Coming Out in Light of the World Vision Kerfuffle

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With my students I talk a lot about how we, I think as a culture, tend to define our things but what we are not, or what we don’t like. We might say things like, “I’m a Democrat,” but it feels more strongly like “I’m not a Republican, and therefore I have chosen the other box, default Democrat.”

But today, in light of the shitty week I had with the roller coaster of World Vision emotions (that you can read about how it started here and ended up here and some cool thoughts about it here), I thought I’d break a rule and tell you all:

I’m not straight.

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I fully recognize that I live in a world with a hetero normative story line. I am presumed straight by those who meet me, and ‘lie by omission’ when I don’t ‘set the record straight.” Because I am married to a man, I am assumed to be straight. Just like because I don’t have a wheelchair, or guide dog, I am assumed to be able-bodied (rather than looking at the invisible disability of chronic mental illness). This idea of ‘passing,’ is something I am familiar with on a daily basis, and get the privilege of choosing if, and when, and to whom I come out, if I do at all.

So last week I had drinks with a friend, and as we were discussing the World Vision drama, and all my frustration behind the big flip-flop, I said…

“I was telling Boof this, that people don’t realize. I have his protection in church. I am accepted and loved and welcomed with open arms because of him. They see me the way they want to see me, as a straight, married woman with a child. I am the walking white woman stereotype, in their minds. But without my husband, if I was on my own, and openly dating, or was married to a woman they would think very very differently of me. So this decision of theirs, it could affect me. I could not be hired because of who I am. “

And his response:

“Are you a lesbian?”

It wasn’t a question with judgment attached. He had been tracking my conversation and, since he’s in a relationship with a woman who identified as lesbian, seemed to be trying to understand. And that’s when I got quiet. Because no, I know I’m not a lesbian. I know that like I know I’m not black. But the question brought back memories, of being in high school, or after college with no boyfriend or ‘marriage prospects,’ and my sister saying to me ‘mom and dad think you’re a lesbian.” It brought back memories of being called ‘Sir’ when I had short hair and was shopping in the mall, or gasp, even wearing a bikini. I said, “no, I’m not a lesbian, but I’m not straight.”

My parents are deeply religious fundamentalists, and were probably part of the group of evangelicals that would take their money away from starving African children to prove a point. They will probably never know me beyond what they see on the surface. But I balk at the labels, because straight doesn’t fit, and lesbian doesn’t fit, and bisexual doesn’t fit either. A student once asked me if I was pansexual and I said I don’t know, because I’ve never been attracted to someone who’s trans. It’s not that I don’t like labels because they feel too labelly, it’s that I haven’t yet figured out what label actually fits. It’s like shopping for jeans, do any of them REALLY make my butt look good? I mean, for realz yo…

But what I do know, is that I’m not straight.

That’s the closest I can get to a label. NotStraight. Unless I tell you about energy. And how I am attracted to energies that complement my own, and that often means women. And sometimes men. And sometimes I’m not attracted to anyone at all (except of course my husband, right?). I’m married, to a man. If I weren’t married to him, I might be married to a woman. Or I might not be married at all. I might date a man, or a woman, or nobody. I don’t know. I don’t plan who I’m attracted to, or who ends up clicking with, and it goes beyond genitals, though those are fun aren’t they?

People who know me intimately will not be surprised by this news. It might give some an ‘aha’ to explain the previously unexplained. Some already know, like my graduate school peeps and some coworkers who I share openly with because it’s come up in conversation. This isn’t some big coming out manifesto, as I don’t even know what I would be coming out to or for, other than the fact that the World Vision kerfuffle affected me deeply. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of feeling like without Boof I would be less of a person in Christian circles.

Monday Morning

 

I’m Not the Angry One

jumping with dad

It was an emotionally exhausting journey across the mountains. Potamus slept until Issaquah (which is about…um…thirty minutes), and then cried until we got to Cle Elum for a snack. And then he ate a lot of french fries, and cried some more because he was out of water, and then he was content for five minutes down the road before he started to scream again because he had pooped.

We had three stops on the “2.5 hour” drive. It was hell. There might have been a ten minute stretch where I plugged my ears and shut my eyes (I wasn’t driving) and tried to notice my breath like I did when I was in labor or in Savasana in yoga. It helped me to keep myself from hurling out of the speeding car at 70 mph.

But other than that, the trip was brilliant. There was a wound-up kiddo who loved his gifts, and plenty of cupcakes that induced sugar highs for all of us, and maybe some good natured teasing. I even managed to only shout one time, out of passion and not anger, about how cool I actually think The Pope is (because my dad insinuated he was evil because he was ‘Marxist,’ which I later debunked). And then, about ten minutes until we left, the shit hit the fan. Somehow my dad managed to start yelling at me and saying that I had been yelling at him and it became a crazy convoluted argument about who-the-fuck-knows-why, of which I left feeling confused and sad and might have cried for twenty minutes until we got out of the city limits. Ad if you know me, you know that I cry approximately every 2 years, so it’s a pretty freaking big deal.

Because no matter what I do, I somehow am always pegged as the ‘angry one’ in the family. I’m tired of having a perfectly good time and still not ‘doing it right enough,’ to show my family t hat I’m not the angry  depressed teenager I used to be. But somehow in pouring my heart out to Boof, I realized…I am not the angry one. I haven’t ever really been the angry one. In fact, my dad, who has been so pegged as jovial and overly rational (let’s sit down and discuss this conflict using I statements) is actually the angry one. He is angry. I am not. And that realization shifted something in me.

I am not angry.

Knowing that he is angry relieves me. It makes sense for why he’s been lashing out and blaming me for things that I didn’t actually do. I don’t know why he’s angry, what hes’ bottled up over the years, but that’s not my job to figure out. My job is to work on myself, which I have been doing in therapy, and it’s my job to continue to treat him compassionately. So while I don’t like having to have experienced that explosiveness earlier today, I do like the insight, because now I feel like I am better prepared to handle myself in the future.

What have you learned about your parents over the years that has re-shaped how you view yourself, your childhood, or them?

Trayvon is my student…

Potamus and Russ, my best guy friend, co-worker, and teaching mentor

Potamus and Russ, my best guy friend, co-worker, and teaching mentor

We were playing in the backyard last night. Boof had gotten a new weed wacker and so we were trying to get some weeds trimmed down. We were drinking beer and hanging out and lovin’ on our little guy Potamus. It was a relaxed, happy, family-lovin’ type night. And then we came inside, and Potamus had randomly changed the channel to the news, and that’s when we heard: George Zimmerman found not-guilty.

I felt a lump in my throat and in my heart. I’m sad to say that I wasn’t shocked by the verdict, it seems that all these high profile cases end up not-guilty…I wonder if being high profile makes a jury take even more caution with “reasonable doubt,” but as far as I understood the facts of the case, manslaughter should have been chosen. Boof and I started talking about it, and he brought up the legal system, talking through all of these logistics of how cases are tried in the media vs. tried in a courtroom. And, I was only half-listening.

Because I kept thinking about my students. My lovely, beautiful, funny, intelligent, “at-risk-youth” who could, at some point, end up like Trayvon. They’ve smoked pot and stolen things and some have ended up in jail for weeks, months, or years. But they are beautiful people who do not deserve to be gunned down for walking home or ‘being in the wrong place at the wrong time’ like so many have suggested. My students, mostly those of color, are amazing people and deserve all the chances in the world to live and love and flourish. They don’t deserve to get stink-eye when entering a store, or to be followed, or to be assumed by dress or mannerisms or their past to be lesser than my white, home-schooled, middle-class students. I love each one of them as if they were my own rascally teenage son, and the thought that this could happen to them is maddening.

Over on Blacked. Bunched. Mass. Mom, she writes a beautifully powerful entry entitled Open Season on My Sons, in which she explores and explains the conversations that she will have to have with her sons about this case and their own safety going forward. And it got me thinking about my own son, who is white as milk, and will grow up with everything it means to be a privileged white middle-class male. Will I be pro-active enough to have these conversations with him, about guns, and safety, and not stereotyping someone based off fear and style of clothing and color of skin? I know I’ve thought long and hard about having conversations with him about sexuality, but I hadn’t rehearsed these race conversations in my mind, yet. I’ve been thinking the fact that my son goes to a diverse daycare, which will end up in a diverse school, and our friends are diverse, that he would just know that black boys/men are just as worthy as he is. But I don’t think that passivity is good enough anymore. I will have conversations where he will hear, directly from my mouth. Maybe I’ll start with introducing him to my students, who are lovely, intelligent, hilarious, beautiful, individuals, despite the other labels that society has given them.

How are you reacting to the verdict? What conversations about race do you have with your children?

Mother Identity Dysmorphia

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Not too long ago I tackled the Teacher Identity question in my On Being Labelled “Nice” by my students entry. Because, frankly, I don’t think of myself as “nice,” very often. And, this question sorta popped up over the weekend when I was thinking about my style of mothering.

Now, it sorta goes back to my view of my own (adoptive) mother, who was very guided by her head, intellect and kept safe by forming strict boundaries and rules. Doing something was “because I said so,” and there was little wiggle room to negotiate out of something. Now, these aren’t bad traits to have, but I think that sometimes it’s okay to examine the entirety of a situation before you hang your hat on ‘these lima beans must be eaten or you’re going hungry.’ I’ve heard of parents making their kid go hungry if they didn’t eat the dinner they cooked, but my mom made us eat it…eventually. Don’t want it for dinner? Fine. You’ll have it for breakfast. Don’t want it for breakfast? Fine, you’ll have it for lunch. The longest I made it was to breakfast the next day (I usually caved and just ate it for dinner), but my sister once made it 24 hours before finally caving.

I think that’s a bit extreme.

So, while I don’t necessarily think that I am quite that extreme, I feel that I am somehow destined, in some small way, to be my mother. I don’t know why…maybe it’s because I long to have the mother I wanted growing up, the nuruturing BFF type relationship that certainly won’t ever happen between my (adoptive) mom and I (and certainly won’t happen between my biological mom and I, since she’s severely damaged by years of drugs/alcohol). For some reason I have internalized the “just like your mother” line, when, in reality, I’m actually not a lot like my mother at all.

Sure, as Boof says, I have this “bright and shining energy” around people I like and in situations I feel comfortable. He went as far as saying “you have a glow, it’s warm and brightens a room” (which, if you know Boof, that’s actually quite a high compliment). And he then proceeds to say, ‘and when you don’t like someone, or you feel uncomfortable, your energy is cold an reserved. While most people we encounter vary between apathetically lukewarm to warm, you are bright and warm or cold and cool.” Hmm, sounds a bit “bi-polar” in the colloquial-and-not-DSM IV-diagnosis-sense. I’m either hot or cold. So how does this relate to motherhood?

I tend to think of myself as a cold mother.

But, at nighttime, when Potamus has the choice whether to sit and snuggle in his bed with me, or bounce on the exercise ball with Boof, he dives into my neck and buries himself there, almost pleading when Boof picks him up to bounce to sleep. I am the one he goes to for comfort, and while I know that we, too, went to my mother for scrapes and boo boos as kids, we certainly didn’t do the snuggly thing…that was reserved for my (adoptive) dad, who has a much more snuggly personality.

So what, my kid likes to snuggle with me. Does that make me a ‘nice’ mom? A warm mom? A nurturing individual? I said, “well, I guess baby porcupines snuggle with mama porcupines,” which brought a laugh from Boof…but I guess that’s how I see myself…like a porcupine…prickly and standoffish, though my kid’s experience of me is clearly different. Boof responded, “um, you’ve been nursing our kid for a year and a half, you wouldn’t do that if you weren’t nurturing.” “Also, the only times I’ve seen you be cold to him is when you’re half asleep, or one time when you were awake, but it’s mostly only ever when you’re really tired.” Oh. Hmm. I guess that’s a point, though I might do it out of obligation or because I don’t want a tantrum. Regardless, it seems like my kid, the world around me, and even my very own husband seems to think I’m a nuruturing, “nice,” loving and patient mother.

So why don’t I think that?

Now don’t get me wrong, for living in this digital mommy-wars age, I actually think I’m a kickass mama…for the most part. I really enjoy my kid, we do a lot of really fun things together, and I enjoy snuggling up to him at the end of the day. So why is there this nagging not-nurturing-enough thought in my head? Am I worried that one day I’m going to just crack and bust out the cold-ass-bitchiness in relation to him? I dunno?

Do you ever feel that how you perceive yourself isn’t quite how other people perceive you to be? How do we combat that?

Adoption Terminology

What do you call your natural/first/birth/biological mother/father/family? Why? Are there different rules for different family members? What term(s) is not acceptable to you? How do you refer to them to others? If you’re in reunion, do you introduce them the same way? How does your natural/first/birth/biological mother family feel about the term? Does it matter to them? What about your adoptive family?

In real life, I refer to my adoptive parents as my parents, and my adoptive siblings as my brother and sister. Only in blogoland, when trying to differentiate or emphasize my adoptedness, do I call them my adoptive parents. When I introduce them to others, I introduce them as my parents. And only when someone makes an assholey comment about how tall I am, do I tell them that I am adopted.

In real life I introduce my biological/first dad as J, since that is his name. Sometimes I might introduce him as my biodad if it’s in a situation where people are going to wonder a) why he’s there and b) why he looks so much like me. He introduces me as his daughter, which I love. If I am nowhere near my adoptive family or my in-laws, I introduce him as my dad, or as my father. In blogging, or online, I refer to him as my natural/first dad for those who are schooled in proper adoptee language, and biological/birth dad for those who might be confused by the former langauge. I don’t get my panties too in a twist about what terminology I use for him, what annoys me is when people “correct” my use of a certain term. I will decide what I damn well please, thankyouverymuch.

My biological mother, on the other hand, is always my biolgical mother or birth mother in conversation. Perhaps I use her given name, E, and sometimes when I am feeling very generous online or want to fit in with my peeps, I use the most accepted ‘first mom/natural mom’ bit. I don’t get the chance to introduce her to people, as she is so messed up with drugs/alcohol that I very rarely even get to see her in her home, let alone out in publice. Which I am fine with.

I don’t really know how my biological family feels about what I call them. And I don’t actually care. I mean, they relinquished me to be raised by strangers, I don’t really think they get much say in what  I call them. And my adoptive parents refer to them as my birthparents, or J as J, but I also don’t care what they think about what I call them. I think, that, as long as I’m not refering to THEM as my adoptive parents in public (or private) they should be fine.

Stamp

 

Words are powerful.

Adoptee is a word not found in the dictionary. Spell check always tells me that I want adaptee instead, which does, on some level, seem appropriate.

Bastard is thrown about in everyday language, but is often used negatively, or in a derogatory way, though the dictionary definition is: a person born of unmarried parents; an illegitimate child.

What are your thoughts and reactions to seeing this picture, as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words”?