Given the sweeping changes in family law, more and more queers are getting into the parenting act. And while this has led much of the mainstream media to declare a veritable “gayby boom,” two Ontario-based editors aim to give more depth to issues around queers and parents with their new anthology, And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents, and Our Unexpected Families.
Susan Goldberg says she and co-editor Chloe Brushwood Rose were inspired to create such a collection by their own shared experiences as lesbian moms. “When we discussed it, we realized that so many of the same questions in our discussions with our donors and our extended families and friends kept coming up,” recalls Goldberg. “What rights would the donor have? What responsibilities? Would the child or children consider him the father, or something else? How would prospective grandparents fit into the equation?”
Goldberg and Rose invited writers to pitch their possible contributions and say they were immediately struck by the diversity of responses they got. Essays that made it into the book include one by a lesbian egg donor, a surrogate, sperm donors, biological and non-biological parents. Proving they are formally inclusive, there’s even a comic-book entry.
“The surprising thing was the range of experience that’s out there that falls under the category of ‘known donor,'” says Goldberg. “It’s doubtful that we’ve managed to capture the full range of experience, but the book includes contributions from both straight and gay men who have donated sperm, as well as a transsexual woman who chose to put aside some sperm before transitioning and looks forward to being both a sperm donor and a mother at some point.”
Goldberg says she and Rose were convinced from the get-go that such an anthology was a no-brainer: “We realized that there wasn’t any manual for these relationships — that we were at the point at which they were common enough that there was a lot of experience out there to be shared, but uncommon enough that nobody had compiled the stories and that experience into a collection. And we knew that people considering the known-donor route were really searching for that kind of information.”
Rose says the book is something she and Goldberg are intensely proud of. “Rather than leading us to a new understanding of queer parenthood, I would say the book began a new conversation around queer parenthood that we feel privileged to be a part of,” says Rose. “When we were conceiving the project, we had a sense that we wanted to create a book we both wished we had been able to read as we were going through the process of starting our families. And yet, what that book would contain was still something of a mystery. We wondered, how would these responses hang together?
“What has been ‘new’ for my understanding of queer parenthood in this process is both the awesome diversity of experience that Susan mentioned, but also that within this diversity we struggle with the same seemingly mundane but crucial questions — such as, what do we call ourselves? How do we invent new words, narratives, languages, that can speak to our truths but also make our families intelligible to others? There is a lovely sort of solidarity in not knowing together.”
Rose says that one of the key struggles she sensed queer parents facing was the need and search for community: “One of the things that surprised us as we developed the book was the reluctance of potential contributors to tell the difficult or hard stories, the stories about family breakdown. It seems to me that it is in part the isolation we experience from one another that contributes to such difficulties, and then the silence around them only reinforces this isolation. The book is one way to struggle against isolation and towards community and solidarity. Our queer families are everywhere and we have stories and insights to share with one another. It is my strong sense in editing this book that sharing these insights with one another and building community will provide the grounds from which we can gain further legal recognition and protection, and grow the healthiest families possible.”