Monday, November 08, 2010

Post-election fears

Rolling fresh off the election of Georgia's most anti-gay Governor-elect in history, my wife and I wonder what these election results mean to our family. Will the climate of acceptance we currently enjoy change for the worse? We know Georgia is far away from treating its citizens equally, but at least we live in area of the state where our family is accepted and treated with the respect it deserves.

It's scary being at the other end of anti-gay politics. I often wonder if our opponents have any idea of the harm they inflict on us as people. For instance, when past Gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel decided to change her position from "moderate" on gay issues, to anti-gay, did she know what she was doing to us as people? Yes, she knew she was throwing us under the bus, but did she know the fear she put into each and every one of us every time we saw an anti-gay political ad or interview? Did she know what it would mean for our children to see Nathan Deal and her spewing hatred toward us?

I think if they have a conscience, they probably don't know. Unfortunately, I believe so many of these nasty elected officials have no conscience, and are probably socio-paths. Yeah, I know many people see that as extreme and don't agree, but this is my experience as someone who has been involved in politics since I was in the 9th grade, which is why I bailed on a career in politics.

Georgia has become an even more conservative state as a result of this last election. What that will mean for us I do not know. As I was watching some of the election coverage in the gym, I found myself jealous of the majority of the people working out who didn't seem to care about the election results. I thought, wouldn't it be nice to not have to care. To just ignore all the unpleasantness that goes with politics. But, sigh, I have no such luxury. I have to wonder, are they coming for us this time? Will they go after my family? What will this mean for my daughter?

And then I start having my usual post-election fantasies of moving to somewhere more accepting. Where that is, I am not certain. I always say we should just start a movement where we can all move to California, and take it over as OUR state. I am down with that. Don't know that the rest of the country would be open to it.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Parents Dealing with School Bullies

With the recent media attention on the numerous tragic suicides related to school bullies, I have found parents, gay and straight, are more on edge about the affects of bullies on their children. I think this is a good thing because I want to live in a society where no one tolerates bullying on any level. A complete societal shift is the only way we will end this epidemic (think of the societal shift about smoking and how this has drastically decreased the number of smokers).

My 5 year old was recently the victim of a 7 year old bully who was physically harming her on the playground after school. Fortunately, I had witnessed these attacks, so I was able to get the school involved in stopping the behavior. It has stopped, and I think the school handled it well. Hopefully this will continue so my daughter can feel and be safe at her school.

I was talking to a parent about his 7 year old son who was getting bullied by a child in his class. In his case, the bully was physically harming the boy. When the parent talked with the school, the school reacted by sending the bully home and calling in his parents. Again, I am glad the school reacted to protect the child who was being bullied.

The other parent and I began talking about our situations and about what if the school had not reacted appropriately? This parent's approach was this: if it happens again, he will demand to sit in the class with his son. If he sees the bully hitting his son again, he will call the police on his own and have the child arrested for assault.

What do you think--would this work? Assuming the school let the parent into the classroom, would the police arrest a 7 year old for assault? Is this an effective way of dealing with a bully?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Teaching the word "Gay"

I am probably way behind on this question, but I am going to put it out there anyway. I have a 5 1/2 year old daughter who doesn't know what the word "gay" or "lesbian" means, which is kind of ridiculous since mommy works for the Gay Community. I don't know why or even how we have avoided the subject for this long, but somehow we have reached this point and she doesn't know, and I am thinking I should probably tell her. Especially since this is Gay Pride weekend and she is bound to pick up on the word this year.

She has been to every Atlanta Gay Pride since she was born, and really has never questioned anything about it. She loves the idea of being in a parade, seeing lots of her friends, and the general festival-like atmosphere. I have a feeling this is the year she might notice a few new things, like the men who will undoubtedly be wearing chaps with their butts hanging out, or perhaps the topless women.

Around our house we have talked about different kinds of families, and she knows she is part of a two-mommy family. She is very happy child, and I dread the day she learns that there are people who hate our family without even knowing us. I imagine she will start figuring this out sooner rather than later, especially if she learns about the word "gay."

Now she might pay attention to the media and adult conversations she overhears when people are speaking about gay issues (right now I think it just sound like adult babble talk). I guess it is as good as any time to help her embrace the positive meaning that goes with the word "gay" before she starts hearing the negative on the playground.

Gay Pride will have a much bigger meaning for us this year. This will be the year that Maggie will learn she is part of the Gay Community. I don't expect her to put much thought into it, but it will give her some context as to who we are and what mommy does for a living.

We'll see how it goes!

Happy Pride!

Yes, it is still weird to have Pride in October. This is our second year celebrating Atlanta Pride in October. At least this year it is a little earlier in the month, and we are likely to have gorgeous weather this weekend. I love not having it in the hot month of June, but last year it was raining and cold (a terrible combination for me).

I don't know if it is because I am a mother, but I keep getting distracted by Halloween and other Fall Festivities and have to remind myself it is Pride weekend. I really need to remember because there is so much to do!

This is one of those weekends I give up the entire weekend to the cause--the MEGA Family Project. I probably won't see my daughter for more than an hour this weekend. My feet will hurt, I won't get to go to the bathroom enough, or have a decent meal, but I will get to meet so many amazing people that I would not otherwise know. I will hear amazing stories of LGBT families living in rural areas trying to make it work. Lots of people will share with me their dreams of adding children to their family through whatever means they dream up. So many families come to Pride with this being their only touch to the community for the entire year.

Though I am not looking forward to being on my feet the entire weekend (thankfully we aren't doing the Friday night Pride anymore), I am very excited to meet so many wonderful people in our community.

Happy Pride everyone. Come by and see us at the MEGA Booth in Section B-21.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

LGBT Equality and Retirement

Spending the Fourth of July weekend at my parents' retirement community has me reflecting on what my retirement will look like. Whether at their Florida retirement community or the North Carolina one (they change residences based on the temperature), I always find myself walking their neighborhoods looking at the different style houses and picking out the one I would get if I was in retirement. Of course, it is always something different from my parents’ house.

At Atlanta Pride every year, there are always a few queer retirement communities looking for prospective retirees to buy into their communities. I always thought it was cool for those retiring sometime soon, but I really thought it wouldn’t be needed by the time I retire. I am fairly optimistic about our future and had thought we would be far enough along the road to equality and acceptance that my wife and I would live in an integrated community of straights and queers.

Now, I am not so sure. The years on my clock seem to be ticking off a lot faster than I had planned, meaning retirement doesn’t seem as far off as I had thought, and our degree of acceptance doesn’t seem to be happening as quickly as I had hoped. My time spent in my parents’ retirement communities hasn’t helped either.

Perhaps my parents’ choice for retirement communities is not reflective of all retirement communities, but they are what I have come to know. Though I am sure each community has at least one or two people of color, I have not seen them at either place. My progressive parents would dispute this fact I am sure, but this is what I have seen over the years. The diversity in this community might be better reflected in whether you are a Republican or Democrat, or whether you play golf, tennis, or shuffle board.

In both communities, each house is prominently identified with a sign in front of it with the couple’s name on it, which makes me wonder what happens to those signs when someone dies or might be single. But more importantly, I have never seen a gay couple identified as occupants.

My mom likes to boast how many “gays” live in her retirement community in Florida. She knows this because they have a club for the gays, and because she runs the local PFLAG chapter. They have their own website, and put on some of their own events. Of course, the owner of her retirement community is one of the wealthiest right-wingers in the country. His influence is what brings Sarah Palin to visit the seniors in the community.

In both communities, I have seen women who are clearly lesbian couples, but I have also noticed they tend to keep a very low profile and never show any signs of public affection.  For instances, at the big group gatherings where there are dances that are popular with seniors, I have never seen a same-sex couple dance. I have seen them on the sidelines, though. Instead, they dance at their own private events.

It is tough, because retirement communities clearly offer activities and resources that are important to seniors. I wouldn’t have understood the benefits of such places until seeing it through my parents’ experience.

In my final years, I certainly don’t want to live somewhere I can’t be completely open about who I am, so I am beginning to think these queer retirement communities might be something to look at as I age. Getting old and losing family and friends is already such a difficult time without having to worry about homophobia.

Perhaps when my daughter is near retirement (she is 5 now), the world will be such a place that there is no need for any segregation, but it looks like I better keep an eye on those queer senior living communities for when my day comes.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Marriage Expectation

I started the MEGA Family Project over six years ago with the notion that LGBT couples should be afforded the right to marry our same-sex partners, and receive the same rights, benefits, and obligations that our straight counterparts receive through the institution of marriage. Living in a conservative state like Georgia, I have no illusion that marriage equality is coming here any time soon.

However, I have always believed we should be moving the issue forward by doing two things: 1. Educating people about the discrimination same-sex couples face in the absence of marriage; and 2. Increasing public awareness about our families by becoming more visible in Georgia’s family landscape.

Interesting changes have taken place since I first took up the cause of marriage equality in Georgia. Six years ago, it was most likely that supporters of marriage equality were activist types who were following the marriage equality movement in the news. It was kind of a radical notion to want marriage equality.

Today, a short six years later, marriage equality seems to be the expectation among most same-sex couples I meet. Couples routinely plan their weddings in one of the states or countries that legally recognize same-sex couples through civil marriage. Younger people especially seem much more likely to be on a path similar to our heterosexual counterparts: first the wedding, then the kids.

Even though there is no expectation that marriages by same-sex couples will become recognized in Georgia anytime soon, most people seem to be snubbing their noses at Georgia and getting married anyway.

As someone who has a marriage certificate from another state, our marriage was both a huge commitment on both our parts and an important validation of our relationship. Though we had been living together 6 years, getting married was a much bigger commitment.  We live differently today as a result of our marriage.

Our marriage has created a solid foundation for our relationship. We take it quite seriously, perhaps more seriously than most of our straight counterparts. Like so many things in LGBT families, we had to work hard to get married. We put a lot of thought into it. It wasn’t a big fancy wedding, but it was a huge day in our lives that we will always remember. Not because we had a big fancy wedding, but because it was a day when we were validated as human beings. We were finally able to marry the person we loved, and the state government where we were married legally recognized our relationship.

Marriage has strengthened our relationship. We think like married people who plan to spend the rest of our lives together. We take care of each other in every way, and plan for our future together as a married couple. We aren’t separate people sharing the same bed. We see ourselves as “one” and make decisions in the present and for our future as a team.

Though not recognized by the state of Georgia, we recognize our marriage in Georgia. Though it annoys some LGBT people, and confuses some heterosexuals, we refer to each other as “wife” instead of “partner.” We do this because we are married, we think of ourselves as married, and if we want others to treat us as a married couple, then we must give them the frame for how they should view our relationship.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Sitting at McDonalds Playland watching my daughter deal with a little
bully boy. I am trying to teach her to deal with him. I find myself at
a loss unless I tell her to just beat him up, which then makes her the

So, how do you teach your kids to deal with bullies without resorting
to violence?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

"Can we go to Seattle"

My daughter Maggie has just turned 5 years old. She joined our family through the wonderful process of open adoption at birth. It is just in the last 6 months that she has shown signs that she actually understands a little about her adoption.

We have been honest with Maggie about her adoption since she was old enough to understand words. The books we have read say children are better adjusted the more honest you are about their adoption because they understand the circumstances and have the knowledge and images they need. We believe them.

We have home movies from when we first met Maggie's birthmother, Maggie's birth, and then another movie from a visit to Maggie's birthmother when Maggie was about 1 1/2. We live on the East Coast, and her birthmother on the West Coast, so we haven't had much opportunity for visitation.

But lately, Maggie has been studying these home movies. Each time taking in a little more detail of the movies. She asks me a lot of questions, and frequently wants me to assure her that I was not in the particular movie image because I was the one taking the movie. "But you were there, right?"

So she just turned 5. After watching/studying the movies the other day she announced that she wants to go to Seattle. Feeling a little stunned (as she has never said the word Seattle out loud to me), I say "Why do you want to go to Seattle?" She says "I want to see Josie." I am totally caught by surprise by her announcement. We talk about her birthmother, Josie, fairly regularly, and she has never expressed this interest. I say "Oh...Why do you want to see Josie?" She says "Because I love her. She is my best friend. I miss her." I am touched by her sentiment, and a little nervous about what it all means.

" know what? Josie doesn't live in Seattle any more. She lives in California now. Maybe we can talk to Mia and make a trip to California to see Josie. Does that sound good?" She says, "yes, momma" and walks away smiling.

I am blown away. Here it comes. The start of our journey to help Maggie deal with her feelings about being adopted.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Legal Protections for LGBT Couples

Unfortunately, in the absence of marriage, most LGBT couples do not have in place the potentially life-changing legal protections available to them. Heterosexual married couples are given legal rights to visit each other in the hospital, to make medical and burial decisions, a host of parenting rights, and so many other rights simply because they are married.

In Georgia, same-sex couples cannot marry, so most are left without legal protections because they don't put the legal protections available to them in place. It's not sexy, but there are a whole lot of things couples can do to protect themselves and consequently strengthen their relationship.

Most of us aren't planners for the unexpected medical illness, accident, or death. Even if we are getting older, most of us just don't want to think about it. Unfortunately, if we don't plan for these life events, it can create a disastrous situation for everyone involved.

I have seen it first hand where partners are kept out of hospital rooms, were not allowed to claim their loved-ones body, and were even put out of their house because their name wasn't on the house deed. Yes, these things really do happen every day.

Many of us stay in denial by saying things like "I have a great relationship with my partner's family, so we don't need to worry about it." WRONG.

As with any family, a person's death often times can bring out the worst in families. Greed typically shows up. The pain of losing a child or sibling sometimes causes families to suddenly deny the sexual orientation or life partner of the deceased family member. Sometimes, family members actually want to take their deceased child's children from a surviving partner.

These things do happen, and much worse.

What can you do to protect your relationship, your loved one, your children? Come to the MEGA Family Project's Legal Protections for LGBT People workshop on February 25th 2010. Click here to learn more about the workshop and to register.

Please don't put it off. This is one of the most important and responsible things you can do in your life.