A few weeks ago I was at a Rosh Chodesh gathering, and as it often happens in a room filled with women, the conversation turned to families and babies. I began to feel pangs of jealousy immediately. I was jealous of the ease with which women who are married to (or in relationships with) men can have babies. When you’re in a loving and committed heterosexual relationship and both people decide they’re ready to have children, you simply slip into bed together. When you’re in a loving and committed gay relationship and both people decide they’re ready to have children, the next steps are far more complicated.
I am fully aware that many couples, both gay and straight, have trouble conceiving, and I do not make light of the complexities that often arise when trying to conceive. But in discussion these complexities as a gay woman, a completely different set of reasoning is used. It has very little do do with my age or health and everything to do with the fact that a woman is trying to have a child without help from a man.
I’m often reminded that it’s hard for my partner and me to have a child because so many people out there think it is unnatural, wrong, even sinful. But, it’s not just lesbian women who seek out donors, IVF or adoption; many straight couples take the same journey for a variety of reasons. I’ve been reading the “Single Mother by Choice,” a blog series penned by Kveller’s Emily Wolper. In it she shares her very personal journey through donor shopping, IVF treatment and now DWP (dating while pregnant), plus her choice to mother as a single woman — and in the process gives a peek inside of the many, varying ways one can become a parent and create a family. The parenting website Off Beat Mama is another wonderful source for parents who fall out of the “mother, father, 2.5 children and dog” paradigm.
I read these story not only to see my life experience represented, but for support. Because I’m at the point in my life where my ovaries and uterus have launched a full-fledge assault on the rest of my body. The once rationally minded woman I was has been replaced by a woman with a singular focus: having a baby. This singular focus has resulted in a variety of missteps, some innocent and some well-intentioned, all a bit awkward.
The public acceptance of gay marriage by the President of the United States — a position that most Jews support — is hardly the end of the struggle for full equality for LGBTQ citizens, who continue to lack many of the same enshrined rights and protections as other minority groups. Similarly, Barack Obama’s historic announcement of what many of us long suspected lay in his heart already will have almost zero impact on policy, and likely little impact on the election, since the issue ranks far below economic ones with most voters at the moment.
Instead, it represents a benchmark. Because his choice of words does show that both feminism and the gay rights community have made inroads where it matters most: our definition of relationships. Obama’s evolution echoed ours.
After all when Obama spoke about the “committed, monogamous” relationships of his gay friends, he was positing marriage as a simple, straightforward commitment between two equal people, not as a patriarchal social construct with the man as the head of the household, literally receiving his wife from her father. That very different vision, after all, is what marriage used to be (after, of course, it evolved from Biblical-era polygamy). Marriage once was a transaction between a bread-earner and a child-bearer. And yet when Obama spoke of marriage, he said:
As I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.
His words reflect nothing of these old visions of marriage. Instead these images conjure up love, commitment, raising kids as partners (not one person raising kids), and even an unspoken freedom from “constraints.”
In the midst of the depressing morass known as Weinergate, there is some more heartening news about New York Jews and their love lives. Among the many members of the tribe joining the full-on advocacy efforts for gay marriage in New York are a couple called the Blumenthals, who have lent their story and family photos to this touching ad.
Via Chloe Angyal at Feministing, this set of Jewish parents made an ad about marriage equality asking legislators to grant them the simple pleasure of seeing their gay son walk down the aisle — just like their straight one has.
Here’s the transcript:
Iris Blumenthal: We’ve been married for 47 years and have two sons. Our older son is straight and has been married for 15 years. Our youngest son is gay and has been in a committed relationship for 11 years. A good marriage is thinking about and caring for the other person even more than you care about yourself and we’ve seen this in Jonathan and Eric’s relationship to each other. They’re a wonderful couple, they’re a caring couple. It would give us such great joy to walk them down the aisle and watch them get married.
It’s a truism that fashion trends repeat themselves. Sure, there may be a new style, but it’s really just a repeat of an old one, usually with some small variations on the theme. It’s just too bad that when low-rise bell bottoms were big a few years ago, I wasn’t able to wear them and channel the six-year old I was when they were first in fashion. Maybe some women were willing to risk the muffin-top look for the sake of nostalgia, but I sure wasn’t.
Since I am not at all a big clothes shopper, I am always happy when something I already have in my closet (and still fits) comes back in style, or can be re-purposed in some fashionable way. It is usually flattering for a designer to see teenage girls walking down the street in garments (or knock-offs thereof) they produced decades earlier for the girls’ mothers, or even grandmothers.
I am hoping this is how Rabbi Rachel Silverman will feel if she sees the t-shirt she created back in 2006 worn today, but with a different intention in mind on the part of its wearers.