Ms. Magazine

spring 2003
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this is what a feminist looks like

Features
The Feminist To-Do List by Gloria Steinem
Ms. Poll Feminist Tide Sweeps In as the 21st Century Begins by Lorraine Dusky
Affirmative Action on Trial by Teresa Stern
Women on Death Row by Claudia Dreifus
In the Thick of Life at 70 by Jessica Chornesky

Special Action Alert
Women Take Action Worldwide
Listing: Coalitions and Groups
National Council of Women's Organizations Statement on War with Iraq
NCWO Partial Members List
Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue
by Grace Paley

Writing of War and Its Consequences
Ghosts of Home by Patricia Sarrafian Ward
Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood by Marjane Satrapi
Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963 by Helen Zelon

News
Pat Summitt's 800th Victory
Augusta Golf Club's Red Face
National Map of Priest Abuse
Women Warriors
Lesbians with Strollers
Kopp Trial
Trouble in Herat, Afghanistan
Reproductive Rights in Poland
Health Clinics in Guatemala
Congolese Women for Peace
Global Good News Round-Up
The Opposite of a Nuclear Bomb

Departments
Lower Breast Cancer Risks by Liz Galst
The Making of an Activist by Gloria Feldt
Nature Conservancy Gains by Rachel Rabkin
Harvard Stumbles on Rape Rules by Lorraine Dusky
The Bush Overhaul of Federal Courts by Stephanie B. Goldberg
My Friend Yeshi by Alice Walker

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Liz Galst often writes about health and women's issues. She is the author of "Dating the Goyim" in Chasing the American Dyke Dream: Homestretch (Cleis Press).


Lesbians with Strollers: The Gaybie Boom on Wheels
By Liz Galst

Somehow, I wasn’t surprised when the first Beltway Baby of 2003—born in our nation’s capital’s greater metropolitan area—turned out to have two mothers. You could almost see it coming, really. Journalists aren’t supposed to look around at their immediate social circles to spot important cultural trends. But, as it happens, just about every lesbian couple I know between the ages of 27 and 42 (and some single lesbians as well) are trying either to get pregnant or to adopt, are currently expecting, or have small children already underfoot.

Back in the early days of lesbian feminism (read: '70s and early '80s) the standard kind of lesbian motherhood involved a woman with children from a previous, heterosexual coupling. But since the mid-1980s, we in the lesbian community have created a baby boom—lesbians having children together as couples—that has reached near-sonic levels.

Of course, there are no official statistics. But around the country, lesbian and gay community centers report standing-room only workshops for "lesbians choosing children." And two how-to-books-- The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians (Cleis Press, 1999) and the Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth (Alyson Publications, 2002)—offer advice to lesbians who want to get pregnant, but not exactly the old-fashioned way.

So loudly are our pairs of biological clocks ticking that, in certain age groups, it's hard to go to a party where the pros and cons of known-donor insemination are not discussed. And when the subject is temporarily exhausted, there's the high cost of childcare and the proper-dressing-of-small-children-so-as-not-to-conform-with-certain-gender-stereotypes. "Ferberizing" is a verb with which I am now only too familiar.

Even on my favorite nighttime drama, ER, Dr. Derry Weaver, who's spent much of the last two seasons coming out and finding a succession of truly foxy girlfriends (despite her generally joyless demeanor, please explain that!), has recently tried to catch the wave.

Sometimes, of course, it’s hard to tell Kerry’s weirdness and overall discomfort from that of the show's writers. For instance, of the many women I know, gay and straight, who've taken injectible fertility drugs, none has ever given herself the shots at work, in a public, multi-stalled bathroom! (And how often does a doctor drop her hypodermic needles anyway?) Sadly, Kerry recently lost the pregnancy, supposedly in the fourteenth week.

In the real world, the risk of miscarriage decreases significantly after the first trimester-- which may be partly why this plot twist made so many vicariously-expectant lesbian viewers feel robbed! Can’t we even be allowed our fantasies?

This lack of validation from a TV plotline is a trivial matter, though, compared to the sticks-and-stones of most current law. In the press, much has been made of the Vermont law recognizing same-sex unions. Whether you look at the glass as 2 percent full or 98 percent empty, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. That’s especially true in the area of family law.

As a culture, the U.S. doesn’t seem entirely ready for lesbian parenthood, even if a few celebrity lesbian moms like Melissa Etheridge and Rosie O’Donnell have gone public in discussing some issues of gay parenthood. Only eight out of 50 states now offer statutes or appellate court decisions allowing for second-parent adoption. That's the process by which a same-sex partner adopts, as an equal parent, the child born to or adopted by her or his spouse.

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Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009