Have you ever felt like someone was judging you? I’m sure you have. Everyone has. People judge others based on literally everything. It may be your clothes, hair, friends. The list is endless. Judgment is one of the biggest areas of concern when it comes to LGBT parenting issues. In this article, Hilary tells us important stories about queer parenting and raising a daughter with 2 moms. She also provides the best LGBTQ parenting resource: experience-based advice.
My family doesn’t look like most families. I am a white female, and so is my wife. We have a mixed child (African American/Caucasian). My wife was in a relationship with a man before we started our relationship, and they had a daughter whose name is Autumn.
My wife and I have been together for 2 ½ years.
Autumn started calling me Mom a few weeks after my wife and I started dating, all on her own, and that’s what she’s been calling me ever since. Her father is barely a part of her life, by his own choices, so I am her second parent.
Many people have had issues with the fact that even though I am not biologically related to Autumn, I consider myself her second mother (more on this later).
I’m here to tell you, though, that LGBT parenting is just like any other parenting. Sexuality doesn’t influence how you parent.
To a child, a step-parent (if that’s what you want to call it) who is present in their lives is just as real as any biological parent. Being lesbian mothers makes us no different than other mothers.
Research about Queer Parenting
Did you know that as at least six million American children and adults have an LGBT parent?
And, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, an estimated two million LGBT people are interested in adoption.
There are so many gay and lesbian couples who are interested in important social institutions like foster care, and who want to raise children who need loving families.
With ever increasing number of gay or lesbian parents, the number of studies on queer families is increasing.
In fact, “studies have shown that children are more influenced by their interactions with their parents than by their parents’ sexual orientation.”
In other words, evidence from social science shows that children of same sex couples have no problem with child development. The family structures within the queer community can provide tremendous love and support to children who need it.
You Get a Lot of Weird Questions When Queer Parenting
Despite these statistics and the fact that it should be a non-issue that I’m also Autumn’s mom, we still get a lot of questions and judgment. This is among the most frustrating of LGBT parenting issues.
When my family goes out, it is almost guaranteed that people will stare at us or judge us because of what they see.
Now, what exactly do they see?
I’m assuming they see 2 white females, holding hands (so, a gay couple).
They also see a mixed little girl with these 2 white females (“Poor kid,” they might think to themselves).
Basically, they’re confused. It’s likely they ask themselves a variation of these kinds of questions:
- How/why do these 2 white females have a mixed child with them?
- Is she their child?
- If so, who birthed her?
- How do 2 females have a child?
- Where’s her father?
People have even been bold enough to ask my wife and me some of these same questions.
Their curiosity isn’t necessarily welcome, but sometimes it’s harmless, and sometimes it isn’t.
Many people see things wrong with our family. We’re gay; we’re racially blended; we are parenting a child who is not biologically related to me.
They chose to see something inherently wrong with same sex relationships, same sex parents, or multiracial families. We are treated differently as a result.
“I Have Two Mommas; I Don’t Need A Dad”
However, our daughter sees absolutely nothing wrong with our family.
She knows that most kids have a mom and a dad, not 2 mommas. But when you ask her about it, she says she loves having 2 moms and that it’s pretty cool.
Recently, a couple of younger kids were playing with our daughter, and they told her she was supposed to have a mom and a dad. (No big deal, we understand that this is the norm for most kids).
Autumn responded to these 2 children, who were trying in their own naive way to tell her that her family was abnormal, so beautifully.
“I have 2 mommas, I don’t need a dad.”
Here’s the thing. Her simple response made my heart SO happy because it made me realize she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on anything by having 2 moms.
Both of her mommas take great care of her and love her more than anything in the world, so she’s happy.
And that is exactly what I want for my baby girl: for her to be happy and know that she is loved.
LGBT Parenting Discrimination
You would think that it’s 2020 and homophobia isn’t a big issue in today’s world. Or maybe it’s still an issue but now people are a little more accepting.
Or, you might assume that folks would at least be considerate enough to keep their ignorant thoughts about queer parenting to themselves.
However, if you think that, I’m here to tell you, you’re wrong.
My wife, Lexie, and I have had people stare at just us or make rude comments to us because we’re gay. We don’t even have to have our daughter with us for people to judge our life choices.
I’ve never been one to hide who I am to please others, so if I’m out with my wife, and I want to hold her hand, I’m going to hold her hand. That’s just how I am.
Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with that. If I see a straight couple holding hands, it doesn’t bother me, and I don’t feel the need to say something to them, so I don’t see why my wife and I should be any different.
About 6 months ago, Lexie and I went to Walmart while our daughter was at her grandparent’s house for the night.
It was late, so there weren’t many customers. We were holding hands, as we usually do, and a Walmart employee (in uniform!) walked past us muttering how disgusting we were.
Now, we weren’t in the aisle making out or anything. We were literally walking down the aisle holding hands.
Walmart employee, please explain to me how I am bothering you.
If you don’t want to see a display of affection from 2 married, loving individuals, then don’t look.
There have also been people who have told me that I don’t know what I’m doing because I’m trying to take on a “father role” to Autumn. That is not what my role is.
I am Autumn’s second mother, and I have/will never try to be her “father.”
For instance, once Lexie and I took Autumn to the doctor. The staff asked us which one of us was her mother.
We answered that we both were, but they argued with us that only one of us could be her mother, and they would only allow Lexie to answer questions about Autumn because she is her biological mother.
Imagine being left out in the cold while your child receives healthcare because your genes don’t match those of your child.
LGBT Parenting Issues
It’s not just strangers who have been unaccepting of my family because we are lgbt parents. Even some of my family have had a very difficult accepting us as a nuclear family.
They have had difficulty accepting us because of how we look and how our family was formed.
When strangers make rude comments about us, it isn’t such a big deal. However, when it’s my family, it’s a huge deal. And it caused us to lose our relationships with some of my family members for several months.
At one point, not a single member of my immediate family was talking to me.
I had an argument with my mom and aunt because they wouldn’t accept that I’m Autumn’s mom along with her biological mother, Lexie. My aunt tried to tell me that she wasn’t my daughter because legally she didn’t belong to me.
My mother refused to call me “mom” in front of Autumn and would simply call me by my nickname, “Hil.” The sad part about this is that this precious baby didn’t know who “Hil” was, and she was so confused.
To see your daughter confused by a name she doesn’t know you by is completely gut-wrenching.
Eventually, my mom began to realize that I, too, was Autumn’s mom, and the issues with most of my family have been resolved.
There are also people who have been accepting of us from the very beginning. Lexie’s entire family was very welcoming of me and our relationship.
We went to visit her family out of state a month or two after we started dating. In all honesty, I was scared and worried about how they would feel about Lexie bringing a girl home. However, no one treated me differently or disrespectfully.
They treated me like family and they still do, which is amazing.
Your Sexuality Has Nothing to do with How You Parent
There are also people who tell us how great we’re doing raising Autumn.
They will tell us how smart, beautiful, caring, and well behaved she is.
This makes me so happy because we’re in a world where people think we shouldn’t be raising a child because we’re gay. But in my opinion, your sexuality has nothing to do with how well you parent your child.
Guess what? We parent in the same way that straight people do:
- we have a daily routine;
- we do pre-school activities with her regularly;
- she is taught to respect her parents and everyone she comes in contact with;
- she is disciplined when she misbehaves;
- as a family, we spend a lot of time together–hiking, biking, going to the zoo.
We do everything a happy, healthy normal family would do.
What Will Happen When Autumn is Older?
Right now, Autumn is at the point when she knows her family doesn’t look like most other families, but she’s also perfectly okay with that.
I think that at this age, she’s not old enough to understand the disrespectful comments that people make, or know that people rudely stare at us.
However, I know in the future, she’s going to ask why some people do this, or why we have strained relationships with some of my family members. And when she does, I plan on being 100% honest with her that there is still an unnecessary stigma against LGBT parents.
I plan on telling her that some people think it’s really bad to be gay because they think it’s not “normal.” I also plan on telling her that it’s okay for other people to have their opinions, and it’s okay for us to have our opinions.
But I’ll always highlight these points most: Her momma and I aren’t doing anything wrong. We aren’t hurting each other and we aren’t hurting anyone else.
We are loving each other, in a very healthy and beautiful way, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Combating Hate with Love
Dealing with all the rude looks and disrespectful comments used to bother me a bit. However, I’ve learned to combat the hate with love.
I don’t hate people who say rude things to us. If someone disrespects my family, will I defend the people I love? Of course.
However, some people are so close-minded that 2 moms loving each other and raising a child in a healthy way is beyond the capability of their thinking. But guess what? Nothing anyone says or does will make me love my wife less.
Advice for LGBT Parents
1. Don’t let the hate get to you. You can’t control other people’s thoughts and opinions, you can only try to educate them. But, if they don’t want to hear it, there’s nothing else you can do, and you have to be okay with that.
2. When you’re dealing with hate and disrespect from other people, lean on your spouse, never pull away from them. My wife has been my rock through all of the struggles with my family not accepting me, and I probably wouldn’t have made it through that without her.
3.You are a FAMILY. Let your child know that even though your family might not look like most other families out there, you’re still a family. A man, a woman, and a child does not make a family. Love does.
Advice for non-LGBT Parents
1. Open your mind and your heart. Don’t be so closed-minded that you can’t accept other people.
2. Don’t take it out on children. If for some reason you can’t accept gay people, do not take it out on their children. Don’t make comments to a child like, “Your family isn’t normal” or “Why don’t you have a dad?” or “Why don’t you have a mom?” It’s not my daughter’s fault she has 2 moms, however much she loves it.
You, as an adult, know that there is no “normal” in today’s world and that should be okay.
You know what should start being the norm? Being happy.
You, the adult, also know that some children (even children with straight parents) don’t have a mom or a dad in their life. So please don’t choose to complicate the life or family views of a child.
The World Could Use More Love
Despite the homophobia, the stares, and the rude comments from strangers and family, I will not hide my love for my wife or my beautiful family from the world.
Despite anyone’s personal beliefs, I think we can agree on one thing: this world is full of too much hate. We could use more healthy, beautiful love in it.
So I refuse to hide my beautiful, smart, funny, caring, mixed child from the world.
And I refuse to hide her 2 moms, or my intense love for my wife.
We are who we are. We are two people who fell in love with each other and are raising an amazing child.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hilary is married to a wonderful woman, Lexie, and we have an amazing three year old daughter, Autumn. She loves spending time with her family, whether it be taking a hike outdoors or having a movie night. She is a stay-at-home-mom and recently took on being a parenting/lifestyle blogger at Jones Moms.
She feels as though her experience as a mom (who is also gay) could help others who are in the same position. Find her on Twitter @Jonesmoms.
Posts on Motherhood
- What is a mother?
- Overcoming mom guilt
- Dealing with parenting stress
- Rediscovering yourself after motherhood
- Becoming a mother
Posts on Parenting
- Tips for managing parenting stress
- Managing the madness of moving with kids
- Understanding speech milestones
- Importance of first aid for parents and caregivers
- When to give up on potty training
- Empowering books for girls
- Feminist books for boys (let’s be honest–all of these books are good for kids of all genders!)
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, toddler mom, and owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society has historically placed too many expectations on women, defining womanhood and motherhood in a way that is restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Scary Mommy, Motherhood and Social Exclusion, and various other podcasts and websites.