Trans Parenting: Transitioning

"Follow your own rainbow (CC)" by Purple Sherbet Photography Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Some Rights Reserved.
“Follow your own rainbow (CC)” by Purple Sherbet Photography
Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Some Rights Reserved.

There have been a lot of big changes in my life recently, all  of them surrounding being transgender. My original birth records were destroyed and updated to reflect my correct gender. Finally, the government recognizes that I was born male; it isn’t something you become. Plus, I was approved for gender confirmation surgery—legally called: sex reassignment surgery (SRS).

When you are a parent who also happens to be transgender and transition after you have children, there can be a lot of questions from your children and family. How you answer those questions depends upon the age of your child(ren).

As I go through my own process, I plan to share my experience as a transgender parent going through various aspects of transition. I also want to help answer any questions that may come up or have come up if you are in my boat.

First, we need to be clear about what transition means. A lot of people have the misconception that transition equals surgery.

Let me be clear: It most certainly does not mean surgery. SRS most certainly does not mean bottom surgery. It most certainly does not mean hormones. Transition is different for everyone. For some people, transition will involve simply living as the gender with which they identify. They may even legally change their name. For other people, transitioning can go as far as surgery.

Over at TransCanuck, I wrote a basic primer about what transition is and is not, and how it looks for me. I’ve also started a series about seeking SRS in British Columbia, as the guidelines changed three times in December 2014, alone. I was one of the first people to be approved under the new guidelines.

My children are older: nearly 20 and nearly 16. They have known practically their entire lives that I was not like other “moms.” We don’t celebrate Mother’s Day, even though they call me “mum.” Their questions were pretty simple because they are already well aware about the whole process and what it means to be transgender.

The first question they had was, “What pronouns do we use when we talk about you outside of the house? I only ask because we live in a city that isn’t accepting about this whole thing.”

My answer was straight to the point, “Outside of the home, use ‘they/them/their.’  Kid2, your school will be notified and it won’t be a big deal because the school board now requires accommodation for this in all schools.”

The second question they had was, “We call you ‘mum’ at home for reasons. What do we call you outside of the home?”

My answer was pretty simple, “You refer to me as your parent. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.”

If you are a trans parent, or if you have a family member who is transitioning and are unsure how to answer your children’s questions, ask them in the comments, and I’ll answer them in a follow-up post. Please be sure to include the age of the child, so that I can craft age-appropriate answers.

When Your Adult Child Still Lives at Home and Their S/O Moves In

http://www.flickr.com/photos/evilerin/ / CC BY 2.0
http://www.flickr.com/photos/evilerin/ / CC BY 2.0

Your adult child still lives at home and they want their significant-other to move in. What would you do? I said, “No problem!” Why?

With more and more post-secondary students living at home to help cut costs, “empty nest syndrome” is being delayed by many years. For my eldest son and his education situation, he could very well be still living at home well into his mid to late twenties.

My eldest (hence forth called Kid1), has been in a long-term relationship for two years now. Kid1 and his significant-other (hence forth called NKOTB) have discussed marriage after he finishes his BSc, plus his PBDE, while he teaches high school maths and science, but before he begins his MSc or MEd.

We’ve entered a new phase in life; one we weren’t quite expecting. The “empty nest while the adult child goes off to post-secondary education” phase has been replaced with “adult child stays at home and their significant-other moves in” phase of life.

This is a phase I’m sure many parents, and non-parents alike, would take issue with. Different cultural backgrounds, right down to a regional level, are likely to shape opinions.

A Little Bit More Background Information

In our home, we have a rule. The rule is: As long as you are going to school, you can live at home for free; if you do not go to school and want to continue living at home, you must get a job and pay some rent.

I’ve shared a little bit about Kid1’s school situation and his relationship status. Now, on to NKOTB.

NKOTB works very close to our home. Her other house is in a town about a 20-minute drive from my city. She doesn’t have a license—which is very common now in certain Canadian urban areas because of public transportation—and the buses to her town don’t run when she’s off shift, which can be anytime between 8 pm and midnight.

She started staying here a few days a week because it was convenient for work. Then, she just happened to be here seven days a week.

She fits quite well into this crazy household and we love having her around.

And I really like being in a position where we can help them out. Kid1 is helped because all he has to worry about is going to class, finishing his assignments, and passing. NKOTB is helped out because she can save money for their future and be in an understanding and supportive environment.

Present-Day Information

Because of our “no-school-pay-rent” policy, NKOTB pays rent in the form of helping out with the cost of groceries because that is the only bill that increases with her living here. When we brought it up with her, she was completely understanding and happily agreed to the amount. Part of me feels bad because she is so great to have around, but the rules are the rules.

Benefits of Having NKOTB Live Here

I love being able to watch how Kid1 and NKOTB interact with each other. I like hearing how they resolve conflicts and communicate. I love seeing Kid1 walk NKOTB to work or to the bus stop for work; and then pack a backpack with a cool drink in NKOTB’s water bottle, and walk to pick up NKOTB from work or meet her at the bus stop. I love seeing how Kid1 will cook dinner every night and keep a plate warm for when NKOTB gets home from work.

NKOTB made some tweet about how she likes watching Andrew and I interact and how cute she thinks it is. So, I like the fact that Andrew and I are able to model some good relationship qualities and be a guide for communication and conflict resolution and what it means to be in an equal partnership where all parties involved do little things to care for the other.

I also like that we can give both Kid1 and NKOTB a warm and loving environment, and often chaotic environment, as they practice cohabitation. A little bit of experience with chaos and crises—with some support—before venturing off alone is a good thing, I say.

Kid1 teaching NKOTB how to play MtG. I had to sneak attack this photo from outisde, otherwise Kid1 would have ran away. - Photo by Jules Sherred
Kid1 teaching NKOTB how to play MtG.
I had to sneak attack this photo from outisde, otherwise Kid1 would have ran away. – Photo by Jules Sherred

I adore watching Kid1 indoctrinate NKOTB in many things geek. A few things of note: He’s introduced and hooked her on MtG; she’s learning about chemistry because when Kid1 isn’t in class, he does chemistry experiments as a hobby; and Kid1 is introducing NKOTB to Star Wars—which caused much debate in our home over which order she should watch the movies in. I assume he’s already indoctrinated her in all things Doctor Who, and will eventually move to Star Trek.

It’s Not All Positive

There is one drawback. But it’s not a huge one. The drawback is: aside from the animals, NKOTB is the only woman in the house.

For the first month or so, I quietly wondered what it is like for her to be living with four men. One day, I decided to bring it up with Kid1. He said something along the lines of, “Yeah, it’s come up a few times. Like, she’ll ask me if you have something she needs, and I’ll respond, ‘There is none of that in this house. You have to remember, you’re the only woman here.’” I assume one of these things is feminine hygiene products.

NKOTB knows I’m a trans man. She has no issues with it. She understands why Kid1 and Kid2 still call me “mum” even though my gender is man. But, I’m not sure she’s aware that I had a hysterectomy 10 years ago.

(Aside: I find it absolutely amazing how many pairs of shoes she has. This is not a negative. But, I’m fascinated over what appears to be a new pair of shoes showing up every other week. I’m a one-pair-of-shoes kind of guy.)

Another slight drawback is: No one gets a quiet night to themselves for some un-muted coitus.

Before NKOTB moved in, Kid1 would spend the odd weekend at her house. A lot of those times, it fell on a weekend that Kid2 was at his dad’s or staying at a friend’s house. So, everyone had some alone couple time.

Now, there isn’t a time when someone outside of the coupling isn’t home.

I not only feel a little stuck (for lack of a better word) in my sex life, but I feel bad that Kid1 and NKOTB also have to be consciously aware of other people being in the house during their time together.

But these things are not insurmountable. They’re just little bumps we have to navigate.

The Possible Future

I can imagine a time when children stay at home long after marriage and the beginnings of their own families. It is more economically feasible to move into a bigger house that has room for adults and new children, than it is for two separate households.

While I’m not sure if it would happen with my family because Kid1 will have a good paying job, I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea. I have a little bit of envy over cultures where families stay together, despite not liking how women tend to be treated in some of those cultures. If I could be around my grandbabies 24/7, and help take care of them, I’d be stoked! Andrew may have other thoughts on this issue.

What Other GeekMoms Had to Say

GeekMom Rebecca said:

My daughter is 18, and my son 16, so this is certainly on the radar. I don’t have a problem with extended family moving in, including long-term partners of my kids. Twelve years ago we bought a house with an “in-law” apartment above it so my mother could be with us, but have her own place. My nephew moved in with my mom when he started college in the area a few years ago, and with regular babysitting of my two young nieces by all of us, we have already had to deal with the frustrating but rewarding experience of extended family living.

Things like food, paying for WiFi, taking out the garbage, respecting each other’s space, etc., are all constant discussions. If one of my kids needed to live at home, and their s/o moved in, there would specific expectations beforehand. That makes is so much easier. Vague agreements like, “you’ll help out with rent” can only lead to miscommunication. “You will cook dinner for everyone three nights a week and clean the kitchen, do all yard work, and snow shoveling etc…. Having other people over is fine, but no large gatherings unless okay’ed by us, etc. And we will re-evaluate each semester” may sound strict, but is the more peaceful route. Since I’d only agree to this for an adult, serious relationship, I’d assume they would share a room.

My son already announced he wants to take a “gap year” when he graduates high school since college is so expensive and he isn’t exactly sure what he wants to do. So we’re already talking about what that means.

GeekMom Karen said:

I have this fantasy that my kids will (like I did) go off to college and only come home to visit after that. Considering that they’re three and one right now, I’ll be able to hold on to that fantasy for a few more years yet. But I know it won’t be that simple. My parents were always willing to host our friends for extended periods of time when they needed a roof over their heads for various reasons. I expect that I’ll do the same from time to time. For adult kids with partners, I hope in the most hopeful way possible that my kids will pick cool partners who will do their share around the house and cause the least drama possible, if it comes to that.

GeekMom Lisa said:

I have no experience whatsoever on this topic but there was another article recently that touched on this and I couldn’t help but think that in other cultures, children stay with their families their whole lives. Their spouses come to live with them. Multi-generational homes!  It is only here that we force a very particular strain of independence, and then judge others against it.

For the record, my children will always have a home. If it works for a family then why not? Geez Louise!

GeekMom Judy said:

If we had the space, I’m pretty sure we’d be open to it, IF they paid rent and bought their groceries. And it would have to be a privacy-oriented living condition (MIL apartment). When we stayed with our in laws while moving to NH (for a few months) in our early married years, there was an apartment above the garage. Rough, but livable.

But I think we’d always lean toward inclusion. If our kids, adult or otherwise, need help, we are there. If they truly needed housing we’d make it work!

GeekMom Patricia said:

I do think this is something we families need to be prepared for. Except for some very outlying circumstances, my husband and I would have no problem being there for our sons and their S/Os if they need a roof over their heads. Beyond a certain age (college graduate, probably), we will fully expect some sort of contribution to the household, whether it’s financial (if employed) or service (if not employed).

The part of this where I might not have the most popular opinion is for how long we would be willing to have this setup. If our house is big enough I think we can do this for quite a while, but as a military family, we aren’t in the same house for very long. There’s no prediction of how big/small a house we might have next. Many Americans gravitate towards only getting “as much house as you need” just for the immediate members. We tend to do that ourselves. So unless we get a house with the intention of having the extended family living with us permanently (such as is the model in many other countries), we would expect our adult sons and their partners/families to live with us just temporarily.

A GeekMom who wishes to remain anonymous said:

I have no issues with my adult children coming back to the roost, if need arises. As for allowing a long-term partner to move in, that is a little bit trickier because of issues with space. But in a perfect world, if I did have the space, I wouldn’t be opposed. But we’d have the same house rules as my own kids: pick up after yourself, quiet after a certain hour for the younger members of the family, etc.

Another GeekMom who wishes to remain anonymous said:

While I was in college, my parents let my long-term college boyfriend move in with us. They even gave us two bedrooms to use as a bedroom and living room, like a private mini-apartment within the house. It didn’t seem weird to me at the time, but since becoming a parent myself it seems weird to me now! I can’t imagine doing the same for my daughters, but they are so young I can’t even imagine them ever dating. Only time will tell what kind of parents we will become, and what kind of teenagers and young adults our daughters will become. There’s just too many unknowns to make any sort of prediction about our lives in 10-15 years!

It’s interesting though to see how other cultures handle the multigenerational housing issue. It’s easy to think that they do things differently somewhere far away, so far away that it doesn’t affect us in any way. But we live on a small planet and there is always something new to learn from the people directly in our lives! I work with a lot of Indian guys, who were born and raised in India but that have been living in the US for many years. They’ve all gone through with the tradition of arranged marriages, despite living in the US. Then when they had kids, their parents and/or in-laws visited them from India for months at a time to help with the baby, meanwhile staying in their house. Every time I hear about this, I can’t help but sympathize “wow, it must be really hard to have your parents around all the time!” They always respond that it’s no problem at all because in India they would all share a home their entire lives anyway. My own mother must have gotten a taste for freedom since my at-home college days, because when she came to help me with my babies, she took an apartment in my town rather than move in with us. She said we would all appreciate having our own space, herself included!

So, let me ask you something. What are your thoughts about your adult child (future or present, depending on your family situation) bringing their significant-other into your family? Would you consider it, or is it a flat out, “No”? If the answer is “No,” why? If the answer is “Yes,” why?

Trans Parenting: I’m Called “Mum” But We Don’t Celebrate Mother’s Day

"Follow your own rainbow (CC)" by Purple Sherbet Photography Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Some Rights Reserved.
“Follow your own rainbow (CC)” by Purple Sherbet Photography Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Some Rights Reserved.

Ninety-nine percent of people in my life neglected to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. The result: It was the best Mother’s Day of my parental life.

I have two children. They call me “mum.” Mother’s Day is not a thing we do in this house. In fact, because it has never been mentioned, Andrew asked, “Does Canada have Mother’s Day?”

I’m a trans man.

Oh, how confusing all of this must be for some readers. It must be. It can not only be confusing for my immediate family — Andrew, Kid1 and Kid2 — but, also, for me.

Maybe we should rewind time to nearly 19 years ago to when I gave birth to Kid1.

I carried him for just over nine months. I birthed him. The forms I filled out to register birth never asked for “Mother’s Name” or “Father’s Name.” Instead, they asked for “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.”” The same followed for school enrollment forms, medical forms, passport forms, etc., etc.

However, as the result of biology, automatically, I was given the label of “mum,” never thinking that much about it.

Just over 15 years ago, the same followed when I gave birth to Kid2.

When I gave birth to Kid2, I still didn’t know much about this whole transgender thing. That would come about a year later, once I took my Abnormal Psychology class, as part of my psychology degree requirement. It was at that point that things finally started to click. I stopped praying that I was born intersex and that my parents made the wrong choice, and began my journey to accepting that I was a trans man.

Before I publicly “came out” three years ago, my children always knew that I was different than the mothers of their peers. Without prompting, they would describe me as a gay man trapped in a girl’s body. They just knew. They always got it, on some level. But, because of biology, I was still called “mum.”

Around the time that I came out in public, as my boys were older and could formulate specific questions about what it means for me to be a trans man, Kid2 asked, “Do I have to start calling you ‘dad’ now?

I thought about it for a bit and decided, no, because I am the parent who birthed them. I see the labels “mum” and “dad” more as labels to describe biological functions, rather than societal constructs. Though, most people see them as societal constructs, which can cause so much confusion.

Fast-forward to this past Mother’s Day. It was late in the day and I had realized that neither of my children, nor Andrew, had wished me a happy Mother’s Day. Andrew didn’t even know Canada does Mother’s Day, so that explained that. Late in the day, I decided to ask Kid2 why he hadn’t wished me a happy Mother’s Day for the last few years, and he said, “Well… I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate because, well… you know. It’s just not you.”

Again, my children simply “get it.” They understand all of this, without ever needing to sit them down for “talks.” If only it was that simple with the adults in my life. More on that in a bit.

Then, there was a brief discussion about how wishing me a happy Father’s Day would probably be more appropriate. However, I’m not even sure that fits because I label myself “parent,” and for most of my children’s lives, I was the parent, having to “play” both roles.

Andrew’s mum also had questions about it because they call me “mum” but I’m not a “mum.” Andrew said, “Jules is the parental unit. However, there is no Happy Parental Unit Day, so it’s just not a thing in our house.”

Each year, I get less and less “Happy Mother’s Day!” wishes. This year, I only got one, which made me feel good as, slowly, people are understanding.

Though, part of me wishes it didn’t take people so long. Most trans people I know, it took their friends only six months to stop using the wrong pronouns. Three years later, I’m still having to correct 99 percent of the people who know that I’m transgender in regards to proper pronouns, including my closest friends — the ones who signed relationships contracts.

It’s frustrating, to say the least.

As always, if you don’t know, are curious, or are unsure, simply ask the question. Especially as each transgender person has their own preferences.

Because of biology, I’m okay with the my children making use of the word “mum.” Other trans men may prefer “dad.” So ask. As for the greater world, I prefer “parent.” That is what I am.

As a reminder about pronouns, I prefer the singular “they/them” because it forces people to view me as a person instead of a gender. That said, I love it when people use “he/him” in reference to me. So that is okay, too. Or, just simply use my name instead of a personal pronoun. But, it’s never okay to use “she/her,” “wife,” “lady,” “ma’am,”or anything else that feminizes me.

There are no hard and fast rules. Each transgender person has individual wants and needs. When adding children to the mix, it can get even more confusing.

Maybe one day we’ll have a Parental Unit Day to honor families who do not fit into the “traditional” makeup.

Until that day happens, I’m just happy that I’ve finally experienced a Mother’s Day where I didn’t feel like a complete fraud, and, as a result, had a marvelous day. It may have been a slow road, but I think people in my life are finally starting to see me for me.

It feels wonderful.

If this post has brought up any questions in your mind about transgender parenting, please let me know in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer them in a post. While my experiences may not always work for you, like my geeky-queer wedding planning series, maybe it will help you to find the road that works best for you and your family, while knowing that you are not alone in your journey.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Lessons Learned and Miscellaneous Extra Touches

Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

It’s been nearly nine months since we said our I wills and I’ve yet to write this final post in my geeky-queer wedding planning series. Between many international trips, Andrew moving to Canada, everyone becoming accustomed to extra people and two extra pets inhabiting a shared space, looking for a bigger house, moving into a bigger house, and more, it has been a very busy nine months. Plus, there are a couple of things in this post that are difficult for me to write.

But, now, the time has come to wrap up this series with lessons learned, and the miscellaneous things we did that were not mentioned in previous posts.

Lesson Learned

Lesson #1: Learn to let go.

Near the end of the planning, I had to learn to let go. I didn’t have to let go in terms of things I wanted. But, I did have to learn to let go over things of which I had no control. This was extremely difficult for me because when I’m stressed, my OCD symptoms become more difficult to control.

Lesson #2: Expect the unexpected.

People warned me that there are always guests who don’t show up, even if they RSVP’d as a yes. This was new information to me, as I had no input the first time I got married. But, as the majority of my guests were coming from out of town—half of whom were coming from out of country—I didn’t expect this to be a reality.

But, the unexpected still happened: a death in the family.

Andrew’s dad, former Rep. Bob Edgar, D-Pennsylvania, unexpectedly passed away a couple months before the wedding.

The death of Andrew’s dad meant that neither of his parents would be physically present at the wedding. Obviously, his mom was too upset to make the long journey from Virginia on her own. This was very difficult for all of us. We now had to figure out a new way to include his parents into the ceremony. More about that at the end.

Lesson #3: Be truly accepting of your non-traditional wedding and don’t worry about what others may think.

Right from the get go, we were very happy with the choices we had made in order to make our United Federation of Planets wedding a reality. However, we were a little shy about sharing it outside of our geeky circles.

What we ended up learning was that vendors and their staff were extremely excited after learning about the theme of our wedding. They all became extra-willing to make our day that much more special. Wait staff wanted to join in the costumes. The menu had themed items. Even the minister wore a costume. And, the night before, strangers eating dinner at The Quamichan Inn asked if it was okay just to drive by the wedding in order to see the costumes. They learned about the wedding because the wonderful staff couldn’t stop talking about it.

Everyone with whom we worked said they enjoyed our wedding more than the traditional affair because it broke the monotony.

So, if you’re worried about what others may think, stop. Especially as those who truly matter—your guests—will be joining in on the fun.

Lesson #4: Technology works great when it works, but when it fails, it really fails.

The above should be a “No, duh!” But, it should be something you keep in mind. Two critical parts of our wedding involved technology: our online guestbook and our in person guestbook (more details below). None of those logs saved properly because of a mixture of user error and technical error.

So, if you decide to do any of the technology-dependent things we that we did, you may later come to find that they did not succeed, despite multiple testing.

Lesson #5: Don’t purchase any crafting books two months before the wedding.

Two months before the wedding, I purchased Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting and The Star Trek Craft Book: Make It So! Both books contained so many wonderful ideas for party favors and decorations. Lo and behold! I wanted to make them all!

I made grandiose plans to craft all the things but ran out of time.

Do not make this mistake. Be sure to purchase any craft books that may coincide with your theme the moment you’ve decided on one.

Miscellaneous Extras

We did many extra things not previously mentioned. They are so numerous, that I cannot possibly list them all. But, I think the following are worth noting as they may help you plan your geeky and/or queer wedding.

1. Create a website.

Instead of having to keep track of paper RSVPs and relying on people to actually put them in the post, we created a website. The website was not only used for RSVP purposes, but it also contained crucial information about the location, the wedding day schedule, accommodation information for out of towners, local restaurants, and activities. That helped cut down on repeatedly answering the same inquiries.

The wedding as viewed by virtual guests. Screenshot provided by Patricia Vollmer.
The wedding as viewed by virtual guests. Screenshot provided by Patricia Vollmer.

2. Stream the wedding.

When people RSVP’d, they had the option to attend the wedding virtually. Many people couldn’t afford to travel to our wedding, yet it was still very important to us that they could still have a way to attend and participate. So, I installed Wowza media server on my server, and we created another website, complete with LCARS theme, for our virtual guests to watch the wedding and chat with each other, also with video capability.

If you do not have your own server, you can still stream your wedding via a number of media server hosts.

Dave and Patricia Vollmer in the chat room. Screenshot provided by Patricia Vollmer.

3. Create a digital guestbook.

Marrying a software developer is a great idea, for many reasons. One of those reasons is they can write software specific for your needs. Andrew wrote a LCARS-themed program that allowed people to make “Captain’s Logs,” instead of signing a traditional guestbook. We installed in on my Surface Pro tablet, so that it had a touch-interface, just like on-board a starship. We even included the sound of the Enterprise engines and the Enterprise computer’s voice saying, “Initializing,” on start-up, and “Transfer complete,” on saving.

After the ceremony was over, the people who attended virtually also made “Captain’s Logs” via the video chat.

Unfortunately, the external memory got knocked out of the Surface Pro and those logs didn’t save, and the virtual videos didn’t save to my server because of a typo I made in the save configuration file.

Party favors. Image via the @AandJWed Twitter account.

4. Create your own decorations and party favors.

For the ceremony, I made the “Make it so” banner found within the The Star Trek Craft Book: Make It So! book. For the party favors, I made everyone a Tribble, also found within the craft book. I also made everyone three Star Trek-themed cross-stitch patterns, found within Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting. Every guest also received a United Federation of Planets pin.

We didn’t have a wedding cake, but we still had cake toppers. Instead of the traditional groom and groom wedding cake topper, I purchased figurines of Mister Spock and Captain Kirk from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, to match our wedding attire.

You can see more pictures of the party favors, the “Make it so” banner, and the “cake toppers” in the Storify story below.

Kirk and Spock forever. Photo by Jules Sherred.

5. Create a special Twitter account and Storify your wedding.

In order to easily track tweets from the wedding, and to allow others to follow along whilst protecting everyone’s privacy, we created @AAndJWed. All of the guests who attended in person were given access to the account.

Because all of the tweets were made in one place, not only did it make for easy sharing and following, but it also made creating a Storify post that much easier.

And to think, some places charge $3000.00 in order to tweet and track your wedding.

6. Create a unique wedding invitation.

If you are artistically inclined, you probably can create some amazing cards for your day. After all, you cannot have normal invitation to commemorate your geeky-queer wedding. If you’re not, then spend a little extra money and commission someone to create the perfect cards for your wedding. We commissioned Matt Schubbe to create our cards, and I cannot recommend him enough.

7. Involving family members who cannot be there.

With Bob’s sudden death, we were put in a very sad place. For a few weeks, we couldn’t even think about the wedding. What we did know is that we wanted to dedicate part of the ceremony to Bob.

Bob had a huge impact on Andrew and on me. He spent his entire life teaching about inclusivity. So did Andrew’s mom, Merle. Without them, Andrew may not have grown into a person who could accept marrying a trans man. Without their acceptance of me as a transgender individual, I would not have been able to marry Andrew.

However, we had a bit of a problem. We knew we wanted to dedicate part of the ceremony to Bob but didn’t know how we wanted that to happen.

Thankfully, we had a little bit of help. Some years ago, Bob wrote a book titled Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right. I had two copies. After Bob’s memorial service, I gave one of those copies to the minister who would be officiating the ceremony. I asked him to read it in order to get to know the man who was Bob Edgar and figure out a way to have Bob with us on that day.

The minister decided to read the following Franciscan benediction Bob included at the end of his book. Neither Andrew nor I knew this was going to happen, and it was all we could do to not burst into tears during the ceremony:

May God bless you with discomfort…
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your hearts.

May God bless you with anger…
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears…
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness…
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Followed by Bob’s own words:

And to that prayer, in whatever language we express it, in whatever tradition it is heard, let all us all say in a joyful and faithful and prophetic voice that weds prayer with works and hope with action: Amen.

That was the perfect way to end the wedding ceremony.

Chances are your missing family member did not write a book. If that person is recently deceased, maybe tell a story about them. If they couldn’t be there for other reasons, maybe they can write something to be read during the ceremony. Or maybe you will also be blessed with a wonderful officiant who figures out the perfect thing to say or read.

That pretty much sums it up. Our wedding is long over but not near forgotten. Guests continue to relay how much fun they had. Nine months later, and both Andrew and I are still trying to get over how much love was present that day. Guests are also trying to figure out some other good excuse to travel from far and wide for another really excellent party.

I’ll leave you with a few images via Storify. But first, don’t forget to read the rest of the series. They may help you come up with your own ideas to plan your geeky-queer wedding. The posts include my earlier GeekMom posts, Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Last Names and Culture, Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Location, and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Gifts. You can download the first six posts in this series, in either PDF, ePUB, or MOBI. These parts include: Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony; and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

Remember: There are no rules. This is your day. You can make it whatever you want it to be!

If You Are Transgender, Google May Out You. Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself.

Google products
Google Plus, Google Gmail, and Google Hangouts icons by Google. Image by Jules Sherred.

There as been a lot of news this past week about the very sad suicide of Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, which was the result of Grantland reporter Caleb Hannan outing her as transgender.

In the wake of this news, Violet Blue wrote an article for ZDNet, which uncovered how Google has also been outing transgender people after upgrading to Android 4.4 aka KitKat.

The TL;DR version of Blue’s article is:

  • Some trans people use one name on Google+—we will call this their real name. People on Google+ may or may not know they are transgender. That part is irrelevant. The part that is relevant is that is that their Google+ world is their real self. They may not be ready, for a variety of reasons, for their “in real life” world to know about this real self. But, because they are not “out” at work, with some peers, and/or family members, they use another name on for their Gmail and messaging on their phone—we will call this their assigned name at birth.
  • After upgrading to Android 4.4, Google Hangouts became their default SMS app.
  • Google Hangouts is tied to their real name listed on Google+.
  • Their assigned name at birth—which once appeared as their name in the old messaging app and Gmail—has suddenly been replaced with their real name, thanks to Google’s infinite “wisdom” of integrating all of their services with Google+.
  • Now, they’ve been outed without their consent or transparency on the part of Google about what will happen to your ID when you upgrade to Android 4.4.
  • Google is saying, to paraphrase, “This isn’t our fault. It’s user error.”

When I read the news last night, my heart sank. I frantically went through all of my accounts associated with my Google+ account to make sure my real name is listed everywhere. My Galaxy Note III is still running Android 4.3, so I didn’t have to worry about the Google Hangouts thing, just yet. But, I wanted to make sure that when the upgrade finally becomes available to me, I won’t have to worry about my assigned name at birth popping up somewhere.

You see, I’m already mostly out. So, that isn’t something I necessarily have to worry about. I’ve legally changed my name, which also means that my assigned name at birth was destroyed and new birth records and a new birth certificate was created. But, I do have a different type of “outing” to worry about.

There are people, including my entire family, who, despite a legal name change, refuse to call me by my real name. New people come into my life who do not know I had an assigned birth name that differs from my legal name. I don’t ever want to give anyone any more “reason” to use my wrong name, or gain knowledge of it without it being on my terms.

After all, this is my life, my name, my identity. I should have control over this very private part of my life. And, so should you.

After my legal name change, I had to update all of my online profiles. It is very easy to miss one, especially if some of your online profiles are throw-away accounts. The Gmail account attached to my Google+ profile is one of my throw-away accounts, because of privacy and personal safety reason.

Missing from Blue’s article are some steps you can take in order to protect your identity. Here are two things you can do, right now, in order to protect yourself:

  1. If your situation is similar to mine, meaning: you are out; or, have recently legally changed your name, but you don’t want new people to know your past self; and/or you have people who refuse to call you by your real name and you don’t want to give them any more “reason” to be transphobic towards you, then do the following:
    1. Log into your Gmail account.
    2. Click the spokes button under your avatar.
    3. Click “Settings.”
    4. Click “Accounts.”
    5. Beside “Send mail as:” make sure it’s the same name as your Google+ account. Make sure your assigned name at birth isn’t listed when you click “Edit info.” After my legal name change, it took quite some time for Google to erase my old name. It’s only quite recent that it was no longer listed in Gmail.
  2. If your situation is such where you need to use your assigned name at work, with your peers, and with your family, then you’ll have to set up another Gmail account using your real name. It’s not ideal, but it is what a lot of my trans peers have done. Once you setup the new Gmail account, you’ll need to do the following:
    1. Create a new Google+ account that is attached to the Gmail account that uses your real name.
    2. Start re-adding people to your circles, rejoin all your communities, notify your Google+ pals of the changed account, etc. Yes, it’s a lot of work.
    3. Deactivate the Google+ account that is attached to your assigned name at birth. Because, despite your Google+ account using your real name and your Gmail account using your assigned name, soon the Google+ name will overwrite your assigned name. If you need to keep that account as your assigned name, you cannot have it attached to a Google+ account unless you want to change the Google+ account name to your assigned named. I really hope this point makes sense, because it is a little convoluted and it shouldn’t have to be.
    4. Add the new account which is using your real name to your Android devices. The upside to Android is that you can be logged into different accounts for different apps. I am logged into my throw-away Google account for Google+ (I never check my Gmail and I don’t use Google Hangouts), and my real name account for Google Play.

While the above steps are not ideal, these are some things you can do. The ideal thing would be for Google to wake up and realize that there are valid reasons for using different identities for different products. Not everyone who uses a pseudonym is a troll. Not only could these people be transgender and, for very valid reasons, have to hide this fact. But, they could also be people escaping abusive relationships, who still have to use two sets of names. And the list can go on.

I hope I made sense. If not, please feel free to ask a question in comments, and I’ll do my best to clarify.

The Enormous Power of Simple Pronouns

Most people never think twice about the pronouns used in reference to them. But, for those who are transgender, pronouns carry enormous power. This power needs to be respected.

Unless you’ve ignored the news for the last few days, I am going to assume you’ve read the news that Chelsea Manning — born Bradley Manning — is taking the next step in her transition by requesting she be referred to as, “Chelsea” and that female pronouns be used in reference to Manning. For some people, the fact Manning is transgender is new information. Other people are a little confused about why it is suddenly news because it was brought up during her trial.

Despite this request, most mainstream media outlets are refusing to honor it. Around the internet, I saw a range of reactions, from honest questions about this issue to some very hateful commentary, even from within the trans community. Some of the more harmful comments included things akin to, “He’s only doing this to get attention, and, “He’s faking it,”—because we all know how wonderful those death threats, and resulting increased suicidal thoughts will be.

Despite whatever you think about Manning and her actions, there is one very good reason why I am honoring her request, and why you should to: how your reaction will affect transgender children.

Transgender issues are some of the most complicated issues facing the public. It is such a diverse community of people. Mental health awareness around this issue is constantly changing. Mainstream media still needs to catch up with the fact that “Gender Identity Disorder” is no longer a classification in the DSM, and is not something that can be cured with therapy. It is not a mental illness.

Instead, treatment for the effects of the dysphoria, such as severe depression, need to be supported. This includes supporting, when necessary, sex reassignment surgery.

Not everyone needs sex reassignment surgery. Treatments vary depending on the extent to which the person in question is debilitated because they were born in what is often described as, “the wrong body.” Even, “the wrong body,” is too simple of a term.

However, there is one simple thing we can all do that makes a world of difference when it comes to the mental well-being of a trans individual. Respect.

This respect starts with respecting a trans person’s preferred pronoun.

If you are a cis male, how would you feel if people always referred to you as “she” or “her?” If you are a cis female, how would you feel if you were always referred to as “he” or “him?” Just think about it for a bit. For your entire life, you are subjected to something that you feel is so very wrong for how you perceive yourself. Then, you ask people to stop. They refuse, deciding to refer to you in terms of your opposite identified gender in very forceful ways.

Even with this thought-experiment, you may never fully grasp how debilitating it is when people refer to you in a way with which you simply do not identify.

Pronouns can be confusing. Different trans people have different preferences. My preference is to either just use my name, or refer to me using “they” or “them.” For the most part, I will let “her” or “she” slide, because, in my mind, those words don’t define my gender or attempt to feminize me. However, every time someone refers to me as a “woman,” the reaction is visceral, causing me to want to vomit. That word causes me not only mental and emotional pain, but also physical pain. I am a person.

Because all trans people have different preferences, there are two rules you should follow:

1)      Ask them what is their preferred pronoun;

2)      Use that preferred pronoun, regardless of how you’ve learned of it.

Changing pronouns is one extremely important step in the long transition process from male to female, or female to male. These words are how the world defines us, and also how we define ourselves.

While there may be some adults who do not care about how their words affect Chelsea Manning, please keep in mind that there are closeted trans children who are witnessing a good portion of the adult world not respecting the simple use of a pronoun. This may have an extremely detrimental effect on their well-being. These children do not care about what Manning did. They care about how they see the media and adults treat trans people.

I don’t ask that you get it. It really is difficult to understand. I do ask that it be respected, as doing so doesn’t hurt anyone. But, ignoring it has serious consequences, especially when you stop to consider that murder and suicide rates are highest amongst trans individuals.

One final thought: You didn’t wake up one day and decide, “Man, I feel like a wo/man!” Neither do trans individuals. This is just who we are. It has nothing to do with sex, sexuality, or sexual identity.

It is just who we are.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Gifts

Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.
Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

Gift-giving is one of many traditions associated with weddings. In fact, there is a whole area of psychology surrounding the act of giving gifts. This act makes people feel good.

When Andrew and I were planning our wedding, our original plan was to not have any gifts. Both of us have been previously married. Unlike couples who are just starting out in life, counting on wedding gifts to establish their home, both Andrew and I are already established. There really isn’t anything that we need.

When I told a few of our friends that we weren’t accepting gifts, they were a little put out, for lack of a better word.

There was a part of me that couldn’t understand why. After all, it would save them money. Also, their presence at our wedding was their gifts to us. The majority of our guests traveled from great distances, spending a lot of money to share in the celebration. The amount of love present at our wedding continues to be overwhelming for the both of us. We will never be able to say, “thank you” enough.

The part of me with a formal education in psychology understood that it was important to our guests, for whatever reason, to do more than simply show up.

Andrew and I didn’t feel right accepting physical goods that we could purchase for ourselves. So, we reached a compromise.

The solution—one that would give everyone involved those warm fuzzy feelings—was to request that in lieu of gifts, people make donations to either the Lupus Research Institute or Marian Call. Both of these mean a lot to Andrew and me.

Wedding invitation commissioned from Matt Schubbe.
Wedding invitation commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

I have lupus. It is the source of a lot of pain and frustration in my life. It is a disease that is greatly misunderstood and does not receive a lot funding or attention. Donating to a charity that helps fund research around the world is something we always encourage. Even though I felt uncomfortable with people making donations in our names, I took one for the team because it was for a good cause.

As for donating money to Marian Call, the reasoning behind that was two-fold.

The first reason—one that both the guests and Marian learned about during the reception—was that unbeknownst to Marian, she played a vital role in how Andrew and I met. The second reason was that Marian was the independent musician we hired to perform a private house concert instead of having a traditional reception.

Yes, we hired Marian, so that means we paid her a flat rate, plus travel and accommodations, instead of the usual way people compensate her for a house concert, which is often by donation.

Because of the nature of the house concert, Marian wasn’t going to sell her music or ask for donations at the event. However, because of how much we value Marian’s music and what it means to the both of us, because of her role in our relationship, because we strongly believe in supporting independent creators, and because both Andrew and I feel we cannot place a price on the value of having her share in the celebration—there really isn’t enough money in the world—we asked people to give her more money. Again, without her prior knowledge.

People got to feel good by giving. Andrew and I got to feel good by surprising Marian with extra well-earned and well-deserved money. It was a win-win situation.

Marian Call and Scott Barkan performing "I'm Yours" during the signing of the registry. Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.
Marian Call and Scott Barkan performing “I’m Yours” during the signing of the registry. Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.

This is the part where I awkwardly ask that, if you’ve yet to do so, check out Marian Call’s music and buy it. Also, if you are in a position to play host to a Marian Call house concert, I cannot recommend her enough. She’s one of the most amazing performers I have the pleasure of knowing. It isn’t only because she is an insanely talented vocalist and lyricist. It is because she knows how to read her audience and play directly to the crowd.

I don’t know how she does it. I look at her and experience a sort of envy with her ability to interact in the way she does. She’s this amazing mix of introversion and extroverted exuberance. She takes the time to listen and keenly observe, getting to know her hosts and the environment in which she is performing. She takes what she has learned and transforms herself from a warm introvert to a crowd-pleasing performer.

Our situation was not Marian’s normal venue, so she had extra time to get to know everyone, and feel out her surroundings. Simply having her there helped to make our celebrations perfect; she helped make our wedding better than we could have ever imagined.

Marian helped me feel a little more comfortable being emotive in public, reminding me that I was surrounded by friends and by people who truly cared. I was comfortable enough to openly cry when she performed “Dark Dark Eyes.” (I’m sure the couple, or three, glasses of wine also helped.) She also made observational comments and other tokens—ones that I consider to be private—that really meant a lot.

It is at moments like this where I really wish I could be more expressive about my feelings. Over a month later, not only am I still overwhelmed by how superbly wonderful everyone made our wedding day, but I am still unable to find the proper words to articulate just how wonderful Marian is, both as a person and a performer.

Whether she is livening up a crowd with roaring renditions of “Shark Week,” “We’re Out For Blood,” and “It’s Good to Have Jayne on Your Side,” or putting something in people’s eyes and throats with “Dark Dark Eyes” and “Good Old Girl,” or just having fun with “Love and Harmony (Karaoke),” plus singing not-yet-released music, each Marian Call performance is unique and guaranteed to be amazing.

Marian Call and Scott Barkan performing "It's Good to Have Jayne on Your Side." Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.
Marian Call and Scott Barkan performing “It’s Good to Have Jayne on Your Side.” Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.

Also, Scott Barkan—Marian’s accompanist—deserves all kind of praise. Watching him play the guitar is mesmerizing. The guy is not only a crazy talented and amazing guitarist, but he is a talented musician doing his own thing. You’ll want to give Scott’s music a listen and a purchase, too.

While you may not be able to have Marian Call at your wedding, it is just as good to have her perform in your living room or backyard. I cannot recommend the experience enough.

Still to come in this series:

  • The conclusion: Things we’ve learned and other miscellaneous things we did.

My earlier posts, Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Last Names and Culture and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Location are both here on GeekMom. You can download the first six posts in this series, in either PDF, ePUB, or MOBI. These parts include: Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony; and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

If you would like to see a post about something not already mentioned, I want to know. Tell me, what has you curious? About what would you like to see me write? If you let me know, I will try my best to include it in a post.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Location

Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.
Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

If you are not getting married in a church, picking a location for the ceremony and reception can be difficult. However, the location was the only thing about our wedding that was not a difficult decision. Andrew and I had the wedding and reception at a beautiful, Tutor-style mansion, bed and breakfast called The Quamichan Inn.

I’m not sure I can say enough about the awesome that is The Quamichan Inn. Getting married at The Quamichan Inn was the only thing that was not negotiable. People often asked, “Why did you choose this location?” The only answer I could give was, “Because it is my favorite location in the Cowichan Valley.”

Everything from price, to service, to location, to atmosphere and ambiance, to food, to comfort was, in a word, perfection.

The back of The Quamichan Inn. Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.
The back of The Quamichan Inn. Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.

We had the ceremony in their beautiful gardens and had the reception indoors in the room dedicated to conferences, meetings, and receptions.

Andrew and I decided to rent all of the rooms from the Friday before the wedding to the Sunday after. Plus, we rented our suite—the Quamichan suite—and one more room until the Monday following the wedding. We didn’t have to worry about settling our bill for the weekend, which included the rooms, all the food and alcohol, minus the $500.00 deposit, until it was time to check out. A lot of places require that you pay for the food and alcohol before hand, based on the number of guests who RSVP’d. However, because of a combination of the small party and the number of services used, The Quamichan Inn didn’t create a bill until afterwards, and only charged us for those who actually attended, instead of the anticipated numbers. We still had to give them anticipated numbers so they could shop and prepare accordingly, but it was one less bill to worry about leading up to the event.

Even though we live in the same town as The Quamichan Inn, staying at the location of the wedding and ceremony meant that all we had to do on the big day was get up, eat the breakfast that was prepared for us, get dressed, and show up by walking down stairs. We also didn’t have to worry about how much we drank the night of, because all we had to do was walk upstairs to eventually go to sleep. Everything else was done for us by the amazing staff at the bed and breakfast.

Considering I only managed one hour of sleep the night before the wedding, and two hours the night of the wedding, staying on location without any added worries was an even bigger benefit than anticipated.

The three rooms that were not occupied by Andrew and I, and my boys, were used by out-of-town guests. The Quamichan Inn wasn’t big enough to accommodate all of our out-of-town guests, as they made up the majority of our guest list. But, renting the entire bed and breakfast for the weekend meant that the guests who were staying at hotels just down the road were free to come and go at any time during the weekend. The Quamichan Inn became our home, but without the worry of having to clean up after entertaining our guests.

We didn’t have to do any set-up or take-down. We didn’t have to worry about hiring a catering and wait staff, or a bartender. Guests didn’t have to pre-select their meal choices. Andrew and I pre-selected the soup, salad, and dessert. Guests chose one of three mains when it was time to sit down for dinner.

Getting married under a "Make it so" pennant banner. Banner made by Jules Sherred. Photo by Jules Sherred.
Getting married under a “Make it so” pennant banner. Banner made by Jules Sherred. Photo by Jules Sherred.

All people had to do was show up and have a good time.

And what a good time it was. Even the staff got into the fun. They couldn’t stop talking about it, even after it was all over. The head waiter, Daniel, was absolutely superb. We had one waitress who was excited beyond words when she learned she would be on service the day and night of our wedding. She even squee’d when we told her, after she asked if it was okay, that she was welcome to wear a costume, too. After that conversation took place on the Friday night, my youngest, in bewilderment, asked, “Did that just really happen?”

At first, we were concerned that there would be an issue with a bunch of people running around in costume the day of the wedding. But, as soon as we told The Quamichan Inn’s coordinator, Colleen, what we had planned for our day, the entire staff at the inn started to bustle with enthusiasm. The chef, Steven, who is also a geek, asked if it was okay to create a sci-fi themed menu. We obviously said, “yes,” and forgave the typo on the menu because everyone was so excited about our day.

The menu. Photo by Jules Sherred.
The menu. Photo by Jules Sherred.

Even people who came in for dinner on the Friday night, after learning about our wedding because the staff couldn’t stop talking about it, asked if it was okay to drive by the day of and take a look at all of our costumes.

Another thing the staff did was come in early on Saturday to open the bar early. We served the hors d’oeuvres at 2 p.m.—an hour before the ceremony—which amounted to a late launch. Some guests started to consume their alcohol then. We had a mix of a cash bar and provided a half of a liter of wine for each guest who was drinking. Then, at last call, we ordered another four liters of wine for guests. When we woke up the next morning, we still had two liters remaining.

The food was to die for. I was worried that I didn’t order enough hors d’oeuvres, but I was wrong. There was plenty left over. When it was time for the ceremony, the staff put the leftovers in the fridge. Then brought them back out to help people sober up (with plenty of free coffee) once the evening’s entertainment was over, and the guests were mingling.

The dinner, again, perfection. Huge portions. Delicious. Served with precision timing.

Talking about money and costs in public is not good manners. All I can say is that between the amount of food we received for the price charged, and the beyond amazing service, which started when I booked The Quamichan Inn last year, I feel like I ripped off the location, even after paying the tip.

The staff at The Quamichan Inn made everyone feel like they were in their own homes, and helped to make our wedding weekend celebrations better than we could have possibly imagined. There are no words to express just how amazing they were.

The set table. Photo by Jules Sherred.
The set table. Photo by Jules Sherred.

I cannot recommend enough going the bed and breakfast route, if it is available to you. Weddings and receptions are stressful enough as it is. If you can find a location that does it all for one price, it is one less thing to stress out about. If you live anywhere near The Quamichan Inn, meaning anywhere on Vancouver Island or the lower mainland, definitely consider getting married and having your reception there. You will not regret it.

Still to come in this series over the next few months:

  • Gifts
  • Things we’ve learned, and other miscellaneous things we did.

You can read Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Last Names and Culture here. You can download the first six previous posts in this series, in either PDF, ePUB, or MOBI, here. These parts include: Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony; and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

If you would like to see a post about something not already mentioned, I want to know. Tell me, what has you curious? About what would you like to see me write? If you let me know, I will try my best to include it in a post.

Finally, if you got married outside of a church, what about your location made it special?

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Last Names and Culture

Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

There are many differences between marriages in the United States and Canada. I explored some of these differences in an earlier post about the ceremony. The change of last name after marriage is another one of those differences.

In Canada, the rules around this are relatively simple. At least, in my mind. One of the reasons this post is so far overdue is that the United States has 50 states, each with their own rules about such things. In some states, the bride simply has to check a box when signing the marriage registry and her last name is changed. In other states, the bride has to notify difference agencies in order to change her last name. In only a handful of states, it is legal for the groom to take the bride’s name. I’m not even sure what the rules are in the states that allow same-sex marriage. Trying to research the rules in the United States surrounding this left me a little bit weary in the brain.

But, what I do know, or at least what I have been lead to believe, is that in the United States it is considered a legal name. In Canada, that is not the situation. Because of Canada’s views on multiculturalism, and there are many Canadians who come from countries where it is not the norm for the bride to assume the groom’s last name, the act of changing your last name is one of culture and not law.

When two people get married in Canada, either spouse is allowed to assume the last name of their partner. It doesn’t matter if it is a same-sex marriage or an opposite-sex marriage. But, that is all it is. It is a legal alias, one that can only be used if not intended for the purposes of fraud. In fact, up until recently, you had to have your spouse’s permission to use their last name on your passport. Of course, with the exception of Quebec, where you are not allowed to use your spouse’s last name for any reason whatsoever. Also, Quebec does not recognize common-law partnerships.

Some people decide to assume their spouse’s last name in the workplace and add the legal alias on their bank account, which requires proof of marriage, but keep their identification under their birth name because it is both expensive and time consuming to change these things. There are only a couple of provinces that do not charge to change identification after marriage.

Also, because Canada has common-law marriage laws, in some situations you don’t have to be legally married to assume your partner’s last name. Recently, passport laws have been changed to make it easier for both legally married partners and common-law partners to use each other’s last name on their passports. Spouses are no longer required to get permission for use of last name and common-law partners are now allowed to have a passport issued using their partner’s last name with a letter attesting to the fact they’ve been living in a marriage-like relationship for at least 12 months.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, they have a common-law marriage registry. If your common-law relationship is registered with the province, you are allowed to assume your partner’s last name for the purposes of a driver’s license, healthcare card, and other provincially issued identifications.

In all provinces except for Quebec and British Columbia, you are allowed to create a double-barrelled last name comprised of two parts, either hyphenated or not. Unlike some South American countries, it does not matter in which order the last names are places. In Quebec, there is no way around this law. In British Columbia, you have to undergo a legal change of name in order to use a double-barrelled last name.

The process in British Columbia is very simple. When I changed my first and middle names, it took less than two weeks for Vital Statistics to process the change, even though the website says four to six weeks. However, undergoing a legal change of name in Canada is not something you do lightly. If you do decide to legally change your name, for all intents and purposes, you are going through a rebirth. Your original birth records are destroyed and new ones are created in your new name. Then you are issued a new birth certificate, not an amended one, reflecting the new name.

I changed names because I’m a trans man, and for my marriage to be legal the officiant has to use the names on my birth certificate, and I couldn’t get married with a feminine first name. In this case, there aren’t too many ramifications involved in making this decision.

Because of how our name laws work, if you want to legally change your last name after marriage, one really needs to think about that. Why? Because in Canada, upon getting married, you can either use your last name at birth, assume your current spouse’s last name, or assume the last name from any other marriage. You are allowed to go back and forth between your legal name and any other alias at any time, as long as you are not intending to do fraud. This means that once I am married, there are three last names both Andrew and I are allowed to use, as we have both been previously married. But, if you go through the process of legally changing your last name, you cannot just simply go back to the last name with which you were born. If you got divorced and wanted to go back to your last name at birth, then you would have to once again go through the legal name change process, paying all of the fees involved, and spending a lot of time updating your identification, bank records, employment records, etc.

Even though it took less than two weeks for my legal name change to be processed way back in April, two months and hundreds of dollars later, I have only now received the last of my new identifications.

Many times when talking with my American pals about my name change and a handful of my Canadian pals who were unaware of our laws, they assumed that I was referring to changing my last name. I was actually changing my first and middle names, a process with laws no less conflicting between provinces. In British Columbia, it doesn’t require going to court, or placing adverts in the paper declaring intent because doing so places people in jeopardy. It really is as simple as filling out a form and having the Royal Canadian Mounted Police do a criminal record check so that any record that may exist will follow to the new name. Other provinces have different procedures, so confusion around all of these things is very understandable, especially from a cultural point of view.

In case you are curious, I will not be assuming Andrew’s last name after we are married. I’m very attached to my last name. Andrew has somewhat suggested that he would be willing to adopt my last name, but I think that would sound funny. Also, for those curious about what middle name I ended up choosing, I went with Coniah.

Still to come in this series over the next few months—I will finish the series after the wedding:

  • The location
  • Gifts
  • Things we’ve learned, and other miscellaneous things we did.

You can download all six previous posts in this series, in either PDF, ePUB, or MOBI, here. These parts include: Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony; and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

If you would like to see a post about something not already mentioned, I want to know. Tell me, what has you curious? About what would you like to see me write? If you let me know, I will try my best to include it in a post.

Finally, if you are an American, what is the procedure for changing the last name in your state? Please let me know in what state you live. That would be very helpful. If you live outside of Canada and the United States, what are the laws where you live?

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding Reintroduction

Jules and Andrew Save the Date-01
Imaged commissioned from Matt Schubbe

With just over three months until the big day, and with GeekMom moving to a new home, I thought now would be an excellent time to reintroduce my geeky-queer wedding planning series to existing GeekMom readers, while giving new readers an opportunity to easily catch-up with the series.

What happens when two previously married people — one a trans man from Canada with two teenage children, the other a pansexual from the United States with no children, both geeks — decide to get married?

For your convenience, I’ve turned each of the previous six posts in this series into downloadable files — PDF, ePUB, and MOBI, all DRM-free.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction is the first post in this series. In the introduction, you’ll get a little taste of the many things my partner and I have been learning as we began this next chapter in our lives.

Download the PDF, ePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings is the second post in this series. Because of the nature of our relationship, people often wonder, “So, who did the proposing and how?” The answer is no-one. In fact, had he proposed, automatically my answer would have been, “No.” You now may be wondering, “Wait, so how are you engaged?” You may also be curious as to why I would have said no, had he asked. The answer to these questions, and more, is very long and complicated, and is found in this post.

Download the PDF, ePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire is the third post in this series. The most difficult decision Andrew and I faced when planning our wedding was answering the question, “What are we going to wear?” In the end, we decided to have a United Federation of Planets wedding. What that means and entails is found in this post.

Download the PDF, ePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests is the fourth post in this series. When you are planning a wedding, tradition and etiquette will tell you there are many things you must do. You must select a wedding party. Traditionally, there are also rules about whom you should choose. Traditionally, the parents of the individuals getting married must assume certain responsibilities. The guests are also seen to have specific roles within the whole affair. But, what if both parties have already been once married and divorced? What if one of those individuals is a trans man? What if the people getting married have different cultural backgrounds? What if a geeky element is being added? These questions are only a small fraction of things Andrew and I had to sort out as we began to plan our geeky-queer wedding. Our solutions — including the possibility of the kal-if-fee — are found in this post.

Download the PDFePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony is the fifth post in this series.In this latest geeky-queer wedding post, I explore the ceremony, including vows and legalities; the type of ceremony we will be having; and the process of going through a legal name change, and the reasons behind that need.

Download the PDFePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony.

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception is the sixth post in this series. When planning our geeky-queer wedding, Andrew and I had to make up a lot of things along the way, while balancing some of the traditional aspects that we find appealing. Sometimes, creating a new guide for our circumstances has been a little difficult. Other times, it was as easy as figuring out what aspects we really do not like in traditional weddings, and simply eliminating them; sometimes replacing them with our own special touches. The reception is another one of those situations where the end result is due to a process of elimination and supplementation, balanced with a couple traditional elements.

Download the PDFePUB, or MOBI version of Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

If you’d prefer to download these posts as one file, you can download Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Parts One – Six as a PDF, ePUB, or MOBI.

Still to come in this series over the next three months:

  • Last names and culture
  • The location
  • Gifts
  • Things we’ve learned, and other miscellaneous things we did or are doing.

If you would like to see a post about something not already mentioned, I want to know. Tell me, what has you curious? About what would you like to see me write? If you let me know, I will try my best to include it in a post.

Finally, did you do anything unique or out of the ordinary for your wedding and/or reception?

Why I AM Buying Girl Scout Cookies This Year.

From bandit's Flickr Photostream with Creative Commons License

This year, like so many others, I started my year with a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and eat healthier. This generally means tossing the sweets and indulging in the grocery produce aisles. Having been a Girl Scout all my life, I was raised on Thin Mints and Samoas (Carmel Delights) and I remember when they sold for $1.50 a box. I have vivid memories of standing outside in the frigid Colorado January asking folks if they would like to buy a box. Selling those cookies allowed me to attend two different space camps growing up and pay for countless camping trips.

This year I considered saving some money and calories and skipping my beloved cookies — that is, until I realized just how important it was for me to support such an amazing organization. Earlier this year I wrote about Bobby Montoya, a little girl in Colorado who just happens to be transgendered and wanted to join the Girl Scouts. After some confusion and hurt feelings Bobby was allowed to join, and the Girl Scouts clarified their stance that anyone who identified as a girl was welcome to become a Girl Scout.

This ruling was such a win in the LGBT community, as it was one of the first public recognitions of the emotional and physical struggle of transgendered individuals, including our own GeekMom Jules. Girl Scouts of Colorado says requests for support of transgender girls have grown and the organization has been working to support the girls, their families and the volunteers who serve them ever since.

This past week, however, it was made abundantly clear that while the Girl Scout organization has opened its arms wide, there are still numerous obstacles for transgendered youth these days. Fourteen-year old Taylor (no last name) from Ventura County, California created a YouTube video this week calling for the boycott of Girl Scout Cookie sales, claiming the organization uses the revenue earned to push a radical homosexual agenda at the expense of youth safety. Taylor has stated she is afraid of 12th grade boys posing as girls as an effort to take advantage of younger girls. Since the YouTube video has apparently gone private (no doubt due to public outcry), let me share some of her “words of wisdom.”

“The real question is, why is GSUSA willing to break their own safety rules and go against its own research institute findings to accommodate transgender boys? Unfortunately, I think it is because GSUSA cares more about promoting the desires of a small handful of people than it does for my safety and the safety of my friends and sister Girl Scouts, and they are doing it with money we earned for them from Girl Scout cookies.”

“Right now, GSUSA and councils are focusing on adult agendas that have nothing to do with helping girls. I ask all fellow Girl Scouts who want a true, all-girl experience not to sell any cookies until GSUSA addresses our concerns. I ask all parents of Girl Scouts who want their girls to be in a safe environment to tell their leaders why you will not allow your girls to make any more money for GSUSA.”

I. Mean. Really. Taylor, and those who agree with you, I have something to tell you all. All kids are different, all kids have their challenges. Some can’t read or write, some can’t talk, some can’t add or do division, some can’t see colors, some kids hate their freckles or acne — and the truth is that some kids hate that they can’t feel comfortable in their own skin. Some kids grow up in the wrong body; that doesn’t mean that they are evil or dangerous, it just means they are different. If a child solely identifies as a particular gender, is anyone going to have them drop their pants to make sure they have all the right sexual organs? Not in a million years. To a transgendered girl, she was simply born with a birth defect called a penis. Its not something they have any ability to control and it shouldn’t be anything they are judged by. Transgendered children are not homosexual, they are trapped in a body that doesn’t fit them.

The Girl Scouts of the USA’s stance that they are looking beyond the sexual organs of an individual and more specifically at the identity of the child in determining if they can join their inclusive organization, seems to fit the core beliefs that all Girl Scouts aspire to maintain. The Girl Scout mission statement states that Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Even the Girl Scout Law stresses respecting others, being considerate, fair, make the world a better place and be a sister to every Girl Scout. As a Girl Scout you agree to abide by that law; it doesn’t mean pick the Girl Scouts you like and discriminate against the rest. It means as a Girl Scout you are a sister to every Girl Scout, without reference to sexual orientation or any other physical or emotional difference that they might have.

As far as GSUSA pushing a radical homosexual agenda, I’d have to argue just the opposite. GSUSA openly states local, national, and global service and action are core elements of the Girl Scout experience. Girl Scouts of the USA stated in an October 1991 letter:

  • As a private organization, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. respects the values and beliefs of each of its members and does not intrude into personal matters. Therefore, there are no membership policies on sexual preference. However, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. has firm standards relating to the appropriate conduct of adult volunteers and staff. The Girl Scout organization does not condone or permit sexual displays of any sort by its members during Girl Scout activities, nor does it permit the advocacy or promotion of a personal lifestyle or sexual preference. These are private matters for girls and their families to address.

It seems to me that GSUSA has done nothing other than uphold their 20-year-old policies. GSUSA doesn’t advocate or promote ANY sexual orientation, including straight. They have only sought to include any and all girls in their organization, even if that means that the girl might be different. Sexual orientation is considered a private matter and is not considered in the membership of any Girl Scout. If you identify solely as a girl, you are welcome to join the Girl Scout organization. Period.

So, I’m sorry Taylor, I refuse to support your call to boycott Girl Scout cookie sales as your reasoning isn’t based on fact or based on anything other than discrimination and vitriol. In fact, this year, I’m going to buy a few extra boxes to support an organization that has made visible strides in making the world a better place for ALL girls despite their differences. I can only hope that others see your “call to boycott” under the same light as myself and go buy a few extra boxes themselves. For those of you that really want to maintain your New Year’s resolutions of good eating habits, GSUSA does take monetary donations just like any other non-profit organization.

Need help finding cookies near you or when they will be sold? Check out http://www.girlscoutcookies.org/.

 

Geek Speaks From Experience: It Gets Better

Until college, I can’t remember passing a day at home or school without being teased for being a brainiac and a tomboy. I was so used to being a pariah in my own life that I actually had a hard time adapting to living among friends. But my fellow grown-up nerds were patient. They all knew what it was like to be “the weird one” and that it was only a matter of time before I solved the funny little puzzle in my head.

When I was nineteen years old, nobody seemed surprised to hear me say the words, “I’m bisexual.” But in spite of the fact that my biggest secret was somehow common knowledge, my family had one demand: Stop telling people! In other words, “Get back in the closet, you freak.” But it was too late. I’d developed a taste for acceptance, and tormented adolescence was no match for hard-won adulthood. Yes, I was still a big geek, and queer to boot, but I was a geek among many. My smarts and my sexuality finally fit in somewhere, and I had something to be proud of: Me.

Now I’m somebody’s mother, and although it will be years before my son hits puberty, I find that the world hasn’t changed so much that he’ll have nothing to worry about. Smart kids still get teased, but they also get validated; regardless of how anyone feels about intellectualism, most people seem to have caught on that geeks make the world go around. Queer youth don’t have even that grudging level of mainstream acceptance, yet.

But I think it’s only a matter of time before people get wise about this, too. Scientists have examined some of the prevailing arguments against equality and found that the assumptions guiding anti-LGBT bias aren’t based in reality:

Some people argue that homosexuality isn’t natural, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Having queer family members may actually convey an evolutionary advantage.

Many people take for granted that kids need a mother and a father in order to grow up healthy and happy, but research reveals that, “The family type that is best for children is one that has responsible, committed, stable parenting. Two parents are, on average, better than one, but one really good parent is better than two not-so-good ones.” Apparently, “very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children’s psychological adjustment and social success.”

The idea that children of queer parents do poorly in school is also bunko. Statistically, “Parents’ income and education are the biggest indicators of a child’s success. Family structure is a minor determinant.” In other words, queer parents are equal to straight parents as measured by their children’s academic achievement.

In fact, in another study, “…children in lesbian families scored significantly higher in their social, academic and general skills, and significantly lower with regard to aggressive behavior, violating rules and expressing problem behaviour.” Logically, the research indicates that this is more likely due to differences in parenting styles between lesbian and hetero parents than due to their sexual orientation.

But even science has a way to go with regard to overcoming hetero-normative bias. Much research assessing the outcomes of children of LGBT parents still falls into the trap of assuming that the emergence of queer youth in any family is a sign of parental failure, or an otherwise undesirable result.

There are no quick fixes for these problems. It’s clear from both anecdotal and scientific evidence that anti-LGBT bullying is epidemic in schools. Queer kids are bullied to death at a rate that astonishes newscasters, but the phenomenon probably surprises few adult geeks who survived adolescence before Bill Gates and Steve Jobs became household names.

But we geeks and LGBT adults can offer queer youth one assurance: It gets better. And while our kids are still growing up, we adults can make it even better by confronting the discriminatory policies that validate bullies and condemn their victims.