Saturday, November 23, 2013

FAMILY by Joey Spinelli

The holidays are approaching.  This means a lot of things to my family and me.  Most Importantly it means we are going to North Dakota for Thanksgiving.  What?  North Dakota?  I know, I know, its sooo Middle America, but that’s where my partner is from and that’s where his family is.  Since this is the time of year where we remember to be thankful, I want to give you and idea of what his family means to me. I look forward to this trip every year.  My partner can take it or leave it.  He loves his family but he is more concerned about spending that $1000.00 on new landscaping or updates to the house, not plane tickets.  I love all that stuff also, but to me family time is more important. 

I remember the first year T and I were dating. We went to ND to visit for Thanksgiving and I got to meet a big part of his family.  There was his mom, his step dad, his sister, her husband and their two kids.  The kids were pretty young, I think about 6yrs and 2yrs.  The family was very welcoming.  His mom cooked a fantastic Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all the trimming and I remember thinking how large the table looked with all those place settings.  It looked like she was cooking for everyone she ever met.  I had taken the liberty of bringing a recipe for sweet potato casserole that became a yearly staple for that dinner.  The whole trip went well and I felt like I really got the chance to learn about his family and about where he came from.  For instance, his mom just wanted to be included in his life because she missed her son.  To this day, I keep her in the loop on everything here at home.  His sister had her hands full with two beautiful kids and her husband that likes to hunt but she was really into Black Friday shopping.  On the day after Thanksgiving, She woke us all up at 2:30am to be at the stores by 4am.  She opened my bedroom door at 2:30am and was like, lets get going, the stores open up in an hour.  I thought, “You have got to be joking”.  But no, we all got up and went shopping Friday morning at 4am.  And, if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s like 4 degrees outside.  By 9am that day, I was wiped out and we all needed a little naptime. 

The second year I went back was slightly different because in October of that year, right before Thanksgiving, I became a vegetarian.  I never really ate red meat or fish anyway so I just decided to give up eating poultry.  I had been a month into it and then the Thanksgiving trip got here.  Again, we get to Thanksgiving dinner and it’s a large meal for everyone.  I guess my partner told them about me being a vegetarian because while they were passing the food around his mom announced loudly “Now everyone, it’s Thanksgiving so nobody is on a diet today” as she look right at me.  In a low whisper type voice, I said to her across the table “I’m not on a diet, I’m a vegetarian”.  His sister’s husband almost dropped his fork, looked up at me, stared me in the eye and said “but you eat deer meat, right?”  ummm no, sorry.  I swear I heard him crying in the bathroom later on that night. Poor guy.  The next day was Black Friday morning, and you guessed it, we were at the stores by 4am to get the bargains.

When we first talked to his family about being parents, we spoke with his mom first.  We told her we were going to take on the responsibility of a child.  I could tell that his mom always wanted him to experience being a success in life but that she was sad that he would probably not get married and have a family like the rest of her kids because he was gay.  Even when he met me, his mom was apprehensive because she didn’t want him to get hurt.  I remember when I first met T, I would write him some poetry (hey, I was young), and he would tell his mom about it.  I’ll never forget what she said to him.  “Oh son, be careful, this one sounds dangerous”.  He told me about that when it happened.  Someone else might have gotten upset about that but not me.  I knew immediately that she loved her son very much and didn’t want him to be hurt.  She and I had that in common.  As the years went on before our boy came along, she came to love me.  One of the reasons was because I kept a dialog with her all year long.  Her daughters are all married to good men, but I am pretty sure that none of their husbands text or call the mother-in-law on their own just to say hello, or to ask her opinion on things or to plan trips.  In fact, it’s kind of a running joke in our house that when his family wants something, they call me, not him. 

As the years went on for Thanksgiving, his mother and the rest of the family would treat me like I was a spouse.  There was no difference other than I felt like I had a much better relationship with his mom than the other husbands did.  They watched football and I help with the dishes and talked with her about life.  This went on for a few years and I still have that relationship with her. The real wake up moment for me, when I knew this was the real thing was when my boy was about 3 years old.  I had sent T’s mom a photo from day care that the photographers took for school photos.  I was a proud parent and didn’t really think anything other than I wanted to share the photo with grandma.  That same year, during the Thanksgiving trip. We had just all had Thanksgiving dinner (and his mom was now making a separate stuffing casserole just for me with no meat, Woo Hoo!) and we were sitting in the living room relaxing.  I noticed the photos of the grandchildren on the fireplace.  She has 4 grandkids from her daughters.  There were 5 photos.  I thought that was odd.  I got up, went to the fireplace and I couldn’t move.  I started crying. Nobody noticed because I didn’t want them to see me.  When I went up to the fireplace, there were photos of all the grandkids from their school photos, including our little 3yr old boy.  I left the group and went to be alone for a while.  I wasn’t sure what to say.   I was very happy and proud.  My boy was part of a real family, and now he was part of an extended family that treated him no different than the other kids in the family.  I told T about it later on that day and he felt emotional about it also.   Its funny, I spend every day fighting on the front lines at school, swimming, restaurants and everywhere else we go as a family to show people that we are here, we are a family and we are just like everyone else so accept us and move on.  Now, here we are, in Middle America, where there are more bibles than you can count, and we are accepted unconditionally, with no convincing needed by me.

I already loved T’s family before this ever happened, but I will forever love his mother because of how she treated her adopted grandson.  She recognized her son is happy, that he has a family, and that she is part of his family.  That is true Christianity.  Loving, accepting and non judgmental.  I don’t agree with his family on everything, especially politics.  I am an atheist and more of a liberal because of my fight for gay rights and some of his sisters are more republican because of their fight for fiscal conservativeness.  We definitely have our differences of opinion.  But, I know when the going gets tough, his family is in my corner and that I could call them on a moments notice if I needed them for something.  Each one of them means a lot to me.  Each one of them has treated my boy like part of their family and sure I am an activist for what I believe in, but when it comes down to it, I believe in family first and I know they feel the same way.  I have much to be thankful for this year.  And hopefully, I can get some good deals Black Friday morning at 4am.  It’s now my favorite part of the trip!

"Who am I? That’s simple. I am a gay parent that’s treated like a second class 
citizen and I am done taking it. 

Every day I am in the battlefields, in my kid’s school, PTA meetings, swim team, birthday parties with
other parents and I am forcing people to meet me.
Every day I stand right next to them and even if it’s just in my mind, I say “ Look at me will you! I am a gay man, right in front of you. 
I have a partner of 8 years and a 6r old boy. 
My kid is in your kid’s class and will be for the next 11 years. 
I am not going away so now would be as good a time as any to accept me and everything that comes with me."
Joe also blogs at 1 regular joe

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Catching Up with Dara Fisher on Religion, being a "Gayby" and just how great her Gaydar is.


Sorry for being gone so long!  We've had a heck of a life transition lately and unfortunately, my writing had to go on the back burner.  In July, my better half had weight loss surgery and as of this writing, is down nearly 80 pounds.   On top of that, my school schedule this semester has been pretty labor intensive and then there are those three kids that keep eating my food and leaving messes around the house.  I officially have a teenager now and he is making sure I know it.  I don't mind him getting older but I wish he'd quit dragging me along with him.

I have had some amazing, life altering experiences over the past few months.  To be honest, I've spent a lot of my quiet moments reflecting on my life and the role I play in this World.  I work in a hotel and I have gay couples who check in often.  Recently, we had a group of our Marines return home from Afghanistan.  A lovely lesbian couple came into the hotel to check in and I could tell from their body language that they were trying to keep a distance from each other in an effort to avoid being detected.  I have seen this happen quite a few times but I knew instantly how to address the issue.  I smiled as I checked them in and when it came down to make the room keys, I addressed both ladies as “Mrs. Smith” because I had noticed they were both wearing wedding rings and also came from a state in which gay marriage was legal.  It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off their shoulders.  They became chatty and told me that they were in our area to welcome their son home from Afghanistan.  They asked me how I knew they were a married couple and I told them I was born with the ability to see love in all it's forms.  I also added that gaydar comes as part of the standard package when you have gay parents.  The next day, their son came into my office to thank me for making his Mom's feel welcome and he wanted to meet me because he was surprised to find another “gayby” that was in our age group.  It's always interesting to meet other children of gay parents because we all have a tendency to be really wonderful people.  I have yet to meet another gay family child that isn't absolutely awesome.  We tend to have a different outlook on life and as a result, we are open, loving, and funny people.  I don't get to meet very many of us simply because the whole gay family thing is relatively new.  Those of us who are adults grew up as a specialty thing.  For all of you who are raising children right now, I can't wait to see what the next 20 years has to offer.  I joke all the time that “we” are going mainstream.  I honestly believe our next generation is going to be the best one yet.  The children you are raising right now are going to be the voices of their generation.  They aren't going to be the minority, they are going to be part of the norm.  Rather than a young man getting excited about meeting another kid from a gay family, it's going to be, “You too huh?”

I had another experience this summer that really touched my heart too.  I met a gay man who I instantly clicked with.  He spent a few days in our local area, and over that time we had some really great conversations.  I also experienced for the first time the sadness that being gay can cause in someone's life.  This man was a beautiful soul.  He was suffering through some health issues because of his past history and anxiety was hampering his life.  I could see that he had a vibrant personality but that struggles with his sexuality had left him hurting.  It was a strange experience for me because I have never had to deal with homosexuality being a difficult issue, at least within my family.  I was born into the gay community and my parents along with their friends were always a source of love and acceptance.  You read all these stories about parents that disown their kids because they are gay but I've never seen the outcome of it.  Now I have and it absolutely broke my heart!  I felt so angry, almost to the point of rage when he told me about what he had to go through with his parents.  Not only was he estranged from his parents, he lived in fear of physical violence from his father because he was gay.  As a Mom, I just can't fathom how a parent could treat their child like that.  I love my babies.  I love my babies with a fierceness and dedication that knows no boundaries.  I love every single thing about each one of them from the top of their head to the stinky toes they put in their shoes!  They drive me up the wall sometimes but I love their independence and the fact that they can think for themselves and express their opinion.  There is nothing that could ever change that.  The idea that a child should be shunned for being gay is out of my comprehension.  This man was an adult, older than me in fact, but when it comes to parental relationships, we are always children.  This man was missing a key relationship in his life and it was causing him physical harm.  I don't understand.  I just don't understand.  I've always felt that I was the luckiest woman in the World because not only was I blessed with my children, but God thought enough of me to trust me to protect these beautiful little people.  The majority of these parents that disown their children do it because their religion tells them that being gay is a crime against God.  I am a Christian (Quit laughing!) and I feel that God created homosexuals just as he created me.  I am the first one to admit that I can be a bit high on the horse but I would never, ever, question God and his creations. 

I am also dealing with a weird situation with my youngest son.  MJ is 4 and attends a local Christian preschool.  I love the school and his teachers but I really don't want my son involved in organized religion.  Unfortunately, we don't have any preschools in our area that aren't religion based that our son is eligible for because of our income.  The husband and I have had quite a few arguments about MJ attending a religious school and I think we have finally found a meeting point.  I don't want MJ going to a school that is based in religion because he is part of a gay family.  Organized religion has a tendency to give us “sinners” anxiety problems and I don't want my baby to go through that.  I'm also not a big fan of letting our son think that he is better than other kids his age simply because he goes to a school that cost money and somehow gives off the feeling of “exclusivity.”  I understand parents wanting their children to have the best of the best but I want my children to grow up knowing equality, empathy, and pride in their achievements.  I don't intend to turn a child out into the World thinking they are better than anyone else.  Of course, I also don't believe that children who go to private schools turn out that way either.  Those character flaws are usually based in how the child is raised, not what school cashed their parents check.  Anyway, the long winded point is some of the issues that have come up with my son attending a religious school.  Last Christmas my little boy came home very excited because they were doing a Christmas play and he had been told to bring his whole family. They had also told the children to bring their family to Christmas morning service.  Of course, I just started laughing because when they told these toddlers to make sure they brought their family, they didn't know what MJ was going to come through that door with!  Knowing that our family would probably cause a scene, I opted to not attend the Christmas day service because I won't worship in a place where people like us aren't welcome.  I got a lot of negative feedback for that decision but I stand on it and will again this year.  I worry a lot about what type of information MJ is getting at school.  I know that a religious school is going to teach their beliefs to the children and I fret a lot about MJ being taught that his family is destined for the fire pits of hell.  Last week I was driving MJ to school with my daughter and from the backseat MJ said, “It's weird that I have two Grandpa's in one house”  I felt my heart drop because I knew exactly what my son was trying to say.  We were discussing our annual Thanksgiving trip to visit Papa and Grandpa and my 4 year old was expressing that he felt weird about having Grandpa's that were together.  Before I even had a chance to respond, my daughter got angry and said, “It's not weird!  Don't say that about Papa and Grandpa!”  I didn't have an immediate response because I was driving and trying to get my daughter off the ceiling of the car but I knew it was something I had messed up.  You see, my two oldest children have always known Papa and Grandpa were gay.  It was something that was part of their every day lives so there was never a weirdness about it.  MJ on the other hand has not lived around his two Grandpa's on a daily basis.  Dad and Richard live a few hours away and have since before MJ was born.  His Grandpa's are there for the Holidays but not part of his daily life.  His paternal Grandpa and Grandma see him almost every day and he spends as much time with them as he does with us.    Obviously, MJ's idea of what a “normal” family is would be based on what he sees.   I couldn't tell a toddler that he was wrong in thinking it was weird because it's not wrong.  Two Grandpa's is weird to a child who sees Grandparents as a Grandpa and a Grandma.  In the end I just asked him if he loves his Papa you love your Grandpa Richard?  Yes!  Okay....good.  Well then, guess that deals with that problem.  I'm still hashing over this situation but for the time being, we're just going to stick with this solution.  Our family is blessed because we meld so well.  My husband's parents and my parents get along very well.  I adore my in laws and my parents love my husband.    When I was a kid, I wondered a lot how I was ever going to get married and have a family with parents like mine.  I'm really glad that was just another one of my pointless concerns.

Dara Fisher. A 33 year old Mother of 3 amazing children with her Prince Charming Keith.  
They live right outside of Palm Springs, California. Dara has degrees in Anthropology, Liberal Arts, and Business Administration.  
She works full time in the Hospitality Industry and attends college classes in pursuit of her MBA when she's not busy being Super Mom.   
She spend her spare time crocheting, quilting, and making a mess with pretty much anything she can get my hands into.  She is a huge Doctor Whofan and  can't eat while watching The Walking Dead. 
Oh and she also happens to be the daughter of gay parents and the Mother of a child with Asbergers  Syndrome and ADHD