On Queer Parenting...
Everywhere I seem to look there are Queers having babies, not any Queers that I know- but those Queers over there, I can see them pushing their prams with their pink hair under-cuts or matching fag-dad sweaters and carrying books like 'DIY Vegan Baby-Food'.
At first I tried to dismiss these strange queer-parent hybrids, surely its just a phase! it will pass right? These parent types can move to the suburbs, out of sight out of mind, and we can all get on with the real task in hand- being the propers Queers... Problem is the more I tried to ignore them, and their screaming gender bending kids in fair trade sneakers, the more the silent place in my brain was filled with alarm bells. Am I missing something?
As an emotionally bourgeois financially impoverished Quipster who cant even maintain a relationship with a pot plant, hasn't eaten a fresh vegetable in 11 days considers cigarettes a financial investment because 'you never regret buying them' it will no doubt come as no surprise to you that the thought of having children had not crossed my mind- until one day the alarm went off. I don't know if its the product of a still invisible development in the emotional maturity section of my brain, the proverbial 'biological clock', or simply a massive case of F.O.M.O (fear of missing out) but I decided since I don't even know any children it was time to do some research. I put the word about that I wanted to interview some Queer parents and slowly and a little tentatively a few people came forward. At first I was a little disappointed that there weren't heaps of Trans-men coming forward who wanted to talk about being pregnant or Gay men who ended up co-parenting with a lesbian or lesbian couple because initially I was only interested in the logistics- the 'how'- how do Queers make their babies? But after reading the answers that I got, many of which came from Queer people who had their children in 'straight' relationships, I realised I had been asking the wrong questions and worrying about the wrong things.
So I sat thinking... what if baby making logistics weren't a concern? What if I could make a baby tomorrow? would I be ready? Then I really started freaking out, babies require a lot of time and money, I'd probably have to give up smoking, and drinking, and studying, and dancing and probably even smiling! Why do people have children! YUK! My mind instantly turned to sympathy, these poor people they must really regret it.... I bet they cant even remember the last time they had fun.
So I started reading and what I learned opened a new world to me, a world where people have an external meaning to their lives, where they have something to come home to every night, where people love them unconditionally and rely on them. I've never felt any of these things and it kinda scares me- after living my entire life with nothing resembling a loving family would I be able to handle something like this or would I just get bored and feel trapped and wish I was in Berlin dancing around in my underpants instead of providing emergency code brown response?
And what do you have to give up to be a parent? Can you still have a life or do you spend all of your waking hours being somebody else's house-slave baking cookies and wiping runny noses?
If, like me, you have ever wondered about any of these questions (and more!) I suggest you read on...
What kind of Queer are you?
Elli: "I identify primarily as a lesbian, but I like the word Queer, mostly due to the fact that I find myself attracted to those women who are masculine/butch... I must confess, however, that I am not exclusively attracted to cis females and also find myself attracted to trans men. This confounds some people, but to be honest I really couldn't care less.. As I get older I'm finding that a person's gender really isn't very important. (Must point out though that I am civil partnered to a woman who identifies as Butch"
"Leo: a trans man ex lesbian, challenging the heteronorm, pro-alternative family.
and Anne: ex-lesbian, seemingly straight woman with more to the story than most people assume, enjoys catching people when they do assume and trying to be a reflective parent of 2 young children making their way into the world"
Millie: "I'm A Bubbly Full Gay Queer!"
Did you want to have children?
Ellie: "I always wanted children...when asked by a careers advisor at the age of 14 what I wanted to do with my life, my reply was Author and Mother. Aged 29 I have achieved one of those!"
Leo: yes. it wasn't an accident!
and Anne: yes. imagined I might do it as a single parent for a while. and at times I thought perhaps I wouldn't have them..
Millie: "I didn't want to have children whatsoever, I could never imaging myself changing nappies, my freedom been taking away from me, not being able to party, or have a life really, that's what I thought children took your life away, but I got that completely wrong"
Who are you parenting with? If not a romantic partner- how did you chose/find your co-parent(s)?
Ellie: " My children (age 8 and 10) were conceived within a straight relationship, I am obviously no longer with the father. I parent with my Wife, with the children staying at their dad's house every other weekend, he's still very much involved in their lives. The children have Mummy and D at home and Daddy and his girlfriend S at his house"
"Leo: my partner (apparently, I'm not very romantic!)
Anne: my partner"
Millie: "The people in my social circle were mostly gay women or men, so when me and my partner decided we wanted children we had it easy all of our friends wanted to help out, and my girlfriend is a Trans woman, but she already had her operation when we met so we could have children together"
How have you negotiated and formalised your parenting agreements? civil union? marriage? parenting contract?
Ellie: "I don't feel this question is overly applicable, however I can say that parenting arrangements between myself and their father have alway been amicable. Nothing in writing, however he is the registered father on their birth certificates, so there is no question of that being a difficulty in future"
"Leo: we haven't really even talked about formalising our situation.
Anne: none of those. we negotiate through talking about being parents together, from back in the day when planning and hoping it'd happen, to now as the kids develop and learn. We haven't done formal in a traditional way or a legal way"
Millie: "We haven't got any agreements we aren't together anymore but me and my little girls Mum are still really good friends, we still live together, so my little girl gets to see both of her parents, I think that's only fair".
What were the physical barriers to becoming parents? i.e. finding/affording sperm/eggs/surrogates/adoption? fertility? fertility treatments?
Ellie: " This isn't applicable to the children we have, but I would like to say that myself and my wife would like to have 'our own' baby, but have found a number of barriers to that. Money is a major factor. We don't have over £1000 a month to throw at fertility clinics in the hope we might get pregnant. Also, as I am somewhat overweight by medical standards, we have found that clinics will not treat me. My wife has no desire to carry a child, and I have track record of perfectly good pregnancies and births, but clearly it means nothing to the medical profession. We tried at home artificial insemination with the help a good friend of ours as sperm donor, but circumstances dictated that we had to stop trying after a couple of months".
Anne: "Needing donor sperm and wanting to use a clinic rather than a known donor, therefore needing money to buy sperm/ register with a clinic and for me to undergo tests to check that my body was ok, before committing money to trying to get pregnant
Followed by outcome of tests which needed a minor surgical procedure, and the decision to wait a few months and have it done via the NHS or pay and press on with the next step.
Followed by news that my fallopian tubes were not very good and the advice not to try too many IUI procedures before going on to IVF because the chances of success with IUI was diminished.
Followed by 2 unsuccessful rounds of IVF and no extra embryos (so no Frozen Embryo Transfers possible), followed by a successful round of IVF and a twin pregnancy which resulted in twin babies in 2009.
So fertility treatments and money were the barriers in a sense, but we smashed the barriers and went for it at a fast pace".
Millie: "It was really hard, I couldn't get a job because I had an illness and no one wanted to hire my Girlfriend, because she was Trans it took us about 3 years of saving up just to make sure we had everything right, and it took about a year to get pregnant I never thought it would happen, but our friends were great and really helped along the way, I'd known my friend G*** for 15 years and he was in a gay relationship and him and his partner agreed that G*** could donate sperm and help me get pregnant"
What were the emotional and social barriers to becoming parents?
Ellie: "The children are the best thing that's ever happened to me, however it made coming out a bit harder as I was worried people would think I was being a bad parent by exposing my children to things that other children might not necessarily see. I believe this is why it took me so long to find the confidence to tell people, including their father, how I really felt"
Read more at Maxwellzachs.blogspot.com http://maxwellzachs.blogspot.com