Sugar here again. Something sad and something happy:
Bionic sent me this link to insertmetaphor’s post on the problems inherent in trying, as a same-sex-relationship parents, to mix with the mommy/daddy gender divisions that are casually set up everywhere. I have had the same questions and issues, feeling angry while not hating the actual people in the actual gender appropriate mommy/daddy pigeonholes. “It’s not them, it’s their paradigm.” Yep.
In the comments on that thread Halfadozen writes about not wanting to feel invisible during this important life event. That is what I am struggling with also. I want to be seen as an important parent with a real parenty job to do, and someone who is undergoing a major life change, not some uncategorizable and therefore sidelined auntie.
I mentioned in my last post that my mother asked me if I was going to ‘have one of my own.’ (And thanks, Twangy, for the righteous indignation. Yes.) This kind of question really throws the invisibility cloak right over what’s happening in my life now. Before the Bean was born, Bionic’s extremely well-meaning mom took me aside and tearfully thanked me for ‘everything that I was doing’ and repeated exclaimed that ‘there should be a word for me.’ She admitted that Bionic had told her that that word was ‘mother’ but, well, ‘you know what I mean.’ I felt like I had actually disappeared. Poof!
I also make myself disappear on a regular basis. I do this because I feel like I need to acknowledge that Bionic did something difficult and worthy. I can easily be mistaken for the Bean’s biological mother, and this in turn makes Bionic seem to disappear. I end up saying things like ‘well my partner bore the baby’ so that people know what’s going on. Since the world seems to only have a place for one mom per family and I’m clearly not a dad, it feels like we have to choose which one of us is erased for whatever social moment we are in.
We did have a funny interaction last week. Funny partly because the people were strangers so I didn’t really care how they felt. We were in the back patio of a bar drinking a happy-hour beer before the Bean turned all cranky for the evening. I was wearing the Bean in a carrier. Two other people were there having their own conversation. Another woman arrived, looked at us and said ‘oh, you have a baby, I won’t smoke.’ She was standing in the smoking area which was pretty far away from us so Bionic said ‘no, go ahead, it’s OK.’ The couple having their own conversation stopped to listen. The woman who wanted to smoke looked at Bionic, pointed to me, and said, ‘how does the baby mama feel about that?’ Bionic took umbrage and said, ‘I AM the baby mama.’ Then the woman then looked at me and said, ‘she must just be a really nice person.’ Then I took umbrage and said ‘I’m her WIFE.’ Apparently that’s what you get for trying to be nice about smoking around the baby of lesbians. Amazed observing couple continued to be amazed.
An online friend of Bionic’s asked how I feel about it when people tell her that the baby looks like her. Here is the honest truth about this: I feel happy.
I think, on the surface, this must seem strange. I remember feeling sad in our pre-sperm-purchase phase that we couldn’t have a baby that would be related to us both, that would look like us both. It’s true that that would be nice. However, there are two big issues that have contrived to make me feel happy when I hear that the Bean looks like Bionic.
First, we were so worried about the donor and what he looked like that I became somehow convinced that the baby would mainly look like the donor. I feel really pleased when I see the ways that he looks like Bionic. He has her skin, her mouth, her ability to raise a single eyebrow. I love my wife. I love that my baby looks like my wife.
Second, society at large is invested in keeping us from feeling like a family. Just to pick some things at random, there is DOMA, for instance, and my parents’ tearful fear (when I was seventeen) that being gay ‘is a lonely life.’ There are restrictions against gay adoption. There is the fact that my employer will reimburse for any adoptions except for second-parent adoptions. So a visible reminder that my baby looks like my wife is wonderful. It’s like a big fuck you to those august institutions telling me I can’t have a family. I have a family, we even LOOK like a family.
I guess I could see this the opposite way. I could ask, since I don’t look like those other two people am I a part of this family? But somehow I don’t. It just makes me happy to see Bionic when I look at his little face. It’s like, look at that! We did it right!