My Big Fat Queer Jewish Family

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David Shneer, his partner Gregg, and their friend Caryn are a “three-parent, two-house, one-home family” getting ready to bring a new life into the world. As you can read in his piece, “My Big Fat Queer Jewish Family,” their lifestyle choices haven’t always been met with rapturous applause. Much to his chagrin, the number one question he’s receiving is “Which one of you is the father?”

I never understood the power of biology quite so starkly as when I began the process of building my family. I’ve always encouraged others to think about family in new ways and to emphasize that family members are the people who care for one another, who create webs of mutual interdependence upon which the others rely. At first when people would ask, “Which one of you is the real father?” I’d play dumb, pretending that I didn’t really understand the question. “We’re both the dads, of course.” But the inevitable “clarification” would follow. “I mean, which one of you is the real dad, the biological dad?”

I had to do everything possible not to get bent out of shape that the world into which I was bringing a child was still so dominated by the idea that a sperm and an egg make a family. So, I would usually tell people that it was none of their business.

When Caryn, Gregg, and I embarked on the road of co-parenting, we knew that we were going to be put under the microscope by the people around us who were curious about what we were doing. I love curious people. That’s why I became a professor. Curiosity is what sparks creativity and the advancement of knowledge. Curiosity can be harnessed to create social change. Curiosity is what builds intimacy.

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Comments on My Big Fat Queer Jewish Family

  1. This is a great article. I know a very lovely teen girl with two moms and one dad. I don’t know whos DNA she shares, and I don’t care. I just know she’s a happy, well adjusted kid, who is lucky to have 3 parents who love her very much. I love the description of “three-parent, two-house, one-home family” from the article.

  2. I feel like sometimes the biological question is out of interest in the child’s future traits. Will the child be tall, brown hair, blond hair, blue eyes, etc. I agree it is really none of anyone else’s business, but here’s an example I’m thinking of:

    Family I babysat for has a 2-dad family and Dad A is superbly tall. Like, 7’5″. Dad B is average, about 6’0″. Everyone wanted to know who she would resemble height-wise, so they asked the biology question. I didn’t think this was intrusive, because it’s such a huge difference in avg height vs supremely tall. Dads didn’t seem to mind either

  3. As a lesbian mom-to-be that considered several configurations of how to build my family, I’d love to know more about how unconventionally-structured families like this one evolve over time. I’ve heard a lot of these kinds of stories while they are in the baby phase. Are there more stories like this once kids are school aged? Or even teens? How do these awesome families evolve through time?

    • I’ll see if the family I mentioned above will comment on this. I’ve known them since the girl was in 7th grade. She’s a junior in high school now. She lives with her moms full time. Dad lives near by and was a close friend of her moms before she was born. Dad comes to all her band concerts, plays, parent teacher conferences etc just like her moms. She stays at Dad’s on the weekends sometimes, but it seems to be occasional. Her moms are definitely more involved on a day to day basis, but Dad is a huge part of her life too. It’s never come up, but now that you ask about how families like this evolve I wonder how they handle kid related expenses? Spilt everything three ways? Whose house she’s at now seems more dictated by her busy high school schedule, but I wonder if they had a set rotation when she was younger. It’s a less common arrangement for sure, but they have one of the best family dynamics I’ve ever encountered.

  4. I’m a single mom – I’ve been my eight year old’s only parent since I was pregnant. Almost a decade in, people continue to astonish and amaze me with their questions and comments about my family.

    I figure anybody with enough audacity to probe into who I slept with, when, and what the results might have been, can stand to listen to a tiny lecture. What I tell them (as well as I what I tell my daughter and – most importantly – what I believe) is that there are two kinds of parents: biological and real. Everybody has two biological parents, one male and one female, who contributed the necessary cells for them to have been born. Regardless of who our bio parents are, I feel like if we’re alive, we have room to be grateful to our biological parents for giving us life.

    Real parents are the parents who grow us. They’re the ones who love and teach us and who are our moms and dads. The people who are in it for the long haul, the people who raise us – these are our real parents.

    Sometimes biological parents and real parents are one in the same. Sometimes they’re not.

    • “Sometimes biological parents and real parents are one in the same. Sometimes they’re not.”

      Truer words have never been spoken.

  5. This is incredibly close to one of my ideal parenting situations. I am so glad to see this article and hear other people who know of such a thing working (or at least wouldn’t laugh at the idea). Yet again, Offbeat Mama to the rescue of my sanity and dreams! 🙂

  6. The only (that I can think of) valid reason for needing to know the biological parent are for medical concerns. It’s a good thing to know whether somebody might inherit a risk for diabetes or similar things. (Of couse this concers only direct caregivers/medical professionals/the child itself.) Other than that, motivations for asking should be considered carefully!

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