Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm on a lesbian parents mailing list.

Here's the question (part of it- it was quite long and distressed):
it is even harder to say ummmmmm no there is no dad, no husband, no partner, no ex, no accident or one night stand or divorce I AM JUST BLOODY GAY, even when you do say he is a donor child which i am not to keep on either as it makes him diferent and it is also our business SO WHAT DO PEOPLE SAY????

then you get asked
did you see a photo?
did you meet him?
was it IVF? no it was an internet guy LOL selling sperm LOL which would go down really well
will your kid know him?
how many other kids are out there?
what if they meet one day and fall in love???

i mean for fucks sake these things to me make me more separated from the world and make me feel like i am diferent instead of just being apart of the world. does it do that to anyone else out there??

i no L once spoke of going to mums groups and people in her group after years didnt no, well thats how i have lived as well so L what will you tell your daughter?? what will others tell their kids???

So this is two questions one what do you tell people and how does it all make you feel, and two what do you tell or plan to tell your kids????

oh another question what do you do on fathers day?????

So, I, of course, couldn't resist pontificating and here is my response:

I think a lot about coming out with kids.

I think before we have kids we have NO IDEA about how 'out' we will be with kids. It is very confronting to our internalised homophobia. But when we have kids it is our responsibility to be completely comfortable with the fact that we are NOT 'normal'. We are not replicating patriarchal family structures and I think that's a good thing.

For me, it is really important to develop a sense of pride in our family structure so that by the time the kids can understand it, they see it as just part of the normal range of family structures, and also something interesting/to be proud of about us. This is partly why I am so active in LGBT rights - I don't need to blend in or be treated as 'normal' - normal is boring. We ARE an interesting family and I will talk people's ears off about it if they will stand still long enough.

I'm happy to talk about the IVF. Lots of people have infertility issues. There is some sense of failure, I think, about IVF. Why? Why not embrace it? They are IVF babies - aren't we lucky we live in a country and a state where we were allowed to use IVF? 'Do you know', I say to people, 'if we'd lived in Victoria we wouldn't have been able to get IVF because they discriminated against same sex couples until last year', People are always surprised that we don't have the same rights as them - lots of straights think gays have the same rights. Because we are so out about having used IVF, lots of straight couples talk to us about their fertility issues. Friends have rung us up and said 'my sister and her husband are infertile, would you mind having a chat with them about what IVF was like for you?' I really don't understand why it is a big deal. I think it has become a big deal because 50% of fertility issues are to do with the man, so it insults his masculinity. I don't have to take that on.

We get the father question a lot. Our donor is from Hong Kong and neither of us are Asian so his presence is very visible. Our standard conversation goes like this.
'Your children are very beautiful. Is your husband Vietnamese/Islander/Indonesian (etc etc)?'
'No, my partner is a woman. Their donor dad is from Hong Kong.'
This then leads to them saying
- Aren't they lucky children to have two mummies?
- Oh yes, my sister in laws cousin, she goes out with a woman and they are trying to have a baby
or (if they are bold)
-How did you do it? Do you know him? etc
If they ask, I tell them. I tell them the reasons why we chose known donor over unknown. I tell them about finding James online through a donors website after interviewing five other guys. I tell them how hard it is to find a donor who is happy to be involved but doesn't want to be a parent. I tell them about drawing up the non-legal agreement, and about our concerns (before we got to know James) that he would take us to court and try and take the babies away from us. I tell them about driving two hours from Byron to Brisbane when ovulating and meeting James at the gates to his secured apartments and secretly handing over sperm - we were sure some neighbour was going to think we were doing drug deals. We tell them about going to the clinic to see the psychologist, two lesbians and our queer donor, and how the psychologist assessing us had his fly down all through the interview. We tell them about how we had to interrogate James about his sex life and all the embarrassing conversations about 'if you do have an encounter with someone other than your boyfriend, we don't care, we're not judging, just TELL US'. I even tell them that James has another child to another lesbian couple, so they have a half-brother, two years older, who is like a cousin to them.
I think, the less mysterious we are, the less prejudice people have. And it's not a secret. It's all part of the children's birth story. As they get older, they will understand these conversations and not see their whole story as something shameful or weird - just something that happened that we are happy to talk about.

And father's day: we are definitely steering clear of it being to do with James, unless the children want to give him something when they are older. We are going to tell childcare/schools that they can make things for their grandfathers or godfathers - seeing fathers day as a way of celebrating and acknowledging male influence in their lives. We also definitely do not want to allocate it to one of us - one mother gets mothers day, one gets fathers day - as that would reinforce the stupid 'who is the man in your relationship?' concept.

And I have never, not once, had a bad reaction from people during these conversations. Makes me wonder how much homophobia really is in my head.


Arwyn said...

I would imagine your upfront attitude plays a part in it. Not to victim blame, because there's no excuse for it, but sometimes a less than confident, defensive (or highly confrontational) attitude can leave the door open more for the hating/attacking/homophobic comments, in my experience.

JahTeh said...

The stupid thing about all of this is that is should be part of 'normal' with no questions to be asked or answered.

Kelly & Sam Pilgrim-Byrne said...

Hoorah! Excellent post.