I was walking home from Coles one day in the early stages of my pregnancy and had to sit down for a rest because I felt so sick.
Man—are you ok?
Me—yeah I’m ok thanks. I just feel really sick so I’m having a rest.
Man—do you need me to call a taxi or anything?
Me—no thank you. I’m just pregnant, so I have to walk home slowly with lots of resting.
Man—well where’s your husband?
Me—ah, I don’t have a husband.
Man—well how are you PREGNANT?!
Me—(laughing incredulously) um, I’m gay…
Man—well where’s your girlfriend then?!
Me—I don’t want to talk about this anymore.
How does a generous offer of help turn into me educating some dickhead about my sexuality and the logistics of my pregnancy? I’ll tell you how. Because I’m the incredible invisible woman. Invisible because I am femme, invisible because I am single, invisible because I am pregnant. I have to come out twice for everyone else’s once. I come out as single, I come out as queer. There can’t be one without the other. It’s incredibly exhausting and unless I get a ring on it, there doesn’t seem to be an end point anywhere in sight.
The homophobia I’ve faced on my fertility journey began much earlier that this, though, way back when I was in my early twenties and was refused access to the natural fertility clinic at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, on the basis of being queer. “This hospital is run by the Catholic Church—we wouldn’t support someone like you in becoming a parent,” the doctor told me. Now things are much less blatant, and the homophobia comes out of the woodwork more insidiously. It comes out in the fertility clinic waiting room, where I have to tell the receptionist every single week that no, my partner won’t be donating sperm today because I don’t have a partner, and even if I did she wouldn’t have any sperm. Even in an inner west Sydney hospital, where surely half their clients are my friends and ex girlfriends, all the forms are geared towards a) couples, and b) hetero couples. One night I got drunk, got out my red pen and ‘fixed’ my form, crossing out all the references to a partner or sperm and writing “This does not apply to me”. The next day I showed up with a raging hangover and handed it over to the nurse. She squeezed her lips together and then left under the pretence of needing to fetch a file. I suspect she was actually stepping outside to roll her eyes.
The homophobia comes out when I have to tell my doctor every single time I see her that no, there is no chance I might be pregnant, or that I might get pregnant accidentally in the middle of the treatment. It comes out when I am asked repeatedly how long I’ve been trying to get pregnant, when I am told I am considered socially infertile, and when I have to explain to a hospital-appointed counsellor how I intend to deal with the issue of raising my child without any male influence. The homophobia comes out when a close member of my family says “I just think a baby needs a mother and a father, dear”. It comes out when another close member of my family apologises for the offensive statement and then follows her apology with “well, in an ideal world that’s how it would be, but we don’t live in an ideal world”.
The homophobia comes out when some smug pregnant woman next to me in the waiting room rubs her belly protectively and gloats: “my husband will be here soon.” I avoid meeting her eye and instead feign interest in “I had sex with my husband’s dead twin”, spread out on my lap. She doesn’t take the hint. She asks me, loudly, so the whole waiting room can hear, if my husband is coming too. “I don’t have a husband. If I had a partner it would be a woman, but actually I don’t have a partner, female or male, coz I’m single,” feels like such a mouthful. I just shake my head and read on.
Sometimes a friend comes with me to my appointments, and sometimes that friend is butch, and I relax more on those days knowing that I’ll be seen for who I really am. But the only time I am actually acknowledged as queer is when the embryologist thinks that my (way more butch than me) sister is in fact my partner, and wishes us luck for the embryo transfer.
But this invisibility extends well beyond the straight well-meaning men and the fertility clinics. The strangest and personally most offensive phenomenon has been how so many of my queer friends have assumed that because I’m having a baby I’m also now somehow magically straight. I’ve never had a relationship with a cis man (unless you count the six weeks I dated Darryl Hall, all the while pashing girls on the side at Cocktails and Dreams after he’d gone home to bed). It seems that my fellow queers are actually the biggest believers of the heteronormative conception fairytale, desperately clinging onto their cabbage patch fib as though it’s a life-raft anchoring them firmly to normality. So many queers still seem to think that the best way to make a baby is by a man loving a woman very much, and putting his penis into her vagina. SO many people have asked me if I had sex with my donor. SO MANY. Um, did you forget that we’re both gay as fuck?
Here’s a little secret for you all. The turkey baster method has got exactly the same chance of working as good old-fashioned heterosexual sex. (And for those of you who’ve been speculating, the only reason I had to do IVF was because of complicated fertility issues. IVF is NOT “how lesbians get pregnant”; it is usually a painful last resort. See my IVF post for more on this.) When I get asked if I had sex with my donor, I don’t even know where to start. For one, why would I have sex with someone I’m not attracted to? For another, why/how would my donor? For yet another, how would his partner feel about that? And for just one more, ???!!!
Having a baby does not make you straight or heteronormative, or even a sellout breeder. I am no less queer for having a baby. In fact, in one sense I have become even more queer than I was before, because now I am big time queering, or fucking with, traditional notions of family and motherhood. I deeply resent the idea that to be queer you need to remain static—still dancing to the same shit worn-out dance music at 6am thirty years later, and still covered in glitter. Don’t get me wrong—most of my friends are almost as excited as me that I’m pregnant. But step outside my inner circle and you often hear a different story. Before I got pregnant I had plenty of queers looking at me strangely and asking me if I was sure I wanted a baby. “It won’t be easy,” they’d warn. Oh, gee, thank you for that advice—maybe I’ll just have a beer instead! I’ve wondered whether it has something to do with queers feeling that their identity is threatened by my choice to procreate. And by identity I mean carefree single drug-taking party-animals. I also suspect it’s something to do with the idea that once I have a baby I am somehow off the shelf, unavailable to fuck. I’m not saying the Sydney queer scene is pissed off coz they all wanna fuck me(!), but if you think about it, queer as an identity is based on fucking: who we fuck, how we fuck; and where does that leave me if I’m no longer fucking?
It was facebook that alerted me to the fact that today is International Coming Out Day, and it is thanks to facebook that I’ve been inspired to write this post. But it was also during my morning facebook flick that I came across a post about how so much of fat pride is structured around fuckability—sexually commodifying fat in order to make it more ‘acceptable’. I realised that the way I’ve been trying to make myself acceptable as a parent-to-be has so far all rotated around a “see, queers, I’m still fuckable!” dialogue. Fuck that. Actually, most of the time I’m just a tired, sore, and sometimes lonely body. Not that I’m not up for hot sex if it comes my way, but yeah, sex is only one part of me. I’m also now a parent, a solo parent by choice, and a queer parent. And now, of course, when I do attempt to get myself a fuck, there’s the whole coming out as pregnant stuff to deal with!