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
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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