When I was a kid in the 80s, the family sitcom dominated television. From the Huxtables to the Keatons, to the Seavers, it was always Mom, Dad, and 2.5 kids. By then, the nuclear family had become the norm, so usually, both Mom and Dad worked outside the home.
I always knew I wanted to be a mom someday. Even though my family didn’t look like the ones I saw on TV (I was raised by an Aunt and a Grandma), somehow it never occurred to me that the family I made someday would look different from the ones I saw on TV. I always pictured Daddy, babies, and me.
As I got older and came out as bisexual, my visions of future family life expanded to include the possibility of parenting with a “Daddy” or another “Mommy”, but I was still locked into a really nuclear understanding of what “families” looked like.
Now my life has taught me a lot better. I do parent my only child with my wife, but welcoming Baby into our family made so much more than three. Our chosen family comprised of friends and partners from our queer and polyamorous communities has always been a huge part of our parenting journey.
We know many beautiful families configured in ways that transcend a couple with kids. We know quartets of a lesbian couple and a gay couple who have chosen to co-parent. We know gay and lesbian besties who have chosen to co-parent with their respective biological and chosen families behind them. We know lesbian couples with a known sperm donor who is deeply involved in their child’s life. There are triads or “thrupples” (a partnership involving 3 adults) who choose to raise families. This could look like a mom having a baby with each of her two male partners, or two women each having a baby with their male partner or any other number of ways of creating a family.
The reality is that Queer and Trans Culture isn’t just about having a life partner who was assigned the same sex as you at birth. Our cultural norms are forged from a history where the most conventional, nuclear way that we could have a family was still socially unacceptable. Many of us and our queer elders were rejected by our biological families for being honest about who we are. As a result, our community has been resourceful and resilient in carving out new ways of defining “family” and building family units that allow us to be whole. We create our own villages that know who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going to support us while we child rear and do this thing called life.
5 was a vital turning point for queer and trans families. It made the relationship to the child the focus of parental rights, rather than biology. The law also makes it possible for more than two people to be the legal parents of a child. This legal change was extremely important, but it’s only a fraction of the needed social change.
We must unlearn the idea that “parent+parent+kid(s)=family”. There are infinite equations that can add up to a family. As professional support people, we can embrace the expectation that clients seeking our help could come in ones, twos, or more, reflecting any mix of gender identities.
We can also expect that folks living outside the parental binary are seeking our support specifically because they can expect that other parts of the health and social service systems don’t expect them, and might be hostile toward anything or anyone that challenges their expectations. We can create an unconditional blanket of compassion and support around all the beautiful shapes and sizes that families come in. That blanket is also a shield against fear and hate that preserves the sacredness of the parenting journey for all people.
Keira Grant (she/her) Inclusion and Engagement Lead – Racialized Communities
Keira brings a wealth of experience to the Online Community Moderator role. She is a Queer, Black woman with a twenty-year track record in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) education, projects, and community building initiatives.