les•bi•an dad n, neologism 1. a. A mannish lesbian, non-binary, or genderqueer parent who feels that traditionally female titles (i.e., “mother”) don’t quite fit, and who is willing to appropriate and redefine existing male ones (i.e., “father”): They were a tomboy when they were a kid, so it’s not surprising they’re a lesbian dad as a parent. b. Often a non-biological parent in a lesbian family, and/or one whose role relative to the child in many ways resembles that of fathers. ORIGIN – early 21st century via: the web log “Lesbian Dad.” See also: “Baba.”

A bit about this blog.

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” quoth Emily Dickinson, and so I have. 

LesbianDad is a personal essay/photography blog about parenthood and family, as seen through the lens of a non-birth/ non-binary/ genderqueer/ butchy parent.

Any light aimed at quotidian family experiences thus also shines on a great many larger puzzlements and insights which this unusual parental vantage point offers up.  I began publishing the blog in 2006 as a wee beacon, hoping to emit enough of a signal to attract wisdom from kindred spirits, at a time when lesbian families were virtually invisible online, and genderqueer parents were virtually invisible anywhere. The intrepid Googler can find many more of us online and in person now, which is an infinite blessing.

In the interest of being helpful, back then when genderqueer and LGBT people and parenthood were far more incomprehensible to the average reader,  I started a Glossary; some of the entries there may help clarify some facets of queer parenthood for the uninitiated.

I subscribe to the Walt Whitman school of writing process, rather than Gertrude Stein’s. Walt tinkered with what he wrote over and over, past its first and second and umpteen print publications. Gertrude thought: first draft best draft. I will say that whatever ripples of change appear in a piece subsequent to its first posting are along stylistic and le mot juste lines – not substantive ones. I usually leave well enough alone after 24 hours. But now we’re all forewarned.

I published a post about the genesis and development of this blog and how I write it here: The political is personal.   I did a post of loose notes about how I photograph my kids here: Feeds self yogurt, effortlessly.  Writer Abby Dorsey profiled lesbian fatherhood in general, including mine in particular, in an April 2013 piece in The Advocate (print and online editions): “The New Lesbian Dad.”

After over half a dozen years of vigorous publication from the mid-aughts to the early twenty-teens, this site gradually became more archival than dynamic.  Publication slowed considerably in the wake of my dad’s passing, and even more with the arrival of a job whose impact overlapped a lot with what I was trying to do here. I rolled to a stop, ultimately, stumped about how to publish personal narrative in the minuscule work/life interstices, whilst honoring the right of my kids to grow up offline, not on.

And in 2016, the election of Tr_mp knocked me speechless. I tried to find a helpful thing to say here; could not. And because my job is at an LGBTQ+ family advocacy and support non-profit, the scorched-earth political landscape of this era has meant that whatever energy I have beyond family- and self-care has gone into my work.

Hope springs internal, however. Through the (post? soon-to-be-post?) apocalyptic fog of Tr_mpism and pandemic, I continue to believe that it’s worth it to try to help one another. Indeed it’s more important now than ever. So I’m mustering up the umph to take a stab at doing so, slowly, here.

Reception and honorifics.

Since this craft launched in 2006, Lesbian Dad has collected various nods of recognition which, in a fit of only partial humility, I demoted from home page button (snicker not; people used to do that in the early bloggy days) to boasty About page list, herewith:

The most valuable award, of course, is that of your attention, right here, right now. So thank you, gentle reader.

On video.

I’ve had the opportunity to read blog posts or opine about various topics at blogging conferences and events. Here are some for which I’ve got video:

  • July 2008: BlogHer Community Keynote (later dubbed Voices of the Year), reading  “Thanks Giving”:

  • July 2013: Listen to Your Mother San Francisco, reading  “Straight On ‘Til Morning”:

  • July 2014: delivering one of that year’s BlogHer 10 x 10 Keynotes

About the author.

I’m Pauly Pagenhart (aka Polly), and I come by my parenting chops by virtue of trial and error with people who self-identify as a daughter (since 2004) and a son (since 2007).

Both were heroically carried and birthed by my beloved, whose emotional intelligence and tireless optimism have anchored and buoyed me on voyages parental and beyond for over 25 years. Booyah! Therapy dollars well spent, people. Our donor is what we call “personally known” (and also loved), and continues his presence in our family’s life as a “special uncle” and a member of our extended family.

I come by most of the rest of what goes into this blog by virtue of some book-learning (BA: Berkeley, English; MA: Minnesota, American Studies & Feminist Studies), some teaching at both universities (American Studies, Women’s Studies, Composition, Pedagogy), and a few decades of activism in between.

I’ve written about my parenting journey elsewhere in print,  at BlogHer as a Contributing Editor in Parenting and Family topics and as Conference Programming Director, and at the now on-ice group blog VillageQ, for which I was co-founder and onetime Editor-in-Chief.  I’ve spoken about LGBTQ and “alternative” families at social media conferences like Mom 2.0, Dad 2.0, and BlogHer, at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Convention, as well as at local universities (my alma mater + that other one across the Bay whose name somehow escapes me at the moment).

I work for LGBTQ+ families in the Bay Area (and beyond) as Director of Communications at the small-but-mighty non-profit Our Family Coalition. All text and photographs published here are my own unless otherwise indicated, and do not represent any positions of my employer. More all-purpose caveats here.

Old school dialog!

Feel free to write me via this blog’s contact page.

And of course: kick it old school and comment! To keep this space quaintly civil, I ask commenters to register. On a related note, I’m proud to say that since the inception of this blog over 15 years ago, I’ve only elected not to publish one single, solitary comment. For what it’s worth, it wasn’t homophobic; it was Islamophobic and off-topic.  One single sour comment in well over 5,000 gives one some faith in human nature.  And in the sobering impact of accountability.

Thank you for reading.

page last updated: 1.21 

12 thoughts on “About”

  1. Polly! Hey, it’s Tarja from LTYM! Been meaning to come over here for a while. After reading – and especially after meeting you – I can see why Alexandra (of Empress fame) loves you so much. I think I was first “introduced” to you by a BlogHer conference email back in 2011. Love your humor and honesty and thrilled we’re on the LTYM journey together. xo T

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