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The challenges of LGBTQIA parenting

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Becoming a parent is daunting, no matter your background or identity.

It’s an incredible responsibility to raise a human being to function in this world. You’re guiding another life, setting boundaries, providing sustenance and hoping to make happy this entity that you really have no control over. It’s a balance of holding their hand while somehow teaching them to fly on their own.

Being an LGBTQIA parent can make an already hard job more difficult at times: from conceiving, to adopting, to how the world regards or disregards you, to discrimination, to not having rights to your own child depending on what state you live in.

I’ve had some hurdles building my family as a lesbian, but I’m fortunate compared to some LGBTQIA parents.
My children are 6 and 3. My oldest was conceived on the third try on New Year’s Eve through artificial insemination.

My best friends decided to get married that same morning. The only problem was that they lived in Seattle and I needed to be in Oakland with the sperm that same day. Another friend picked the sperm up for me, texting a picture of the canister in her front seat, seatbelt on to keep the little swimmers safe.

I went to the courthouse to see my friends finally marry (it had just become legal earlier that month), then to the airport, then the doctor’s office with lots of hope in my heart. It worked out and our ginger baby arrived, early, 34 weeks later.

For my 3-year-old, we went through in vitro fertilization (IVF). We could only afford one try, since we had to pay more for double the fertility drugs since I would carry my partner’s egg.

When you’re queer, there’s an extra layer added to the ups and downs of fertility treatments, being pregnant, financial tolls, interruption of work, and the worries and fears that all parents have. Micro aggressions or rude comments remind you that you’re “other” and make you feel “less than.”

Try explaining to random people how you could be pregnant, as if they didn’t know that modern medicine helps make babies for straight couples too. Or having to educate your own doctor on why your age isn’t a factor in the genetic testing of your baby, because it’s an egg from your partner. You get that look, like you’re an oddity he doesn’t understand. And this is when he’s telling you that your baby has a heart defect.

It’s having a friend who’s ex decided that she couldn’t be around the child they worked to have together. She lost her child even though she helped pay for conception and was actively raising the child for years. There was no legal precedent or recognition, no legal marriage, no name on a birth certificate, no second parent adoption.

I’m privileged because so many others made it possible for a lesbian like me to have children and to share openly that I am a queer parent. I’m hopeful as there continue to be changes that support LGBTQIA parents. A small example is the new birth certificate application in California. With my oldest, the only option on the birth certificate was mother and father. At the time, we just crossed out father and wrote in parent. But for our littlest, the birth certificate had “mother/parent” and “father/parent.” We felt seen and included.

I’m grateful that my parenting village is filled with fabulous people who range on the spectrum of LGBTQIA and ally identities. It means my little ones are already surrounded by people who accept them fully and completely.

For resources, check out rainbowcc.org.

Dodi Zotigh is the board president of the Rainbow Center serving the LGBTQ community in Concord. Send questions and comments to Dodi@rainbowcc.org.

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