Finding Baby Daddy

Friday July 11, 2014

When it comes to picking a donor, Jamie and I have a simple philosophy – find the male version of her. Somewhere out there, a guy that has Jamie’s sweet demeanor, Irish heritage, and love of sports decided to go through the long process of becoming a sperm donor – and we need to find him.

We signed up for an account on California Cryo and found out that you can basically look through a catalog of men! We also found out how serious the process of being a sperm donor really is. It’s not like the typical notion about a dude needing money for beer so he spent a few minutes looking at dirty magazines and now he’s going to father a bunch of kids. In fact, it appears to be harder to donate sperm than it is to get into an Ivy League school. The California Crybank website states, “Potential sperm donors must first meet our basic requirements before they are even considered for our qualification process. If they do enter our qualification process, they are subjected to extensive screening – the end result of which admits less than 1% of all applicants.” The website describes interviews, personality tests, and even artistic expressions each donor must complete so they can build an accurate profile. In fact, we will know more about our donor’s family history than our own!

Jamie has been pre-screening donors, intent on finding the one that calls out. We both decided that we wanted an “open donor”, meaning someone that agreed they can be contacted once the children reach the ages of 18. We do not want our kids to feel that we kept them from finding out about their birth papi. J also selected traits that she has: Minimum height of 6 feet, Irish, Blond or brunette, athletic, blue eyes. Jamie’s eyes are actually very unique – she has one ice blue eye, and one half brown, half blue. That is the one thing I wish beyond wishing that we could find in a donor. But alas…..

Anyway, Jamie came home today from work crazy with excitement screaming, “I FOUND OUR DADDY!!!!!” As I cooked dinner, she read the profile of the donor we are going to use. It was exhilarating to know that we were actually having a conversation about half of our future kids! This made it feel so real and even though we are far, far away from actually making a baby, I can’t help but think that today is a major milestone along the way.

* * * * *

The whole time we were looking for our donor, I thought of Ellen DeGeneres (Kal) and Sharon Stone (Fran) in “If These Walls Could Talk 2″….

Kal: I’m freaking out.

Fran: About what?

Kal: I don’t have sperm. That’s why I’m freaking out. I don’t have sperm. And I am forced to keep looking at pages and pages of potential sperm…because I can’t give you the baby.

Fran: So…

Kal: So we’ll never know what that would be like…if just by our love, if just by one night of our love that we accidentally get pregnant. If we had that kind of luck, we could say, “Look what we did” out of our love.

But we can’t do that, so now we have to look at sperm…and pick the guy that’s closest to me that has blue eyes and blond hair. I don’t care anymore. I don’t care.

Is his sperm gonna be different ’cause he’s an electrical engineer than the guy that works at a hardware store? That has a little red vest? What’s wrong with that? ‘Interests: Hiking’. He walks. Wow. That’s special. You must be a special guy.

Our kid is gonna be a great kid. Because we’re gonna raise it with such respect. And we’re gonna teach it so many positive things and tell it that it can be anything it wants to be. And it can grow up to be anything and everything because it’s a beautiful child. And it’s an individual, and that’s all that matters.

Am I right?

Fran: Yes, you are right.

So Here I Am

Oh boy – I have been completely out of touch with the blog world these last few months. It’s been one of those spells where I say, “Today I’ll sit down and write!” And then it doesn’t happen.

I do, however, have a pretty awesome excuse – I’m PREGNANT! I have actually been writing throughout these last several months and have many queued posts to share now. So tune in for my journey through fertility (TMI excluded) that begins with a lot of awkward questions and ends with the best baby announcement ever!!

* * * * *

Wednesday August 20, 2014

I have a secret. Jamie and I have been going through the steps to become Mommies – and no one knows! We have talked about kids for years openly with our families and all of our close friends know that we want to go through fertility treatments to try and have kids. Lately, we’ve even been more open about our timeline, saying that 2014 was going to be the Year of the Baby. But when it came down to actually going to appointments, picking a donor, and scheduling inseminations, we decided to keep it all to ourselves for a few reasons.

First of all, it keeps the whole experience really personal. I mean there’s already more people in the room than usual, so why not keep it need-to-know? And second, we don’t want any pressure. All of the curiosity and questions could seriously put a damper on our little operation. We want it to be real when we go announcing.

Anyway, I decided that all of the steps along the way can be very exciting, a little scary, and too important not to document. So here goes nothing….

* * * * *

Tuesday July 8, 2014

I had a relatively awkward conversation today. Being the terrible little lesbian that I am, it’s been a while since I visited the gyno. I talked to a few friends about suggestions and finally ended up making some phone calls. As the phone was ringing, I began to realize that I had no idea what I wanted to say.

“I want to have a gay baby.”

“Can you shoot sperm up into me?”

“Do you have a Lesbian Department?”

Ugh.

The rings continued and I racked my brain for how to begin – and then it was too late.

“Dr. Ghat’s office, how can I help you?” came a greeting from a woman. I stuttered through my introduction and finally choked out, “I’d like to make an appointment because I’m ready to start the process of getting pregnant.” Awkward, much?

She explained that the office was booked for new patients for several months, but that she would schedule me anyway and would call if there was a cancellation sooner.

As it turned out, there wasn’t an appointment available until November. I began to wonder what was so special about this doctor that he was booked for months – did he have access to Johnny Depp’s sperm, or something? I reluctantly made the appointment just in case I wasn’t able to find someone else – what do I know about gyno availability?

Then the weird happened. The nice woman on the phone added, “But if you get pregnant before November, be sure to give us a call so we can get you an appointment.” She started to say more when I cut her off with, “I’m a lesbian.”

Why did this have to be so weird? I decided to be more up-front in the next conversation to avoid any confusion. I did some research online for places to go and made a few more calls, starting each with an introduction followed by, “My wife and I are ready to have a baby.”

Finally came the office of Dr. F. They were pleasant, understanding, and got me an appointment for next week. Winner!

So here I am. Finished with the very first step in a long journey. I have no idea what to expect. I can talk to friends that went through it all I want, but this experience is mine. Mine to love. Mine to fear. And mine to share with the greatest partner this universe could offer.

 

What You’re Actually Saying When You Ignore Someone’s Preferred Gender Pronouns

Let's Queer Things Up!

It can’t be emphasized enough: Coming out as transgender or any variation thereof is downright terrifying. It is often met with criticism, resistance, and invalidation. When I came out to friends, it felt like the world was crashing down all around me.

And by far, the worst part was the resistance I faced when asking others to stop saying “she.” Beyond coming out, we also ask others to change a very ingrained habit — to use different pronouns when speaking about us. This is where I encountered the most turmoil.

Some folks simply don’t understand what they are saying when they refuse to use someone’s preferred gender pronouns.

When someone states their preferred pronouns (he, she, ze, they, etc), they are asking for your respect. And when you choose not to use these pronouns, and instead opt for your own, you are not only invalidating someone’s identity, but you are…

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Fashioned By Mom

It has only become to clear to me in my adult years how unique parts of my childhood truly were. When we’re growing up, I guess we assimilate naturally into the world around us. Our perception would then be that “this is normal”. The skeleton elements of my childhood are pretty average: public school, Christian household in the suburbs of a big city. But some of the best parts of my “kid experience” were things way outside the norm and one of the most unique I owe solely to my Mother…

My Mom used to make our clothes.

To some, that sounds insane. I was born in 1984 in a Naval Hospital, not on a prairie in a covered wagon. And yet, hand-made clothes were completely normal for me. I have memories of my Mom taking me and my sister to the fabric store to pick out patterns. She’d show us the picture on the front and we could pick out our favorite. Then, we’d get to go up and down the aisles pawing through rolls of fabric looking for something that “spoke” to us. She’d even let us go to the button section to select the buttons we wanted for the front.

When we’d get home, she’d bust out her flexible tape measure and tickle the measurements out of us. We’d have to stand with our arms out like we were flying while she pinned the patterns to us and made notes. The patterns just looked like tissue paper with a bunch of dotted lines to us. But to Mom, they were the earliest signs of art. That’s how we discovered our Mom was a magician. We’d go play or watch TV while she sent the sewing machine into crazy fits of noise. Hours later, she’d still be pinning and sizing and cutting. Sometimes, she’d fall asleep right at the sewing table, pins and thread stuck all over the place. But somehow, a few days later, we’d have a dress. Somehow, she’d turn a bunch of folded papers into an outfit.

Eventually, I wanted to know about the magic that Mom made. I wanted to know how it all happened. I started watching her work. I’d ask to help cut the thread or pin the fabric. She taught me how to load the new thread, fill and change the bobbin spool, and how to sew different stitches. I started with small projects and had made my first beanbag by the time I was 10. A few years later, I finished my first quilt at 14. It was exhilarating to me. And yet, for so many years I have taken those skills for granted. It has taken me a long time to realize how lucky I am that my Mom shared her magic.

Sewing Meme

One tradition we had around the end of September every year was to pull out the Halloween box from the rafters to decide what our costume would be. My Mom would plop the box down in the garage and we’d take out all of the props collected over the years. With the props as inspiration, we’d head to the fabric store so Mom could get the right fabric for our costumes. Sometimes inspiration came from movies or books. Either way, they were made by Mom.

One year – I think I was 8 or so – I pulled out a brown grass hula skirt and threw it on over one shoulder so it draped across me instead of sitting at my hips. I shouted, “Look Momma, I’m a caveman!” Right away she had her vision. She went to work on making a skin-colored body suit and a pair of grey fuzzy boots for me to wear. She found a giant bone and fastened it to a clip to sit in my wildly teased hair. She even made me bone earrings and bought a plastic club for me to carry. I really did look amazing. I never gave her credit for it though. Since it was my normal, I guess I just assumed it was everyone’s. I assumed all of the kids in the parade that day at school had moms that sewed their costumes. I don’t think I ever truly grasped how lucky I was.

So here I am, 30, and sewing my costume for this Halloween. I have kept the tradition alive my hand-making my costume every year, and my Mom is in my heart the whole time. Thank you, Momma. Thank you for sharing such an amazing gift with me. I can’t wait to pass it on…

Blue Star Experience

I went to the most amazing workshop today.

A colleague from work stopped me on the way into the building on Tuesday to let me know that the Coordinator of the LGBTQ Center at Montclair State University would be at the Boys and Girls Club in our town to give a seminar on sensitivity and awareness of LGBTQ youth in our schools. I wanted in immediately. It was very last-minute to put in for a Professional Day and get myself signed up for the workshop, but I am so glad I was able to quickly put all of the paperwork through because today was the best eight hours of professional development I have ever completed in the 8+ years I have been a teacher.

Even though I consider myself very educated on gender pronouns, gender and sexual preference spectrums, and trans-related issues, I was very excited to learn as much as I possibly could to be a better educator and role-model for my students that may identify as LGBTQ. When we first got to the workshop, the instructor, Brian, had us write our names followed by our used gender pronouns on a name tag. Mine said, “Cali – She/Her/Hers”. I understood right away what Brian was trying to do – open up a conversation about how not everyone identifies with the perceived gender pronouns. For example, some people who are outwardly female may use the pronouns “they/them/their”. But what was interesting was that some of the other professionals there didn’t get it right away. I noticed some of them even omitted the gender pronouns  from their name tags – perhaps confused or maybe unsure of the point. It gave me a bit of a chuckle that so many people at the workshop had no idea that traditional gender pronouns are not utilized by everyone. For once, I felt the privilege in being gay. I felt more “normal” in today’s conversations than many of them appeared to feel. I loved that feeling.

We went around the room and introduced ourselves with three prompts: Say your name, Give your used gender pronouns, and Explain why you signed up for this seminar. There were about 30 others there today from all over North Jersey. Most were administrators or guidance counselors – I think I was only one of two classroom teachers. Four of us identified as LGBT or Q – everyone else would have identified themselves as “straight”. We did quite a few exercises and activities throughout the day that were incredible, but one of them hit me so hard that I can’t get it out of my head.

Brian handed out stars to each of us. Some were yellow, some were purple, orange or blue. Mine was blue. First we were instructed to write our name in the middle of the star. Then, Brian told us to write a different thing on each “arm” of the star: On the top, we put our best friend’s name. The next arm we were told to write the name of a family member(s) in which we usually confide. Next we wrote a community to which we belong (for example “Church” or “School” or “Soccer Team”). On the fourth we wrote our dream job. And on the last arm of the star Brian said to write our hopes and dreams. My star had Jamie as my best friend and my father as my confidant. I wrote “LGBTQ” as my community and “positively influence kids” as my dream job. My hopes and dreams said, “Get pregnant and have babies.”

Brian had us all get up and form a circle. Like I said, there were about 30 of us. I began to glance around at the different colored stars and spotted 2 other blue stars like mine. I saw about 8 orange stars and about the same number of purple stars. There were a lot of yellow.

Brian told us that for this exercise he was going to ask that nobody leave, and nobody talk. He asked us to remain completely silent and just focus on the importance of his words. I can’t remember each word exactly, but it’s burned well enough into my head to recount the following.

Brian started to read from a piece of paper. “You are now all members of the LGBTQ community. You identity in some way as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning. This is now your ‘coming out’. You start by confiding in your best friend. If you have a blue star, your best friend is supportive and understanding. They tell you that they will be there to support you and that they do not consider you as any different than before. If you have an orange or purple star, your best friend tells you that this changes things for them. They don’t understand this part of you. They need time to deal with it and cannot be emotionally or physically available right now. If you have an orange or purple star, fold back that point of the star to symbolize this. If you have a yellow star, you have lost your best friend. They do not understand and never will. If you have a yellow star, tear off that point of the star and drop it to the ground.

“You continue by coming out to your closest family member. If you have a blue or orange star, your family has accepted you. They have told your that they will support you no matter what and have followed through with that promise. If you have a purple star your family is struggling with your announcement. They have mixed feelings and are not fully supportive. Some of your family members have not shown support at all. Others claim they need more time to process this. If you have a purple star, fold back that point of the star. If you have a yellow star, your family is not at all supportive. They have told you that you are no longer accepted as part of the family. Tear off that point of the star and drop it to the ground. ”

The exercise, something that started as just a colorful star visual, got really real for me. We all could see where this was going. As Brian read more and more, our fates began to fall into place. My blue star remained untouched. My best friend, father, community and profession stayed intact. Meanwhile, pieces of the orange and purple stars were being folded away or dropped completely. And piece by piece of the yellow stars were piling up on the ground like confetti. They were supposed to be symbolic of our support groups – friends, family, work, dreams. But the yellow stars were turning into empty, pointless shapes. I felt my eyes well up with tears as Brian got to the last one.

“Your hopes and dreams are deeply rooted. They are in your soul. If you have a blue star you have the confidence and support to push for those hopes and dreams – to achieve your inner-most desires. If you have an orange or purple star you work as hard and you can to mend relationships and control your life, but you have to put your dreams on hold. They are not as important to you as they once were. If you have an orange or purple star, fold back that point of the star. If you have a yellow star, you have disregarded your dreams completely. You have turned to alcohol and drugs to cope with your life. You fall into a deep depression and let go of all hopes, dreams, and desires. You become one of the 40% of people in the LGBTQ community to commit suicide. Tear up the remaining part of your star and drop it to the ground.”

And as all 12 people with yellow stars tore up their paper, I lost it. It hit me full force how many in my community have that yellow star experience. Friends of mine popped into my head – friends that I had to see struggle with coming out, fighting constantly to stay afloat in a situation that so desperately wanted to drown them. And as I looked down at my hands, clutching a perfect, 5-point star, I was grateful. I was overwhelmingly grateful to have had the Blue Star Experience for real. I have friends and family and a community that support me. I have an administration that backs me up. And I have hopes and dreams that are still very much alive for me. But those broken pieces of orange, purple, and yellow stars are still so fresh in my mind.

The man next to me had an orange star and after all was said and done he had one point remaining. When we regrouped to reflect on the exercise he held it up and said, “What if, for many of our students, we are the only point on the star they have left.” And that is what I will remember every single day that I get to work with these kids.

I will never, ever forget that.

Ludovic Bertron

Ludovic Bertron

Waiting for Monique Harlowe

A hot brunette walks in and takes a seat at the end of the bar. She orders a drink without so much as a glance around and immediately starts to sip it. Savannah pokes Emma in the side and nods towards the brunette.

“What d’ya think?” Savannah prods.

Emma looks over at the girl and finishes the last of her beer. “I’d joust her,” she smiles.

Courtney Act - First Joust of the Day one the "Waiting for Monique Harlowe" Facebook page

Courtney Act – First Joust of the Day on the “Waiting for Monique Harlowe” Facebook page

A good friend of ours has been working on writing a screen play for a short film and Jamie and I are so happy to be able to watch her dream come true. She’s worked in theatre for years in NYC and has witnessed plenty of others play out their on-stage fantasies – now it’s her turn.

The film is called “Waiting for Monique Harlowe”. Monique is a celebrity living in New York and is rumored to be a closeted lesbian. Two of her biggest fans, Savannah and Emma, have made it their mission to catch a glimpse of Monique in a lesbian dive called Vera Cruz. Every Tuesday night they show up at Vera Cruz in hopes of meeting the great Monique Harlowe…and wait.

I am so excited. It seems like it will be the perfect combination of comedy and drama – lesbian culture in a nutshell!

There is currently an active Kickstarter account for the film. Please help spread the word for this unique short film and if you can, give a few bucks to the project. I know it would mean the world to my friend Miranda to see this creation become a reality.

Monique Harlowe

Monique Harlowe

Find her on Facebook, Twitter (@waiting4monique) and Instagram (@waitingformonique)…and please share!

Note: The opening dialogue above is not taken from the actual screen play – but I sure am having fun imagining what it will be like!

All The Things She Said

Today I saw 146 students take a seat in my classroom throughout the day. As each class excitedly sat down, looking nervously around the room for some clue as to what lay ahead, I found myself preparing my words carefully. I had thought long and hard about how I wanted to conduct my classes today, but now that it was actually time to go through with it, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous. At one point, I even thought I was going to chicken out. Today was the day I came out to my students.

A few months ago, I wrote a post entitled “My Fear Landscape” – a kind of flash-forward to today. What’s interesting is that today went very similar to how I had predicted in that post. When I wrote it, it seemed like a lifetime away. It felt like I had all the time in the world to prepare for today – and now it’s already gone. As I said in that initial post, I didn’t want my coming out to feel like an announcement. Basically, I started every introduction today the same way I always do: “Welcome to the 7th Grade! I am Mrs. Chappell and I will be your Homeroom Teacher for the entire year!” But this time I didn’t move on. For all 6 of my classes I walked over to the board where I had written my name: Mrs. Chappell. I referenced the “Mrs.” in my name and continued, “I am a ‘Mrs.’ because I got married last year. But my last name ‘Chappell’ is the one I was given at birth. My marriage is a little different than most because I married a woman, not a man. I may end up changing my name someday to match my Wife’s last name, but for now I’m ‘Mrs. Chappell’.” When I said this for the first time, I felt myself get a little red in the face and my heart started to race. But as the day went on, it got easier and easier.

As I said, I saw 146 students take a seat in my classroom today and out of those, 5 were in the wrong room. I made my little announcement to 141 students altogether. 4 of them never looked up from their desk. 2 made some sort of snickering noise. 14 smiled at me. 3 of them clapped  (I’m not kidding – they literally clapped). 11 of them turned to look at a friend. 1 raised her hand. And 106 didn’t react at all. I guess you could say it went well!

The student that raised her hand was in first period. I got a little nervous when I saw it – this could go very wrong. “My Fear Landscape” popped into my head again. I called on her and she said, “Could I ask a question that I hope won’t offend you?” I laughed a little and said, “Let’s hear it.” She asked, “What does that tattoo on your arm mean?”

Isn’t it funny the things we fear?

Today was just day one and I do anticipate some bumps in the road ahead. But with all I have learned about myself and the world around me, I wouldn’t trade today for anything.