When Jasper Peach’s eldest child had that momentous first day of school, the love was shared with a very large community.
It’s a sunny Monday, the first day of school, and we’ve been hearing jaunty made-up songs from our big kid all morning about this exciting leap into life. They go on explain to their younger sibling that the first day of school is the best day ever. My heart melts seeing my children join forces – and their sweet voices – to serenade the milestone. How can it be that, only a few moments ago in 2010, I’d invited a wonderful person to join me for dinner and a house concert, and now our eldest was starting school?
When my wife, our three-year-old and I arrived home after the momentous drop-off, I sent photos of our happy child in the classroom to aunties, uncles and grandparents. But our family is broader than blood, and love has collided with us from within our LGBTIQA+ community every step of the way.
Coming out seems less of a loaded situation these days, never without its foibles, but also never concluding. Every time you slip your pronouns into conversation, the fact that you have a wife, or the way your children have two mums, it’s a juggle and a risk. Because I’m part of this community, I can reach out and text another person who has lived experience of being deadnamed at the laundromat or being met with hostility in a medical setting. I can be seen and validated – told I’m not alone and that my feelings of frustration matter. It feels like love. We share the names of inclusive doctors who get it – who won’t ask othering questions when we tell them we’re trying to start a family. We share in exacting detail the techniques for successful home inseminations, and pass on surplus syringes and specimen cups to the next person, couple or throuple attempting to conceive.
Community is the queer parent friend who offers you their bungalow to try a home insemination when your donor lives a long way from you and you need to strike while the iron’s hot, so to speak. That same friend shares their donor agreement document with you, and you alter it for your own purposes and pass that on to the next person who asks, and they pass it on to their friends. Love is the gentle conversation you have with a parent who has transitioned, asking how to tell the kids about yours. It’s the balm of words weaving safety into our hearts and hearths.
After four years of trying to conceive, my very pregnant wife and I excitedly arrived at the hospital for birthing classes. It was an intimate group of five parents-to-be and the midwife. One couple was a cisgender man and woman, then my wife and I who at the time presented as a lesbian couple, and a single woman who became very uncomfortable when asked in front of the group if her partner would be joining her. Throughout the three-hour session, the midwife used the term “mums and dads” as though it were a given – a standard that the majority of people there didn’t meet. When she instructed us to “let the birth mirror the conception, a private and romantic time between you,” I wondered where this left us. Should the IVF technician who created the embryo be here instead? This tender time of preparing for a birth that was never a given – which had been yearned for and dreamed of for so long – became a place where I wasn’t sure I was allowed to be. I wasn’t a birthing mum, or a dad, and my quiet panic grew to the point that I left the car park in tears.
It’s not the medical system’s job to provide love, but it is their job to assess the people involved and provide care accordingly in a safe, inclusive and respectful manner. The midwife teaching the class read the room and actively decided to go with her familiar routine although it clearly didn’t adequately describe a large portion of participants that night. The result of this choice was a divide created between those who fit in and those who don’t. What should have been exciting became demoralising.
I sent some clearly articulated feedback to the hospital. They were brilliant and proactive in their follow-up. It was important to me that the next person to walk through those doors wouldn’t question their place in that room or as a parent. It was a way to pay forward all the love and care that my family and I have received. We were lucky enough to be expecting our first child only because other people like us had done it first. They had shared their stories including specific contact details for an IVF clinic that was welcoming and equitable, staffed by people with the lived experience of what we were trying to achieve. We hadn’t known what was lurking behind the sliding hospital doors in that terrible birthing class that shattered my confidence at the time, but now that we did we could cushion the people behind us with our story. The act of providing feedback led to all birthing staff receiving diversity and inclusion training around working with rainbow families. Being part of this community means you care for and protect each other any way you can.
Our big kid thrived in day care and kindergarten. School feels like another step toward being in the world as their own person. They have been celebrated, adored, loved and cherished by friends and strangers since conception because they’re part of the rainbow community too. Our children understand that a rainbow flag or sticker means they belong.
I send the photo of our proud kid in school uniform to everyone who helped us get here, with two words that could never encapsulate all the love they’ve given us: thank you.
By Jasper Peach @jasperpeachsays
Jasper Peach is a trans, non-binary and disabled writer. They are passionate about equitable access and inclusion.
First Published in The Big Issue, ed#680