I Acknowledge Her Feelings, But…
“I acknowledge this woman’s feelings but lets be 100% fair. If there are 9 of 10 couples that are straight then 9 of 10 references should be to dad vs. partner. Let’s not forget the feelings of the biological fathers. Substituting mother B into the conversation would be confusing. Maybe she is so overly sensitive to the situation because she knows these are not her children.”
He really said it, didn’t he? In just a few sentences, one man was able to put into words what it took me an entire article to write about. He tapped right into the heart of the issue; that for some people my desire to be included as my children’s mother is asking for too much. To fight for that right really just exposes my fear that my children aren’t reallymine, rather than this being a very real issue of equality and discrimination. His argument of not wanting to include the “other” (me) because the majority should determine what normalness is, felt exactly like what the hospitals response to me pointed out. He speaks for many when he basically says, “On some level, I respect you as a person and I’m not even against gay people, but you and your experience are not enough of a reason to bring about equality and inclusive language… You can be a mom in your world, but not in mine.”
Friends of mine from the Reconciling Ministries Network posted my most recent article of my account of what it was like for my wife and I during our local hospitals maternity training and tour. This morning, I was doing my Facebook ritual of updating and reading posts, I decided to see if anyone had responded to their re-post of my article. I was pleasantly surprised to see that many people were connecting with my words… until I came to this mans comment; the one quoted at the beginning of this article.
It felt like a punch in the gut.
I read it quickly, looked away out the window for a minute, letting it sink in and then read it again slowly. As I re-read it, I could feel the anger welling up inside of me. Who is this ignorant ass hole!?! If you know me, you know I can sometimes have a bit of a sailor’s mouth (one which I’m working on for the sake of my kids, I promise!), so many more… “colorful”… words filled my mind.
Then I did what any rational person would do: I decided to do some Facebook stalking to see just who this guy was.
The thing is, my heart quickly moved from anger to sadness, confusion and compassion. The first thing I saw was that he himself is a dad, his son looks happy and healthy – a sweet boy, I’m sure. He even had posts that seemed to support gay Christians. This doesn’t add up, I thought.
Here’s the thing, even when we want to show support for a discriminated group of people, we still have blind spots. I’m starting to believe this man didn’t even mean to be harsh, hurtful or discriminatory in his words. He was just simply stating what felt obvious to him; his blind spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if you read his words and were just as angry with him as I was in the beginning.
We like to think of our country, our communities and ourselves as more peaceful, open and inclusive than we really all are. Last week, the state of Arizona was close to passing Senate Bill 1062 which would have allowed businesses that asserted their religious beliefs the right to deny service to gay and lesbian customers. This bill went all the way to the State Senate. It was not laughed at, or pushed out of our judicial system. If it had passed, just one state over from where my wife and I live with our soon-to-be-born children, the state I grew up going to every weekend to play in the water of the Colorado River, a beautiful and culturally rich state, Arizona would have signs in restaurants, gas stations, churches, baby stores etc. that stated gays, lesbians and transgendered people couldn’t use their facilities due to our sexual orientation. This bill might sound extreme to you after-the-fact, but I’m telling you, the hatred behind it is very much real and stormed it’s way to the Senate floor! It showed a gross blind spot and was an instance of long-standing discrimination in our country. It was so truly scary for me to consider this could be a law that I was barely able read any articles discussing the issue; it was just too painful a reality for me.
I know this isn’t the only issue in the world and that there are many people who are suffering deeper pain and more discrimination than myself, but with that said, it still feels important for us to continue to talk about this issue.
I do not wish to depict the man who commented on my article out to be a bad person, or ignorant, or to even go so far as to say we need to boycott the state of Arizona. No. We shouldn’t do any of those things. But I want to challenge you (and myself!) to start speaking up. You can start in your very own community. You can start with the hospital you go to, friends you hang out with or church you attend. It is not my intention to lessen the meaning of “dad/father” or to make dads invisible by becoming visible as a mom, myself. Nothing like that. I have a “dad” I have a “father” and so does my wife. For the man who commented on my article I understand for him, as a dad, just how important it must be for him to be included in his son’s world. He too must have sat in the maternity training at his local hospital, wanting to be connected with his unborn child and yet being on the outside and somehow finding comfort that someone had acknowledged that he was there, that he mattered in that moment, even though he wasn’t the one carrying his child in his body. I’m sure he doesn’t want to give that good feeling of being included up, or share it with anyone — and to be honest, I don’t blame him. I’d want to hang on to it also. He must fear that to be joined as a parent by someone who is a different gender than him somehow weakens his standing as dad.
Change is hard, especially when the language of who we are changes in a way that feels “less than.” For instance, I don’t like being called “partner.” I am a wife, a status granted to me legally by the state of CA, and relationally by the woman I love – like many of you. Ask any same-sex “partner” and I know they’d tell you they’d give anything to be someone’s “legal spouse” given the opportunity. It means something. It’s worth fighting for. And to feel that title which means so much, “spouse” or “mom”, we’re sensitive when people dismiss it – when people say things like “Oh, you’re being sensitive” or “Those aren’t really your children.”
Since publishing my articles, I’ve heard stories of same-sex couples not attending their hospitals maternity education opportunities to avoid experiences like my wife and I had. I understand the desire not to experience the pain of invisibility, but I’m saddened that they missed out on a part of the birthing process because of this. I’ve also heard from well-meaning hospital staff who have put their foot in their mouth calling someone “a friend” when they are the spouse and well-meaning parents trying to talk to their child’s classmate – the one who has twomoms – but not knowing what language to use. I have been moved by all of your stories and thank you for sharing them.
So what can you do?
First off, please feel free to contact me with any direct questions you might have. If you work at a hospital, I’d love to talk with you about ways to help your workplace become more inclusive. Or perhaps you are a stay-at-home parent and don’t feel like you can do much. Don’t take the fact that you’re a stay-at-home parent to mean you can’t make dramatic changes in your community because you very much can.
I encourage you to call your local hospital and ask to speak to their administration department about their inclusive language and/or images used in their educational materials. If calling feels too difficult, you can simply write them a letter about how you are grateful for their services, but as you’ve used their services you’ve noticed their lack of inclusive language and images used around the hospital.
You can talk to your pastor about your support of the LGBTQ community and desire for your church to be inclusive. Or you can talk to your children’s school about the need for change. You have the power to bring about change in your community. You can make change wherever you’re at and with whatever community in your life you feel ready to do so.
I would be beyond grateful if you did work like this so that people like my wife and I wouldn’t always have to. Wouldn’t it be amazing, when we took our kids to preschool, if we didn’t have to help our children’s teachers work on inclusive language because some straight parent had made sure years before we even sent our kids there?! You have so much good in you and power to change your communities for the sake of a better world. Thank you ahead of time for being willing to start with your local community on my behalf and on the behalf of the others around you.