In restarting our writing here, I’ve looked back through our stats.
Judging by our referrals and search terms, we get mostly the people we expect — other queer families, searches about donor siblings and donor conception, or people looking for resources and support in being queer non-bio or non-gestational parents. I love that these people are able to find us, and that so many found us even when we weren’t writing anything new for nearly a year.
But one of our old posts gets a steady trickle of people who, judging by the source of the traffic, think queer families are bad for kids — people opposed to marriage rights for same-sex couples and opposed to any form of donor conception.
That old post was from almost exactly 2 years ago, when for all we knew, we were a two-mom family. We wrote about then-almost-5-year-old Leigh telling us she wished she had a mom and a dad, and about our response to that as parents. It was a poignant moment, one that I think a lot of single-parent and queer families face — a moment in which a kid wishes their family looked more like all the other kids’ families, in which they voice a desire for something different, something more “normal.” Those times can sometimes be hard for us as parents, but they are also the times we most need to listen to our kids. Lex made a great comment on that old post that captures a lot of how I feel about this kind of conversation, saying, “I am always relieved when my kids say something along the lines of wistfulness re: not having a dad. It makes me feel like: a) they GET IT, that our family is not “the norm” and b) they feel comfortable voicing things that they know might hurt our feelings.”
The links that point that slow-but-steady stream of visitors to us, use this old post as proof that children in two-mom families are “crying out” for a father, that they are being deeply harmed. I hate that a moment my daughter said something that was probably hard for her to say, to parents who really listened, is trotted out as unequivocal evidence of harm (and I doubt that the visitors from these sites think our revised mom-dad form is actually an improvement).
I considered pulling the post. I’ve considered this before.
Once again, I decided not to.
Here is why.
Queer families are under tremendous pressure to be perfect. Just recently, everyone got all excited by a study showing that children of lesbians turn out “better” than their peers. Even though I’m glad to have the scientific backing that queers are doing OK on the parenting front, I still cringe when I see coverage like this. Advocacy groups endlessly highlight how much we are “just like” everyone else, putting forward a squeaky clean image of perfection, and in our day-to-day lives, families that are visibly queer live on something of a stage, often the token queer family in their community or school. Taken together, there’s a strong message that we should always put our best foot forward, that it’s important we be good representatives, that we shouldn’t talk about the hard stuff, lest we give fodder to our political opponents. Our kids are under a more extreme version of this pressure — needing to “prove” that their families, families that they are understandably protective of, are just as good as “regular” families. Abigail Garner writes beautifully about this pressure, from the perspective of adult children of gay and lesbian parents, in her book, Families like Mine.
I refuse to cave to that pressure, to pretend we never have any hard moments, and indeed, have hard moments that are directly related to our queerness, to the ways in which our family is different. I’m not going to edit out the reality of our existence simply to remove ammunition from those who wish our family would disappear (or wish that our children never existed). Yes. My kid told me she wanted a mom and a dad at a time when our family contained two moms. That is in no way proof that she has been unduly harmed by our family. No one would ever take it as evidence of harm when a child in a straight, fertile mom-dad family realizes their friend has two moms and exclaims “That’s not fair! I want two moms!” (and believe me, I’ve heard many such stories).
Instead, like Lex, I take it as a sign of success that our daughter tells us what she’s thinking and feeling, even when something might be hard to say. We’ll keep listening.