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I am a creature of habit. Every morning, I get up, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, and then check my email. My morning email always includes my horoscope, because I love horoscopes. I don’t leave my house without checking my horoscope. Doesn’t mean I believe it, but it’s an entertaining little habit. Sometimes I hang onto it for the day, if it seems interesting at all, and check back later to see if any of it was right.

Well, the past couple of days, apparently some planet of love is in my 3rd house or whatever, and I’ve been getting horoscopes that are all about romance and partnership and love. I don’t usually pay these ones any mind, because I’m not in a romantic relationship. But lately, I’ve noticed a trend in these love horoscopes. The trend is compulsory heterosexuality.

Here is my horoscope for today, for example. The site I do mine through asks for your name so you can “personalize” your horoscope.

Your Horoscope for AUGUST 25, 2007

Are you thinking of declaring your heart to someone today, Jennifer? Beware you don’t overwhelm him! It would be much safer to spend some time by yourself, taking pen in hand and releasing your flood of emotion onto the pages of a private diary. Today, any encounter that is swollen and bursting with sentiment is likely to result in total confusion, and perhaps even panic!

So, knowing as my horoscope provider does that I am female, it spits out romantic advice based on the idea that everyone is heterosexual. Well, what if I’m not? What if the object of my affection happens to be female? or trans? what if I’m bisexual?

hmph. If I thought I could get a horoscope provider as good that didn’t conform to limited socially constructed ideas about sexuality,  I’d drop my subscription in a minute. Stinking hetero-patriarchal bullshit.

Seen any other glaringly obvious displays of compulsory heterosexuality lately? now’s your chance to vent.

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For over a week now, I’ve been reading responses to this post, both on my blog and on other blogs and online forums. I wrote that post to try to gain a better understanding of why some people want biological children so badly that they would put themselves through the expense (financial, physical, and emotional) of fertility treatments. As a child-free woman who wishes to remain that way, who doesn’t really care for children so much anyway, and who is very critical of anything society deems ‘normal’ or ‘natural,’ my own perspective was preventing me from really understanding, and in fact had made me quite cold-hearted about. I realize and acknowledge that how I felt about the whole subject was entirely skewed and insensitive, and furthermore that it was entirely hypocritical considering that I am very sensitive and open-minded most of the time and am a feminist, and I wanted to open a dialogue that might help me better understand and become more sensitive and sympathetic. (or is it empathetic? I can never remember the difference between those words…)

I have gotten a flood of responses to that post, many from people who are or have experienced infertility. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has commented constructively, either here or elsewhere. Some people have completely misinterpreted the point of the post, or my intentions. Some have just been hurt and angry. To both, I can only say that I’m sorry you have been hurt or offended. My intentions were exactly as I stated them, and in no way was I trying to defend the views I expressed in the post. Better, isn’t it, to try to understand than to continue to hold views that are so callous and insensitive? I’m certainly not perfect, and I want to become better.

A couple of commenters suggested I write a post about how the comments I’ve received has helped to change my mind on some of my previously held opinions. Great idea. Here’s what I’ve learned:

I should begin by saying that I still don’t understand why it is that some people want to have biological children, or really, why they want to have children at all. I may never understand this, and I think that’s okay. It isn’t a rational thing we’re talking about, it’s an emotional one, so trying to find a rational explanation for it is kind of beside the point. Emotional reasons for anything should absolutely not be given less credence than rational ones. It’s simply, I think, a cognitive divide. So it turns out that I was making the mistake of valuing rationality over emotionality. I don’t think it’s necessary to understand why people want to have children to respect that they do. Many people don’t understand why I don’t want children, so it’s really no different.

Several people have pointed out to me that while infertility treatments are physically invasive, adoption procedures are also invasive. When you want to adopt, your life must be made completely transparent so that you will be approved by authorities to be suitable to parent. So for many couples and families, adoption is not an option, because the authorities (whoever they may be) would not approve them for adoption. And thus, having a biological child is the only way to go.

Oh, and for the record, as I clarified very early on in the comments, I don’t believe (and never did) that ONLY infertile couples should consider adoption. I think adoption should be considered by everyone who wants to have a family.

Never mind the cost of adoption. Fertility treatments are often less expensive than adoption. And of course, adoption is a complex and dynamic thing, and some people just don’t feel like they would be able to do it in a way that is best for the child, or for themselves and their family.

The question of whether fertility treatments should be covered by health plans was the one that got me thinking about this in the first place. I have completely changed my mind on this point; I now absolutely believe that they should be paid for. (perhaps there should be a limit as to how many rounds of treatment should be covered? like, say 6?) I’ve learned that when couples are paying out of pocket for fertility treatments, they take greater risks to maximize their chances of success, and those risks can result in health problems for both pregnant women, mothers, fetuses, and infants. It’s also more costly to deal with these problems than to pay for fertility treatments. Also, the cost of fertility treatments, while less expensive than adoption, makes it impossible for some couples who do not have the financial means to pay for it themselves, making fertility treatment a class issue.

And, as many people have pointed out, health insurance (whether public or private) pays for lots of things that are not necessary for survival. Why not fertility treatments? Who cares if it is necessary for survival – infertility is a medical condition that deserves to have treatment funded. While I don’t think there is a “right to have children,” I think we do have a right to medical treatment for medical conditions. I cannot at all explain why I didn’t think so before.

AND, since infertility is a very emotionally difficult condition that can affect mental health, it makes sense to treat it as completely as possible AS WELL AS providing psychological therapy to infertile couples to help them deal emotionally with the ups and downs of their efforts to have a family.

AND, I’ve also come to believe very much that adoption should also be funded more fully. If people want to have a family, they should be able to do so in whatever way they feel is best, and if adoption is too expensive, it only means that more children will go without solid and stable and loving homes. So, funding for fertility treatments: yes. Funding for adoption: yes.

Finally, I’ve learned more about male infertility. While I believe women’s bodies are over-medicalized and many specialists are too quick to place the burden of treatment on women’s bodies when their bodies are not the (only) source of the fertility difficulties, now I know that male infertility treatments can be just as invasive and difficult as those for women, and I completely take back my comment about watching porn and jerking off into a cup. Especial thanks to (In)Fertile Frank!

Not an excuse, but maybe a reason: I think my initial insensitivity toward infertility was a kind of backlash against the attitude I encounter so frequently that I am somehow abnormal, heartless, cold, unfeeling, selfish, etc. for not wanting or even really liking children. I’m so sick of hearing it. Not wanting children doesn’t make me a bad person, or uncaring, or whatever. It just means I know myself well enough to know that I would not be particularly happy or fulfilled as a parent. We all know people who had lousy parents. I would never want to be one of them.

So, in conclusion, while I still don’t understand why people want to have children (and maybe I never will), it’s not necessary to understand in order to respect those choices and how people go about making them. Pretty simple, really.

Thank you, again, to all those who took the time to tell me their stories, their thoughts, their opinions, their hopes, and for doing so in a way that actually softened my heart. I am extremely grateful. Best wishes to you all, and your families, however you choose to have them.

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OK, so I need some help, and I’m turning to you, dear readers, for your opinions and guidance. I do my best to be pretty understanding of all kinds of people and their perspectives. But there is something that I really don’t have much tolerance for, and I think it’s kind of callous of me. I’d like to get past it, but I need some help to do that.

As many of you know, I have very little interest in children, and no desire to have children of my own. Combine that with the immense pressure on women to tie their social value to children, the expectation that women want to and will have children, and the fact that fertility treatments are highly invasive for women, and the end result is that I have hardly any patience or sympathy for people who have fertility problems.

I just don’t understand why it is so bloody important for people to have “their own” children, biologically. There are SO MANY children who need loving homes out there. Would these infertile people really love another child less than “their own”? If so, I just don’t think these are people who should be parents in the first place! It seems so very selfish to insist on invasive and expensive medical procedures to conceive when there are so many kids out there who grow up in orphanages and the like. I kind of think it’s narcissistic, that these people who are so bent on having “their own” children really want their children to be little extensions of themselves. There are lots of ways to parent – why place so much emphasis on having biological children?

This all came up because of an article in my local paper, about infertile couples who want our provincial health care system to pay for their fertility treatments. I near lost it! (The Canadian health care system, if you don’t know, is not a national program – each province has a standard of care that they provide, according to what the province deems to be medically necessary. Cosmetic surgery, for example, is not covered in my province, for the most part. Life-saving treatments are, for the most part.) Fertility treatments are not medically necessary – it is not a health concern to be infertile, you don’t die from it, it isn’t something that interferes with physical well-being. I agree that it can certainly interfere with emotional well-being – but the treatment for that, in my mind, is psychotherapy, not fertility treatments that may or may not be successful and will most certainly be expensive and invasive. Also, what if it doesn’t work and people keep on doing it over and over and over again until they are happy with their results?

So that’s my feeling on infertility. It bugs me that people are so close-minded and selfish and narcissistic that they think they can only love “their own” children. I mean, it REALLY bugs me. Also, the nature of fertility treatments really bugs me too, and of course the state of society that ties women’s value to their fertility and ability to produce (perfect) children. BUGS ME. And I can’t wrap my head around it enough to be able to be sympathetic.

And I think that is rather insensitive of me. but there it is. So I welcome your comments on how I can reconcile these concerns!

UPDATE: Wow, there have been so many responses to this post! Since I wrote this, several people have linked to it on their own sites, mostly sites for and by people who have fertility issues. First, from my comment on discovering this:

oh my goodness, thank you all so much for contributing here! I truly appreciate it, as I am most sincere in wanting to understand more about why people feel it is necessary to have biological children and subject themselves to difficult medical procedures in order to do so… I am so very pleased and grateful that you’ve all taken the time to come over and try to help me work through my questions and concerns. I appreciate all of your perspectives. Welcome!

As there have been so many new voices here who are not regular readers, I wanted to point newcomers directly to my comment policy, which is mandatory to read and adhere to for comment publication. One of the most important points is to read all the comments before commenting yourself, as many things raised in the post get worked out in the comments. Every post is a work in progress.

Even as every post is a work in progress and open to debate, this post is especially so. From one of my comments:

please don’t take this post to be anything resembling an ‘argument’. I simply gathered together my raw feelings about infertility and threw them together in a post in order to try to learn more and overcome my insensitivity. I’m not arguing anything – arguments are carefully reasoned, and what I wrote in my post is certainly not that, just a collection of thoughts that I’m not proud of, and an admission that I need help to gain better understanding.

From another comment by me:

once again, thanks to all those who have made thoughtful comments here, as well as those who have written their own posts in response to this one… I would like to say that this post has been just what I hoped it would be, a wonderful opportunity to reach out and engage with people who have been very generous and kind enough to help me become better informed, as well as to help soften my heart. As I said, being someone who is quite open-minded, my narrow thoughts on this topic were disturbing me quite a bit. My deepest thanks to all who opened up and helped me get to know some different perspectives.

to those with harsh words for me: did you miss the point of the post entirely? I recognize and acknowledge that my thoughts on infertility have been insensitive, and the whole purpose of writing this post was to try to break through that. I would also encourage you to read the comment policy here, and refrain from breaking rule number one, which is basically akin to peeing on the carpet at my house, as well as rule number four, which is to read all the comments, and also rule number seven, attack the argument not the person. I should remind you that calling me names and accusing me of not being a Real Feminist is not really going to help you make your case. It’s just going to get your ass banned.

I’m willing to take a little bit of abuse for holding ignorant and insensitive views, even when at the same time I am reaching out to gain better understanding of infertility, but I think I’ll draw the line here. So if anyone else has nasty things to say to me along with your criticism of the position I outlined in the post, don’t expect to get published – if you want your points to be heard, please follow the examples of so many of the commenters here and be respectful. I understand if you’re upset and angry by what I wrote in the post, I really do. but, if you want to have your say, be mindful of how you do it. OK?

That’s all – once again, thank you to all who have contributed in a constructive way and who have helped to open my mind and soften my heart about the issue of infertility – it’s EXACTLY WHY I WROTE THE POST IN THE FIRST PLACE. My deepest thanks, and best of luck to you all.

UPDATE 2: Some commenters suggested I write a post about how your comments have impacted me and my thoughts about infertility. So I did. Read it here: infertility and a changed heart.

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I’ve been blogging for 2 years now.

time flies when you’re having fun!

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Okey-dokey, I got hit up twice today for the 8 things you don’t know about me meme, once by defenestrated and again by Kevin. it’s been a while since I’ve done a meme, and I don’t feel like doing any real blogging right now, so I’m happy for a light bit of fluffy memery. here’s the rules:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.

2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Alrighty then. let’s begin. 8 random facts about yours truly.

  1. I, like Kevin, am also always late. I hate mornings desperately. The morning is when I get my best sleep, and my best dreams. I like being a night owl very much, it suits me just fine, but the rest of the world runs on 9-5 and that makes me very cranky in the mornings. I have, however, perfected the art of the nap. 🙂
  2. I do not like answering the phone. It’s my introverted nature, I guess. I also don’t like to make phone calls. I do like to return phone calls. 😛
  3. I am terrible at keeping in touch with friends who have moved away. Terrible. Luckily, whenever we see one another, it’s like no time has passed at all.
  4. In person, I am an extremely pleasant person, very outgoing and friendly, enthusiastic, engaging, always helpful and generous, funny, and fair-minded. It’s unusual for people not to like me. I’m generally quite likable.
  5. I don’t give a shit if people don’t like me.  Funny thing, considering the above.
  6. I am almost constantly achy. My job has wrecked my back, neck and shoulders, wrists, elbows, hands, and arms. My knees are kind of weak. And on top of that, I’m quite often sore from working out. I do a lot of yoga to try to keep on top of these things, but the basic fact for me is that something always hurts.
  7. My very favourite meal is chicken pot pie, and I make a really really good one. However, since I’m vegetarian, I haven’t had chicken pot pie in over a year, and I haven’t tried to make it with fake chicken strips or seitan or anything. I think I’ll try it out this weekend. Yum!
  8. I am a grand-orphan. No living grandparents. Didn’t really know them all that well to begin with. I also don’t have much in the way of extended family, and the ones I have I don’t know well, either. I’m an only child, and I’m nervous about my parents getting older and their health failing. It’s a lot of responsibility, and I wish I had someone to share it all with.

That’s all. Now I’m supposed to tag 8 people. This is the part of memery that I hate. I also hate copping out of it. My feed reader is really backed up, so forgive me if you’ve already donet his and I’ve missed it somehow. I tag: Roy, Tom, Simonne, Daniela, Ali, Marc Andre, Shannon, and….. Aulelia! (Basically, I picked all of you because you blog under a name that is a real name and not a screen name. ha!) Also, I’m breaking the rules and not posting a comment to let these folks know they’ve been tagged. Hopefully they’ll all figure it out soon enough. It’s my way of saying, Hey, no pressure. :O

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need a TG fix?

ha ha, just kidding. but I do have a new post up over at Slant Truth, for your reading pleasure.

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found a new site that I quite like: Objectify This, a site dedicated to calling out objectification of women in popular culture. Also, I wrote another post over at Slant Truth this week that I forgot to provide a link to here. Also, my friend Matthew, as well as Jill over at Feministe, weigh in on the season finale of LOST.

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