The Village People: How A Group of Lesbian Moms Raised A Bunch of Great Kids

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2015familyday403How do you know you’ve done a good thing as a parent?  Well, one indicator is when your adult son, who just became a father himself, tells you that he wants to create a group of parents with kids his daughter’s age.

“You know, like you all did, Mom.”

These days, he and his wife have the convenience of the Meet Up site to aid them in their search.  In 1985 in Boston, we had Lesbians Choosing Children, a homegrown group that met at the Women’s Center.  It was from that group that I found the lesbian moms who would become my closest friends, really my chosen family, as we all proceeded to raise our children—separately and together—over the next 30 years.

We’d heard this could be done.  Lesbians in San Francisco had started to have children a few years before.  Each of us knew at least one family where the kids weren’t the product of someone’s past heterosexual relationship.  We sought out these parents so we could learn which doctors, which midwives, which clinics, or which adoption agencies would accept us.

If you’re sensing a bit of an underground tone to all this, you’re not off base.  In 1985, two young children were summarily removed from a foster home in Boston because the parents, who’d been pre-approved, were gay men.  The story was all over the papers and hardly any politicians or state government officials sided with us.  So, yes, back in 1985, there was still some degree of risk and quite a lot of stigma attached to the whole notion of lesbians having and raising children.

But we did it anyway because we wanted kids and we all believed we had a lot to offer.  And we made the conscious decision, year after year, until these kids were nearly in college, not to do it alone.

First, there was the babysitting co-op.  Each month a couple got a Saturday night to themselves because their child was sleeping over another family’s house.  We all had a chart up on our refrigerators; which nights you took a child and which nights you brought yours to someone else.

Then, there were rituals.  Christmas Day dinners.  Marching together at Pride with a barbecue at someone’s house right after.

And then there was family camp.  A week away in Maine for about 10 families, with counselors and kitchen help hired, and yet another chart to divide up the cooking, plus trips to the Union Fair and the Rockland Lobster Festival.  Oh, and to Port Clyde for ice cream.

Even though our kids went to different schools and different summer camps, they always knew they weren’t alone, that there were other kids with lesbian moms.  They had a support system just as we did.

These were the women I could come to with anything.  I didn’t have to pretend that my kids were perfect.  I could confide my worries.  I could seek help from them.  There was no posturing and no one-upmanship.  We celebrated each of our achievements and supported one another through the difficulties, including our own relationship breakups and the deaths of our parents.

This is what I wish for my adult son and for every parent.  But I especially wish this for every queer parent.  Don’t isolate yourselves.  Find one another and create your own rituals, your own memories.

The notion that “it takes a village” has become a bit hackneyed by now.  But I’ll tell you, I’m eternally grateful for the little village my friends and I created for ourselves and for our amazing, now grown-up kids.  Among us we’ve produced quite a diverse and wonderful group of Millennials, including an attorney, a farmer, two artists, a member of the foreign service, an engineer, a political consultant and a photo editor for a major TV network.  Not too shabby for The (Lesbian) Village People. 

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Countdown to Election Day with Rep. Angie Antonelli: T Minus 1 – Naming Names

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Congresswoman Angie Antonelli, the main character of my new book, Love Is Enough, asked to post a series of daily posts on this blog leading up to Election Day in the US on Tuesday, November 4.   And, really, how could I refuse her?

Cindy_Book2Cover

This is my final post on Cindy’s blog, so I first want to thank her for letting me be here these last few days. It’s been a pleasure.

And if you check back tomorrow, Cindy will have something really special to announce. So watch this space!

I promised that today I’d name names and tell you about some of the people who’ll be on the ballot tomorrow—both incumbents and new candidates. These are the people who will continue the progress we have made and will push back against any attempts to stop justice in its tracks.

So here they are:

First and Foremost—The US Senate

The tightest races where your vote is most needed include:

  • Georgia: Michelle Nunn – while not perfect on LGBT rights is much better than her opponent
  • Louisiana: Incumbent Mary Landrieu – an important person to keep in the Senate; she’s a voice of reason among her Southern colleagues
  • Michigan: Gary Peters is vying for the seat held by the retiring Carl Levin. Peters is a pro-choice, pro-LGBT progressive running against an arch conservative
  • New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen, the incumbent, deserves a second term
  • North Carolina: Kay Hagan, another voice of reason from the South

In the House

  • Arizona: Krystan Sinema – the only openly bisexual member of Congress and a progressive voice. Let’s re-elect her.
  • Florida: Gwen Graham – pro-choice, pro-marriage equality facing a Tea Party incumbent who voted to defund Planned Parenthood

Governor Races

Four important races, three of which will defeat key opponents of equality and justice. In Florida, former governor Charlie Crist can oust the incumbent, Rick Scott, a Tea Party member. Similarly, in Maine, openly gay candidate Michael Michaud not only has the chance to become the first openly elected gay governor; he would defeat another Tea Party member, Paul Le Page. Finally, two exciting women are running in Wisconsin and Texas. Mary Burke, a progressive, would oust Governor Scott Walker who has Presidential aspirations and is a darling of the Koch Brothers. And the woman who singlehandedly opposed anti-abortion forces in Texas, Wendy Davis, is running for governor and deserves our support.

 – – – –

Finally, in my own state of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, could become the first openly lesbian attorney general in the state. Maura has been a longstanding opponent of the heinous former Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and led the state’s legal argument against the law.

So get out and vote tomorrow. As I’ve been telling you for days, so much depends on it!

To learn about more candidates, go to:

http://www.teamlpac.com/2014-endorsements/

http://feministmajoritypac.org/2014-candidates-2/

http://www.emilyslist.org/candidates/gallery/federal

http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/2014-endorsements

To learn more about Angie Antonelli and the ups and downs of her love life, read Love Is Enough, available here and here.

Countdown to Election Day with Rep. Angie Antonelli: T Minus 2 – The Back Door Plan

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Congresswoman Angie Antonelli, the main character of my new book, Love Is Enough, asked to post a series of daily posts on this blog leading up to Election Day in the US on Tuesday, November 4.   And, really, how could I refuse her?

Cindy_Book2Cover

Hi, it’s me, Angie, again. Only two more days until Election Day and today we’re going to talk about a particularly devious tactic that the opponents of LGBT equality and women’s rights have been using to bend the arc of history that Martin Luther King spoke about away from its inevitable route toward justice. While they refer to this tactic as “religious liberty” or “religious freedom,” it is, in actuality, a back door plan to greatly weaken the hard fought for rights and freedoms we now enjoy.

Here are some examples of what they are doing.

While every advocate will tell you that the right of same-sex couples to marry does not mean that clergy are now required to officiate their wedding ceremonies, our opponents not only insist that marriage equality infringes on the religious freedom of clergy, but they also insist that anyone with a “sincerely held religious belief”—including florists, caterers, the owners of events spaces, or bakers—should be free to deny service to same-sex couples. If they are successful, can their next campaign to keep us out of restaurants and hotels be very far behind?

In addition, our opponents assert that pharmacists with those same religious beliefs should be able to refuse to sell the morning after pill to women.

And a student pursuing her graduate degree in counseling should be free to refuse to see a gay client.

Getting the picture?

Unfortunately, just like I mentioned yesterday when I wrote about voting rights, all of this has been further complicated by a Supreme Court decision. This one held that the crafts chain, Hobby Lobby, had a right to refuse to follow the requirement of the Affordable Care Act that an employer-sponsored health insurance policy cover contraception.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of sincerely held religious beliefs. I was raised Catholic and I still attend mass. And while the hierarchy of the Church and I don’t always agree (though I’m hopeful about the new Pope), I do gain strength and peace from my faith. I talk about this a lot with my best friend, Robin Greene, who is Jewish. We both feel proud of the long history of social justice associated with each of our faiths, even though at times there are things make us cringe.

So I come to this issue, not from a place of hostility toward people of faith or religion as a whole, but from the belief that religion should always be on the side of justice and should never sow the seeds of division among people.

I am also a firm believer in separation of church and state following the precepts set forth by our country’s founders. It was Thomas Jefferson himself who first spoke of a wall separating church and state, stating that “the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts only in which all religions agree (for all forbid us to steal, murder, plunder, or bear false witness), and that we should not intermeddle with the particular dogmas in which all religions differ, and which are totally unconnected with morality.”

In the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, Congress has become a battleground on this issue and so we must ensure that our representatives in office follow the principles of Jefferson and his colleagues and not those of the religious right wing.

Our opponents know they have lost the fight on marriage equality and on women’s rights. So in a desperate attempt to whittle away at our freedoms, they have created this new argument about religious freedom. One important way to make sure they do not prevail is to exercise our right to vote on Tuesday, November 4th.

To learn more about Angie Antonelli and the ups and downs of her love life, read Love Is Enough, available here and here.

Countdown to Election Day with Rep. Angie Antonelli: T Minus 3 – The Right To Vote Is At Stake

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Congresswoman Angie Antonelli, the main character of my new book, Love Is Enough, asked to post a series of daily posts on this blog leading up to Election Day in the US on Tuesday, November 4.   And, really, how could I refuse her?

Cindy_Book2Cover

Hi, it’s Angie here to talk to you again about the importance of the upcoming election in the US this Tuesday, November 4, and urge you to get out and vote.

Let’s discuss voting.  This country has a shameful legacy when it comes to the right to vote, beginning with the earliest days of our history.  Did you know that for the first 60 years of our republic only white male landowners had the right to vote?  And then in the mid-1800s, once all white males gained the right, states adopted literacy tests designed to deter European immigrants from voting.  After Black males were granted the vote, Southern states enacted poll taxes in addition to literacy tests in order to keep them away from the polls.  Women couldn’t vote until 1920 and Native Americans until 1924.  Finally, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act put an end to race-based voting restrictions, an achievement that I thought, until recently, closed the door on our disgraceful past.

But I’m afraid I spoke too soon, because now, as the country’s citizens of color, new immigrants, and younger voters favor more progressive stands on the issues of the day, conservatives have once again raised barriers, this time by imposing onerous identification requirements aimed, they say, at eliminating so-called voter fraud.  But this is a solution in search of a problem, since there’s very scant evidence of voter fraud.  What we have real evidence of is impossibly long lines at the polls in neighborhoods where a majority of African Americans live.  What we have are ID rules that will confound our transgender brothers and sisters, including people like my friend Hadley Chambers, from exercising their right to vote.  And what we have is a US Supreme Court decision that took the enforcement teeth out of the Voting Rights Act, paving the way for more of these restrictions that Attorney General Eric Holder says, “cause a greater burden on African Americans, Latinos, and younger voters.”

So what can you do?  First educate yourself by reading about the issue on the websites of civil rights and LGBT equality organizations, like the NAACP and the National Center for Transgender Equality.  And help your family members and friends who may be encountering ID restrictions.  But most important, get out and vote on Tuesday for the people who will restore everyone’s right to unobstructed access the polls.

To learn more about Angie Antonelli and the ups and downs of her love life, read Love Is Enough, available here and here.

 

 

Countdown to Election Day with Rep. Angie Antonelli: T Minus 4

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Congresswoman Angie Antonelli, the main character of my new book, Love Is Enough, asked to post a series of daily posts on this blog leading up to Election Day in the US on Tuesday, November 4.   And, really, how could I refuse her?

Cindy_Book2Cover

Thanks so much, Cindy.  I’m Congresswoman Angie Antonelli.  Please call me Angie.  Everybody does!  I’m doing the best I can over the next few days to get the word out about the importance of this election.  I know it can feel insignificant because we’re not electing a president, but there’s a lot at stake if we’re going to preserve some of the successes we’ve achieved and prevent some really horrible new things from happening.

Over the next couple of days leading up to November 4th, I’m going to talk about two critical issues that are at stake and tell you about a few of the candidates who deserve your support.  As you know, I come from a family that believes strongly in public service and I’ve always known that politics would be my own path to achieving change.  And while my re-election to a fourth term in Congress seems relatively safe (you can read about the really difficult time I had being re-elected to a second term in 2010 in Love Is Enough), the same is not true for a number of my colleagues and for some of the new candidates we desperately need to vote into office.

So watch this space.  I’m going to talk about voting rights and the new strategy of the right wing to deny women and gays equality.  You’ll learn more about why you need to get yourself, your friends and families to the polls on Tuesday.

I’m doing my part.  I’ve been traveling around the country—visiting Colorado, Texas, Maine, and even my own state of Massachusetts—getting the word out about how important it is to elect people who will protect our wins and not set us back.

It hasn’t been easy trying to get anything done in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.  But at least with a Democratic Senate, while we haven’t been able to move a lot forward, my colleagues in the other chamber have been a bulwark against insane measures like repeal of the Affordable Care Act and more tax breaks for big corporations.  But if we are to believe a lot of the polls out there, all that could change.  The Senate is in danger of turning over, which means we’d have Republicans in charge of the entire Congress and only President Obama’s veto pen to defend equality and economic justice for working families, including the many small businesses I fight for every day.

So join with me in this important effort.  Tell your friends and families to vote and make sure you get out there yourself on Tuesday.  And when you turn your clocks back this weekend, remember, you want to make sure our country doesn’t turn the clock back on your rights.

To learn more about Angie Antonelli and the ups and downs of her love life, read Love Is Enough, available here and here.

Check Out This New Interview with Me by Author AJ Adaire

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AJ interviewed me and we actually had a very nice conversation about our books and writing. There’s a lot of info in here about my new book, Love Is Enough. Here’s the link: http://www.ajadaire.com/AJ_INTERVIEWS_AUTHORS.php

When You Use Your Identity As A Hammer, Everything Looks Like A Nail

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There’s been a lot of discussion this week in my little world of lesfic-land about identity.  Folks have dragged out tired old tropes about who’s a real lesbian and have defended the concept of “womyn born womyn,” an anti-transgender relic of the past now masquerading as a gender identity.  Some have lashed out, some have been hurt and other ones of us have rushed in to raise the flag of inclusion.  As the week winds down, I have to ask: do we really need to use our identities as a kind of cudgel with which to beat others into silence and segregation?

I’m 58 years old. I came out 1974.  After college, I threw myself head first into what was then the thriving lesbian feminist culture of Boston.  I proudly sang the Alix Dobkin anthem, “Lesbian, lesbian, every woman can be a lesbian,” more likely believing then that every woman should be a lesbian.  I read the early second wave feminist tracts that asserted that “feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice.”  I flirted with separatism and the rejection of “male energy” though I never turned my back on my father and I worked in the movement with a number of gay men.  I defended woman-only space, a concept I haven’t completely rejected but am willing to re-examine.  I attended the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival once, in the early 1980s, and the New England Women’s Music Retreat twice.  I liked the ability to walk around at night in complete safety but I never liked the food and I hated camping, so my festival days were few.  I was much more at home in Boston attending large women’s music concerts and historic events like the Varied Voices of Black Women and the well-attended reading of the classic anthology, Nice Jewish Girls.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.  Those of us who were out political lesbian feminists back then were relatively few in number, and we were despised and dismissed by the larger society.  So we created our own bubble of a world and we enforced sets of rules, codes and expectations upon one another.  We thought we were doing this in service of The Revolution.  We thought we were doing this so we could build a women’s utopia.  We thought we were an army of lovers that could not fail.  But what we were doing was deeply flawed.

 I could go on and on critiquing that time, but it’s easier to just compare it with today, the era that I and others find ourselves in now. 

  • I still dress in jeans and t-shirts like I did then, but I no longer expect everyone else to. I respect the fact that other lesbians like dresses, make-up and heels.  Oh heck, I don’t just respect it, I adore it.…but that’s another story. 
  • I have learned to use the word “queer.” I won’t lie, it didn’t come naturally at first.   But I got there and I’ve found that it is a useful umbrella term to speak inclusively about all kinds of people.  Just this week I came across and posted to Facebook an article from TheAtlantic.com called “The Quiet Crisis Among Queer Women,” which shared some disturbing data about health disparities and other issues.  I believe the use of the term “queer women” instead of “lesbians” was deliberate and was meant to include women of various sexual orientations and gender identities as well as transgender women.  That made sense to me. 
  • I don’t just focus on my sexual orientation anymore, I also think about my gender identity. I’m female, true, but I’m also butch-identified, which means I need more space in which to express who I am in terms of clothing, hair style, etc.  And I can’t help but note that the space I have to do so is largely due to the work of my transgender and gender non-conforming brothers and sisters who have been on the frontlines pushing back against the gender binary.  In fact, I’m always a bit stumped at the complaint of many lesbians that “all the butches are becoming men.”  No one knows that for sure, first of all.  And what’s more important is that lesbians and trans folks benefit so much more from being in alliance than we do from enforcing lines of separation.  I am reminded of this each time I put on a tie.
  • I have finally unlearned a whole lot of what I thought I knew about bisexuality. I have my wife, Jennifer, to thank for this.  She is way more evolved than I am and I’ve learned to check myself when I say something and she rolls her eyes at me.  I don’t know why this one took me so long.  I’ve always believed in the zero to six continuum of the famous Kinsey Scale of sexual orientation, and further, I’ve believed that people can shift around on that scale at different times in their lives.   But I grew up at a time when a woman who’d been a lesbian and then became involved with a man was assumed to be doing so to take advantage of “heterosexual privilege” and not because she was open to intimate relationships with people of any gender.  But now, as the wider society has become more accepting, we can no longer lean on the explanation of “privilege” and must accept that bisexuality is real and not a way station to either being gay or being straight. I now recognize that biphobia is not just a real evil, but one that needs to be actively opposed by allies like me so that everyone has room to live, to breathe and to be their authentic selves.

I guess that’s the point in this whole messy situation:  authenticity.   People need to have the room to be themselves, without shame, without feeling like they have to hide because they’re bisexual and they write books about lesbians, and without fear that if they are discovered no one will like them or buy their books.  We’ve got to be better than that and I think we can be.

The values and the community norms that might have made sense in the 1970s no longer serve us well.  It’s time to let go of the need to build walls and use our lesbian identity as a hammer.  Our comrades are no longer just the members of tiny lesbian feminist communities we forged so many years ago.  Now we are multitudes, proud and queer and walking through walls.  This is truly an army of lovers that cannot fail.

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Marie Castle

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