"Normal" doesn't exist, with non-binary, neurodivergent Daze

When they left their tiny religious community, they found the language to describe how they feel: non-binary, autistic, childfree.

Episode 15


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Daze used to think they had two options: become a homeschool mother on a farm in the valley where they grew up, or become a nun. Instead, they left their tiny fundamentalist Catholic community and went to college, where they learned about the outside world and their inner self. In recent years, Daze has found the language to describe who they really are: non-binary, autistic and childfree. It was fascinating to hear about how undiagnosed mental illness runs through Daze’s family, how their own neurodivergence helped persuade a doctor to perform a tubal ligation, and to share our frustration at the state of the world, and the things we hope will change.

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Daze: I feel really lucky to even have language to describe how I feel. I know so many people in different parts of the world, in different parts of the country, and different religions, and bubbles don’t have access to language like “non-binary” or “autistic”. And they just feel like they’re a weirdo having to hide who they really are all of the time, and struggling with mental health problems because of that, just the tremendous power that it takes to hide and to mask and to try to fit in. So I like to think things are getting better, they’re getting better for me, but reading the room out there, I’m not sure it’s getting better for everyone. I hope it is, I hope that the more we have these conversations the better it gets and the more people realise, “Oh, if I do feel different than the cast, or the lot that has been set for me in life, I don’t have to fall in line”.

Zoë: Hey lovelies! Welcome back to We are Childfree, a podcast that celebrates childfree lives and shares our stories. Today’s guest, Daze, used to think they had two options: become a homeschool mother on a farm in the valley where they grew up, or become a nun. Instead, they left their tiny Catholic community and went to college, where they learned about the outside world and their inner self. In recent years, Daze has found the language to describe who they really are: non-binary, autistic and childfree. Daze opened up about the undiagnosed mental illness which runs through their family, and how their own neurodivergence helped persuade a doctor to sterilise them. We also had a good old rant, and shared our frustration about the state of the world, and the things we hope will change. Daze now lives in Texas, and, for context, we spoke on the same day that the state passed the Heartbeat Act, banning abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. Truly horrendous. Also a content warning for the r-word, an ableist term used against Daze’s parents when they were growing up. This one’s full of feminist fire and fascinating learnings. Enjoy lovelies!

Daze: Well, I’ve known for a really long time that I didn’t want to have kids. It’s never been something ever that I felt drawn towards, and in my early 20s, when I would go on to [plannedparenthood.org](http://plannedparenthood.org/) to look into birth control options. I always was drawn to tubal ligation, but of course, as a person in my 20s, it was not something that doctors would be interested in. So, I kind of thought, “Oh, maybe I will change my mind, because everyone says, “You’ll change your mind, you’ll change your mind, you’ll change your mind’.” And approaching my mid-30s, I realised I’m not going to change my mind. So I would say I’ve always known but also I made the decision to for sure be childfree in my mid-30s.

Zoë: And you did go ahead with a tubal ligation? Is that right?

Daze: Yes, I did. I was able to get one, thank goodness. I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s interested. It was surprisingly painless process in a lot of ways for something that’s so invasive, seemingly. Of course, I am fortunate – I had a great experience. I know not everyone has the exact same medical experience, because we are all in different bodies, but for me it was basically like the equivalent of a fairly medium period feeling of cramps.

Zoë: That’s pretty darn good, yeah.

Daze: Pretty darn good, yeah.

Zoë: And then how was the doctor? When you approached the doctor, how did they respond to your request?

Daze: Well, I took a lot of time thinking about this before I approached my doctor who had to refer me to the OBGYN who would be doing the surgery if approved, so I made a long list of all my reasons, and the primary ones are: of course I’ve always known that I don’t want to have kids, and that continues, birth control has always been really tricky for me, it impacts my body in really negative ways, and I’ve been off of it for about a decade, which is a little bit scary. I never felt comfortable, not being on it, but it was always better than being on it. Also I’m non-binary, and for me, I feel like having a child would be a major, not even having a child, having a child would be a little different. Being pregnant, the actual act of being pregnant, I think would really mess with me in a lot of very negative ways. Just gauging how my body has handled birth control, which is a very small slew of hormones compared to pregnancy, did very poorly on that, and looking back at the women in my family, so my closest genetic relationships, none of them have done well with pregnancy either. They’ve all had complications, they’ve all had to get hysterectomies, it’s been a really tough road for them mentally, emotionally and physically. I didn’t have a lot of confidence that my genetics would do that well with it, and personally, based on my experiences, didn’t think it would go very well. The final layer that I think really is the possibly the main reason the doctor approved it, is that I am autistic, and it’s not something I’ve known about for most of my life, I figured it out in the last few years just looking back on all my patterns and just doing a ton of research on what autism is actually like as a lived experience for women and queer people, basically, anyone who’s not a white man – those are the people that have been studied in autism studies. And I feel really fortunate to know that, it also puts my gender identity into perspective, in a way because a lot of trans people are also autistic – of course, many are not, but there’s a much higher percentage of trans people that are autistic than there are in the general population – so I shared the gist of that with my doctor, and then with the referral to the OBGYN, who was wonderful. And she was like, “You know, I normally wouldn’t recommend this for someone your age”, as I was 33 at the time, “But based on everything that you’re sharing with me, it sounds like this is actually a really appropriate option for you and my main concern is that many people change their minds”. She didn’t say “many”, she said, “The only complaint I ever get about tubal ligation is that sometimes some people wish they hadn’t done it”, so she just cautioned me with that and was like, just know that and we can continue to move forward on this, I was like, “Yeah, I’m not going to change my mind”, and if I do there are people in the world who need care, there are children, there are so many ways to nurture and support and help out, and adoption exists, and In vitro fertilisation also exists, so you’re really not cutting off all of your options by doing that. If you are, at some point, if I had a complete 180 and realised, “Oh this is for some reason, something I have to do”, and all of those reasons I just listed somehow evaporated, which is not going to happen, I could still find a way to parent a child.

Zoë: Yeah and I mean changing your mind, this is something that really irks me, because we don’t ask any parents before they have a child, “What if you change your mind?” So why this kind of, “Oh my god, what if you change your mind?” I mean, we’re adults, ultimately, we know the consequences. If we do something, there’s a possibility of regret either way – having kids,  not having kids – but we are adults, we make decisions in our life that are right for our life, we hope, and it’s on our shoulders to do that, and it’s really interesting that doctors, they take it upon themselves to have that kind of response of like, “Oh but you’re going to change your mind, you’re going to change your mind”, but they never say that to someone who’s talking about wanting kids or becoming pregnant or anything.

Daze: They really don’t and I’ve heard from men that have gotten, let’s say people with penises, who have gotten vasectomies they don’t get asked that question

Zoë:  My husband, he didn’t get asked any questions. They asked, “Do you want kids?” And he said “No”, and that was it, and it was like”Right, let’s get the date in the calendar”. And there seems to be a double standard with how we’re treated, as if we don’t know our own minds, as if there is some kind of biological thing going on, which at a certain age, or just suddenly, boom, we’ll be different people, and it doesn’t really make sense in my eyes anyway. I think obviously there are factors that can play into, a person who thinks at one stage in their life, they don’t want children, and then maybe yes, in the future, we can change our minds, but lots of that can be societal pressure, people can truly change, but I think doctors need to start listening when someone comes to you, like you did and said, “This is really something I’ve thought about, and it’s just not for me”, and I’m so, so happy that you had a doctor who listened to you, you know?

Daze: Me too, I feel really fortunate. I know that is actually pretty rare in America, from what I’ve heard, and I really do suspect that possibly one of the main reasons that she allowed it to happen was because I played up my family’s history of mental illness, and disclosed my own autism. If I hadn’t shared those, I wonder if she would have been as likely to approve it, and that gets into a little bit of a weird eugenics conversation.

Zoë: Yes, it does. Yeah, I mean just hearing from so many people about their experiences with doctors, I would say that, yeah, chances are, if you hadn’t brought those things up, you would have faced a pushback. That’s what I’m hearing from so many is that it’s really not easy to get these procedures that many people think would help their life. And you had a list of things, but it should really be enough that we can go, “I know who I am and my own mind, and this is something that I want to do”, and we kind of need doctors to really start listening. But yeah, it’s something that we can hopefully change, but it really is this kind of connection with womanhood and motherhood and there is no separation between them in society’s eyes are the same. But I’m just so happy for you and really happy that yeah, the procedure went relatively well. Simple, I guess it sounds like. How does it feel just to not have that anxiety that you may have had before it? Could you feel that weight lifted when you were like, “Okay, I don’t have to worry about becoming pregnant or having to take birth control?”

Daze:  Yes, it’s such a relief. I’m not particularly sexually active, I’m a little bit of a nun but when I do, I mean I’m so fortunate as to partake, it is so nice to not have to worry about that. It’s such a relief. And looking back, I wish that, sure I guess I trusted the doctors when they said in all the recommendations in my 20s were like, “Wait, you’ll change your mind”, but I didn’t, and I had a long stretch of sexual activity where I felt really unsafe, and really precarious. I was raised very religiously, and very separated from sexual education, so there was this notion of like any sexuality is bad, and you could, it was almost like if you touched a penis, you’d probably get pregnant, I had that level of phobia around it, so I still carry that with me to some extent, because we do hear stories of extreme fertility events. I have friends who’ve gotten pregnant while using condoms – there’s failure rates with everything – so I was always just really afraid of that failure rate, and doubling up birth control, and condoms felt like the safest thing, but then I had all these side effects, which made it so that my body really couldn’t have sex, so I was like, “Well then there’s no point in the birth control, because it’s preventing me from having sex at all. I’m in too much pain and discomfort…” So yeah, it’s such a relief to not have to worry about that. I mean, I know there’s a small failure rate with tubal ligation also, but you can mitigate those risks just based on tracking your cycle, knowing when you’re ovulating, taking some precautions around that window of time.

Zoë: Yes, absolutely. So, then tell me a little bit about your childhood. What was it like growing up in a household that was very religious?

Daze:  Oh, my goodness, it was so strange. Looking back, my most formative 18 years of life were just this extreme fear of hellfire and saving all of our treasures for heaven. This material realm, this isn’t it, and what we do here matters tremendously in a fundamentalist way. Like if you miss going to church on Sunday, in a strict fundamentalist Catholic upbringing that I had, that is a mortal sin and mortal sins are punishable for by hellfire. So there was such a strict control around everything that it really felt like you couldn’t stray an inch out of the way or else everything was lost, so I spent 18 years walking that tightrope, until I went to college and realised the world was a lot bigger of a place than I had ever been told. And they tell you, “The outside world is bad, sinful – they’re going to lead you astray, everyone will be out to get you, danger lurks at all corners, the best solution is to stay home, to stay on the farm, to stay in the church, to stay in this tiny insular bubble…” And once I got out of that bubble, I realised, “Oh, the people out here are actually really nice. No one is trying to pressure me to do anything – unlike the church, which was all pressure – and people were just kind and accepting.” I was so naive, and so innocent, and now I know, so autistic, but people were kind and I made friends and I felt accepted. And professors, I would talk to them about my concerns, like, “Is this syllabus going to challenge my religious faith? I’m afraid this is going to be anti-religion”. I was so scared about all of that at first, and professors, just the few that I talked to about that were like, “That’s not what we’re doing here, we’re not here to challenge your faith, your faith is your own. That is your own personal relationship, and if it is able to be challenged by this syllabus that I’ve created, by these books we’re reading and such, then that’s perhaps not what you need in your life”. I was like, “Oh, I can accept that answer. Yeah, my faith is strong, of course, I don’t need to worry about this.” And it was more so just through the personal relationships, more so than the content that I really felt my perspective shifting rapidly.

Zoë: Interesting, so then your upbringing, what did it mean for how you saw yourself in the world, your role in it?

Daze: I thought that I had two options. I thought that I either would become a homeschool mother on a farm in the valley where I grew up. There was actually a young man at the church who was in a small town, the only other person around my age and around the same level of height, attractiveness, we would have looked good together, and we were both homeschooled, super fundamentalist Catholic, which most Catholics in America are not, so we’d go to the normal Catholic Church, but then we had our retreats and conferences and like extracurricular ultra-Catholic stuff, and he was part of that. So we basically sat in opposite sides of the church at daily mass and just awkwardly avoided eye contact because neither of us could handle that our parents were trying to like arrange marriage us. Bless him, how rough, and how rough for me, so I thought that was probably my option, which was not enticing at all to me, and I thought the other option was to become a nun which seemed incredibly more doable than heterosexual marriage and family.

Zoë:  At what age did you think you were queer?

Daze: Oh, I didn’t realise until college. Interestingly enough, growing up on the farm, it was a little more accepted to dress what you might call “butch”. And also there was a lot of sexual abuse and predators around in the farming community, you kind of knew about some of them or just got a weird vibe from other ones, so that plus the “Protect your brothers in Christ, don’t show your flesh because you will tempt them” mentality of modesty that was fed to us through purity culture – that combination led to me wearing a lot of like baggy boy’s cargo pants, and baggy t-shirts that said, “Jesus Freak” or whatever Christian rock slogan I was into at the time. So I already was experimenting in a way with gender, although it was within the context of safety and trying to keep myself safe from the male gaze. Once I went to college, I ended up befriending some queer folks, and I just felt like, these were my friends and I fit in and it made sense. And I probably asked them invasive questions so casually, but they were so kind and they were just explaining things to me, and I’ve always loved music, so we did a drag king troupe where we would sing like pop, boy band songs and dance, and perform at drag shows in pride festivals and stuff. Just all very small town stuff, but that was before I knew I was queer. I just knew “Oh, I like dressing like this, I like this music, I feel comfortable with these people…” And through that process, during that exact time of entering college, I realised, “Oh, I like that girl. You know, that is a person that I like, oh, I guess if I like that person who’s a girl, I guess I like girls, okay”. And I didn’t actually learn the word “non-binary” until a couple years ago. Actually, it was a person much younger than me that I’ve met who is going by they-them pronouns, and this light bulb went off. I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s the thing that I’ve not known how to explain to people when people are like, ‘Well, what are you? Are you just a lesbian?’” I was like, I know I’m not a lesbian and bisexual, that might be an appropriate term for me, but it comes with unfortunately, a lot of stigma and bias in the United States, people assume that you’re wild or something, which I’m just not, so I never quite 100% owned that phrase as being the best descriptor of me. And “non-binary” when I heard that one, I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s the thing that I’ve been trying to describe my whole life”. I would always just say, when people are like, “What are you?” I always just say my name, “I’m my-name sexual, that’s just who I am”, and people were like, “Okay, that works for you, that makes sense”, what in some way will not ask any more questions, but now that I have the language around gender, and the understanding of that, that I was not able to get sooner. Language is always evolving, and the process of colonisation was separating indigenous people from – there’s always been non-binary people, and there’s always been third and fourth and different gender expressions, but the colonised world they come from has no language for that until recently.

Zoë: What about your parents then? What was it like growing up with your mom and dad?

Daze: It’s so complex. It’s stuff that I’m still figuring out, to be honest. They basically are very neurodivergent people who were born in the 50s and raised in America and labeled as “retards” and put in classes that were specialised, and taught not to twitch and fidget and “stim”, as you might say for autism. And yeah, just kind of, histories of depression, histories of learning disabilities, so they kind of have this survival based relationship where their strengths and weaknesses kind of complement each other, which is a beautiful thing, it’s common in partnership, and it does work for them, but it was really hard growing up. My mom was with us homeschooling us, and she had severe depression and just long periods of being very unwell and spending a lot of time on the couch and not really being able to do things. And then she would have higher points of a bit manic, and there was an animal hoarding component to the farm that we grew up on where she did get in a mood and buy a bunch of something, and we did not have money, we didn’t even have proper heating throughout the house, but she would somehow make it happen and sometimes even quite expensive animals, usually rescues but we had quite the menagerie and, you get two rabbits and the next thing you know, you have 30, so it was a lot of that story repeating over and over again with many different kinds of animals over decades. It was pretty intense, and my dad was just working hard and keeping his head down and trying to keep things together and doing his best but not very present.

Zoë: And do you have any siblings?

Daze: Yes, I have one sibling who still lives at home on the farm with his wife in his childhood bedroom. There’s also, neurodivergence happening there. No one has proper diagnoses, but, there’s a lot of challenges and struggles and I deal with survivor guilt, because I’m the one that was able to get out. And they, I think, perhaps deal with some levels of jealousy and resentment, that I was able to get out. The constant messaging for so long is just, “Come home, just come home, you’ll be safe here.” Yeah, so a lot of fear of the outside world and continuing that insular pattern that I mean, I do understand they all experienced bullying, and they all experienced the school system which I didn’t. So, I think that there’s a lot of trauma that came from those early experiences in those settings, and that would probably make me want to hide from the world also.

Zoë: Yeah, I’m sure there’s a lot of traumas for sure. So then, when you knew that you didn’t want to have children – was this something that you’ve ever talked with any family members? Or was this something that you didn’t need to talk about it, because it was much later that you actually, embraced that kind of side?

Daze: It is definitely not something I’ve ever talked to them about. The last time I talked to my mom about anything related to this, it was not me talking to her, which is common, I just kind of learned a long time ago, there’s a lot of emotional abuse in the house. I learned anything you say will be held against you and twisted and used, so I just stopped saying things, but she did call a handful of years ago – and this is so inappropriate – she said, “If you ever get pregnant, don’t get an abortion, just give us the baby, we’ll raise it.”

Zoë: Oh my god. Really? Wow.

Daze: As if I would ever give them a child.

Zoë: This is it, and then the cycle repeats again and again and again.

Daze: Exactly, Yes. Not a solution, not an answer, and I’ve, of course, never wanted to have an abortion. I don’t think it’s on anyone’s list of fun things to do. People have all kinds of reactions, many are so relieved and thankful, some grieve, and pretty much everyone goes through a big hormonal shuffle where you feel a whole bunch of things, so I always knew based on how sensitive I was to birth control that I would love to avoid that hormonal cycle of pregnancy and abortion also, and I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to avoid that.

Zoë:  Yeah, policymakers seem to think that we just go into these things and say, “Oh, yeah, let’s just have an abortion, I’ll have three, I’ll have five, 10! Go for it”, and they just have no concept of what people are going through. And I know so many friends who have had abortions and whether they, like you said, there’s many reasons that they had them and some it wasn’t the right time, some they knew that they didn’t want children, but in each instance it wasn’t an easy decision. You are living in a state which right now is trying to, or the Texas anti-abortion, has it passed?

Daze: I am so embarrassed to say that I have my head in the sand a small amount because it makes me so viscerally terrified and angry.

Zoë: Yes, I’m not surprised.

Daze: But I did hear that a ban had passed and that it was six weeks.

Zoë: Yes, that’s what I’ve heard.

Daze: Which – people don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks. They just don’t, and yeah I’m pretty sure there’s still some hoops being jumped through, and of course, many efforts to try to block it was the last thing I heard. All the news was saying “Abortion ban, abortion ban”, and all the activists I follow we’re saying, “It’s not over yet, here’s our steps, here’s what we’re doing, we’re still fighting this, we will continue to fight this.”

Zoë: I mean, it’s 2021, and governments, they are rolling back the rights for women, and it’s scary, it’s really scary. When I heard about that, this law coming to pass, I was shocked. We know that religion plays such a big part in America, and abortion, it’s so heavily tied into religion, that it’s just been completely politicised. An abortion is, it’s a health right, it’s a human right, and fundamentally it’s about our health. It’s not about religion, it’s not to be politicised, and to deny people these procedures that it removes their bodily autonomy and – we’re rolling back the rights for so many, and it’s truly disgusting.

Daze: Absolutely. I’m sure you know this, probably everyone listening knows this, but abortion bans, they don’t impact everyone universally, right? It’s the poor, the working class, people of colour, anyone who’s more marginalised in a society, who doesn’t have access. The wealthy have always been able to find these black-market procedures, someone to come to their house, throughout history, there’s been all kinds of DIY underground efforts, and for so long in America it was upon the physician’s approval. So, before Roe V. Wade, my understanding is, abortion was technically legal everywhere. You just had to have a physician say, “Yes, I will do this”.

Zoë: Just last week here in Germany, a doctor was fined, because here, it’s illegal for doctors to advertise on their websites that they do sterilisations or abortions. Yeah, and this shocked me, really, when I discovered this, a doctor was fined like €3000 for doing this. And you can live in your bubble and you think, “Okay we’re doing quite well”, and I hear this, some people will say to me, “But women are doing really well, look at all the things that they’ve got”, and then I’m like, “If you just scratched the surface, and if you really just open your eyes, you will see that so many of us are living in countries, being treated like second-class citizens without bodily autonomy, without equal pay, without equal work in the home.” You just have to really ask some questions, start asking your friends and hearing the stories that so many of us go through and because of the countries we live in… and in Germany it’s, the political party is Christian, so again, religion plays a huge part in how our government is run and the policies that they bring in and this shouldn’t be – it shouldn’t be like this. We need to separate religion and in America religion and state, especially, so yeah, so we have to keep fighting, keep fighting, and but it is scary times right now, scary times.

Daze:  It really is. It’s a big part of the reason why I chose to have the procedure also was just seeing how things were going in America with He-who-shall-not-be-named, the former president, and yeah just really scary times, very sobering. And another factor, I mean of course women globally, many do not have the same rights and access that you do, so that’s a sobering thing to think about globally, and then also, I’d say, another global issue that I just feel like has to be stated in that laundry list of things that women are facing is gender-based violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, typically by a family member, or someone that is known to the person – and that conversation just isn’t happening and it impacts so many people and people don’t talk about it because of the stigma, and the victim blaming, and when people do, they get raked over the coals by the people that think cancel culture is bad and want to defend perpetrators… So yeah, it’s a scary time to be a woman, and I kind of wonder if it could be any other way in this colonised world. Obviously, indigenous cultures had so many different ways of handling things, but the general trend I hear is that often, everyone kind of had their role and was respected, and there were more roles for people potentially – just, “Hey, oh, that’s who you are, and what you’re into? Great, do that.”

Zoë:  I read an article that was talking about how couples who, if they split the work in the chores and things by who enjoys doing what, who is good at doing what, their relationships are better, they have better sex, they are happier… It’s so clear that if you start by first working out, “What do you like? Who are you? What do you enjoy? What are you good at?” instead of just going, “You’re a woman, you’re going to do this, and you’re a man, you’re going to do this, and we’re going to just keep you in those boxes, and you’re going to shut up -“ And of course people are angry, upset, sad, depressed. I mean, I see it a lot in so many people who they go into relationships, and they’re kind of pushed into these roles, and if we could just open that up and just accept that we are beautifully diverse, and we are not the same person. And especially, childfree people, we are lumped into one group, women are lumped into one group as well. We’re all the same, we all want kids, and we all want to do this, and if we could just break that open – I really hope we are moving towards that. I mean do you feel that? Do you feel that as a queer non-binary person, are we getting better with this?

Daze:  I would love to say “yes”, I would love that so much. I think it’s getting better for some people. I think it’s really tough. We have, especially in America, so much propaganda, and so much misinformation, and so much hatred, I know that white supremacy is a global force, and it’s everywhere, but we have an incredible share of it here, and it does feel hard to have hope. I have my own epiphanies, my own realisations. I feel really lucky to even have language to describe how I feel. I know so many people in different parts of the world, in different parts of the country, and different religions, and bubbles don’t have access to language like “non-binary” or “autistic”. And they just feel like they’re a weirdo having to hide who they really are all of the time, and struggling with mental health problems because of that, just the tremendous power that it takes to hide and to mask and to try to fit in. So I like to think things are getting better, they’re getting better for me, but reading the room out there, I’m not sure it’s getting better for everyone. I hope it is, I hope that the more we have these conversations the better it gets and the more people realise, “Oh, if I do feel different than the cast, or the lot that has been set for me in life, I don’t have to fall in line”. And I do know people who’ve had children because they were religious, and they got married young and submitted to their husband, and it was what they had to do, and of course, they don’t regret their children – thankfully – I’m sure some do but they love their kids, but in retrospect, I’ve heard many say, “Oh, I would not have made that choice now, I wasn’t a conscious actor in that decision making.”

Zoë: I would love to know, what are you able to do because of your decision, to not have children to focus on other things like what are you able to do now with your life?

Daze: Well, I’m doing the same things that I’ve been doing all along fortunately, but without the fear. Of course, anything can happen at any point in life – getting pregnant is not the only curveball – but I am able to focus on my career and on my passions and on my hobbies and on relationships and friendships, and travel, of course not during COVID time. I’m able to prioritise the things that I want to do with my life, and I know that that sounds selfish to some people, and I think selfishness can be a very positive thing also if you’re taking care of yourself, doing what feels right for you, and giving that back to the world in positive, helpful ways – what more can we ask for from our lives? I think there’s so many ways we can support each other and nurture each other, and parents, our friends and our loved ones and our family members. And maybe there’s young people in our lives who need support and mentorship, and maybe you’re able to do like some kind of, I’m not affiliated with the organisation, or am I endorsing it necessarily, but like some kind of Big Brothers Big Sisters thing, like we have an America, where there’s opportunities to teach things to kids, or to get involved, be a coach, do any kind of volunteering, or any kind of helping people in our lives. And that’s something I’ve definitely, when I was talking with my family, I would always recommend, because my mom wanted to have so many kids, and she didn’t, and she wanted me to give her a baby if I got pregnant, and she just always had this fever for more and more and more and more animals, more kids, more and more and more, and I just always encouraged her and anyone who feels that way, like, “Look around you, there’s probably single parents that you know that really could use an extra hand and a little support, maybe you can pour some of that desire in – if it’s acceptable, if they like you and accept your support, and if it’s welcome – helping them out in some ways, being present in their lives, being part of their family in their pod.” So many ways to be a parent.

Zoë: Yeah, this is what is frustrating that, all of the people I speak to, they are giving back to society in so many other ways. It’s not like, “Oh, I’m not going to have kids, so I’m just going to sit on my arse and do nothing”. It’s like they are contributing to society and I would say that, they don’t have to be doing anything – this is the other thing that annoys me as well, about if women don’t have children, then they have to be high-flying career, doing incredible things, and we also need to stop that as well. It’s enough, that you can contribute to the people around you, whether that’s in your relationships, your friendships.

Daze: Yeah, maybe you help out in the community garden that feeds some of the families in our neighbourhood. I mean, it can be the simplest thing.

Zoë: It’s like when we say we don’t want children, there’s this visceral reaction of, “Well, you’re not giving anything back”, somehow, and it’s like, well, hang on, why do you just think that having a child is the only way to give back in it to our world? Why is that the only way? Because, in my eye, that’s not giving back, okay, you’re making another human to pay more taxes, which will continue with the cogs of capitalism, if we really, break it down. So cool you’re doing that, that might be great for our governments who want more taxes, but I still don’t believe that is any better any more of a contribution, than another human actually doing something and helping, like you said, that community or just being a good person, or just caring for other people in other ways, or it just is really, it’s such a narrow way of looking at how we are, how we should be and are contributing to our society, and so we need to kind of myth bust all of these, actually, childfree people are not what you think they are. Are there any myths that anyone has said to you that have irked you or annoyed you about being child free?

Daze: I don’t really talk about it, so I don’t hear about it to the extent that others do but definitely the main thing you hear in the American culture at least is that as you said, it’s considered selfish, and I don’t think that’s true. Many of the things you just stated I of course agree with and also in addition to like capitalism and taxes being happy with more people, we’re consumers – so if you have a baby in the western colonised world, you know, we’re supposed to own so much, we’re supposed to consume so much, we’re supposed to keep up with the Joneses and have the right shoes and have the right iPhone and have the right everything. It goes so far beyond taxes. It’s like we have all these baby shoes – what’s the solution? Let’s make more babies so we can sell more baby shoes – it’s like a John Prine lyric I believe. But it’s wild to me, the environmental repercussions of my own existence and I really have, this is another layer, and another reason for my decision that I didn’t tell my doctor and that I didn’t mention earlier is just, I cannot fathom bringing another person onto a planet where we’re not taking care of the people that are already here, where we have so many people that don’t have food and water and resources… And the colonised lens is like, “Oh, they’re simple and happy”. It’s like, no, they’re oppressed, and colonised, and  powerful governments have helped corrupt their governments to make their lives even worse, so we can extract more resources, so we can have our nice iPhones and Adidas – and I don’t mean to call out Adidas, I don’t know anything about their practices – we can have our brand name and sweatshop factory made and fast fashion and all of our trappings, and I find it really problematic, I strive to live simply and to consume as little as possible, which is still a substantial amount, and I know if I brought another person or two or three onto the planet that, that would multiply very quickly, my own footprint.

Zoë:  This is the thing that we also need to recognise is that yet none of us are perfect. When the discussion of the environmental impact comes up about children, and we know it is the most negative thing towards the environment – having a child – so we have to try and mitigate those things for sure. I mean I wish I was a better person, I try and do what I can, in my world, I try and do what I can and I just wish we could all kind of do a little bit of that and just have a think about, “What are you doing? Do you need to buy this thing? Do you need to have four, five, six, seven kids? What about what about one or two?” I mean, this pressure obviously, so it comes from when we are born. It comes at us from a very young age of “consume, produce”, and we kind of need to start thinking about another way of living because the way we’re living right now, it’s not working.

Daze: Yeah we’re told to get more and more and more and more and more, and you consume more and I’ve done this – I think we all have – every time you get a new thing, maybe you have a little hit of dopamine, you feel maybe a little happy for a minute… And of course, to a certain point, we need many things, there are so many things you can purchase, if you’re so fortunate to have money and access to resources that will improve your life, but at a certain point, we don’t need more – we have everything that we need to make a simple meal, and we have a roof over our head and we have clothes, beyond our basic needs. I feel like that stuff adds more stress and brings more on happiness, and we want to keep that dopamine hit coming, so we keep consuming, but it just becomes like less and less and less, so people consume more and more and more, but they’re never getting happier through the process of that.

Zoë: Exactly the more you get, like you said, the more you want. And the birth rate is going down, and governments are obviously freaking out. Well, the birth rate is going down into some countries, let’s say that, obviously it’s going down in Europe, America, and its governments are freaking out, but when we look at the resources are being hoarded by our countries, we are the ones that are actually causing the most damage to the planet.

Daze: – and extracting the most and the simplest solution to our population dilemma is that our governments are so worried about, in my opinion, from what I’ve heard is to allow immigration to occur – as there are people all over the globe in every age group, that would be probably quite happy to live in another country because they’re fleeing said persecution, probably created by our governments and extraction processes, and they would bring so much value.

Zoë: Oh absolutely, this is it. The birthrate is going down, because immigration is slowing down, because governments are not allowing people into our countries, but we’re not talking about this, and the pressure is falling on childfree people. Journalists asked me about the falling birth rate, and I’m like, “Well hang on, it’s actually nothing to do with childfree people, it’s that women are having fewer children”. So it’s not that we’re not having children, it’s that we’re just able to have more access to birth control, opportunities, education, and that is why many, many women are actually having fewer – but it’s this whole kind of, they want to control the narrative and they don’t want the reality to go out there that actually the birth rate, it’s largely because we’re not allowing immigration, and you’re right, if we just allowed people who need help to come into our countries – problem solved. But we want white babies – that’s the problem.

Daze: Yeah, white supremacy.

Zoë: And you know, it’s when you kind of recognise it when you see it, it’s really frustrating, it’s infuriating. So I hope that we can start to really have these open, honest conversations, rather than just shaming women for not having kids – which is really what we’re doing now. When I saw there was a big article that came out in America about the falling birth rates, and then there’s just more pressure on women to, “Hey, it’s your fault that, we’re not going to be able to pay your taxes, and you better start having kids”, and it’s just like, hang on – is that all we’re here for? Are we just on this planet as vessels to produce children for your taxes?

Daze: They’re just trying to bring it back to a personal conversation of “You are responsible for this, it’s your fault”, versus the corporations and policymakers have actually made this a pretty unliveable place where… I heard that our birth rate’s about where it was in the 1930s, and what was happening then? The Dust Bowl, the Great Recession. Read the room – if you could find any way to not have a child during that intense economic downturn, we would find it. And my parents were able to work hard at very menial jobs and buy houses at young ages, and it was something you could do in the 70s, or something you could do in prior generations, and it’s not something you can do any more. Houses where I live are incredibly expensive, compared to where they were even a decade ago, and they’re typically selling for about $100,000 over the asking price, people paying in cash, so the actual common person has almost no chance of buying a house, and having that two cars, a partner, a couple of kids, it’s kind of an economic impossibility for so many people. And for those that of course do choose it, it’s often just a big struggle to fit into that lifestyle, and to try to make it all happen and your life becomes just around survival, as it was for my family at least. And I wish that motherhood was supported, we want birth to happen at all costs in America, but then the maternity leave is abysmal and if you’re a male, the paternity leave is nonexistent or small typically, and there’s no incentives, and everything costs so much money, and I think that it’s just so much of a bigger conversation as to why the birth rates are falling. It’s not any one thing, It’s so many things and the immigrations.

Zoë: That’s the thing. It’s a huge, huge topic. And when we just try and reduce it down to, “Oh, women are having a lifestyle decision of ‘I don’t want to have kids’,” it’s like “No, oh my gosh, if that’s what you really think then you are completely missing the point”, and really, we need to work out, what can our governments do to help? Like you said, they can start paying adequate maternity and paternity, that’s a basic – because in America, you do have this kind of like family is put on a pedestal, it’s like, you have to have a family, you have to have children, we see that with, your presidents and your politicians, they all have to have a family and god forbid them if they don’t have kids, like, whoa – so it’s like they talk about family as the ultimate, and the way they treat women, mothers especially, it’s heartbreaking. It’s really heartbreaking, and it needs to be exposed. I don’t know, I hope people can get on the streets, they can try and show that we are half the population here, so we do have power, but we need more of us in the top of governments, we need more women making policy changes and it’s so slow going, I don’t know what else can we do other than protest get out on the streets and even if it’s just in your remit, in your area with the people that you talk to, try and educate people and make them understand that this is something that we’re all going through. And for childfree people, especially when they have this kind pushback, of this blame put on them – we need to stop this, let’s stop laying the blame on, like you said, individuals. This is not this is not an individual, this is huge corporations and governments burying their heads in the sand and not actually treating the issues really.

Daze: Absolutely. And like, I totally agree that we need to have more women and people of colour and immigrants and all kinds of, disabled, all kinds of people that are different in positions of power; traditionally marginalised groups, et cetera. But so often what we see, at least in America, is maybe the person has darker skin, or they’re a poster child or something, but they’re upholding the agendas of the corporations, of the police, of the governments, of everything. And that’s the only reason that they have that position of power so the cycles continue. Might as well be a white guy in a suit. It’s really unfortunate to see that happen, and of course, we’re so excited when one of these people get elected, it feels like a huge victory, but then the actual policy changes that come are either their hands are tired of course, as we see with people like AOC and she’s a small vocal minority, I’m so thankful for her and others like her.

Zoë: She’s amazing. You’re right, thank god we have her, because just knowing that there are people like her, who are trying their damn hardest to make changes. She is a badass, an absolute badass, and I wish we had more like her.

Daze: Me too. I know, I wish that I could be that person. Part of the way that my autism manifests is that I can get pretty nonverbal. I’m good in a one-on-one conversation like this, but when it comes to speaking to an audience, or answering questions in front of a class or anything like that, my mind goes blank, so I do feel that responsibility of like, “Oh, I’m an attractive white person, I have a voice, I should be sharing more than I am”. But I don’t have the strong voice of someone like AOC in a public way, so I’m so thankful to leaders like that, and I just hope that more and more people with that skill set are able to get into positions of power.

Zoë: Oh God, I look at her and her speeches when she’s taking someone down, and I’m just like my mouth is dropped. I’m just like, “Oh, my gosh, you are incredible.” And when, people will try and take her down, they’ll call her names, and people she works with will threaten her and she just keeps getting up and dust herself off, and it’s like, “Nope, you’re not going to do it”. And, yeah she’s incredible, she gives me hope for the future that we do have people there who are fighting and doing as much as they can. And even like we were saying earlier, if we can just do a little bit ourselves, just whatever you’re able to do, because like you said, you go through a lot with your autism, and not everyone has the abilities, or the money, or the freedom to do all of these huge things, but it can start really small, it can be just something very small, and even just your interactions with other people or creating your chosen family and making that a safe space for people in your vicinity, and that is so important, especially for childfree people, and making that chosen family, we all need that support.

Daze: We do and like as a childfree, queer, autistic person, it feels impossible that I should ever find a community that’s fitting all of those. But in a way there’s multiple communities that I can have support from and multiple families of choice and support groups and opportunities. I love the family of choice – I’m so glad you brought that up – that’s been my salvation since I left the farm, and there are so many people who care and who get it and who are on the same page, and I try not to be in a bubble-bubble, because I always want to have access to different perspectives and different types of people but family of choice helps us be able to make those steps out into the world, right? You have your firm foundation and people you can process things with. And hopefully we can stop this nuclear family mentality of the individualists and we’re all islands and our little suburban homes and learn to be a little more communal and connected because that’s what humans need. That’s how we thrive and that’s how we survive ultimately.

Zoë: We are Childfree is hosted by me, Zoë Noble, and produced by James Glazebrook. If you liked this episode, please leave a review on your podcast app, as this really helps other people find us. Head to http://wearechildfree.com to read more inspiring childfree stories, and find out how to share your story with me. Speak soon lovelies.