Sunday, June 2, 2013

Year of the Gayby

It's been a pretty good year to be a gay person and a gay parent.

Gayby with bear.

For us, gay marriage is now available in our former home city and our current home city.  Gay folks are getting a lot of public support from our straight allies (thank you Mr. President).  We're watching the Supreme Court with a not unhopeful eye. The Boy Scouts have acknowledged that gay kids are people worthy of inclusion, even if they think gay adults are sketchy pervs.  Cue rainbow-hued unicorns gamboling through fields of non-GMO wildflowers...

So what's not to like.  Sadly for me, much of my professional training was dedicated to the following statement: "Never trust a narrative of progress."  By which I mean, if you were living in the cosmopolitan, multicultural paradise of Sarajevo in 1989, life was good, and if there were some hints of danger, really, what could go wrong in such a place?  By 1992 Sarajevans found out.  History is replete with similar examples.  But my point isn't to get all apocalyptic on you, or even to sell you hand knitted go-bags made from sustainable yak fur now available in my etsy shop (jk!).

My point is that we still have a long road ahead and its obstacles are unequally distributed.  As a queer lefty, I've heard a fair amount of talk that gay marriage only serves the gay elite.  Even though I have my own ideological issues with marriage, I disagree with that argument.  On average gay families are poor and more vulnerable than our straight counterparts, and marriage can be a cheap way to secure some basic rights.

But marriage won't solve all our problems.  As a community of queer people we are vulnerable.  Despite our current popularity (collectively we are the geeky girl who had a makeover and got asked out by the captain of the football team), we are still an unequal, and sometimes distrusted and despised minority.  This inequality is particularly burdensome for those who also occupy some other vulnerable category(s).  Now that we are riding high, we should make this the year of the QUEER and old, and disabled, and young, and chronically ill, and undocumented, and incarcerated, and poor, and don't forget our trans friends and allies (and I just couldn't fit person first language into that sentence).  And don't forget that gay people face many mental health problems, particularly high rates of addiction.  Even for those of us who don't fit into a category that adds additional complications to our gay experience, life can throw us into situations that make us vulnerable.

For our family, our strongest sense of vulnerability came in the days before and after LB's birth.  She came before our paperwork was signed and I was very sick.  I never asked my half-formed questions about what would happen to our family in a variety of medical worst case scenarios.  I had been in the hospital for ten days, when the doctor finally said it was time for LB to come.  I was 29w and had been desperately holding on, but by that moment I felt so sick that I new that it truly was time.  We went into the birth counting on the kindness of strangers to protect our family because that was all we had.

I was unconscious for about five hours after LB's birth.  In this, our experience was similar to Hillary and Julie Goodridge, the lead plaintiffs in Goodridge et al. v. Dept. of Health (the Massachusetts gay marriage case).  While her partner was unconscious, Hillary Goodridge was denied access to her baby daughter in the NICU.  She only gained access by lying and saying she was the baby's aunt.  In our case, B. was quickly sent up to the NICU.  She was the first family member to hold LB and did kangaroo care while I was still in recovery.  The hospital staff treated her like the mom that she is.

Why were things different? Broader social acceptance of gay people, a progressive teaching hospital, a recent lawsuit in our city against a different hospital that denied a gay man access to his dying partner?  Whatever the reason, I was thankful, but also pained and saddened by the thought that our girl could have been born and died alone.  What if she had been sicker?  What if B. hadn't been allowed in?

Anyone who's gay can be gay and vulnerable.  As we seek to built on these recent victories, I hope we can also find ways to share the burdens.  And for me, personally, that is a lofty idea that I'm not quite sure how to put into practice.  Suggestions solicited.

Check out the many other posts for Blogging for LGBT Families Day at Mombian.


  1. Thank goodness she was allowed to be there with your child. I also had full access to my daughter after she was born but there wasn't a minute when I wasn't anxious and worried that they wouldn't suddenly change their minds. That's what equality is to me - the right to not worry (even though we all know that discrimination is an entirely different beast, laws or no). Here's to our adorable gaybies!

  2. Yeah, it just sucks that at those times when you're already under stress there's the added stress of "am I going to have to whisper vile threats at this person to get what I want." But at least we have the gaybies-mine has been talking up a storm. Her grandma just got her a stuffed crocodile, which she named "Big Croc" which is pretty awesome since she can't say the letter r.