Queer Parent 101

Guest post by Natasha Pinterics
Me & My Moms

Upon finding out that I am a queer mama, there are a number of common responses I encounter. As I don’t have a sign advertising my “queerness” and veer towards the girly side of things (thus screwing up peole’s weird ideas of what a queer girl should look like), I often come out after inquiries about my husband. (Because every woman with children clearly must have one of those, right?! That’s a whole ‘nother rant altogether.) This happens on a daily basis, from anyone to store clerks to other parents and caregivers at playgrounds.

Having kids makes you come out A LOT! I cannot lie – I get sick of coming out all of the time. It’s inconvenient and anxiety-producing and awkward and taps into my own internalized crap. Not to mention that having to be the “educator” all of the time gets old pretty damn quick. But I owe it to my kids to be out and unashamed, so I try my best. (Some days are better than others).

I’ve encountered a number of reactions to my coming out…

Of course, there have been positive responses, these are the folks I’ve snapped up as friends, because, for this and many other reasons, they are marvelous human beings. Once, a stranger apologized for having assumed that I was straight. Her, I wanted to hug (after almost keeling over from shock and surprise!)

But more often, I get the “embarrassed silence then edge slowly away” response. Sometimes I get a dumb struck and/or confused look (um, but you have babies!) and sometimes they pretend I didn’t say anything at all.

And then there are the doozies…

1. I hate, hate, hate it when people I’ve just met at the park or the supermarket or some playgroup pretend to be cool when taking in the news of my queerness, and then lean in conspiratorially (to further demonstrate their smooth and laid-back acceptance of my queerness, naturally,) and whisper “Do you mind if I ask, you know, how you did it?” This is really, really, really common. It’s also really, really obnoxious.

The thing is, they always seem to be wanting something salacious – like hearing that I went out and found 10 sailors for a mad-wanton-porn-star-lesbot-babymaking session. Nope. No sailors. (Poor, poor, lonely, lesbian-less sailors). Just me, L., a nurse, a speculum, and a teeny weeny vial of 3168.

2. What do you know about the dad?/What about the dad?/Don’t you think kids need a dad? or some variation of the above.

Yikes. First or all, my kids don’t have a dad. My kids have a donor. Some anonymous guy who spoofed in a cup so people like me and people struggling with infertility could have babies. I love you 3168, wherever you are, for spoofing in a cup for us, whatever your reasons. But spoofing in a cup does not a dad make. Dads are people who are involved in their kids’ lives – who read stories change diapers and play soccer and get barfed on, and so on and so forth.

I think kids have really basic needs. They need love and encouragement and good role models. (I do sometimes worry about my kids’ lack of male role models – but we’re working on that, and that’s an issue for another blog!). I think kids need folks who are engaged and involved in their lives. Peole who worry about them, who listen to them. This, my kids have in spades.

3. Do you think that’s fair to your kids to have two moms? I mean, kids are cruel. Aren’t you worried about bullying/teasing/other forms of social trauma befalling your kids?

Yes, yup, uh-huh. You bet I’m worried about those things! All of the time. But do I think being born to two moms who love and nurture them is unfair to my kids? For real? I think what is really unfair to my children is that we live in a world where it’s still okay to bandy about homophobic bullshit without even having the grace to be even a little bit embarassed about it. Sheesh.

4. It must be hard not to be able to “make a kid out of your love” or something to this effect.

First of all, most kids aren’t made out of love, they’re made out of sex. Whether or not that meeting of egg and sperm is an expression of their parent’s love is, I’m guessing, a case by case kinda thing.

And second of all… my partner and I tried to get pregnant with our son for over two years. TWO YEARS! Two years of incredible highs of hope and devastating lows of disappointment. We laughed together and cried together. My partner held my hand at every appointment and ran home from work on more than one occasion because I called her crying when I got my period. Again. When we finally got those two red lines on the pee stick, after two years of living on a roller coaster, we cried and laughed and danced and sat together in shock and disbelief and elation. My daughter was conceived at the same clinic, with my partner holding my hand and my 1 1/2 year old son sitting on my belly, squishing my face and sticking his fingers up my nose. And if that isn’t being conceived as a part of our love, then I don’t know what is.

5. The absolute worst, though, is when we are out as a family and get “Which one of you is the mom?” We inevitably explain that we are BOTH our children’s moms. Then, almost without fail, we are asked, “yeah, but which one of you is their “real” mom?”

This is so asinine, and so hurtful to non-biological parents. Neither carrying a child to term, nor giving birth makes someone a mom, just like spoofing in a cup doesn’t make someone a dad. Coming through, being there, taking those highs and lows, doing the hard work, holding that sick baby through the night, or comforting that tantruming kid whose body is both wracked with sobs and kicking you, being a disciplinarian, a teacher, a cook, a playmate … that’s what makes you a parent. My wife is the most amazing parent. She is patient and gentle and devoted to both of our children.

I’ve worked in the social services long enough to know that biology is not what makes you a parent. Biology doesn’t mean shit. Being a parent — that, you have to earn.

Comments on Queer Parent 101

  1. THANK YOU. I've been hoping for something like this on offbeat mama. My partner and I are getting the baby ball rolling and plan to start trying at the end of this year. I feel like this was written for us as I've been really struggling with some of the things you mentioned – coming out all the time, being asked who is the "real" mom, being asked about "dad" – thank you for being so honest and telling it like it is. And #4 made me cry. Hard.

  2. I am a single mom and I have never been married so I also got those questions and I to do not get why people have to assume and judge!!!!

    Thanks for this beautifully written post.

    God Bless your children. My wonderful daughter is 26 and seems to be "OK' with not having a present dad. My sperm donor happened to be attached to his sperm at the time of insemination but no more present than yours. Ha Ha.

  3. This is a great post, and it's really very illuminating. I do have a question about what's okay to ask; personally, I'm always curious about what kids call their parents, just because I'm not sure what I would have my kids call me and my partner should I settle down with a same sex partner. Also, generally, that kind of linguistic thing fascinates me; it's the same with names for grandparents since they're different in just about every family. I don't want to come across as insensitive though. 🙁 Should I keep my curiosity to myself in this instance?

    Also I hope just asking this doesn't seem insensitive in general. 🙁

    • My man's bio-daughters call their moms Mommy and Mama, so they each have a distinct name. ( I don't know what they will do if the girls decide they are too old to use Mommy and Mama). His mom goes by her name, although she is referred to by one of the grandma's as "the other grandma", with the understanding that one can never have too many grandmas. He goes by his name too, although the girls are being raised knowing that they are a part of his family, and our children are being raised as "sort-of cousins" until they are old enough to know their biological relationship.

    • The amazing and wonderful parent blogger LD- author of LesbianDad (http://www.lesbiandad.typepad.com)- goes by Baba. LD's reasoning and writing in general is just so beautiful that I won't even attempt to do it justice by paraphrasing here. Also, I highly recommend that you set aside a few hours to read all of the bloggy archives because they're just that good. I'm sorry if you had other plans for the next few hours. 😉

      Also, Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of "She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders," writes poignantly about her sons' completely hilarious and organic invention of a new moniker after she had sexual reassignment surgery. Her transition from Daddy to Maddy will make you laugh, cry and think.

    • Not a bad question… For now, we are Mama (me) and Mommy (my partner). When the kids are old enough to pick for themselves, they are free to change it up!

      🙂 Natasha

      • Bach! We run into this problem in our poly household when my boyfriend will say “Hey baby, could you …” and me and his wife both get up to do it – and then have to figure out who he was actually talking to.

  4. Great post, and ain't it amazing how NOSY people are? I usually try and come back with rude questions about them back, heh. Like strangers putting their hands on your pregnant belly (I put mine right on their belly then)

  5. I'm a femme identified queer mom as well. I had my son with my exwife (who sadly decided that she wasn't ready to be part of a family post birth). My son was concieved at home, in my bed, with love in my heart and i believe in my ex wifes as well.
    I FULLY understand your blog. In fact, it was like reading my own thoughts put down onto a blog in a much wittier way than i could probably convey them. So .. awesome!
    It's funny how many people assume or want to believe that I/We posted some craigslist ad for hot sex with random strangers in order to concieve my son.

  6. "yeah, but which one of you is their "real" mom?"

    That sort of implies that step parents who have been there since babyhood aren't real parents. Ugh.

    And aside from that, what an inappropriate to ask a complete stranger!

  7. Rock on! The comment "(Poor, poor, lonely, lesbian-less sailors)" had me laughing out loud!

    Also, in my opinion, comments or inquiries regarding conception are in poor taste and rude no matter what the situation!

  8. "3. Do you think that's fair to your kids to have two moms? I mean, kids are cruel. Aren't you worried about bullying/teasing/other forms of social trauma befalling your kids?"

    Because clearly, kids with straight parents never get made fun of.

    • there's actually research to show that kids get bullied at school no matter what, be it the colour of their skin or hair, their size, their speech impediment, having two moms, no moms, no dad, too smart, not smart enough…kids get teased, and what builds resilience and develops happy healthy kids is having parents that love them unconditionally. The possibility of being teased is hardly a reason to not procreate and furthermore, are they kidding?? Do YOU think it is fair on kids to have two moms that love and adore them, twice the amount of love as one Mom. Yes I do.

  9. Sigh. Yes, Edmonton is a redneck town – but, thanks to people who are out & proud, it`s slooooowly starting to come around. Congrats on a happy, healthy family – and my sympathies. My ex-partner and I used to get the same types of crap when we talked about having kids (and that was *just* talking!) as a "two-mommy" family. Thanks for helping to blaze a trail of acceptance!

  10. As a straight woman in a wonderful marriage with her hubby who is trying to conceive…I completely agree. Babies are made from sperm and an egg…it should not matter who, or where it comes from. I can only imagine the roller coaster you and your wife experienced trying to get pregnant, and wish the ignorant people you experience could be in your shoes for one day. I can only hope that in my generation, we'll eventually start to weed out the ignorance and educate people on families-it doesn't matter on the structure, whether it's nuclear or not-as long as the child/ren are getting the love and support they need. I think a lot of my friends, co-workers, and people I have met would have been a lot better off having two loving gay or lesbian parents then having a straight couple who fought constantly or had an absentee father or mother.

    Great post.

  11. "yeah, but which one of you is their "real" mom?"
    Pahleese! As if "mom" is defined by gestation alone.

    Thanks for this great insightful post. I am off to share it with all my friends, queer family minded or otherwise.

  12. Wonderful post! I can only hope that your one-on-one activism makes it easier for the next queer parent who encounters each person you've tried to educate.

    Strangely, when I've refrained from assuming people are straight, many straight people get huffy. "He's not my partner, he's my husband!"

    When I've referred to my husband as my partner, people either assume my partner is a woman or that my partner is a man but we're not married. What, husbands and wives can't be partners too?

    As for conceiving children out of love, as someone whose children were conceived in a treatment cycle that did not involve any sex, the pregnancy-resulting-from-sex jokes are tiresome and there's no better test of "love" than seven years of infertility.

    • I am totally with you BabySmiling. I have friends from every part of lgbt (and a few other letters) so I always say partner. It's just a habit – even when referring to my husband. Like you said aren't our husbands our partners too? My daughter just started the play group/gymboree circuit and whenever I say partner to someone straight they get ALL pissy and act like I am questioning their sexuality. One time this lady was like "OH god no, I don't have a partner I have a husband." I didn't want drama in a baby group so I just said "Well I think having either one is pretty awesome actually" but needless to say, we stayed far far away from her. But I couldn't help feeling bad for the little boy having such a close minded mom.

    • I hear you about infertility testing a relationship, not to mention testing ones self. Those two years of TTC our son were the most difficult, intense time I have ever experienced in my life. BLess your heart for making it through 7. 🙂

    • My husband’s name is Alex, so I take a certain amount of snarky delight in calling him my “partner” (and sometimes my “baby’s daddy”) and letting folks assume what they will.

  13. It's really astounding that people feel comfortable asking these questions to a lesbian couple, but not to a hetero-couple who have adopted because of infertility or a single parent. The hypocrisy! Congratulations on your kidlets – the mud pit looks awesome.

    • I don't know about that, actually. My Mom used to get other parents asking her where she adopted me from when they'd see us together at little league or whatever. She'd laugh about it because I was not, in fact, adopted in spite of not looking like her (she's very fair and I'm dark and swarthy, like my Dad), but still, you know, weird question to ask a stranger!

      And my aunt, who had twins, would constantly get people asking her about fertility treatments even though she conceived naturally (twins run in my family).

      None of this is to say that it is not totally beyond the pale to ask weird/ rude/ invasive questions to lesbian parents. But I think some of the folks with foot-in-mouth disease behave similairly inappropriately with other parents that don't fit their expectations, too.

  14. Thanks for posting this. As a queer mama of a one-year old, I am constantly amazed at what kinds of of conversations happen from people — most of them are a variant of those you listed.

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