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My Big Queer Multiracial Family

June 1, 2012

I see my family through many different, yet intersecting, lenses.

We are a family of choice.  We are a family headed by two queer moms.  We are a multiracial family.  We are a family created through adoption.  We are a family created through queer conception using a known donor.  We are a family with children who are of two different generations. We are a family of do-gooders. We are a family that lives far away from our respective extended families.

For a while, the queer aspect of our family seemed to permeate everything.  When we adopted Bella and Bubaloo at the ages of 9 and 11, the transition from a foster family headed by a mom and dad to a forever family headed by two moms seemed all-encompassing.  At least for us adults.  Suddenly becoming parents rocked our identities to the core, and the queer aspect of ourselves took a back seat to the newly acquired ‘mom’ label.

I don’t think becoming queer spawn mattered all that much to the kids. It was a transition, but it wasn’t a revolution in their lives.  Bella proudly shared the fact that she was adopted by two moms with anyone who would listen and Bubaloo often proclaimed that having two moms meant double the love.

It didn’t mean that having two moms hasn’t caused problems for the kids from time to time. It totally has. It just hasn’t been all-encompassing for them.

Right now, having two moms is a source of tension for Bubaloo with his girlfriend.  He’s been dating this girl all year long, and she happens to have very strict Muslim parents.  She’s not allowed to be dating a boy, never mind one who has two moms.  Bubaloo is completely torn up as he believes that her parents will hate us and he will be totally rejected because he simply has two moms.

We’ve tried time and time again to point out that the real issue here is that he’s a boy, and his girlfriend has been forbidden to date boys.  By having a boyfriend, and sneaking around, the rules are already being broken.  It’s not a question of what kind of boy she should be dating and the kind of family that he should come from.  It’s that she shouldn’t be dating.  Period.

But this doesn’t register with him.  He’s so torn up that he may be dumped if his secret is uncovered.  He’s so sure that two moms will be the stake in his relationship coffin.  It eats away at him.  He struggles with this so.  He’s being judged because of who we are, not of his own merit.

Will having two moms be revolutionary in the Doodle’s life?  Probably not.  She’s part of a queer baby boom demographic in our city and being part of the queer community will always have been a part of her life.

What I think will be more life-defining for the Doodle is that she’s different from her brother and sister and mothers.  She’s clearly brown.  We are clearly white. Well, that’s not entirely true.  Everyone has a different skin tone, and a different racial /ethnic background in our family.

For the most part, Bella, Otto and I look white.  Although, Otto has a lovely olive complexion culled from the Italian side of her DNA (she’s actually a 1st gen Canadian!).

Bubaloo’s origins are little more unclear.  We believe he’s an Aboriginal, Chinese and Caucasian combination.  At a first glance, his whiteness may be assumed.  But more in the sense that the definition of what constitutes white has been broadened over the years.   Bubaloo easily straddles a racial divide.

The Doodle on the other hand is more and more becoming visibly mixed race.

Having a mixed race baby has been interesting.  When I’m holding the Doodle, white people gush about her tan and lovely skin colour.  I roll my eyes.   Who lets a baby get a tan?   You can swoon as much as you want about how awesomely cute my baby is.  I’m good with that.  But the plethora of tan comments?  Yeah, I’ve only gotten those from white people.

On the other hand, I’ve only been asked if she’s mixed race from brown folks.   They look and me, then look at the Doodle, and say “She’s mixed, isn’t she?”  In that context it’s also sort of othering.  It’s like they know a secret about her.  That she’s not one of them, or fully of them either.

We gave a lot of intentional thought when we picked our known donor (KD).  He had all of the characteristics that we wanted of a donor.  We did, however, give more thought to the fact that he’s South Asian.  Our KD is brown.  And pretty dark brown at that.

Before I met and married Otto, the KD and I had jokingly talked about kids in our futures.  This was way back, way way way back, when we were both undergraduates.  At the time, I grappled with the race card.  In giving my children two same-sex parents, I suspected that might pose a significant challenge for them.  Raising biracial children would only further complicate and possibly make those children’s lives that much more difficult as they straddled the world of two identities.

Ten years after these conversations, I obviously feel differently.  The Doodle is evidence of that.

Only I don’t think I’m any more comfortable with the decision to have a mixed race child today.  There’s still a tension in that.  I’m just more cognizant of what it means and the duty I feel to provide opportunities to expose her to both sides of her heritage.  My approach is more organic, I’m more comfortable in not having answers, I’m more comfortable with the process and the journey.

I wonder if we’re capable of doing her justice?  If we can, as her white moms, link her to a culture that we have no part of and no space in? Can we connect her to a community through her KD?  Through a man who plays a special role in her life, but a role that because of geographical distance, only exists in her home and not within the larger community we’re trying to connect her to?

Race is often something I see come up in discussions when queer moms are choosing a donor.  More often than not, it’s because the couple themselves are of different races and they want their baby to look a little bit like of each of them so they pick a donor of a similar race to the non-gestational parent. Often they’re using an unknown donor and struggle because they have only a handful of sperm options available.

Or, if the moms are of the same race, they tend to pick a donor who has other characteristics that would be the product if two women could conceive a baby on their own.  It’s not about skin colour; it’s about eyes and hair.

We didn’t do this.  We had to grapple with questions like, “What would we do if they baby looked like neither of us?”  Did we have a right to produce a kid where 50% of her heritage won’t be reflected in her daily existence?

Yesterday at the park, Bella pointed to the Doodle and said that’s my sister.  A young girl around 12-years-of-age, looked at Bella, looked at the Doodle, and looked back at Bella again.  The young girl responded to Bella’s claim of sisterhood by shouting out into the air, “She’s brown.”

It wasn’t a statement.  It wasn’t a proclamation.  It wasn’t an observation.  It wasn’t a question.  She used two little words to discredit my eldest daughter.  She might as well have asserted that clearly the Doodle and Bella weren’t siblings.  Bella is white.  The Doodle is brown.  To this little outsider, there’s no sisterhood here.

Our multiracial family is a result of our queerness.  If Otto and I could reproduce without the outside assistance of a donor or the Children’s Aid, there wouldn’t be this complexity underpinning each of our family members in relationship to one another.

It’s not good.  It’s not bad.  It just is what it is.  I wouldn’t trade in all this complexity for an ounce of simplicity.  I love it.  My big queer multiracial family.

This post was written for Blogging For LGBTQ Families Day hosted over at Mombian.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2012 10:06 pm

    I simply love this post!

  2. June 2, 2012 4:34 pm

    I just found your post via my “multiracial” Google Alerts tag. I love the post and I really love your blog. Would you mind if I reposted part of My Big Queer Multiracial family on my site and with a link back to your site?

    • June 2, 2012 4:40 pm

      Absolutely. I’d be flattered. Thanks so much for reading.

      • June 3, 2012 9:15 pm

        Thank you both so much! I also do a podcast and I’d love to have you both on as guests. Let me know if you would be interested!

  3. June 2, 2012 9:58 pm

    I love the picture of all 3 kids playing together!
    Thanks for this thoughtful exploration of your family’s complicated identities. It reminds me of something that one of the trainers said at an anti-oppression workshop I attended many years ago. The trainer suggested that often the piece of our identities that we most identify with is the one that’s most under stress at any given time. I know that has often been true for me–I’m much more aware of my race in settings where I am a minority, and very aware of being queer when surrounded by straight moms at the playground.
    In terms of your questions about the donor your chose for the Doodle, it’s so hard to imagine how your as-yet-unconceived child may feel in 8 or 18 or 30 years about various decisions you make today. But it sounds like you guys will be strong, thoughful allies for all three of your kids as they navigate their own individual and family identities.

    • June 3, 2012 12:30 pm

      Your point about the context of your identity – “piece of our identities that we most identify with is the one that’s most under stress at any given time” – rings so very true to me. I had never thought about it that way, but I absolutely agree with it.

  4. June 3, 2012 7:01 am

    great post.

    you know, i never noticed that bubaloo and doodle were brownish, but now that you mention it…

    our baby who we tried to have look like a mix of both moms is far darker than either of us. clearly the donor was a browner filipino than M is.

    • June 3, 2012 12:24 pm

      That’s kinda funny. I also don’t think of the Doodle and Bubaloo as brown until it gets pointed out. You can see in real life the skin colour difference between all three of the kids, but it’s not so evident on film. Although there is this pic of Bella and the Doodle I took last weekend…
      Bella and the Doodle

      On the Bunny’s skin colour – our KD is way darker than either of his parents and his siblings. There’s such a variation in skin colour, and apparently, having lighter skinned parents doesn’t guarantee lighter skinned kids. And having a ‘whiter’ baby is something that was incredibly important to our KDs parents. Which is an entirely longer conversation…sigh.

  5. June 4, 2012 9:19 pm

    What great food for thought. We are also a multiracial family via our kids. My partner and I are black and went to great lengths to try to use a black donor but it didn’t work out and we ended up using a multiracial donor.
    Our kid’s are the only ‘black’ children in our circle of lesbian families and so they stand out and our almost 3 year old suddenly seems aware of race as a way of distinguishing between people. Lately, he gravitates toward books that include children of colour and relates them to family members e.g. “look at that man. Is that uncle Dave?” He loves Cat in the Hat but when I joke about the kids in the story being him and his sister, he laughs and says no way but when i do that with children of colour in his books, he’ll play along.
    It’s not that i want to negate the fact that they are multiracial, it’s just that I see their blackness as ‘othering’ them so often that we are going to great lengths to ensure that they experience that part of their lives as positive. And, in the process we are basically ignoring the other 50% of their identity.
    It’s interesting to think what they will make of it all as they grow. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to have more nuanced conversations about all parts of their identity as they get older and can articulate how they are processing it all.
    You have a beautiful family.

  6. June 7, 2012 4:54 pm

    Thanks for participating in Blogging for LGBT Families Day! You raise some important issues with insight and compassion.

Trackbacks

  1. Blogging for LGBT Families Day 2012: Contributed Posts – Mombian
  2. Excerpts From a Toddler’s Reading of The Family Book | One Urban Nest

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