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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Occidental News & Events

The Gazette is moving to a first-of-the-month release date and deadline was early, so not much time to gather news. Luckily, I have some value added input to offer. Even though we’re in the 21st Century, there’s still very little widespread protocol for how to be diplomatic and respectful around infertile, or gay and lesbian couples. So here goes …

My husband and I have one of the most intentional children to grace this planet. We make every attempt to raise our son in an environment that’s full of love, acceptance, nurturing, and discipline. As sophisticated as kids are these days, and as ‘live and let live’ as most west County residents are, however, we nevertheless work hard at shielding him from those who seem less enlightened.

So you can imagine our horror when people often ask, right in front of him, “who’s the father?” We have our stock answer: “he has two Dads; isn’t he lucky?” But we’re still always shocked, every time we get this one. People sometimes even seem a bit out when we tactfully try to put off their question until our son is out of earshot. Go figure. I even had one (Mormon) mother of ten tell me, “Oh, he can’t understand anything you’re saying.” At nearly 3 ½, our son definitely understood; and we were mortified.

Another perennial favorite: “who’s the man” or “who’s the wife?” And no, I’m not exaggerating—people really do ask this one!

Recently, a well meaning new friend (whom we had only known for 15 minutes at a mutual friend’s birthday party) said to me, I’m sure quite innocently, “when did you get your son?” I almost always have to bite my tongue and hold off a sarcastic reply like, “we picked him up on Black Friday a few years back at Nordstrom’s,” or “at the on-line baby catalog.”

Now I understand that people have a natural curiosity, as it’s quite apparent that neither one of us can actually bear children. But a better way (yeah—he’s finally at the helpful part) is simply to act interested and engage us about our son for a few minutes (it’s easy—what parent won’t chat, often ad nauseam, about their kid?). When we’re all comfortable, and you’ll know it, all you’ll have to do is say something like, “if you don’t mind my asking,” and before you can even finish, we’ll make it easy for you.

And since we’re grateful to our lesbian friends for paving the way to same-sex parenting, let me just add on their behalf that you risk dealing with real grief issues if you ask “who’s the mother,” as often, the non-biological mom may not be able to have children, and might still be mourning this reality. Of course, she is every bit as much the child’s mother as the women who bore the child.

As the holidays approach let’s commit to being a little bit kinder, more compassionate, more delicate, more caring. Let’s think twice about how what we’re going to say may affect those around us. Your gay, lesbian, and fertility-challenged friends and acquaintances have already gone through so much in order to parent, why add to their already over-full plate?

A final thought: when we vacationed with our son out of the country last year, we had to make sure we had notarized copies of his birth certificate, our pre-birth stipulation, and several other legal documents. Lucky for us we had them, as an overly curious customs official started asking questions as we left France to go to England. Bet you’d never, ever have thought of this—only gay male couples deal with this issue as there’s no mom travelling with the child, giving rise to suspicion of possible kidnapping.

Enough said, as truly the joy and blessings of raising a child far outweigh any of the extra problems we encounter.

Occidental Occasions
Life’s busy at the OCA (Occidental Center for the Arts). Saturday community assistance days are happening regularly and there is a fund-raising concert/dinner at the Union Hotel on December 17,

Thanks for reading; and happy holidays to you, and many blessings to your family and friends for the New Year.

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