It is LGBTQ History Month, which got me thinking about my own history. When I came out to my mother her struggle was largely based on worrying what the neighbors would think. Gossip and judgment run amok in small towns like the one I grew up in with a bar and a Catholic Church on every corner. But beyond that, she mourned that I would never marry or have kids. Two weddings to the same wonderful woman and two kids later, I have proven her wrong. But the fact is that twenty years ago she did not have any models of what it could look like for her daughter to walk down the aisle with another lady on her arm or to drive that minivan down the road as a queer mom. I did not have anyone to look to either.
I was fortunate to burst out of the closet at a time when Ellen was coming out on prime time television and the question of marriage for gays and lesbians was beginning to be debated, legislative and voted on. I went to college in Vermont when Baker v. Vermont was being argued, the case that would eventually result in our country's first civil unions. During my senior year interning with an LGBT advocacy organization I heard about marriage being debated in Alaska and Hawaii.
We were not winning many of these initial fights and yet the very fact that people were out there agitating for us to be able to get married meant that I felt free to dream about a future for myself where I could get married no matter who I loved, but parenthood still felt like it just might be out of reach. So many of the arguments about marriage for gay and lesbian couples were about whether or not we should be parents, whether we are fit. I had no question I would be a good mom, but didn't know if it would happen.
I met my wife online. I think these days it is more common for people to meet their partners on the internet, but I joined a dating site on a whim when I moved to Washington, DC. While I had my share of fun at the girls' nights around town, I was at a point in life where I wanted to build a life with someone. I had a few first dates and a couple second from my post, but no one really clicked. I ended up at my sister's wedding with a friend as my date.
By then I knew that the white dress and wedding cake were a possibility, but I wondered if it would ever happen for me. That was the weekend that Rae found me on a site and decided to pay the fee to join so she could write to me. She likes to say that that was the best $20 she ever spent.
I read her message and wrote back as soon as I returned from my sister's nuptials. We talked over email. From the beginning we discussed the fact that we wanted to have kids someday. Eventually we chatted on the phone and set up time to grab a drink. We have been together ever since, holding a big wedding with family and friends in our home state of Maryland a couple years later and getting a license in Vermont once it became legal.
Our path to parenthood was similar in many ways to a lot of our straight friends. We thought through the best timing for our careers and how to manage child care. We joked about who would be the disciplinarian and who would give in on the extra cookie or later bed time. We exchanged texts with possible baby names and looked at Pinterest pictures of beautiful nurseries we would never have the time or patience to recreate. And like many of our pals we talked about money - what it takes to raise a child. But we also had the added complication of the money it would take to build our family.
We didn't have all of the "ingredients" it takes to make a baby. A romantic romp after a candle lit dinner was not going to result in a pleasant surprise eight weeks later. We had to think and plan and pay for the tests, the procedures and the pieces it would take to make our dreams come true. We had the laughable addition of a blizzard.
One of the increasingly familiar tasks of our path to parenthood was the monthly peeing on a stick to measure ovulation. A smiley face meant juggling schedules to make a trip to the fertility center followed by crossed fingers as we waited to pee on yet another stick and pray for a plus sign. Our lives were ruled by peeing, but this time also by the weather channel.
The Mid-Atlantic region was facing a record making blizzard. As people all over watched the news in shock, we watched that stick produce a smiley face. Mother Nature be damned, we dug ourselves out and we made it to the fertility center for one of the few appointments they were offering that morning in between storm one and two. I am sure the snow plow drivers wondered why we were out there in such questionable conditions. We have often laughed about what would have happened if we had been pulled over to explain why we did not stay at home like everyone else. But our very justified excuse to brave the snowy roads arrived ten months later in the form of our eldest daughter.
Life since has been a whirlwind of joy, love and challenges with a heavy dose of laughter. Some of the amusement comes when I talk about my family and my wife and see the look of surprise on someone's face who did not realize that I am queer. It is a moment where I laugh on the inside, but also where I feel good about helping to check their assumptions and show them that not only are we everywhere, but we are experiencing the same ups and downs that they are.
We celebrate the milestones and worry about our kids' nutrition or how much TV we should let them watch. I have shown up to work with spit-up on my shoulder and survived temper tantrums at the grocery store. By living open lives, posting our pictures and sharing our stories my wife and I have always felt like we get a chance to re-write what people may think or that they do not even consider the similar and unique experiences of LGBT parents.
Right after our oldest daughter was born, we heard about a support group for new moms. It was a chance to talk with other women about the bliss and the terror of being parents to a newborn. We showed up assuming that we would be the only lesbian couple there, but both wanting the experience. While I was not the birth mom, I too wanted to be able to think through this crazy adventure we were taking and how I would make it all work. The great thing is that no one seemed to blink an eye. We were both given a chance to tell our stories of poopy diapers, sleepless nights and self-doubt. We each got to ask questions and share advice. We built solid relationships and many of those moms eventually became a part of our ongoing support network.
Since then we have been there for each other through sleep training, potty trained and for many of us have the wonderful insanity of welcoming a second children into our lives. It really has not mattered much in the day to day that our family is one with two moms. When we all hang out, we talk about our kids. We help each other manage and enjoy the time together. Playdates and birthday parties have become the story of our weekends and when you are chasing your kid up the jungle gym or wiping birthday cake off your jeans it just doesn't matter.
I am surprised sometimes when I look at our calendar and see that we spend much of our time with our straight friends, a big change from our younger days when we first came out and were desperate to find community. We have worked to build and cultivate friendships with other gay families. It is important to us that our kids see other families that look like their family and to know that it is love that matters most.
For us it is not only about being queer, but as an interracial couple we also want them to have other kids who like them are biracial. In our journey to mommyhood one thing that stood out was the importance of heritage. When my wife who is Filipino was choosing a donor, we looked for a white donor with an ethnic heritage like mine. When it was my turn, we found a Filipino donor. More than having children who were biologically related to each other, we wanted a family that reflected our heritages.
When it came time to choose a pre-school for our older daughter, we made sure that in any interview we were both there and talked about how they would deal with talking about two moms. We did not want it to be something that was just ignored or ever feel like we were sending our child to a place where her family was simply tolerated. We needed to know that if families were being talked about that it would include acknowledging ones like ours.
We were lucky to find a great school where both mommy and mama feel welcome. I always envisioned being the kind of mom who would go to the holiday parties and the back to school nights and I have. I want to be there to know her teachers and see her drawings on the wall. If I am honest, in the back of my mind I also feel the pressure of showing that I am a good mom. This is something that many people talk about, especially many moms, but I think there is added pressure as a lesbian mom to show that I am a good parent.
It has occurred to me that we may be the first lesbian moms many of the other parents have met. I wonder at times what they think. We are not immune from the rhetoric around LGBT families. When the news runs another story about if a child can be happy or healthy in a home with two moms or dads, I hear it and feel it. I know that our neighbors and our daughter's pals' parents have seen it. I also worry about my kids growing up and hearing it. I wonder how it will make them feel that instead of looking at us and seeing people who love and care for each other that some people only see that their family is different.
I worry as our daughters get older that they may be bullied or teased. It can be hard enough to be a biracial child or a teenage girl, but on top of that they also have gay parents. Some would say that it is unfair to put that on a child, but what I believe, what I know is that my kids are loved beyond measure. We do all that we can to care for them and keep them happy. At the end of the day, that has to be what matters most. So no matter what is thrown at us, we will go through it together.
I was reading a book with our three year-old the other night. It talked about families. When we finished the book she said,"I have two mommies. I'm lucky." I kissed her and tucked her in knowing that it is her mama and me who are the lucky ones.