness of some sort on my clothes.

I only occaisionally notice myself these days. It's just the way it is when you are running after a 2 year old, trying to get her into the "best" school, and creating the precious moments we share. Forget running an organization, a part-time home business, and keeping my wife (and pets) happy.

In my frugal moments, I am proud that working from home and taking care of a toddler has kept me from needing to buy many new clothes over the last 2 years. Though, every once in a while I realize how old and on the butch-side my clothes are.

You are probably wondering where this ramble leads.

Well, I have moments when I wonder whether my daughter's moms need to change their image a little to make her life easier. Of course, at 2, she is perfectly content with how her moms look. But will she want her moms to look a little less-gay, and a little more mom-like (whatever hererosexist image I have conjured up in my mind)? Will looking more mom-like make her life easier?

Neither of her moms are opposed to wearing dresses or anything like that, but we generally dress for comfort, and let's face it, men's clothing is more comfortable (and cheaper--just compare the same products for men and women at Old Navy).

I am not exactly sure how to pull off the looking more mom-like image, but I am pretty sure I might want to consider it for my daughter's sake. Playground comments from parents and kids can be brutal, and I would hate for my daughter to suffer because of something I can control (well, I think I can control my non-mom-looking appearance).

Just the other day, a nice young boy around 9 said to me "you're her mother?" in shock. He was quite surprised when I said yes, and then he muttered how it is amazing how kids don't look alike (I think he meant like their parents). Anyway, he was commenting on the fact that my daughter is hispanic and Native American, not me not looking like a mother. Whew! But, a wake up call nonetheless.

One thing I like about being gay is that many of societal's rules don't apply--or at least I can get away with some things because of my gayness. I don't think I would get away with wearing my painter pants and t-shirts in the heterosexual world. See, more to love about being gay! You get to wear what you want!

Actually though, I'm not sure how much of my non-mommy looking appearance is a gay thing, or from laziness. I think it might be more of the latter since most (not all) of the other gay moms in my play group pull off looking like moms.

When I read what I just wrote, it occurs to me that this sounds more like my own internalized homophobia because what I am really saying is I don't want kids on the playground whispering (or loudly) saying Maggie's mom is GAY.

Don't look for me on the playground in a sun dress, but maybe not my painter pants so much.

I don't care what others say about me, but I do worry about my daughter getting hurt. Good thing the next generation is more accepting....

Friday, March 02, 2007

Competing at 2!

I can hardly believe it. My daughter is only 2 years old and she/we are already competing against other children her age. No, it's not to get into Harvard, or even a sports team, but to get into a good local school program in the Fall. I have been thinking more about this process than I have other big, important things in my life. I don't exactly know why I am so preoccupied with it, and I worry a bit about how I will feel about other really big things in her life down the road.

Tomorrow, we have my daughter's interview at one of the local schools. We really like this school, so we are preparing her as if she is taking the entrance exam to Stanford. Well, we are preparing her as much as you can prepare a 2 year old. Trying to teach her to answer "what's your name," and the rules: "remember, no pushing other kids," remember, you have to share with other kids," and "listen to the teacher" (I don't think she actually knows what a teacher is). Now, on most days, my daughter can do great in a situation like this. She is very social, loves being around other kids, and listens fairly well. Let's hope tomorrow isn't one of those rare "bad days."

We've already been scrutinized twice. Once at an orientation, and another time for the parent interview. Is it crazy that now our 2 year old has to interview? We sure are putting a lot into it. I wonder, does it really mean a great deal for her future? We've convinced ourselves of it, at least for now.

We are not alone with this process. I am hearing a lot of talk on the playground from other families who are competing for one school or another. Whether it's the great public school that takes people out of district, or one of the many private schools, people are already stressed about this for their 2 year olds. I wish someone would have told me about this earlier so I could have started preparing sooner (most programs we are looking at have a 1 year wait).

I just have to remember it is really out of my hands--meaning I make sense of these things by believing whatever is supposed to happen will happen. So, if she wasn't meant to get in, then that's the way it supposed to go. Sometimes, I hope she won't get in so I can spend another year at home with her, but that's certainly not best for my career, my family finances, and I think her well-being.

We'll see what happens....

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Atempted Parenting Theft: Throw them out of the community!

I get sick of hearing about gay folks behaving badly when it comes to the well-being of our children. I realize straight people behave badly also, but there is something extra sickening to see a gay person use the anti-gay legal system to steal a parent from a child (or vice versa). At least straight folks have a legal system that helps them end their relationships in a way that limits the harm to children.

Shame on anyone who reads this who has manipulated our anti-gay legal system in an attempt to steal a parent from your child or children, and to take away the parenting rights from a former loved one. I will never stand with someone who does such awful treachery, and I think the entire community should speak out, or at least turn our backs on such people.

I don't care if it is a friend who you want to support in a breakup. You can't support this kind of behavior because it hurts us all and has far-reaching implications. Anytime someone uses anti-gay tactics to harm another, whether child or partner/spouse, it jeopardizes all of our relationships with our children and spouses/partners.

Of course, I will remind you that if gay people were allowed to marry, we wouldn't have such awful behavior because we would have a legal system that would entitle us and our children to certain legal rights. Otherwise, we remain legal strangers to one another. And unfortunately, the legal stranger status sets up the opportunity for gay people with children to be selfish and stupid when they end their relationships.

We fight so hard to get people to recognize our relationships with our partners/spouses and our children. Then, some idiot decides to use the anti-gay system in an attempt to steal another's parenting rights. Whether one is fortunate enough to have legal rights as a parent through adoption, if a person has been taking care of a child, and that child sees the person as a parent, then damn it, we all should see that person as a parent.

I won't go so far as to say we should stone members of the gay community who manipulate the anti-gay system for their own selfish attempt to steal another's parenting rights, but I will say the community should speak out against these folks, and boot them from the community in whatever ways possible.

It's not just the community these selfish people are hurting, it's first and foremost the children. I guess this is the case in many heterosexual divorces, but at least there is a legal system that offers legal protections for the children in these cases.

I am supposed to be nice to all the members of my organization, but don't count on seeing niceness and silence from me if you are trying to manipulate the system to steal another's parenting rights and a child's parent.

It's wrong, and nothing one says or thinks justifies these selfish actions.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Little Einsteins: The Missing Parents

My daughter is almost 2, and a die-hard Little Einstein's fan (no, not Baby Einsteins) on the Disney channel. I can't tell you how many episodes I've watched with her--we actually have it set to Tivo because she doesn't quite understand that the show doesn't just come on whenever she wants. Anyway, I digress.

We are having a Little Einstein's themed birthday party for her next week, which has proven very difficult since they don't make Little Einstein party supplies. I have been amazed that virtually none of my daughter's peers are watching the show. As parents, we think it is great, and actually tolerable to sit through with our little one.

One of the neatest things about the Little Einsteins (besides the music and art) is that there are no parents on the show. I am fairly certain we have seen every single episode, and so far, we haven't seen a single parent. Just 4 friends and a rocket who are very sweet kids.

Why do I care about the no parents? Well, my almost 2 year old picks up everything, and I like the idea of her seeing a show where she doesn't have to see families not like hers. Now, I am quite sure all the kids come from heterosexual families, but my daughter doesn't have to see it or question it.

When we watch Dora or Diego (her other two shows), she will sometimes mimic one of the characters and start saying Poppi or Daddy. We know we can't shelter her from this, but it sure is a weird experience to hear your daighter yelling out daddy when she has none.

So, Bravo to the Little Einstein creators for keeping the show simple, without the parents! Kids are great on their own, and it's nice for our kids to get a break from a very heterosexual world out there.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Missing cheerleaders in the adoption wait process

My family and I just returned from a trip visiting my parents in Florida. We are extremely fortunate in that they absolutely adore our daughter, and are very supportive of our family as a whole. It is so precious to see my parents light up around my daughter, and to see her beam around them. It has brought out a beautiful side of them I had never quite seen before.

We know not every family is so lucky, so we really count our blessings on this one. It is nice to have a supportive family to share your precious child with--though we haven't been successful in getting them to move back up to "freezing Georgia" so we can reap the benefits of a free babysitter!

I bring all this up because I remember the many times my parents would visit while we were in the adoption-wait process. It sometimes hurt, but mostly was very frustrating. My parents really didn't believe we as gay people could adopt a child. Sure celebrities like Rosie O'Donnell could do it, but they didn't think WE could do it. And when we told them a birthmother would actually choose us to raise a child, they really thought we were off our rockers.

They generally weren't blatant about their disbelief, but it would always trickle out over a meal in some little comment they would make. As many people know, the adoption wait process is already very hard for most people. Having loved ones and friends not believe makes it especially hard. Sometimes we need cheerleaders in our life to keep us going, and the adoption wait process is certainly one of those times.

As gay people, the fortunate ones are resourceful and turn to others to get needs met. We were lucky to have a wonderful support group of other gay and straight people going through the adoption process with us. We were each others best support, and every single one of us eventually adopted!

As beautiful as my parent's relationship with our daughter is, there is always this nagging feeling of how my parents didn't believe it would happen for us. Were we not worthy? Would we not make good parents? Or was it just the gay thing?

It was probably the first time my parents didn't believe in me when I said I would accomplish something, which made it especially hard. Over time, I hope I forget their doubt.

Though I am living in an anti-gay world, I have high expectations for my family.

Whether my parents believed it or not, we are worthy, we are good parents, and we would not give up our dream of children simply because we are gay. Apparently, they just needed to see it happen.

I am sure their recollection of the whole experience is totally different now because none of us could imagine a life without Maggie, and I know they get it now.

I have to remember they don't live in a community where gay folks are falling off the trees like where I live. Heck, my mom's PFLAG chapter even meets on the down low in her retirement community!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dying Alone at a Hospital

According to 365 gay news: In Washington state, there was a recent flood. "Charlene Strong told how partner Kate Fleming got trapped in the basement studio where she ran an audio company. As the water rose she was unable to open the door to get out.

Rescuers finally broke through and rushed Fleming to an area hospital.

But at the hospital Strong was told told she could not be with her dying partner of nearly 10 years because she was not a relative. Finally officials relented when a family member interceded. Fleming died moments later."

This happened in Washington state, a very progressive state that allows same-sex adoption and will likely legislate civil unions or marriage soon. I would also venture to say this woman was lucky in that her dying partner's family allowed her into the hospital room. My experience working with gay men dying of AIDS is that families are not always so nice at this very difficult time. In fact, I experienced countless partners who were not only kept out of the hospital room, but were also thrown out of their houses when the houses weren't in their names.

In Georgia, we have no automatic legal rights to visit a dying loved one in the hospital because under the law and hospital policies, we are "legal strangers" to our partners. The only remedy we have is to have documents called Advanced Directives, but how many of us actually have those documents, and what happens when we have gone to the trouble and expense of creating the documents and we don't have them with us when it truly matters?

When we travel, do we carry them around with us? If one of us were suddenly in a car accident, do we have the documents in our cars, offices, etc.?

My family has gone to the expense of creating such documents, but I have to admit we rarely have them with us when we travel.

Married couples do have an automatic legal right to visit their loved ones in a hospital. So, when people say marriage doesn't matter, we really have to think about this when sometimes there will only be moments to hold our loved-one's hands.


Not being able to sleep has it advantages or disadvantages depending how you look at it. It gives me the opportunity to finally start that new blog I was thinking about. But is starting a new blog at 4:30am the best idea? Either way, here it is.

I went to a "Beyond Marriage" panel the other night in Athens, GA (at the University of Georgia). Beyond Marriage folks generally don't support the same-sex marriage equality movement, or at least they think we should be focusing on "more important issues." I was there to defend why marriage equality is an important part of the so-called "gay agenda."

Two things struck me from that evening. I was at first struck by how hard it was for me to separate the personal from the professional. You see, I lead a gay family group in Georgia, and I imagine I was invited to speak because I might have had a strong political viewpoint about the whole same-sex marriage topic. That didn't really happen for me that evening. I was struck by my emotional reaction to another panelist who was a member of the LGBTQ community who not only didn't support same-sex marriage, but also didn't believe in marriage at all.

I should also tell you at this point that I am legally married in Massachusetts, for whatever that is worth in Georgia.

For some reason, it really pains me to hear members from the LGBTQ community talk down about marriage. I find it much easier for the right-wing wackos to hurl insults and lies about same-sex marriage than I can stand from a member of the LGBTQ community. Maybe it's like hearing your parents insult or not support you versus a total stranger. It just hurts more.

The second thing that struck me that evening was how much of my same-sex marriage position was shaped by the American values I learned in high school by a few good teachers. In much of my world, you don't really hear LGBT people or progressive people saying they identify with American values (certainly not when you have a renegade President who believes he is above the law). But, I do, which is a big reason why I believe marriage belongs to gay and lesbian people, and anything short of that is not allowing us to be treated as equal citizens.

After 9/11, my good friend Rob, who is also a gay-right's activist, was shocked when I told him I identified as an American before my gay identity (on the list of identities we all carry around). I am not sure if this is still true now that the cloud of intense post 9/11 fear has been lifted from most of our lives. Now most of us our anti-war supporters, which I think makes us stronger in our American identity (even though I am sure our own government views us as enemies of the state with their photo takers at Peace rallies). I digress.

The bottom line for me is this: I was raised to believe all citizens should be treated equally (incidentally, this was before I embraced a gay identity). I was also raised in a culture where marriage was a valued institution, and by parents who have a fairly good marriage without the gender stereotypes. The messages I received growing up helped me form the idea that marriage is something I would likely do in my lifetime. On the panel the other night, it struck me how conservative these values are in the supposed LGBTQ community. How did the once liberal Kathy Kelly become so conservative? Maybe it is age, or maybe it was just the group of Queer people I was around the other night. Who knows.

Thus, it is true I love the woman I am married to, and I want all the tangible and intangible benefits that go along with it. I can't help but think it will matter one day to my now almost 2 year old daughter that her moms are married. It surprisingly made a big difference to my wife and me...