This morning we went downtown to the probate court so that I might adopt my own child. He’s three and a half, and all he knew was that he got to “do paperwork” with Baba. He was excited about that prospect—although, to be fair, not as excited as he was to come to a department meeting with me in December.
The people at the court downtown are famously kind—all my pals in the local non-gestational queer & trans parents’ group have raved about how the court workers place helpful post-its on the forms, how you don’t need a lawyer, how they waive the social worker visit, how they take a polaroid of your family after. Our clerk even rushed our court date to get us in before the inauguration. I’m grateful for the rush, for the post-its, and for the nice Polaroid, which they gave to us in a frame with a souvenir certificate. I’m grateful that the entire proceeding took ten minutes, and that we encountered no trouble. But it didn’t make me want to celebrate. Joni Mitchell said, We don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall keeping us tied and true. Well, we shouldn’t, but maybe now we do.
“Joni Mitchell said, We don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall keeping us tied and true. Well, we shouldn’t, but maybe now we do.”
When my girlfriend and I decided to try to get her pregnant, we went through a long process familiar in parts to queer people and to single mothers by choice. We made many decisions together along the way to having our beloved baby; I’m not sure how many babies in the history of human conception have been as planned as are the contemporary queerspawn of AFAB artists and academics. Like any nongestational parent supporting a partner through pregnancy, I tracked the baby’s progress from blueberry to peach to mango to endive (for real!), I finished the first-trimester leftovers my girlfriend turned against, I sorted hand-me-downs, I went to all the appointments. I racked up tons of fun praise from strangers for doing these very basic things, because the bar for being a good dad is low.
And, despite our shared political and aesthetic dispositions against the institution, I went with my girlfriend down to the justice of the peace when she was eight months pregnant and we got married, to protect our family from legally hostile strangers. Because of this, I am listed as “father” on our baby’s birth certificate. When the Supreme Court repealed DOMA two years after our baby was born, I took “second-parent adoption” off my to-do list.
“I’m not sure how many babies in the history of human conception have been as planned as are the contemporary queerspawn of AFAB artists and academics.”
Come November 9th, like many queer and trans people, I began scrambling to get my paperwork in order before January 20th. Here’s the first form I encountered:
RELATIONSHIP TO CHILD BEING ADOPTED: (I’m not even going to get into a whole thing about being a baba here. Parent is simple but elegant and true.)
LENGTH OF TIME YOU HAVE RESIDED WITH CHILD: Since he was born.
LENGTH OF TIME YOU HAVE RESIDED WITH CO-PETITIONER: For 12 or 13 years, but we’ve been involved for much longer. There was also that year we were long distance after living together for three years—does that count? What about the time we separated for ten months?
DESCRIBE THE STABILITY OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CO-PETITIONER: I’d be glad to describe the stability of my relationship with my partner in detail just as soon as all couples planning to have kids have to do the same thing (not a bad idea, actually).
DESCRIBE YOUR COMMITMENT TO THE CO-PETITIONER: Sure! Right after you describe your commitment to your co-petitioner.
LIST THE NAMES, AGES, AND RELATIONSHIP TO YOU AND ALL PERSONS CURRENTLY LIVING IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD: Who else feels crazy right now?
DESCRIBE THE NATURE AND QUALITY OF THE CONTACT AND RELATIONSHIP THE ADOPTIVE CHILD HAS WITH ALL OF THE ABOVE LISTED HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS: Sorry, my head just exploded.
DO YOU KNOW EITHER OF THE CHILD’S BIOLOGICAL OR LEGAL PARENTS: Yes.
IF YES, PLEASE STATE WHICH OF THE BIOLOGICAL OR LEGAL PARENT(S) YOU KNOW: Our child has one biological parent, two legal parents, and one donor. I know all of us.
WERE THEY MARRIED TO EACH OTHER AT THE TIME OF THE CHILD’S BIRTH: Yes, “they” (his mother and I) were married to each other when our child was born. Our friend who gave us sperm was not married to anyone and still isn’t, though he is a major catch.
DOES THE CHILD HAVE CONTACT WITH HIS/HER BIOLOGICAL PARENTS: Yes. He lives with his birth mother, who is his mother and my partner, so he has quite a lot of contact with this birth parent of his actually. We also have contact with our beloved friend who gave us sperm.
IF YES, HOW FREQUENTLY, HOW RECENTLY, AND WHAT IS THE QUALITY OF THE CONTACT: His mother just wiped his nose before rocking him to sleep about 10 minutes ago. We have brunch a few times a year with our beloved friend who gave us sperm, and we’d love to see him more! Very nice quality!
Also, why do they need to know my assets, or who my life insurance beneficiaries are? Classist assumptions about who’s fit to parent. The narrative we had to fill out added insult to the injury of having to get a CORI check. The letter from the courthouse reminded us that “PROPER DRESS IS REQUIRED,” which as you might imagine made me want to break out my old Queer Nation tee shirts.
“Come November 9th, like many queer and trans people, I began scrambling to get my paperwork in order.”
But instead, I put on a tie, my girlfriend (she’s still my girlfriend) put on a pretty sweater, we wrangled a turtleneck and semi-nice sweatpants onto our child, we brought our forms downtown, and now I have been legally designated a “second parent.” After having co-parented our child for his entire life. So while I’m always happy to cross something off my to-do list, I’m not feeling particularly celebratory today.
Most of Trump’s cabinet picks have this in common—a startling history of virulent anti-LGBTQ action, inextricable, of course, from their collective history of white supremacist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, misogynist, and predatory capitalist action. We submitted to this deeply offensive process, as a family, in order to protect our child from the threat of the incoming administration. Unlike so many others, at least we have the option. For now.
Family photos by Steve Dillon, excepting court polaroid
This piece previously appeared in MUTHA Magazine: Exploring real-life motherhood, from every angle, at every stage.
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