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Talking to Other Parents about Your Gay Family

Updated: Feb 12

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I am a proud and out lesbian, and I have embraced my identity with openness and pride at work, with my family, and in social situations since my late 20s. Having served at one point as the executive director of Philadelphia's William Way LGBTQ+ Community Center, championing the cause of equality and inclusivity came second nature to me. I didn't think I could be more out than I was. 


When my wife Jenn and I decided to start a family, we had been together for several years. It took a while, but we finally decided that she would carry and that we would use an anonymous sperm donor who shared some physical characteristics with me: Blue eyes and light hair. Unlike me, the sperm donor we picked was tall, over 6 feet, and from a family of tall men. I am a perfectly average 5'5" specimen.


Claire Baker and Partner

Jenn successfully carried both boys, and each had the same sperm donor. Both have blue eyes; when they were little, they were towheads. They were also tall for their ages. I would take them to the playground or the mall to keep them entertained, and other moms would 1) assume I had given birth to them and 2) assume my husband must be very tall. "Your kids look so much like you! And your husband must be very tall!" they'd say. Faced with having to either demur and deflect, outright lie, "Why yes, he's 6' tall," or answer, "Well, actually, my wife is the birth mother, and we used a sperm donor who was both tall and had light hair and blue eyes." Lie or TMI?


First, a note about assumptions: Of course, people assumed that I was the straight biological mother of my two tall, blue-eyed children! There is a lot of work to do to increase awareness and understanding of different family structures, and so far, we don't live in a world in which it would have been logical to assume otherwise. However, that doesn't mean that we can't take the opportunity to inform and educate and chip away at heteronormative and cisgender assumptions that abound if and when we decide the conditions are right for doing the work.


These "opportunities" usually presented themselves when I was out and about with one or both boys. Because Jenn was a stay-at-home mom and needed to have time without the kids, I spent many after-work and weekend hours taking the boys to playgrounds, sports practice, the pool, and as they got older, skiing, water parks, ropes courses, and zipline parks. This "tall blonde" conversational dilemma came up constantly. How I answered depended on a lot of factors, quite a bit of deciding at the moment, and a few questions I asked myself that you can adopt as you navigate the world as a lesbian mom.


1. Is there an obvious reason not to go with the short answer?

Prioritize physical and emotional safety above all else. It may be best to remain tight-lipped in a hostile environment. Without this concern, the decision-making progresses like an if-then flow chart.



2. How will my answer impact my kids? 

When they were babies and if we were someplace, we wouldn't visit often; it would not have been a big deal to spin a fabrication about their lineage. Usually, though, we were in our community, where a lie could quickly come back to bite me or my kids.


3. Might there be any unintended consequences?

The fear of not being truthful was wrapped up in my values as a parent, trying to impart that "lying is bad" to my kids. I would never want them to see themselves as anything other than the children of two intentional, loving parents. 


4. Is this a person I want to include in my social network? 

Let's face it – going from childfree to parent can drastically impact your social life. People you used to hang out with do not understand the need to get together at 10 am so as not to conflict with a nap schedule. You will find that your social circle shifts from a group of your lesbian peers to the moms of other kids in the playgroup. Proximity will throw you together. 


Daycare, preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school are the years of reorienting your life to your kids and their activities. You'll be spending time with the other parents – mostly moms. Statistically speaking, most will not be queer. Who among the parents in the group can be more than a conversation partner during the birthday party - perhaps someone you genuinely enjoy spending time with?


5. How will I handle this impact on my day? 

Sometimes, you want your kids to play and be happy and do not wish to have a substantive conversation or seize an opportunity for a teachable moment. It is okay to guard your privacy, divert the conversation, and shut it down – no lying required. Think of it akin to sitting next to a person on an airplane. Like on a plane, sometimes you want to visit, or the person seems interesting. Sometimes, you want to put in your earbuds or nap. The difference is that you rarely see the same airplane seatmate again, and the playgroup or playground-after-preschool scenario frequently puts you in contact with the same moms. You'll know in the moment what your best move is.


I usually opted for oversharing, and fortunately, nothing terrible happened. If people were put off by sharing the swing set with a lesbian family, they went their separate way. I can't recall ever fabricating a husband. However, I wouldn't put it past me to have answered the "Your husband must be very tall!" with a diversion like "My kids really are tall, aren't they!" if I didn't feel like having a conversation or seizing the assumptions-breaking opportunity. When I didn't feel like sharing, I also didn't disabuse people's assumptions that I was the birth mother – no benefit to be gained from that, and to my kids, it didn't matter which mom gave birth to them.



Claire Baker is a certified professional life coach. Through her coaching business, Practical Change Coaching, she extends her commitment to fostering positive change and empowerment within the broader LGBTQ+ community. As a loving and supportive parent, she strives to embody the principles of authenticity and resilience, sharing her experiences and wisdom to inspire others on their journeys toward happiness and fulfillment.


 

A vibrant, safe space for LGBTQ+ moms to connect.

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