Fertility clinic lacks clarity 

As you may know from the ‘Cost of Becoming a Parent’ post my wife and I are in the throes of fertility treatment to try and conceive our first child through IUI. Unfortunately our first two rounds of insemination have been unsuccessful but this is not the focus of the blog; we are still positive about the process and our chance of becoming parents. This post is about our fertility clinic and the inconsistencies we have faced along the way.

Anyone who has experienced the process of fertility treatment will understand the emotional journey that you enter into: it is therefore absolutely essential to have a fertility clinic that you can trust and rely on. The clinic we have been using has been nothing but professional throughout the process but, after our second failed pregnancy test, we have been left feeling very frustrated.

Very early on in the process we had asked our consultant about going back to back with treatments. She had said that we could go back to back but that they sometimes advise, due to emotional reasons, for people to miss a month. My wife and I discussed this and we were very clear that, to start with least, we would want to go back to back. We did not want to waste time. After the first negative test we contacted our clinic to plan an appointment to start the next round of treatment straight away. However, we were shocked to receive an email saying that proceeding with round two straight away was not possible. The reason given was that my wife’s hormones had to return to normal levels before another attempt. This was a blow. Every month is precious when you are trying for a baby and, in a process that is so out of your control, losing one of the only things you have control over was difficult to take.

We moved on, waited and when, the next opportunity arrived, started round two.  Again, we had a negative pregnancy test. We were obviously upset and then our minds turned to the wait we would have until the third go. We emailed the clinic to let that know that we nad a negative result. The response to the email caused confusion and anger: we were told we needed to make an appointment if we wanted to proceed this cycle.  My wife rang the clinic and explained that we had previously been told that it was not possible to go back to back: it was confirmed that we could. The overwhelming feeling was one of frustration.

We had wasted a month. A whole month when we could have gone through treatment and fallen pregnant. This is us trying for our first child. My wife is 33 and we have been told that clinics rarely do IUI treatment on women over 35. The clinic does not know our plans for further children; I remain undecided in whether or not I would like to carry and, if I choose not to, my wife would try to fall pregnant with our second. This could, potentially, mean IVF which is far more expensive and intrusive.

We are angry, we are annoyed and, most importantly, we feel let down. This is private healthcare, with one specialism: fertility. Their systems should be watertight with inconsistencies being rare. Unfortunately we have other examples of a lack of clarity and miscommunication regarding the storage of hormone injections and blood tests. Friends of ours have also started this process with the same clinic and have come across similar frustrations. Any couple that enters their clinic is doing so because there is a reason why they cannot conceive a child in the ‘normal’ fashion. Starting the journey of fertility treatment is potentially a long, emotional and expensive process. When you enter the clinic you are entering into the unknown: you must be able to trust the professionals.

Buying a birthday card

Buying birthday cards is something we all frequently do. We try to match the card to the person: their hobbies; their sense of humour; their favourite colour. This process is easy for adults due to the wide range of cards available.  However, when buying cards for children, especially when wanting a card with an age on it, this process becomes confusing.

It is my cousin’s daughter’s 4th birthday at the start of May and I went to buy her a card.  When standing in front of the array of cards the lack of variety was so noticeable; cards aimed at boys were red and blue with pictures of dinosaurs and cars whilst the cards aimed at girls had shades of pink and lilac with pictures of princesses and flowers.  There was a clear divide with girls’ cards to the left and boys’ cards to the right. I stood looking for a while to see if there was an alternative to this gender stereotyping but, alas, I could not find anything different.  I chose a card that was the lesser of many evils; a yellow number 4 with a dog painting pink and lilac flowers.

The choice of a birthday card is only something minor and many of you reading this may believe I am being too politically correct and sensitive. However, please consider one of these situations.  You have a son who is a talented dancer or artist and has no interest in cars, football or dinosaurs. You have a daughter who loves superheroes, football or trains but hates the colour pink.  Which card do you buy for them? You can, of course, pick an appropriate card that matches their interests; after all the choice is yours, you don’t have to follow societal conventions and norms. However, we have been conditioned to look at those two rows of cards and automatically, subconsciously, decide which are for boys and which are for girls. Viewpoints are changing, barriers are being broken, but maybe shops can do something very simple to help: mix the cards up!

Dear Theresa May: an open letter

Dear Theresa May

The appalling and shocking news of the treatment of gay men in Chechnya cannot have escaped your attention; there have been reports of LGBT people being rounded up, tortured, beaten and placed in a form of concentration camp. There has been outcry on social media and protests to show solidarity and raise awareness of the situation. At the time of writing this I am concerned that no senior member of government has spoken out about these autrocities. I hope this letter outlines why it is essential for you to publically address this situation and explain how the British government can help put an end to this crisis.

The recent events in Chechnya are a sobering reminder that many LGBT people across the world still live in fear and under threat of persecution. When news such of this reaches us silence is not an option. In Great Britain we are fortunate to be able to live freely and marry whoever we choose; the law protects all of our citizens no matter their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. This freedom has not come easily: individuals and groups of people have fought to be treated equally in this country and recent events remind us that rights can be taken away as well as won. Communities across Britain have come together to protest against events in Chechnya with the aims of showing solidarity with those facing persecution as well as attempting to put pressure on our government to speak out and act.

Russian attitudes towards members of the LGBT community is anything but supportive; there have been numerous stories of people being mistreated in the country whilst it is illegal to discuss homosexuality with people under the age of 18. The last LGBT execution in Russia was in 1996 and, whilst it is currently suspended, the death penalty for homosexuality in still part of the country’s laws. The Kremlin has denied any knowledge of the events in Chechnya and the region’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said that the reports cannot be true as there are no gay men in Chechnya. Applications for LGBT asylum in Britain are up 40 per cent. My question to you, Mrs May, is: ‘What can you do about this?’.

A group of cross party MEPs have recently written to you requesting that you make a public statement to outline the government’s position and have also asked you to call an immediate meeting with the Russian ambassador. Currently neither of these things have been done. It is appalling that no senior official has made a statement over a week after this news surfaced. At a demonstration in Norwich on Thursday evening, I was proud to hear that our MP for Norwich South, Clive Lewis, has launched an Early Day Motion regarding the mistreatment of gay men in Chechnya. The British government must discuss this issue in Parliament and stand up against this injustice; an inability to do this sends a message of acceptance. What value does Britain place on LGBT rights?

Rights for groups of people around the globe have been hard won and must therefore be hard protected. As the leader of one of the most powerful and influential countries, silence is not an option: stand up for what is right.

Yours sincerely,

The Gutsy Gay

Do we still need gay bars and clubs? 

The answer to this question, and therefore this post, could be very short: yes! However, the reasons behind this are vast and complex. Some people may ask: ‘In a mainly open and accepting society why do we need separate social spaces for the LGBT+ community?’. In this post I hope the be able to explain why these spaces are still essential.

When I decided I wanted to write on this topic I ran a 24 hour Twitter poll with the question ‘Do we still need gay bars and clubs?’ With two simple answers: ‘Hell yes!’ and ‘No, let’s mix!’. The wonderful LGBT+ twitter family kicked in and the poll received 1,948 votes.  The results were overwhelmingly in favour of LGBT+ social spaces, with 83% of people voting for ‘Hell yes!’.  Many people also took the time to comment, outlining the reasons behind their votes. Thank you.

I first started going to gay bars when I started university. As a fresh-faced 18 year old arriving in Norwich, I regularly spent my Saturday night at The Castle or The Loft; my eyes were opened to a world I had not yet been a part of. People were friendly, the music was fabulous and it was a safe space where you could just be you.  Going to these places was an important part of my self-acceptance and really good fun!  One of the main arguments for needing LGBT+ clubs and bars is allowing people to explore their sexual orientation in a safe environment; it is a way of meeting like-minded people and potential partners. People may argue that in the age of online dating apps the need for clubs and bars to meet people is reducing but for many, connecting with people virtually is not enough. Fast forward a few years and my visits to any form of club are far less frequent but I am definitely partial to a night out at Flaunt, Norwich’s newest addition to the gay scene.

A couple of Twitter comments made a very important point about gay bars and clubs serving as a reminder of how far we have come in terms of equality.  Some people may suggest that in a more open and accepting society the need for separate LGBT+ social spaces is reduced. Conversely, it can be argued that these places stand as historical affirmination of, and a tribute to, the progress society has made.  The LGBT+ community is no stranger to violence; police raids at the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969, a fire sweeping through the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans in 1973, a bomb exploding at the Otherside in Atlanta in 1997, the 2016 shootings at the Orlando nightclub to name just a few. These examples all demonstrate why LGBT+ friendly spaces are still relevant and necessary. Gay bars and clubs across the world stand as monuments to previous and ongoing struggles, creating a sense of community, acceptance and belonging.

All groups within society crave their own space where they can connect with like-minded people: religious groups have places of worship; readers have book clubs; singers have choirs. Why should the LGBT+ community be any different? Flaunt in Norwich is packed every Saturday night and attracts a diverse crowd of people drawn together by their acceptance of varying gender identities and sexual orientations. Worryingly, one of the comments I received from a transgender woman suggested she has felt uncomfortable in gay bars due to incidents of transphobia.  Stories like this make me angry. We should be one, large community that is supportive of all its members; gay bars must be inclusive for all. This got me thinking: by referring to them as ‘gay bars’ are we inadvertently excluding members of our family? Would LGBT+ clubs be a better phrase?

Lastly, they are just good fun! So many of the comments I received highlighted that nights out at LGBT+ social spaces are entertaining, exciting and enjoyable. Bars and clubs are quite often at the heart of any LGBT+ community and it is essential that we continue to give these places our custom.

Sexy shoes for toddlers are wrong

When discussing my blog with a friend, she showed me a picture of a pair of sparkly, red heeled shoes. Now my friend wasn’t giving me fashion advice or trying to subtly suggest that I needed to dress in a more feminine way: the shoes were actually aimed at babies between the age of 0-6 months.  Appalled, I decided to need to research this further.

After trawling the internet I came across several websites that are selling these shoes in a variety of colours and prints. The most notable, ‘Pee Wee Pumps’ (https://peeweepumps.com/), sells shoes with soft, collapsible heels and pointy toes that are designed for baby girls to wear before they can walk. Further investigation took me to the ‘about us’ section of the website which emphasised the shallow and arguably immoral branding of these products.  This section of the website opens with the statement:

“Fashion-forward moms love to dress up their little girls with the cutest bows and outfits, and are always looking for the perfect pair of shoes to complete any outfit.”

In this sentences lies the problem: these shoes are aimed at women who are extremely fashion conscious and self-indulgent. The women who would buy these shoes are almost treating their daughters like dolls: your child is not there to ‘dress up’.  There is a distinct different between a child who is old enough to choose their own clothes and shoes selecting sparkly, feminine products and a baby, with no choice, having this thrust upon them.  A baby between 0-6 months needs little more than baby grows and practical clothing.  The amount my four month old nephew dribbles, I see little point in spending money on expensive outfits! 

The ‘Pee Wee Pumps’ brand has received much negative media attention: the company has been blamed for fuelling the sexualisation of young children.  The shoes have been described as ‘horrid’ and ‘sick’ with many people calling for the brand to be banned. Founder of ‘Pee Wee Pump’, Michele Holbrook, has stated that the shoes were created to meet the “current and ever-growing popular demand for ‘high-fashion’ in infant apparel”. Demand from whom?

With society becoming more and more image conscious, the babies of today will grow up in a world of selfies, social media and filters.  Parents should be doing all they can to protect their children from becoming obsessed with the way they look rather than fuelling this from such a young age.