Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hating Hate

I am apparently out of the gay loop, because I was unaware of the rainbow flag controversy stirring up trouble in Meade, Kansas until I read this article in the Wichita Eagle. It seems some California transplants to Meade County flew a rainbow flag in front of the inn they've owned for the past two years. They claim it wasn't about gay pride, but rather about being in Kansas - a reminder of The Wizard of Oz and everybody's favorite (admittedly gay) anthem, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Townspeople boycotted their restaurant, bricks were thrown through windows, the flag was even cut down. I'm quite sure that there's a movement afoot in the great state of Kansas to ban all references to rainbows, and to stone anyone who breaks the ban.

I'm having trouble understanding why a symbol of gayness (or support for gay folks) inspires such vitriol, but I can understand Bob Mabery's response:

Meade, he said, was a "respectful little town, but this has practically destroyed it..." For a while he was so upset he quit going to the Chuck Wagon Restaurant for his coffee. "No one's going to go around that place," Mabery said of the Lakeway. But he doesn't hate gay people, he quickly added. "I guess I'm just one who thinks it belongs in the closet."

I don't necessarily agree with the attitude that homosexuality should be hidden, but I can relate to it. Sometimes when I see a straight couple making out in front of my house, or in the Castro, I feel the same way about heterosexuality - I'm fine with it, as long as it's not in my face. It is interesting to me, though, that it is not the folks who are responding with such hatred who get blamed for the disruption in an otherwise peaceful town - it is the flag flyers.

What Mr. Mabery (what a great name for a smalltown guy) seems not to realize, is that whether gays are closeted or not, we are vulnerable to those bricks through our windows, to loss of livelihood, and worse. Silence leads to a risk of being found out, and then the repercussions from that discovery. At what point do you speak up? The hatred that paints profanity on a brick and throws it through someone's window for merely flying a rainbow flag (perhaps one not even intentionally imbued with queer meaning) gets closeted, too - but it exists, under the surface, whether it's openly discussed or not.

If we remain silent, the bigotry is allowed to continue. A gay man is found out and loses his job, and the silence continues. A lesbian gives herself away somehow and has no recourse when she's kicked out of her apartment. The police beat patrons of a bar merely for being different. When the silence is broken, what you find is that the haters are in the minority (a rather vocal minority, mind you) and that most other people don't care that much because it doesn't impact them. What the majority does seem to dislike, though, is the upsetting of the norm: 'If only those gays would stay in the closet where they belong, we could go back to the nice way things were, without all those bricks and insults flying through the air.' It is the not the brick throwers who get blamed in this equation, but rather the people who are "causing" the throwing of the bricks - the ones who were subjected to bricks, proverbial and otherwise, while everyone else got to live their nice lives under the old paradigm of silence.

The majority, of course, is not comfortable with homosexuality, but they're not throwing bricks. The brick throwers are the ones that confound me. Where does all that hate come from? What fear is it that my form of differentness inspires that cause some to so hate me without even knowing me?

After the November 2004 elections, I drove home from work listening to reports that exit polls indicated Bush had won because of so-called "values." I wept at the thought that I was more scary to Americans than terrorism and an ongoing war without an exit strategy and an economy in the doldrums. Those exit polls have been debunked, but that disbelief and heartbreak I felt stays with me.

When I read stories like the one about Meade County in Kansas, I have to remind myself that this is a long process, and that part of progress is backlash. We are no longer silent, I am free to live my life openly (at least in San Francisco), and it is the haters who are getting outed. I wonder to myself if those throwing bricks are descendents of Irish immigrants, or Italian immigrants, and if they know that not that long ago, their families were the targets of hate, told to go back to where they came from. I wonder, too, whether someday, after the gays and lesbians have fully assimilated into greater society, we will turn our backs and wish the rising voice of a previously silent minority would just be quiet so we can go back to living in our "respectful little" towns. Will we get our piece of the pie and then do our best to ensure we don't have to share it with anyone else? The cycle repeats itself, and history shows that eventually we will prevail - and more than likely, we will desperately hang onto the status quo once it's inclusive of us.

Friday, August 25, 2006


I'm having a bloxistential crisis. Who am I writing for? Is anyone reading this? Am I writing for them, and what do they think of this blog? Even Anonymous' off-humor comments to my last entry give me some hope that I'm not just pissing in the wind here. Hello? Anybody else out there?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Too Many Choices

I have always known I would be a mom. Even as it started to dawn on me in early adolescence that I was a lesbian, I knew I would be a mother someday. It has taken longer than I expected (if I recall, my first child was supposed to arrive right around when I was 26), it certainly is something I've planned and thought a great deal about, and yet with the reality of it bearing down on me, I feel completely unprepared, and a little surprised that it seems like it's happened so suddenly. That's hardly the case at all.

Being a lesbian in a relationship and deciding you want to have a child is reminiscent of all the other areas in our lives where we have too damn many choices. On the Internet. With our finances. Selecting a career. With all our consumer choices (I couldn't even decide which article about too many consumer choices to pick - there are 3 links in that sentence). And goodness knows, plenty has been written about all the difficult choices that come after you have a baby (work or stay at home; breast or bottle; be their friend or be their parent, etc. etc. etc). I like to joke that whatever else we had working against us, we had a surplus of uteruses (uteri?) in our household, so offspring should be a cinch. I didn't think about what it means to be faced with so much choice.

Our options went something like this (I've created a handy flowchart for your reference - but the options were so plentiful, you'll have to click on the image to see it in a legible size):

A---- and I are pretty indecisive people as a general rule. But we've figured out (sort of) that when the right choice comes along, we know. We dithered around looking at bed frames for several years, for instance. And then one day wandered randomly into a store after eating brunch with friends around the corner. We walked into the store with the intention of wasting a few minutes browsing. We walked out of the store having put down a 50% deposit on a bed frame that is, still, the most expensive piece of furniture we own. We saw it, we both loved it, and we knew.

Our baby decision didn't quite go like that.

Presented with too many options, we went with the path of least resistance - let's try everything and see what happens. But then we realized that even making a non-decision resulted in our needing to make endless other decisions (see flowchart). So we went back to the drawing board and used something like a process of elimination.

Here's what we knew:

1. We were both potentially interested in carrying a baby.
2. We definitely wanted to adopt at least one of our children from the foster care system (woohoo! two choices eliminated in one fell swoop - no international or private adoptions for us).
3. We wanted our child to be African-American, or mixed race (A---- is black, I'm a Russian Jew).
4. We didn't want to share responsibility for parenting with anyone else (between the two of us, we have enough opinions about parenting to get us through).

There were other factors to consider, too. A---- is an artist, and welds metal sculpture and furniture in her downtime (whatever floats your boat, I say), which means she's exposed to a lot of toxic chemicals. If she were to carry a baby, she would have to give that up for awhile, not an appealing thought for her. On the other hand, since her only sibling - her brother - died three years ago, she is the last in line to carry on her family name, something that is very important to her father. I am one of four children, my brother already has two kids, and I don't have a strong attachment to my family name for some reason.

At some point in this process, my biological clock kicked in with shocking force. Suddenly, I felt compelled to get pregnant, and NOW. A---- was still reluctant to give up the welding, and so we decided I would carry our first baby, with the adoption option, or A----'s womb as likely candidates for the second child. However, unable to completely close off all other options, even as we perused sperm bank catalogues online (yes, you can shop for sperm online, and whether you're in the market or not, it's worth checking out all the factors to be considered when selecting the ideal genetic complement to your own dna) we contacted a fost/adoption agency we thought we might be interested in working with one day.

I devoured books on how to chart my cycle, discovered Target has the best prices on ovulation predictor kits, and found myself strangely in touch with parts of my body I'd never thought about before, much less seen. We found a donor at a local sperm bank that was like our bedframe - we knew instantly when we read our profile that he was the one.

And then, one cold winter evening, we inseminated. It was anything but romantic. Clinical, a bit of a comedy of errors, stressful, for sure. And totally bizarre. After years of imagining being pregnant with no chance that I was, suddenly there was a chance. And there were remnants of a complete stranger inside of me. Sperm. Inside me. Perhaps not unusual for the average woman, but for me, it was truly out of the ordinary.

I got duly nauseated, and convinced that my tummy was growing, and exhausted. And I took about 25 pregnancy tests, all of which were negative. And then two weeks after we inseminated, I got my period and lost the hearing in my right ear on the same day.

Suddenly our plan felt very much taken out of our hands. Probably an auto-immune disease, said the doctors. Take steroids, don't get pregnant for now. The hearing came back, then went away again. It did this several times. I handed over so much of my blood to the lab that they could probably start a blood bank in my name. They ruled out all the "major" potential causes (brain tumor, for instance) and then started testing for lesser known diseases.

While all this was happening, A---- and I stepped back, looked at the flowchart, and considered our choices. Because something strange had happened during the brief moment in our lives when we'd thought that perhaps I could be pregnant. We both had felt uneasy. As if we were playing at something that wasn't real - simulating a family headed up by a heterosexual couple. Pretending that we were creating a baby that was a combination of the two of us, pretending we were "normal."

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with us, or with lesbian couples who do decide to inseminate. I'm not even saying we won't do it ourselves one day - indeed, I was shocked at how difficult it was to let go of the idea of being pregnant once I'd done so much to get ready for it. But every time A---- or I hear or see or read a story about children in the foster care system, something clicks with us. With so much love to give, and no way to create a child that's a mix of her DNA and mine, why wouldn't we adopt a child that might not otherwise have a permanent home?

Tentatively, we moved forward with the adoption agency and started letting go of the babymaking project. I gave away my fertility books and stopped asking the doctors when I could start trying to get pregnant again. I started taking my allergy meds after six months of watery eyes and a stuffy nose and slowly stopped being jealous of my friends (of whom there were very suddenly many) who were pregnant. Eventually my sadness at not getting pregnant disipated, and my excitement about adopting a child grew.

Writing about the whole process reminds me how un-sudden this has been. But I'm still sitting here a little bit shocked that so soon so much will change. Only seven years late, and over a year of active planning later, it appears we will be moms in only a matter of months.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What Now?

I'm back from vacation, and it's taken me a few days to get settled in. We spent four days on the north shore of Lake Tahoe and learned a lot about what we don't want to do as parents - yell at our kids while we sit on our butts on the beach rather than get up and, I don't know, play with them; give our 2-year-old a laptop to play with at breakfast while we alternate between talking on our cell phone and tapping away at our own laptop; allow our children to declare that one of their parents is more important than the other because she earns more. We did also see some examples of good parenting, evident in the behavior of their offspring, but for some reason the evidence of bad parenting stood out for us.

Perhaps this is because I had my tb test this morning - and after we get the results on Friday, we'll be done with our paperwork and ready to start the home study. Our days as parents are imminent and looming large in both our minds.

But today I want to write on the gay marriage issue, not our impending parenthood. There has been a fair amount of press, of late, about the gay marriage backlash within the community of queer activists. It was this U.S.News & World Report article that captured my attention this morning. What next? is the gist of the article - with so many states successfully passing legislation against gay marriage, how best to proceed with the movement to secure gay rights?

It made me think about how seductive the idea of gay marriage can be - has been. As crass as this sounds, I want to marry A---- in the same way I want to buy a house. Right now we rent, and as much as we love our apartment and our neighborhood, there's this niggling feeling always in the back of our minds that we wish we owned the place we lived in. What difference would that make? We have a roof over our heads, and walls and doors that lock, and a toilet and a shower and a sink - all the basic necessities. We've most definitely made the place our own, as much as we can. But we lose out on the tax benefits of being homeowners, and on the ability to replace our rotting windows, and to install a washer and dryer now that we're going to have an infant. A---- can't paint our room to look like a tropical hideout without thinking about whether there will be a problem when we move. All-in-all, it's not a permanent home, it's not truly ours; it doesn't belong to us. When we think of buying a home, it's about roots and security and the future. It's about permanence.

We don't need a piece of paper or a judge or church to make our relationship permanent. It is what it is, and we are committed to making it work, come hell or high water (and we've survived a little bit of both over the past five years). Just as we don't need to buy a house in order to have a home, we don't need to get married in order to have a lifetime commitment to each other. But there is a difference that comes from formalizing a relationship or purchasing a home. There are the tax benefits, sure. But there's also the fact that in all sorts of ways you acknowledge each other officially when you're married. When you file your taxes - whether jointly or separately, you must declare yourself married to someone and identify who they are. In order to declare someone other than your spouse beneficiary of your 401k, your spouse has to sign something approving the other beneficiary. Legally, A---- is a stranger to me, no matter how deeply she's buried in my heart or wrapped up in my life. If the building we live in burns down, our belongings are covered by insurance - but the fact that our home is gone will not be, because after all, we are just renters.

This is the seduction of the gay marriage issue for me. I imagine what it will be like when we finally can get married, and I understand that there is a difference, and I crave that solidity, can't help but hope to have that governmental fertilizer to help our roots grow strong.

But marriage is not the be-all and the end-all of gay life. Afterall, you can be queer, and not be in a relationship at all. This morning, I heard a story on the radio about how HR departments look at candidate's profiles on MySpace and Friendster to glean additional information that wouldn't necessarily be legal to ask in an interview, or that someone likely wouldn't bring up or admit to in an interview. And one of the things mentioned by the recruiter being interviewed (who sounded a lot like Harvey Fierstein to me) was that a potential employer could find out you're gay. Surely before we worry about whether we can get married, we should ensure that being gay isn't a problem when it comes to getting hired - and once our basic rights are secured, and the discrimination diminishes over time, the gay marriage thing will follow in due course.

Indeed, just last month, a group of prominent gays and lesbians wrote and signed a statement entitled "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships." With the setbacks we're now facing in the gay marriage movement, with all the changes to marriage occurring even without giving queers the right to marry, with so many other battles to fight when it comes to gay rights, it is perhaps time to refocus.

I agree with this in principle. And the part of me that can't help but wish to legally marry my beloved can wait, because all of me believes it will happen in my lifetime.

And in the meantime, I intend to fight the battles that ensure that all of us are covered by healthcare, whether we're employed, married to someone with a job, or not.

Friday, August 11, 2006


I'm on vacation - no posts until the week of August 21, but feel free to peruse my archives, leave comments and check back in upon my return. Thank you, dear readers!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I've been struggling with how to write this post because some of the larger topics I've been discussing are starting to hit a little closer to home, and all of my questions about gay marriage and religion and bigotry are looming larger than ever.

A---- and I are deep into the process of being approved as fost-adopt parents - which means we'll be adopting a child from the foster care system. It's intense and involved and we've already literally handed over our blood and our DMV records and our finger prints, but we haven't even started the home study phase, which is apparently the most intense and involved of all. We are in turn elated and terrified by what we're taking on, and even when we have our doubts, we know it's the right thing for us.

But becoming parents strips away any pretense that we can pass as straight when we want to, and before we're even approved, this new reality is inserting itself in our lives, most notably when it comes to A----'s family.

Over the past five years, I have worked hard to ingratiate myself with the H's. Their dream for their daughter was that she would marry a nice Christian black man. Instead she ended up with a nice Jewish white woman. One out of four ain't bad, right? I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry when Mrs. H called up A---- after the first time they'd met me to tell her what a lovely woman I was - and what a wonderful wife I'd make for some nice man someday. But three years later - this past April - Mr. and Mrs. H sat in our kitchen on their second visit to our home, and asked me whether A---- and I might like a toaster oven for Christmas. The toaster is surely the most domestic of all gifts, and I took this question, directed solely at me (A---- was at work at the time) to be an indication that they were accepting the two of us as a domestic unit.

All of this was brought about by a careful policy of don't-ask/don't-tell employed on everyone's part. A---- and I visited with them, but did not hold hands or kiss in their presence, and in exchange, Mrs. H stopped telling A---- that she had to change her lifestyle and get right with Jesus. I worked hard not to refer to A---- as "Babe" in front of her parents, even while I made insider jokes with them about their daughter's quirky ways as only a wife could, and they made it clear that they appreciated how happy I made their daughter. All, of course, without ever saying out loud that A---- and I were a couple, or using any of the gay-lesbian-queer-homosexual words out loud.

But this past Sunday, we called them up and told them of our intention to adopt, and all our pretenses went up in flames. Their initial reaction was, on the scale of the H family, quite positive. They were certainly not beside themselves with joy, but nor did they bring up hellfire and brimstone. They responded mostly with a lot of questions, including asking how old the child would be, whether we had any babysitters lined up, and if we knew we were going to have to go to church now. We got off the phone with them tentatively happy at how well it had gone, but a little tense about when the other shoe might drop.

It took only two days. Yesterday I called to wish Mr. H a happy birthday. Mrs. H answered and told me she'd been thinking about me and A---- a lot. There was a long pause while I waited for her to follow up, and she waited for me to give her an opening.

"Anything in particular?" I finally asked. "Or just thinking about us in general?"

"I've been thinking about salvation," Mrs. H told me. "I've been praying for your salvation."


It felt like a soft lob to my stomach, that word "salvation." I didn't know at first what it meant, but as the meaning sank in, the nausea came with it. This woman whose daughter I love and like and adore (with all the subtleties inherent in each of those words), this woman who I had bent over backwards to please, this woman who had slept in my home, on my sheets, and eaten my food - she believes I'm going to Hell.


I will be the first to admit that there are many ways in which I could live my life better. And not just in the guilty California liberal way (I should drive less, recycle more, exercise daily, eat less fat, volunteer regularly, live as one with the earth). No, my real sins are that I can be judgmental and temperamental and I too often speak sharply with people who don't deserve it. I harbor grudges, and as far as I extend myself for those I love, don't always extend myself far enough for them. I am not at peace with myself let alone with the concept of a higher being, but all of this I figure I will work on and work on and work on until eventually I die.

I do not consider my sexuality to be a sin.

And yet. Salvation. Oh, the power of language. I still cannot digest what is encompassed in that word. I looked it up to see if it would help clarify its meaning.

Salvation: Preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil.

How difficult it is to step back from this - that word from that woman's lips - and try to see the bigger picture. Is this really an expression of her beliefs, or is her faith just a smoke screen for her bigotry?

I can write off James Dobson and Ann Coulter and Maggie Gallagher and even Reverend Fred Phelps, whether I choose to consider their positions or not. But I cannot write off the woman who will be grandmother to my children. She prays for my salvation because she cares for me and she believes that I am going to Hell. Her belief that I am a sinner is as engrained in her as my belief that I am not. No matter how many cakes I bake her, or how many times we laugh together at her kitchen table or mine, she may never look past my sin to accept me fully.

And if that's the case, does it matter whether the beliefs are pure or just prejudice wrapped up in scripture? She is working hard to help her daughter save herself from the eternal fires. When I am a mother, I will fight just as hard as Mrs. H does to protect my children - perhaps even from their own grandparents.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Things That Make You Shake Your Head

Off Topic: Today I was driving to work and passed by a VW Jetta with a "Go Vegan" bumpersticker. The woman driving was smoking. How come this strikes me as contradictory?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Confession

About three weeks ago, A---- and I sold our television and DVD player. The intention was to use the proceeds to buy a flatscreen tv with a built in DVD because it will take up less real estate in our apartment and lives, but we found ourselves at Best Buy unable to commit, and so here we are, tv-less and only vaguely perturbed about it. Eventually, we both figure, we'll buy one.

But then, we're odd, and we know that. My co-workers already thought it was strange that I didn't have cable. Nope, not even basic. We get by with rabbit ears nine months out of the year. I get the sense that people attribute this lack of investment in tv culture to my latent socialism, or they assume I'm judging them for watching too much tv. It doesn't help when I explain that we mostly watch PBS and we don't need cable to get that station. God, it even sounds snooty to me when I write it out here, but it's true nonetheless.

Three months a year, however, all of this changes. Three months a year, we cave to our basest cultural cravings, and how I love those months. Each January, I call our cable company and pay the introductory $39.99/month for three months in order to get the Gold Package - somewhere in the range of 3,268 channels, including the all-important Showtime. After I call Comcast (don't get me started on them), I send out an Evite. For three months, it doesn't matter that it's raining outside because we don't have to leave the house for anything but work. All that entertainment, right there, 24/7.

And Sunday nights, our social life comes to us. We somehow pull together meals that accomodate the lactose-, wheat-, egg-, meat-, and vegetarian-intolerant appetites of all our dyke friends (usually by doing the good lesbian thing and throwing a potluck), and together we all give into the guilty pleasure of watching The L Word. Because that's the real reason we subscribe to cable in the first place.

I have several lesbian friends who can't watch the show because it is such a disappointment. And it disappoints me too. It depicts a world that's about as far from my reality as can be. But then, Desperate Housewives probably isn't an accurate depiction of the average straight viewer's life either - that isn't why folks watch it. I don't watch The L Word to see reflections of myself on the screen. I couldn't even tell you why it's more compelling for me to watch a lesbian psycho-drama than it is for me to watch a bunch of straight people falling in and out of love, realistic or not. As badly written as it can be, as inconsistent and frustrating as the characters often are, it gives me a thrill to tune in once a week, three months out of the year, to watch actresses pretend to be lesbians (and I am including the few on the show who actually are).

No show can be all things to all people. No show can even be all things to all lesbians. I've also spent the last five years addicted to Six Feet Under (on DVD), but what I loved about it wasn't that it was "real," (because I don't know anybody whose life even remotely resembles the lives depicted in that show), but that the characters stayed true to themselves, no matter what got thrown their way. The L Word fails at this, but I don't think of it as the kind of highbrow tv where you'd find that kind of writing and character development. It's trash tv, and the only reason it disappoints is because it's the only lesbian tv show out there.

Would an accurate lesbian tv show really be just about lesbians, though? Maybe I'm weird, but my world is populated by lesbians and gay men and straight men and women as well. Even the Cosbys, great black hope that that show was, had white friends. To me, The L Word is a step on the path toward weaving lesbians into the greater cultural fabric. I look forward to the day when I turn on the tv (assuming I have one) and a lesbian character will be integral to a drama or comedy that is not classified as "lesbian." I look forward to the day when I won't feel compelled to watch a show just because they have a lesbian character or episode or theme. When we get to the point where we're on as many shows as we aren't on, and I can pick and choose what I want to watch based purely on what I think is good - that'll be the day...

In the meantime, Sunday nights from January-March, you can find me at home thoroughly enjoying my trash tv. Only five more months to go.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


A---- and I live in a very expensive, very wonderful city. Our neighbors across the street are the sweetest family - a teacher, a marketing exec who works from home, their five-year-old son adopted from Guatemala, and their baby daughter adopted from the foster care system. The parents are two gay men. Within a one-block radius from us are at least ten queer families, and people of every ethnicity I can think of. We know this because of the block parties and barbecues and neighborhood garage sales and impromptu meetings on the corner we have somewhat regularly. I cannot imagine there is anywhere else in the world where we would feel more comfortable than we do on our little hill in San Francisco.

But despite all this, we spend more hours than I care to think about talking about leaving. The cost of living in such a wonderful place is high - monetarily, and because of the monetary stress, emotionally. But when we peer up out of our little oasis of diversity and acceptance to look around at where we might be able to afford to live, we get stuck on all we'd have to give up. There aren't many places where an interracial lesbian couple are bound to feel comfortable, and there are even fewer of those places where we would be able to find jobs and afford to buy a home.

If we stay in the United States that is. Every once in awhile, our conversations turn north or cross the Atlantic, as we consider our options in countries that have institutionalized their acceptance of the gays and the lesbians. When I read articles like Steve Kluger's piece in today's USA Today about the ease with which he and his partner settled into rural Canada, I wonder if we're struggling for naught down here. Sure, San Francisco is a haven of acceptance (for the most part) but we don't have to drive far to start feeling uncomfortable. And we think of the ease of our lives during the three months we spent in rural France, and wonder why we put up with our commutes and worries about making ends meet and struggles to buy a little plot of land of our own. Granted, we weren't working or out in France - but somehow nothing seemed as difficult as it does here once you removed the day-to-day stresses that are inherent to life in an American city. And rural America is not an option for us - we would stick out like sore thumbs and would fear for our safety.

I wonder sometimes if we would have left SF long ago if we weren't queer. It's one thing to feel different than others in your community. It's another when you noticeably are different - and of the group that seems to be the object of so much hate these days. The options feel awfully limited.