Raising a happy, healthy child is a hefty responsibility for any couple, but Callie Wise and her partner Michelle have experienced a few extra hurdles in their quest to be the best parents they can.
The couple, who married in New York City on Aug. 3, 2011, have a four-year-old daughter who was carried by Michelle. After her birth, Callie adopted her through second-parent adoption in Tennessee.
Callie, coordinator for the Tennessee Career Information Delivery System (TCIDS) program, says the couple contemplated all the options before choosing that route.
"When we first met almost 16 years ago, there weren’t any countries, much less states, where we could get married." Wise says. "We decided that we wanted to have the full rights of marriage already when it finally becomes legal. While it doesn’t help us here in Tennessee, there is something reaffirming about being able to say that we’re married."
The couple’s love for each other was never in question, but their new status presented its own set of problems.
"(There) are questions we face every day," Wise says. "Anytime we fill out a form and it asks for ‘family’ income, it becomes an area of major debate for us. ‘What is the right and legal thing to do’?"
Such formalities are rendered meaningless when the couple considered their daughter, who they hope will have a normal childhood.
"Gabrielle is growing up around other kids talking about their moms and dads, and she’ll see people or hear about people getting married," Callie explains. "She’ll be socialized to know that marriage is the step you take when you love and care about someone deeply and want to build a family. Living in and growing up in the South, she’ll have enough obstacles with two moms, we didn’t want to make it harder for her. We wanted her to feel confident in talking about her family."
To ease their own concerns, the couple has been proactive in building a community of individuals who are in similar positions.
"We have (Gabrielle) in a daycare that has several other kids with LGBTQ parents and the daycare owner and workers are very open-minded and accepting. We make an effort to expose Gabrielle to other LGBTQ families. Michelle even started a local LGBTQ and allies family group called Nashville Rainbow Families so we can meet other families like our own."
Callie acknowledges that while their home life is as loving and nurturing as possible, there are still plenty of community members who might frown upon her family’s makeup. Gabrielle’s age means she’s unaware that her situation is unique.
"She’s so innocent and cute in her assumption that it’s normal that she isn’t aware that it could be a problem," Callie says. "On the other hand, we do worry about her “outing” us to the wrong person or people. How will those other people act? Will it be so angry and violent that it’ll scare or upset Gabrielle? Could she be at risk of getting hurt herself?"
" Before you have kids, it’s easy to ignore the importance of security when it’s just the two of you," she adds. "However, when you bring a child into the mix, your whole perspective changes because everything becomes about what is important for your child."