Why Children Need To Learn About LGBT History

With LGBT History Month almost over, we’ve only just realised that we didn’t do a blog post. However, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been doing anything in real life since we decided that we’d use this month to do a bit of learning ourselves. In particular, we wanted to know more about our ancestors and the fight they had to give us the freedoms which the LGBTQIA+ community has today, to help us in our fight to make the world a safer place for our community as a whole, especially as 71 countries still criminalise same-sex relationships with 11 of those imposing the death penalty and it doesn’t stop there. In 2022, it’s illegal to be transgender in 15 countries. Those numbers are a stark reminder of how lucky we are in the UK that, at least legally, we can be our authentic selves.

However, it doesn’t end there. Just because it’s legal to be who you are, doesn’t necessarily mean safety. As the community knows, attacks against LGBTQIA+ people are heartbreakingly on the rise again, with homophobic hate crimes tripling and transphobic hate crime quadrupling in the UK since 2015. Those stats are scary, especially being LGBTQIA+ and parents. As a community, we’re still feeling the effects of section 28, despite it being repelled in 2003, and it wasn’t until 2020 that schools in the UK were required to teach pupils about LGBTQ+ relationships and identities.

Children need to be brought up to respect, include and accept. People say that no one is born racist, which is true. It’s also true that no one is born homophobic, biphobic, transphobic or interphobic. However, what is heard at home spills out, so it’s vital for parents and carers to teach children to accept and respect others, no matter their differences so that the generations that follow us don’t have to experience the hatred that many LGBTQIA+ people have. Therefore, children need to learn about the history of the LGBTQIA+ community, and there is a wealth of information and resources at parents’ fingertips.

Even though Alice is only 6 months, we’ve started to teach about differences already by using reading time with age-appropriate books. For example, Books like Aaaarrgghh! spider! and Perfectly Norman celebrate differences and teach children to accept each other’s differences no matter what they may be, whilst Super Duper You also challenges gender stereotypes at the same time. When exploring different families, Love Makes a Family is an excellent book to show children that families come in many shapes and forms and that some children have two mums or two dads, one parent or one of each.

Of course, you can also introduce the conversation around difference through play. For example, using they/them pronouns for characters to help children learn about non-binary identities and present different types of families when playing with dolls or character-based games. This will help children learn about inclusion and acceptance and the need to respect all people without even realising it. For older children, many video games are introducing LGBTQIA+ characters into their lineup. There’s also plenty of content out there, from content creators on YouTube to films and documentaries on various streaming platforms. So, as you can see, whatever way you wish to introduce new topics and conversations to your children, there are plenty of resources out there to support your and your child/rens learning. By introducing these conversations, you’re then building the foundation for children to learn about the history of the LGBTQIA+ community, which is essential for children to understand why acceptance and respect for others are so important.

Have you found any good films, videos, books or other resources to help teach your children about acceptance of others? Share them below to help others!

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Our High Risk Pregnancy So Far: Why We’ve Accepted Induction Of Labour

The last few weeks have been stressful with no news and, as a result, no plan. Finally, at 36 weeks, we now have one, but it might not be the plan everyone was expecting us to have. If you haven’t read our previous post about our pregnancy journey so far, you can read the last one here

From the start, we always knew that I’d require some sort of medical input when it came to labour time and birth. Our biggest fears were that I’d be pressured into accepting a c-section which for me would mean a difficult recovery and relying on Alex and our families for almost everything for the first 8-12 weeks, both in terms of my care and little one’s. I’ve always been for a physiological birth, or as close to it as I can possibly get, only going for a c-section or other interventions if absolutely necessary, especially as it would very likely need to be done under general. Luckily, the result of the MDT meeting was that if I don’t want an elective c-section, then I don’t have to have one, but it’s under the condition that I’m aware we could still be heading down that route if either little one or I don’t cope well in during labour. 

How the option of induction came about and why we accepted

One of the biggest things about not going down the c-section route is unpredictability and the risks involved. For us, not only do I have a medical condition which means I can’t feel movements or contractions and have to palpate for them, but I’m also at risk of precipitous labour. Then, to top it off, we found out that I have Group B Strep at 26 weeks, and I’m also at risk of other complications. It meant that the idea of induction was proposed to us, with all the risks and benefits involved. Benefits? We’d have an idea of when my labour will begin, and with it, the option to ensure Alex is off work for a few days so that he doesn’t miss the birth. It also eliminates the risk of me giving birth at home with no help other than Alex’s Avmed training, which, whilst the scope of what Avmed covers is fantastic, where childbirth is concerned, it doesn’t equip you for a complicated labour birth. Cons? If it fails or something else happens, it’s a c-section since assisted delivery via forceps or ventose is out of the question due to dislocation risk. It also further increases my haemorrhage risk, something my consultant already factored in early on so that there’ll be medication drawn up and on standby if it’s needed. 

As my midwife talked to me about induction some weeks ago when Alex’s roster and being back at work was causing me stress around whether or not he’d even make the birth, Alex and I had actually spoken about the possibility of induction. We researched the risks and benefits before my consultant had even offered it to us to come to a decision together without feeling pressured. After those discussions with Alex and my midwife, I said that if induction was offered to me, I’d accept it to reduce the risk of that happening as him not being at the birth would be heartbreaking for us both. It also gives us some control over the situation as long as little one stays put and I don’t go into labour before induction day, something which could happen and my consultant warned us about when we accepted the offer. Alex had already made it clear that he’s scared of waking up during the night to find me still asleep whilst in advanced labour, something which we both know would affect him massively even with all of the training he’s equipped with, thanks to him being crew! 

As you can see, accepting an induction of labour was an easy decision for us once we’d weighed up all of the risks and benefits. Even with the risk of having to go down the c-section route if something goes wrong, the thought of having an unattended labour and birth with all of the dangers attached due to my complex medical history scares Alex and I more. We are also fortunate that we never felt pressured by the team looking after us to accept induction, mainly because we’d had that discussion ourselves beforehand, giving us time to fully consider everything. Not only is there information on induction of labour available to read in my handheld notes, but we also turned to Google to research the specific risks that are unique to our situation and spoke to other pregnant people who have EDS. But what if you’re enjoying a lower risk pregnancy and offered induction, or just don’t know if you want one?

Research is your best friend

Alex and I both know people who have been offered induction of labour and felt little pressure to accept, as well as plenty of people with low-risk pregnancies who felt forced into accepting an induction to keep their team happy. We started looking into our options quite early on once our consultant told me that she’d do everything possible to keep our options for labour and mode of delivery open. That kind of support from her when every other specialist outside of obstetrics had told me that c-section was the safest way forward meant the world to both of us. It also meant that we felt even more supported by the teams looking after us, both at our local hospital and the Silver Start Unit in Oxford, who we’re so thankful to have the specialist input of. 

Great places to research induction include Google (especially as you can tailor your search to your unique situation) and your handheld notes if your hospital provides information on induction of labour in these. I also highly recommend speaking to people who’ve had an induction of labour offered about their experiences, even if they didn’t accept the offer, as firsthand experiences can often help the decision making process. This same piece of advice goes for those who have medical conditions which could influence management. There are plenty of online groups on Facebook etc., which allow you to connect with others going through similar! If you can, start researching and discussing your thoughts with someone else early! This means by the time an offer of induction is given to you (if it is), you’ll have already thought about it and either decided on whether or not to accept, or you’ll have an idea of what questions to ask. It also means that whatever your decision is, you’ll be able to explain the reasoning behind your decision to whoever is looking after you knowing that you’ve given yourself time to consider all the risks and benefits. I’ve also learned to use one acronym that has helped us massively with each decision we make, called B.R.A.I.N. 

What is B.R.A.I.N?

B.R.A.I.N really is what it says it is; it’s using your brain to make an informed decision. 

B – Benefits (what are the benefits of this test or procedure for me and my baby?) 

R – Risks (what are the risks of this test or procedure for me and my baby?)

A – Alternatives (What, if any, are the alternatives?) 

I – Instinct (What is my instinct telling me? What do I think and feel about this test or procedure? Who else can I ask about it?)

N – Nothing (What could happen if I decide to do nothing or wait and see? Can this test or procedure be delayed? Can I take some time to think about it or research?)

B.R.A.I.N is something we’ve used throughout our pregnancy journey to make informed decisions and choices that we know are right for us without feeling pressured into doing something we may not necessarily want to do. It’s also something that we will continue to use and advocate that others use, especially as it is such a handy tool to have. With the NICE draft guidelines meaning that an increasing amount of people are already being offered induction at 39 weeks even if there isn’t a clear clinical need, now more than ever, birthing people and their partners must be able to make informed decisions without feeling pressured into accepting something they may not actually want. 

Have you been offered an induction of labour or had one in the past? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments with us! 

Navigating Pregnancy When One Of You Is Intersex And The Other Is Trans

Firstly, Happy Pride! June happens to be our favourite month of the year, not only because it’s pride month, but our anniversary also happens to be today! Yes, we got together on the 28th of June, the same day as the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. For the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s the month where we celebrate how far we’ve come thanks to those who came before us, but at the same time raise awareness that there is still much more to be done. Even in 2021, the world isn’t a safe place for everyone, especially when there are still countries in the world where being your true authentic self is dangerous. There’s also those in power who keep trying to take away our community’s basic rights, rights our elders fought for.

2021 for us is special though, it’s the year that we become parents and a family of 3. But being LGBTQIA+ parents is far from easy. The journey to parenthood has been tough on us both. There have been moments of heartbreak with repeated miscarriages, and the system itself is full of red tape and discrimination. In addition, it’s been exhausting having to deal with people who don’t understand what we’ve been through, which is why for us, it’s so important that we’re visible, not only to challenge the outdated views and myths that you can’t have children if you’re intersex or transgender, but also to provide hope to other LGBTQIA+ people who want to become parents themselves. This year, we’re honoured to be part of The Positive Birth Company’s #ProudParent campaign, sharing our story alongside some other amazing LGBTQIA+ parents and parents-to-be, and you can read all the stories here.

Being LGBTQIA+ in a maternity/pregnancy care environment throws a whole host of emotions at you. So often misunderstood, Alex and I were extremely guarded and protective of each other until I met my community midwife, who, with her compassion, empathy, and determination to get it right, broke down every single barrier in the space of two hours. Unfortunately, she left when I was 16 weeks, but our new midwife is just as caring and empathetic, and it’s meant that we’ve felt welcomed, included but above all, safe. How did they manage it? By asking open-ended questions, not making assumptions, and giving us the time and safe space we needed to open up. It takes a lot to trust someone in the medical profession when you’ve been subjected to medical trauma in the past.

For me, my medical trauma started as a young child. Put on hormones at just 9 years old because my body didn’t ‘conform’ to the not so lovely little tick box that doctors have. I struggled with body image, being bullied and even comments from some family members regarding me being on hormone replacement therapy. When I moved in permanently with gran at 14, one of the first things she did was attempt to get me off the hormone tablets that I didn’t want to be on. We went to the doctors, only to be told that it was in my ‘best interests’ to stay on them despite horrific side effects, mood swings and further down the line, a blood clot. Intersex kids are seen as medical emergencies, our bodies over-medicalised and decisions on surgeries, hormones etc., made before we’re even old enough to voice our own opinions.

For Alex, on the other hand, it was a case of not being believed by healthcare professionals. When Alex first went to ask his GP to refer him to the GIC, he was told he needed therapy instead (he didn’t). That wasn’t the only issue; once the GP finally did the referral, rather than changing gender markers and details on his record, they completely deleted his old NHS record and set up a new one. It meant that vital medical history was deleted, putting Alex at risk, and even now, any medical problem he has is often blamed on his hormones rather than actually investigated. It’s resulted in Alex becoming so guarded that we’ve often gone to walk-in for medical attention instead of the GP. The only time he now goes to the doctors is for blood tests and testosterone shots, as these are handled by the nurses with who he has a better experience.

We had this conversation about our struggles with healthcare professionals a while back, and a few things became super clear. Firstly, those who stop trans people from accessing the healthcare and referrals they need are often the same ones dishing out hormones to intersex kids causing irreparable damage. Secondly, those in power trying to restrict trans healthcare are often the same ones who allow doctors to perform cosmetic surgeries on intersex kids before they’ve even been able to voice their opinion. Not only is it hypocrisy at its finest, but it’s a massive issue because cosmetic surgeries on intersex kids are irreversible and come with lifelong consequences, especially when they’re performed before the child has even had a chance to explore their identity and tell the world who they are.

Back to our journey to parenthood, and as you can probably already tell, my decision to be the gestational parent wasn’t an easy one. Alex would never even contemplate carrying, so we knew straight away that if we were going to do this, it would be me doing the carrying. So naturally, I felt excited but nervous because of my past experiences. However, I found focusing on the end and having our bundle of joy helped me through the appointments and hormone courses.

What no one prepares you for, however, is the heartbreak of pregnancy loss. The one in 2019 shattered me, and my mental health took a massive hit. It’s difficult enough to deal with miscarriage alone, I was away with work at the time, and Alex was working as well, so he couldn’t come on this trip with me. No one on the trip knew I was pregnant. We’d all been at pride the day before, and my excuse for not drinking was that I was on antibiotics at the time. Not a complete lie, as I actually was! But it meant that when I realised I was miscarrying just before boarding the flight, I didn’t feel able to tell any of them. I took the flight, got to the hotel, checked in and then made an excuse as to why I wouldn’t go shopping before making my way to the hospital. From there, it was confirmed that I was miscarrying. I had Alex on the phone in a panic and feeling guilty that I was going through it alone, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the lack of empathy and support from one of the nursing staff. When they looked through my notes, realised I’m intersex and had repeated miscarriages, they took it on themselves to tell me that they were surprised I’d even gotten pregnant in the first place and that Alex and I should look at other options. Anyone who’s suffered miscarriage or baby loss will know that it destroys you inside. To have that comment thrown in the mix sent me to an extremely dark place. It was the very thing that caused both Alex and I to become guarded about what we shared and whom we shared it with regarding maternity care after breaking down the walls we’d previously had built up from our individual experiences with healthcare professionals.

Back to now, and to be so close to meeting our baby fills us with joy, hope and a sense of achievement. Joy because we knew that one day, we would become parents; it was something we’d spoken about early on. It was just a case of when would be the right time not only work-wise but also allowing a new team of healthcare professionals into our lives when we’d both had previous bad experiences. Hope for the future, that the world is a more welcoming place and more progress is made, so that future generations don’t have the same struggles that we do now. Finally, a sense of achievement in that my body isn’t a failure, and we’ve proven the person who made that shocking comment almost two years ago wrong. Being intersex or transgender doesn’t exclude you from becoming a parent; we’re living proof of that fact along with many others.

Why We Aren’t Throwing A Gender Reveal

There’s no better feeling during pregnancy than finally getting over the halfway mark! There’s just something magical about having the 20-week scan and the sense of reality that comes with it. It also marks the point where the planning and preparation for your little bundle of joy gets into full swing. Except for us, we’re not thinking about whether to paint the nursery pink or blue. The fact is, we’re not focusing on the gender of our baby at all. 

Why? 

Well, there are several reasons. Firstly, I’m living proof that what a scan says regarding gender isn’t always true. My mum has an ‘It’s A Boy’ teddy bear with quite an interesting story behind it (embarrassing for the person who got it, though!) Why? Because my parents thought they were having a boy after being told what they thought was my gender on a scan, and then found out I wasn’t a boy when I was born. Ok, the 1990s didn’t have the best ultrasound machines, but you can see why you shouldn’t rely on your scan results. My body produces too much testosterone, and, as a result, I have a lot of masculine features like excess hair (especially face and neck!). Upper estimates suggest that 2-3% of the world’s population are intersex like myself. That’s about the same number of people born with red hair, so it’s not as rare as people are lead to believe, and yes, intersex people can and do have children!

There’s also the simple fact that gender and genitalia are two different things. Those who have found Family Of Wanderlusters through my travel blog, Instagram or YouTube channels, or through Alex and I sharing our story via The Positive Birth Company for Pride will already know that Alex is transgender, and he is very much of the opinion that colours and clothes should not be gendered, which I agree with! Will our child be brought up entirely gender-neutral to enable them to explore their own identity as they grow? I wish we could do that, but the world is so gendered that all we can do is show them that toys, clothes, activities, colours etc., are not gender-specific. If they want to play with lego? Then they can. Want to play football? Go ahead. Want a dolls house? Then we’ll get them one. Wear dresses? Fine. You get the picture.

For some in the intersex, transgender, and non-binary communities, gender reveals hurt. They reinforce the idea that girls like pink, wear dresses and play with dolls and makeup and need to be wrapped up in cotton wool, whilst boys like blue and play rough, which certainly isn’t the case. Not only does it reinforce dangerous stereotypes surrounding gender, but it also erases those who are intersex and reinforces the idea that we don’t exist along with those who are transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming. Let’s face it, they aren’t gender reveals, they are genital reveals, and frankly, children shouldn’t be treated differently based on what’s between their legs. 

Last but not least, on top of reinforcing gender stereotypes, gender reveals also have an environmental cost. There have been instances where these reveals have caused wildfires, explosions, and worse, affecting biodiverse ecosystems for years to come. There are also news articles online linking them to deaths when the reveals have gone horribly wrong, and nobody wants that on their conscience. 

Let’s face it, we’re in 2021, and frankly, the outdated practice of throwing a gender reveal party needs to stop. As for those who have gender reveals just to celebrate their bundle of joy, that’s what baby showers are for, and you can easily have a gender-neutral themed one to do just that! 

Five Things You Should NEVER Say To LGBTQIA+ Parents

Two things have unfortunately angered us over the last few weeks or so. First of all, someone in the family decided to share the news that Alex and I are expecting before we had a chance to tell extended family and friends. The second? Responses we’ve had all because we’re LGBTQIA+ parents to be on top of the fact that I’m disabled and pregnant. There are just things you NEVER say to disabled parentsĀ (see blog post on that here), and there are also things you NEVER say to LGBTQIA+ parents! The following list is not exhaustive, but these are all things that we’ve had to listen to from various narrow-minded people since a particular family member outed our news (which you don’t do. Period.)

1. Asking how we’ve had kids

Tip – none of your business! Fact is, there are many ways to have children. Families are created in many different ways, come in all sizes, and no two families are ever the same. Whether someone adopted, used a donor, had a surrogate pregnancy etc., is none of your business, and the intrusive questions aren’t welcome, nor is the calling out from such narrow mindedness.

2. Asking who the real parents are 

We are. End of conversation.

The fact that people even ask us this question gets to me, especially as it’s often asked at the same time people question how we’re having our child. People see parenthood as a very biological thing, but that will never be the case. It takes more than biology and being a donor to be a parent.

3. Asking if our children are or will be LGBTQIA+

We are not mind readers. We don’t have crystal balls, and we can’t see into the future. We can’t tell if our child will be LGBTQIA+ themselves, and guess what? It doesn’t matter, and it’s none of your business whether they are or not! After all, it’s not a choice. Right now, all that matters to us is that our child grows up to be happy, well-rounded, respectful, and as healthy as possible. No matter who they are, they’ll always be loved and accepted because they’re ours.

4. Assuming that our children will get bullied for having LGBTQIA+ parents

Just stop right there. Firstly, I like to think children today are more tolerant and accepting of each other compared to when Alex and I were in school. Also, when we were in school, LGBTQIA+ issues weren’t talked about, something that is now thanks to a requirement for schools to provide LGBT-inclusive education. I’m pleased about this, as it’s something Alex and I didn’t get taught at school, partly because of Section 28, which was finally repealed in England on 18th November 2003 when we were both in primary school. To assume that our child will be bullied just for having LGBTQIA+ parents is hurtful and something we’re hoping won’t happen.

5. Commenting that our children will miss out because of us

Miss out on what exactly? Our child will have everything they need to ensure they aren’t missing out on anything. Saying that they’ll miss out simply because of who Alex and I are is entirely disrespectful. You wouldn’t want anyone questioning your parenting ability or how you plan to bring your child up, so why would you question ours?

As I said initially, this list isn’t exhaustive, but it gives a little bit of insight into what we have to deal with, just because some can’t keep their noses out of our business. Even if it’s under the guise of being inquisitive, it’s not on.