What was it like to have two moms? Do you wish you had a dad? Those questions bombarded me like a one-two punch when I was growing up in the Midwest with two moms who conceived me via anonymous sperm donor – pre-gayby boom. My standard response evolved into something like this by the time I was a teenager, “Um, well, I ate cereal every morning and did you ever wish you had two moms instead of your dad?”
I was used to that one-two punch of questions and entirely pissed off by them too. When they came at me from the “straight world,” I was pissed because it was such a simplistic way of trying to understand my life. The fact that my parents were both therapists, that they “divorced” in a country with no legal protections or process for our family, that one was British, that they were committed feminists, that they each had their own suitcases of emotional baggage they moved into our family like all other parents - all that mattered much more in my day-to-day life than their sexuality.
And when those questions came at me from the “queer world,” they pissed me off because they always reeked of such fear and such painfully unexamined internalized patriarchy and heterosexism. Whenever I spoke at conferences for gay families (something I did often), I was torn between the twin instincts of wanting to hug the parents who asked me them and wanting yell at them.
Yes, I turned out fine, I wanted to say as I hugged them. But stop measuring our worth as queer families by whether or not I ever wished I had a dad, I wanted to yell. Our worth, our validity, our love is bigger than that. So instead, I usually left it at the talking points I had unconsciously developed: “Well, did you ever wish you had two moms?” “I have more parents – 4 now – and more love than most kids ever get.” “I never felt there was anyone missing from my family.” “I have plenty of male role models.” Each of those answers is absolutely true. But each is also incomplete.
As a queer feminist, the idea that fathers are necessary to complete a family repels me. And as the daughter of a lesbian family, I know in my bones that it is purely and simply untrue. But I do wonder... What would it have been like to be loved as a daughter by a man? (Note: There are many daughters from all kinds of families (not just queer) who wonder what would that would have been like.) And who is this man whose body mine so clearly resembles? I have my biological mom's smile and eyes, but I so clearly have the, um, curves of the women on my father's side. And I wonder, who are these women? What else of theirs do I carry without knowing? I wonder...not every day. But when I stop and remember that today is Father's Day, I wonder. Or when I think about the fact that someday I might want to have kids with my girlfriend and our kids will not have her big green eyes and my thick dark hair but the features of a sperm donor, I wonder. And as I get closer to that age when family medical history matters, when I have to imagine my breasts being flattened like pancake batter into a mammogram machine, I wonder.
And I think to myself, is it treason to ask these questions of myself so publicly? Does it just affirm every fear of those parents of my youth and the disgustingly twisted patriarchal logic of the religious Right that I am incomplete without a father? No. It's not about fathers or even families. It is about me. It is about my lineage and my future. And to have my questions and my feelings be just that – mine – rather then an automatic representation of all queer families is a privilege I'm claiming by writing them “outloud.” Because it's the privilege of the majority to be perceived as individuals. And though we – queer families and people - will never be the majority, claiming the space to act like one is an act of power I will no longer deny myself. Happy Father's Day.
[Editor's Note: This was originally published on Father's Day in 2009.]