If the term “queer parenting” makes you think of lipstick lesbians pushing four-hundred dollar designer strollers or immaculately dressed gay white men cuddling adopted brown-skinned babies, Rachel Epstein’s stereotype-busting collection of essays is about to blow your mind.
Even if you consider yourself to be a queer-friendly kind of a hetero, the writings included in this book – everything from York University professor Nancy Nicol’s meticulously researched and footnoted “Politics of the Heart: Recognition of Homoparental Families in Quebec,” to a formal interview conducted by Epstein with two gay men involved in Daddies and Papas 2B, to a hilarious rant from Jonathan Feakins on life when you’ve got a trans woman for a dad – is guaranteed to challenge your assumptions and undermine your established definitions of modern family life.
For the LGBTQ community, the essays included and the helpful lists of organizations and services available for future parents, parents, and queer spawn (the children of LGBTQ parents) are sure to be a source of much-needed information and support. But to Epstein’s credit, she has also included both a wide range of parenting perspectives and an in-depth discussion of how issues around queer parenting have caused division within the queer community. In “Race Relations in the Family,” Tobi Hill-Meyer tackles the reality of being a person of colour who “had white parents, a white brother, a white extended family, lived in a white neighbourhood, and went to a white school.” Hill-Meyer obviously loves and respects her queer mothers but she also has some practical advice for all white folk who choose to parent a child of colour. “Instead of trying to maintain an unblemished appearance as an anti-racist activist, be responsive to criticism and use such incidents as learning opportunities. Have people of colour in your life; if you’re responsive, they will help you be accountable.” Kathleen Pendleton Jiménez’s “Little White Children: Notes from a Chicana Dyke Dad” addresses the question of colour and colonization from a different perspective when she reveals how it feels to be the brown-skinned father figure in a family that includes her girlfriend Claudia and Claudia’s two children, “… some of the whitest people I know.”
Turns out choosing to raise kids, especially in queer familial configurations that appear to be simply gay versions of the monogamous, stable, hardworking, two parent traditional heterosexual model, is far from universally supported within the queer community. Shelley M. Park gives us one perspective with her essay, “Is Queer Parenting Possible?” which includes an attempt at finding a clear definition of the term queer parenting as well as a discussion of how the legal recognition of same-sex marriage might actually put dangerous limitations on who is considered to be a “good” queer parent, while lawyer and activist Joanna Radford defends the value of both same-sex marriage and intensive mothering in her article, “In Defence of ‘Traditional Families.'”
From first-person, bodily fluid-filled pregnancy stories by an ovulating trans man to the sexual exploits of an irrepressible self-described feminist, lesbian-activist, submissive femme mom, Epstein has succeeded in putting together a definitive collection on queer parenting. Recommended reading for everyone interested in how families look in the twenty-first century, regardless of whom you happen to call daddy.
B.A. Markus is a mother, writer and musician living in Montreal.