Let me start by saying I wish there had been an LGBTQ new parent group when we had our oldest child. We were the first of our friends, certainly the first of our queer friends, to have a baby. While we found support and some very good friends through the regular new moms groups, there were some things missing. Here is why I believe LGBTQ parenting support matters and why we should work to make sure every new queer parent has the option for this kind of support:
- Constantly coming out.
It’s a basic fact, when you are in a group of straight people, especially a group that changes constantly; you have to keep coming out because of heteronomativity. Basically, even where I live in Boston, it is assumed that you are straight, particularly if you have a baby. The same applies to coming out as trans or gender queer, especially if you are going to a new parent group where it is all “moms” or where the facilitator doesn’t ask folks to give their preferred pronouns as part of the basic introductions. Constantly having to make sure folks know our identities and can validate our experience is exhausting, as if having a small baby isn’t tiring enough.
- Checking a piece of your identity at the door.
So if you decide not to constantly come out, or even if you come out, but don’t feel like you are in shared company or that your identity makes you too different, then you tend to check pieces of your identity at the door. Not only does this not feel good, it means we aren’t given access to the same level and depth of support as our straight or cis-gender peers.
- How did you “get” your baby?
There are so many assumptions around how queer people have babies. Because we live in a heteronormative and transphobic society, people generally don’t know how to ask questions in a respectful way. In a group of all queer parents, we at least start with a shared understanding that we probably all got our babies in different ways and are then given space to tell our conception or adoption stories. And our stories might be more complicated than that. Being in a space where there are as many ways of bringing your family into being as there are parents in the room, can be validating and liberating to new LGBTQ parents.
- Support for non-gestational or non-biological parents.
It is more likely in our queer families that one or more of the parents in any given family are not biologically related to the baby. We need extra support around being recognized and how this impacts our family and our identities. An LGBTQ parent support group is more likely to make space and time for this.
- Celebrating how we are special, powerful, and unique.
When we are able to surround ourselves with other queer families, we not only find support for ourselves as parents, we help our children understand that families are created in all different ways. This year at Pride, we talked with our three year old about how one of the purposes of pride was celebrating all sorts of families. She was able to think about and list families she knew with two moms, one mom, one parent, two dads and one mom, and finally, a mom and a dad. Because she has been surrounded by so many different family structures, having two moms isn’t “different” it’s just one of many options. Being surrounded by a group of queer parents enables us to meet, connect, and find other families to raise our children with that help them feel loved and empowered.