I DO Want to “Have it All,” Starting with What Women in 178 Other Countries Have

Featured on RoleReboot.org.

Iceland, Germany, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Latvia, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Czhech Republic, Macedonia, Bosnia, Croatia, Ecuador, and a total of 178 countries have federally mandated paid maternity leave.  Fifty of these countries offer leave to fathers.  (Yes, they all should!).  The United States has no federally mandated paid parental leave.  ZERO.  See here for specific parental leave policies.

I have read so many reactions this week to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic article Why Women Still Can’t Have it All (which discussed societal barriers to women achieving the work-life balance the feminist movement has been striving for).  So many of these responses have disregarded and negated an important feminist policy agenda by blaming women and feminists for the inability to “have-it-all,” and drumming up in-fighting among groups who should be banding together to advocate for the policies Slaughter calls for.  They have crticized the idea of wanting to “have it all” as a privileged, selfish pursuit, bemoaned women expecting too much and having too high expectations, and discussed the fact that men, too, struggle to “have it all.”  They painted an overall picture of neurotic, perfectionistic modern mothers driving themselves crazy and needing to take it down a notch.

Ok, maybe no one “has it all,” as this Jezebel article argues, but women in Malta have 14 weeks of 100% paid maternity leave. Women in Sweden enjoy 16 months of 100% paid parental leave which they can use or share with the child’s father until age 8.  In France, every child has access to free daycare, early childhood education, and healthcare.  Clearly the women in these countries need to stop buying into some fantastical feminist line about a work-life balance no human being can attain!

Continue reading at http://www.rolereboot.org/family/details/2012-06-i-do-want-to-have-it-all-starting-with-what-women-in



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How as a Gay-Affirmative, Self-Aware Feminist I Still Missed the Fact that I’m Queer for 30+ Years

Finding oneself is an ongoing process...

Senior year in college I fell in love with a boy.  We’ll call him Jack.  Jack and I proceeded to spend the entire year in an ill-defined, heart-wrenching non-“relationship” in which we were “best friends,” (obviously dating) but not having sex or admitting we were more than platonic.

We told each other we loved each other.  We made every excuse to touch each other.  We even slept in the same bed, staying up late having deep conversations.  We made our lives dependent on each other’s as partners do, taking on each others’ struggles and challenges as our own.

Senior year in high school, I had had the same relationship.  Well, ok, I was four years younger, less mature, but everything I stated above was true of this one as well.  There’s one catch, this time it was a girl… let’s say, Jane.

Looking back, the fact that I was in love with my best friend Jane, that we slept in the same bed, snuggled, held hands, were romantically involved in every way one can be, aside from sex, should have tipped me off that I’m not straight.  Amazingly, despite my openness to being gay, despite at times in college wishing I was gay, feeling like I should be, and hanging out with all the gay kids, I still managed to continue to believe I was straight.

Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that all this time and emotional energy was spent on these non-“relationships,” and I never even got to have sex!  That is for another post.  How could I, feminist and gender-nonconformist since before puberty, gay rights activist, flaming liberal, and eventually trained in psychology have made such a grave error that only now, in my mid 30s am I realizing I’m not straight?

After fully analyzing the question, I have come up with the following reasons:


When this “thing” was happening with Jack, everyone saw it.  My friends referred to him as my “boyfriend.”  People were constantly asking what was going on, were we sleeping together, were we dating?

All the feedback I was getting was that you are in love with this boy… romantic love.  With Jane, on the other hand, I barely got any of that feedback.  One very close friend mentioned how physically affectionate we were with each other, and asked me about it.  That’s it.

And let me tell you, thinking back, it was just as obvious.  But girls acting romantic with each other just doesn’t stand out to us the way hetero match-ups do.  When we see a man and a woman, our minds automatically go to are they, have they, will they?

I got no feedback about this girl to make me pause and think hmmm, maybe I should take this seriously, as in I DO LIKE GIRLS.

Of course there is a gender aspect here too.  Physical affection between women stands out way less than in any relationship in which a man is involved, because the male role precludes such affection unless with a romantic partner.


To me this goes to an aspect of pansexuality that has to do with how one defines relationships.  Not only did I not really see gender as a major defining point in who I was attracted to… I didn’t really see that clear a boundary between romantic and platonic relationships the way others seemed to.

For me, everything bled together, gender was never rigid, sexual attraction was always just somewhere along a range.  There were sensual and erotic aspects to many relationships.  So when I did find myself “attracted” to women on various levels, it didn’t stand out that much to me.  I just didn’t view gender as that big a deal.  And yet, I think I was waiting for some kind of sign, like lightening bolts, telling me YOU DO like girls.

Thing is, there were never any lightening bolts with guys either.  In fact, that boy senior year was the first one I was even strongly attracted to, where I really felt like wow, I want to have sex with this person!

In a way, my experience was very pansexual, in that I didn’t draw such distinct lines between sexual and non-sexual relationships, and even between men and women.  But I think as a result, I was very susceptible to viewing my relationships the way others did, i.e. high school girls just being girls, vs. in love with a man.

Because the boundaries and labels I was aware of didn’t fit, I just accepted the default position… heterosexuality.


Being pan is not visible anywhere in our culture, and it certainly wasn’t when I was growing up.  I think if I had even been able to really relate to or feel I was bisexual, things would have been a lot clearer.  In retrospect, I was really searching for a non-straight identity, but there just wasn’t one that fit.

It was like the outfit you see on the rack and you think that’s it, it’s perfect, but when you put it on, it doesn’t fit quite right, and you’re not really sure why.

The first time I even heard the term omni-sexual was a few years ago at a conference of women at my university whose dissertations focused on issues of gender.  I immediately thought, “that’s what I am,” but even then, being I’d never MET anyone who identified this way, I guess I took it as more of an intellectual exercise than an actual sexual orientation.

They say “you can’t be what you can’t see.”  I spent so much time around LGBT etc. folk, I felt comfortable around them, I liked being around them, but I never had a “that’s what I am” moment.  Definitely did not have that feeling around straight people either!


In so many ways other positives in my life ended up clouding my sexual orientation, like my tendency to view everything through a psychological lens.  In the years of college, I came to understand my relationship with Jane as more about family issues I was avoiding dealing with.

Coming from a family with a misogynist father, I had a very difficult time trusting men, so all my closest and most powerful relationships were with women, yes, until Jack – ugh!  Ironically, this ended up actually CLOUDING my attraction to women because I interpreted it as oh men are just scarier for me, so I’m more focused on women.

Turns out, I think, I was scared of men, and it was developmentally important for me to get past that, but I also was actually, really attracted to women. 

The fact that I always “felt different” as other LGBTetc folk often claim, I also (mis)-interpreted as related to my parents problematic parenting style and relationship, and my resulting intimacy issues.  This combined with the invisibility of same-sex relationships, and no pan folks in sight, left me totally missing the fact that I felt different because I really was different.  Ha!  I mean after all, who doesn’t have intimacy issues?

And a note on my attraction to men…  I also used to think I was attracted to more gender flexible men because my father was so sexist.  Yet another way daddy fucked me up… he caused me to miss the fact that I’m actually just attracted to gender flexible folks.  It wasn’t about him, but how was I supposed to know that!


Ok, so obviously there must have been a part of me that while believing I was open to being gay, was hesitant to take on a minority sexual orientation.  I think if I had been full-out gay, I would have come out, but the fact that things felt very fluid, and I didn’t prefer women over men, there was never that much motivation to admit to myself I was not straight.

After all, it’s hard to plunge into a minority status, giving up one’s privilege as a heterosexual, to take on a seemingly non-existent sexual orientation that doesn’t quite fit with any concept people readily understand because one likes, but doesn’t necessarily prefer women.

And yet, here I am trying to do so.  Props to me.

Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.

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How Queer Saved My Soul From Motherhood’s Closet

Seth has been amazingly supportive since I came out as Pansexual last fall.  It wasn’t a shock by any means.  He knew I was attracted to women.  But now I was asking him to embrace an identity I hadn’t really had when he married me, and he did.  He keeps asking me the same question though… why now?  What about having kids created this impulse to embrace a queer identity?

All I knew was the possibility of being queer no longer felt like an intellectual exercise, but a necessity.  I wondered if it could be hormonal.  My attraction to women felt stronger than ever, could this be some kind of bisexual hormone surge?  But that didn’t feel right, because my need to identify as queer was about so much more than just finding women sexy.  The truth was, that need did grow out of the mommy role.  It grew out of months of feeling isolated and lonely, attempting to connect with other moms, but feeling thoroughly unsatisfied and unseen.  For the first time in my life, passing as straight felt like being invisible.

When I got “married,” in some ways we had a rather queer wedding.  We called it a partnership ceremony, took communal vows which included working toward marriage equality and creating an egalitarian family which celebrated diversity.  I kept my name.  We eliminated anything gendered from the ceremony, as well as from the marriage itself, setting up the structure of our relationship based on other aspects of who we were.  I never felt erased or closeted by my marriage, because I never felt forced into a hetero-normative, un-feminist role when I became a wife.

In fact, during my marriage I actually became more fully who I was.  I felt the safety and stability which allowed me to explore my sexuality and sexual orientation.  I was able to be open with Seth, and felt truly known by him.  During the years between marriage and becoming a mother, I was getting my doctorate in psychology, a role which fit my sense of myself as an independent, ambitious, intellectually curious woman.

Before graduate school there was a period of years when I waitressed for extra money.  I can remember feeling utterly invisible, seen by most patrons as uneducated, with nothing to offer other than serving their food, and in some cases, being a sex object.  But I have never felt more erased than when I became a mother.  When people look at me, they see everything society ascribes to a mother, and erase everything it doesn’t.  Intellect, erased.  Sexuality, erased.  Curiosity, ambition, creativity, desire, activism, politics, raunchiness, erased.  The creepiest part was the distinct feeling of suddenly becoming asexual in the eyes of the world.  But I could deal with society labeling me, rendering most of me invisible.  I could even deal with relatives and friends who ignored me as if only my babies existed.  I could understand that, my babies were, in fact, quite captivating.

Pride Onesies for the twins!

What I couldn’t deal with was trying to fit myself, a square peg, into the round hole of mommy culture.  I saw other moms not only accepting this invisibility, but imposing it on themselves.  I’ll never forget a mom who had been an accomplished professional before having children advising me to make sure I left the house sometimes because she waited three years to leave her children alone with her husband, and he wasn’t comfortable with them now.  All these smart, educated, skilled women seemed unable to connect around anything other than babies.  It was as if they were trying to convince each other that yes, in fact, those other parts of their identities had been neutralized.  I felt so lost, so unseen, so different after these gatherings, that I was left asking myself… what am I?

I have always been queer.  Even before I was sure my sexual orientation wasn’t straight, I was queer.  I was queer when I stood up to my misogynist father when my mother wouldn’t.  I was queer when I devoted myself to studying gender and identity, and became an activist against discrimination and in favor of human rights.  I was queer when I created relationships that didn’t fit neatly into platonic or romantic, straight or gay categories.  I was queer when I met and fell in love with a man, and we created a nontraditional, egalitarian marriage.   I was queer when I spoke up and spoke out in situations where other women were unwilling or unable… when I allowed myself as a woman to be competitive and ambitious.  Yes, I was queer when realized I was attracted enough to women to no longer consider myself straight.  But I have never been as queer as I am as a mom.   I have never had to be.

I am a mother.  I am a loving, devoted mother who has moments of sheer bone-shaking, organ-trembling terror, like any mother, at the thought of harm coming to her babes.  But I am so much more than that.  And I am different.  Not just because I like girls, but because I don’t accept the role society tells me to take on as a mother.  Queer is not just a sexual orientation.  It is not just about one part of one’s life.  It is a perspective, a stance, a refusal to fill the role society dictates, and an insistence on being who we truly are.  Just as I got married, but did it the way that felt right to me, and just as I am a woman in the way that feels right to me, I have to do mommy my way.  And I am going to need every piece of my soul for this one.  The mommy juggernaut is just too powerful.  I can no longer afford to be quietly queer.  I am banging down the door of motherhood’s closet.  This is my coming out party.

Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.

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Babies’ First Pride, Mama’s First Pride

My "Pride" Tank

Today my babies and I shared our first Gay Pride event together.  I ordered them onesies with rainbow-colored dragonflies on them, and “To Thine Own Self Be True” printed above.  As for me, I wore a tank-top with the pansexual flag and the words “no limits” written over it.  It was the most “out” I’ve ever been.

I was wondering if I was going to feel very exposed, walking around advertising my queerness like that, or even just being there.  The thought crossed my mind a few times that I might run into someone I know, and would essentially be outed.  However, I noticed a major difference in my thoughts about being outed since a mere month ago when I was outed on Facebook (Outed by Mark Zuckerberg and The Huffington Post).

When I was outed last month, I felt intruded upon – like I wasn’t ready for it and didn’t know what to expect.  In the last month, I have had both negative,and extremely positive coming out experiences, and I think it’s made me feel more ready.  The thought of being outed today felt strangely benign.  Not only did I not feel exposed, I didn’t even think about whether I would or should until later in the day when we were sitting at an outdoor restaurant, and I saw a colleague of mine walk by with a Pride shirt on.  This was my thought process:

-Oh, it’s ‘so and so’ (open my mouth to call out to her).

-Wait, do I want to do this?  I’m at Pride.

-Who cares.

-Wow, this is cool.

-Wait, what is SHE doing at Pride?

By that point she was gone.  Okay people, yes, I hesitated, but it was cool, that it felt so natural to just call out to her.

Last summer I was driving through New York City during Pride.  New York’s marriage equality bill had just passed and there was a feeling of pure exhilaration in the air.  We drove past a car that had shoes tied to the back like after an old-fashioned wedding.  Someone had written “We Got Marriage” on the window.  I remember feeling so, well… PROUD.  But I also felt strangely restless, like I was in a cage.  I wanted to get out of the car and DO something, but I didn’t know what.  Last summer, I admitted to myself I felt envy that I wasn’t THERE at Pride.  In retrospect, I realize it wasn’t so much about being THERE during Pride, as it was about BEING there during Pride.  BEING me.  BEING queer.  I wanted to be out of the car because I wanted to be OUT.

Pride was cool.  I love the vibe when a bunch of queer folk get together.  But the thing I loved most about the day was connecting with friends and just BEING queer.  At dinner, we talked about whether we were gender variant as kids, when we knew we were queer, and whether we were bullied for it.  I felt proud to be queer.  I realized Pride is not about walking around wearing nothing but a rainbow flag, proclaiming one’s identity on a loudspeaker, walking in a parade, or dressing in drag (not that those things aren’t fun too :).  It’s about creating a safe space to proudly BE.

While we were all talking, I looked down at my babies.  By this point, my daughter was wearing a rainbow-colored dress because she vomited on her onesie in the car on the way.  I thought about how they were already at Pride at age 1.  They wouldn’t have to go through any of the things we had.  The bullying for being gender variant.  The feeling that we couldn’t talk about who we really were.  The wishing we had known sooner or wishing we had been honest about who we were sooner.  The fear of even exploring our sexuality because we had been so brutalized.   For some of us, just starting, in our thirties, to work it all out.

If my kids turned out to identify as part of the queer community, they would never have to find it like we all did, they would already be here.  There will be “no limits” to how they can identify, like my shirt said.  Even if they aren’t queer, I hope this community, and this way of BEING will teach them to wave whatever flag makes them feel proud, and indeed, be true to themselves.  I will make sure they will never question whether they can proudly BE, and be loved at the same time.

Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.





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