Growing up with multiple moms
I come from a family of five: a brother, a sister and two moms. “Two moms” is an interesting way to express the different and historically complicated relationship of being raised by a lesbian couple, though “two moms” is how I have always described my family situation. This is often followed by “oh, you have a step-mom.” Nope. “Your dad remarried?” Wrong again. “Then were you adopted?” Sperm donor.
It took some time before I was able to comprehend why my situation was so confusing. To be raised by an openly gay couple is rare. Alix, the co-writer of this piece, is the first person I have ever met who shares this experience. Rare experiences make for interesting writing, and I am happy to share as we reminisce on the decade and the legalization of gay marriage that came with it.
One question I often receive, as a heterosexual male, is what it was like to be void of fatherly influence in my upbringing. My response to this, for the majority of my life was, “Well, I have uncles and grandfathers,” which is a response I regret to have ever given out. The question itself is problematic, for what is fatherly influence? Is it knowing how to play football? My mother taught me how to throw a tight spiral. Is it having some older representative of male anatomy? My parents are both physicians — they know more about male anatomy than most dads.
I call my brother my brother and my sister my sister even though we share no genetic connection. I call them my brother and my sister because we grew up together, under the same roof, calling the same people our parents. I call both my parents mom, because that is who they have always been to me and my siblings.
This is not in defense of gay marriage, because we have nothing to be defensive of. My family and I lack anything to be sorry for, we bear no burdens for having lived the way we always have. Gay marriage should have never have had to be legalized, because it never should have been illegal in the first place. I was provided a safe home, a childhood I am fond of, a space for creativity and freedom of ideas. My lesbian parents raised three children and did a fine job doing so. We are all healthy, in a good state of mind, with goals and aspirations: I’m not sure what else a straight family could provide.
For years, I was silent at school about our family situation, especially since my siblings and I grew up in a fairly conservative area. After the legalization of gay marriage, it felt as though there was some national recognition of our family after years of rejection and fear of exile.
The legalization of gay marriage meant a great deal for my family, though it was more symbolic of national and political acceptance. My parents had been together for over twenty years and had raised three children before their partnership was legally recognized. In this sense, the act was more an affirmation than a permission slip, but it was celebrated nonetheless.
In 2015, my mother proposed to my other mother at our family home, despite already having been together for twenty years. There are many stories like my parents’ because the legalization was a chance to renew an already solid partnership, in a bond familiar to those who had disavowed them for millennia.
— Anonymous, Daily Arts Writer
Growing up with lesbian moms meant that there was a routine of phrases I had plenty of practice saying. “Yes, I really have four moms.” “No, they are not in a polygamous relationship.” “No, I’m not adopted, I had a sperm donor.” “No, I don’t really care to meet him.” The list goes on. I’ve told the story of my familial life so often, I could say it in my sleep. My parents are lesbians. When I was three they separated and each met new partners. My two lesbian mothers multiplied into four and boom, I have four moms.
When I was in third grade, I came up with nicknames for all of them in order to make conversations about my moms less confusing when I was talking with my friends. The nicknames stuck and now, whenever I talk about my moms I refer to them as “Broken Ankle Mom” (because she had a broken ankle at the time), “Police Mom” (because she is a policewoman), “Taco Bell Mom” (she used to work at Taco Bell) and British Mom (she’s British).
Growing up, my familial life never seemed out of the ordinary. Even though there was only one other kid in my town who had gay parents, I didn’t feel any different. I grew up in a pretty conservative area, yet nobody made fun of me. At least, not to my face. I’m sure they might’ve said some things behind my back. In fact, one time in high school, a football player whispered to me, “I know your secret … your parents are gay.” Which I found pretty hilarious at the time (and still do).
The only thing I found weird was that before June 26, 2015, my parents were never married. My birth mother and my British mom were together for ten years before they separated. If they could have legally gotten married, they would have. Sure, all of my mothers acknowledged that marriage wasn’t a defining factor of their love. Yet, the numerous legal issues that came along with not being allowed to marry was quite frustrating. I remember once, when my Birtish mom was hospitalized, the hospital did not allow my policewoman mom to visit her during “family only hours.” She had to sit outside in the waiting room, unable to stand beside the love of her life during what was quite a traumatic experience. In the eyes of the law, they were just two women who lived together.
It was because of this that I so desperately wanted gay marriage to be legalized. In fact, I even wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to make it legal. I still have the “letter” he wrote back to me framed in my childhood bedroom, complete with the ever-personal phrase, “Dear Student of America.”
The day gay marriage was finally legalized was a visceral experience. I was on my first ever date with a girl when I heard the news. We were at the local zoo and my phone exploded with texts from all of my moms. I came home from my date to the rainbow flag flying outside of our house. Our family had always been valid to us, but now we were seen as valid in the eyes of our country. The five remaining years of the 2010s were complete with both sets of mothers tying the knot with one another. While the love between my parents was omnipresent during the first half of the decade, it was the legalization of gay marriage that made the latter half of the decade something to celebrate.
After gay marriage was legalized, there was a sense of hope that both Anonymous’s and my family shared. A hope for the future. A hope that families like ours wouldn’t feel the insecurity we felt. Because there is no reason to feel insecure. Families like Anonymous’s and mine have love at their core, just as other families do. Love that has always existed and will continue to exist, regardless of what any law could ever say.
— Alix Curnow, Daily Arts Writer