My ex- partner and I originally came to the Bay Area because we thought it would be a great place to raise children. We were right. Especially in the East Bay. Lots of lesbians who want and have kids, lots of support for gay families. That was around 1986. We came from Minneapolis, which was somewhat progressive with regard to lesbians, but definitely not in the pregnancy and child rearing domain.
This year as I watch the gay pride parade (on television) and see all the politicians involved, and think of all the states where gay marriage is legal, I remember all the amazing things that I was able to participate in by being a lesbian with children in Berkeley, California and I feel very lucky to have lived here.
I met two of my best friends the first month I was here at a conference for educators about teaching in classrooms with gay families. My partner and I found a group called “Maybe Baby” to talk with other lesbians about the all the ups and downs of having children. We were able to find a place to provide us with sperm so that we could get pregnant (actually, my partner got pregnant, I was not able to several years later when I tried). And then we found a group of pregnant lesbians to be in a birthing group with, and we remained close to them and their children for many years.
When our oldest daughter was a year or two old, we were invited to a dinner with another lesbian family that was being interviewed by Stone Phillips (was that Prime Time?) about what it was like to be a lesbian family. It was very exciting, and although my family didn’t end up in the final cut, I swear I saw my daughter’s face in an ad for the upcoming show. It was a little scary however, because though I was always “out” in the schools where I worked, I certainly didn’t advertise the fact that we were gay to the world. I was sort of relieved we didn’t end up on the show, because I didn’t want any crazies in the area threatening us or our daughter.
We were the first lesbian family to adopt from the organization which helped us find our second daughter. That was exciting, unexpected, a miracle. And even though I was often asked if I was the foster mother, and often given unsolicited advice about how to deal with my African American daughter’s hair, I was proud to have such a wonderful family. At the playground, my daughter would say to other mothers, “I have two moms.” I’d hold my breath, wondering what the response would be, but then I’d hear them say, “Well aren’t you lucky?”
We were one of the early families to go through Social Services and both become legal parents of our children. For our oldest daughter, the social worker had to recommend that the adoption not go through, and then we went to the judge who overturned that and let me adopt her while her birth mom also remained her legal mom. We have a photo with that judge. Then about 6 months later when we went through the adoption process for our newborn second daughter, the state realized that it was losing money, and they changed it so that the social worker recommended that the adoption go through, and so it did, and we have another picture with the same judge. We have seen a lot of change happen since we’ve lived here.
We took the girls to the gay pride parade and march with the other parents, pushing our strollers proudly down the streets of San Francisco. I remember trying to find a spot to watch from the sidewalk, and being excited once when there was actually a space. We all got ourselves settled there, thrilled that we could actually see the parade, when the extreme religious fanatic whose corner it was, came back from a “break” and began saying horrible things about being gay. We moved along quickly.
I can basically say that this really was a great place for my kids to grow up in such a family as ours — 2 moms, 3 races, deafness, adoption. We never really encountered anything horrible that had to do with being a lesbian family (except the above occurrence), and my kids knew lots of people who had similar families. I think it seemed pretty normal and comfortable to them. I also always had children in my school who came from lesbian and gay families, and I taught with other gay teachers. I could never have been closeted, so I’m grateful I never felt I had to be.
Now I’ve been able to legally get married to my present partner and have a celebration in a public place with all our children and our grandchild. What more could I ask? I know that the country has a long way to go to accept that “love is love.” But I also know that it has come a long way since I was born, and even since I came out, which was when I was 28, and I am grateful. My children can take certain things for granted, which never would have been the case for people in earlier generations.
My song for my marriage and for my gratitude towards all of the amazing people who’ve suffered and took and are still taking risks and giving energy to gay rights so that my children can be comfortable in the world is this: