les•bi•an dad n, neologism 1. a. A mannish lesbian 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/ genderqueer/ butch parent.

Thus, light aimed at quotidian family experiences shines also 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.

Note that 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.”

And finally: after about eight years and for a number of reasons classic to personal narrative blogs, I left this place fallow for a while.  During a long pause, I acclimated to life without my dad and with now-older kids and a job that required a lot of off-line focus.  I’ve since published intermittently, on what might generously be described as a “slow blog” publishing schedule.  Sometimes reeeeaaaaalllly slow.

Sustainability and blog/life balance for the win!

About this blog’s reception.

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 who writes it.

My name is Polly Pagenhart, 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 going on 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 fixture 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, and at local universities.

I work now for Bay Area and California LGBTQ families as Director of Policy and Communications at the small-but-mighty non-profit Our Family Coalition. All text and imagery published here are my own unless otherwise indicated, and are not intended to represent the socio-political positions of my employer. Even if they happen to largely overlap. Yet more all-purpose caveats here.

Let’s talk.

Feel free to write me via this blog’s contact page. To keep this space quaintly civil, I ask commenters to register. On a perhaps not unrelated note, I’m proud to say that since the inception of Lesbian Dad, I’ve only elected not to publish one single, solitary comment. And for what it’s worth, it wasn’t homophobic; it was Islamophobic and off-topic.  A single sour comment in well over 5,000 gives one some faith in human nature.  And in the editorial impact of the loss of anonymity.  Either way, thank you for reading.

page last updated: 4.19 

12 Responses to About

  1. Tarja May 4, 2013 at #

    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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