I don't know Brad. But we're on a first-name basis. I am going to write about Brad and his family because he inspires me.
Stephanie shared Brad's recent Huff Post article with me titled "My Daughter Has Two Dads. Here's the One Question We Wish Other Parents Asked Us."
Brad's article highlights how exhausting it can be for children of queer parents to explain their family formation. Indeed, it can be quite nuanced, but also, we don't owe anyone an explanation.
Brad and I diverge in our family formation. Brad's two children are biologically related to either him or his partner, and an egg donor, while a gestational surrogate was used (i.e. there is no genetic relation to the fetus by the person carrying the fetus). Upon his children's birth, both Brad and his partner were listed as the sole parents on their children's birth certificate. My daughter came to me at 6 months old as a foster child and she was adopted a couple years later by my ex and I (we were never married -- I just want to emphasize that even unmarried couples in California can adopt).
Before delving further, I also want to check my privilege. Being immersed in a community of "traditional" families is a privilege. Growing up in an Asian immigrant family, in a predominantly Black neighborhood in San Francisco, in the 1980s and 90s, we were often raised by our grandparents or other extended family members. I was also living with a white man and his three white children by the time I was 8, but that's another story for another day.
I love data. Brad shares:
... According to UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, even among male, same-sex couples like us (the group most likely to adopt), less than a third are raising adopted or foster children.
Pew Research Center reports that less than half of kids are now growing up in a so-called “traditional” family with two married parents.
There really is no time like the present to further conversations about different family structures in America. In my safe liberal bubble, I'd like to believe that we would welcome and embrace all families. Ironically, Brad published his article less than three weeks before the Florida legislature passed the "Parental Rights in Education" bill (dubbed the 'Don't Say Gay' bill). If signed into law by the governor, I wonder which families might argue that the law prevents school discussion about diverse families. Apparently sexuality and gender are not appropriate for elementary-aged children, and even more apparent -- heterosexual marriage, husband and wife, mother and father, man and woman, have nothing to do with sexuality or gender (insert sarcasm).
Brad shared the incident of his daughter, Emma, at the playground, where another boy asked the question, "Where's your mom?" I'm in enough gay dad groups on Facebook to realize it's a sore point for many families. Emma responded to the question like a champ, but the boy's response to her was, as my younger gay friends say, "super cringe." My heart pours out for all the Emma's in that instance. I've always wanted to protect my daughter from feeling otherized.
From the moment I carried Annaliese, I knew there was no hiding our ethnic differences. So over the years we practiced admiring ourselves in the mirror and simple mantras like, "I'm brown and beautiful" (I'm not, but she is). We also normalized adoption. I still make it a point to highlight an adopted child when we hangout with other adoptive families, or point out a cartoon character who was adopted (most recently we watched Maya and the Three on Netflix. Loved it!), even when we watch a video about a pitbull adopting a kitten. It's tiring and oh so extra, but it's also helped. At the beginning of first grade, Annaliese's veteran teacher proudly shared that she has never encountered a student like Annaliese, someone who is so in touch with and owns her origin story. I'm not saying that queer parents have to do more, but I want to do my best to empower my little Chicana because I know I can't fight her battles for her.
My daughter is almost 7 and we've had our moments. A year ago she randomly shared during a car ride, "You're not my real dad." It was very matter of fact for her. Did it hurt? A tiny bit. But I brought myself to her level. I didn't make her feel bad about the statement. And I sure didn't make it about me. I instead gave her more vocabulary. "You're right, daughter, you didn't come from me. But I still love you." And she brought it up again a few months after that. "You are my real dad." And I didn't make a big deal out of that either. "Of course I'm your real dad. And you're my real daughter."
Brad wraps up his article with an aspiration for a story (I think he means Emma's birth story; and I hope he writes it). I also interpret his wish as there being more stories about ALL of our children; and I'm damn tempted to write one.
To Brad -- Thank you for writing. Thank you for opening up about your family. Thank you for sharing lessons on how I can continue to better parent.
Photo by Kelli McClintock