Raising Baby T. Rex: Club Fawn, No Naps, and Reclaiming Procreation

When I decided to carry Baby T. Rex, I entered this emerging world of LGBTQIA people choosing to have children. We’ve always been around, queer folks with kids, but this specific type of parenting choice — carrying a baby through a uterus-having person with partner(s) who can’t impregnate that partner “naturally” — hasn’t always been readily available. It’s still not affordable to many and it’s still not easy to get insurance to cover and it’s still available based on whether medical providers in your area work with LGBT families.

However, it’s becoming more readily available to those with a moderate level of income stability, whereas it was primarily available to families with a lot of privilege and access to medical advocacy in past generations of queer folks. In my personal friend circle alone, I know three people who had a queer baby through assisted reproductive tech around the same time we did. A couple of those folks are having a second kid right now.

Same-gender parents have been foster parents and adoptive parents for ages (where it’s not been outlawed or restricted, anyway) and continue to be more likely to adopt than straight parents. Of course, there are also tons of queer parents who have children through current or previous relationships where sex resulted in babies. I definitely don’t mean to erase these queer parents. That’s the thing.

As fertility treatments become more available to queer people with uteruses, I find myself becoming more uncomfortable with the increasingly heteronormative assumptions people make about the decision to parent this way. As what’s available to us begins to look more and more like what has historically been the Path to A Successful Life for Straight Folks (monogamy, marriage, making babies, house in the suburbs), it feels like we’re being forced into that same narrative.

What I mean is the ever-present and deeply normalized bias that a child who is genetically or gestationally related to you is, somehow, more legitimate. That adoption is the less preferable option or is somehow less of a true family bond than giving birth. (I’m adopted.) That having genetic material or something to imitate an ancestral link from both parents is the best way and that not having that is something of a loss. (We intentionally chose a donor who is not the same race as Waffle.) That not being biologically related to your child loosens your bond to them. (Waffle is not biologically related to Remi.)

That marriage and making kids is the ultimate goal in a way that feels sticky and old-fashioned and Capitalist and exactly what Queer Nation warned us about. (YIKES.)

That said, when the Queers Read This manifesto was passed out at Gay Pride in NYC in 1990, it felt impossible that queer people could procreate. It felt like heterosexuality had the stronghold on the ability to create families through biology. In the manifesto, they wrote: Quite simply, the structure of power in the Judeo-Christian world has made procreation its cornerstone. Families having children assures consumers for the nation’s products and a workforce to produce them, as well as a built-in family system to care for its ill, reducing the expense of public healthcare systems. All non-procreative behavior is considered a threat, from homosexuality to birth control to abortion as an option.

When those forebearers of what became Queer Nation wrote the manifesto, they weren’t thinking about a future in which queer resilience could include taking back procreation in a queer way. Queering baby making wasn’t even on the table. Queer people were creating families through kinship and birthing through art and culture and activism and fighting for their very survival. Damn. We’re still fighting for all of that today.

In the aftermath of marriage equality and in the era of LGBT family-making being a trending topic, I feel more and more pulled to reflect on parenting through my queer lens. What if creating our own families, through intimate kinship with each other as lovers and friends and now, in this era, through expanding our legal families, as well, is another way to fight back against the regime of the norm—against heteropatriarchy and cissexism and transmisogyny? Why do we have to be defined by heterosexual norms just because we finally have some access to the procreative power that was so often used to invalidate queer relationships and trans people’s actual bodies? What if our very queer procreation is a threat to the heterosexual nuclear traditional family and what if we embraced that as our weapon?

I want to embrace it. Sometimes the path to doing so feels murky and complicated by the reality of the world. I’m never more acutely aware of how being queer and a parent is different than when I’m surrounded by straight parents. I’ve cultivated a fairly insulated personal queer community and having a child thrust me into the world of Parents, of other adults with kids. Anytime I go to a family-friendly space, I’m literally surrounded by straight people. It’s full-immersion heterosexuality. Finding other queer and trans families with kids is not impossible in my city, but it’s difficult to make time to be with each other. We have to create that space and time intentionally.

More often, I find myself talking to and exchanging babysitting time with the families who live near us, my neighbors who are very nice and very kind and also very, very, very straight. These are progressive folks, nice and smart and informed people who listen to NPR and are very welcoming to Waffle and Remi and me. They’re also in straight relationships and with the privilege of being straight, completely unaware of the gendered BS they joke about and have accepted as fact. I also feel like I got to enter a different level of closeness with my existing friends who are heterosexual and who have kids. Some of the things we bond over are truly universal to parenting. (Hello, sleep regressions.) Some feel untrue to me, primarily broad assumptions about “how boys act” and “how girls act” that just don’t align with my observations of Remi’s behavior or of my understanding of gender.

When I feel pulled into the heteronormative parenting vacuum, I try to remind myself of my own power. I’ve done this queer analysis on myself already. I’ve embraced my own femininity and seemingly-but-not-actually heteronormative gender expression as my intentional femme armor. I’ve built and grown my queer community intentionally. I’ve busted through respectability politics to a truer version of myself who doesn’t take shit and builds on trust. I know that my very blood is queer, my sexual orientation is perpetually bi/pan/non-monosexual, and my self can’t be separated from who I am and how I love, ever, no matter who I’m dating or where I am or what my family looks like.

I take a deep breath.

My family is my queer community, my friends and my loves and the people who I’ve loved and lost along the way. My family is Remi and Waffle, too, and the life we’ve very intentionally built together. We are not imitating heterosexuality. We aren’t building our family based on blood or ethnicity or genetics or anything. I can hold that to be true while also valuing that Remi is my only known blood relative and that means something to me, personally, deeply. What it doesn’t mean is that my relationship to my mother is less valid or that Waffle’s relationship to Remi is less valid. What it does mean is that Remi won’t grow up as untethered to her ancestry as I did and that Remi will also know and feel that families are built on love above blood, as I do.

It also means that, as a queer family, we can’t disappear into the suburbs. We have to keep fighting for those who don’t have the freedom to make choices around parenting. We have an obligation to continue to be visible and outspoken. We have to continue to work to expand who has access to family-making choices, particularly for folks on the margins with less access to healthcare, less financial security, less freedom over their bodies, less ability to use or afford assisted reproductive technology, who are still unable to imagine a future where having children is a reachable possibility. We’ve gotta acknowledge that marriage and children are not the end goal for queer liberation, that dignity and survival are still very real and vital goals for many in our queer and trans communities, that having the house and the baby does not mean we’ve achieved equity. It means refusing to assimilate or hold up the straight, white hetero family as the ideal, to commit to changing those powerful institutions even and especially from the inside.

My queer parent friends, those in real life and those I’ve met through this very column and through Autostraddle: I want this for you. I want this for us. I know it’ll be imperfect. I’m grateful that we’re in it together.


5 Queer Family Things I’m Currently Over-Processing

1. Nap Be Gone

Remi has been down to one nap in the afternoon for several months now. In the last few weeks, the nap has been pushed later and later and bedtime has been getting later, as well. We already put her to bed fairly late in the evening, but when norm started creeping up to midnight, which is honestly too late for Waffle and I to feel fully human, I decided to try something.

I took a gamble. I let Remi stay up without a nap. It was, honestly, fine. Kind of great, even. Remi had been fighting naps every day for the past month. I took her to work with me and she stayed awake the whole time, even on the car ride home. So I just let it ride out. Worst case scenario: There’d be a total meltdown if Remi became overtired. Best case? She’d go to bed earlier and hopefully be fine?

Remi was ready for bed around 9:15 instead of 11:45 and went right down and slept for 12 hours instead of 9 hours. I don’t want to completely give up the afternoon nap, but we’re transitioning to a “quiet time” for an hour in the afternoon, during which Remi can take a nap if she wants or play in her crib. But I don’t have to play the game of trying to get her to sleep when she isn’t tired.

The downside is that Waffle works late at night and may not be able to see her at bedtime if Remi’s schedule changes. We have a very cute family bedtime routine that ends with a group sing-along of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that just won’t be the same without Waffle. But it may be worth it to have some time back to ourselves at night. We’ll see!


2. When the Mommy is Away…

…the Waffles will play! I’ve been traveling for work a lot lately. Scratch that. I’m always traveling or running around a lot, so nothing’s new there. Now that Remi is firmly in the toddler stage of life, she and Waffle have a lot of fun when I’m away. Some might say TOO MUCH FUN.


3. Blast Off

Remi is entertaining many possible future careers. Musician, horse farm owner (Is that what it’s called to own horses professionally?), doctor, baker, artist, socialite, explorer, paleontologist, and now… astronaut! To infinity and beyond!!!

The world is truly her oyster, ya’ll.


4. Camp Fawn is Coming

When I was very pregnant and also very sad to be missing A-Camp in 2016, Rory and I had this chat about my feels and also came up with a vision for Club Fawn, the baby disco version of Klub Deer.

Rory sent me this very cute card in the mail shortly after.

This year, at A-Camp XI, I’m finally making a return, with Remi by my side. I’m very excited to be with old and new friends and to share it all with Baby T. Rex! I’ve already spent a very long time reading every possible article on flying with a toddler and looking into many options for restraining a two-year-old in an airplane seat and it’s kind of a stressful thing to do a six-hour flight for the very first time flying with a kid, and to do it as one adult, but I’m excited! I can do this, right? Right?

More importantly, will we see you at Club Fawn?


5. I’m Fine

Just leaving you with this gem from my week. Hope your week was swell!

KaeLyn is a 35-year-old (femme)nist activist, word nerd, and queer mama. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, over-caffeinating herself, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, eating carbs, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Rochester, NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a xenophobic cat, and a rascally rabbit. You can buy her debut book, Girls Resist! A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution if you want to, if you feel like it, if that's a thing that interests you or whatever.

KaeLyn has written 207 articles for us.

39 Comments

  1. “As fertility treatments become more available to queer people with uteruses, I find myself becoming more uncomfortable with the increasingly heteronormative assumptions people make about the decision to parent this way.”

    I find there’s a lot of heteronormative assumptions that all queer people want kids now which is almost funny given that not that long ago (and often still) we were seen as monsters who should never have kids. It’s a wonderful thing that there’s so many options now and I’m very happy for anyone who chooses to have kids in any way but I’m incredibly uncomfortable with the assumption that all queer people want and will have kids because it feels like we’re being pushed towards only being accepted if we conform to that image of being socially acceptable and respectable. So I wonder where we will be in 15-20 years time with that kind of attitude.

    Also, I will happily have Remi’s naps for her. She does not know what she’s missing out on!

  2. KaeLyn! Hi hi!
    1. Traveling with Remi will be fine. You’ve got this. You can do this. Even if your worst-case scenario happens, whatever that is, people will be much kinder than you worry they might. More likely everywhere you go people will smile and wave and make silly faces at her and she will be much more cheerful than you are afraid of. It’s fine. (Have been traveling on planes with mine since nine months old. Every time she amazes me with how great she is.)

    2. Diaper boxes, in addition to making excellent astronaut helmets, also make fantastic bodies and heads and tails of dinosaurs. T-rexes, to be precise. Just sayin’.

    3. The cuteness! Aaaaargh, the cuteness! Waffle and Remi both need to tone it way down, ’cause damn.

    4. I get you with the overly-invested-in-gender-shit fellow parents, ugh. I do have one straight friend who is very over that, but my other straight mom friends…sigh. I love them, but I am very tired of navigating how I push back on their “oh, he’s just being such a boy right now!” effectively without being so blunt I end the friendship.

    5. Totally agree about adoption being just as legitimate a method of making a family as genetic relationship. Parenting my biological child has blown my mind with how much I love her, and completely convinced me that if we adopt a kid, I will love them just as much. Waffle IS Remi’s parent; your mom IS yours.

    Happy queer parenting!

    • Hi @iarrannme!

      1. OK, I trust you. LOL. I know people do it all the time, literally every day. I’m not worried about other people’s comfort so much as surviving it myself because I just tend to get stressed when I travel along with the kid, but I know I can do it and I will. We will make it! Thanks for the reassurance.

      2. Brilliant idea!

      3. I feel the same about them. They are my favorite humans.

      4. My feminist straight friends are a lot better, but even they slide into it sometimes and I don’t know how they don’t see it, but…I dunno! I guess heterosexism is that deep and you don’t have to think about what doesn’t actively oppress you?

      5. Adoption is really complex for the adoptee. I definitely have strong feelings and some concerns about how adoption narratives are told as an adoptee. That said, none of my concerns include whether bonds are strong between adopted children and their parents. Which is why I knew Waffle would feel just as connected to Remi as I did to my mom.

  3. Quiet time rocks! My brother’s family still does family quiet time after lunch on the weekends, even though his kids are in 4th and 6th grades and have left behind a lot of other early childhood structures . I love it when I visit them. And honestly I’d never get to talk with my brother without quiet time, since we’re two time zones away and his kids’ bedtime is past mine.

  4. I love reading your thoughts on all these issues. One of the best things about being a part of the queer community is that we can pick and choose aspects of the dominant culture as we see fit, and adapt them and make them better>/em>.

    Also btw I saw this recently and thought you might appreciate it 😆

  5. I’ve been having lots of thoughts on parenting as we go towards guardianship of our kiddo. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts, Kaelyn. This also made me realize that I don’t spend much time thinking about queer parenting.

      • I think I need to up my game reflecting on queer parenting. Our family defaults to being read as straight (one man, one woman! married!). I know I am successfully queering parenting in some respects; yesterday Kiddo pointed out that, you know, we’ve never actually decided the genders of the characters in our long-running imaginary saga of Bob the Cheetah and Bob the Octopus, huh, oh well, we don’t have to decide right now either…

        Thanks KaeLyn as always for food for thought.

        • This speaks to my heart, @iarrannme! Our family also has one queer dad, one queer mom, and we’re married and all that. Remi is in that stage where she imagines everything as a family and designates every group of things with a “mommy,” “daddy,” and “baby.” I keep trying to push that some families have two mommies or two daddies or nonbinary parents or one parent, etc, but, uh…she already has ideas about gender that I definitely didn’t intend her to learn! Haha. YIKES. I’m sure we’ll be able to have more significant conversations as Remi gets older, but I am like…maybe we need to hang out with more queer families that don’t look like ours and also fewer straight people?

  6. KaeLyn, a sincere thank you for writing about your family and parenting on here. I kind of knew I wanted to have kids a couple years ago, but reading your stories have helped me feel more confident in that choice. I can see what my life could be like as a queer parent thanks to you.

    It’s a complicated question, do we make ourselves more palatable to heteros when we have two parent households with children? Maybe, but it’s also not a good enough reason not to get married and have kids, which we had to fight so hard to get. I think the goal, or my goal anyway, is to queer marriage and parenting, to change it so it doesn’t look like a white straight couple in the burbs with 2.5 kids. We can do our own, better thing.

    • @shamblebot: You’re gonna’ make me cry! I felt frustrated with how few parenting stories looked like mine and as someone who never imagined having kids, I felt like I didn’t have a lot to build our story on. 99% of the reason I wrote about pregnancy and write about parenting now is that I want more stories out in the world. I know I can’t possibly write from a universal queer place, just from my own, but the idea that you found something to connect with means THE WORLD to me.

      Yes, let’s queer the f*ck out of parenting and marriage and the whole false bill of goods het people have been sold (are selling). YES!

  7. Thank you so much for this! As my wife and I have started thinking about expanding our family I’v been struggling with that idea that biological children are more “legitimate” than adopted children. Part of me feels like if I don’t physically have a child than it won’t be as strong of a bond or it will be devauled by others, but the other part of me knows that that thinking comes from heteronormative ideas and it’s helpful to see others speaking about this as I reflect on how I want to grow my family. Really great piece. Best of luck to you and Waffle on your continuing parenting adventure with Remi!

    • Thanks for being so honest, @kitsten. Unfortunately, no matter how much reproductive tech grows, we’ll never be able to live up to the standards of normal heteronormativity. We’ll probably have to fight for our right to parent, always, at least in your and my lifetimes. I similarly struggle personally with stories of reciprocal IVF and how they make me feel (other than thrilled for the new parents). I totally get why more and more lesbian couples who are both female assigned at birth are choosing RIVF. It’s just hard for me to accept as an adoptee that people want a two-parent biological connection so much that they’d go to the expense and effort of RIVF. That said, I also think it’s 100% a valid choice and I want everyone to be able to make lots and lots of different kinds of choices around parenting (or not parenting). It’s complex, these issues of biology and parenting and feelings and bodies.

    • If it helps, while I don’t discount the role that pregnancy/nursing hormones may play in bio-mom/bio-kid bonding, I think it’s far too simplistic and biology-is-destiny kind of thinking to worry that if you don’t have that, or whatever other aspect of biological kinship is on your mind, that you won’t bond strongly enough. While I did love my kiddo as soon as she was born, my love at that point was way more tinged with fear and uncertainty (about my ability to parent well, had we even made the right decision to have a kid, etc.) and definitely not the head-over-heels blissful certainty that cishet narratives assure you a proper mother feels. Actually doing the work of parenting and getting to know her during that is really what our bond is built on.

      I don’t know what the right choice is for you and your wife. But you will be ok and your kid(s) will be ok and you will love them and they will love you, whatever the details of how they come to exist. You will be fantastic queer parents and you will actually get to sleep again someday and it will all be fine.

  8. Thank you so very much for letting me in to your life with such a thoughtful and heartfelt reflection. It has been an education for me. I am happily child-free, however I’ve always felt very sincerely that adoption, IVF, and the infinite parenting possibilities, and quality early childhood education, etc, etc, should come under the umbrella of “reproductive choice” and freedom! As hard as we fight for access to abortion and birth control, we should also fight for the rest as well!
    I hope I get to meet you and Baby T. At camp! I am soooo excited to be headed that way in June. I’m just a big kid myself, so Club Fawn might just be more my speed, LOL! I can see myself now, dancing on my knees to be closer to their height!

    • I agree, @jtsoundtech! Repro justice has to include the right TO parent as much as the right not to have children.

      We’ll definitely meet if you seek us out because #1: We’re Korean and there won’t be a huge number of Koreans at camp, #2) I’m pretty sure Remi will be the only toddler running around the campsite and I have a feeling we’ll stick out. HA! So look for us and introduce yourself! Can’t wait to meet you IRL!

  9. I just want to say how happy I am to see video and pictures of Remi and Waffles at the Strong Museum of Play. I grew up going there (the model Wegmans is a classic) and I looove seeing people continue to find fun and things of value there. Especially when those people and their families don’t follow hetero norms.

    • We’re transplants to Rochester, but we love it here! Close enough to NYC to get pretty much anywhere in the world, but far enough that we can afford to have a kid and a yard in the city!

      They continue to update the mini-Wegmans to match their products and marketing changes, which is very on-brand for Wegmans. It’s pretty funny to see, especially since Waffle works at one of the Wegmans warehouses! It’s worth checking out if you ever come back to the area, @jonbonanchovi!

  10. Thank you again for sharing your story! I have a lot of thoughts about this. Maybe because I’m in the midwest or something else? Most of my queer friends have not had kids (yet?) but my straight friends and the parent friends I’ve made through parenting have kids. I know queer families but haven’t become close to them, mostly because we were not friends before big life changes.

    Without going into details, I’m in a hetero partnership with my kid’s dad, and I’m doing a lot of unpacking in therapy right now about how family pressure was part of what got me here, but it’s also way more complicated than that. I do genuinely love and appreciate my husband. I just oddly feel like I’m gay in a hetero marriage and ok with it most of the time.

    I do a lot of thinking about what you wrote about. I don’t want to disappear into heteronormative life etc., and I know I’m not straight, hey my ex girlfriend from over a decade ago wrote me excited about the L Word last week and I don’t believe a straight woman could say that. I’m clocked as queer and a few of the moms from preschool have come out to me as bi just out of the blue, I assume because of how I dress/present.

    Kind of a digression… But there is so much going on with family/childrearing/normative parenting life and SO much to talk about and unpack. I am so glad you are writing about it! And helping the discussion along!

    YES Club Fawn 🙂 And you will do great on the plane, I have done it solo and you can too!

  11. Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts about queer procreation! It’s so important to talk about this, especially since many aspects about queers having kids are still so painful.

    Here in Germany, same-sex couples have to go through a special kind of hell/adoption process called “stepchild adoption”. It’s a legal loophole basically that makes it possible for queer people to become legal parents to their own, non-biological children.
    But in order to be able to go through this process at all they
    MAKE YOU GET MARRIED.
    If it weren’t for us trying to have a kid, we probably wouldn’t think about getting married at all. I feel like I’m living in the 1950’s! This is the straightest thing that straights have forced me into yet.

    On the other hand, I feel that I don’t have much, if anything at all, in common with my straight friends who are pregnant or trying. I am not even pregnant yet and the pressure of being a queer parent is already there. We need more medical assistance than anticipated and our insurances cover nothing, not one cent, because we’re a same-sex couple. This sort of discrimination is so palpable, and it hurts more than I thought it would. It makes it so hard to talk to my friends about what is going on in my life, because I don’t think they could possibly understand what all of this means for us and how painful it is.

    But we still have each other, and to be honest a lot of friends who are trying to understand, and our donor couple who also just happens to be straight with a baby. We’re trying to build our own little family with them, which is the nicest thing really. (They have no desire to parent our kids whatsoever, but they keep calling the baby we’re all hoping and waiting for their son’s little half-sibling.)

    • Also, this weird thing where you start to question if you’ll ever be able to get pregnant at all and that somehow feels like a personal failure? What’s up with that, also very heteronormative, sexist narrative.

  12. I loved reading this! My wife and I (our last name is also Rich!) are planning on having kids in the next few years and we’re discussing carrying vs. adoption – this was a really good piece to read. Thank you for being so open and honest about your life as a queer parent, it’s so helpful and wonderful to hear about.

  13. My due date happened to be a few weeks from a queer friend of my mine and I remember talking my husband how I was excited about their soon-to-be queer family. My husband, who is cis but queer, then reminded me that we were about to have a queer family too. It just looks different as we appear heteronormative.

    We recently moved to a city with a more cohesive LGBTQ community and I was so excited to find lots of events for queer families! My only concern is that others will see us and just assume we’re a straight couple crashing a queer event. But at the same time, our bi visibility is also important.

  14. I love getting to read about and connect with other queer families! Living in a rural place we don’t have much interaction with queer community — we live at an intentional community where most of the queer-identifying folks are childless and most of the other families are straight. I definitely feel much more aligned with the hetero parents than with the queer non-parents.

    Our family’s queer procreation was DIY, and fortunately very easy — our donor lives in the same community, and nobody had difficulty conceiving (there are 2 kids in our family, 3 queer moms, and a straight cis partner).

    My kiddo didn’t stop napping until age 4, but I recall being really apprehensive about it when it became clear it was coming soon. “How will I get through a napless afternoon with her?” I wondered. “What will we do?” The time fills up fast, with projects to work on and so, so many books to read. I hope you and Remi have a smooth transition to post-nap life!

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