If there aren’t babies and grandmas, it’s not my revolution.

7 May

Intergenerational movements for social justice are crucial. They are not optional.  This is something I believe to my very core.

Becoming a parent has opened my eyes to the many ways we self-destruct by pushing elders, children, and parents out of our actions, meetings, and events. I know communities can do better, and I have seen many communities–particularly in indigenous immigrant and low-income communities of color–set the example.

Below are my observations for steps we can all take to make our communities, organizations, and collective spaces more open to comrades of all ages.

Slow down. “Activist pace” alienates a lot of folks, not limited to parents, children, and elders. The kind of change most of us are talking about is going to take a very long time, even if we organize late at night and through the weekends. Slowing down is good for everyone, and it allows people balancing school, work, childcare, after school activities, fun time, health issues, medical appointments, and self care to participate in more than just the periphery.

In the street medic community, we use the saying, “Go slow to go smooth, go smooth to go fast.” For the broader activist community, I think this can be, “Go slow to be inclusive, be inclusive to go fast.” The more perspectives and people we have working for our liberation the faster we will win.

Lighten up. Kids are going to make noises and interrupt. Elders may not have the same vocabulary or way of participating in meetings. There is only one thing to do about this: Learn to work with it. Spend time with people outside of your age group, and do it often. Learning to communicate across generations is an invaluable skill.

Diversify how you think of leadership and talent. What ways are people invited to contribute to projects and community? How does that exclude people? Most models of leadership are based on dominant identities (white, male, cis, hetero, able-bodied, wealthy, etc). They are also typically based on adults around the age of 30.

While children in particular may not be able to fill the roles of a “typical” leader, they have a lot to contribute. For example, the Unicorn can diffuse a tense meeting faster than any ethical communication trained facilitator. Another child I have worked with was able to create the best street theater concepts around.

Elders are not only leaders, they are leaders with a heck of a lot of context and experience. They know how to tackle many of the tasks we get stuck on with half the technology.

See these skills and value these leaders, too.

Look out for everyone. Different age groups have different needs. They are usually pretty easy to meet, but require a little forethought and planning.

Think about basic needs

  1. Things to eat and drink (not just coffee and donuts)
  2. Private spaces for nursing/pumping/diaper changes (folks might choose to not use them, but sometimes it is hard to do these things in a room full of people even if you don’t care if others see what you are doing).
  3. Bathrooms that are accessible
  4. Private spaces to attend to medical and personal needs
  5. Select spaces with places to sit

Plan activities accordingly

  1. Have activities for children that are fun and relevant to the cause. I want my baby to grow up in the struggle, not sitting in the next room coloring Barbies.
  2. Make quiet spaces if things run long so that kiddos can unwind or take naps
  3. Take breaks for snacks, bathroom, and personal time with regularity. Encourage people to take time when they need it.
  4. If activities involve lots of moving, make options for people that cannot do so, like having break out groups come to them, or allowing people to participate from chairs.

Make a supportive environment (i.e. no mean mugging someone with a crying baby, call out ageist “they are just old” type comments, etc). Welcome the elders and youth.

Make sure you have a space that is physically safe, comfortable, and as accessible as possible for folks of many ages and abilities. Above all, be clear about what you are offering for accessibility and accommodations. Let folks know how accessible, safe, and comfortable the space is. Be honest about things that might be concerns. That way parents, children, and elders alike are able to decide if this space is right for them.

Create shared space whenever possible. There are definitely moments when events are not ideal for children. Very long meetings and certain direct actions are good examples. However, the goal should be for these times to be in the minority. Families should decide if the space is right for them, and hosts should provide clear information so that they can make their own choices. Be clear about events that are likely to be unsafe (physically or emotionally) or understimulating (let’s be real, activism is pretty boring sometimes) so that folks can make their choices.

If things truly are not a great space for children, childcare should be provided onsite. Childcare means a dedicated and safe space with enjoyable activities. The Bay Area Childcare Collective has helpful links to create great childcare offerings.

I didn’t entirely appreciate this until I had a child, but when we make events that are not friendly for all ages, we make people choose between family and activism. The more often we make families decide between spending time together or going to activist functions, the more often we alienate families.

Ask questions. If nothing else, ask the people around you (and the people that should be around you but are not) what they need and want to see. Then take that feedback and do something with it.

I’d love to hear other suggestions from parents, elders, kiddos, and organizers.


Magic, witchcraft, and parenting

20 Feb
This sculpture is said to represent biology, physics, and chemistry. To me, it represents magic.

This sculpture is said to represent biology, physics, and chemistry. To me, it represents magic.

When my partner and I first started our relationship, we (half) joked about arranging a banner drop on the nearest college campus. A new Science Classroom had been constructed complete with an epic butterfly sculpture constructed from dyed test tubes hanging in the entrance. We plotted to unfurl a banner behind it reading, “Science is Colonized Magik.” I had just made the decision to stop taking pre-med courses and not attend medical school. Science and I had been real close, but then I remembered that my first love was with all things witchy (even before I saw The Craft) and no amount of chemistry or cadaver dissection could ever fill my life with the joy that magic did.

Years later, we’ve been talking about science a lot. Most recently, it was because we both took a Reiki I training. Reiki is a spiritual and healing practice. To me, it is a relationship I am building with the energy around me. It is hard to describe eloquently, but I know that when I am able to offer reiki, I feel like a wizard. When I am able to receive reiki, I feel benefits from it.

A few people have made snarky comments to me about how reiki never holds up in studies. And thus enters Science©. 

See, I love science–the study of the world we live in and the theories we use to try and explain it–because I am a mega nerd. I have my stethoscope tattooed on my arm and get profound excitement from physiology. However, I don’t believe science is the only way of looking at the world. There are many other lenses, particularly with regard to medicine and ecology, that I think do a better job. There’s also no way you can convince me that white dudes in laboratories were the first people to come up with these ideas.

Then there is the omnipotent Science©. This beast exists as an institution and is a frightening amalgamation of business, politics, and religion. Science© tests itself against it’s own theories, and always seems to come out with flying colors. However, Science© also expects all other philosophies to do the same.

For example, Science© develops pain medication, and then tests this medication based on it’s belief of what pain is, why people experience it, and what “relief” means. Science© passes. Next, Science© tests a traditional medicine (acupuncture, herbs, reiki, whatever)–a practice that operates on a totally different viewpoint about pain–using the same Science© standards. Surprise surprise, the traditional medicine doesn’t win. In a few years, when people with a lot of money start caring about the practice, Science© might be forced to acknowledge it, but until then, Science© wins.

With this pattern, we turn against our traditions. I think this comes from capitalism, colonialism, and a lot of other very unfortunate things.

When I was working in the healthcare field full-time, I got really into Science©For a brief period, I forgot how much I love plants, oils, stones, acupuncture needles, healing touch, and so forth. My skills as a healer decreased dramatically until I opened myself back up to the intuitive, traditional, and witchy parts of medicine. I had to remember that science (not Science©) has it’s place and can do amazing things–heart transplants, trauma resuscitations, and resolving once-deadly diseases among them–but there is a lot of space that science has not and will not cover.

When my partner and I were discussing reiki, I realized one reason I inherently trust traditional medicines and all of their woo is a part of the personal work I have done to change the way I look at this way of life compared to others. We are raised to believe that the one and only way to live the good life is to live the way that well off white people in the US and Europe do now. People in the past and in other places have it all wrong. Much of the disrespect for traditional healers is rooted in racism and patriarchy. We would like to pretend that white people have always been going to (male) doctors that are able to fix them better than anyone else. Traditional healers (often women and people of color) are seen as manipulative, greedy, unsafe, and negligent.

Leaving that mindset is not easy, but it is  an important part of decolonizing, or in my case transforming the colonizer part of my identity, and healing. I have gained a profound respect for elders and ancestors that came with my work on these areas. I have learned to trust their wisdom and turn to them.

Many people are making this transition. Now that highly addictive (and solely palliative) prescription pain pills are readily  available, many are visiting acupuncturists, massage therapists, yoga instructors, and spiritual healers. Traditions of growing food and herbs for wellness and healing are returning. Many in the birth field are looking to the traditions of midwives to deliver our babies safely after Science© has imposed practices that have given us abysmal rates of breastfeeding, maternal/fetal mortality, and various other horrors.

Becoming a parent pushed me to become even more witchy. The Unicorn opened up a lot of parts of me that adulthood works to close–imagination, playfulness, hope, optimism. All of those things are complimentary to magic. Also, I decided early on to try and come at this parenting game with a sense of intuition and capability. It helps me work through the feelings of fear and powerlessness that come up. It also gives me an opportunity to plan celebrations and traditions for our family that are rooted in the things I really love rather than the conventional holidays I am told to celebrate.

Maybe my dreams of a pro-magic banner drop won’t come true, but I have a feeling “Science is Colonized Magik” shirts for the family would also be pretty rad.


An AMAZING essay by Chris Crass: “Expecto Patronum: Lessons from Harry Potter for Social Justice Organizing”

9 Dec

An AMAZING essay by Chris Crass: “Expecto Patronum: Lessons from Harry Potter for Social Justice Organizing”

“Through the student-formed underground practice sessions of Dumbledore’s Army, a cadre of young witches and wizards became skilled with spells, deepened their commitment to fight the right, and created a thriving community of comrades who encourage and support one another. The DA created a space for collective praxis to emerge. Praxis is the process of putting ideas into action and then drawing out lessons from the experience. As Harry said earlier, none of the other students had the experience of going up against Voldemort. They only had lessons learned in a classroom. Praxis is taking the lessons from the practice sessions into a fight against the Death Eaters, which is exactly what happened when Hermione, Ron, Harry, Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and Luna Lovegood faced the Death Eaters in the Ministry of Magic. Leadership is born of values joined with experience and that is why it is no coincidence that Ginny, Neville, and Luna became the primary leaders of the DA when Hermione, Ron and Harry went underground and Hogwarts was taken over by the forces of Voldemort.”




Book Review: Meet Polkadot

5 Dec

We are working on building up a kid’s liberation library.

Meet Polkadot is our newest addition, and I am pretty sure it is one of my favorites.

When it comes to children’s literature, there is basically one story about gender identity. It starts with a child wants to gender bend. Their friends, family and other important adults usually do not approve. The child is sad. Then somehow things turn around and the child is allowed to be trans*, gender fluid or otherwise do something outside the confines of social acceptability.

It isn’t a bad story. It definitely coincides with what frequently happens when real life kids rebel against the gender binary. That said, it is not the only story. I worry that the lack of variety in this department might enforce the notion that gender fluidity is an abnormal thing and that children should be afraid of challenging the binary.


The Unicorn and Meet Polkadot before our first reading.

Meet Polkadot does not tell that story. Polkadot is a nonbinary, trans* kiddo with a great support system. They have a rocking big sister named Gladiola that not only supports her sibling, but acknowledges all that she needs to learn about gender. Gladiola identifies as a cisgender girl, but still argues that the gender binary doesn’t work for her.Polkadot’s best friend is Norma Alicia, a young person of color that talks about the importance of allyship to all of her identities.

While the Unicorn loves to look at the pictures and smack the pages as I read Meet Polkadot, the book is definitely one that will probably serve us best as they start to play with their own gender expression and identities. Several pages are dedicated to explaining sex, gender and expression. There’s also a page dedicated to trans* allyship. I figure the earlier we can subvert the dominant gender narrative, the better. 

Some readers may feel the book is advanced for children, but I would argue it is one to grow with. First, they can fall into the story of Polkadot, and then they can begin to play with the underlying themes. It is a real relief to encounter books for children that do not dilute big topics like race and gender, but instead take them on in an honest manner that still feels safe.

The book has also been a great teaching tool for some of the adults in the Unicorn’s life that are still catching on to why we insist on gender neutral pronouns and refuse to gender our baby. The easy definitions help illustrate our values without being overly preachy or theoretical.

Overall, this is the trans* liberation, pro-feminist and intersectional story of gender I’ve been looking for, and I am so glad that we found it.

You can get your copy of Meet Polkadot by Talcott Broadhead at Danger Dot Press.

Birth Story

27 Nov

The Unicorn is 12 weeks old, almost 13. It has been a few months in the making, but I have finally written our birth story. I never thought birth stories were important until I gave birth and saw how little attention such a tremendous event receives.

Birth is powerful. It impacts everyone differently. Some experience trauma, anger, frustration, pain and heartache. My birth experience was healing, transformative, invigorating, and tremendously empowering. I’ve met some people that describe their experience as simultaneously traumatic and empowering, or beautiful and terrible. Birth is complex like that.

Through the social justice world, I’ve learned a lot about the power of story telling. It can be a protest, a therapy, an art piece, historic documentation, and so much more. Story telling is how we bring important parts of our lives out of the shadows. It is how we often shed shame and embrace all the pieces of our lives. Story telling is how we can keep important things alive, even when they have to compete with all of the big horrible aspects of our world.

With that, here is the story of the Unicorn’s journey Earthside.

Labor was a process. My process began on August 15, three days before my due date. I woke up having contractions and back pain, texted my midwife and went to work. When my partner came home, we went to the grocery store and filled our kitchen with fruit bars, dark chocolate, peaches, corn on the cob, and dried mangoes. I drank a glass of wine, took a bath, told my work I was officially on leave, and went to bed expecting to wake up soon with stronger contractions.

It was not time. I fell into a frustrating limbo. I wasn’t at work, or doing any of my normal activities, but I also was not anywhere near giving birth. I struggled because I had no control. I fielded endless questions. When is that baby coming? When are they going to induce you? Are you ready to be done? Have you felt anything yet?

A few days passed, and the intensity of those feelings faded. Our midwife recommended chiropractic adjustment and regular acupuncture. Contractions came and went. I stopped answering emails, calls and text messages. My partner and I went for walks in the Botanic Gardens and farmer’s markets. I spent hours in the kitchen making peach jam, knish, macaroons, challah, and soups. Every morning I put flowers, herbs, tobacco, and a note in a dish on my front porch. We lived in a bubble and I did whatever my heart told me needed to happen. I struggle to describe these moments, but I remember they felt sweet and magical.

August 26 things changed. Contractions grew stronger. Warm baths and wine did not stall them. I called the midwife and made a decadent dinner of butternut squash ravioli with wild mushrooms, white beans and chard. I stayed awake on the couch watching Top Chef. My partner was able to get a little sleep. I called the midwife when the contractions were strong enough that I could not stay seated.

I do not remember the next 24 hours with any sort of chronological clarity. I remember the midwife arriving. We played with my cats and talked about how we believed that birth and death should both happen at home whenever possible. She brought me plates of cherries, peaches, and nuts. I dozed off in a rocking chair, she curled up on the floor. When the sun came up, she tidied up the house and let the light in. I tried to eat. I refused to go for a walk. The birth tub in my bedroom was filled, and I spend several hours floating around. I slept between contractions. My partner and our midwife brought me drinks. I left the tub and began pacing around the living room.  At some point in time we played music.

My body was full of strange sensations: heaviness, tension, cramping. I do not remember a lot of pain, just intensity. Sometimes the contractions were so strong I would laugh awkwardly. Sometimes arrows of pain would shoot through my body. The midwife thought the baby might be in an odd position, so she helped me manipulate my body to move them from my pelvis so that they could reengage in the correct manner. This involved doing a headstand off the side of my bed, lying still, and several other activities that I would say, “I can’t do that!” to. The midwife eased me through the exercises. She spooned herbs into my mouth. I remember feeling like I was dancing and doing tai chi as I wandered through my house.

The intensity built. I felt nervous for a moment. The contractions were strong and the arrows of pain were coming with greater frequency. I leaned over a chair and my partner was putting counter pressure on my hips. I started to feel a little panicked only to feel a tremendous relief as my water broke. I laughed at how much fluid there was and jumped in the shower.

When I came out, I was in the transition phase of labor. I was well aware of this fact, and that made it even more frustrating. I remember hitting the cat’s scratching post and feeling profoundly claustrophobic. I kept saying, “I can’t do this.” The midwife reminded me I was at home and without pain meds by choice. She offered to take me to a hospital. I responded with an assertive, “No!” and went to the bathroom to labor on my own.

Then it came time to push. I didn’t realize I was pushing until my midwife told me I needed to come out so she could be with me. I practically dove into the birth tub. The second midwife was called in. My partner leaned over the edge of the tub and said, “You are doing it!” I had to move out of the tub to move the head through the pelvis, and then returned to the water.

The midwives cheered me on. One said, “Take a deep breath and breathe air into all of the parts that are burning.” I was about to stop and say, “I don’t feel burning,” and then the ring of fire hit. (Sidenote: This is a moment so aptly named that you would think June Carter Cash wrote about it instead of her sinful love for the hellion Johnny Cash.)

And then, at 1:44am on August 28, there was a baby in the tub. My partner caught them first. I grabbed them immediately. The Unicorn’s eyes were open. They squawked and cried. We eventually moved to our bed. The midwives left us be for an hour. The Unicorn nursed. We called our parents. Eventually I was patched up (with such grace and skill on the part of the midwives that my greatest birth fear as a trauma survivor has blended in with other lovely memories), took some arnica and put on some clothes. The midwives left as the sun came up, and the three of us fell asleep together.

Update: A few people have asked who our midwife was. Her name is Jen Anderson Tarver of New Lead Midwifery, and she is easily one of the smartest, wisest and kindest providers I have met.

On risk, part one

9 Nov

After a month or so of breastfeeding and pumping, it became quite clear to me I was going to have a great abundance of milk. We had all of the reserve I needed for Unicorn in case of an emergency (and then some), enough for when I was at work, and still I was pumping to avoid great discomfort. My freezer began overflowing with glass bottles and little bags that would come flying at me any time I went for a popsicle (not cool). At this point in time, I decided to start donating milk.

There are a few ways you can donate. One is to donate to Prolacta Bioscience, a for-profit milk bank. I think Prolacta Bioscience is corrupt and evil, in that way that any for-profit company selling a human necessity and making millions is. The next is to donate to HMBANA, a bank that screens donors, pasteurizes milk, and then sends it to babies in the NICU. This milk isn’t free (it also doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars like the milk from Prolacta), but it does go to the tiniest, most vulnerable babes. The final option is an “informal” milk share, where you can post with a need/want for milk, or just respond to posts from others, start a discussion, and swap milk. I really liked this option, because it was free for the family needing milk, went with my belief in mutual aid, and allowed a lot of freedom for all parties, so I went to Human Milk for Human Babies  and started talking to people.

As soon as I started sharing this with friends, I was sent this article about how breast milk purchased online was full of salmonella and other bacteria with a note like “Thought you should know about this one…”

Essentially, scientists assert that people buying milk from the internet cannot be certain that the milk is a) human milk (or any kind of milk for that matter) or b) not a cesspool of microorganisms waiting to pounce on their child’s wee immune system. I freaked out for a minute. I thought about stopping donating milk, because I didn’t want to get any babies sick. I couldn’t imagine being in a place where you were trusting someone else to help feed your kid only to have them contract a horrid disease.

Then I remembered I am not trying to turn a profit on what I am giving away, and am certainly not selling anything on the internet. Then I realized that every ounce I pump I do so with my Unicorn in mind first and foremost. Once they are set for the time I am away for work (and I recount my frozen backup 50 ounces) I give milk to another family. You bet your ass I am washing my hands, boiling my equipment, chilling the milk, and doing my damnedest to ensure that my beloved Unicorn’s food is not tainted. The last shipment I sent away, I packed the milk up carefully with icepacks, cold bags, and a cooler. I would have trusted that milk with my own child. Why did I feel so guilty and anxious giving it to someone else?

This feeling–not the particular terror of giving someone else’s baby ebola, but the anxiety of doing things the wrong way–is not unfamiliar to me. We had a home birth. Any time I came in contact with a doctor or nurse, I was told about how I could die, my baby could die, my house could catch fire, or some other horror could transpire. Overall, I was confident in my choice. My midwife is probably one of the most wise and intelligent people I have spent significant time with. I met every ounce of criteria for being low risk. That said, every so often I would start to feel a creeping anxiety about making the wrong choice.

Is it possible I am a completely reckless person?

What will happen if [xyz] horrible thing happens?

I ended up having a healthy, magical home birth that made me want to have many more babies. I also came to a realization about how we are socialized to understand risk in this world, especially with regard to medical choices.

The Western Medical Industrial Complex has sold us a concept that all things done outside its realm are risky, dangerous, and overall not advisable. Things done within the doors of pharmacies, doctor’s offices, hospitals, and other sanctioned areas may have a slew of side effects, but they aren’t anything like the risks you encounter with any of those traditional medicines that have been healing people for thousands of years on a slice of the same budget.

And that is where I come to a simple, trite sounding truth that I want to scream from a tall building. Life is full of risks. The thing about living in a world with massive corporate control is that some risks will be emphasized over and over (and over and over and over and over and over). Typically those risks do not make people in big tall buildings wearing power suits lots of money.

Don’t believe me? Ask your nearest person that has given birth how many doctors, nurses, media sources, etc. informed them as to how their chance of receiving risky medications, unnecessary interventions, or surgery was increased dramatically by giving birth in a hospital without a midwife or a doula.

I have heard a lot about the perceived risks of breastfeeding. A baby may not thrive on a parent’s milk production alone. They may get an allergy. They may never take a bottle. They may grow up to be “strange”, “overly attached”, or my personal favorite: HOMOSEXUAL. I have also heard that I may spread horrible diseases to my baby if I pump milk and have it fed to them. I have not heard about the potential dangers of formula feeding.

This isn’t to say some babies don’t need formula, or that formula has no place in this world. However, there are big powerful people that make A LOT of money selling formula as an easy, risk-free fix all for infant feeding. But what about severe allergies, or factory mixups, tampering, or product recalls? Those things happen all of the time, and formula is not exempt.

I could go on, but the point isn’t to argue about what behavior takes more risks, it is that there are risks to all choices and we make the best ones we can based on our personal circumstances. For the families I share with, they have decided that donor milk from someone that drinks some (not much) alcohol/caffeine, abstains from dairy, does not smoke, takes vitamins, and eats a mostly plant based diet is a good source of nourishment for their kid. Someone else may choose different. The reason why corporately influenced medicine is so dangerous is because it will leverage influence over practitioners and slick advertising campaigns to make people believe any alternative is so full of risk and inefficacy that they are ridiculous for treading that way.

And with that, I continue to make the intimate personal choice to donate milk. I know that most families cannot afford to buy milk at the high costs of Prolacta, and also cannot access the supplies of HMBANA. I trust that they have weighed their options and make their choices with the same goal I have: healthy babies.

Post script: Perhaps the hardest part in the milk donation process was when I was ready to arrange a sustained donation (I would give everything I was able to a family on a regular basis) to a family, and they asked “Do you have a boy or a girl?” When I told them how I has raising the Unicorn, they told me they had concerns about my “lifestyle” and refused the donation. 

So many questions

20 Oct

I get a lot of questions about the Unicorn and my approach to gender diverse parenting. Here are some of the most frequently asked ones (nasty hateful ones aside) and a general idea of my answers.

What do you put on forms?

With a seven week old baby, there are not a ton of forms. So far, I have left this category blank any time I’ve had to pick.

What if she wants a doll/he wants a football?

I answer this question assuming the person does not know of my hatred of sports and my socio-political critiques of dolls, and is instead referencing the commonly held belief that dolls and sporting equipment are inherently gendered items.  I strongly disagree. I believe (as do many other far more articulate people) that society constructs social norms that attach gender to objects, and then enforces these norms.

The process looks something like this: Someone has a child, and that child is raised male. They are surrounded with blue, sports, cars, tools, and other things we randomly deem to be masculine. When that child is 2, people say, “My son just gravitated to sports, cars, and tools,” and then will go on to say, “My child is such a boy,” and will only be surrounded in masculine things.

Are male identified people the only ones to play sports, drive cars, or use tools? No. Also, did anyone give that child an equal opportunity to access tea sets, dolls, and dress up clothing without it being a grand hoorah? Probably not. I could use pretty much any bogus gender stereotype and extend it to justify why anyone would do the things they do. The reality is, we entertain ourselves with the things we find near us that bring us joy (and that our loved ones encourage us to enjoy with them). If that says something about our gender, then our food preference says something about our Nationality.

What if your kid ends up being a girly girl or big jock?

The point of all of this is not for the Unicorn to live their life without gender expression. We are trying to remove some of the coercion that takes place when all children are assumed to be heterosexual and fit into the gender binary from birth on unless proven otherwise. I hear a lot of very well intentioned people say, “I’d be okay if my kid was gay.” The unspoken half of that sentence is “but I would rather them be straight.”

Our family is growing around the concept that identities are dynamic, and will all be celebrated. We are kicking out the obligations to try living the norm first. A friend of mine recently said, “You are trying to build your house without closets. That way everyone’s already out.” I like that.

Aren’t you worried they will be bullied?

I was bullied so bad in school I still sweat and shake when I walk into a school. I am equally afraid that my child will be bullied or bully others. However, I’ve tried to make an agreement with the Unicorn that I won’t parent from a place of fear. Instead, we are learning about empathy, social justice, privilege, alienation, communication, and so many other piece of that complex puzzle every day. I hope that maybe these things can help. Telling kids to stop being targets of bullies is adult bullying, and it only strengthens the problem. I do not have a ton of solutions, but I know that isn’t it.

But what about their sex… You know, male/female?

The concept of “sex vs. gender” is hopefully on its way out, as “sex” is a creation of the medical and scientific industries (who have long marginalized and pathologized trans* and queer people). “Sex” is one way that body/gender hierarchy is created and community is divided. Dean Spade wrote this piece about the way we unnecessarily assign gender to body parts. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in further explanation.

Is this a new parenting fad, like Attachment Parenting?

No, but if someone writes a book about it and finds a celebrity promoter, then it probably will be.

There are many cultures that have identified and celebrated multiple genders as a part of their traditions for thousands of years (see Muxes and Two Spirited) peoples as two of many examples) and there is absolutely no way anyone can take credit for this or call it new. We have simply been told that a non-binary approach to gender or sexuality will make children “strange” (much like cosleeping, cloth diapers, and baby wearing) thanks to colonialism, capitalism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, and many other labels for oppressive norms.

Coming Out

11 Oct

I never thought I would try to blog. Now I am trying. I wanted to launch it on Coming Out Day (October 11), but doing things on schedule with a 7 week old baby is much easier said than done.

I haven’t been a parent for very long–7 weeks with unicorn, plus 10 months of pregnancy–but I have already learned that queer parenting is a process of coming out over and over and over. This is internal as much as external. I have to remind myself daily that I still get to be a part of queer community and that I don’t have to justify my identity to anyone. It is external, because I’m suddenly seen as a straight person (except for the time a lady in the grocery store thought that I was the Unicorn’s queer nanny).

And then there is a unique coming out for our family. The Unicorn is being raised in a “gender diverse” environment. We believe gender is a spectrum, and that the Unicorn should get to decide who they are (and continually grow with that identity) when they are ready. Instead of calling them a boy or a girl, we are using neutral pronouns (they/them/their) and working as hard as we can to expose them to an abundance of identities.

Getting to a place where I could comfortable approach gender in parenting was a struggle. As a person that has never “fit in” to any social norm, particularly gender, I knew this was going to be hard. I just wasn’t prepared for a complete nervous breakdown following my 20 week ultrasound.

The meltdown started at the clinic. Because we had a homebirth midwife, I had yet to receive care from the Western Medical Industrial Complex. My appointments took place in a calm office over tea with informative and supportive conversations about birth. Getting thrust into a boxy white walled medical plaza with overhead paging systems and stacks of obnoxious parenting magazines was enough to put me on the edge. In these clinics, queer identity disappears. You get beat over the head with the “What ifs” of home birth (bleeding, dead baby, dead mom, fire, flood, famine, etc). I could go on, but I believe it suffices to say the atmosphere was less than supportive.

We decided to learn what sex our child would be medically assigned in this ultrasound. I thought that it would help us understand how to avoid the gendering that our Unicorn would be lambasted with from day one. We knew we were not going to assign our child a gender or sexuality, but we still didn’t know how we would make that happen. The ultrasound technician told us by drawing an arrow to the fetal genitals and writing in the perceived sex. My anxiety peaked. All of this was supposed to be kept a secret. It was just for us to know what we were going to have to undo. Unfortunately, miscommunications happened, and our families found out.

At this time, my pregnancy became more obvious. I started to get a lot of attention. People made comments about my body. I got called “preggo”. Everything I put in my mouth was monitored. No matter how quirky queer femme I presented, I felt my identity slipping away from me. People started asking about my husband, remarking on how often I had to pee, and attributing everything I did to hormones. My belly was getting touched, usually without asking. Overall, I was feeling a lot of femme fury.

Simultaneously, that gender binary I hoped to break down was beating me over the head. No matter how hard I tried to get people to understand our approach to parenting, the Unicorn was given pronouns, expectations, hobbies, and characteristics. Family spread the word. I felt like I was disappearing. My parenting choices were undermined daily by people I really cared about, and I felt so much shame for who I was. Worst of all, the cold cruel world that I hoped to keep out (at least for the first few years of my child’s precious life) came creeping in. That is when the nervous breakdown ensued. I was full of so much doubt, fear, mistrust, and anger I did not know how to get through the day. I felt like my fetus and I got shoved in a new kind of closet.

Then a friend kindly nudged me to try and let go. She reminded me that i wasn’t going to win the battle against hatred, patriarchy, heterosexism, and the gender binary in an isolated ball of rage. I was four months away from bringing a tiny being that would need more love, patience, kindness, and support than any other being I had ever encountered into this world and I needed to let go of some of that pain and anger so I could open my heart.

And it wasn’t easy, but I did it.

Now the Unicorn is here, and it’s a new struggle. Every moment that we decide to be out in the world, we have to “come out.” I explain myself a lot, and have to challenge myself to be more patient and loving. We have to work with family to not see our child as gendered, to change their pronouns, and to challenge themselves to be supportive of something even if they don’t believe in it. I still struggle with anger, isolation, and shame, especially when the people we love choose to not accept and support us.

In the end, the same things that saved me the first time I came out are what get me by today. My family is surrounded in an amazing community that has given us more love and support than I ever could have asked for. They have helped ground me and fill me back up when I felt empty. Corny as it sounds, I have found a sense of support from blogs like Raising My Rainbow, this post from Feminist Pigs (and this one and this one, or really any of their posts). I’ve also found myself intentionally writing again, something I stopped doing a while back, leading me to start this blog. Finally, I took a minute to remember that this is just one piece of a bigger struggle. We aren’t the only ones in this place, and as hard as our circumstances might feel, there are many people in many other difficult situations that join us here. my family and my experience are just one little (fortunate and privileged even with the circumstances) piece of the story as to why we work for liberation.