Category Archives: Legal Issues

DOMA Privilege

Last week the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  This historic move will grant same-sex couples in states where queer marriage is legal federal recognition.  Couples like me and my spouse in the liberal state of Massachusetts, for example.  We should jump for joy, right?  We can now file our taxes jointly and glean the same financial benefits straight, married couples do.  We can get on the same health insurance and not be slapped with a hefty fee (likely around $2000-3000 for our family) come tax time because of being a same-sex couple and getting fined the discriminatory “imputed income” fee.  We can have the peace of mind knowing that our family is recognized not just in our teeny-tiny, east coast state, but on a federal level too.  Partly, we did celebrate, it’s a big deal, it’s progress.  But it is only that- progress- and not a full swing to something fully just and liberatory.

And that brings me to my dear friend, fellow blogster, and non-gestational mama, Betsy.  She’s awesome, right?  Her family is awesome, right?  We love them.  They are clearly raising their little guy with care, integrity, and love.  COOL.  Besides sharing a blog, Betsy and I also share several things in common amongst our families and I’m not just talking about the obvious ones like how we both are queer or how we’re non-gestational, non-bio mothers.  We share small, but strange, coincidences that I think are a mystical sign of our connection, like the fact that we have many family dates in common (as in, dates on the calendar): anniversaries that overlap with birthdays, etc.  But even more central to this post, we share the fact that we both were married in Massachusetts to our dear sweeties, we both had our children and filed for second-parent adoption in Massachusetts, but have most of our family living in western North Carolina.  Betsy and her family moved there soon after their son was born to be closer to them- totally understandable.  My parents are lucky if they see my daughter two times a year- something that I know pains both us and them even though we cherish the time we do have together.  We have chosen not to move there for a number of reasons, but I do feel sad thinking about how my parents and my sister and her family, won’t get regular connection with my daughter and our family.  It’s a sacrifice.  Here’s the thing though:  remember what I started talking about… DOMA?  Families in North Carolina, including my dear friend Betsy’s, won’t get to benefit from DOMA being stricken down because NC never did recognize or grant same-sex marriages.  And although Betsy and her spouse are all set with “second-parent adoption” (hate that term) rights for Betsy since they filed in MA before they moved, couples who have their child/ren in NC and stay there can’t file for second-parent adoption rights so that the non-gestational parent is protected because NC is one of the few states in the nation that doesn’t allow for same-sex second parent adoption.

So while we were all parading around Facebook with gleeful posts, singing in the streets, and hugging each other after the Supreme Court’s decision, these families, sadly, were still in the exact same position they were before (or at least things are murky for them in this regard).  It’s important to recognize this because I can already see how it could be easy to stop here; to say we’re about to cross through the finish line of this race towards queer liberation, but we’re not.  And of course there’s the reality that even if marriage were granted to all same-sex couples, regardless of where they lived, that there are still so many other hurdles to be overcome for queers.  Marriage equality was never where our fight stopped.

Tonight, a week past DOMA, I am recognizing the privilege that I have as a queer person living in Massachusetts.  I have so many privileges- race, class, ability, and more- but I also have this privilege now.

– Charlotte

“Is he yours?”

I decided it was time to find a doctor in my new home town.  I am rarely sick enough to need a doctor, but I am getting older and need to start thinking about being connected when things on my body start to break and breakdown.

It was a two hour wait.  “No!  This never happens.  She is usually right on time,” They assured me.  The nurse took me back and explained that there had been an emergency.  He didn’t introduce himself, but was pleasant enough so I asked him his name.

“Scott.  She’ll be right in to see you.”

After another fifteen minutes, she came in and was as sweet as pie.  She was wearing a HUGE diamond cross around her neck, so I immediately felt a little reserved.  I told her about S and that we have been together for more than 16 years.  Then she noticed we have a son but I have never been pregnant, “Is he yours or did you adopt him?”

“Well.  Both, actually.  He is mine and I did adopt him because the archaic laws in this country make me have to take extra legal steps to prove my relationship to this being I helped create.  Breathe.  And, even if we had not created him together and he had grown in a stranger’s womb halfway around the world, he would still be mine,” I thought to myself in the nano-second following her gaffe.

It is always interesting how it is the little things people say, often well intentioned, that seem to trigger the deepest reactions in me.  I don’t care about vocal opponents to marriage equality or about those stupid people who picket soldiers’ funerals.  What hurts is opening yourself up just a little and having someone not really see you.

“He is ours,” I say.  “My partner gave birth to him.”

“OH!  That is so COOL!” she exclaimed as if the idea had never occurred to her.

A few awkward questions later (awkward for me, not her), we had moved on to other topics.  She really was very nice and seemed to be trying really hard.  I guess I just look forward to the day when people don’t have to try so hard.


Barking Seals

Two days ago my son woke in the middle of the night with a barking cough, not able to catch his breath. He sounded like a seal calling out to its mate. Turns out, it was croup. As I read Dr. Sears, I started to panic. It said that sometimes kids with croup need immediate medical attention which, given the late hour, would mean a trip to the emergency room of our local hospital. Then I remembered that I moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Here, my relationship to my child has to have a paper trail a mile long to be seen as valid in the eyes of some people. Then I remembered we have just moved and I have no idea where the papers are that legalized our relationship to one another. What if they wouldn’t let me go back with him? What if some homophobic asshole decides that only his other mom could be with him, comfort him, hold him? In a time when I should have been able to just focus on my son, I felt panic for myself. Panic that I would be denied the opportunity to care for my son. MY son. And some fucking asshole (pardon my language) would make that decision for me and for my son based on some bastardized interpretation of the bible. I ran through the scenarios in my head as I waited for our pediatrician to call. I could sneak in behind a nurse’s aide, crouched down low so that the asshole who told me I couldn’t come in didn’t see me. I could grab a random patient in a wheelchair and push them down the hall like I knew just where I was going, all the while listening for my boy calling out to me. I could scream in the waiting room until they let me back or had me arrested. It took our pediatrician an hour to call back so I had a lot of time to create these scenarios, each ending in the loving embrace between a mother and her child. Turns out that he just needed a night to recover and then he was fine. No hospital necessary. I haven’t really talked to my partner about what happened in my head the other night, about the panic that ensued. I wonder if she ever has those kinds of reactions or if she just gets to be his parent without worry. The next morning I made sure we knew where my boy’s adoption papers were. Safely in the glove box of my car, just in case.


Excuse Me While I (rant for just a quick second)…

Earlier this week, I scanned my Facebook news feed to see an NBC news story that the FDA was slated to ban gay men from donating sperm to sperm banks.* Like many people I “shared” the story on my FB page outraged by the ignorance and bigotry in this imposed regulation. The reasoning behind it, as one spokesperson from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine was cited as saying in the article: “you can’t be too careful [in taking measures to reduce the spread of HIV].” As a former sex educator for a large reproductive and sexual health organization, I know full well that one’s sexual orientation is not the issue, but that certain sexual behaviors- unprotected anal sex in particular- are higher risk for spreading HIV and other STIs. Plenty of heterosexual couples engage in anal sex, but are straight men being cut off from entering cryogenics clinics (a related irk: the story referred to “homosexual sex”- there is no such thing people; there are different sexual acts that people of all sexual orientations engage in)?  Shouldn’t they just ask would-be donors about recent sexual practices if they’re concerned about higher risk behaviors and then screen the semen for infections (really the only way to know for sure)?

There was also another part of me- for admittedly selfish reasons- that found myself having a moment of panic: our donor is a gay man. We have been hoping to use the same donor a few years from now so that I could try to get pregnant.  Although we inseminated at home, I suddenly found myself scanning my brain, wanting reassurance that there wasn’t going to be a roadblock to this plan. What if we need to call upon the medical establishment for a little help when that time comes… will we reach an impasse?  Some sperm banks, such as Rainbow Flag Health Services, actively recruit gay and bisexual donors.  Although Rainbow Flag’s plan is to continue doing so for the time being since the ban is not currently being seen as a law, but rather a strong recommendation (if I’m following this correctly), will  this affect their organization and scare some clients from using their services?  I know for us, and many other friends we know, we were particularly drawn to our donor because he is a gay man.  He seemed to understand and have increased sensitivity around the needs of our queer family-to-be.  I would be incredibly disappointed if we weren’t able to work with him again as a donor. Also, I have been overjoyed at the thought of being able to conceive with the same donor who my partner was able to create our daughter with. I know this is edging into controversial territory, but I love the thought of my daughter being biologically connected to her sibling.  I say that not because I think biology is the seminal part of what connects people together, but because my spouse and I are not able to create a baby together and I love the notion of my gestational child having some of the features of their big sister and her of them.  In my mind, it’s as close as my spouse and I can get to being able to actually create a baby together (although I feel like I was a part of my non-gestational daughter’s conception process and pregnancy for sure).

I guess for the time being we’ll just have to keep fighting the good fight and hope that the FDA will see the scientific error of their ways and remove this discriminatory regulation that doesn’t breed safety, but rather ignorance and bigotry.

– Charlotte