COMING OUT AS THE OTHER MOTHER: LESBIAN PARENTING PREPAREDNESS
“I can’t wait until you start showing!” my enthusiastic co-worker said to me yesterday. Uh-oh! Looks like the rumor mill only got half the memo. Time for me to come out of the closet again with the “I’m not pregnant, my wife is,” explanation for any and all who don’t know me that well. Aside from my budding blogging career, I’m sort of a private person and I try to keep my professional and personal lives separate. However, when I’m in a celebratory-type of spirit, those two worlds collide in a sort of an awkward fashion.
Actually, the awkwardness of that particular conversation makes me laugh. I think it’s rather comical and sounds like something you’d see on a sitcom. Imagine if on an episode of Three’s Company where roommates Chrissy and Janet are mistaken for a lesbian couple. Now that would be a funny story line. But it was Jack’s alleged homosexual hijinks and innuendo made that show ahead of its time. In my reality, we ARE a lesbian couple but are mistaken for roommates. Chrissy and Janet never had to explain their relationship because most people just assume two women living together are just roommates, or sisters. To call another woman, “girlfriend” is fairly common when referring to her as a friend. To call another woman your wife however, tends to turn heads.
It’s been much easier for me to come out now that there’s a baby or two in the mix. “Hey! My wife’s pregnant with twins!” I exclaimed to the gas station attendant, the girl at the grocery store, the server at the restaurant and anybody nearby on the day we found out. Even right now, I feel like I could scream it from the rooftops but I’m a little afraid of heights and it’s dangerous up there, so I keep it ground level.
Everyone’s reaction to this news, in both my professional and personal life, has been pretty positive. It’s not like I expected people to react negatively to my face, but I always have that fear in the back of my mind that someone might tell me that I’m destroying society’s definition of family. So far, that has not even come close to happening (unless you want to count recent regressive anti-LGBT moves in politics). In my experience, people generally behave courteously when they’re face to face with an acquaintance or co-worker.
In fact, I’ve received more than courtesy lately. The men in my workplace seem to acknowledge that my role at home is similar to their role as husbands/fathers and relate their experiences to me on how they survived their wives’ pregnancies – “be patient!” The women give me advice on what they expected from their partners during their own pregnancies – “be patient!” They’re also pretty baby crazy at my office and can’t wait to find out if we’re having boys or girls so they can start shopping for pink or blue.
But please don’t get me started on gender-specific pink and blue… oh, ok, just a small rant. My wife and I consistently challenge gender roles, stereotypes and barriers; so why would we perpetuate the traditional “boys wear blue, girls wear pink” attitude with our children? When it comes down to it though, whatever gifts we’re lucky to receive at the shower, we’ll accept and use graciously!
Anyways, I really am happy for this type of support, acceptance and acknowledgement from my family, friends and co-workers as a parent-to-be. It’s only when I step out of my comfort zone that I have to remind myself that what is normal for my wife and me is not what is normal for everybody.
Today I accompanied my wife to our new OB/GYN and I introduced myself simply as “Hi, I’m Shannan,” and I get an elbow in the rib reminding me to explain myself. “Oh, she and I are married,” as I point to my wife. I know that there are millions of LGBT couples all around the country who are also parents or prospective parents. That being said, one of the perks of living in a city like Philadelphia is that whatever you are, you’re not alone. So, I’ve noticed that some offices and staff members are more accommodating than others. At our latest visit, the OB Coordinator was very mindful to keep me involved in the conversation and where I could wait for my wife while she took a pee test. On the other hand, at another office, we were 15 minutes into the consultation before someone even acknowledged my presence in the room.
Should I get a nametag? “Hello! My name is Mom, too!” Because I’m not sure they know what to call me. I’m not even sure what to call me. I think I’ll leave that up to our children.
In the meantime, I’m not going to wait 15 minutes before being acknowledged anymore. Instead, I’m going to confidently introduce myself when we meet new people because I need to ensure that we start our family off on the right foot with the people who bring them into the world. Goodbye awkward introductions, hello family pride!
Now, back to that thought of Chrissy and Janet being lesbians…