Tag: Moms

LGBTQ Parenting Roundup: Soccer Moms Edition

LGBTQ Parenting Roundup: Post-Election Edition

A few news items on queer parents that I haven’t covered elsewhere!

LGBTQ Parenting Roundup

Politics and Law

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has directed the state’s Department of Financial Services to ensure that insurers begin covering fertility services immediately for same sex couples who wish to start a family. Current insurance law requires insurers to cover infertility services, but same-sex couples must sometimes pay six or 12 months of out-of-pocket expenses for fertility (to prove their “infertility,” which in many cases is only because they are a same-sex couple) before qualifying for coverage. Some individual corporations have started offering such coverage, but I believe New York is the first state in the nation to require this.
  • Last December, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take a case in which Indiana was trying to deny the right of married nonbiological mothers in same-sex couples to be recognized as legal parents by being put on their children’s birth certificates. Now, an Indiana legislator has filed a bill that would require birth certificates to record the names of a child’s biological parents or, if the biological parents are unknown, the names of the presumptive parents. Luckily, attorneys for the plaintiffs in the earlier case say they don’t think it has much chance of passage.
  • Irish mom and activist Ranae von Meding writes in the Washington Blade about her and her wife’s Audrey’s struggle, first, to start a family through reciprocal IVF (her womb, Audrey’s eggs), then to secure legal parental recognition for Audrey, which they have been unable to do yet. Even if they are recognized, she says, they will keep fighting “until every child of an LGBTQ+ parent in Ireland has the same rights and protections as any other child in the country.” Newstalk has another interview with her and with a two-dad couple in Ireland who became parents through surrogacy and are similarly fighting for recognition, but are all currently in a “legal limbo” that hinders their ability to get basic documentation and benefits for their children.
  • Tarini Mehta offers an overview at The Print on policies and attitudes about queer parents in India.

Family Profiles

  • Gay dad Tyler Curry asks at the Advocate, “Exactly what, if any, impact does my male gender identity have on my role as a parent?” He concludes, “It isn’t that I believe in such strict gender roles in parenting. Quite the opposite. But if growing up with two dads means a constant question of who is filling that “mom” role in her life. Then to hell with it, I am Mom. Yeah, I am also Dad. But if for some reason being Mom has some different, more legitimate meaning when it comes to my daughter’s foundation of parents, then I am that too.” It’s a thoughtful take on gender and parenting.

Health Care and Inclusion

Sports

  • Finally, in very important news for all the soccer moms out there, U.S. Women’s National Team members Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger are now parents! They adopted a child last week. Harris wrote a letter to the child’s birth mom, which she shared on Instagram, saying in part, “We promise Sloane will be loved every single day by us, our friends and our family…. We promise to share her adoption story with her from the very beginning and celebrate every milestone! We promise to encourage her to follow her dreams no matter how big or small. We promise to be open minded and respect your wishes to have future communication and that she will always know how much you love her!”

An Everyday Backyard Adventure (and Two Moms) in New Picture Book

An Everyday Backyard Adventure (and Two Moms) in New Picture

Just when I think I’ve already seen all of 2020’s many, many, LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books, another one pops up—this one was published just last week by an independent LGBTQ+ press, and shows a girl and her two moms reveling in the natural world.

Come Over! Come Up!

Come Over Come Up! by Anna Watson and illustrated by Skye Murie (Laz-E-Femme Press) is told in gentle rhymes as the girl calls her two moms to join her in climbing a tree. “She steps through the branches, curls up in a nest./“Come over! Come up!” she calls to her guests.” From the top of the tree, they observe the clouds, the sun, the moon, and geese flying by, until it is time to go home and go to sleep—making this a nice, soothing bedtime story. (Adults may simply want to explain that when the girl feeds her guests “on pine cones and flowers and berries,” that’s all pretend, and not a recommended practice.) Murie’s illustrations have a childlike feel that may appeal to young readers. The girl is White; one mom is Black and one White.

Watson, the lesbian mom of two grown sons, also collaborated with Murie on the 2017 picture book Don’t Forget the Poop!, which stars another two-mom family exploring the natural world (and remembering to clean up after their dog) as they go on a walk. And Watson’s Girl from the Queendom is a middle-grade chapter book about a girl who must learn to adjust after moving from rural Vermont to Arlington, Massachusetts with her two moms.

LGBTQ-inclusive children’s literature has its roots in independent presses and self-publishing. It’s great to see this tradition continue even as large mainstream publishers produce more inclusive works as well.


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2 Lesbian Moms of Color Named to All-Women Biden Communications Team

2 Lesbian Moms of Color Named to All-Women Biden Communications

Two—yes, two—lesbian moms of color have been named to Joe Biden’s all-women White House communications team.

Karine Jean-Pierre at BookExpo at the Javits Center in New York City, May 2019. Photo: Rhododendrites. Used under a (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. Pili Tobar speaking at U.S. State Department, July 2016. Image: State Department/public domain.

Karine Jean-Pierre, a veteran political organizer, commentator, and author, who served as senior advisor to President-Elect Joe Biden and chief of staff to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris during the campaign, will become principal deputy press secretary. She served as regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs in the Obama administration and as deputy battleground sates director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, was more recently chief public affairs officer for MoveOn and an NBC and MSNBC political analyst. She is also on the faculty of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

In an interview with Hollywood Life at the end of July, she spoke about her reasons for being part of the Biden campaign, saying, “I felt like this is my job as a mom to step in. I thought about my six year-old and I thought about what kind of planet or world or country are we going to be leaving to her and her peers,” adding, “I’m a Black woman, I’m a gay woman and I’m an immigrant. And Donald Trump, he is someone who hates everything I am.”

Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique to Haitian parents but raised in New York City. In her 2019 book, Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America, she writes about her unconventional path to political involvement and how and why others, no matter their backgrounds, need to step up and participate today.

Pili Tobar, who served as the communications director for coalitions on the Biden-Harris campaign, will become deputy White House communications director. She previously served as the deputy director for America’s Voice, where she advocated on behalf of immigrants. She has also served as the Hispanic media director for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and held a number of other senior communications positions. Originally from Florida and raised in Guatemala, Tobar is a graduate of the University of Miami. She lives in Washington D.C. with her wife and daughter.

They are not the first LGBTQ people to have White House communications roles. Judd Deere is currently White House deputy press secretary, and Eric Schulz held the same position in the Obama administration, the Washington Blade reminds us. As queer women of color, however, and as queer parents, they break new ground. This is not to say that all queer parents should aspire to such lofty careers. Sometimes, we need to take the job that simply puts food on the table—or to forego outside employment in order to better care for our children. At the same time, I find it inspiring to see that increasingly, queer parents who want to ascend to positions of significant national power can do so.

Other members of the Biden-Harris communications team will be Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director; Jennifer Psaki, White House press secretary; Ashley Etienne, communications director for Vice President Harris; Symone Sanders, senior adviser and chief spokesperson for the vice president; and Elizabeth E. Alexander, communications director for First Lady Jill Biden.


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A Lesbian Mom’s Memoir of Cancer and Life

A Lesbian Mom's Memoir of Cancer and Life

A new memoir by a lesbian mom interweaves the strands of her life from San Francisco in the 1960s through teaching, law school, coming out, starting a family, and surviving two types of cancer.

I'm Still Here - Martina Reaves

Martina Reaves’ I’m Still Here (She Writes Press) moves us back and forth between two periods of her life, beginning with her arrival in San Francisco at age 20, where she marries a hippie streetcar driver and lives in a commune that he founded. We then jump forward several decades to when she and her female partner are trying to figure out how to tell their grown son about her diagnosis of tongue cancer. Each thread evolves gradually to fill in the details of her life, from living in the commune, to teaching in the Virgin Islands with her husband, to becoming a lawyer and mediator, meeting her future wife at the law firm where they both worked. This braiding of narratives gives texture to the tale and avoids the linear, one-thing-after-another plodding that mars some memoirs. We are given glimpses of her later life and wonder how she got there, then move back to explore the earlier events and encounters that shaped her.

While the book does not focus primarily on becoming a lesbian mom, Reaves nevertheless offers insights into life as one of the first intentional lesbian families. “No lesbian mom handbook existed,” she observes, and takes us through the process she and her partner Tanya went through to find a donor, define his role, and raise their son despite criticism from Tanya’s Bible Belt family and a lack of legal protection. “We struggle with systems that don’t actually recognize our family,” she writes. Later, she observes, “The thing about being the first lesbian family in your neighborhood or school is that any time your child acts out, you fear that everyone will think it’s because he’s from a lesbian family.” Both are sentiments many readers here will likely understand. We also see the everyday challenges of parenting that she and Tanya face as their son grows into his teens, and how their family expands when, in college, he wants to meet his donor.

This is not a story primarily about parenting, however, even though parenting occupies much of it. Rather, is Reaves’ emotional and spiritual journey after her ostensibly terminal cancer diagnosis that provides the core of the narrative around which the rest intertwines. How can she make meaning of her life when she thinks she is about to lose it? What are the important moments and relationships that have shaped her into who she is today, and how can they help sustain her?

Despite the somber topic, however, this is not a sad tale but rather a hopeful one. There is gentle humor here, too, as well as self-reflection and wisdom that may benefit many, whether grappling with serious illness or not. After finishing radiation treatment, for example, before she knows the outcome, she observes, “All I can do at the moment is live my life day by day and savor what’s important: intimate moments with family and friends, the yellow roses that just bloomed in my backyard, and the wisteria falling over the front fence, so softly blue.” Those seeking an inspiring read as well as a look at one early intentional lesbian mom family should find much to satisfy them here.


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Now Available: New Picture Book About a Girl with Two Moms Learning About Emotions

Now Available: New Picture Book About a Girl with Two

A beautiful new picture book by a two-mom couple has succeeded in its crowdfunding campaign and is now available! It’s a great story about a child learning that it’s okay to express her emotions—and the fact that she has two moms is incidental.

Mighty May Won’t Cry Today, by Kendra and Claire-Voe Ocampo and illustrated by Erica De Chavez (Bunny Patch Press), stars a girl named May encountering new friends and challenges on her first day of school. May finds solutions to various problems, like tripping on her way into the classroom, getting paint on her shirt, and forgetting her smoothie for lunch. Throughout it all, she tries to stay brave and not cry. When she misses her stop on the school bus, however, she can’t help herself, and the tears come gushing out. The kind bus driver calls her moms and takes her home.

Claire-Voe and Kendra Ocampo

Claire-Voe and Kendra Ocampo.

Used with permission.

Back home, her moms share stories of times when they cried, too—Mama’s first time ice skating, on their first date; when they think of a pet whom they miss; when they got married; when May arrived. They explain, “It’s OK to shed a tear. It’s part of our emotions, sadness, joy, frustration, fear.”

Kudos to the Ocampos for not making any of May’s challenges related to her having two moms; that’s an overdone trope. As I’ve said many times before, we need more LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books that don’t show being LGBTQ or having LGBTQ parents as a “problem,” even if the supposed problem is later shown to be incorrect. That shouldn’t be the only narrative of LGBTQ lives. The Ocampos instead give us a lesson about an aspect of social-emotional learning that just happens to involve a girl with two moms.

The story is written in rhyming prose, interspersed with onomatopoeic words that should make it particularly fun to read-aloud. Raindrops “drip, drip, drip”; May’s heart goes “da dum, da dum, da dum” as she rides to school; she goes “zigzag, zoom” into her classroom, where she paints “swoosh, swoosh, swoosh” with her brush.

De Chavez, who has a day job as a children’s book designer at HarperCollins Publishers, has brought her professional-quality skills to bear here in her bright and bold illustrations, elevating this above many self-published works. The rich, saturated colors give a depth and vibrancy to May’s world. May is White, as is one of her moms; the other has a darker skin tone and could be read as Asian. Several of the other children in May’s class appear to be people of color.

The Ocampos exceeded their Kickstarter goal (which I wrote about in February), which meant that in addition to sending books to their backers, they also donated several copies to schools and libraries. (Their more than successful campaign also shows the definite demand for such stories.) Thanks to any of you who may have backed it—and even if you didn’t, you can now simply purchase a copy or recommend it to your local library!

(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that provides a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)