Manual TypewriterEssays, Reviews, and Commentaries

By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Queer Families

Posted By on June 30, 2009

Queer Families

By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

In some very basic way being a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered parent is really not much different than being a heterosexual parent. You still have to get up for the 4 a.m. feeding, or deal with teenagers who don’t clean their rooms. You still have to deal with finding time for adult interests and intimacy with your partner (or find time to find a partner!), and you still need to wash more laundry and dishes than you’d have ever imagined. In our daily lives queer families are just like all families.

Of course in other ways, we are very different. Queer families are rarely formed in "traditional" ways. Perhaps we were once heterosexually married and ended this marriage to come out and be with a same-sex partner. Same-sex relationships are rarely looked on favorably in the judicial system, and families that began in heterosexual nuclear families must often struggle with custody issues, at the same time they are dealing with divorce and coming out issues.

Perhaps we were out as lesbian or gay men before choosing parenthood, and struggled with feeling okay about raising our children in what has been called a non-traditional home. Single or with partners, we thought about the impact of our gayness on our children, and began a journey to figure how to make our families happen.

Many lesbians chose to get pregnant through alternative reproductive methods (also called "artificial" insemination or donor insemination). We had to decide whether to use a known or unknown donor, whether to do it at home or with medical assistance. Some of us found that getting pregnant wasn’t so easy and had to utilize reproductive specialists and undergo fertility treatments.

Both gay men and lesbians often examine adoption choices–infant versus older adoptions, single versus "couple" adoption, domestic versus international adoption, single vs. multiple sibling adoption–the choices are myriad and often overwhelming. For all people beginning to examine these choices–insemination, adoption, surrogacy–issues of finances are never far from our consciousness.

For gay men the option of surrogacy is often explored, and some lesbians and gay men explore having babies with one another–creating exciting new family forms.

Queer families–a term used to be as inclusive as I can of all of our families–are a diverse community. We represent a spectrum of queer people–from traditional nuclear families, to gender-bending, and multi-parent families. We are single parents and step-parents, adoptive parents and birth parents, co-parents and grandparents. Our families are representative of the rainbow of our community–families of color as well as white families, and many families of mixed raced couples, or trans-racially adoptive families.
Some of our families are poor and struggling to make ends meets, some of our parents have lost custody of their children, some of our children have special needs, and some of us share our parenting with ex-partners. We are bisexuals in heterosexual relationships, and bisexuals in same-sex relationships. We are families with transgender members–sometimes parents and sometimes children. Some of us are members of the PTA, and some of us are members of the NLA (National Leather Association), and some of us are members of both.

These columns are about celebrating all of us–under our queer rainbow. Some of these columns are serious, some funny, some theoretical, some political — come read about what queer parents are thinking about. As we enter the 21st century gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are re-defining family relationships, and creating loving families in the face of homophobic institutions in often hostile environments. And, despite their dire warning, we are thriving!