Part four of a six-part series of excerpts from “Confessions of a Lesbian Dad,” originally published in Confessions of the Other Mother: Non-biological Lesbian Moms Tell All (Ed. Harlyn Aizley. Boston: Beacon, 2006).
[Series intro and backstory here.]
Happy as a clam was I, when I went to my first LGBT Pride Celebration as a soon-to-be Baba with my now-pregnant sweetie. I was, I dare say, prouder at that Pride than I’d been since I went to my first one more than twenty years back. And there have been some doozies. New York’s twentieth anniversary of Stonewall. DC’s twenty-fifth. Dyke Marches in three — no, make that four cities. One of which I helped lead, unpermitted, through city streets (in fact, that’s how I snagged the mother of my child, but that’s a story for another day). Now here I was, erstwhile lesbo rabble-rouser turned soon-to-be-lesbo dad. I had me a name: Baba. We had us a peanut in Jennifer’s belly, and she was starting to show.
That weekend I was bound and determined to track down other lesbo parents like myself, bobbing around in their own dinghies in the same ‘twixt-gender soup that I was in. Was it going to be Heather Has Two Mommies everywhere? Or might one Heather have a Mommy and a Baba? I had to find out. So I made up a big placard that read something like, “Lesbo Parents: Come talk to me about lesbian fatherhood!” Â Then I toted it around the kiddie playground in the park from which the Saturday evening Dyke March disembarked, and again the next day at the kiddie playground in the Civic Center plaza where the Pride Parade ended up — enticing anyone who wished to come talk to me. I would point to my sign, point proudly to Jennifer’s belly, and wave curious onlookers over. If they stayed long enough, I’d even thrust a home-made survey into their hands, asking about what they called themselves, what their role was, how important it felt that there be understanding about their kind of parenthood.
I had conversations with dozens of gals, which in itself was like drinking from an oasis pool after a long slog through the desert. Eureka! Butch moms and dyke dads existed! Evidently when they were all clumped together in one place I could begin to make them out. Of course it would all be braided together: the closer I would get to understanding my own kind of parenthood, the more likely I would be to seek out and find parents like myself. Yet it was only in seeking out and finding parents like myself that I would be able to get closer to understanding my own kind of parenthood. This was not unlike many of life’s greatest treasures: a paradox, gift-wrapped in a conundrum.
Most of the women I talked with, hanging around the oasis that weekend, asked me right off what a lesbian dad was. In response to which I pulled the ever-annoying but usually-productive old teacher trick of reversing the question on ’em. “What does ‘lesbian dad’ mean to you?” Â Or, “What would you guess it could mean?” Some gals thought a lesbian dad might be the sperm donor guy. But most cocked their heads, thought for a moment, and then figured: a lesbian mom who’s a more like a dad. Bingo! And while we’re at it, take that, Henry Higgins! Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
When it came to finding out who might identify as a lesbian dad — once they had the chance to give the term some thought — more often than not, it was the non-bio moms for whom the shoe fit. Since the shoe was pretty much a boot. And since, anecdotally speaking here, more often than not, the butchier of the gals seemed to be the ones who, given the choice, opted out of pregnancy and into supporting the pregnant partner. I should say this is relatively speaking, when I say butchier: butch in L.A. is definitely closer to femme in S.F., and this is all just urban California, and these terms are movable, sometimes even provisional hooks onto which we toss our hats. We’re all very much more complicated than any either/or binary, which conviction, I hasten to note, is how I got into this whole goose chase in the first place. I realized this when one butchy bio-mom said she could just as soon feel like a lesbian dad as a lesbian mom. That weekend I learned that those massive continents Mother and Father have, as all land masses do, dynamic shorelines which are eroded and transformed all the time by original-thinking moms and dads of all ilks.
On the nomenclature question, I got every conceivable variant: Mom, Mama, Mommy, Ima; Mama Jane (or whatever the gal’s name would be). Also there were more fatherly monikers: Poppi, Papa, and, my favorite, P Daddy. This helped me to see that even if people weren’t identifying themselves as “lesbian dads” Â per se, their parental names suggested that plenty of these gals were fine with scootching over and hogging up a little of the space taken up by fatherhood. That I never came face-to-face with a gal who named herself Baba didn’t dampen my excitement. Especially when someone I spoke with said she knew a number of butch (non-bio) moms who had independently taken the same path I had, etymologically, and called themselves Baba. And especially since talking to all these women helped me see more clearly where Jennifer and I were headed. One gal described parenthood as the toughest job you’ll ever love; another said it was like an 18 year-long blind date. But they were all just smitten with their kids, and loving the ride. I couldn’t wait to get on.
On Thursday, Part five: “Where the diaper meets the road”