Raising Baby T. Rex: Marsha Pizza Johnson and Queer Family Matters

When I decided to get knocked up, it was a big deal. If you’ve been reading this column since way back, you know why. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I thought of myself as child-free by choice. Being a mom horrified me. Not because of the messes or the body horror or the actual being a mom part but because of the way moms are treated and represented. I saw lots of futures for myself, but not one that included “mommy life.”

Then, after a lot of thought, I made a different choice, a life-altering choice. I jokingly thank Waffle for giving me Remi, because even though I birthed her, I probably wouldn’t have any kids if I’d ended up with a partner also wanted to be child-free. Not having kids would have been a valid choice for me; I’m truly happy with the choice I ultimately made.

I did not, however, make it lightly. I had a lot of thinking and planning (and saving money) to do before I was ready to begin. That’s what separates folks whose body parts mush together to make babies from those of us whose body parts do not do that. It takes some time and thank goodness, in my case. I literally needed two full years to overprocess it and sort it out. It’s why I started my first blog, Queer Families Matter, because, as I wrote then on the “About Us” page, “We set out looking for info for queer people having kids. We found there just isn’t a lot out there.”

That personal blog was a starting point for me as a blogger and as a future writer. That was 2013. I got pregnant in 2015. I started writing for Autostraddle in 2014. Before I started writing here, I’d fully given up on myself pursuing writing as anything other than an occasional hobby. When I became a contributing writer for Autostraddle, I wanted to write about politics and race and sex, the things I was most comfortable with! I didn’t plan to merge my wandering parenting thoughts with my paid freelance gig in a meaningful way. I didn’t plan to become a legit mommy blogger. Then I made another life-altering choice and pitched live-blogging my pregnancy.

Here we are. It’s 2020. Remi will turn four this year. I turned 37 in January. Can you believe it?

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Some days my life feels mundane and typical. Today is one of those days. I have a very successful sweatpants life, if you know what I mean. I don’t wear shoes every day! I drive an affordable and reliable Hyundai Elantra! I’m counting a room temperature Pop-Tart and spiked seltzer as a midnight snack right now as I write this column! The video monitor that’s set up next to my laptop occasionally crackles as Remi rolls around in her bed between sleep cycles. I’m basically one of those work-from-home moms on Wife Swap.

Then I peek into my world from the outside and feel shocked that this is where I ended up: a parent who writes about parenting, an Korean adoptee with a child from my own DNA, a writer who gets paid to write, a published author, a person who works in feminist media full-time, a professional queer feminist loudmouth who’s held 24 various jobs over my lifetime, a mom who gets actually teary when I think too hard about how much I love my child.

This is not the life I imagined 15 years ago. I’m so glad it’s where I am. I’m glad I got to be here with you all. It’s meant so much to me to share with you and to connect with other queer moms, dads, babas, and parents.

If you haven’t already guessed it, this is my last Baby T. Rex column. Baby T. Rex is the only consistent work I publish on Autostraddle these days. My OG blog, Queer Family Matters, still exists, but I stopped updating it when I started writing Countdown to Baby T. Rex and removed it from my writer bio years ago.

More than any of that, Remi’s getting older. We’re still at the stage where I think she won’t be too embarrassed by the column, in that I’m writing about her as a little, little kid and we were all little, silly kids once. However, she’s going to be old enough fairly soon that she’ll have a concept of what she wants to share publicly and privately. She’s on the cusp of learning shame. She’s going to realize the internet is not just for watching Pinkfong videos. I don’t want to take this blog too far or too late.

I recently read Darlena Cunha’s piece in The Washington Post about her reasons for quitting mommy blogging and she really resonated with me. Mommy blogging was hitting peak saturation about 10 years ago and now many of the kids of mommy bloggers are preteens and teens. Some mommy bloggers quit because of respecting their kid’s privacy as their kids got older and some quit when their kids demanded that they stop as embarrassed and overexposed preteens. I definitely feel that.

Cunha, however, adds another dimension to this convo. She ended her mommy blog because she doesn’t want to set the norm that sharing every detail about yourself for comments, shares, and clicks is a normal boundary for her kids. Like me, she isn’t as worried about privacy, per se, but about what it means to engage with “the blurred line between virtual and real” and making that blurred line the norm as kids are growing and developing. There’s a big difference between sharing photos on my personal social media accounts and writing a column for a website with 3.5 million views per month. I’ve decided to take a break on the latter.

As Dunha writes, “I did not quit mommy blogging to preserve their autonomy and grant them the privacy they deserve as independent human beings. They would give me their consent to continue in a heartbeat. Being public does not bother them at all. And that is why I quit. Not to preserve their privacy but to salvage their desire for such privacy so that as they become adults there is something there to preserve at all.”

I took a hiatus between Countdown to Baby T. Rex and Raising Baby T. Rex specifically because I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to share about Remi. Pre-birth, the column was 100% about me and my experience being a pregnant person. Raising Baby T. Rex steps back and forth over the line between my personal story and telling Remi’s stories. As she gets older, I want her to be able to tell her own stories and control her own narrative and set her own boundaries around digital privacy.

I don’t have regrets about writing about my parenting decisions and parenting life. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a birth story. As an adoptee who was abandoned anonymously, I don’t have and will probably never have a time or place or space of origin. I had to make up my own stories about my beginnings. I was told different stories about myself from adults, many that were likely untrue. Remi has a well-documented known origin and I’m glad I wrote it all down. I’m glad she has that here, in my words, with hundreds of affirming comments from ya’ll along the way. I’m glad I shared it so other queer people can see themselves just a little bit in the narrative of parenting. I feel proud of this work. This column is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.

I also want Remi to be able to write and narrate her own life. I owe her that as someone who had to reclaim my story. While you’ll still see pics of our family on social media and such, this will be the last time I write about Remi on the wide internet.

Mommy Dino, Dino (Remi’s lovey), and Daddy Dino, the trio who sleeps with Remi every night.

Since I began writing about queer parenting, I have seen more parenting narratives that include trans and queer folx, queer parents of color, nonbinary parents, queer and trans parents of different socio-economic backgrounds. I welcome them. There’s still not nearly enough. I’m going to leave you with the final paragraph from the “About Us” page of Queer Family Matters. It’s still true. I’m still hungry for more.

“We appreciate the lesbian and gay trailblazers who came before us, but we also see what is missing from the queer parenting conversation. Queer parents want info and support that is inclusive of gender non-conforming folks, of trans parents, of families with one or more bisexual/pansexual parents, of people raising kids that don’t want to be ‘just like’ heterosexual families.

We want to talk about parenting and family-making at the place where family issues meet NOT ONLY sexual orientation, but also race, class, gender, and more. Ya’ know, queer family matters. Because queer families matter.”


4 Queer Parenting Things I’m Currently Overprocessing

1. Things I Definitely Said Out Loud This Month

  • You’re my favorite sea otter.
  • I’m sorry. I don’t know how to use the shark x-ray. (It was an Etch A Sketch)
  • Oh, I see. That’s your pirate sister.

2. Your Mama By Any Other Name

Remi started calling me “mama” recently and I don’t know why, but it’s very cute the way she says it. Maybe that’s just me. I don’t know! I think it’s cute.


3. Parenting Things I Googled This Month

  • best sleeping temperature for toddler with a cold
  • snow day activities for toddlers
  • tips disney cruise with a toddler
  • three year old developmental leap
  • growth spurt three years old

4. Give The Children a History Lesson

That’s it. That’s the whole thing.

KaeLyn is a 37-year-old (femme)nist activist, word nerd, and queer mama. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, over-caffeinating herself, 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 219 articles for us.

53 Comments

  1. I didn’t read the article yet, but I just want to say I’ll miss you. You’re articles are fire and you are a huge as inspo. I think I already listened to all your podcast interviews as well. I will weep when I am finished reading Girl’s Resist. It was a fun ride.

  2. As always, thank you for your work and perspective and inclusion of the many intersections of identity you have. As a queer transracial adoptee, I have felt ambivalent about having a child. I know some adoptees want to have biological children in order to have that more “direct” connection to family, but I personally do not have that burning desire right now. However, who knows in the future? Perhaps if the discussion arises, I will turn to your blog and articles for guidance. Thank you for adding to the resources I have available.

    • Oh, my heart, @zkapusinski! Sending queer transracial adoptee love to you. Honestly, I never had a burning desire to have a known genetic relative before deciding to have kids. I never wanted kids and if I was going to have them, I thought I’d adopt.

      I know you know this, but just to reiterate, it’s very normal and OK to not care about having a bio fam or wanting it. It’s a WILD RIDE and truly I didn’t realize how much it would affect me and I probably should have had a therapist. So, like, it’s not something to do if you don’t feel it is 100% the choice for you. YOU DO YOU. <3

  3. Kaelyn, this column has meant so much to me, thank you for your honesty, for everything you have shared, for making me wonder 9ne year before giving birth about my own journey. It meant the world, it really did. I completely understand why you want to stop now. I hope to still read some articles by you. <3 best to you, Waffle and Remi

  4. Kaelyn, I have loved getting to read about your journey to parenthood! I will miss this forum for sharing parenting feelings, but definitely understand stopping when it is time. Best wishes to you and yours!

    After wanting to be a parent since I was a child, I now have a house full of kiddos that I’m getting to parent. And in a few months we should get to adopt our youngest ones, becoming a forever parent. My four year old has recently started calling me mom. It still feels like a word for other people, and such a loaded word, but I love that I can give her that stability. My children know they are loved.

    We also are getting the opportunity to parent teenagers who identify as queer and trans*, which is definitely a trip. Sometimes I feel at a loss, but still I’m glad in our semi-rural community that we can be a resource, a place of acceptance and love.

    • @shewasnice, it was so so lovely to have my parenting story unfold at the same time as yours. I looked for your comments every month and I appreciate how much you shared about your family with me/us. I’m so happy for you and your kids and I wish you lots of luck in this next step in your parenting adventure. Keep loving those kiddos with everything you’ve got. <3

  5. Thank you for writing this column, it’s been a real joy to read and wonderfully different from anything else I’ve ever read about parenting. I’m sad to see it end but have a lot of respect for your reasons for doing so. I hope that more parents will follow your lead in respecting their kids’ right to privacy. I wish all of you the best.

  6. Thank you for sharing this & for the articles you have written. Your work has always been a pleasure to read.

    Related note, a while back known tech columnist & lesbian Kara Swisher had an episode of her podcast Recode with her teen boys, who she had with her ex-wife (who wasn’t in it). They talked about the topic of what to share & not share in her work. It could be worth a listen.

  7. Thank you for sharing your journey and your baby with us. Countdown was the first column on AS that I figured out the schedule for and checked for updates, so I feel very personally invested! And as a future queer parent/current preschool teacher, your recently googled lists have made me laugh until I cried.

    I can’t wait to read whatever you write next, and maybe in ten or fifteen years read Remi’s first column!

  8. Thank you so much for this column!! I’ve followed it from the start and it has been meaningful to me as I try to imagine what queer parenthood could look like for me, and whether I want to go down that path. Your openness and Remi’s cuteness have been A+.

  9. Thank you for this column! It has been wonderful to see Remi grow, and your parenting journey along with her. Even if I may be several years away from having kids of my own, I’ll take all that I’ve learned from the Baby T-Rex series to heart, and I know it will be here on AS when I’m ready to come back to it.
    Also, it seems like Remi and Jeter get along now, and cat/child friendship is quite an impressive achievement!

    • OMG, @theotherone, you’re going to make me tear up.

      Also, my only regret about this final post is that I didn’t give a cat/toddler update. I’d say Remi and Jeter are solidly in the friend zone now. They’re not besties, more like siblings with a huge age gap between them, but Jeter seems to have accepted her as family and is around a lot more again. I’m so glad we tried the cat meds. They’re really helping him! Today, they both sat on the floor and played with a frayed piece of nylon rope together. They’re two cats in a cat pod!

  10. This is one of the few Autostraddle columns I read every single time I see it – it’s wholesome, it’s heartwarming, and it’s continuous-like; it’s comforting returning to a familiar set of characters every time, like a TV series.

    Remi’s story will be sincerely missed.

    But I also understand and genuinely respect you for making this decision. I’m personally quite grateful I grew up in the 90s before my childhood could have been documented and liked and dissected on the internet, and I think you made the higher decision as a mama to prioritize your kid before her fame. Kudos.

    Sad kudos, but kudos. Goodbye to my favorite queer internet family. May you be open to receiving the many blessings ahead.

    • I think about this often, @vestyn! I’m so grateful that the internet barely existed when I was a youth and that social media was a totally different thing when I was in college. Even so, I’ve locked down my old Livejournal because there’s enough embarrassing content in there that I deleted my profile info and set it to private. I can’t imagine having my whole life online. It’s def going to be the norm for this generation and that’s wild! I wonder what it’s going to mean to the kids whos baby sonograms are online today.

      Anyway, thank you for reading and following along!

  11. Aw, Shark Mom, I’ll always have fond memories of my first A-Camp thanks in large part to the warmth and enthusiasm you brought to our cabin. Wishing you and your family all the best in your next chapter. You will be missed!

  12. Thank you for providing a narrative about a family that is a bit like mine and sharing all your thoughts so eloquently over the years.

    And also thanks for naming your kid after me (sort of) I will do my best to make her proud ;)

  13. This was lovely! Thank you for sharing as much as you did. As someone who’s currently child-free and does not want kids, I do wonder how much of that desire comes from having so few role models for queer parenting. Best of luck, and best wishes to Remi! I know if I start changing my mind w/r/t kids, this column is one I will turn to.

  14. Thank you so much for your writing, your honesty, your boundary-setting, and your generosity in sharing your and your family’s journey with us. The fact that I’ve never had plans to have kids didn’t stop me from loving every article of this column. Reading about how you, Waffle, and Remi have been creating a path/way/space to be the kind of family you want to be fills me with hope. Wishing you the very best.

  15. I have enjoyed these columns so much as a new parent, and I completely understand your reasoning in discontinuing, but I will miss them!

    I do have a question, and I’m not sure this is the right place for it (and am somewhat worried about offering this up for criticism) but here goes: My baby daughter is 1 now. We have connected with 4 other donor siblings, have met one older sister, and keep up online. The donor we chose is 1/2 Korean in ethnicity (the other half is German). We chose this donor for a variety of reasons and ethnicity was not part of our decision. I am also 1/2 German, with a grandmother who emigrated from Munich shortly before my father was born, and 1/2 Cuban; my wife is Czech-American. My daughter is often around her extended family and is being exposed regularly to Cuban, Spanish, Czech, American, and German food and traditions through them. However, appearance-wise she is obviously of east Asian heritage and we do not know the donor or have a larger Korean family/community in our area. I have read many of your columns here about choosing a Korean donor, being a transracial adoptee growing up in America, etc. Do you have any tips or resources for celebrating and acknowledging my daughter’s heritage before she turns 18, without crossing the boundary into cultural appropriation? Do you know of any good ways to strike that balance when we have no contact with the donor or his own family until my daughter is an adult? Thank you.

  16. I’ll miss this column so much, KaeLyn! You are one of my very favourite writers here. Your writing about being a woman with a soft round belly has meant a lot to me.

    A recommendation if you haven’t heard of her — Janice Jo Lee is an amazing queer Korean-Canadian songwriter, poet, playwright, performer, musician, and activist. Here is her website. I listened to her album Sing Hey on a daily basis for like a year :))

    Sending you much love and gratitude <3

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