When we were considering our parenting decisions as a queer couple, we found very few books that weren’t super heteronormative and cisnormative. Unfortunately, the quintessential What to Expect When You’re Expecting wasn’t written with queer moms, trans dads, non-binary parents and gestational carriers, and families that look like ours in mind. Popular parenting books tend to fall into “mom books” and “dad books.” We can certainly read those books and replace “dad” with “non-gestational carrier” and “mom” with “gestational carrier” in our minds as we get the essential info. Don’t we deserve better, though? Don’t we deserve something for us?
In response to an A+ member’s request, here are some books that queer the norm on parenting and family-making. To be honest, there still isn’t a lot out there and what is out there still isn’t inclusive of all of us. Even books written by and for gay dads and lesbian moms are primarily written with cis people in mind. That said, here are a few places to start if you’re looking for some queer parenting reading, with the caveat that I hope we get even better, more inclusive representation in the future! In fact, if you know of some new queer, fabulous and/or especially trans-centered parenting book, please let me know in the comments!
1. The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians: How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Pre-conception Through Birth, by Rachel Pepper
Waffle read this cover-to-cover. I did not because I barely read any pregnancy books. Neither of us identifies as a lesbian, but this at least falls a little closer to how we identify our relationship (very gay). This is the lesbian version of the quintessential guide to all things getting knocked up. It has a lot of practical info about fertility treatments, the process of pregnancy and labor, and lots of other really useful, practical info. It includes info on intersex children, personal stories of lesbian pregnancy, and practical advice for non-gestational carriers. It’s a little outdated in that it was last updated before same-gender marriage was recognized across the U.S., so some of the legal and partner stuff isn’t true anymore. The author, Rachel Pepper, also takes a very specific opinion on circumcision (no), natural childbirth (yes), and breastfeeding (hell yes), which may be helpful to you or not depending on your own beliefs. All that said, Waffle enjoyed it a bunch and tried to get me to read it many times.
2. And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents, and Our Unexpected Families, edited by Susan Goldberg and Chloë Brushwood Rose
This collection of personal essays includes stories from gay dads, lesbian moms, single parents, donors, and children of parents who have used donors explores the way that donor-created and surrogacy-created families queer and change the family structure. This isn’t a book with a lot of practical advice, but if you’re thinking about creating a family using a sperm donor or surrogate, it’s a good book to read to get some perspective on the complexity of DIY family-making choices.
3. Confessions of the Other Mother: Non-Biological Lesbian Moms Tell All edited by Harlyn Aizley
This is the other book that Waffle read cover-to-cover before we conceived. This compilation of personal essays focuses on the experiences of non-gestational lesbian parents, including Harlyn Aizley’s personal story. While Waffle doesn’t identify as a lesbian exactly, this book does include a great essay by Polly Pagenhart about identifying as a “lesbian dad” that really spoke to him. It also includes an essay from a queer step-mom, stories about breastfeeding and bonding jealousy, and other issues non-gestational lesbian parents might experience. If you’re the non-gestational carrier in your relationship and a book that focuses primarily on lesbian moms sounds like it’ll have some useful info for you, you might find something real and reassuring in this anthology!
4. Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood: Firsthand Advice, Tips and Stories from Lesbian and Gay Couples, by Eric Rosswood
One of the few newer books on the market — Eric Rosswood, who is also the author of The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads, organizes the book into five sections for same-gender couples: open adoption, foster care, surrogacy, assisted reproduction, and co-parenting. There are stories from same-gender parents woven throughout the book, as well as practical advice. As you can tell from the title, it focuses primarily on gay and lesbian couples.
5. Subversive Motherhood: Orgasmic birth, genderqueer parenting, papas, trans parenting, Gynepunk, etc. by Maria Llopis
According to the description of the book, “Subversive motherhood is a book about motherhood as a sexual state, about pro-sex feminism and motherhood, about queer-trans-parenthood, about children’s sexuality, gender queer parenting, trans-hack-feminist parenting, about capitalism and motherhood, matriactivism, matriarchy and ecosex.” OK! I haven’t read this one but now I want to?
6.Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag, by A. K. Summers
This fun graphic novel about Vee and Teek, a queer couple who decide to get pregnant, is dead serious about pregnancy real talk! Teek, who identifies as butch, gets pregnant and survives the cult of super-femme mommy-dom in a heteronormative world. I’d recommend it if you’re MOC, butch, or identify as a masculine person who wants to get pregnant. Do suspenders count as maternity clothing? I say, “Yes!”
Obviously, there’s a large gap in books about trans gestational carriers and trans moms in queer relationships. Bisexual people get kind of smushed in with lesbian women in most of these books. They are overwhelmingly written by white authors. There is little to no queer intersection with disability, race, religion, class or other kinds of diverse identities and experiences many queer folks have.
There’s a lot more books, a lot more stories, that need to be written and shared. One day I envision a book that is truly inclusive of all pregnant people and all queer families. Until then, these books are still a refreshing change from the vast array of heteronormative options. I hope they’re helpful to you if you’re thinking about starting a queer family with your spouse or partner(s)!
I won’t be needing these very soon, but it’s something that’s on my mind, and I just want to say I’m glad they exist and I’m glad you told us about them. Thanks Kaelyn!
This is super helpful!! Will look into “Pregnant Butch” I identify as a Tomboy but felt that during my pregnancy all clothes, workshops, doctors appointments etc tried to force me into this narrative of the femme fertility goddess I definitely didn’t feel like. Had a hard time finding maternity clothes without flowers /ribbons/frills… At some point I just gave up at searching for some magic outfit that was comfy and stylish without compromising who I have been my whole life.
I finally wound up buying four Victoria’s Secret long-sleeved plain T-shirts about three sizes bigger than my usual non-pregnant size, and rolling up the sleeves. Wasn’t ideal and depending on how formal you need to be it kinda stretches the definition of stylish, but at least there no frills, ribbons, Peter Pan lace collars, etc. etc.
Yes, I also bought bigger T-shirts but I was annoyed about the lack of variety in style of maternity clothes. It was hard to stay warm that winter and when it got hot and my feet started swelling I felt jealous of the other pregnant people in their airy summer dresses.
The Evan Rachel Wood episode of Cameron Esposito’s Queery podcast tackles this subject as well as a lot of other stuff about the queer pregnancy experience
Also relevant: Masculine Birth ritual is a podcast about transmasc/butch/nb/etc folk’s giving birth and parenting! It’s very new, but it’s pretty good!
Where were most of these books when I was pregnant? Also, What to Expect when Expecting was nothing special and extremely heteronormative and a bit eye-rolly in parts. If anyone is having multiples, the books I found helpful were the twin books “Twiniversity” and “When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, and Quads,” just in case anyone here is looking for a multiples book :)
I found “What to Expect Before You’re Expecting” in a free library box last week and flipped through it but it was waaaay too heteronormative to be of any use (I haven’t looked at the original but if it has anywhere near as many “for the husband” sections I’m sure it’s just as bad). But glad there are some gayer resources out there!
Being pregnant really fucked me up gender-wise. I’ve always been queer – bi/pan/whatever and not quite the “lady” my mother was expecting. I chalked it up to being a futch bi babe, but just the whole process was so dehumanizing and focused so heavily on my identity as a “FEMALE” and it made me so uncomfortable. Now I’m not sure how I ID. I’m okay with that, but it was a rollercoaster.
Thanks for highlighting these books, and highlighting the other books we need and hope to have someday!
Ah! That was my question! This is a very excellent list and has many books I hadn’t heard of yet. Thanks so much!
I read most of these before/during the conception process…I found it helpful to read about other people “like me” going through trying to conceive, pregnancy, and birth but ultimately did not use a lot of the info.
In addition to needing more intersectional queer reproducing stories, we also need serious updating for the 21st century–I was grossly mislead as to the cost of queer conception based on early-2000s pricing lol.
And while I learned a lot about donor selection, sperm mechanics, and DIY insemination, there were really no queer resources for what happens when conception doesn’t happen easily and how to navigate the emotions and heteronormativity of going through the medical infertility complex. The year I spent trying to conceive was when I felt most isolated from queerdom: no one knew what to do or say for a 24 y.o. dyke who wasn’t getting pregnant at home with a sperm vial and the right herbs and meditations, aside from reminding me that my worth and womanhood were not dependent on reproduction and that there were other ways to channel my creativity besides parenthood. Which is true but not especially comforting when all you really want is to become a parent!
Meanwhile, the resources for infertility were equally isolating in that they were intensely gendered and cisheteronormative.
Thank you, I hope to use these one day. I found The Argonauts a fascinating picture of queer parenthood too.
I have to give a plug for this book because I’m in it!
When my wife was pregnant I tried a few online resources for prospective dads and I found them so depressing. I can remember a section on not getting annoyed if your pregnant partner didn’t want sex which is the kind of low bar that was expected.
I ended up reading the text book you follow if you are training to be a doula, which was very practical even if it was also very gendered. In the end I didn’t need anything I’d learnt, but at least I felt like I was doing something to prepare while my partner was growing a new human.
When we were trying to become parents I found online queer blogs to be helpful. Now that I’m parenting I appreciate facebook groups that are queer foster/adopt parenting specific.
I just did a search for a couple of these in my library catalogue and they didn’t have the books I search for but what DID come up in the search results has totally depressed me (“Hot Mamas: The Ultimate Guide to Staying Sexy Through Your Pregnancy”, “The Ultimate Career Guide for LGBT Job Seekers”, “Gay and Lesbian Guide to Disney Theme Parks”) – looks like I will be making some book ordering requests next time I go in!
Has anyone found resources (books, websites, etc.) on being a queer stepmom? I’m a queer stepmom-in-training, and I’ve tried reading books like “Stepmonster,” but because most books are primarily focused on stepmothering in a heterosexual relationship, a lot of it doesn’t apply or feel relevant. For example, in my case, I’m dating the kids’ mom vs. potentially “competing” with their mom. Any recommendations that are less gendered and/or more inclusive would be welcome.
This list is so helpful! Thank you!!
I would also really love a guide for which of the *practical* pregnancy books (think “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”) are the least toxic and cis-het normative. I doubt there’s anything out there that’s truly non-problematic, but if someone could point me toward the ones that were the least painful to read that’d be life changing.
Many lesbians have told me they don’t mind so much The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin
Many lesbians have told me they don’t mind so much The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin
Perhaps reproductive technology is the best thing that could have happened to our civilization. Whereas previously infertile couples were doomed to the absence of their own children, now, thanks to IVF and surrogacy, they can become parents. I am so happy now, thanks to the Feskov clinic (https://www.mother-surrogate.com) in Ukraine and the surrogate mother.
Regarding surrogacy, I found a Ukrainian law translated into English. I advise anyone interested to read it. https://www.mother-surrogate.com/pdf/surrogate_motherhood_law.pdf