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October is well-known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it is also designated as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. October 15th marks a day of remembrance and support. A few months ago I wrote a post as a letter to my unborn child, and it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to put on paper.
I have felt a calling all my life to be a mother, a teacher, and a nurturer. Decisions I made very early on in my life made a career in such things unfeasible, but I made those decisions confidently as I tried to navigate a situation I was unprepared to face alone, but alone I was. I didn’t feel like I could tell my family, and most of the friends I did tell thought I was making a terrible mistake. Still, no matter how terrified I was of what I was about to face, I gave my future, and my heart to a child that many would have cast away as a reminder of violence and hurt. In fact, it may have been that unborn child that kept me alive long enough to work through the emotional and psychological damage caused by the experience. When I lost that first baby I lost the focus of all my attention and energy . Worse were constant comments like “it was probably for the best” and “you’ll be relieved someday when you have a child out of love”. I didn’t care. It was still a loss.
A few years later I would be faced with the same fear. I was in a loving relationship with the father at the time, but we were barely feeding ourselves, and I knew at the time my health was in terrible shape. At our first appointment there was no detectable heartbeat, and I almost blacked out in the office. Repeated attempts yielded no results, and the final consensus was that I had a blighted ovum, an empty sack that the body treats as if it’s a viable pregnancy. For days before my surgery to have it removed I had nightmares of babies wailing, and in the days that followed I got the same ignorant comments as I’d gotten the first time combined with everyone’s refusal to let me grieve a baby that technically never existed. I still have a tiny pair of booties in a box. It existed in my heart.
All in all I’ve had this experience five times, and when Hubby and I talk about children there’s a little sting in the back of my heart that knows it might only be a dream. Our reasons for not trying yet are numerous and mostly logistical, and when we do try we will have a lot to deal with emotionally and physically. Since the wedding I feel like people are constantly asking if we want children or when we’re going to have them. My answer is always the same, “when and if it’s possible”. I keep it short, because my past is generally ignored, and my future as a mother is a rather sensitive and questionable subject.
I don’t write any of this to drag out old wounds or evoke sympathy. I write it because for many years I felt like I didn’t deserve to go through any kind of grieving process. Every time I felt sad I pushed it down. Every time someone told me “it’ll happen when the time is right” I pushed it down. Every time I felt like it was my fault for one reason or another I pushed it down. Any chance I had to work through my emotions turned in to a chance to push them to a place where I didn’t have to feel them, and society wholeheartedly supported that behaviour. It wasn’t until much later when I eschewed that the notion that my feelings of loss were silly or unfounded that I was able to release that weight and really move forward. So I write this to tell any one, man or woman, who has been in place that it’s alright to grieve. It doesn’t matter whether or not the situation was ideal or the timing was right. You have every right to feel your emotions and work through them in a healthy manner.
Let me tell you all a story that encompasses the last year and a half of my life, the story of my wedding, or rather the planning of my wedding. In my experience, planning a wedding was like making a vase on a pottery wheel for the first time.
I started with an image in my head and a chunk of resources. It would begin to take shape, then something unexpected would cause the whole thing to collapse, causing me to start over. If you’ve ever taken a pottery class you know how I felt. After a few serious setbacks, with nothing to show for all my time and effort but a shapeless lump of clay and a load of frustration, I felt like throwing the whole thing at the nearest wall.
I felt overwhelmed and defeated. All the magazine clippings and lists I had thought would help me paper-mache the perfect flowers for my vase were not helping at all. I had no vase. Fortunately for my wedding, deposits had already been made. Whether or not it was ever a beautiful piece of art, this lump of clay would be on display come September 4th, so I might as well keep at it and stop letting the frustration win.
What I did was a Type A Personality mortal sin worthy of the most harsh punishment any Post-it junkie could ever imagine. I threw out the lists and references. I stopped looking in books and making charts. I started from scratch without columns or bullet points.
I would love to tell you all this was the last time my wedding had to undergo reinvention, but life happens. Jobs are lost. Deadlines are missed. Hidden fees pop up. Vendors will take advantage of even the most well-read DIY bride. DJ’s will show up high with no music, equipment, or shoes. Cars will catch on fire…with Hubby catching a little fire, too. Most of these things happened less than a week before the wedding, bur something else happened that week that saved my sanity at the last minute.
I was venting one afternoon to the praying mantis that showed up in our yard the day wedding week began and stayed until I finished unpacking from our honeymoon, when something in the sky caught my eye. It was a single red hot air balloon. Nothing extremely remarkable, but pausing my rant to look up at it gave me the power and capacity to do something inconceivable to me at the time. I breathed. Just a slight change in position made the rest of my tasks no longer seem insurmountable. I was no longer fumbling; I was shaping. I was still learning as I went, but I could see the transformation taking place, and as it did I noticed something else.
At the risk of conjuring some strange poly queer version of the pottery wheel scene from Ghost, I will give you this. While I was the one seated at the wheel, there were many hands willing and available to help shape my vase, helping make it a very unique piece of artwork. This wedding was made possible and special by all the personal touches from t hose around me, the most important being from Hubby. While hands off through a good portion of the planning process, he was there when I really needed him. He reminded me why I was doing this in the first place and that people were there to see us and share our day no matter what it looked like.
On the day of the wedding it all finally made sense. Even without the lists and magazines it all came together, and all the trials leading up to it, like fires in a kiln, served to fortify and solidify the bond we were making. The gorgeous day and brilliant landscape left a prismatic mark on our celebration, and the love and support of our nearest and dearest made the months of work worth every bit of it.
In the end, my vase was not perfect. It was lumpy in spots and slightly lop-sided, but it was filled with love, and that made it beautiful. Throughout the process we learned volumes about ourselves, each other, the people around us, and life. These are the markings that went into our clay. These are the things that will stay with us forever.
Go now, throw away some lists and live!
There is something both nerve-wracking and amazing about what happens in a poly household when one of its member is experiencing rejection, a break up, or some other kind of heartbreak.
On one hand there’s the constant insistence from Hubby, the girlfriend, and anyone else involved that they love me. I appreciate it, family, but heartbreak is a process. You can’t tell me I shouldn’t be sad about breaking my blue vase because the purple one is still pretty. Support me with love, yes, but don’t expect telling me you love me to do away with the pain. It makes me feel like I’m somehow in the wrong for still feeling hurt when this happens. I feel guilty that the love I do have isn’t enough to stop the pain in its tracks. This is, of course, a ridiculous notion. Again, I loved my blue vase and how it caught the sunlight just right. Reminding me how well the purple one matches the curtains, even filling it with roses, while heartwarming, does not negate the fact that my blue vase caught the sunlight just right.
When Hubby and I broke up with our last mutual girlfriend it was hard. We were both experiencing our own feelings of loss, which were drastically different, but console each other at the same time. For a while it was rough. Neither of us could understand why the other was acting the way we were, and we started taking it personally. We were both guilty at that point of “blue vase-purple vase”, and we made a lot of fumbles with each other. In the end, we talked about it and apologized for being mutually ridiculous.
On the other end of the spectrum, the way our household pulls together in one big, loving hug is awe-inspiring. It really makes me speechless to be surrounded by such a strong support system no matter what the crisis might be, whether it’s about health, heartbreak, or just everyday stress. While it may not take away the pain, anger, fear, or anxiety, it does help to mitigate the emotional tidal wave.
Recently I made a few bad decisions that could have had a huge impact on our household. Meanwhile, I forged a couple new relationships at once, which is generally against my own policies because of the attention any new relationship needs, and wound up hurt. The way not only Hubby but the entire household gathered around me to support me made me realize just how loved I am, and just how luck I am to have them.
This family is one of the reasons I love my lifestyle and the choices Hubby and I have made to sustain it. Being an only child, I never had the tight-knit relationship siblings have. My mom died when I was 13, taking away the one source of support I felt I had. This household has shown me what it means to be family. Unbiased, unwavering, unconditional. We field the shift together, as a unit, so no one is lost in the undertow.
Thank you, family, for letting me have my experience and my moments, but also for helping me find my way back. Thank you for letting me cry but never too long. Thank you for never letting me close my heart or my eyes, and for always being there with a big group hug. You are my reasons for loving the way I do. I love you all.
Go now, find and love your chosen family.
In the past few weeks there have been more suicides in the young LGBT community than I can count on one hand. As a teacher, a mother, a member of the queer community, and a citizen of the country that is doing nothing to protect these young people from harassment, abuse, and humiliation, I find this trend unacceptable on a violently angry level. We’re talking the type of anger that makes my pupils twitch and my hands shake. These kids, like many in our community, were treated in ways that would make anyone feel helpless and hopeless, especially at a point in their lives where they are vividly aware of their differences and want nothing more than to be accepted.
All across the country gay adolescents are told they’re just confused, that they’re broken or sick, and that they should be ashamed of how they feel, think, and love. At best they are ignored by their parents, but often they are punished, chastised, or beaten. They are cast away, kicked out of their homes, and shunned by their families. Their spiritual leaders tell t hem they’re damned, their peers ostracize or bully them, and there is generally little to no support or protection from schools or the community.
But what about those of us who could help them? What about those of us who have been in their shoes and could guide them through one of the most trying and confusing points in their lives? We’re kept away from them in hopes they’ll grow out of it and in fear that we’ll encourage them to be themselves. Instead of being seen as a support system or valuable resource, queer adults are considered a detriment in a youth’s life. Why is this ok? At what point do we stop telling our children they can be anything they want to be when they grow up and giving them the mentors and environment to nurture whatever that might entail? When do we instead start limiting and judging them? More importantly, why is any of this treatment allowed to happen? Why were these young people pushed to a point at such a young age that they felt it would never get better?
In his September 22 article Dan Savage speaks of how the first of the recently publicized suicides touched him. Like many of us he was heartbroken. Like many of us he has been where these kids were and are today. Like many of us he knows that something needs to be done. It’s time the people who can give these young people a little hope stopped being stuck in a closet and spoke out to them.
“Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids?”, he says. “We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.”
So, Dan and his partner made a video. Then they made a channel on YouTube and encouraged members of the community to make and post their own videos to encourage these kids and share our stories to show that it does get better. To find the instructions and post your own video, you can go to youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject . As soon as I figure out how to use the camcorder function on my new smartphone I’ll be posting my own. If I can get over my technophobia and do this, you should all be making videos!
My life as a bisexual teen (and at the time there was only gay or bisexual in my world…no pansexuals, homoflexibles, heteroflexibles or otherwise) was fairly quiet. I kept it that way purposefully. It had its rough moments, but for the most part I’ve forgotten the trappings. Yes, I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that’s not always as free-thinking and forward as it sounds. I went to an all girls catholic school, and had several strikes against me already. I had friends who knew I was pagan, but it wasn’t until I was extremely close that I admitted to my sexuality.
I knew at a very early age I loved everyone equally, but never expressed any of it. I was told it was a phase, that I just didn’t know how to express my feelings towards friends, and that I’d get over it someday. My mother passed before I could try to talk to her about it, and the rest of my family was all about not making waves. My confusion and fear caused me to withdraw completely. I didn’t go on dates. I didn’t socialize much. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was almost eighteen, and that one defining moment started a revolution inside me. I could no longer be quiet.
I can’t imagine my life being any different. It took moving to Philadelphia, a place most consider a lot more conservative that Berkeley, CA, to find “my people”. I am never ashamed to talk about my husband and my girlfriend. I am never ashamed to be poly, pagan, or pansexual. I wish nothing more for these young people than to know how good life can be when you find where you belong. We owe them that optimism as people who have laid the path.
Today begins LGBT History Month, and what better way to start than with each of our own personal histories. Those who came before us gave us a wonderful foundation, and we have built the beginnings of a wonderful world, but these kids are the ones who will be in charge of finishing the job. We need to invest in them the pride and freedom we know is possible. Our goal isn’t just for them to survive, but to live. Like a good bra, we must not just support but uplift.
This is my promise to the queer youth of America…You can always come to me. You can share with me. You can talk to me. You can be safe with me. You have all my love, support, and optimism. You have my arms for hugging and my shoulder for crying. I will help in whatever ways I can, and I will never abandon you. I will never stop trying to show you that it does get better if you can promise me that you’ll never give up being you.
I knew at some point my family would read Pearls and Pentagrams, and probably have questions, but it seems the posts I thought would make the biggest waves were either avoided or just not as important as I had imagined. Apparently, the fact that Hubby and I open our relationship to other partners is not as shocking as what may or may not have happened to my 5-year old self. Why is it, I wonder, that I was barraged with emails about how “shocked” or “hurt” they were at events that happened to ME? Why is it that I was told I needed to relive these events for the sake of their processing? I write to inspire and support, not to prolong the pain from my past or to give anyone the means to victimize themselves with my experiences. Each and every negative moment of my life has been a learning experience, and I will not dredge up old wounds for the sake of my family’s lack of observation when such things were happening. I never blamed my mother for what happened out of her sight. I never blamed my father for calling Child protective Services when I mentioned the “tickle game”, and I never told them a thing. Why? I never said anything because I never let it happen again, and I would be damned if I was going to let them take me away from my mother. I had my ways of getting rid of people who were no good for either of us. At 5 and 6-years old I had developed a defense mechanism that kept us together and kept danger out of our household.
That being said, my father is a wonderfully supportive man who has never asked too many questions. I wonder sometimes if it stems from a desire not to know too any details or because he really just does not care as long as I am happy. We met in Las Vegas on Monday, and through the course of the week we had a few good conversations. I mentioned a few times a girl I was seeing for a while. As usual he did not bat an eyelash. Not once did he question the fact that, for the first time, his daughter had openly admitted not just to having the ambiguous “girlfriend” but to actually “seeing” a female, all while engaged to Hubby. I give him a lot of credit. Not all of my family would take such things in stride. My dad and I have always had a close relationship, but it has not always been a communicative one. we share laughs and the occasional “what’s going on it your life” conversation, but it was a lot more superficial when I was a teenager. Now that I am in my mid-twenties we talk more openly. Maybe it is because I never feel the need to hide who I am from him. Maybe I know deep down he would never judge me or not love me because of the life I live. He may try to counsel me otherwise, but he would never disown me because of the way I live MY life. He has never put me down for my sexuality, my spirituality, or my personal relationships. I can never thank him enough for that. Did he question me about my Woman Warrior post? Any dad would. Did he press me for more information? No, and I am eternally grateful for that. Neither of us needs to relive those moments in my life. I may have needed to live through them the first time to become the woman I am today.
On a lighter note, we didn’t win a dime in Las Vegas, and it poured the entire time. I, however, was just happy to spend some quality time with my father and see him enjoy himself. I could not have asked for a better way to spend my vacation.