All posts by Kinsey Morrison

About Kinsey Morrison

Civil rights advocate and writer. wholeandwhole.com & the321blog.com. 3 Rules: Be an adventure, prioritize relationships, and water flowers in the desert.

Lady Dragon Slayers

Yesterday, my family put on a yard sale for my aunt, helping her clean out an entire storage unit. After the third time moving a two-ton table – barely a hyperbole, I swear – I realized that to most people, a group of only women moving heavy furniture across the city might seem a little strange. Typically, that’s a man’s job. But it’s all we’ve ever known. Heavy lifting is just as much a job for me as cleaning the house is – but let’s be real, I probably do even less of the latter. One of the greatest benefits of growing up with two moms is that I was raised in a world without gender roles. Nothing’s off limits. Below is the main college essay that I wrote for Stanford about just that, and I felt like today was the perfect time to share it. Happy Sunday, y’all. Breaking gender stereotypes again today, but this time, because I’m chilling on the couch watching baseball. 🙂

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“I come from a family of lady dragon-slayers. They don’t charge through walls of fire or wear a suit of armor – although we do have a medieval sword with my name inscribed hanging in our living room. Our dragon proved a different kind of treacherous: living from lab result to lab result, one transfusion to the next. Shining knights didn’t rescue me; I was saved by the two people who sat at my bedside and read me fairy tales. Who refused to take no for an answer. Two women. My mothers.

I’d always understood my family was different. But just like any kids with gay parents, my sisters and I had spent much of our lives reassuring ourselves, in the face of confused looks and whispered questions: “It honestly doesn’t make a difference at all. We’re just like any other family.” And for a long time, I really believed both.

My family had never been like any other, not because we were five women, but because we were extraordinary.

So, I’m here to set the record straight. Gay parents cannot raise children just like straight parents do. Just as well? Absolutely. But not “just like.” The difference is this: I’ve been taught to be a certain type of person, not a certain type of woman. I’ve been raised in a world without gender roles. Okay, not entirely – I have a television after all – but I don’t see gendered stereotypesacted out every day in my own house. It’s not even as simple as one of my moms taking on all the traditionally male chores – because we don’t have a man to do them – while the other cleans and cooks. Karen kills the bugs because Audrey’s afraid of them; Audrey sets mouse traps because Karen’s afraid of those. Audrey is a stay at home mom who changes our tires and hates even online shopping. Karen is a CEO who can shop till she drops. Both claim to have missed out on the “cooking gene.”

We don’t heed obstacles. I’ve learned that I’m far better at rolling than cutting in – when it comes to painting the house, that is; when we need something done, we almost always do it ourselves. When there was a hill where we needed a flat circle for the trampoline, we grabbed shovels and a level and got to work. I can sob uncontrollably during a Nicholas Sparks movie – yes, his plot formula still works on me – and I can drive a moving van or wield a box cutter and haul soaking wet carpet strips following a basement flood.

I hold men and women to the same – very high – standard: care, even when it’s not cool; be vulnerable; don’t wallow in self-pity; hold the door open for people; be kind, but not co-dependent; give your seat to an older person; don’t be lazy; take care of your family; be strong; seriously, quit whining; be the very best you can be, and always strive to be better.

These are the truths I live by, and how my illness got its name: when I was diagnosed with cancer, we didn’t send up a prayer, we sent out a battle cry.

My moms, the lady dragon-slayers, define me more than the dragon ever could. Because of my moms, I’ve learned not to wait for my dreams and miracles, but to draw my sword – or paintbrush or shovel – and fight for them. Because of the dragon, I’m just not waiting to start.”

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Practice Makes Permanent

10313948_10204263168598450_6751486613147581060_n“The greatest gift this school has given me is not knowledge, but courage.” This was my favorite – and the truest – line from my graduation speech last Friday. As I proudly walked across the stage and became a St. Francis School alumna, I realized just how much this school has meant to me and how much I’ll miss the people who make it so extraordinary. (And as I proof-read this piece, I realized I go back and forth between the past and present tense over and over; I still can’t believe high school is over!)

At one of my first field hockey practices freshman year I mentioned having two moms – knowing I was in a pretty safe environment – and the girls on the team unanimously responded, “Wow! That’s so awesome!” It was a revolutionary idea for me: things that make us different don’t have to ostracize us, but can in fact make us even cooler. After that day, I was more and more open with my classmates about my family. In middle school, I was scared for my parents to come to school because I thought more kids might find out I had two moms instead of one. In high school, Jillian and I have always been excited for them to visit – Audrey/Mama especially spends a lot of time there as a sub and tutor. All the kids love her, and I wanted them to know she was my mom.

But as I said, I knew I was in a pretty safe place. St. Francis is so diverse that you have to be a Wiccan to be a religious minority (and we are proud to have one of those)! We are accepting of all views, and only the Republicans have to keep theirs a secret. 🙂 (Not kidding, we have a two-man Secret Republicans Club.) While there were a few kids who didn’t believe in marriage equality, they were SO outnumbered that they’re the ones who felt intimidated, not me. This year, we had a “Keep St. Francis Queer” day fully dedicated to raising awareness about marginalized sexual and gender identities. With that said, feeling brave enough to tell my classmates about my parents was not THAT large of a feat. St. Francis accomplished something much bigger: making me brave enough to be myself, not just within the safety of its walls – but anywhere. Not just with people who already agreed with me, but with people who I knew didn’t.

Last week I was a volunteer facilitator at a youth leadership conference in Lexington, Kentucky. After a powerful exercise about diversity and dismantling stereotypes, I talked to my group of sophomore participants – who I knew were mostly conservative Christians – and told them about my family and my difficult journey toward authenticity and honesty. In the thank you letters they wrote to me on closing day, many thanked me for sharing my story and said it helped make them brave enough to share theirs. Two years ago when I first went through this program, I wasn’t courageous enough to do that. In the years after, when I have shared, I’ve done so with butterflies in my stomach and a knot in my throat. But this time, to my surprise, the story rolled off my tongue and my heart rate didn’t speed up at all. It felt like telling them about any other important, but not defining, aspect of my life. In some ways it was harder to admit I was a vegetarian! The more times I tell my story, the easier it becomes. The more often I am fully myself – not just the “daughter of two moms” part of myself, but every part of myself that might make me feel different – the less effort it takes to do so.

10414925_853494741330820_6415008525858982404_nMy parents always remind us, “Practice doesn’t make perfect if you’re doing it wrong!” But practice does make permanent. The St. Francis family let me practice being real, seven hours a day, five days a week, for four years. It gave me enough practice to permanently make me braver, even after I trade its halls for the real world – or at least, something a little closer to it. The greatest gift this school has given me is not knowledge, but courage. Thank you, St. Francis. I’m strong enough to be myself at Stanford and anywhere – even among the not-secret Republicans.

Will This Be On One Check or Two?

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           Blogging turned out to be a little harder than I thought. By now, WordPress has sent me four emails reminding me to “meet my weekly posting goal” because my “audience misses me.” (I hope you do!) When I started The 321 in January, I was worried no one would read it. In fact, I’ve been blown away by just how many people are interested in my family’s story and want to read more. I was NEVER worried about running out of things to say. In 17 years, I promise, I haven’t had THAT problem once.

            But still, I struggled to come up with new ideas and memories to write about that didn’t somehow repeat what I’d said the week before. I saw my blog’s biggest strength becoming its biggest weakness: my family just isn’t that different. At least, not for many reasons I can directly tie to having two moms instead of one. That’s exactly why I think our story is so important, but it’s also the challenge in making us seem noteworthy. We have dinner and go to the movies. We laugh and fight and do homework – or in my moms’ case, “real work.”  We don’t have gay dinner and then go to the Pride Film Festival before we lesbian laugh and smack each other with rainbow flags.

            Truthfully, I spend more time talking Teagan through her five, very straight crushes on every member of One Direction than I do worrying about the discrimination my family faces because I have gay parents. Even within a conservative state, we are fortunate to live in an accepting community – and a more and more accepting world. To figure out when and why my life was different because of my parents, I had to start paying closer attention.

            It’s rarely outright, blatant, meanness; it’s more that we don’t fit any of people’s boxes. At dinner last night – and every night I can remember when we’ve eaten at a restaurant – the waiter asked us, “Will this be on one check or two?” I’m pretty sure they don’t ask a man and a woman with three kids that. (Now, we almost always joke, “Yes, just one check, and the kid will be taking it.”) Typically, I think of LGBT families – and most minorities – fighting the assumptions people put on them, but in fact, my family has faced more awkwardness because people don’t know what to assume when they see five women together. What we actually are might be the last thing they’d think of. It’s easy to forget families like mine exist.

            That’s why, when my parents shop for Valentine’s Day or anniversary cards, they have to scour the aisles for a single one that doesn’t say “to my wonderful husband” or “for my lovely wife.” (The wife cards would work if we could just legalize marriage everywhere!) Unless of course, they’d still end with “I’m one lucky man,” as many of them do. A probably well-intentioned man once reminded my frustrated mom, “This is the section for women’s cards.” “Yes, I know,” she answered, as he shrunk back, embarrassed as he realized he’d put her in a box where she didn’t belong.

            At least he quickly figured out his mistake – some people just REALLY don’t get it. We often have to choose between being totally honest and avoiding painfully awkward confusion. When we took a cab in New York City, the driver – not totally fluent in English – tried fruitlessly to understand our situation as he talked to my mom Audrey. “You are sisters?” “No, partners, these are our kids.” “Ohhh, your husbands at home?” “No, we don’t have husbands, we’re partners.” “In business?” And so on. And from the back seat as a ten-year-old, what felt like on and on and on and on. Despite mom’s valiant and prolonged effort, I think the taxi driver still left us thinking my parents were on a girls’ weekend and failed to find a babysitter. (Or MAYBE, that they were outlaws on the run who stole their husbands’ money and then got the hell out of dodge! Who knows?)

            Wait staff of the world, I’m excited for the day when we no longer confuse you. Until then, please try and remember to assume we only want one bill. If we’d like two so we can use two Groupons – or I want to pretend to be an adult and pay for my own meal – we’ll let you know.

 

P.S. That last possibility is about as likely as my parents becoming husband-robbing-fugitives.

 

 

How Eight Women Watch the Super Bowl

Well, four of them don’t. Jillian was content calling them “the bird guys and the horse guys”; our baby cousin Piper was more interested in my Calculus book – if THAT doesn’t give you an idea of how boring she finds football, I don’t know what will; Pearlie slept through it since “The Puppy Bowl” had already happened – Pantin’ Manning won, in case you were wondering; and Teagan was only interested in dancing to Bruno Mars during the halftime show.

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My Aunt Ann (Anan), who lives with us, is a die-hard sports fan and whipped up some mean guacamole and potato skins filled with vegetarian bacon – the woman has TALENT. I walked in circles between the living room TV, the food, and my senior project paper, not seeing all of the game or doing enough work, but definitely not letting the family down by failing to eat my share of the tortilla chips.

            Since the game was SO boring, the most entertaining part was hearing my parents talk about it.

 

            Audrey: “Already two points? They got a safety?

            Karen: “Yeah, they threw the ball over his head.”

            Audrey: “Whose head?”

            Karen: “Peyton Manning’s.”

            Audrey: “That’s called a snap not a throw!”

            Karen: “Well he THREW it between his legs!”

 

            Karen: “Why did the blue boys get the ball back when the orange boys had it?”

            Audrey: “Because Denver turned it over. Again.”

            Karen: “Which color are they?”

           Before the halftime show:

            Audrey: “Who’s Bruno Mars again?”

            Jillian and Me Singing: “Cause I’d catch a grenadddddeee for ya! Just the way you ARE! When I was your man! You make me FEEL like, I’ve been locked out    of heaven! You are my treasure, yeah, you, you, you, you are…” Cue impromptu dance party.

            During the halftime show:

            Karen: “Oh he seems classy.” Red Hot Chili Peppers enter. “Oh but they DO NOT! Those boys need to put some shirts on!     It’s freezing! Have they lost their minds?”

            Audrey: “Are those the Red Hot Chili Pipers? I mean peppers? Can’t understand a word they’re saying.”

            Karen: “Ugh, I’m turning off this noise off.”

            Audrey: “Yeah, where ARE their clothes?”

            Afterwards, we all sang the hymn “I’ll Fly Away,” while Jillian played piano and my mom, Karen, ruled the drums, and then we prayed for those poor Broncos/orange boys/horse guys. I’m kidding about the prayer, totally serious about the hymn. Just WAIT until you hear the family gospel band.

            Here’s to a God that inspires love, acceptance, and good music, here’s to a commercial for Coke that featured the first gay family ever in a Super Bowl ad – while promoting diversity of all kinds, and here’s to those unstoppable blue, bird boys. 

Are you all adopted?

Were all three of you adopted or are you biologically related to your moms?

Both! We are all three full siblings; Karen is our biological mom and we have the same biological father. Audrey legally adopted us after we were born, but my parents lived together and were as married as they could be years before that. In order to get pregnant, my mom went through 14 months of infertility treatment. Because she had endometriosis, it was difficult. And expensive. Ultimately, a procedure called a G.I.F.T.—gammete intrafallopian transfer (similar to IVF) is what worked for me and my little sister Jillian. Teagan was born through a surrogate (and that’s a whole different story). Frozen embyos were used and, again, we are all full siblings. No one, including my parents, knows the identity of our donor, but we do know a few things about him: his height, weight, hair color, eye color, career aspirations, college, and ethnicity.

Most sperm banks (like the one we used at the University of Arizona) limit the number of children who can be produced from one donor (so something like the story in Delivery Man is actually impossible, but it does make an entertaining movie). But it is possible that we have a few half siblings. When I turn eighteen in September, I’ll have the option of trying to find out my father’s name and contact information, but I’m not sure if I will. The laws are really clear about my parents’ rights and my biological father’s rights – basically, they have no right to him and he has no right to us – but they’re really unclear about OUR rights. So we’ll see what happens. For once, I don’t really have a plan.

Gay parent adoption 101: it’s actually SUPER hard. We were lucky to live in one of the few states – New Mexico – that allows second-parent adoptions – where Audrey could adopt us without Karen giving up her rights. If we’d been born in Kentucky and not been able to be adopted, Audrey would have had no parental rights at all. Without written permission from Karen, she couldn’t have taken us to the doctor and Karen could have removed those rights at any time. Thanks, Land of Enchantment!

Of course some children of gay parents were born through traditional means. Sometimes the gay parent marries someone of the opposite sex before fully accepting or acknowledging their own sexual orientation. The couple has children, later divorce, and the kids end up with a gay parent and a straight parent.  Gay couples can adopt in some states. Or sometimes a gay parent will adopt as a single individual and then share parenting responsibilities with a partner (who may or may not gain any parental rights). Gay parenting is becoming even more common as more gay couples can get married legally.

According to the 2010 census, there are 593,324 same-sex couple households in the United States. 94,627 of those couples have children: 72.8% have only biological children, 21.2% have stepchildren or non-related, adopted children, and 6% have a combination. First demographic study I’ve ever seen where my family is actually in the majority!

Keep the questions coming! Happy Friday!

A Break from Brattitude

Teagan will be the big 11 in less than a month! So crazy! As she’s starting her tween years, she’s hit a phase that I like to call “brattitude.” Overnight, she learned EVERYTHING and the rest of us suddenly knew NOTHING! Miraculous! However, she still does occasionally have moments so sweet I can’t help but grab my camera (if only so I can look at the pictures and remember the good days when she’s reminding me how much I don’t understand ANYTHING). This week, instead of a long essay, I just want to share one of those moments with you. 

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A few months ago, T wanted to spend the night in my room downstairs, but I had about an hour of homework left. Instead of going back upstairs, she put tape on her face so she could sleep with the lights on while I finished up. I thought she was a little crazy, but was happy to know that spending time with me was still worth her time and even discomfort. She might have actually thought I was the cool sister! (Jillian knows better.) The reason my family is so close is really that simple: we love spending time together. No matter where we are or what we’re doing. A lot of times I joke that my sisters and moms have stopped me from making me more friends in high school because I almost always choose to hang out with my family! It’s a bit of a problem, but a good problem to have. 😉 

We love spending time together, and we tell each other everything. I have always been honest about who I am and what I feel with my family, even when they were the ONLY people I was that honest with. Like I said in my last post, I truly believe that being fully open about who you are is the only way to know just how deeply you are loved. 

With that said, I want to dedicate this week to telling my readers what they want to know! I’m hoping to get some questions from our now 700 followers (700!) and answer at least one of those a day – along with others I’ve gotten over the years. Nothing’s off limits! (I’ve gotten everything from “Do people make fun of you at school?” to “Do you all get your periods at the same time?”) I know some of the things I haven’t talked about yet, but there might be topics you’re curious about that I haven’t thought of! I’m always happy to answer genuine questions because they show that people care enough to listen; besides, I’d rather people ask me than trust Fox News. 😉 Ask away and have a fabulous weekend! 

P.S. I’ll go ahead and answer the period question: no. But do Jillian and I sometimes become extremely emotional and angry at the same time? Absolutely. 

Shame, Sweatpants, and Seventh Grade

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Last fall, I went to school with my sweatpants tucked into boots. Yes. That’s really me. I guess this was a moment where I needed a fashionable gay dad – actually, I can’t blame it on my parents. Even the mom who hates shopping warned me not to wear it out of the house. My sister’s still mortified that she had to be seen with me.

​My only bigger embarrassment happened in 2009, during the year I’m sure we all look back on most fondly: seventh grade. While I now go to a school so diverse you have to be a Wiccan to be a religious minority, I spent middle school in a place that, despite its many strengths, was so predominantly filled with wealthy, white, Christian, Republicans that a political “discussion” meant telling me, “Ew, you’re a Democrat?” There’s nothing inherently wrong with that demographic, but the vast majority of my classmates never questioned their own beliefs because they were almost entirely surrounded by people who agreed with them. There WERE other people who didn’t agree, probably more than I even realize, but hardly anyone spoke up because we felt like we were all alone. I was the most silent of all.

​When I wore boots and sweatpants, I was just lazy, tired and oblivious. It was an accidental embarrassment, and before the end of the day I was already laughing and moving on. Half the people who know about it know because I told them while making fun of myself. However, the most shameful thing I’ve ever done was in no way accidental. I knew exactly what I was doing.

​I’m most embarrassed by a calculated, cowardly move to avoid embarrassment. Sitting in the hallway working on a school project, one of my classmates said: “I think I heard the gym teacher is a lesbian. I mean, she’s seen me running and stuff. I don’t want her looking at me like that.” Surely someone else would tell her that “looking at women like that” doesn’t mean you look at children like that. Surely someone else would ask why she thinks she looks so hot when she’s running. (I mean, seriously?) But no one did. Neither did I. Another girl added, “I’ve never met a gay person before. I think they should maybe be able to get married, but I definitely don’t think they should be able to have kids.” I felt like I couldn’t stay totally silent after that, so I came up with the rousing, “Well, I know some gay people who have kids… and they’re really good parents.” Not, “I have gay parents. Should I not have been allowed to be born?” Terrified of what other kids would think of me, I let them bash my own family and spread the type of lies Michelle Bachmann would be proud of.

It would be easier if I really believed other kids would have done the same thing. But I know better. My sister Jillian never would have done that. When she was in seventh grade she wrote on her “About Me” page: “My family’s different, just the way I like it.” At that age, I was purposely saying “my parents” when other kids said “my mom and dad” and instead of ever distinguishing between the two when I talked about them, I made my moms sound like one mega-superwoman – people had to think that “she” was a non-profit CEO AND an English teacher AND a stay-at-home mom AND the PTA president. It’s not that I never told ANYONE, it’s just that I avoided talking about it whenever possible. My sister would have considered it impossible not to talk about our family when a friend said gay people shouldn’t get to have kids. I didn’t. Not yet.

​I learned later that being real, being an ally, being honest, doesn’t just mean telling the truth when someone asks you directly “do you have a dad?” It means LIVING your truth, every day, no matter whom you’re with. Now, I go out of my way to talk about having gay parents. I bring it up every chance I get, especially if I’m around other teenagers. Because you never know who’s listening. Twice in one day last fall, I had friends tell me I’d made a difference for them just by talking about my family. I never could have made that difference if I’d only been willing to tell the truth when I had to, because probably, no one would have asked me the question. 

​Humans want to know they aren’t alone. If no one talks about the parts of ourselves that are different, we’ll always feel like we’re the only ones who ARE different. If statistics hold true, between 80 and 90 of my middle school classmates are gay – and they knew it even in seventh grade. (So yes, sweetheart, you’d met a gay person before.) Other kids might have had two moms or two dads. If we’d talked about it, I know we could have made a difference for each other. But we didn’t.

​Staying silent didn’t protect me from bullies. I still got made fun of – just about other things. In first grade, for having no hair. In third grade, for being too chubby. In fifth grade, for not being in the popular group. In middle school, for being the girl who never totally fit in no matter where she was, despite how desperately hard I tried. I didn’t get relentlessly teased or harassed, but socially, school wasn’t a happy place for me. More and more though, I’ve realized that pretty much everyone gets bullied in middle school for something. That’s normal. Here’s what isn’t: I only vaguely remember the mean things kids actually said to me, but I remember with searing clarity the constant fear of what they would say to me if they knew about my family. I don’t think the reality of their knowing would have made things all that much worse, but the fear of it certainly did.

When you don’t live your truth, you might not find out who doesn’t like you, but you’ll also never find out who does. Part of the reason school felt so lonely is that I didn’t give my friends a chance to be supportive: I felt like “the real me” had no friends because no one knew the real me. Even going to a tiny, progressive high school wasn’t an immediate fix; it took me a year to figure out how to be myself because I’d spent so long trying to be someone else. 

Eventually though, I set myself free of the fear that had consumed me for eight years: the fear that I wasn’t cool enough, thin enough, pretty enough, likeable enough, that my family wasn’t normal enough. Not everyone at my school likes me – some people really, really don’t – but I’m happier than I’ve ever been because everyone does KNOW me. So if they do like me, they really like ME. My best friends and favorite teachers do make fun of me for talking too much, saying things like “accelerating at the speed of gravity,” and of course, for wearing sweatpants with boots, but I’ve never doubted for one second that they love me, and wouldn’t really want to change who I am. I AM enough for them, and I’m enough for anyone worth my time.

I’ve already shared this blog on the Stanford Class of 2018 Facebook page and mentioned having two moms even before that. My new friends and classmates have been incredibly supportive, and I’m making sure they all meet the real Kinsey from the start. I don’t want to waste a single day of college trapped by fear. Truthfully, when I think of the seventh grade girl frozen in the hallway, suffocated by her own silence, I’m not ashamed of her; I just feel bad for her. She is so much more worthy of love than she knew. 

What 1,000 Utah Couples Just Lost, In Addition to Their Marriage Licenses

1221_Utah_full_600 Newly Wed Utahns

As it turns out, it was too good to be true. The state of Mormons and Mitts could not really legalize gay marriage, at least not in the logical, fair, and consistent way of all 17 states before them – save California. While California also halted same-sex marriage temporarily, they at least had the decency to recognize the gay marriages that had taken place during the time before Prop 8. More than 1,000 Utah couples are not so lucky: not only is marriage equality halted while the Supreme Court examines an appeal, but the state has voided all gay marriage licenses that judges issued during the 17 days when they legally could. Those marriages don’t count. At all.

And really, you want to say that gay couples ruin the sanctity of marriage? Hell, I won’t even blame Kim Kardashian for ruining the sanctity of marriage. Guess what, Utah? There’s one word that defines that sanctity: forever. Whether it’s two men, two women, or a man and a woman, when two people say, “I do,” they commit to forever. That’s their end of the bargain. Your end of the bargain is that their commitment will be legally recognized and binding…forever. Getting a divorce is hell because most states DO hold up their end of the deal. No state has ever made marriages legal for 17 DAYS – and then decided they meant nothing. THAT endangers the sanctity of marriage, and really the sanctity of any legal contract.

The couples that got married during the past three weeks in Utah love each other no less now that their marriages aren’t legally recognized. They are no less committed to each other, no less a family, and no less determined to fight for equality. But they’ve lost more than just a piece of paper. They’ve lost at least twice as many rights as they had days of legal marriage. Here are just a few examples:

1)      The ability to apply for a green card for their spouse. If you are a straight, American citizen and get married, your spouse, no matter where he or she is from, has the right to live in the United States if they’re accepted for a green card. Not so with gay couples who aren’t legally married, regardless of how long they’ve been together. Here is a heartbreaking story of a California couple separated 17 times before the Supreme Court overturned Prop 8 this summer. http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/watch-now-legally-married-couple-still-separated-17-times-in-six-years-over-doma/politics/2013/05/14/66919#.Us6mtmyx4dU

2)      The right to file joint tax returns and access to tax breaks for married couples. Hard to believe, but taxes CAN get even worse. It’s been a nightmare trying to get financial aid for college. We don’t fit any of the FAFSA boxes.

3)      The right to joint-adoption of American children.

4)      Access to health insurance and life insurance through a spouse’s workplace.

5)      The right to make medical decisions for your spouse in an emergency – or even to see them. A gay person’s family can refuse to allow their partner to visit them in the hospital, even if the family has been absent for years and the gay couple shares a home, a business and a life. That’s exactly what happened to Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR9gyloyOjM

Even as the child of gay parents, I didn’t understand until recently just how many privileges my moms don’t have because they can’t get legally married. It hurts our family financially, and it forces many couples away from each other for months or even years at a time. But maybe the simplest thing 1,000 Utah couples have lost is actually the most important: the validation that their love is equal in the eyes of the law, the ability to call the person they’ve chosen to share their life with “my husband” or “my wife.” There is no word in our language other than “marriage” that is so universally and immediately recognized as a symbol of love, commitment, and foreverness.

For 1,000 gay couples, forever meant forever. For the state of Utah, forever meant seventeen days.

Life in THE LIFESTYLE (Part 1)

So there’s some talk going around about this thing called “The Gay Lifestyle” – has anyone else heard of it? Obviously, anyone who knows what they’re talking about laughs at the idea. Is there a straight lifestyle? A black lifestyle? A short people lifestyle? I’m not exactly sure what homophobic people mean when they say “gay lifestyle” – I assure you no LGBT person has ever uttered those words except to make fun of them – but I think maybe they expect something crazy, sexy, colorful, wild and exciting. Sorry to disappoint you, Ann Coulter, but you can stop thinking that my family’s life is way cooler than yours. Here are the top three reasons why my family definitely doesn’t live up to the “gay lifestyle” fantasy and why my moms are WAY more boring than you thought.

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3) They’re SUPER conservative. Not in the Ann Coulter way, of course, but still really, really, conservative. We’re socially liberal – so we support marriage, gender, racial and religious equality, immigration reform and reproductive rights to name a few – and we’re fiscally moderate, but after that we get deadly dull. My parents’ tolerance for us having sex, drugs or alcohol? Not just zero, negative ten. No sex until you’re an adult, no alcohol until you’re legal, and no drugs of any kind EVER. When we play rap music, my mom Audrey cringes from the bad grammar – “It would use the same number of syllables to say ‘lie’ instead of ‘lay’!!!” If we listen to music of any kind from our phones, Karen has to leave the room because of how “tinny” it sounds. If I got a tattoo, went to a crazy party, dyed my hair blue, got anything other than my ears pierced, or had any other breach of “good, clean-cut, class,” all hell might break loose. I’m sort of kidding here, but am also totally serious. Both my moms were HORRIFIED that I said “bitch” in my first blog post; thank goodness I put the name of a college next to it or else they really would have thought I’d gone astray. My parents were both raised in Fundamentalist Christian families, and though they’ve ditched the religion and the closed-mindedness, they’ve raised us with the same morals my great-grandmother would have been proud of.

2) They’re too old for Pride Parade. In a mid-teen crisis last year, I started to feel guilty that we spent so much time on cancer activism, but little to no time putting ourselves out there for LGBT rights. My parents had decided years before that they were ready to stop “fighting for their life and start living it.” I was born to argue; I want to fight about everything. I cried that we weren’t in Washington D.C. when DOMA and Prop 8 were on the docket. We had failed the movement. Why didn’t I own a single rainbow outfit?!? Desperate to prove we were really part of the club, I decided that this would be the year my whole family went to PrideFest. A “Glee” star was performing, there would be rainbow flags galore, my moms would finally get to wear their matching “Born This Way” t-shirts, and we’d be a symbol of hope and success for all the young couples there who couldn’t wait to have kids of their own. Well, I think the youngins cared a litttttllee more about the beer and concerts than being inspired to settle down. Instead of finally “fitting in” with our fellow outcasts, we felt achingly boring and God forbid, “normal.” The most exciting part for me was drinking at least a half-gallon of sugar-laced lemonade and vandalizing my high-tops with equal signs. We probably would have fit in at the DOMA protest, but PrideFest was an epic fail; in fact, we stuck out just as much as any straight family with middle-aged parents and tween to teen kids would have. I still don’t own any rainbow clothing. Such an embarrassment.

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And finally 1) Pearlie May Whovier (Whoveay), our 14-year-old, special needs, toy poodle. She is not technically my parents’ fault since WE begged for her after our dog, Reese, died. But she definitely makes their lives more boring because they take care of her, whether they wanted her or not. Aunt Pearl’s sweet as can be, but she drools, can barely get up the stairs, and sleeps 95% of the day. Every time she eats or drinks, someone has to go wipe her mouth. She has to have special food because she basically has no teeth – okay, so some canine Kentuckians DO fit the stereotype. Pearlie loves to wear sweaters in the winter, so maybe my moms should take up knitting them for her and become still MORE tame if that’s even possible.

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My friends, if there is a gay lifestyle, run away fast. If it spreads to your neighborhood, you’ll quickly become a sober, monogamous, tattoo-less, classy, crocheting, crossworder who hates rap music and ruins a good Pride party. At least your drooling dog will love you.

P.S. Ann Coulter, my family’s life is still way cooler than yours. 

So, What’s That Like in Kentucky?

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The truth is, Kentucky Kicks Ass – that’s actually our official, unofficial state slogan – and not just because Jennifer Lawrence is from here. (Okay, a lot because J. Law is from here.) But also because we’re a group of four million diverse, interesting, weird, fun, and welcoming people who say “y’all,” get obsessed with basketball, worship horses, and love the beautiful state we call home. In case you’re wondering, I’m wearing some super cool shoes right now and haven’t eaten KFC since 8th grade when my whole family went vegetarian.

But what’s it like being a gay family in Kentucky? It really depends. Our state is traditionally conservative, but we’re also home to Vicco, the smallest town in the country with an LGBT Fairness Ordinance – which you can check out in an awesome Stephen Colbert report here: http://gawker.com/stephen-colberts-best-segment-ever-will-make-you-fee-1150255944. I go to the most liberal school in the most liberal city in Kentucky, so I was terrified when I went to the Governor’s Scholars Program this summer where I’d spend five weeks with high school seniors from all over the state, who I was sure would be less accepting than my own classmates. I was totally right and also totally wrong. There were way more kids there who didn’t believe in gay marriage, but no one was directly mean to me about having gay parents. (If they said stuff behind my back I didn’t hear it.) Actually, at the first talent show, twenty girls from my hall performed “Same Love” with one of our RAs – even girls who said their parents wouldn’t approve of it. Most Kentucky teens, like 75% of Millennials, are in favor of marriage equality, even if their families aren’t.

More than once, before people knew about my family, I did hear “Well it’s against my beliefs, but I won’t judge gay people on Earth because God will punish them in Hell.” Near the end of the program I gave a speech to the entire group about addressing that comment with honesty instead of just staying silent and safe. The response was overwhelmingly positive; that speech was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but I am so incredibly glad I did it. It’s not like I made all 350, mostly Christian and Republican kids want to hang rainbow flags as soon as they got home, but I do think I opened their minds, even if I didn’t change them. And the most important thing is, I’m an example. Now, if they hear about a law that hurts gay families, it’s not hurting strangers, it’s hurting their friend. I’ll say that again, “their friend.” This summer was the first time in my life when I have known people who openly opposed marriage equality, and I still genuinely did consider them my friends. I still genuinely considered them good people; good people who had been raised in a totally different community than mine, with different values and accepted truths. Their religion which made them less open to gay people also made many of them donate hundreds of hours to charity, refuse to drink or use drugs, and believe their life could serve a higher purpose – all which make me like them more and make them have more things in common with me.

Overall, I don’t think my personal experience has been considerably worse because I live in Kentucky. Most people “out in the state” spend way more time hating the Louisville basketball team than they do hating gay people. I have friends who strongly reject evolution, fervently support the NRA, vote red every time…and still think my family rocks. The most negative thing anyone has ever said to me about anything LGBT actually came from a guy who’s bisexual himself, who called me a “breeder” and said I wasn’t really helpful to the movement because as a straight girl I didn’t get it since I’ve never literally had to fight for my rights. I told him he was being an asshole, but also took to heart the truth in what – I think – he was trying to say.

The bottom line is, I will never be stared at or insulted for walking down the street holding hands with a man I love. And in finding that man, I get to work with 45% of the population instead of 5%. If I misjudge who’s in that 45% and flirt with a gay guy, he’ll probably laugh and we’ll end up talking about how hot Ryan Gosling is. If my gay friends flirt with a straight guy, well, Matthew Shepard died for it.

So on a fundamental level, my life IS easier than a gay person’s, no matter where I live, because I’m still part of the 90%. I might face more discrimination than the average straight person because of my family and passionate involvement with the LGBT rights movement, but it’s still not the same. I get that. I’m writing a mostly positive review of Kentucky in order to give its citizens the credit I think they deserve, not in any way to discount the horribly difficult and unfair prejudice that so many gay people face, especially in the most rural areas of our state. My friend Chris Hartman, the director of the Fairness Campaign in Louisville, has had his car vandalized and his house broken into and robbed, just within the past year. I recognize and deeply appreciate Chris and many others like him who risk their own physical safety every day in order to make our state and world a better place.

The sad thing about Kentucky is, the people who most frequently stereotype and discriminate against gay people are in a demographic hugely stereotyped themselves. They know how insulting and ridiculous it is when people ask, “Do you wear shoes?” or “Do your neighbors still have all their teeth?” They know how frustrating it is for people to automatically think they’re less intelligent just because of the way they talk.  “Country hick,” and “redneck” have hurt them just as much as “faggot” and “dyke” have hurt gay people.

No matter where we come from, we all are limited by some stereotype – and we all hold stereotypes about other people, whether we intend to or not. Our society will never totally get rid of our assumptions about each other; they can be useful, sometimes, in helping us navigate social situations, avoid conflict, or find other people with similar interests. If you see someone with a Duck Dynasty poster, you might assume they like the show and not admit you think Santa’s the only person who looks good with a beard that long. (Don’t worry, Phil Robertson, I’ll be coming back to you later.) If you read nothing else I ever write, read this: the stereotypes we put on others are just as flawed as the ones put on us. Maybe if everyone understood that, my parents could get married, and people would stop suggesting I marry my cousin.