By: Don Todd
I got a chance to sit down with half of the duo from the “Derek and Romaine Show” on Sirius and XM radio a few weeks ago during “The Dinah”. Romaine has been an advocate for many issues in the LGBT community. She first came into the spotlight as a member of the Angel Action in Laramie Wyoming after her friend Matthew Shepard was killed. She shared with me stories of her partner Iris and their daughter Romaine and their plans on expanding their family.
You and Iris have a daughter Romaine; any plans for more children?
We are, yeah. I have been after my partner Iris for a while to carry a child. When this all started we had a deal that I would carry the first, she would carry the second, and I would carry the third. I have always wanted three kids, so I did my part. I carried a child and I hated it. I was miserable and was really a crabby pregnant woman and I might have scared her. So when it was her turn she told me “yeah I’m scared. I can’t do it.” So I was upset, but with the whole economy and everything we put off trying for a while. Even gay people have to be somewhat responsible. So we put it off for a while and at the end of last year we started trying again. So I started the process and went through two rounds of IUI and neither was successful, then my mom died. So we thought, maybe this is the universe saying, “let’s just take a little break; let’s regroup; and then let’s try again.” I have a little bit more traveling and then in May we might start trying again until we are successful. Who knew having a baby was so hard? I couldn’t imagine being a gay guy and trying to have a child.
With having a child and dating in the gay community, I have found that, when it comes up that you have a child, it’s usually the end of it. What is your take on those of us who have children and are dating?
It’s interesting. I think the lesbians are a little bit more open-minded to dating women with children. Years ago I dated a woman with a child and it was really interesting. Sometimes I wonder, if something were to happen with Iris and me, and we were no longer together, I wonder what it would be like. I think it would be a VERY different experience.
I think part of it too, is that gay parents are much more aware of the consequences of certain things. We are much more aware of what other people are looking at from us, we are kind of much more closely watched to see if we are good parents or “good enough” parents in the eyes of many. So I think you make different dating decisions then if you didn’t have a child.
You talk about your pre-school stories on the show, about you and the other moms and developing that network, Gay or Straight. What was your experience choosing a school for your daughter?
It was interesting for Iris and me. “Romie” (our daughter) has been in daycare / pre-school since she was five weeks old. We went around and really looked high and low even before we had Romie. We went and talked to the different daycares and schools and asked if they ever had gay parents before and how they felt about it. It was something that we knew we had to be really aware of and conscious of. So we found a school we liked and they said they had gay dads “once upon a time” so that was good.
The first and second years went by with no problems and it was great. The start of the third year we started getting all these invitations for birthday parties. So the first time we went to one I said to Iris, “Listen, we are going to divide and conquer here.” We had a meeting in the car on the way there. We have to get to know the other parents. Part of it for me was babysitter network, cause you have to have a good babysitter network, that’s important. The other thing was that it is really important for the other parents to know who we are so that, as Romie is growing up, and their kids are talking about Romie’s mommies, we know what they are telling their kids too. It was almost as important that we know them as they know us. I went in knowing that there was going to be probably one set of parents that was going to have a problem with us and we were going to have to deal with “that”.
The other parents FAR exceeded our expectations. Even the teachers are very supportive. Like when Mother’s Day comes around they ask “how do you want us to do the cards?” or when Father’s Day rolls around they ask if there is someone that she can make a card for. (For that we have her do it for her godfather.) They just really think about those things and it really gives me hope that there is going to be a point where having gay parents is a non-issue. I am hopeful, seeing this generation.
With the bullying in schools lately, with having same sex parents, is there anything like that you are thinking about for your daughter?
I think bullying is going to happen no matter what. I think the key is just having really good communication with your kid. We have started that really early, when there is an issue at the school whether it’s a teacher or a friend. You know little kids: “I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” We sit down and talk about those things with Romie and tell her that “sometimes our friends say things that aren’t very nice” and we talk about her feelings about it. If she’s frustrated with it, we try to teach her the words to try to express the feelings she is having. That is something we are doing with her and trying to be very conscientious about. How are we going to explain certain things and how are we going to handle the first time she comes across a group of very hateful people who are going to criticize her family?
We remain hopeful that her generation of young people is not going to have the same stereotypes and crap that previous generations have seen. There are still going to be situations that we are going to come up against and it’s just a matter of really communicating. I also think that gay people are so much more aware of these things and we really take the time to teach their kids about this stuff. Because we KNOW that this is something that is going to happen and we almost anticipate it and build up this level of protection around your family so that when it happens you are prepared to deal with it. I think that we seem to do that a lot more than our hetero counterparts do, and in turn we get a chance to get to know our children in a different way and I think that’s unique.
Being a busy professional, are there any struggles you are running into balancing your career and your family?
I’m pretty lucky because my partner Iris is really “hands on” with Romie. I always worried with her not being the biological parent, how she was going to bond with Romie and how that relationship was going to form. Because I carried her for nine months, our relationship was inherent no matter what. It’s interesting because Romie actually prefers Iris more than me. I get a little jealous sometimes, but Iris is a really wonderful parent. Where I’m lacking she picks up the slack. When I am traveling for the radio show, Iris is home with her and we also have a very strong support network. Lots of friends like A.D.D. Jeff, from the show; he serves very much as a father figure for Romie. He is the man who she sees the most on a week-to-week basis. This was actually the first time where Iris and I left her for the weekend, usually it’s one or the other. We take her on the road a lot, but this weekend mommies need time away. So she is with uncle Jeff this weekend. “The Dinah” is not appropriate for a three-year-old.
Romaine can be heard on the Derek and Romaine show, Sirius radio channel 109 “Out Q” and on XM channel 98. Her book “The Whole World Was Watching” (available on amazon.com) describes how she ended up as a nationally recognized gay rights activist and the uncensored out-of-control lesbian on satellite radio.