LGBTQ Positive

Immigrant and Queer for the Holidays

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Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, I was invited to a queer holiday dinner, organized and funded by the University College and the Mark S. Bonham Center for Sexual Diversity Studies. Why a queer holiday dinner? It was for queer students who couldn’t go home, wouldn’t go home, who were not out to their families, and had no one to celebrate with.

I don’t know if they still offer this dinner, but every year around this time I think back to it and wonder what all of us are doing now. Now that we may no longer be in school, that we may have lost university connections, that we may have families of our own, and our relationships with the families we grew up in are still fraught.

Homophobia during the holidays doesn’t have to only mean being kicked out or being ostracized by the family you grew up in - it can be more subtle than that. Maybe it means your partner (or partners) not being invited for holiday dinner (while the family you grew up in may still want to see your kids!),  maybe it means comments here and there about still being with your partner or finding a nice girl/boy, or maybe it means completely ignoring a huge part of your life as it doesn’t even exist (which you accept, because it’s a huge improvement from being insulted and emotionally assaulted).

So many articles and blog posts out there focus on your chosen family - which is amazing! Chosen families can make a world of difference in our lives during the holidays (and the rest of the year). Forming loving and respectful connections outside the families we grew up in is imperative for us as is establishing boundaries with those who still hurt us. So do celebrate with your chosen family (whether it’s one person or 10) and do create new meaningful traditions. Don’t forget to take time to recharge and practice meaningful self care (I’m looking at myself for this one, since self care often means binge watching Grey’s Anatomy while crying on the couch - not ideal). But this season I want to address those of us for whom this doesn’t always work - immigrant queer folks.

Having immigrated to Canada, our relationship to the family we grow up in is already different. We often operate within a scarcity environment - a scarcity of us-ness, or people who look and speak like us, who act like us, who sing our holiday songs, and eat our food. This scarcity sometimes makes us closer to our families and makes our queerness even more queer - not only is it about not being straight (or cisgender, or monogamous, etc) but it’s seen as a rejection of that very scarce and very precious us-ness that our parents desperately try to hold on to. Our parents don’t understand, don’t want to understand, or cannot envision a world where they have a queer child and they keep a semblance of their culture and traditions.

This hurts us, queer immigrants, doubly as well - and please don’t think that I am implying that our hurt runs deeper than non-immigrant queer hurt. It doesn’t, but it does run differently. Sometimes, we too mourn the loss of that us-ness - unable to envision a world where we can be queer and fully part of the families we grew up in. Sometimes, the hurt stings deeper when we visit for the holidays - trying to ignore their behaviours and comments. Why do we do it? Sometimes, Canadian friends will ask us that - and it’s never easy to answer.

We do it because we love our families and that us-ness we cultivated our whole lives, even if we don’t quite fit in anymore. We do it because, often, our families still love us and that love can (for a very little moment) make us forget and make us feel at home. And we do it because our parents are alone, in a foreign country and they too, in a way, are queer.

For all of you feeling like this during the holidays, we see you and we understand you. We know that there are never easy fixes  - or even any fixes. We send you our love and hope that at some point during the holidays you feel free and loved and cherished, because you are wonderful.

Love,

Corina and the Spectrum Doula Team

My Body That Could. . . and Did!

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My journey to motherhood began in 2002, the year my husband and I were married. Right after our wedding we stopped all prevention and started down a long and bumpy road. After six years of tracking cycles, taking temps, ultrasounds, meds, and intervention, we came to a cross roads. We thought long and hard about what our next move would be in the mission to become parents, and like a ton of bricks it hit me, I didn't need to be pregnant, but I did need to be a mother. This propelled us onto another path where we would become foster parents, and eventually welcome, our now oldest daughter into our home and hearts. We had done it! We were parents and we were a family.

Our conceiving a biological child became insignificant and we looked forward to giving our all to our darling daughter. Less than a year after our daughter came to us I discovered I was pregnant. Sadly nine weeks later that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I was so sad, so mad and for a long time never thought I would forgive my body for such a cruel trick. Months past, five to be exact and I was pregnant again! I was in disbelief, but in an instant, I knew what my miscarriage was meant to teach me, it taught me to believe in my body, have faith that it could do, what for so many months and years I was angry for it not doing.

We welcomed our second daughter into the world in April 2009.  Seven years after we began our journey to parenthood, there we were the beaming parents of two beautiful girls. My journey to motherhood had been full of so many emotions, and in the end the biggest one was joy. I knew if my body would allow me, I had to give that joy to another woman who was unable to carry a baby herself.

I set out to help a couple find that same joy of adding a biological child to their family. After discovering Joanne, Robyn and the Canadian Surrogacy Options agency, we found an incredible couple. In 2012, another beautiful baby girl was brought into this world, with the help of my body. A few months after she was born, I felt compelled to be a surrogate again. As much as I wanted to help another couple who had a long and heart-breaking path to grow their family, I was asking of my body for another miracle to share. CSO helped connect me with another couple and professionals to ensure that what my body needed to do was done safely and healthy for everyone involved. It was an honour again to help a couple in need and in 2014 we welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world…again my body did what I knew it could. I have been so blessed, so incredibly blessed to carry three children, one of them my own, and two whom I was able to give back to their mommies once they were ready for the world.

Becoming a parent wasn't easy; making my choice to become a surrogate was a simple choice and CSO added to that comfort, lending support every step of the way. Lending my body, opening my heart to a connection that no words can express has truly shaped my soul. Now, I am bigger part of the CSO family and have been given the opportunity to support other intended parents on their journey to making their dream of a family come true.

ABOUT JULIA HOWELL

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Julia began as a Surrogate with Canadian Surrogacy Option and has now joined the CSO team helping to support surrogates and intended parents through each of their respective journeys.  Julia is a mother of two, a surrogate of two and currently carrying her third gift of life for an excited couple from Newfoundland. She currently lives in Trenton with her family.

If you are interested in becoming a surrogate or in search of one, you can contact Julia and Canadian Surrogacy Options directly through any of their networks. Their egg-donation division, Little Miracles, is also available for anyone seeking services. And you can follow Canadian Surrogacy Options through Facebook and Twitter.

Beyond the Bio: Meet Megan . . .

* Since writing this blog post, Megan had a wonderful little baby (not so little anymore) and is taking some time off to be with him! We wish her all the best and we are loving Sacha’s cuddles!

When Megan started work as a doula, she felt that there was a gap in the Toronto birth community. And so Spectrum Doula Collective was born. Megan hopes that no matter how or when you choose to grow your family that Spectrum Doula Collective can be a safe space to find support. Pretty cool, hey? We think Megan is pretty cool too . . .

What drew you to doula work?

After a career break and travelling for a couple of years I came back to Toronto with a new perspective and was keen to work in an inclusive, and progressive environment where I would feel like I'm making a positive impact. When I returned from my travels my very pregnant friend was telling me about her doula, and with my previous work in maternal and LGBTQ health, a light bulb went off. A week later I signed up for the Birthing From Within Doula and Mentor Training, and the rest is history.

If you weren't a doula what would your alternate dream job be?

If I weren't in birth work, I would love to be working with penguins (I'm being very serious! I went to the Antarctic a couple years back and was in awe), OR I've often day dreamed about owning a Bed & Breakfast on Vancouver Island while bee keeping and making honey (pipe dreams?).

What did you want to be when you were in elementary school?

There were so many things I wanted to be, but it ranged between being an artist, a doctor, a firefighter, to an architect. I had no idea what any of the above entailed but they all sounded good at the time.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

This is such a hard question for me, I've been to so many countries that I would love to go back to (Norway, Mongolia and Nepal to name a few) and many more I would like to visit! I have never been to New Zealand though and it's top on my list!

What would the perfect off-call day look like for you?

Because off-call days are so rare, I usually like to spend them doing something away from my phone. I imagine paddle boarding on Toronto island with a good friend or two followed by a picnic in the summer would be lovely, or brunch followed by Body Blitz with some friends in the winter would be perfection!

Favourite vice (or two) that you have no guilt about?

Please don't judge me. I am a sucker for Survivor and the Bachelor/Bachelorette (I promise I won't bring either up unless you ask me first). I love playing bad pop music while I'm driving. And I love chocolate, and cake, and cookies, and sour cream glazed timbits. . . and well anything sweet.

 

Name One Thing . . .

. . . you learned the hard way about birth early in your career:

My first client hired me late in her third trimester and the day she confirmed, she found out she was 4 cm dilated and 60% effaced. I thought she was going to go in to labour that night. After a week of anticipation, and not much sleep she finally called with contractions. I had no idea that someone could be 4 cm dilated walking around the city like nothing is happening for a whole week!

. . . you look back on in your life that makes you feel proud:

I cycled across Canada the summer of 2014. When I started in Vancouver, my cousin asked 'what the heck are you doing??' I said, "I don't know, but I'm here and have to make my way back home". I had told myself that at anytime, I can hop on a bus or a plane if I don't want to finish. But I biked every inch, solo, and self supported from Vancouver to Halifax. Whenever I'm struggling or think something isn't possible I say to myself "Megan! You biked across Canada, you can surely do this".

. . . that usually surprises people about you:

That I use to play Rugby. I actually started the girls rugby team at my high school eons ago, and played Varsity at the University of Waterloo. Even when I was playing rugby people were surprised to find out. It's like they imagined me in the 'end' zone picking daisies or something? (To be fair there were some days where I would have preferred picking daisies).

. . . that's always in your fridge or pantry:

Almond milk, cheese, and hummus.

 

What's your favourite . . .

Colour

Green

Animal

Elephant

Season

Spring

Toronto Cafe

Boxcar Social Riverdale

Birth Book

Labyrinth of Birth by Pam England

 

Beyond the Bio: Meet Taylor . . .

*Since writing this blog post, Taylor moved to Montreal and went back to school! We miss her in Toronto and wish her all the best in her studies!

It's hard not to love Taylor at first meeting. She is warm, approachable and has a great sense of humour. Passionate about movement, and pelvic floor health Taylor has a unique approach to preparing her clients for labour and delivery, while also building positive birth memories! We are excited for you to get to know her better (and to find out a bit more about why we fell in love with her).

What drew you to doula work?

The combinations of working with people in a therapeutic/helping profession and working with the mind/body connection to help others create meaning during one of the biggest transitions we can go through physically, mentally and emotionally as people.

If you weren't a doula what would your alternate dream job be?

Probably something in fashion, collecting or curating vintage fashion shows. I have always loved fashion and design since I was little. I would have loved to link cultural/historical significance and fashion trends in the 20th Century. How one influenced the other.

What did you want to be when you were in elementary school?

Everything! a pilot, crossing guard, nun, witch, nurse, captain of a ship.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

Spain!

What would the perfect off-call day look like for you?

Waking up and checking my emails in bed (no earlier than 10:00AM !) having a coffee with my sister at The Common. Walking to a Pilates class in Bloor West. Then checking out the Value Village and picking up a great find. Get home to read an article or chapter out of Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Nap in the afternoon, before catching a ferry ride to Toronto Island. Swimming in the lake, sitting by the shore to share a bottle of wine with great company and then eat dinner in the garden!

favourite vice (or two) that you have no guilt about?

I have way more than two so here goes, I love a good Netflix binge watch. Although not on Netflix, I have watched The Wire 5 times through each SEASON! I love Spanish wine and baked sweet potato fries. I will always order Pad Thai for noodles. My desktop background is a picture of Audrey Hepburn. I am a sucker for Julia Robert's movies. I am addicted to my girl friends and would hang out with them every night to gab and talk about feminism. I will ferociously check Instagram when I am on the TTC. I have always loved big coffee mug/bowls. I will happily eat a tub of Haagen Dazs while watching any one of the things mentioned above :P

 

Name One Thing . . .

 

. . . you learned the hard way about birth early in your career:

I learned the hard way that it is important to take care of myself at a birth. I almost fainted and hit the floor while my first client ever was pushing (and making great progress). I hid in the bathroom to gulp back some sugar and thought I would maybe miss the birth.

. . . you look back on in your life that makes you feel proud:

I am proud of pursuing the career that I love! I look back and I see how all the pages I turned in my life were really leading me here. I grew up a bit all over Canada and felt very scattered at times in my life but somehow it all culminated to doing exactly what I think I should be doing. Entrepreneurship is not easy but I am so proud of what I have made out of it.

. . . that usually surprises people about you:

If they ask about my names people are usually surprised to learn that my middle name Stevie comes from my mother's name which is Stevelen. A combination of her father's names Steven and Lennox.

. . . that's always in your fridge or pantry:

Cheddar Cheese

 

What's your favourite . . .

 

Colour

Purple

Animal

Cats

Season

Fall

Toronto Cafe

The Common!

Birth Book

Labour Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin