Two dads, two babies and a $150,000 journey

Some gifts inspire short-lived exultation, others polite nods. 

Then there are the gifts that take your breath away, rewarding years of self-doubt, financial hardship and agonizing choices. They help you realize that you, like your squirming preemies wrapped in tubes, are not fragile but a fighter.

For Jeffrey and Brian Bernstein, a gay married couple living in a sleepy Philadelphia suburb, the gift of life was not a happy accident.

Growing their family required foresight, patience, herculean coordination with egg donors, surrogate brokers, fertility specialists and lawyers, along with a $150,000 nest egg.surrogacy

One day, when the Berstein twins inevitably ask about their mother, they will hear about the 24-year-old, raven-haired outdoor enthusiast who pumped herself full of hormones and provided her eggs anonymously. Then they will learn about the 31-year-old stay-at-home mom with the blonde bob, “Aunt Ashly,” who also injected hormones, lent her uterus and underwent a C-section seven weeks early.

Both women live in Texas, where surrogacy laws are considered progressive. Neither wants to be called “mom.”

“It’s important that we bring our children up with the understanding that their family, while they may be different, is just as valid, loving and caring,” explains Jeffrey, a fitness coach. 

“There’s nothing shameful in how our family came together.”

STORY: A child’s journey to ‘truegender’

Surrogacy dates to Biblical times when Abraham’s barren wife, Sarah, loaned her handmaid, Hagar, to her husband to procreate.

In recent decades, the practice of a woman carrying the biological child of another individual or couple for payment has raised thorny questions from feminists and religious conservatives alike about the exploitation of women and commodification of children.

Today, most countries around the world, including developing nations, ban commercial surrogacy. But the practice is still legal in the U.S., which has emerged as an in vitro fertilization hub for prospective parents at home and abroad. In nearly every state, surrogacy operates legally or underground. 

by Margie Fishman, The News Journal, June 16, 2017

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MY KIDS MAY NOT HAVE A DAD, BUT PLEASE DON’T FEEL SORRY FOR THEM ON FATHER’S DAY

“Who pretended to be Eva’s dad today?”

This question was asked by my 6-year-old daughter’s best friend. While few things shock me these days, I was taken back by his question. Eva’s best friend is also 6 and has known her and our two-mom family for almost as long as he has been alive.

“Eva doesn’t have a dad. She has two moms. You know that.” Before I could process why he asked his question, I answered him a bit too bluntly. He wasn’t attacking me, but I felt under attack — and my initial response was not one that helped him process what he wanted to understand.

“I know,” he said. “But who came to school for Dads and Donuts?”Florist

Father’s Day. I forgot that, much like for Mother’s Day, the schoolkids would be creating artwork and poems to send home. I forgot that some classrooms would be hosting breakfast for dads, roasting and honoring them at the same time. I forgot because I haven’t talked to my own father in nearly 20 years and Father’s Day is not on my radar. I forgot because I am up to my ears in end-of-the-school-year events and summer camp prep. I forgot because my kids don’t celebrate Father’s Day.

Shortly before our daughter turned 3, we began to talk to her about how she was created through love, her mama’s egg, and a sperm donor. She, and our 4-year-old twins, will proudly and correctly tell you they came from an egg and sperm. We don’t get into the logistics of how those two things met (doctor-assisted intrauterine insemination using frozen sperm for those of you who are curious). But we openly and honestly talk about how our family was made. Our kids will also tell you about their brother and sisters who live in another state; they are donor siblings who were born from the same anonymous sperm and whose parents we met through the cryobank’s sibling registry.

We know our kids feel loved, and that they are as proud of their family as any other children who are more focused on their own needs and wants than on the reflection of sacrifices made by their loving parents. Yet, as much as our kids are like any other kids, their normal is not “normal.” At least, not to some people. And when our kids meet new friends who are unaware that they have two moms, or when Father’s Day rolls around each year, they are not just reminded that they don’t have a dad — but that society expects them to have one.

Once I realized the motivation behind my daughter’s friend’s question, I softened. “Ah! Your dad came to school for Father’s Day donuts. Eva’s class didn’t host a breakfast. But she may have made something for her Pop-Pop.”

We have always told our kids’ teachers that when Father’s Day projects are being made that it’s okay to acknowledge that they will not be making one for a father of their own. They can make one for my partner’s father, their amazing Pop-Pop. Or they can make one for any one of a number of amazing friends and dads who are in our life. Just because they don’t have a father doesn’t mean we don’t have good men in our lives and great dads to celebrate.

by Amber Leventry, babble.com

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MOMBIAN LGBTQ parents: Resistance, persistence, pride

This wasn’t the Pride Month I was looking forward to.

I hoped we would be celebrating gains built on marriage equality, not battling to stop religious-exemption laws that could exclude us from parenting and limit homes for children who need them. I hoped we would be celebrating a growing understanding of transgender people, not trying to stop the same kind of bathroom bills for which North Carolina has been widely criticized. I hoped we wouldn’t still have to fight for the right of both same-sex parents to be on our children’s birth certificates.

Given the anti-LGBTQ climate that has been nourished by the Trump administration and its supporters, though, this Pride is more necessary than ever, even if it isn’t the one we may have wanted. Pride has always been both protest and celebration, and that remains as true as ever.

As LGBTQ parents, we are not new to resistance. We have resisted when people tried to prevent us from becoming parents because we are queer. When they tried to take away our children because we are queer. When former partners and spouses tried to deny our parental rights. When our children have been bullied or harassed in school.

As these examples show, LGBTQ parents—and our children—are continuing to resist and persist.

Take Massachusetts fifth-grader Marina Osit, who has two moms. She recently noticed her classmates using “gay” as a slur, and decided to start a campaign to change this. She “has raised more than $800 to purchase pins for her classmates that say, ‘Gay does not mean stupid,'” reported the Greenfield Recorder ( May 19, 2017 ).

Some persist with lawsuits. Eight same-sex couples in Indiana are fighting to have both parents’ names on their children’s birth certificates. They filed their case in 2015, and a federal district court sided with them, but the state appealed the decision. In May, they had their case heard by a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, where one judge, Diane Sykes, insisted, “You can’t overcome biology. If the state defines parenthood by virtue of biology, no argument under the Equal Protection Clause or the substantive due process clause can overcome that.” The couples’ lawyer, Karen Celestino-Horseman, disagreed, saying, “We maintain that parenthood is no longer defined by biology,” and arguing that if a child is born to a same-sex married couple, both should be presumed to be the parents, just as for different-sex couples.

And in April, three same-sex couples in Nebraska won a case they had brought way back in 2013 against the state’s ban on “homosexuals” becoming foster parents. With this ruling of the Nebraska Supreme Court, gay men and lesbians can now be treated equally in foster care placements in all 50 states.

Justice John Wright, who wrote the ruling, pulled no punches, saying that the “published statement on DHHS’ official website that ‘heterosexuals only’ need apply to be foster parents” was “legally indistinguishable from a sign reading ‘Whites Only’ on the hiring-office door.”

At the same time, so-called “religious freedom” laws in several states already allow child-placement agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ prospective parents and others if serving them conflicts with the agencies’ religious beliefs or moral convictions. Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Virginia already have such laws in place; Alabama and Oklahoma are considering them; and one in Texas is sitting on the governor’s desk as of this writing.

Nevertheless, Family Equality Council and PFLAG are leading the charge in supporting a federal bill that provides a counter to this legislation. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act, sponsored by Rep. John Lewis ( D-Georgia ) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ( R-Florida ), would restrict federal funding for states that discriminate in adoption and foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status of prospective parents, or on the sexual orientation or gender identity of youth in care. The bill has just been introduced in the House for the fifth Congress in a row. In a Republican-led Congress, its chances may be slim ( despite Ros-Lehtinen’s support ), but it offers the opportunity to raise awareness by talking up the issue on Capitol Hill.

By Dana Rudolph, June 6, 2017 – Windy City Media Group

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Gay man says church members beat, choked him for hours to expel ‘homosexual demons’

Matthew Fenner was leaving a Sunday prayer service in January 2013 when a group of church members surrounded him.

As he told police, a church leader and more than 20 other members of the Word of Faith Fellowship — based in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Spindale, N.C. — repeatedly punched, beat and knocked him down for about two hours. At one point, someone grabbed him by the throat and shook him, he said.

That attacks took place “to break me free of the homosexual demons they so viciously despise,” Fenner, who identifies as gay, told television station WSPA a year later. After the episode, he left the fellowship.conversion therapy

In December 2014, a minister and four members of the Rutherford County church were indicted on charges that they kidnapped, beat and strangled Fenner, then 21. They pleaded not guilty.

And on Thursday, Fenner was the first person to testify in the trial of Brooke Covington, 58, the church minister accused of leading the alleged kidnapping and assault of Fenner on that day, more than four years ago. She is the first of five church members to face trial in the case, the Associated Press reported. If convicted, she faces up to two years in prison.

Fenner said he thought he was “going to die” while the church members beat and choked him. He accused Covington of telling him, “God said there is something wrong in your life.”

“I’m frail and in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Is my neck going to break, am I going to die?’” Fenner said, adding he had cancer as a child and underwent a biopsy a week before the attack took place, the Associated Press reported.

When Fenner brought the allegations three years ago, it was not the first time the church had been accused of beating members over their sexual orientation. Two years earlier, former church member Michael Lowry said he was beaten and held against his will at the church as an effort to eliminate his gay demons.

Lowry testified before a grand jury, but about a year later, the same month Fenner says he was beaten and strangled, Lowry rejoined Word of Faith and took back his allegations. He has since left the church, and later said in a statement that his original claims are true.

The Word of Faith, opened by Jane and Sam Whaley in 1979 in a former steakhouse, began with a handful of followers and grew to a 750-member congregation in North Carolina. Eventually another 2,000 members would join affiliated churches in Brazil, Ghana and other countries.

June 2, 2017 – Washington Post by Samantha Schmidt

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Reaching Across the Uterus

Politics pops up in the oddest places. And like a song that gets stuck in your head, it refuses to be ignored.

“She’s having my baby…” That’s the one I’ve been humming lately because my husband Gary and I are taking the plunge into full-on parenthood and, at age 46, some would say we’re crazy. Piper, our three year old, is in every meaningful sense of the word, our daughter. But legally she only has two parents, and they are her mothers. With many options before us, Gary and I choose surrogacy.

Inviting a “team” to help you have a baby is not as nontraditional as some may think. As Hillary said, “it takes a village.” But our lack of girl-parts makes the process an e-ticket ride to say the least. Every person I have spoken with about their experience with surrogacy has said that the relationship you form with the surrogate mother, clinically referred to as the carrier, is unique, emotionally overpowering and absolutely specific to the individuals involved. Amen to that.Anthony Brown

What I didn’t count on was falling for a carrier of the republican persuasion. I am about as political as a gay-lawyer-activist can be. It is funny that when Gary and I were looking at the profiles of egg donors and gestational carriers, political affiliation wasn’t even a consideration. We were looking for all the elements of a person that demonstrate trust, love and happiness. For us, politics didn’t enter into it, until recently.

Suzanna, our carrier, lives in rural North Carolina with her husband Jonathan. She is everything and more that we could have hoped for in a surrogate. She is direct and at peace with surrendering her parental rights when the child is born. She has an absolutely beautiful smile and laugh that are the signs of a person who is loved and supported. She has two wonderful, healthy children who Gary and I fell in love with instantaneously and, best of all, she has a sense of humor about the process.

When we first met, Jonathan kidded about looking forward to someone touching Suzanna’s pregnant belly and asking, “when is she due?” Jonathan relished at the prospect of answering, “I dunno, it’s not mine.” Then Suzanna said, “Yea, then I can say, don’t look at me, it’s not mine either.”

But recently, Suzanna forwarded to us one of those anti-Obama emails that have made the rounds misrepresenting his positions on several issues and taking out-of-context shots at his voting record. I know that some people forward emails without reading them completely. I also know that we never talked politics up until that moment, but one of the misrepresentations in the letter was that Obama supported gay marriage and John McCain did not. Well… Deep breath…

KNEE JERK – I sat down at the computer and typed for over an hour. After I pressed send, I thought to myself, “Oh shit, I just lost our carrier.” I don’t think Suzanna expected a two-page response debunking the email she sent, with citations to accurate information and a personal note asking why she would think Gary and I would support anyone who would not support our marriage, which was a key factor in her choosing to work with us in the first place.

To Suzanna’s credit, she sent one of the most thoughtful and detailed responses, acknowledging that she had not completely read through what she had sent, and apologizing for any distress that it may have caused us. She then laid out her positions on a number of issues, she disagrees with the conservatives about marriage equality – thank God, and demonstrated the intelligence and the spirit that Gary and I were drawn to when we first read her profile and went to North Carolina to meet. All of the sudden, we were talking politics. And I loved it.

I have always believed in communication, about equality and about politics. But when it comes to family, even nontraditional family, it’s tough. Now, Suzanna and Jonathan know how we feel, and more importantly, we know how they feel. Agreement is not always possible, and when people are on opposite sides of the political fence, it is often rare. But agreement isn’t a prerequisite for communication. And as Suzanna and Jonathan are now a part of “the village,” there is no reason to stay silent.

I originally published this article in 2008 after working on the Obama campaign but I am revisiting it now because there are so many paralells to the misinformation that has been spread in the current political climate.  I hope that you find something meaningful here.

May 30, 2017 -To share your personal story, please visit timeforfamilies.com.

HOW TWO DADS ARE SHATTERING THE STIGMA AROUND GAY PARENTING IN THE SOUTH

Parenting is a tough enough job on its own.

Add to that the challenge of being accepted for what kind of a parent you are, and the whole thing can feel insurmountable. But that hasn’t stopped two dads in New Orleans from being extraordinary parents to their little girl.

Husbands Erik and Douglas Alexander have taken to Instagram and their blog NolaPapa to help create visibility around what it means to be positive, loving gay dads. After adopting their daughter Allie Mae in 2015, they wanted an outlet to reach out to other LGBTQ families and document their own family’s journey.

In the process of sharing their story, Erik and Douglas have become a beacon of hope for gay parents in the South.

After dating for almost 11 years, Erik and Douglas married in 2015 when Louisiana legalized same-sex marriage. And despite an expected 3-5 year waiting period, they were able to adopt their daughter Allie Mae in only a month and a half. Suddenly, their small suburban world changed as more and more people noticed their growing family. Their town is close to New Orleans, which is considered to be a very liberal city. But, according to Erik, “The 10-15 minutes it takes to get here takes you back in time about 30 years.”

Babble.com, April 7, 2017 by Lindsay Wolf

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For Gay Parents, Deciding Between Adoption and Surrogacy Raises Tough Moral Questions

When my husband David and I became new parents, we thought it would be fun and perhaps even affirming to get involved with a gay dads group.

As far as I could tell, the only regular event was a brunch that took place every few months. That sounded promising, a throwback to idle Sundays before the babies made it all about them. The food was always great—these are gay men, after all. But as it turned out, the event was neither fun nor affirming.

The gatherings mostly took place in wealthy suburban redoubts and were marked by a weird social division between two teams: Surrogacy Dads and Adoptive Dads. Some of this division was to be expected. Each group had war stories to share, and it was natural to break the ice with those who had lived through similar experiences. But after one or two brunches, I came to see that this kind of informal division reflected something much deeper: a philosophical debate about how we should form our families. The annoyingly named “gayby boom” has created a knot of moral questions that are impossible to avoid.Child health outcomes

Should is a weird word to use in this context, of course. For gay men especially, bringing children into the family is difficult and challenging no matter which route one chooses. Our first instinct should be support for all families, regardless of what route each of us took to realize our dreams. Both surrogacy and adoption present daunting legal obstacles—even now that marriage equality has been achieved.

As I learned when researching a book I co-authored, surrogacy is a state-by-state legal minefield. Some states won’t recognize these contracts at all, while the law in other states is unsettled. And there is the ever-present danger that the woman carrying the child will try to renege on her commitment. Adoption is hardly more secure. The countries offering this choice to gay men are constantly changing. Domestic adoption can be fraught as well either because birth mothers change their minds, or as in our case of adoption through the child welfare system, because the process has no certain outcome.

Beyond the legal hurdles, though, there’s an undeniable moral component to whatever decision we make. Those who can pony up the money for surrogacy—which frequently exceeds $100,000, all in—are faced with the cold fact that they’re selecting an egg donor based on objective calculations of positive attributes. Lesbians do the same with sperm donors, although of course at a much lower cost since no surrogate is needed.

When a case surfaces that draws the uncomfortable selection process into the open, people are left tongue-tied trying to figure out the proper response. A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for Slate about the case of a lesbian couplethat sued a sperm bank for providing the “wrong” material—from a black, rather than a white, donor. As I said at the time, outraged gasps at the couple were “easy, but not completely fair. Because everyone who transacts business with companies that offer sperm and egg donation is looking for a bespoke baby.”

When it comes to the gestational surrogate, there’s the additional issue of contributing to an industry that commodifies the body in an obvious way. The ethical issues multiply when the surrogate is from a developing country, often India, where women are paid much less for their services; but such “surrogacy tourism” just highlights the uncomfortable exchange going on in all these cases.

Those thinking of adopting face internal battles, too. As required by law, case workers confronted David and me with an unsettling battery of questions about the race, age, and sex of the kids we were willing to adopt, as well as delicately phrased inquiries about whether we’d be comfortable dealing with disabled kids—and, if so, they needed to know, what kinds of disabilities did we think we could handle? Really, who knows?

By John Culhane, slate.com

Hey, Daddy! is a monthly column exploring the joys and struggles of parenting from a gay father’s perspective. Got a topic idea or question for Daddy? Send your letter along to johnculhane@comcast.net.

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The Children of Gay Parents Speak for Themselves

For the past five years, Gabriela Herman has been photographing and interviewing people from all over the country with one or more LGBTQ parent.

“My mom is gay,” she explained. “But it took me a long time to say those words out loud.” For Herman, coming to terms with her mother’s identity was a “raw and difficult time.” She had never met another person who was raised by a gay parent. “The topic was taboo even within our otherwise tight-knit family,” she said. “My younger siblings were dealing with the same emotions, but meaningful conversation eluded us.” Eventually she connected with COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) and found a community of people who shared a similar childhood: the juggling of silence and isolation, the defending of parents on the playground. In many ways, the images and interviews in Herman’s essay The Kids seeks to fill that silence. The children of gay parents aren’t “hypothetical”: They’re real and they’re ok.gay parents adoption

  1.  Hope, raised in New York City by her two dads: “I would see my friend’s families and my aunts and uncles and I knew that people had something called a mother that I didn’t necessarily have, but I didn’t really think that I was so much in the minority. I wondered about my birth family and my birth mother in particular, but in terms of my own development, I don’t feel like I suffered because of it. I think that my parents did a fantastic job of helping to raise me to be a strong woman, but in terms of that question piece about where did I come from—sometimes I still wonder that, and then other times it just kinda disappears in terms of its importance.”
  2. Allison, raised in Connecticut and Vermont by her mom and her mom’s partner: “As soon as I found out [my new school] had a gay-straight alliance I just—it was amazing, to know that there are other kids my age—to realize that they were supportive of LGBT people. I wasn’t the only one who knew gay people and it wasn’t this dark secret that I had to hide.”
  3. Kerry, raised in New Jersey by her dad and mom, who came out when she was 11: “I remember a conversation with my mom where she was talking about how she would like to marry another woman. When I was really little I wanted to marry my best friend so I was like, ‘Oh, it’s like me and Sarah?’ She was like, ‘No, not like you and Sarah.’”
  4. Zack, raised in upstate New York by his two moms: “Everyone in my family is adopted. I had less trouble with two moms and more issues with finding myself, you know, with race and ethnicity.”

by Emily Ann Epstein, The Atlantic – March 6, 2017

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‘The both of us are his daddies’: Three surrogacy stories in Ireland

Legal uncertainty in Ireland has not stopped couples going abroad to create longed-for families

Three families in Ireland, three very different stories but one common thread – each couple has used a surrogate mother to give birth to their children.

Surrogacy is neither legal nor illegal in Ireland because it is not yet addressed in legislation. But that has not deterred an increasing number of couples who see it as the only way to create their longed-for family. While lawmakers here have deliberated for at least 10 years over the ramifications of surrogacy, these couples can’t wait and mostly go abroad to a country that has legislated for it.more gay couples are embracing surrogacy

There are undoubtedly legal and moral issues to be debated around surrogacy. But here, in the run-up to a Dublin conference hosted by the international not-for-profit Families Through Surrogacy, three couples tell how they moved beyond the abstract to make surrogacy part of their life story.

Neil McDonagh (28), Andrew Millar (27) and 14-week-old Oisín Millar-McDonagh live in Belfast

Partners for nine years, Neil McDonagh and Andrew Millar used to imagine what it would be like to raise a child – “like as if it was never going to happen”, says McDonagh.

But five years ago they began to think seriously about the “what if”. At the time, as a gay couple, adoption was not an option for them in the North so they looked into the possibility of being assessed in England for approval to adopt.

Not only was the process daunting but they were also keen to adopt a baby, and it was mostly older children who were being placed. They started to consider surrogacy.

They had just settled on doing it in Thailand when that country closed its programme to foreigners. That is the thing with international surrogacy, says McDonagh, “it is so fluid – one minute it’s okay and the next minute it’s not”. They considered Cambodia and Nepal but no sooner had they decided on the latter than the Himalayan country abruptly shut its surrogacy programme in September 2015.

“That really did set us back – it is an emotional roller coaster,” says McDonagh, originally from Dublin. They began to ask themselves should they accept that surrogacy wasn’t for them. However, their thoughts turned back to the UK where altruistic surrogacy is permitted.

When researching the possibility, they became part of an online network of parents and surrogates. They got to know a woman who had carried a baby for another couple and asked her if she was intending to do it again, would she consider them as parents? Three months later she said she was open to the idea and suggested the three of them meet.

The Irish Times by Sheila Wayman, February 25, 2016

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No One Is Safe From the Gender Binary—Even Gay Families

Guess what I got for Christmas from my kids?  A T-shirt that reads “The Daddy of all Daddies.” This was sweet, and I’m glad to win any competition, no matter how imaginary. But it was also weird in a way. If I’m the “Daddy of all Daddies,” where does that leave their other father?

The easy answer, and likely the one that animated my daughters’ purchase, is that I’m “Daddy” and David is “Papa.” (How we arrived at who’d have which title is a matter for another column.) But there’s a more complex one, too, which I’m guessing was in the back of their minds: I’m the dad, and David is the mom.

I don’t even have to imagine this as their thinking, really, because one of the kids said as much out loud a few weeks ago. David had just given her medication to help her deal with a cold, and, quite abruptly, she announced that he was “more like the mom” and I was “the dad.” Wait, what? How can our kids (of all people!) be hypnotized by the rigid gender dichotomy that our family undermines by our very existence?2nd parent adoption, second parent adoption, second parent adoptions, second parent adoption new york

It’s not even as though we follow roles that break down in quite the way of “traditional” mom/dad couples. My job’s hours are pretty flexible, so I have lots of time to spend with the family. I do my share of the laundry and generally clean up after dinner. David does the cooking. And when it comes to caring for them when they’re sick—which, after all, triggered the mom/dad comment—it’s a pretty even deal. In fact, I had to interrupt writing this column to mop up some vomit.

I admit the home workload isn’t strictly a 50/50 proposition. David’s design business is part-time at this point, and he does more around the house than I do. But our roles are flexible and nongendered enough that calling us Mom and Dad is just weird.

It’s also true that our neighborhood is very gender-progressive. Our next door neighbors both work full-time, but the dad’s home a lot more, does more than half the cooking, and is forever busy around the house. On the next block is a dad who mainly works from home while mom goes off to her full-time engineering job. Another mom is a high-level nurse practitioner whose husband is an ice sculptor. And so on. In sum, there is no shortage of gender-role busting all around us. Why isn’t all that enough to steer our kids away from such reductive ways of thinking?

Because even those important, living examples of role flexibility are still overwhelmed by the morass of gender traditionalism swirling around them.

Let’s go back to 2007, when the kids were just 2 years old. We’d just completed the adoption process and wanted to have their Social Security cards re-issued with their new last names and with David and me listed as their legal parents. What ensued, though, was homophobic hilarity of both the internal and external types. The Social Security forms had spaces for two parents: “mother” and “father.” The nice-enough guy who processed the form advised that there had been a few other same-sex couples in this situation, and the solution was simply to choose one parent to do an on-the-spot, limited-time gender change. In other words, he was asking me to lie to the government by designating one of us as “mother” although the application itself was the bigger liar. Then he said: “And since you’re the one standing here, you get to be the father.” I muttered something now lost to the ages and did as he’d suggested.

Not 30 seconds later, of course, I had second thoughts: Why was he making anysuggestion besides “fill in whichever blank you wanted.” And why did I accede to this absurdity rather than doing the only respectable queer thing—signing myself in as “mother,” and then turning on my heel and striding imperiously away, perhaps while quoting Mommie Dearest?

I understand that the forms have been changed since 2007, but the essentializing assumptions that underlay them are much tougher to drive out of our collective mental beehive. Just this past weekend, I heard a trailer for some NPR show featuring a lesbian comedian who declared, to forced laughter, that having two sons was the ultimate joke on her and her wife. I’m sure that if I’d searched out the actual show from which this inanity was plucked, I’d have heard the requisite disclaimers (“Oh, our children are our lives … ”), but I’d already had enough. I thought we LGBTQ parents were supposed to be knocking down these pegs rather than mining them for cheap laughs. Yeah, there’s this “lesbians hate men” trope, but really? And the “joke” feeds into intractable stereotypes about how boys need dads, and girls need moms—even though the comedian was probably trying to make a different point.

Before I work myself into hysterics, though, it’s worth acknowledging the more benign take on all this. Maybe my daughter was just expressing, in the terms available to her, that David’s more likely to express his feminine side, or is more comfortable doing so. But I have trouble with that explanation when gender division is made normative from birth. Retail establishments still divide clothing and toys by gender, and the advertising that parades in front of kids’ eyes almost invariably features moms doing mom things, and dads doing dad things. That I don’t even have to tell you what they’re doing makes the point well enough. Our daughters have managed to develop their own gender styles despite all this hounding, but as they reach adolescence, that’s only going to get harder to maintain. The “Papa is the mom” comment could be an early sign of what’s to come despite our tiresome reminders otherwise.

By John Culhane – slate.com, January 24, 2017

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