SEATTLE TIMES ARTICLE: LOVED ALL THE SAME
Much discussed, little understood and not often heard from, they are the children of two-mommy or two-daddy families. While politicians debate whether their parents should marry and psychologists proffer conflicting studies about how the children may or may not differ from those raised in “traditional” families, the kids are doing what kids do best: Growing up.
And, it seems, growing in number. In 2000, 162,000 children lived with same-sex parents, according to the U.S. Census. Gay and lesbian parenting groups estimate the number now at somewhere between 4 and 14 million. Many of the children have added a mother or father into their lives after a parent came out; others have been adopted by same-sex couples; and an increasing number of children are created by same-sex partners who plan from conception to parent together.
Let pundits pontificate on their talk shows. We’ll consult the real experts. Who better to tell you about their lives and perspectives than the kids themselves?
Here are the stories of four young adults, in their own words, distilled from recent conversations with Pacific Northwest magazine writer Paula Bock.
Kellen Kaiser grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, among the first “chosen children” of lesbian partners. In Kaiser’s case, the agreement was among three mommies: her birth mother, Nina Kaiser; Nina’s best friend, Helen Wagner; and Nina’s lover, Margery Ferrar. Nina and Margery split up when Kaiser was 6 months old; Margery retained a strong parental role. When Kaiser was 5, Nina married Kyree Klimist, who later (with sperm from a donor) gave birth to Kaiser’s brother. Kaiser, now 25, considers all four women “Mom.” She has a tumultuous relationship with her father.
IN MY MOTHER’S generation, if you were a lesbian, you pretty much had to give up the idea of child-rearing. My mother was one of the first to go for it.
I don’t know how the plan was hatched. I do know about my conception. Mom was to go to Europe for the summer and come back pregnant. My mom was really hot, so there wasn’t any question she’d do it.
My mother met my father outside the Louvre. They were two lonely Americans in Paris. They hung out a couple days. They partied. He wanted to sleep with her. She says, “I’m a lesbian.” He says, “It’s cool.” From my father’s perspective, he thought he had overcome her sexual preference, he was the exception. Which is, like, so male!
It takes so much for (gay men and lesbians) to have kids that there’s a lot more thinking, examining what it means to be a parent, a family. My mom kept daily journals about what I was feeling and interested in until I was 8. She has every card I’ve ever received. She has all my baby clothes. Every book I ever read. I am well-loved. There are family stories of Margery walking me back and forth saying Zen koan, Helen doing the Charleston, Nina making organic baby food by hand.
My mom always said: Kudos to all single mothers out there because we had four people and all four of us were exhausted!
Generally, I would just call, “Mom!” and whoever came running. Parent-teacher conferences? All four. There’s a way of presenting to children that everybody’s different, that there is no normative model. Friends lived with grandparents. Friends had divorced parents. I knew most people had a mom and dad; that was just one of many variations.
The family tree is brutal. My (kindergarten) teacher would give assignments, draw your family tree, and my family tree looked upended. She was confused: “Who is this child?” That’s when my parents started the Lesbian and Gay Parents Association.
I went to a bilingual school where most of the kids were Latino. I remember really wanting one of those awesome dresses Catholic girls get . . . lots of crinoline, lots of lace. I did get my big dress for my parents’ wedding when I was 5. It was white tulle with puff sleeves and little blue bows. My parents wore tan suede pants and little silk shirts with matching orchids. It was a Jewish ceremony at a gay synagogue.
I was thrilled. My mother had dated some women when I was a child, and I saw this as a sign of stability. Nina and Kyree aren’t together anymore, but they parent together and acknowledge a lifelong love for each other, which is more than I can say for most divorced people.
Having four mothers is a mixed blessing. If you don’t get what you want from one you just go to the other. On a cash-flow basis, it’s great. In terms of attention, it’s great.
Really, it’s only bad for my boyfriend. Four mothers-in-law! Big shoes to fill because I’m used to unconditional love all the time.
I could never date someone for whom I seem a novelty. My boyfriend (Ilan Fuss) hung out with lesbians. I can take him to a leather bar. He’s remarkably homophobia free for someone who’s served in the (Israeli) Special Forces. We went to Torah study together; I used to try to distract him.
When I was a teenager, I was a little wild. There was a study they did of children of lesbians. It says they’re promiscuous for a certain amount of time and then go onto serial monogamy. I’m like, really? And how does that make them different from anyone else?
My perception of masculinity has been largely shaped by mass culture. I definitely go for macho men. When we got together, my boyfriend had a crew cut, he smoked cigarettes. He’s a man’s man.
My big plan is to gather all my friends, live on the ranch, a commune model, build little cabins for everybody.
I have a lot of elder care to deal with at some point. I’m actually thinking of opening a lesbian retirement home because I have four lesbians to start with, and if you add all the ex-girlfriends, you have business forever!
But yeah, I’ll get married, too. I’m planning to write a book: “How to Plan a Gay Kosher Wedding for 250.” Élan’s whole (special forces) unit, Orthodox Jews, leather men, Israelis, lots of aging Berkeley hippies. I’m all about community.