As a child of lesbian mothers, I became a de facto member of the LGBTQ community the day I was born. Every day, I witnessed the joys and challenges faced by my parents and other LGBTQ individuals. So when the news of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage was announced on Friday morning, I began to cry out of an overwhelming feeling of happiness. But as many people celebrated the victory for LGBTQ adults, my thoughts turned to the children and young adults born to same-sex parents. As the path to marriage for these couples becomes clearer, it is my hope that the experiences of their children become easier as well.
As a donor-conceived child raised by two loving moms before the era of same-sex marriage equality began, the formation and legitimization of my family was a much more involved process than it hopefully will be now. While my 'Ima' (mom in Hebrew) is my birth mother and therefore received automatic legal rights over me, my adopted mother, whom I call 'Mama," had to navigate a much more complicated legal process to be recognized as my mother. It wasn't until two years after my birth that she was granted second-parent adoption rights and I was issued a new birth certificate with her name listed under the designation of "Father."
Growing up, discussing my family with new acquaintances meant repeatedly having to come out. If I felt comfortable enough in a new situation not to lie and pretend to be a part of a hetero-normative family, I would be forced to wade through the inevitable questions that followed my admission: "I have lesbian parents." Throughout my childhood and even into adulthood, I sometimes feel that I have to calculate when it might be "safe" to tell the truth or when it might cause conflict or extreme discomfort.
Even with my mothers' attempts to place me in progressive environments, there were some situations where conflict was simply unavoidable. In fourth grade, my best friend informed me that her father had forbidden her from socializing with a child of lesbian parents and that we could no longer sit together during carpool in case he spotted us. I rarely had sleepovers at my house because my moms feared that my friends' parents would be nervous having their daughters sleep in a lesbian household. Attending a traditional all-girls middle and high school, I wasn't able to participate in the annual Father-Daughter Picnics or the Father-Daughter Dance at graduation. When I applied to college, I wrote Mama's name under "Father" on all the applications because "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" were not yet options.
My experiences motivated me to devote the year after graduation to working with COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere), a U.S.-based non-profit organization. Through the funding I received for my winning Princeton University Reach Out 56-81-06 Fellowship proposal, I am creating the "COLAGE ART Guide," which is intended for the children of LGBTQ parents born through the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). The guide will highlight shared challenges children born through ART to LGBTQ parents face and answer common questions they may have when it comes to talking about their method of conception or non-traditional family.
Last Friday's ruling is a positive step toward the normalization of families like mine, but progress still needs to be made. My dream is that the next generation of children will be able to say, "I have two moms," and that no further explanation will be required. With the legalization of same-sex marriage, I, along with the rest of the queerspawn community, will hopefully no longer have to feel like our families are second-class.
Photo caption: My family the day I was officially adopted by my mother, Mama