Anxiety and Fears

Yesterday, we took a referral form for Procrea Heartland Fertility & Gynecology Clinic (Heartland for short) to our new doctor in the rural prairies, and paired it with ramblings about our pre-filled form.

I read on that one particular doctor at the clinic is fatphobic, has made sexist and misogynist comments, and is generally inappropriate and rude. “This doctor is not for us,” I said, “You’ll see that I’ve marked it on the form.”

Our new general practitioner (GP) replied: “You both seem so scared. Why are you so anxious?”

Heartland is the only fertility clinic in Manitoba. Save travelling to British Columbia or Ontario, our anonymous sperm insemination will have to happen here. We’re already trying to figure out what driving back and forth to a city 2.5 hours away will be like when I’m ovulating.

How do you know when you are? What do I have to pee on for that? What about our work schedules? What happens when Norse is out of town? Do I cancel classes? And what about winter? What happens when HWY 1 is closed? 

We can’t afford to travel out of province to get knocked-up, nor do we have flexible enough schedules to take time off work to do so. Heartland is our only “choice.”

Choice, autonomy, and power, are concepts that swirl around in my brain too quickly to grasp, and too loudly to hear properly. I have tornado-noise up there. Sometimes it comes out in tears, and other times in anger.

One time, it came out in an inarticulate request with doctor that specializes in trans* health care in our province’s largest city. He was off duty and with his kids enjoying our local folk festival. This really happened. It went something like this:

“Oh hey, so nice to finally meet you in person…. ya, ya, local trans* clinic visit and review… I’ll be there… non-binary… gender fluid…complex… uhuh… so I’m wanting to get pregnant with my trans* partner, can you help me?

While Norse and I have the choice to create a family, and the relative class power to follow through, we lack autonomy and control in this process. Our queer gayby-making necessarily requires other people (you know, the ones with sperm), and in our case, medical intervention. For starters, we will have to engage with a seemingly heterosexist, cissexist, and racist clinic that represents only white heterosexual couples, and lists women’s services and men’s services as navigation tools on their website (but their use of “partner” instead of husband or spouse on the referral form was a nice touch).

This makes us nervous. Being unable to answer (or find answers) to these questions makes us scared:

Can my partner’s trans* identity be a justification for denial?

How will “gender identity disorder” (now “gender dysphoria” in the DSM) come up on the (apparently mandatory) pysch test?

What about depression?

Will we have to mark he/she on every form? Mom and dad? Biological and non-biological?

Do we both have to have a physical? Even if I carry, will Norse have to have a pap test, too?

We have many questions.

As we are telling all of this to our new GP, she misgenders Norse twice and calls us lesbians. She also tells us that psych tests are conducted to ensure we are ready to have a baby because this isn’t the “normal” way of going about it. Then, she assures us that there is nothing to worry about, and that single women do this all the time. When I tell her that all kinds of people have babies without psych tests she pauses and, to her credit, listens to our concerns and Norse’s experiences with transphobia in the medical system.

After our bike ride home, we talk about the doctor’ appointment and call Norse’s mom to debrief.

How much of our identities are we willing to negotiate? How much will our experience and bodies, and Norse’s body in particular, be used as educational tools? When will we put our heads down and focus on the goal (a baby!), and when will we dig in our heels for ourselves and to make space for other people? And, how much can you really resist phobias when you are relying on the only fertility clinic in the province to impregnate you? 

When I teach my Reproductive Justice course, I show the following infographic about abortion access:

Source: Canadians for Choice
Source: Canadians for Choice

Why bring up abortion when I’m trying to make a baby? Good question.

While Canadians have the choice and legal right to access abortion services, access is inequitable.

Reproductive justice is a concept developed by women of colour in the United States, and complicates the choice paradigm around reproduction that is oh-so popular in mainstream feminist circles.

According to Sister Song reproductive justice is “the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environment… It represents a shift for women advocating for control of their bodies, from a narrower focus on legal access and individual choice to a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on our power.”

Yes, Norse and I have a choice to make a gayby, but there are significant constraints on our power to do so. Reproductive justice is a queer issue.

Choice. Autonomy. Power. Brain-swirl.

Maybe this is why many people self-inseminate with known-sperm? But how does one ask for someone’s sperm? Do you text or call? How do you maintain a friendship after a sperm-swap? How do you keep the bowl warm? How warm is too warm?

So many questions.


Our Maybe Gayby

On our first date, my partner told me they wanted babies.

On their way to the bathroom.

They got up. Pushed in their chair, and said: “By the way, I totally want kids someday” and walked away.

Nine months later, Norse* and I traveled to see family in Toronto and stopped by Come As You Are (a rad sex-positive and queer–friendly sex shop). We went in for toys, but came out with the book “What Makes a Baby.”

This week, we sent emails to our queer friends and community who have made and/or adopted gaybies to ask for their advice and support.

Sometimes I wonder how we got here. I have never before desired to have babies. In past relationships, I have been strict about my child-free status. When Norse and I first met, we fought about whether kids should be invited to weddings (one of our biggest fights yet!). We talked at length about my lack of desire to parent, and their desire to do so. Then, we fell in love. A deep, incredible Beyoncé-style love. We started talking about our “maybe gayby.” Soon enough, we found ourselves solidly committing to 1.5 names for our two “maybe gaybies” and oogling our friend’s and families’ children. It took a trip across the world to meet our adorable and giggly nephew to cement our decision.

We want to make a gayby. And soon!

As a cis woman of almost 30, some might say that my lack of desire to parent in my 20s is directly connected to my “biological clock,” which might only now be starting to “tick.” I fundamentally reject the pressure put on white, middle-class, able-bodied, cis women to mother, while poor and racialized women, and women with disabilities, are targeted for sterilization and often dangerous long-term birth control. In/fertility is sometimes connected to age; however, there are a host of structural, environmental, political, social, cultural, and physical issues connected to one’s in/fertility or desire to parent. In/fertility itself does not causally impact one’s desire to parent. Neither does gender.

My desire to parent is directly connected to my desire to co-parent.

Previously, I did not desire to parent because I neither wanted to parent alone (BIG SHOUT OUT TO SINGLE PARENTS) nor did I want to parent with the person I was in a long-term relationship with for most of my 20s. I could not imagine raising children with this person or their family, so I never imagined ever having kids. I didn’t see co-parenting in our future. Plus, I was busy obtaining a PhD, getting a tenure-track job, publishing my research, and building community.

As a woman who shirks some socially constructed and valued feminine ideals, while also embracing and queering others, the word “mom” (much like “wife”) never seemed to fit my identity and how I imagined myself in the world.* The first child in my life who ever really “saw” me in a familial fashion is my niece who joyfully calls me “Uncle,” but confirms to her school teachers that I am, in fact, a girl.

It wasn’t until teaching my introduction to sociology class about how heterosexual marriages often fall apart under the pressures of the gender division of labour that I realized my queer identity and current relationship offered my partner and I the possibility to parent in ways that fit our identities and capabilities. While we will face stigma outside of our family “bubble,” realizing that it was possible to create a home free from, or at least resistant to, gender roles and expectations really allowed me to imagine myself parenting for the first time.

We have a long way to go in this process. A lovely and knowledgeable member of our community sent us a pdf of the introduction to the book “Mothering Queerly, Queering Motherhood.” Seems like a perfect first step for us two queers to take toward our (maybe) gayby.

*Alias to protect our identities in a small, rural community.

* “Mom” and “wife” are words that are salient for all kinds of folks for different reasons, and these are important positions often taken up by women who are undervalued, unpaid, and resilient.