Each month, Gwendolyn answers your questions on LGBTQ parenting. Write to her with your question here.
So, you’re having a child. You’ve made the initial decisions: biological reproduction – low tech versus high tech reproductive strategies, known versus unknown donor, one partner’s biological contribution or both, or adoption — open versus closed adoption, domestic versus international, couple versus single. Perhaps you’re having a child as a single parent, which simplifies initial decisions but can create other issues.
But now, here you are, a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person or couple (or triad or more) joining the Gayby Boom. Okay, I hate that term, too, but it does serve to point out that what not so long ago was considered impossible is now becoming more and more common. Welcome to the Wonderful World of Queer Parenting!
As time goes on, it may seem like every time you turn around, there is a whole new set of questions. Some questions are specific to queer parenting; some questions are inflected by the sexual orientation or gender identity of the parents, and some questions are common to parents across the board.
One thing that’s clear – parenting seems to communicate to a certain group of people that you are desperately in need of advice and that you yearn to discuss your personal business with total strangers. Pregnancy sets it off; some people think that a pregnant abdomen is public property to be patted and discussed by all comers. As a parent-to-be, you might be asked how far along you are or how much weight you’ve gained, only to be told you’ve gained too much weight or too little. You may be asked the gender of your unborn child and which gender you would prefer; You may be asked what prenatal tests are planned only to be told that you’re irresponsibly over-testing or under-testing. Or you may be told that only home birth is healthy and responsible, only to be told by the next person that unmedicated childbirth is impossible. As a pregnant lesbian, it will probably be assumed you have a husband.
Since all of this helpfulness only increases when a baby is actually present, it is wise to consider beforehand how you might respond. Parents are widely divided on this (as on pretty much every other topic under the sun) – some very social types appreciate the interaction and the occasional opportunity to educate, others resent the intrusion and excess familiarity.)
Now that we’ve set the stage for the journey you are about to undertake (or the journey you may be undertaking right this moment if you’ve recently had kids), write in and I will respond from my opinions and perspectives (of which I am very fond), research, and the experiences and perspectives of many, many queer parents.
Write to Gwendolyn with your parenting questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gwendolyn reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity, exclaim at will, and generally be as opinionated as possible.
Gwendolyn Alden Dean is a bisexual advocate/advisor/activist/educator/scholar for and of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer communities and people. While studying LGBT theories and issues at Emory University, she romped and pranced and changed the world with the Lesbian Avengers-Atlanta and Queer Nation, and then served as the Director of the LGBT Resource Center at Cornell University for ten years. Now studying psychology and counseling, the next chapter of her career will focus on counseling LGBT and questioning people and families. Gwendolyn is the extremely blessed parent of a wonderful child, recently graduated from college, and has taught kindergarten through twelfth grade, as well as college-level courses. She has also been privileged to participate in a fabulous online community of Mom-identified queer folks since 1993. All wisdom present in her columns can be attributed to them. All mistakes and exceedingly ridiculous thoughts belong solely to her.
For more information about this community see:
“Dykes and Tykes: A Virtual Lesbian Parenting Community,” Arlene Lev, G. Dean, L. De Filippis, K. Evernham, L. McLaughlin, & C. Phillips, in The Journal of Lesbian Studies: Lesbian Communities, Summer 2005.