How can a family heal after divorce? What do you do if your kid comes out? What do you do if your mom comes out??? Hear it all on this episode of the Queer Joy Podcast; where two relationship therapists explore what it looks like to see joy in queer relationships.
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Willow: Time really does take care of a lot of things and it really can, and it does get better a lot of times for that parental dynamic. Just stay present, in love and available as you can. I would definitely recommend parents to educate themselves whether or not they identify as queer, because if their children are identifying as queer, it's important to be able to do the work yourself too because your children might not always have the energy to explain everything to you. Keely: Well, hello everyone. Queer Relationships, Queer Joy today. Melisa: Yes. Keely: Welcome back. How are we doing? We have some guests today. We have interviews. It's really exciting. We have two people today and listeners will recognize the voice of Cardinal. And we also invite their mother Willow here today. We're going to do a nice relationship episode on parents right in time for mother's day. So Melissa, you want to start off? How are you doing today? Melisa: I'm doing well. I'm actually, I'm very excited for this interview. Cardinal, I'm excited like for you to go from behind the scene, to in front of the scene a little bit more. And I think our topic in particular, I think it's just really cool. And definitely the timing it works out well. Keely: Well, that was planned, but... welcome, Willow. So we do a brief introduction as we get started. So you can just mimic or say as little or as much as you want to say. You can just follow along with how Melissa and I do our introductions and we'll get started on there. Well, introductions. My name is Keely C Helmick. I'm the owner of Connective Therapy Collective. I am a queer therapist. Non-binary. A solo poly. White able-bodied and just chilling in a very blank room right now, because it's exciting. Cause I'm actually in one of our new offices and it made me realize since I was recording from here that, wow, we really need some furniture in here. I'm actually on the floor right now, which whatever. Melisa: And I'm Melissa DeSegiurant, I'm a licensed therapist at Connective Therapy Collective I'm white bisexual polyamorous artist type. I use she/they pronouns and always happy to have guests to be able to interview. Keely: Yeah. Cardinal: Hey, well, I am Cardinal Marking. Your behind the scenes buddy now in front of the scenes. I am also white able-bodied. I am non-binary trans masc. I use they/he pronouns. I am partnered happily with a life partner, nesting partner, Kyle. And this is my mom. Yeah. Willow: Hi everyone. I'm Willow Hall. I'm white CIS queer um, baby crow. Small fat able-bodied and very happy to be here. I'm a licensed massage therapist. I have been for about 30 years now and an energy worker beyond that. So I feel a lot of things. And I'm just so excited to have this special mother's day time with Cardinal and all of you. Keely: Well, yeah, thanks for coming on. I don't have much updates. I don't know, Melissa, anything you want to. Melisa: I, I don't, I will tell you a queer joy. Updates are not something I can promise to regularly have for everyone. That's also just me being an introvert. I there's nothing to report at this moment. Keely: So. I like to give people opportunities. Mostly. I like to give people opportunities to talk about what they would like to talk about, but I do also know that we have many questions that we want to ask. Love to have different dynamics of relationships to talk about and being as a parent child dynamic. Tell me, let's hear your story. I want to start off with like, what's a happy memory or favorite memory. This is like such a mom thing. Like what's a favorite memory of growing up with your child. Willow: For me, one of my very favorite memories of Cardinal being with Cardinal. And one of my very favorite memories is the very first time we took Cardinal into the water in the ocean. I love water. I'm a water baby. And it was in, in a Harbor, this beautiful Harbor in the island of Guam where I grew up and where Cardinal was born. And I had worked there and lived there and swam there and been under and over these waters. And now I was taking my first born into them and it was just like such a coming home moment. And, and, and, and Cardinal is just a little Guppy in the water. Like not sure what was going on, but it was just so special. And that is like one of my very favorite memories ever because water is life and it was a celebration of life to be taken Cardinal into that. Keely: Oh, beautiful. Was Cardinal a baby? How old is Cardinal? Willow: Cardinal was, yeah, a little. Just, you know, a number of months old. Cardinal: And I have loved the water ever since. I love swimming and all of that good stuff. Still love the ocean. Although now the Oregon ocean is maybe just a tad too cold for fully immersing myself. But yeah, I love that, Willow. I don't remember, but it has lived on in my present life and my love for water still. Keely: Well then, Cardinal what's your favorite memory? Or what's a memory that you, that you come back to? Cardinal: Well, this is actually kind of a tricky question for me because when I was 12 or 13, Willow and my dad divorced and there was a lot of shit that went down and I did not speak to Willow for five years, eight years sort of somewhere around there. It was rough. I mean, we spoke like once in a while and then it was just like, I just cut her out of my life. Not for good reasons. No, no good reason for that. It was complicated. And there was some homophobia involved cause she did leave my dad for a woman. And my dad was not happy about that and maybe planted some stuff in my head as a child, but I took, so I had to think for a minute, I had to go way back. And I think the memory of being in elementary school and Willow pulled my sibling and I out of class one day to go see this very special dog, Tumon and adopt him from the animal shelter. Cause we just fell in love with him immediately and we wanted to snap them up before anybody else could. So it was a total surprise to just get swooped out of school and then go meet this cute little ball of fluff and bring him home. Keely: Oh, that was at your first dog then Cardinal? Cardinal: No, I think we had Yodel in Guam. We've always had dogs and cats. I don't think there's ever been a time where we did not have a dog or a cat. Keely: That's sweet. What sweet memories. Well, I thank you for already just kind of going in there and being really vulnerable and talking about the things. I know our listeners will love to hear more. Do we want to start the story there at that 12 or 13 years of age? Maybe from your perspective, Willow since it's sounds like from how Cardinal described it: your coming out. Willow: Yes, that was my coming out. I was 36 years old and it was really sudden like a thunder bowl. My whole world just sort of shifted. That was in 2008. So it's been about 14 years now, although it, I can't believe it's been that long. It feels like just a few years ago. I had been living in the dark not even aware of so many parts of me and I'd been married for 17 years. I got married at 19. I had lived in a very sort of sheltered island setting without much awareness about queerness at all. And it was not on my radar, no pun intended. And so I was just living my life, living my little bubble of, I love my children and this is my husband. Yes. We're having trouble for many, many, many, many years. And there's not a connection in this relationship. It was a troubled relationship. And but I'm, I'm here and I'm existing and I love my kids and I'm doing the best I can. And that it was like, Like all of a sudden I was standing outside of window looking in and seeing a life that I had never realized existed and feeling things I had never realized I had in me. And parts of myself in a sense of belonging was over there through the window. And I realized I couldn't continue in the life that I'd had. And within that week I had I had let Peter, my, my ex-husband know, and asked for a divorce and moved out really quickly after that. So that I could pass through that wall and into this life that I knew I belonged in and that I needed to, to be able to live my authentic life and to reflect that as a role model for the generations to come and for my own children. So, I, I, it was a very, very, very hard and I blew up the world basically, and I lost a ,lot of people who were really important to me, but I also gained a lot of very, very very precious experiences and people out of that as well. Keely: Yeah. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. It's definitely something. The term that a lot of people are using currently is like later-in-life lesbians and that happening, he said, how many years ago? 14? Willow: 14? Not much resource. As far as that goes, I was very alone. Keely: Sure. And the dynamic of the relationship and Cardinal, obviously you had such a different experience than what your mother was experiencing these moments and I want to make sure, Willow, you still go by mother, correct? Is that okay? That terminology. Okay. Just want to make sure. Yeah. So Cardinal as little or as much that you want to say about this time period. You had alluded to it already. Where, what was your perspective at this point? Cardinal: Like Willow said, it was very sudden. And as a kid, like kids sometimes can be aware of those things, but I was definitely in my own little world. The bubble within the bubble and yeah, I think that Peter thought it was also very sudden, so he was not happy. So he- I was a very troubled teen and I had not a lot of support. Dad was going through his own stuff and wasn't really there to support me very much. And I know now in hindsight, that things would have been much better if I had have leaned into mom a little bit more. But you know, as a teenager, the world is ending all the time. And then I was also dealing with gender stuff even back then. And. It was just like a lot for a kid all at once. But now I am so grateful for the path that Willow blazed for us, because now we're just a big, big, old family, full of quirky people, like literally me and my sibling, both of our partners, Willow, like. So it's such a safe space for that now. And it took some work to get there, but, you know. Melisa: Queer Joy right there. Cardinal: Yeah. Melisa: I'm curious about that journey about how you, you went from not talking at all and now talking with such admiration about one another. I'm sure it wasn't like a, you know, this isn't a short, like, let me sum it up in a nutshell, but I am curious about what that journey was like for each of you. Cardinal: Yeah. It was a long process. I think it took years of me, like wanting to make a connection again, but then feeling like, oh, I've chosen this path and now I can't go back and I can't repair things. A boyfriend at the time actually did prompt me to connect with Willow a little bit more. Owen, ex-boyfriend of mine. So I'm grateful to him for that for helping to support me through that. But it, it was really awkward at first. I don't know, Willow. What do you think? Willow: I just, again, I just felt joy whenever I was able to spend that time with you. I remember the first time you reached out for reconnection was a little while before that. And we went over to a favorite spot of ours and sat down in a restaurant and had a good talk and just sort of reestablished a little bit of our bond. And it was, I was just so grateful. As a mother to have that, but also talking with for example, the mediator and just like sort of letting her know what was going on and the distance that was between us. And she was saying, you know, just give it time. And I'm like, it's taking so long. Just give it time. When the time is right. Cardinal will think you're the coolest person in the world. And I didn't believe her. I couldn't feel that it was way too far away from me to even think of that. But it happened. Eventually it happened and it's a wonderful thing. Cardinal: I mean, to give you an idea of the absolute disconnect that was there. Content warning: maybe I should add a content warning in the beginning of this episode to be like, we're going to talk about that. Some heavy stuff. I actually attempted suicide when I was 16 Willow had no idea for years until we reconnected. And then even for like a year or two, after we reconnected, it took me forever to tell her. Dad didn't tell her anything. Well, as far as I know, like he, he was absolutely like no contact at all. Keely: But you were living with your dad? Cardinal: Yes. And Ooh, even more drama. Willow had met her, her catalyst partner, Lillian at a neighborhood meeting, and my dad could actually see Lilian's house where mom was living from his bedroom window. Melisa: Oh goodness. Cardinal: So we thought that that was going to be a great thing. Like, oh, the kids will just be able to go over to Lilian's house, like every day and my sibling Clia totally, totally did. Dad's nickname for Clia is his- oh, what is it? Even keeled kid. And I don't know what that makes me. Keely: Cardinal. That's what it makes you Cardinal: Firecracker kid. Keely: So you're going through, and I just want to pause and acknowledge again, thank you for being so vulnerable. Cause I know we know the statistics and listeners know the statistics for trans folks and especially for trans youth, how many people and it's just, you know, my heart is just open for you sharing that. Cause I know people, other people hearing that, how. You know, only moved through that and survive that, but now have this different connection than you were than you did at that time. So it's really beautiful and it's vulnerability and honesty and authenticity around this. I really don't want to, I want to acknowledge that before moving forward and just yay. Knowing that, knowing that there's so much challenge going on. And thank you for painting this picture of this dynamic growing up. I want to check in. Cardinal, like where in this process, your coming out story, or, you know, how much of that you want to share? Cause you'd said the gender, gender -- card started popping up right around the time. And I don't think from a system's perspective, I don't think that's that's makes total sense for you or having, you know, your gender stuff coming up or be more presented during you know, puberty or that onset of puberty and then Willow, you're having this, you know, at 36, 37 years of age, which is very speaking for a, you know, a fab folks. That's the typical time of a lot of sexual awakening going on, even though we don't talk about that very much in our society. So it makes total sense from a systems perspective, this is all going on. What is your piece, Cardinal? Cardinal: So I actually didn't fully accept my gender identity until I was like 23 or 24. Keely: Yeah. Cardinal: So I had too much other stuff to work through first. And that was like, Ooh, this is a big thing. I'm just gonna push that, that until until I'm in a, a better place to address it. So when I started reconnecting with Willow and I was like 18 years old, that was not a thing on either of our minds at all. And when I came out as non binary, she was the best. She just totally celebrated. It was probably my biggest support. My biggest fighter for my using correct pronouns with the rest of the family. And. I remember we went to this concert, a Spoonbill concert, and just had like a great, great conversation there and then danced our butts off. And that was a, that was also a really healing night for me, mom. I don't know if you remember that night, but I do. Willow: We've danced at some great concerts together. Haven't we? Keely: That's awesome. So that's something that the two of you do together, you go out dancing and listening to live music. Well, I guess. Melisa: What's the relationship like now? Cardinal: Yeah. Now we hang out, I think probably about once a month and we text, we actually live in really close proximity to each other. Willow did move to Portland. So there's that. We went to the Frida Kahlo art exhibit at Portland Art Museum together. And yeah, I think we just like connecting over the arts. Walking for sure. Doing stuff. I'm not much of a sit around and hang out person. I like to do stuff. Keely: So I hear this, we're going through, you talked about where the two of you had a break in the relationship and then you've come back full circle and now have this really beautiful, connected relationship. And Will, you mentioned how hard that was for you, and I'm curious now, looking back. For parents that are in similar situations to you, what do you say to them? Like encouragement wise? Willow: I would say that it's okay to live with one foot in bliss and one foot in grief. That it's okay to celebrate your love and your joy as well as acknowledging heartache that comes up. And that's just part the whole of who we are. I would definitely say that at least in my case, and I hope for the listeners case, time really does take care of a lot of things and it really, it can, and it does get better a lot of times for that parental dynamic, but just stay present in love and available as you can. I would definitely recommend to parents to educate themselves whether or not they identify as queer, because if their children are identifying as queer, it's important to be able to do the work yourself too on because your children might not always have the energy to explain everything to you. Keely: Yeah. And they shouldn't have to. Right. And I say that ever so kindly as a parent myself. Melisa: You mentioned the education piece and I'm curious, like what resources did you lean on? What resource did you not have that you, you wish you would have? That's something I hear about from all of my clients, but especially parents. Willow: Oh gosh, what resources did I have back then? I had no resources. I had like maybe some books of like trying to understand queer culture a little bit, you know, some of the, the foundational books. I wasn't really able to tap into the internet, like the way we are now or, or social media, the way we are now, both of those are really great for, for resources. I was very fortunate to have the high school that the kids went to had a great GGSA: Great Gay, Straight Alliance is what they called it back then program as well as I was, I dropped into SMYRC once in a while. Just to kind of feel it out and do a little bit of semi volunteering as well as the Q center as a great resource. With time, I was able to tap into the internet and then also books, books are very important. I found certain authors helped me really understand Toko Pa-Turner, the book "Belonging" is I would recommend to any, any human being. It's an excellent book. So I found a lot through books and through podcasts. Those were my first resources. Cardinal: So for anyone who's listening and is maybe not in Portland like the Q center is a local queer community hub. So getting tapped into that local community is so, so important. Keely: Yeah. And SMYRC is the, the specific youth resource center. I want to say it's like 14 to 21. Maybe it's even 13. So that's specifically for young folks. Cardinal, what are you like from your perspective where you're at as the child? I know you're not a child anymore, but child to Willow. What do you say to the teens, the youth that are struggling because there is this duality and you don't realize until you're the parent of going through consistently going through your own developmental stuff while supporting your child. What do you say to those people that are listening, hearing this today? Cardinal: So for anybody listening, I'm 27 now. If that puts everything into perspective. In true millennial fashion, had the internet, and that was a great resource. And just bringing around awareness that this is a possibility, like, Being non-binary and being gender nonconforming is a possibility and it's an option. The super committed ally to trans person pipeline. That is what I gave it to. I was like, ah, trans rights for like a little while, a couple of years before I was like, oh, trans. Right. So yeah. Everybody should support LGBTQ plus rights. And if you support those rights and you're educating yourself about that, that also opens up the opportunity for that own self-reflection as well. Keely: Yeah. And I hear this, you know, cause I think about the demographics of most of the listeners and I think they're a lot at some, some are parents for sure. But I think a lot of them are in between the two of you's ages and not on the other end of it. And I think really validating where people are at with their relationship with their parents and that. Willow. I mean, thank you for sure. I have to say thank you for being a supportive ally to all trans kids, whatever age they are. Not just young people under the age of 18, but you know, so having the representation of a parent figure who is supportive of their child, we don't get a lot of that. And it's a huge misrepresentation and, you know, I know for me, I don't know where you're at Melissa, but I can say I'm 41 years old. And I sure as heck do not have, I don't have the worst parents right now, but I definitely do not have supportive parents. And so I don't want to underscore the value and I am a parent too. I'm in, I'm in the sandwich generation. I have my aging parents and then I have these kids I'm taking care of. And I will say. I wish I'd had more support, like what I hear from the two of you. And I know that I get to be that support to the youth and to my children. So yay for that. Melisa: And I keep going back to it, but what, what everyone has said about information, having resources and information, like that's a huge, and even Cardinal as I hear you say, millennial, I also am a millennial, but on the very other side of that generation where I'm like, you know the internet. It got there, but you know, things were delayed for me largely because of that, I didn't have representation. And, and likewise, my parents didn't have resources at all at all at all. One of the first like out queer people in my family. So, you know, I'm fortunate that I have extremely loving parents and they're able to say, I don't even understand but I love you, and tell me what I need to know. And like that is so huge. And I'm really, really lucky that that's my experience. And I could have had a different experience, had more information been available. You know, I could have been aware of my queerness much, much earlier than, you know, 30 something. So yes, I agree. We talk about compression often when we're interviewing people and I'm experiencing a lot of it for what I'm hearing about the way Willow, you've been able to. Cardinal: I just want to point out something that you just mentioned, Melissa, is your parents don't have to understand it, but they love you anyways. And I think that that's also a really important thing. That's sort of what my dad, Peter, that's where he's at right now. He does not understand. It's been years. He did not get it at all, at all, but he respects it. And he, he does his best to embrace it. And you know, we're not like sitting down having heart to hearts about it, but he definitely like catches himself. And I'll always remember the first time he wrote me a birthday card that initially he put my dead name and then he, it was in pen, and I only saw this cause I caught the light just right on the card because the pen creates an indent. He had drawn a giant heart and like filled in the heart over the dead thing so I wouldn't see it and put my, my name there. So yeah, don't have to understand, just have to respect it. And that goes a long way. It goes a long way. Keely: Yeah. And then again, you know, holding these complexities of being human, of having these different experiences as a kid, and then as an adult and things changing and resources changing and understanding of ourselves within our gender and sexuality. Fluidity changing. So just really holding space for that and really celebrate in that, honestly. Cardinal: Lots of change. That's how you know, you're alive. Keely: Well, another way we also know how we're alive is talking about joyful things. And so I would love to hear Cardinal and Willow. What are your Queer Joy of the week? Cardinal: Do you want to go first? Willow: Sure. Cardinal: I know you're, you're buzzing with some NRE. Willow: Yes, definitely. Buzzing with some NRE. A recent queer joy is being able to introduce that person to my significant people in my life. That's been really a joyful thing. Another queer joy is just having memories of Of life and queer life. And then getting to fold memories of like with Cardinal into those is really, really a queer joy that I've been thinking about this week. Reminiscing, and just thinking about certain times and certain celebrations of life together in that way. I'll have to think if there's another like major queer joy, but that's my major Queer Joy pretty much for this week. Keely: Awesome. Cardinal, what about you? Cardinal: To be honest, I've been having kind of a tough week, so I have to think a little bit I think that my partner, Kyle just brings me infinite joy all of the time. They are so, so supportive of me in every single way in my passions, in my self care, and in my gender journey. Every night I put on some minoxidil, which is supposed to help hair growth. I put it on my cheeks and my jaw and my mustache. And that means that my face tastes gross. And so Kyle has to get in there cheek kisses every night before I put on my gross face though. And sometimes they'll, they'll kiss my cheeks and they'll whisper to my little hairs "grow! grow!" Keely: That's adorable. I love it. Cardinal: They're pretty adorable. Keely: So now I want a meme of that, or I want that, like, that's going to be our quote. Melissa, what about you? Where are you at? Melisa: Oh gosh, well, I'm kind of with Cardinal. It's not been like a bad week for me, but it's been, it's very packed. And so there's not room for a lot of leisure. And as I say that, I just figured out my Queer Joy. So I did make a coffee cake like two days ago. I'm not going to lie. That's been dinner and I am very happy about it. So that is what has gotten me through a very, very busy week. It's really simple things right now. Keely: Yeah. Sometimes it's the simple things. I mean, Melissa. I feel like your Queer Joy often is about food. And when do I get to have some of that food? Bring it in, share the joy! Melisa: Yeah, I am. I'm very much a cottage witch, which I do a lot around my house. So it's always cleaning plants, cats, food, music, home related. Keely: Wow. That's lovely. Well, I wanted to round out because this is about mother's day. And so I identify as a queer mama. So I still, even as a non-binary person, I do still identify with the label, mom, mother, mama, and I, one of the things that I just celebrated was my youngest child's 10, 10th birthday. Really awesome. Had some moments. And I think that there's something very interesting being a parent. And I hate to say it. I'm just going to say it like, you don't know what it's like to be a parent until you're a parent. And that doesn't mean that you have to be biological parent, but just being a parent is just a very unique experience and I don't talk about my kids a lot because I think it's important to recognize myself as a human being outside of my relationship with my kids, because honestly they are their own human beings. And so they have a relationship with me, but they also have a relationship with so many other people. And that's actually one of my joys of being a parent is getting to see these little ones that I raised, that I helped raise and bring into the world, but that they have all these little cute connections in ways that don't involve me. And it's so joyful to, you know, talk about compersion Melissa, like, I get to see all of this beauty happening in front of me that brings me such joy because they're happy. And there they're coming into, you know, a 10 and 14 year old coming into their gender journey and their sexuality journey and who they are as a person and identity and so much going on. And it's so lovely to see and just really celebrating getting to have that and having, I have anticipation for the coming weekend. Once this posts, it'll be the weekend of the weekend of mother's day and honoring what a mixed bag when we say mother's day, not only for folks that are non-binary gender non-conforming trans. But also within the dynamic of non-biological. There's just so many loaded things. It's just, I just like to recognize it. It is very complex. And I think if anything, this episode, episode is just dabbled in the complexities and holding these complexities and the joy of just witnessing it. So I'm just grateful to have these conversations, honestly. And I'm just going to sound like the fucking therapist I am, but having these conversations where we hold complexity. So for all the listeners out there, however you celebrate or don't celebrate, or honor, or don't honor, or set boundaries, whatever you do. Within the next coming week, weekend, just, yeah. Do it and know that we all support, however you're doing it because life is challenging enough as it is. We want to bring joy as much as we can into the world. So on that note, thank you so much for coming in today and talking about all the things joyful, but also real and sharing your journey and story with other listeners. Cause I know y'all someone out there is listening and being like, yep, yep. Oh wow. Oh, I'm not the only one. And that in itself is a beautiful thing. So. Ah, thank you. And I hope listeners and everyone. Yeah. Thanks. Willow. Did you want to wait? I want to make sure. Did you want to do a shout out to anything that you're doing you want to let listeners know about? Willow: Well, I really wanted to just say how proud I am of Cardinal and just to say it as many times as I can. I'm so proud of Cardinal and the person that they are and the human being with such a wonderful big heart. And so alive. I'm so proud of you, Cardinal and I wish all the listeners well. Other than that personally, no, I just kind of live my life and I practice my practice and yeah, many blessings. Keely: Oh, thank you. That's a wonderful place to end. Thank you everyone for listening. I hope you have a Queer and Joyful week. Cardinal: Eh. I should start singing the outro music. Do do do. Cardinal: Thanks for listening to Queer relationships, Queer joy, a podcast by the Connective Therapy Collective hosted by Kelly C Helmick and Melissa DeSegiurant. I'm your producer Cardinal marking audio is edited by Mars Gaspar. Intro music is by bad snacks. If this episode made you smile or think, tell us about it, if you hated it, tell us about that. Review us on iTunes or Spotify, or send us an email at info at Connective Therapy, Collective dot com for more queer joy. Visit our website at www dot Connective Therapy. Collective dot com. Love ya. Bye.