It has been a long while since I blogged, and for good reason.
Norse and I moved.
Since trying to become pregnant, we have been struggling with the idea of raising our child in a rural location. The short version of this story is that there is a reason why queers migrate from rural spaces to larger cities. It is not that cities are less homophobic or transphobic than rural spaces, but there are more queers in cities and the importance of community should not be underestimated when building a family.
At a conference recently, I presented a paper on rural queer reproductive justice that, ultimately, argued that rural queer studies and reproductive justice have particularly interesting intersections that have yet to be fleshed out by scholars. My intention of sharing our story online, and in my research (via autoethnography), is to make connections and feel through these two theoretical and experiential sites. Concerned with questions of homonormativity and anti-normativity in family-making, I was, and still am, theorizing my own relationship to hegemonic narratives of queer migration from rural to urban spaces, and what it means/has meant to be queer in the rural Canadian prairies. For this presentation, I wrote:
At the time I was writing this, I was reading Maggie Nelson’s Argonauts for the fifth (or seventeenth time), obsessing over autotheory, and thinking about the queerness of pregnancy—identifying with the “hormonal soup” of her at four months pregnant and her Harry, a butch on T, undergoing top surgery, where emptying drains and shopping at Motherhood Maternity are nestled into the same transgressively domestic frame. While I was surviving the mundane reality of teaching undergraduate feminist theory and suffering the ‘morning sickness’ of first trimester (which, for me, was an all day hangover on repeat, minus the whiskey), my own butch on T was consulting on a policy document for the human rights commission on trans* experiences and needs in rural Manitoba. I was, and still am, trying to figure out my own experience of what Nelson terms trangressively domestic frames— trying making sense of my experiences of queer pregnancy and the queerness of pregnancy, thinking about queer theory’s “reproductive futurity,” and working through my (relatively new) identity as a rural queer.
I keep reading this part of Nelson’s work over and again:
I was wrong on all counts—imprisoned, as I was and still am, by my own hopes and fears, I’m not trying to fix that wrongness here. I’m just trying to let it hang out.
So here, again, I am just letting it hang out.
We moved because we need to move. Norse’s job was becoming unsustainable (no one has stayed in the position for longer than two years, and now we know why), our social circle was complex and small (as social circles are in small towns), our radical feminist and queer politic was not shared by the small community of activists and advocates (with a few solid exceptions of amazing people also getting their asses kicked by the town), we were fighting battles on every front and at every turn, and we felt less and less welcome the more we tried to settle in. Any space that was “safe” for us became so because of the work we did to make it safe. We had to create these spaces ourselves (e.g. advocating to make the local gym’s family change room trans*-accepting) and in the process, we had to put our hearts, minds, bodies, energies, stories, and safety on the line. Unsurprisingly, we burnt out. We stopped knowing what it was like to have leisure time or have conversations that didn’t start with “So, I had a shitty day.”
We were having too many shitty days.
We are resilient individuals. We could have kept on surviving the rural prairies, but we decided that our child should not have to. And so, we packed up and left.
We returned to Norse’s hometown, and settled into an apartment in an urban area. We have a new midwife team that did not squirm at the mention of our queerness, and we have a social life that is much more affirming. We are surrounded by Norse’s birth family and a chosen family of queer and trans* people who are ready to love and care for our child. We no longer have to drive 2 hours to go dancing.
We made a little nursery nook in our master bedroom.
Now, we nest.