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How Being a Gay Mom Has Changed in the Last 20 Years: Part 2

Updated: Feb 12

Support LGBTQ+ Small Business! Join Gay Moms Club and champion small business while celebrating LGBTQ+ motherhood.


Being a lesbian, let alone a lesbian mother, has changed a lot in the last 20 years — and proudly, we can say we’ve made progress for the better, even if there is still a long way to go. In celebration of the transformation of LGBTQ+ motherhood, we’ve decided to tell the stories of those who know it best: those who have lived it.

In our second installment of this Q&A series, we’re talking Tonya Agnew (she/her) — the Vice President of Communications & Marketing at Family Equality — about her incredible experience of raising two children with her wife and how things have changed over the past twenty years for lesbian mothers.

Tonya and her family

Q: How did being a lesbian mom look twenty years ago?

A: Twenty years ago, when my wife and I were going through the process of adding another child to our family, the world of being a lesbian mom looked quite a bit different.


Today, there are doctors in our Indiana community who will help lesbians become pregnant, but twenty years ago, my wife and I had to drive to Indianapolis to find a physician who was welcoming to our family. There were also fewer lesbians who were having children 20 years ago compared to today.

Tonya and her family, 2006
Tonya and her family, 2006

Q: When some folks think of gay motherhood, they flash back to The L Word. Is the show a true depiction of what it looked like to navigate being a lesbian mom at that time?

A: I remember when the show The L Word aired for the first time back in 2004. I was thrilled to see queer women living their lives on TV and I was especially excited to watch Bette and Tina on their journey to becoming parents. Their California lives were a bit different from what I was experiencing in Indiana, however, there were some commonalities. We both experienced fears of not being a good enough parent, the challenges of juggling work and motherhood, and the struggles of getting pregnant as a lesbian couple.

Q: How has the world changed in viewing lesbian mothers now?

A: Now, there is broad support for LGBTQ+ protections and equality. Eight in ten people support nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. Two-thirds of Americans support marriage equality. Even with the noise from the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and bills introduced in legislatures across the country, there is support for the LGBTQ+ community. That doesn't mean there aren't issues, though. We know many who are discriminated against for being open about who they are. We know some don't feel safe in their communities.


We know some are worried about their children speaking about their families in their schools after states like Florida and Iowa passed "Don't say gay" bills.

Tonya, her wife & youngest son at the White House Pride Celebration in June 2023
Tonya, her wife & youngest son at the White House Pride Celebration in June 2023

At Family Equality, we're fighting to ensure the protection and support of LGBTQ+ families in all corners of the United States, and we’ve been doing it since 1979. Family is the building block of society and LGBTQ+ people have the right to form families too. LGBTQ+ individuals and our unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should not be up for debate.

Q: What are some things to celebrate about lesbian motherhood now?

A: One thing we should celebrate about lesbian motherhood now versus 20 years ago is progress. We've made progress with legal protections, acceptance of queer families, and visibility. While there is still much to be done, we should definitely take a moment to recognize and appreciate how far we've come.

Tonya and her family in Fall of 2023, Photo by Charde Berrett
Tonya and her family in Fall of 2023, Photo by Charde Berrett

Q: Do you have any personal anecdotes of being a lesbian mom to share?

A: My wife and I, together 25 years and married for almost 11 of those years, have raised two children – one I had from a previous relationship and one who we had together. I approached my children's teachers, classmates, coaches, and our neighbors with the assumption that they wouldn't have an issue with our family and, for the most part, that approach worked for us.


We were (and are) two working parents who take care of our home, cheer our kids on in their sports and musical endeavors, and want nothing more than our kids to lead healthy, happy, and successful lives in whatever way that means to them. 


We've been involved parents from the start. We volunteered at our kids' school. My wife was a coach for soccer, baseball, and basketball for both our boys. We hosted cross country team dinners for both our kids who excelled at distance running. We took vacations and hosted extended family for holidays and, at the heart of it all is love. We're Midwest moms who have raised one son who became a Marine and one son who is currently a college sophomore. We love our kids, our home, and our community and hope the same for LGBTQ+ families everywhere.


Support LGBTQ+ Small Business! Join the Gay Moms Club and champion small business while celebrating LGBTQ+ motherhood.

By signing up for a Club Membership, you’re not just supporting a vibrant and growing community; you’re also empowering small business within the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Embrace diversity, support local entrepreneurs, and be a part of a movement that fosters inclusivity, one membership at a time.


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