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Spring is here. Philly Pride is less than one month away. In the next few months, local LGBTQ folks will flock to celebrations of all kinds, basking in the energy and vibrance of our community. Along with this revelry comes the opportunity for new sexual encounters.

Near the end of Ashlee’s first trimester, I started noticing that the stereotype about pregnancy and emotions is no joke. She cried a lot — like, a lot. So much so that I started keeping a good-natured list on my phone titled “Things That Make Ashlee Cry.” A sampling:

• She learned one of my relatives is a Republican.

• Our dog, Cassie, got mud on the comforter.

• She saw a video of a baby laughing.

• She realized Cassie would die someday.

• She found a hole in her shirt.

And the list goes on. I started it in part as a souvenir of this crazy adventure, and also to remind us both to find the humor in this rollercoaster ride. From the unexpected to the unknown, the number of loops prospective parents can be thrown as they seek to build a family can be emotionally and mentally exhausting.

The unexpected

Both Ashlee and I are planners, and sometimes organized to a fault — which is why we often felt bombarded by the unpredictable nature of trying to conceive. More times than we can count, we had to revise Plan A into Plan B and Plan B into Plan C, and then totally scrap all our plans and open up a bottle of wine.

The donor-selection process was among the steps where roadblocks popped up around every corner. Little did we know that competition for sperm is fierce. After sifting through scores and scores of printed-out donor profiles and getting so deep into the nitty gritty that we were comparing the word choices donors used in their essays, we finally selected the champion. He had eight vials available — perfect! We went to bed satisfied with our choice, but putting off maxing out our credit card buying the stock until the morning. Big mistake. Our perfect donor had all but two vials left within just a few hours. The doctors advised us to get at least three (as it takes many women between three and five attempts using intrauterine insemination to conceive), and we also wanted to freeze extra for a future sibling — so it was back to square one. We took even less time to choose the next time but the same thing happened. We started likening our fellow sperm-seekers to vultures.

Thankfully, a new donor cropped up whom we both vetted while we were separately on our way home from work; Ashlee picked me up at the train station, we pulled into a library parking lot, called the cryobank and voilà. It was a crash course in learning how to keep our cool — which we often didn’t — when things didn’t go as planned.

The medical procedures deepened those lessons. The day after Ashlee’s first insemination in September, she woke up with intense stomach pain. Was this normal? We had zero idea. A doctor’s visit and yet another ultrasound later, and it turns out Ashlee had developed cysts from the hormone meds she had to take for two weeks leading up to the procedure. Hormone-related cysts aren’t uncommon, with some studies citing that 10 percent of women who take fertility drugs such as Clomid develop them. While some have to put off another insemination until the cysts shrink, thankfully Ashlee’s weren’t too large and the fertility doctor went to Plan B with a different type of hormone.

The timing of the inseminations was another curveball, as we had to abide by Mother Nature. The fertility center tracks women’s ovulation to try to get as optimum a timeframe as possible. For the first attempt, they scheduled the procedure the day after we were there for an ultrasound. On the second, however, I got a frantic text from Ashlee telling me to hightail it out of work and to the reproductive center because they needed to do it in just an hour. After two negatives, we were all geared up for what we hoped would be our lucky number three, only to have the docs tell us they missed the ovulation window and we had to wait another month.

With each hiccup, we practiced how to put things in perspective — yes, it was annoying that Babies “R” Us announced it was closing after we had picked out our nursery furniture, but in the grand scheme of things, a crib is a crib — and to rely on one another for that vantage point if we couldn’t see it ourselves.

The unknown

The process of building a family has felt like walking into a great black tunnel, with no clue of what lay ahead — other than lots and lots of waiting.

Each IUI attempt was much more involved than we envisioned. Ashlee’s nightstand became a veritable drugstore, between the prenatal vitamins and the hormone regimen. For two weeks, she went for several ultrasounds for the reproductive doctors to track when she may ovulate. When the time came, the procedure itself was quick and painless — we were in and out in a half- hour — but then the real waiting started. The reproductive center strongly advised against taking home pregnancy tests in case of a false negative because of the hormones. Instead, they scheduled Ashlee to come back for bloodwork in two weeks to test her hCG levels, which indicate pregnancy. Then it’s an agonizing half-day before the doctor calls with the results; if it’s a no, it’s back to square one with the hormones.

With so much riding on that test, the waiting is interminable. We tried to normalize it with a routine. The day of the insemination, we each wore some kind of “Harry Potter” clothing item — we’re both big fans and had already decided to theme our eventual child’s nursery after the book series. After each insemination, we had breakfast at IHOP. Ashlee came home and put her legs up (the doctors advised us this was unnecessary, but we watched a lot of “The L Word” in our youth). Then we tried to go about business as usual with work and other obligations. By the third try, our routine became laden with even more superstitions — such as Ashlee eating pineapple core, which some say encourages implantation — the day after the insemination (again, the doctors laughed this off).

It sounds silly but those dependable behaviors became our way of coping with so much unknown. Would the insemination work? How many would we try until we gave up? Should we switch to in-vitro? And with every disappointment, we fell back onto that routine to give us something we could control.

Once we got the wonderful news of a positive pregnancy, it set off another cascade of questions. With each symptom Ashlee began to feel, and each change her body went through, we have gone rushing to Google (not always the best idea, we’ve learned) to see if that’s “normal” or not. We’ve wandered aimlessly through aisles of baby stores, baffled as to how parents figure out what they need to care for their child (and why — just why! — there is an entire floor-to-ceiling wall devoted to different types of bottles). There have been endless hours worrying about the what-ifs — especially between medical appointments in the first three months, during which time most pregnancy complications could occur. Ashlee is now approaching 26 weeks and we’ve come to see that the unknown is always there; we’ve just accepted its presence as we’ve found our footing — an evolution that we’re guessing continues all the way until our little one is an adult, and maybe even after.

While the emotional toll of becoming a parent has been high, perspective has been a lifesaving partner. We’ve tried to remind ourselves that the surprises we encountered during this process were ultimately more frustrating than they were foundation-shaking, and that the disappointments we faced would pale as soon as good news came. As Ashlee heads into the dreaded third trimester and there’s a glimmer of light at the end of that tunnel, we’re holding onto both of those lessons for dear life. 


Jen Colletta is the former editor of PGN.

Q: I’ve been reading a lot about potential inflation concerns and also about something called “TIPS” as an investment idea for this. Can you please help me understand how these work?

A: Yes, there has certainly been plenty of talk recently about whether or not we may see more inflation in the coming months and years. Here’s a bit more information about TIPS: what they are, and why they may be an option for some.
 
Remember inflation — that nasty beast that plagued the U.S. economy in the ’70s and ’80s, driving prices up more than 10 percent a year and wreaking havoc with financial markets?

For most Americans, high inflation may be only a distant memory, at least in the U.S. In fact, the last time the Consumer Price Index registered an annual increase above 4 percent was in 1991 — more than 25 years ago.1 And in the five years ending Dec. 31, 2017, it averaged only 1.4 percent.

Lately, there have been growing concerns about mounting inflationary pressures. A thriving economy, a tight labor market, a housing boom, the stimulative effects of the $1.5-trillion tax cut passed in December and, most recently, the prospect of a trade war all put upward pressure on prices. In January, the CPI spiked to a seasonally adjusted .5 percent for the month — which, if the trend continued, would put annual inflation considerably above the fed’s target rate of 2 percent. Although the monthly increase dropped down to .2 percent in February, many economists see an eventual uptick. The Federal Reserve has already been applying the brakes, with six increases in the federal-funds rate since late 2015, including a .25-percent hike in March.

But even at moderate levels, inflation can still take a toll on investments over time. Consider that the purchasing price of $1,000 would erode to just $744 if subject to 3-percent inflation over 10 years. So, for investors, especially retirees and others depending on fixed-income investments, inflation is a real concern.

TIPS to the rescue
In an attempt to protect fixed-income investors from inflation, the Treasury Department issues inflation-indexed bonds called Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) in five-, 10- and 30-year maturities with a return linked to the inflation rate. These bonds are available for purchase in $100 increments through financial advisors, banks and Treasury Direct (www.treasurydirect.gov).

The benefits of TIPS include:
• Rate of return is guaranteed to exceed the rate of inflation.
• Principal is indexed to the CPI.
• Semiannual interest payments are based on the interest rate applied to the inflation-adjusted value of the principal.
• Guaranteed return of the principal even if the rate of inflation drops.

The drawbacks of TIPS include:
• If sold before maturity, prices can be volatile, varying with interest-rate changes.
• TIPS are less liquid than ordinary treasuries.
• Interest payments on TIPS will vary, depending upon the inflation adjustment.
• Although the principal is adjusted for inflation, TIPS typically pay lower interest rates than treasuries with comparable maturities.

How do TIPS compare with traditional treasury bonds? Assuming the inflation rate is 3 percent and the yield of an unindexed $1,000, 10-year treasury note is 5 percent, the real yield of this note would be 2 percent (5 percent minus the inflation rate). After a year, an investor would gain $50 of interest but be ahead by only $20 because of the effect of inflation.
In general, it makes the most sense to purchase TIPS if you expect a major uptick in inflation. Whether that scenario is in the offing at this time is unclear. But if inflation does rear up, TIPS could be a viable alternative to consider.

Jeremy R. Gussick is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional affiliated with LPL Financial, the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer.* Jeremy specializes in the financial planning and retirement income needs of the LGBT community and was recently named a 2017 FIVE STAR Wealth Manager as mentioned in Philadelphia Magazine.** He is active with several LGBT organizations in the Philadelphia region, including DVLF (Delaware Valley Legacy Fund) and the Independence Business Alliance (IBA), the Philadelphia Region’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce. OutMoney appears monthly. If you have a question for Jeremy, you can contact him via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Jeremy Gussick is a Registered Representative with, and securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC.
   1Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Consumer Price Index, 1913-Present.
    Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Although the interest that inflation-indexed bonds pay is exempt from state and local taxes, federal income taxes apply. You are required to pay taxes on the interest and any increase in principal on an annual basis.
    This article was prepared with the assistance of DST Systems Inc. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. Please consult me if you have any questions. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.
    Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by DST Systems Inc. or its sources, neither Wealth Management Systems Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall DST Systems Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscribers’ or others’ use of the content.
    To the extent you are receiving investment advice from a separately registered independent investment advisor, please note that LPL Financial LLC is not an affiliate of and makes no representation with respect to such entity
*As reported by Financial Planning magazine, June 1996-2017, based on total revenues.
**Award based on 10 objective criteria associated with providing quality services to clients such as credentials, experience, and assets under management among other factors. Wealth managers do not pay a fee to be considered or placed on the final list of 2017 Five Star Wealth Managers.

Summer is quickly approaching and with the warmer weather also comes a renewed pressure to look our best. This is not a new problem nor is it one that fails to affect most Americans. I don’t know about you, but in the last month or so, my social-media feeds have been full of memes and jokes about turning that winter body around ASAP.

The inclination to be more physically fit during warmer months is a plight that is relatable to most and it’s a thought process that falls within normal limits for the average adult person, psychologically speaking. It’s logical: We’re showing off more of our bodies so we want to make sure that what had previously been covered looks acceptable once it becomes not covered. Vain as it may be, it’s part of the human condition to have concern for physical appearance. If you’re a gay man though, you may be even more likely to spend time thinking about and attending to your appearance than all the rest of us and it begs the question of whether there are negative consequences to this kind of attentiveness.

In my therapy practice, I find that most gay men feel moderate to extreme pressure to look as physically fit as possible as well as to appear generally attractive and well put together at pretty much all times. For some, it seems to simply be an accepted part of life albeit a lot of work to keep up with. For others, the pressures around being a certain weight and feeling attractive enough has clear psychological consequences. These consequences run the gamut, ranging from negative self-image all the way to disordered behaviors such as restricting food or even purging. Statistics provided by the National Eating Disorders Association estimate that up to 42 percent of males with eating disorders identify as gay. When considering that gay men are thought to be only about 5 percent of the population, that number is massive.

To be clear, body image and the desire to be thin is not the only reason that someone develops an eating disorder. Eating disorders can relate to a strong need to feel in control. If a person is feeling out of control in their lives overall, controlling food and eating habits can become one way that they feel in control. In other words, being gay doesn’t give people eating disorders but it may mean that a gay man with other risk factors (for an eating disorder) is more likely to actually develop an eating disorder than his straight male counterpart.

In recent years, we’ve just begun to embrace ideas like self-love and body positivity as a society; however, these messages have in no way replaced the more-pervasive idea of the “perfect” body. We are constantly pummeled with unrealistic ideas of physical beauty and attractiveness. Within the gay male community, this is even more true. One community member that I spoke with about the subject said, “I feel a lot of pressure. I can look at someone hot and feel pressured by it because that’s how I want to look too. Guys in the gay community: You have to look a certain way. You have to be fashion-conscious and you have to have a good body.” Another gay man I spoke with about the topic discussed restricting his caloric intake “on most days” as summer months approach, admitting that it’s easier for him to “be a little hungry” than to deal with going to the gym multiple times a week.

For a gay male grappling with all of this pressure to look good, ideas about body positivity may fall short of making an impact. I think it behooves all of us to focus on interacting with our bodies in positive ways. Activities like yoga, massage, stretching, or even a calming bath can help to change the associations we have to our bodies.  It is also important to reflect on your relationship to the bodies of others. Being overly critical or judgmental of a fellow community member’s physical appearance only perpetuates these uncomfortably high standards for gay men.

It is completely typical to care about physical appearance. In fact, attentiveness to one’s physicality can perpetuate good health, both psychologically and physically as long as that attentiveness doesn’t turn into hyper-focus or worse, obsession. A good method to try to avoid overthinking appearance is this: Focus on feeling good in your own skin and shift your attention away from other people’s appearances (if the reason for looking is to compare yourself to them). Focus on health over good looks and aspire to be kind to yourself and others instead of critical and unforgiving. We only get this one life, so let’s not waste it worrying too much about the superficial.
 
Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist committed to working with LGBT individuals and couples and the owner of Emerge Wellness, an LGBT health and wellness center in Center City (www.emergewellnessphilly.com).

My spouse Helen and I recently celebrated our 25th anniversary (though our time as legal spouses is obviously shorter). Reaching a quarter-century together — just about half of my life — feels significant in a way that previous anniversaries, even milestone ones at the decade marks, have not. Here are a few reflections on the occasion.

On Nov. 8, 2017, my dad died. We had known he was dying — had had weeks to prepare for his death. What I was not prepared for was the sense of irrevocable loss. My dad was gone. He wasn’t just my dad. He was my hero. He was my friend.

As I let the three Blue Moons I had enjoyed at my going-away lunch with my PGN colleagues wear off, I watched the snow pile up outside the window from the poorly forecasted, pre-Christmas surprise storm. I was anxiously awaiting the sound of my wife’s car pulling into the driveway; we knew the doctor would be calling that day with the news of her pregnancy test and agreed she’d wait to share it with me in person, good or bad. The serendipity of the fact that we were getting the result the day I left my longtime position as PGN editor wasn’t lost on me. I had made the tough decision to move on from the paper in large part to be closer to home in the suburbs as we got ready to have kids.

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