LGBTQ+ stuff

Orlando

Textured rainbow

For the most part, I am a strong person. Not in a physical sense, but in an emotional sense. In the most difficult situations, I push past heartbreak and pain in order to move forward.

Everyday, for the past couple of weeks, I wanted to write about the Orlando shooting that took place on June 12, 2016, but I kept putting it off. It was and still is a deadly and violent incident that leaves me lost for words every time it becomes the topic of conversation. For a while, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was rendered speechless and unable to process my thoughts about the topic, but now I think I know why.

I’m scared. For the first time in my life, as a lesbian and a member of the queer community, I actually feel afraid. I don’t mean to sound arrogant or conceited, because I know how difficult it can be, but throughout my entire life and up until this point, I have never once felt discriminated against, or hated for who I am as a person.

For as long as I can remember, LGBTQ+ rights have been progressing in the right direction; countries are legalizing same-sex marriage, people in powerful positions are coming out, media representation of the queer community is becoming normalized and the list goes on. As this was happening, I became comfortable, complacent even, almost to the point of truly thinking that positive change was making a difference; that I was safe.

Despite all of this though, when the Orlando shooting happened, it felt like we as a society took a giant step backwards.

This shooting made me realise that I’ve become too complacent about the queer community and LGBTQ+ rights. Those rights are not going to happen overnight, and they definitely won’t happen if I sit back and wait for others to fight for those rights for me. I can’t become comfortable. I don’t want to be comfortable.

The Orlando shooting was in my opinion, a hate crime. As a member of the queer community, I have a responsibility to fight for the safety of all members of that community, and in memory of those who lost their life that night.

Insemination

Vulnerability

Blood. A thin layer of blood on her underpants Uteruswas all it took to know that another unsuccessful month passed by.

The waiting was slow and painful. We questioned every symptom and change in her body and mood, wishing and hoping that this was the month it was going to work. Two weeks isn’t really a long time, but when you spend two weeks of every month just waiting for a sign of blood, or better yet, no sign of blood, it can feel like an eternity.

We started the process of intrauterine insemination 8 months ago, and it has been an exhilarating, but completely gut-wrenching journey. The worst part of it all is that it still isn’t over, and we have no idea when this emotional rollercoaster is going to end.

The process is meticulous and always timed to perfection. If it isn’t timed and controlled, we would be disadvantaging ourselves, and we want to give ourselves the best possible outcome.

Intrauterine insemination is relatively simple. It’s like having sex without the thrill and excitement of actually having sex. The simplified version goes like this – each month, my wife sits in a chair, and sperm is released into her uterus through a catheter. In order for our doctor to know exactly when to do this, and to leave no room for error, we have to control the release of my wife’s eggs. To do this, I inject my wife in the stomach with a drug that stimulates the ovulation. The doctor, now knowing the exact time of ovulation, is then able to perform the insemination at a specific time.

Our last try was particularly difficult for us. As two full-time employees, it’s rare that we are able to get an appointment outside of working hours, and rarer that we are both able get time off work to be at the “having sex without really having sex” appointment. This time was different. We were given an appointment after working-hours and I could actually be there in the room.

On insemination day, we walked into the medical room together, and made ourselves comfortable – my wife in the stirrups, with me beside her, an arms-length distance separating us. Our doctor followed shortly afterwards with a nurse, and they began preparing for the procedure. My wife was so nervous even though she had been through this process before, but I couldn’t contain my excitement. An awkward silence filled the room as the long catheter became visible.

Our doctor inserted the catheter, and I looked towards my wife to see the expression on her face. She describes the feeling as being uncomfortable, but not painful. I guess it’s nothing like having sex after all.

Suddenly, our doctor starts talking and I’m too busy looking at my wife to notice what he’s saying. I ask him to repeat what he just said, and he asks if I would like to do the honour of releasing the sperm into my wife’s uterus. I am so surprised and excited about actually being part of the process that I immediately jump up to push the syringe before my wife can utter a word.

After the short procedure, we are given some time alone in the room, and my wife sits in the same position for 15 minutes. During these 15 minutes, we laugh about the whole experience, and this positive feeling overwhelms me and I truly believe that this time it’s going to work.

Two-weeks of wishing and hoping later, and blood appears.

At this moment in time, my heart is breaking. It’s breaking for my wife who puts her body through this every month and has to face disappoint each and every time. It’s breaking for our future baby who hasn’t even been conceived yet. But more selfishly, my heart is breaking because I honestly don’t know what to do or how I can help anymore. My hopes that have been building up for two weeks, imagining what it would be like for us to be expecting our first child, come crashing down in an instant.

I try to understand, but I really can’t understand what it’s like for my wife to go through this every month. It’s her body and her emotions that are constantly under pressure. Is it selfish for me to also feel sorry for myself?

Where do we go from here? Do we just move forward and forget the past disappointments? It’s so cliché, but what other choice do we have?

Coming Out · Work

“Yes, Students, I Am Gay!”

This article was originally published on Femsplain.

Graduation Cap

There is one moment that will forever be engraved in my memory. After I had graduated from my studies, with my feet firmly planted in a school, I was in the middle of teaching a lesson when a student asked me if I was gay.

I’ve always been an honest person. I’m not outspoken or loud about my life, or things in general for that matter, but I pride myself on my honesty. When I came out to my family and friends, it was hard, and it was scary, but I was honest about who I was. It was a huge relief to finally have this weight lift off my shoulders. I was free! Or so I thought. Little did I know at the time that the coming out process wasn’t over, and that I would be doing it over and over again in my professional life.

I’m a teacher, and at the time of coming out to my family and friends, I was still in the early stages of my studies. I hadn’t even set foot inside a school yet, let alone thought about what life would be like as a professional teacher. A gay teacher. A teacher who would have to interact with both students and colleagues, not just discussing work and education, but life. My life!

During my first teaching practicum, I managed to keep my sexuality a secret. It was easy enough. I was so nervous and busy learning to be a teacher, all I ever spoke about was work. By the time my second teaching practicum came around, I was more comfortable with the work, and started to balance the conversations between work and my private life. I was nervous. I remember clearly pretending to be heterosexual, for the most part because it was easier. I would only be spending four weeks at this place, so why make my life harder by being honest about who I really was?

I started omitting parts of my life from conversations. I essentially edited my life to fit the persona of a straight person. Why did I think being straight would be easier than being gay at work? At the time, I couldn’t tell you why. It was just easier I guess. I didn’t have to fight the battles gay people often have to in the workplace. I immediately felt like I was 18 again, and struggling with the task of coming out.

These white lies became a chore. It was simply another task to add onto the list of things to do at work. I would use pronouns like “they” and “them” to mask the identities of the women I had crushes on, each time feeling the weight accumulating on my shoulders again.

During breaks and over lunch, colleagues would openly discuss what they did at the weekend, or over the summer holidays, not realising how easy it was for them to speak freely, without fear of judgment or discrimination. I can’t speak for the entire LGBTQ community, but from my own personal experiences, speaking about my weekends and summer holidays wasn’t always easy, and I was often afraid of being discriminated against because of my sexuality.

“Miss, are you gay?”

Silence.

I was shocked, and the look on my face probably gave it away, but I was quick to respond with a no. Her friend immediately berated her for asking me, and I went on with the lesson as if nothing had happened. Reflecting back though, I wish I had been brave enough to be honest. To be my true self. Not someone who hid behind lies to create a false identity of who it was easier to be. Why didn’t I use that moment as a teaching moment?

It has taken me a long time to find the courage to be my most true self at work. I met my wonderful wife when I finally found the courage to be open and honest in the workplace.

Students don’t ask me if I’m gay or not anymore, and I’m not sure if this is because there is true change happening in the world, or if students just don’t care about the lives of their teachers, but regardless, if a student were to ask me now whether I am gay or not, my answer would be a loud and proud yes!

Insemination

Taking the plunge

I live in Berlin, the capital city of Germany. It’s a city rich full of culture, politics, media and science, and I love it. Berlin is a place where history meets the modern world in such a cool and diverse way, making it a sought-after living and holiday destination for many in the LGBTQ+ community. This past vs. present discord complements the city and is one of the reasons that drew my wife and I to live here; however trying to start a family in this big cosmopolitan has its difficulties and is certainly testing my ability to live in a bureaucratic society.

SemenOver a year ago, my wife and I decided to make this baby thing real. We booked an appointment at one of the bilingual fertility clinics in Berlin Mitte to talk about our options and the process of how two women can make a baby. Now, we’re not stupid, and we know that science hasn’t progressed far enough for two women to make a baby without the help of a man yet (I’m not-so-secretly waiting for that day to hurry up and happen though!), but we just wanted to hear about intrauterine insemination from a professional, rather than read through the copious amounts of literature that is available on the Internet. Sometimes, there can be an excessive amount of information that it is simply too overwhelming to digest.

At the appointment, the doctor explained the process of insemination and how to proceed from here, but before anything could begin, there were a number of hurdles we had to overcome to get to that point. Germany can be very bureaucratic at the best of times, but finding out that we had to be married before we could begin insemination really slowed the process down and got me thinking about the many things the LGBTQ+ community have to overcome to just live their lives as normal citizens of the world. Straight couples don’t need to prove that they are married before they try to conceive a baby. Heck, it happens by accident a lot of the time! Why should we, two women in a committed relationship, be asked to sign a paper so that our relationship is formally and legally recognised by the government before we have a baby? At the time of our initial appointment, my wife and I weren’t married, but we had discussed getting married in a couple of years or so. This was something we wanted to do on our terms though, not because it was an “obstacle” in the way to starting a family.

Semen 2Of course there may be legal disputes and issues should two people of the same sex who aren’t married and who have a baby split up, but is it really any different to two people of the opposite sex doing the same thing? Aren’t there just as many difficulties? Although our future child may not have my DNA, of course I am going to love him or her just as much as my wife, who will be biologically related to them, will.

If two people who are committed to one another bring up and nurture a child from birth, or at any age for that matter, even if they aren’t the biological parents, isn’t that all that matters? As a parent, you take on one of the toughest jobs in the world. You are responsible for another human being 24/7 until the day you die, and it’s essentially unpaid, but at the end of the day there is this earth-shattering and all-consuming love that makes it all worthwhile. Should two people in a relationship decide to part ways, I would hope that as human beings, we are compassionate enough to realise that love trumps biology, no matter how hard the separation might be on the two adults. It isn’t a piece of paper and marriage that defines parenting and love!

Despite this, my wife and I decided to tie the knot shortly after this revelation, but in a very discrete and low key way, with just the two of us, a celebrant and a translator (because my German is still shocking despite the fact that I am now married to one). We still want to have a celebration and a wedding one day, but we didn’t want this piece of paper to stop us from trying to start a family.

It dawns on me now that governments, and even everyday people, don’t realise the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community very well, and that often we have to go through a very obsolete process for the sake of being able to carry out something that appears to be menial and basic to others. I hope that equality comes in the form of something more than same-sex marriage soon, because it simply isn’t enough.