Sunday, November 21, 2010

Institutionalizing Homophobia: the demise of civilization

While most Canadians agree that being gay is not a choice, homophobia is still an acceptable form of violence in many places. The continued use of "fag" and "that's so gay" as derogatory terms undermines the feelings of self-worth of not only gay people, but straight, queer and trans people too.

The recent media spotlight on the tragic deaths of those teenagers is only a tiny fraction of the persistent violence, ignorance and intolerance that plagues all of us. When one group is allowed to be persecuted for being themselves, other groups are then opened up to violence as well, even if the people in the second group have nothing in common with the first group.

For example, when "don't be such a faggot" is used to insult another man, it is underlining and highlighting traits that the perpetrator finds "gay" or "feminine". Can you imagine what this man's views of women are? If being a "faggot" and having "feminine" qualities is a bad thing, then being a woman itself is a terrible, dirty thing. The use of "faggot" attacks not only straight boys, but gay boys, ALL women, and people who do not fit inside the gender boxes.

The UN, a week or so ago, bowed to pressure from TWO COUNTRIES out of their 192 country membership, and removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution proposed by the human rights branch of the General Assembly. The article is here.

Those countries are Mali and Morocco, perhaps not who you would have expected. The US, surprisingly enough, voted against removing sexual orientation from the resolution and actually did not vote in the final count.

But seriously? Two out of 192. TWO. That's not even 1% of the vote, that's 0.01% of the vote. Both of these countries are dependent on various programs run by the UN... and since when is it right for the majority to decide minority rights?

The UN has allowed a loophole to continue violence against all people by not specifically stating sexual orientation. They didn't include gender identity in that either, which goes hand in hand with homophobia (homophobia is rooted in fear of gender non-conformity, which leads to a fear of sexual orientation other than straight people).

Instilling a sense of understanding and empathy in kids on a variety of topics, INCLUDING sexuality, is important. Teenagers especially need and want discussion about sexuality, a topic that our society is terrified of addressing (because if you talk about sex with teenagers, they're all going to get pregnant or syphilis, right?). Just as we talk about positive body image, sexuality needs to be de-stigmatized and brought into our everyday language. While conversation about sexuality does include a conversation about sex, it is not ultimately a HOW TO ENGAGE IN SEXUAL ACTIVITIES, rather a forum for everyone to talk about the broad spectrum of human experience.

All people need to be recognized for who and what they are. There needs to be more than acceptance, there needs to be understanding, empathy and support. To produce healthy, happy, well adjusted citizens, the broad spectrum of human experience needs to be discussed starting in childhood. It is the only thing that will prevent our societies from collapsing into chaos (which is the complete opposite of the crazy fundamentalists).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Crafty-type blog

As Christmas rolls around, and as we're cleaning out our house, I'm always astounded at the amount of CRAP we have. My office is full of crap. I refer to it as crap, because if the house burned down I wouldn't miss any of it (the only thing I would be terribly upset about is my Girl Guide camp blanket, which is absolutely priceless, and my computer). Unfortunately, most of the crap seems to get used at least once or twice a year, usually in a strange situation where it's saved my hiney a couple of times.

But what do you do about kid's toys? Kids have SO MUCH CRAP, starting before they're even born. A tiny human takes over their own room, their parents' room, the play room/living room/whatever other room with their stuff, from toys, swings, etc.

We are re-emerging to the idea that consumerism has it's time and place, but also it's tremendous downfalls. At Sparks, we had to stop sharing because the girls kept bringing in the newest fad, and it was turning into a bit of a gong show.

A blog someone posted on FB this morning has prompted me to post it, because it's such a tiny piece of the bigger picture. It's also a tremendous reminder to me (and to J) that we're running at break necked speed right now, and that we need to SLOW DOWN.

Also, buying $10 presents 20 times a year is a tremendous amount of money...

50 Alternatives to Gifting Toys for Presents

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yet another article!

This has been a long time coming! I remember learning about this first when Rosie O'Donnell came out publicly to highlight a family who was being torn apart because they couldn't adopt their foster son.

Florida Overturns Gay Adoption Ban

Background on the Rosie thing.

A gay couple living not-in-Florida had become foster dads to a bunch of HIV+ kids, all black. Because they got the kids when they were just little, anti-retroviral therapy given during childhood can eliminate HIV. The only kid who managed to shed the virus was a little boy who was born in Florida. When it turned out he was HIV-, the ministry of children or whatever it's called, sought to remove him from his parent's home and place him with a permanent family.

Keep in mind that this little boy knew no other family (they got him as an infant) and was now SEVEN years old. His parents wanted to adopt him, but were barred because they were gay.

I don't know what came of that, but it was heartbreaking.

Good vs. Bad: How parenting has become public forum

In the past 2 days, I have had a lot of feedback and discussion about a previous blog post, including a conversation with a friend over lunch (mostly about sexuality and gender identity, but there is a link between those two concepts and parenting) that has garnered much thought on a couple topics I feel have become more entertwined.

The "Publification of Parenting".

In the video prepared for the It Gets Better project, queer Canadian celebrities talk about their experience, and then how it got better. One woman in particular, a TV producer, talked about how angry people got with her sexuality.

Sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity have always been perceived as "public property", something to comment on, perceived or real. The general population feels they have the "right" to ask deeply personal questions about something that does not pertain them. It's overall getting better, but I am still asked on occasion "so, who is the man and who is the woman?" by well intentioned pedestrians who are trying to place us in their social network.

I shit you not.

(btw, that's the point of being queer, there are no rules, no expectations, so pressures... there IS no "man" or "woman", both of us do laundry, fix things and clean the house).

Some of my trans friends have been asked "so, what's your 'real' name", implying that their chosen gender identity is nothing but a joke. As there is more education done regarding the rainbow of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation, it will slowly get better.

The recent media explosion of baby obsession, "bump watching" and Celebrity Mom has turned parenthood into a media circus. Books like "What to Expect While Expecting" are excellent examples of what not to read just before you go to bed. Flipping through it on occasion, I felt like a lot of the book was warning of what not to do, lest your child be "damaged" in some way.

Let's Panic About Babies has an excellent blog article entitled "More Things a Pregnant Woman Shouldn't Be Allowed to Do". It's good for a laugh, and there's more crazy things. The whole site is a parody on the current obsession over pregnant women.

Westcoast Families' most recent issue contained an article on exercising during pregnancy that highlighted AND underlined the judgment faced by pregnant woman when doing ANYTHING that may be perceived as "harmful" to the fetus.

The idea that a perfect stranger knows what is best for your body while you're busy growing a human being is rather silly (unless that perfect stranger is a doctor or midwife, and in some cases a doula). I shudder at the idea of being manhandled by perfect strangers who think it's OK to touch my belly while pregnant without asking. I may be even more of a bear when J is pregnant.

So, this concept that pregnancy and parenting, like sexual orientation and gender expression, has become public domain is both new and old.

You can follow all your "celebrity babies", thanks to People's website, Celebrity Babies, see judgement everywhere about losing the baby weight (those millionaire celebrities with all their personal chefs, trainers and hoard of child care providers do it so easily, why can't you??) and obsess over the newest fad in strollers that cost as much as a car (I obsess, because for god's sakes, it's a STROLLER, and the coolest stroller I've ever seen is the City Select by Baby Jogger, but my reasons for drooling will wait for another blog post).

My own search through this topic has made me much more aware of how I talk to pregnant woman and new parents (for example, when seeing a very close friend, I make sure to acknowledge her and hug her FIRST, before kissing the toddler and the baby, a practice I started after she told me she felt invisible after the birth of her first child). I have ceased a roll of advice and incessant questions (unless solicited for and now the only thing I tell my with-fetus friends is to read "Bear With Me" by Diane Flacks and make them sit down and bring them things. Or help them with their shoes.

Mostly because it's none of my damn business what a woman does with her body. That is between her, her partner, her family and her health care provider.

I am staunchly pro-choice. While I don't think I could go through with an abortion (therapeutic termination of pregnancy due to fetal malformation is exempt), it is not my place to decide the private lives of my fellow citizens. Since I want to choose when and how to use my uterus, I fight to keep EVERYONE's choices and when and how their reproductive organs should be used. It's important to me that our kids have, known and understand their options.

The notion that parenting and pregnancy are considered "public property" was driven home when I was watching a toddler of a family I used to be really close with, and the toddler decided to have a 45 minute melt down, complete with screaming, whole body dead weight and the lying on the ground/rolling in the dirt. Since there was absolutely nothing I could do (and he didn't want to be held), I simply let him cry. I had parents throw me sympathetic looks, and the "how could you let your child cry like this" (being 22 and looking older, I was assumed to be his mother, or else it was the calm serenity that I had on my face as my charge continued his meltdown).

Eventually he did stop crying and wanted a snuggle, at which point I happily obliged and got covered in toddler snot and tears as a result (since his tearful face was too much for me and I couldn't even be bothered to wipe his face before he smashed it into my t-shirt).


Yet another release that children of gay parents turns out perfectly fine.

0% of teens of lesbian moms report being abused.

I'm sure a study of gay dads would reveal similar if not identical statistics.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Known vs ID release vs anonymous, or how did this get so complicated??

A topic I've explained a lot lately has been to answer the question "where is your sperm coming from"?

Since I'm currently obsessed, J usually has to stop me from rambling.

In Canada, there are three "types" of genetic material a family with no direct access to sperm can use: known donor, Identity Release donor and Anonymous donor.

I need to define a couple of terms before I launch into my explanation.
Parent(s): The people who take on full legal and financial responsability for raising the child(ren). Because it's my blog and J and I are parenting together, the word PARENT will almost always have an S at the end.
Donor: a man who gives his sperm to the parents to reproduce a child.

A known donor is someone known to the parents, a friend or family member (brother, uncle, whatever). A contract is made between the parents and the donor with regards to custody, visitation, parenting expectations, etc. There is a HUGE legal scary part right now that has the potential to blow up in your face, but I'll get into that later.

An identity release donor and anonymous donor both come from a sperm bank (in Canada, that would be Repro Med in Ontario, in the US it comes from a variety of sperm banks). ID release donors agree to be contacted by the children they helped produce once the child turns 18. Anonymous donors disappear into the void, all records are destroyed. There is currently a lawsuit happening in BC about this.

Donors that are from a sperm bank have a profile that includes race, culture, height, weight, educational backgound, family history, etc etc etc. You can sometimes buy baby pictures. Each donor can only produce so many children, and once that number has been reached the donor's profile is retired. Parents who use this method can re-access a donor for subsequent children, but new parents cannot.

The legal aspect is challenging. Family Law is governed by each Province, while Marital Law is federal. This means that whether you are married or not has no bearings on family court decisions, although they may take into account a marriage when faced with custody battles between parents and a donor (in that case, it's the intent that matters, it's assumed that a married couple intend to parent together).

Currently, the law in BC states that each child has the right to a Mother and a Father, not just 2 parents. In cases with 2 female parents and a male donor, the courts would award partial custody to the donor if he chose to fight for custody. In the case of divorce between the parents, or if the parents ran into financial difficulty, the courts could order the donor to pay child support.

This is very very scary. You can negate your risk by doing a couple things before you even begin trying to have a baby. The parents and donor can sign a donor contract outlining the expected involvement of the donor in the child's life (generally if you're using a known donor you are including him in your lives, otherwise you just use a sperm bank). Usually the agreement says stuff about who the child's legal parents will be, the expectation that the donor terminates his parental rights so that the non-birth mother can legally adopt her own children (this part kills me), how the parents won't seek child support, how the donor has no legal rights over his offspring, blah blah blah. It's not a legally binding contact, however, although the courts would take this into account when making a decision.

It does and has happened where the donor has sought custody after the birth of a child and been awarded partial custody. It can and does happen where the parents divorce, and they go after the donor for child support. Neither of these are in the best interest of the children, as it's just ripping families apart.

HOWEVER, after 20+ years, the Family Law Act in BC is changing. The new law launches sometime in 2011 (although with Gordon Campbell's resignation, it may be pushed back later, who knows). It drastically changes the rules for same sex parents, parents who use fertility services, surrogacy and people who are common-law.

The new law will define the legal parents of a child born in BC. The birth mother will be legal parent A (I'm assuming transmen who bear children will still be classified as "birth mother"), and the partner/spouse of the birth mother will be legal parent B. Any donor, known or unknown, does not have ANY legal claim or responsability to a child, unless it's set out ahead of time by the parents and donor. This means a donor can't come after the parents for custody, and parents can't go after the donor for child support.

The proposed changes are called the "White Paper", and a digested and summarized version of the White Paper can be found here, along with a link to the actual White Paper.


We want to use a known donor. Why, if after everything I've just outlined, would we want to bring someone into our lives who could totally change his mind in three years and demand custody?

There are many pros and cons to both decisions, and we had to pick which one was most important to us. We feel strongly about the importance of knowing your roots (that's what happens when a Pisces and a Cancer have a baby), and having an opportunity to develop a relationship with their biological father. Our donor gets to pick the name he wants to be called, we have no quelms if he wants to be called "Dad" or "Uncle S" or "Aunty S" (as has been suggested) or anything. He will love our kids, he will be part of their lives. He is a warm, funny and caring individual and I couldn't ask for a better influence for our kids. Him and I have been friends for 7 years and have joked constantly about doing this. After a whiny Facebook status post, he sent me an e-mail confirming that he was STILL interested and serious about his commitment to this project (which is nothing to sneeze at).

For some parents, this is not a priority, or the risk of losing their kids is too scary, so they use a sperm bank. Most queer parents are now using ID release donors, recognizing that humans want and need to know where we come from. I feel that, since we are choosing how to grow our families, that we have an ultimate responsibility to our kids to help them find their roots. J and I share identical values on this subject, so this was not something that took a great deal of effort to conclude.

It's only because of S that we are pursuing a known donor path. Known donor is much more complicated and possibly more expensive (we'll let you know when we're done with the lawyers).

I am, however, a sentimental Cancer who NEEDS her family structure.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Save the horse, turn your child queer.

There has been a fair amount of attention paid to the gender expression of children in the media lately. Specifically I am speaking about Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, the second to youngest child of the Brange (if you count the twins as "one" child").

Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, aged 3, has caused tremendous stir because her parents "allow" her to dress like a boy...


Supposedly Angelina is turning her daughter into a boy and/or a lesbian.

Clearly the people saying these things have never tried to make a three-year old put on clothing... I was happy if I could make the three year olds I was babysitting put on pants in the winter, let alone what colour they were.

The debate rages on: is turning out gay/straight/trans/other nature or nurture? Are parents to blame if their 3 year old girl-child wants to wear pants exclusively, shuns dresses, the colour pink**, and has more fun throwing her Barbie's off the balcony than playing house with them.

It should be fairly obvious that my opinion is a most decided NO. There is absolutely NOTHING my parents did to make me gay. There is nothing they did to make my brother straight.

In the movie "But I'm a Cheerleader", the subjects are asked to find their "root" of homosexuality, the cause of their inability to be attracted to the opposite sex. Since the movie is making fun of the futility of the Ex-Gay movement, roots such as "my mother got married in pants" and "I was born in France" were used to demonstrate the utter absurdity and far fetched ideas that there was something that could make a child deviate from the expected heterosexuality.

Sexual orientation, gender identity and biological sex are three distinct categories, all relating to each other but exisiting exclusively of each other. Someone who is straight, and whose physical biology matches the expected gender identity (ie, boys = penis, girls = vagina) never needs to question the relationship between these three ideas. Gay people question their sexual orientation, and may or may not question their gender identity, since it may not come into play. I did not question my gender identity until several years after I had finished questioning my sexual orientation, and only because I was breaking down the gender constructs I had learned as a child, and what it meant to be a woman and whether I wanted to participate in an "appropriate" gender expression. I never felt like my outsides were mismatched with my insides, but I do not feel totally "feminine", however, female pronouns best suit my expression, even when I feel more Male than Female on some days.

You can turn a child gay as easily as you can change their permanent hair colour.

While I think there's something to be said for gender as an entire social construct, children who are transgendered engage in opposite sex roles and behaviours even when they are not role modeled by their same sex parent. Most non-straight identified adults felt that they wanted to be the opposite sex as children at some point, myself included.

The bottom line is that whomever Shiloh turns out to be, it is of no business but hers and her family if she chooses. Angelina and Brad should be commended for allowing their children to express their identity, and not dumping them into a box, especially in light of the media circus that surrounds them on a daily basis.

And honestly, who gives a rats ass whether your kid is gay, straight or somewhere in between. At the end of the day, you, as a parent, will be judged for raising a human being who knows the difference between right and wrong, and work towards a better world. The people judging parents because they have gay children are the people whose opinions matter least, because they come from a place of intolerance, ignorance and fear, even if they say it's from "love", or my favourite, "because God said so" (seriously, God doesn't say anything about this anyways, and why would he care if two ADULTS enter into a consensual and loving relationship, based of mutual affection, respect and each other's tolerances to deal with the other person's shit).

I am incredibly lucky to have so many amazing people in my life, who love J and I for WHO we are, who will love our kids irregardless of how they turn out, and who work their butts off to raise conscientious, wonderful kids.

The colour shirt your child puts on in the morning is not important. Your reaction to the shirt colour is a better indicator of how your child will deal with this. If you freak out and make them change, your child will learn that some things are shameful, they will be afraid and may end up overcompensating (same thing if your toddler uses the F Word at the dinner table).

I think there are more important topics to address than whether your five year old is allowed to wear a tiara.

** The idea of gendering colour is fairly recent, according to this website. It was reversed before our modern concept of gendered colour emerged, as Pink was a brighter, bolder colour, reserved for boys, and Blue was a muted, softer colour, reserved for girls. Blue was used as the school uniforms for poor boys (girls didn't even get an education) as it was the cheapest dye.