Twenty-five years ago, I was 25 years old and just starting law school at the University of Utah. I was parenting my daughter Emily, who was 4 years old with her mom, and my former partner, Lori. While it was uncommon for LGBT friends in our circle to be planning for parenthood, it did not occur to Lori or me that we were at the forefront of what would be termed the “gayby boom.”
Lori had been a single parent raising the then 1-year-old Emily when we met. We were just living our lives unaware of a sea-change that was just beginning when it came to issues of parenting and our community. While we were living that life, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Deborah “Chas” Chasnoff and her then life and work partner, Kim Klausner, were in the midst of writing, producing, and directing their groundbreaking film documenting this burgeoning movement. Choosing Children captured on celluloid the choice a growing number of lesbians and gay men were making, a choice that seemed both counter-intuitive and revolutionary: to become parents.
Up until this generation, most LGBT folks were parents because they had been in earlier heterosexual marriages or relationships and then divorced and come out, or vice-versa. In doing so many of them faced hostility from family and former spouses and countless numbers lost or gave up any hope for custody of their children.
Beginning in the early 1980s, a new kind of parenting began emerging. Led by lesbians, often in biological partnership with gay men, women began choosing to have children as lesbian-identified parents. Now, 25 short years later, the groundbreaking idea that lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender folks can also be parents seems, well, not so groundbreaking. In fact, it is now so commonplace that doing so is viewed by some in our community as assimilationist and pedestrian. Gotta love the march of progress.
But of course, what the fight for the right to be both LGBT and a parent is really about is the right to live a fulfilled and authentic life according to what gives joy and satisfaction to each of us. And in 1985 becoming a parent often meant rejection from both one’s family of origin and one’s chosen family in the lesbian or gay community. It also meant maintaining a pretense of heterosexuality or absolute legal vulnerability because almost every state prohibited openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from adopting, and few if any states provided any parental protections. It was a time of very little community or institutional support for you as a parent or for your child as the son or daughter of a queer parent.
Emily will be 30 next year. She is smart, lovely, creative, open-hearted, and generous. I can hardly believe I have a daughter who is near 30 years old. But then I also can hardly believe the progress we have made in the short time my oldest has been alive. Seeing Choosing Children again was inspiring for many reasons but most of all, it made me really stop and appreciate how far we have come and how much we owe those who blazed this trail uncertain of the terrain ahead of them. Filmmakers Chas and Kim, the parents featured in the film, our own founder Donna Hitchens—who provided legal expertise and commentary—did not intend to be pioneers, but they were, and we are all much better off because of the choices they made.
So please join us for the upcoming Choosing Children 25th Anniversary Screening and Reception, a film that is now a crucial and transformative story of our movement. Our evening together promises to be a celebration of how far we have come and a promise to not end our quest until every family is valued and safe.
Choosing Children 25th Anniversary Screening and Reception
What: Choosing Children 25th anniversary celebration to raise funds to permanently preserve this historical film on DVD
When: 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2010 (Program begins at 7 p.m.)
Where: Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, San Francisco, CA
Cost: $25 (regular admission); $10 (student admission)