A new book by the hosts of a popular podcast captures the lively spirit of the show and the insights of their many guests as it explores LGBTQ family making.
If These Ovaries Could Talk: The Things We’ve Learned About Making an LGBTQ Family, by Jaimie Kelton and Robin Hopkins, might more accurately have been subtitled “… Making LGBTQ Families,” because there are many of them here and they’re a varied lot. Since January 2018, when Kelton and Hopkins launched their If These Ovaries Could Talk podcast, they’ve spoken with dozens of LGBTQ parents, parents-to-be, and their children, including celebrities like comedian Judy Gold, poet StaceyAnn Chin, and Iowa State Senator Zach Wahls; medical, legal, and financial experts; and many other individuals and couples of various identities and at different stages of their parenting journeys. Their book, culled from the many conversations they’ve had, is aimed at two audiences: LGBTQ people who want to start a family and curious non-LGBTQ folks who might want to know more about LGBTQ families but have been “too afraid to ask.”
That sets it apart from many of the other books about LGBTQ family making, which are aimed more exclusively at prospective LGBTQ parents. The dual audience for this book, though, parallels the goal of the podcast “to normalize (for lack of a better word) our nontraditional families. To show the world our struggles, our love, our joy, our thoughtfulness and our humanity.” Hopkins and Kelton find the balance between those audiences by focusing on sharing stories rather than creating a step-by-step how-to manual—yet there’s still plenty of practical information here for those who want it. Although they don’t shy away from the many challenges faced by LGBTQ parents—both as LGBTQ people and as parents—they also give readers a big heaping dose of joy and positivity. “Our families are freaking fabulous,” they emote.
Kelton and Hopkins, both award-winning actors, bring their signature humor and chatty tone to keep things conversational, even when discussing serious topics. Hopkins began her career as a stand-up comic in New York City and is now an executive producer of the podcast Amy Schumer Presents: 3 Girls, 1 Keith. Her film and TV credits include Boardwalk Empire, Louie, Hindsight and more. She’s also an accomplished playwright. Kelton has over 17 years of stage experience as an actor, singer, and dancer, and has done voiceover work for Disney’s The Octonauts, Amazon’s Bug Diaries, and SYFY’s Happy, among other shows. Importantly, too, they’re both lesbian moms who also share their own stories.
Rather than simply give us transcripts of their podcast episodes, however, they’ve sifted through them to compile key stories and dialogues into thematic chapters. Most chapters begin with short introductory pieces by each of them, followed by the first-person reflections on the chapter’s topic by several podcast guests, sometimes in conversation with each other or the hosts.
The first section of the book is about starting a family, beginning with a chapter on deciding if you even want to do so. There are chapters on donors, assisted reproduction, adoption and foster care, and “Trans and Fertility” (awkwardly named but thoughtfully done in that the cisgender authors step back to let transgender people speak for themselves). The second section looks at topics for those who already have kids. Here we have chapters on money and legal issues, “Being Out as a Family”; “Talking to Your Kids About Their Family”; families that include networks of donors, donor siblings, and other adults; being a non-biological, adoptive, or step parent; intersectional issues including race, religion, and gender fluidity; and “Growing Up with Gay Parents.” A glossary at the end provides a helpful look at some commonly used terms.
Perhaps most importantly, the stories here convey the great variety of LGBTQ parenting experiences. The book is, of course, limited by the identities and experiences of Hopkins, Kelton, and their guests as of the book’s writing—they’re a diverse lot, but don’t, for example, include any parents who identify (at least in the book) as bisexual or any children of transgender parents. (They do, however, include transgender parents and bisexual children of LGBTQ parents, though one guest’s description of her daughter as both “bisexual” and “lesbian” begs clarification.) Their podcast continues, though; perhaps there will be a second book as well, with even more varied voices.
A few quibbles have more to do with the editing than the main content of the book. There are an unfortunate number of typos, which I hope can be corrected in a future edition. A full index would have been helpful. A list of the podcast episodes and guests would have benefited from including the episode dates. Those are minor issues, however, and do not substantially detract from the thoughtful stories, information, and sense of community conveyed by the many voices here.
If you want to be inspired by other LGBTQ families who have been have through some of the same decision-making processes; if you want to feel like you’re in a fun group discussion with other LGBTQ parents and their children that makes the whole experience less daunting; or if you want a book to share with non-LGBTQ relatives, friends, and neighbors about our families, then this is the book for you. Let’s hope these ovaries keep talking.
Like the book? Keep up with If These Ovaries Could Talk wherever you listen to podcasts.
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