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Thursday 10 November 2016

Becoming mums: A sense of community

Posted in: True Stories
By Jacqui Stanford - 21st June 2015

Working for an organisation like something I sometimes ponder is what ‘community’ means. Are we one lgbti community? Are we many? Is it just some kind of mirage based on a history of fighting together and a shared sense of being a bit different?

I’ve always thought it’s probably a mixture of the last two options, and particularly like the notion that we are many and varied overlapping smaller communities, groups of friends, organisations and individuals that will mostly forge together when we need to.

It’s a community that can come out strongly when one of our own is knocked down. Never have I seen this more fiercely displayed than the response to the burning hate Lindsay and Juliet faced in Mangawhai Heads. Its also been there as gay men have been attacked on the streets and in bars, when a lesbian couple was turned away by dogmatic lodge owners in Whangarei, and mostly – though not often or strongly enough – when our trans family is treated with hate and disdain.

At the heart of things, these days I identify as a lesbian woman, with probably a pinch of bisexuality still there. Since coming out, I have adored the lesbian world, from the leather jacket clad kids I ran with as we were finding ourselves and chasing women during long heady, dramatic nights in K’ Rd bars, to the more grown up set I have coffee dates and dinner parties with these days.

Now 32, deliriously happily married to the woman who makes me feel like I am forever walking on the most secure of clouds, and expecting our first baby, my sense of community, in lesbian terms, has been altered all over again. In a great way.

While it remains crucial that we rally when people among our communities are treated unfairly, I love it that we forge together for the beautiful things too.

So I have been utterly heart-warmed by the calls, messages and conversations I have had with women who love women who have sought me out to basically say ‘been there, done that, and if you need any advice or support I am here’.

It’s comforting. While my wife and I have absolutely no doubts about our ability to be parents and surround our little guy with love, you do worry about bringing a child into a world where lesbian couples can still face bigotry and discrimination. Kids are bullied for anything anyway, but to know your child could one day be in tears on a playground because of who you are – it hurts.

We seem to be in the midst of another gayby boom

Reliable studies show that our gaybies are doing just fine – it’s just the intolerance they face from the bigots of the world that’s hurting them, not their two mums or two dads, or two of each, or their trans parent, or whatever type of rainbow family they have.

Just hearing that ‘we’ve been there and done that and are here for you’ is more reassuring than you could imagine. So thank you, to all those who have reached out to us. And massive respect to the couples who were having babies before the modern gayby booms, paving the way for it not to be such a big deal to most.

You’d hope it would be the case, but we haven’t had a single health practitioner we’ve dealt with bat an eyelid. I’d imagine some of that is down to training and generally wider societal acceptance, but I know the fact we’re not the first lesbian couple in north/west Auckland to have a baby will also have played a part. I kind of walked into the whole process carefully ‘on guard’, armed and ready in my bitch pants to take on any hint of discrimination. While it’s good to be prepared, it’s even better to not need that preparation.

My absolute favourite part of the response I’ve had from queer women though is those younger than me who have got in touch to ask for advice and reassurance, or just to tell me how excited they are to see someone they know and can relate to having a baby.

One friend emailed from overseas to say “it's nice to have a positive, lesbian couple in my life to draw inspiration from - to know that there is hope out there for all of us queer romantics, that love and babies and married life can be a reality!”

Others did the same for me, so it’s special to be walking in their footsteps, and giving others who want to some fresh prints to follow.

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Jacqui Stanford - 21st June 2015