Babies. Future babies. Gay babies, or as Kelly Prizel called them last APW Pride, “Gaybies.” Today’s post from Sarah is on fielding the inevitable questions about babies; it’s about the pain those questions can cause and the mourning she’s going through, as a gay person. It’s a beautiful, poignant essay, and in its particularity, it rings universal notes. It speaks to societal expectations for women, to the pain of infertility, and to the simple confusion of the possible next step of kids. But what it really addresses is the pain and wonder of being gay and pondering kids. I hope it makes us all step up and think harder about how we talk to the people in our lives about their fertility choices.
There are certain questions that you know you will be asked in your life. If you’re a junior or senior in high school, you know that every adult over the age of twenty-five will be asking you where you’re applying for college. If you’re in your first or second year of college, you can put money on the fact that your uncle at Passover is going to ask you about your major. And then of course, heaven help the college senior. (As if panic attacks about no longer living down the hall from your friends wasn’t enough.)
Why do people ask these questions? I know I dreaded getting them when I was in each stage, but like a car on autopilot, there I was at Channukah last year, asking my poor sixteen-year-old cousin where she wanted to go to college and what she wanted to do there. I think it was because I was so eager to talk to her about something where we were on the same plane. I don’t live in her world at all, but on the subject of college, I can pretend we have some common ground. (Goodness knows we’re not going to find it on Twilight…)
Perhaps that’s why people—and most of the time, the people are women—ask me about my wedding. They want to know what I’m wearing, what my colors are, and how many people we’re having. And each time, it’s a choice of whether or not I want to have a real conversation. Do I want to smile and nod and give the short answers of what people want? (Strapless, yellow and purple, about 150.) Or do I start a Real Conversation about the choices we’ve made and the thoughts behind them? (No veil because it’s not “me,” no real color scheme other than “colorful” because that’s more “us,” actually we invited over 200 people because I’m very close to my extended family).
I don’t always want to have the Real Conversation. I don’t want to feel like people are judging me and my non-normative, non-WIC choices. I know that the only way to open people’s minds is to have that conversation, but man, it’s exhausting sometimes.
So it is with a real sense of dread that I await the inevitable post-wedding question. The one about the babies. And it’s not because I resent the implication that my body is a conversation piece or the idea that we need to be parents in order to be fulfilled in life. (Although I do, on both counts.)
It’s because I’m gay.
And by virtue of that simple statement, you already know so much about me. You know that my wife-to-be and I have an option on which one of us wants to be the initial and/or only gestational parent. You know that we have to outsource an ingredient, involving someone else in what is traditionally a two-person job. You know that we can’t make a baby by having sex, no matter how hard we try. You may even know that either my wife or I will have to adopt our own future children as a legal precaution.
It’s hard to have those Real Conversations in a post “The Kids Are All Right” era. The awkward turkey baster jokes of the old days could be blamed on ignorance, but now people—and most of the time, the people are straight people—feel empowered by their knowledge. I have had coworkers ask me where we were getting sperm. Well-meaning acquaintances want to know who is going first. A woman at a networking event, upon finding out I was engaged to another woman, laughed, and said, “Well, I guess it’s not a shotgun wedding!”
What I don’t think most people know is that their questions break my heart every. single. time. When I look at my future wife and realize I’ll never see our genetics reflected in a pile of curly red hair on our kids’ heads, I get sad—not because that’s the ultimate measure of love or definition of our children being ours, but because it’s an option that’s completely off the table. When I realize that I’m going to spend my life answering questions about how our kids were conceived and defending the fact that we’re both their moms, I get pissed. Each probe reminds me that I am different, that we are going to have to involve a stranger to our marriage to be permanently connected to our children genetically (and that we will have to wrestle with why genetics feel so important). For years, we will be subjected to questions from strangers on the street about where our children come from and how we conceived them.
When I’m in a good mood, I can talk myself up. I remind myself of the many amazing LGBTQ bloggers out there who help forge a path and show me a blueprint of options and strength. I remind myself that no matter what, I know that our children will be loved, welcomed, and embraced by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. They’ll be our children. And we will love them. I know that someday, post-wedding and post-babies, when I’m cleaning spit-up off my shirt or watching our kid read her first word, I’ll be so thankful for all that we could do and be. But for now, I’m still mourning what we can’t.
Photo of Sarah as a (adorable) baby, from her personal collection