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B.J. Epstein

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Making Babies the Gay Way

Posted: 03/ 8/2012 5:18 pm

These days, more LGBTQ people are having children, and there are more tools at their disposal to help them do it. From more flexible adoption laws to helpful surrogates, from fertility clinics that simply welcome LGBTQ people to fertility clinics that are in fact gay-only (such as Birmingham's Gay Family Web Fertility Centre), from DIY kits à la turkey basters to websites such as Pride Angel, where wannabe donors (of sperm or eggs) can meet potential recipients and where singles or couples can search for possible co-parents, today it's much easier for LGBTQ folks to make babies and raise families.

But do children of LGBTQ people know where they came from? They may be and probably are told by their parents, but they may not see children like them represented in literature. And, of course, children created in more "traditional" ways may not learn about making babies the LGBTQ way, and thus meeting such children could confuse them.

Most books that features children and their LGBTQ parents either don't explain where the children came from or seem to assume that the parents were in heterosexual relationships first. A typical example is Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite, where the main character is the product of a heterosexual relationship, and now that his parents are divorced, his father lives with another man, the so-called "roommate."

Occasionally, adoption is portrayed. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson is the true story of two male penguins who adopt an extra egg and raise little Tango. Granted, penguins are not people, but perhaps child readers might extrapolate the idea that two males or two females can raise children together.

Another picture book that offers this message is King and King and Family by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, a sequel to their first picture book, King and King. Here, the married royals find an orphaned girl and treat her as their daughter. Interestingly, de Haan and Nijland are from the Netherlands, and their work was originally published in Dutch. Perhaps this suggests that people outside English-speaking countries are more accepting of LGBTQ parents.

This idea might be backed up with the example of Annette Lundborg and Mimmi Tollerup-Grkovic's Swedish-language picture book Malins mamma gifter sig med Lisa (the title can be translated to English as Malin's Mama Marries Lisa, but unfortunately the book is not available in English yet). This book simply takes Malin's mother's lesbianism for granted and doesn't offer any explanations about it or suggest that it was a late-in-life realization, which is what some other works imply. Malin finds out that she was created by her biological father giving her mother some seeds. The accompanying picture shows sperm in a jar, which makes it fairly obvious to the knowledgeable reader that Malin was not created in the traditional, heterosexual way. Adults reading the book to their children can use the picture as a starting point for a discussion.

An afterword in the book explains:

It is more and more common for homosexuals to choose to become parents... Many homosexuals have children from previous heterosexual relationships, but ever more homosexuals choose to have children with their partners or as single parents. A life as a homosexual no longer stands in opposition to a life with children!

The afterword may seem somewhat didactic, but the larger message of the book is a positive one, in that it reminds readers that babies can be created in a number of different ways, and also that such children are equally loved.

Perhaps if there were more children's books that dared to show LGBTQ people adopting, working with surrogates, going to sperm banks, or meeting co-parents, there would be more understanding about what it means to make and raise babies in non-traditional ways. After all, there are plenty of books that show men and women creating babies, such as Nicholas Allen's Where Willy Went, or Mick Manning's How Did I Begin?, but these books are simply not applicable to LGBTQ lives, for the most part.

Children of LGBTQ parents have the right to know how they began, too, and since "it is more and more common for homosexuals to choose to become parents," we need to have children's books that represent this, jars of seeds and all.

 

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