Susan Goldberg and Chloë Brushwood Rose’s new LGBT parenting anthology “And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents and Our Unexpected Families” (Insomniac Press) is not about Jewish families, per se. However, many of the contributors weave Jewish issues into their stories.
A freelance writer and blogger (www.mamanongrata.com), co-editor Goldberg and her partner, Rachel, live in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with their two sons, ages 5 and 3. Both boys have the same donor, Rob, who lives in a different city but visits often.
Jewish Week: Your book focuses on families where the donor is known, rather than those that use a sperm bank. Are known donors more popular, and why?
Goldberg: There are no statistics on this that I know of, so I can’t really answer that question definitively. With my friends, though, I would say the trend has been much more toward known donors than anonymous ones. …. I think there are a million different reasons as to why queer parents might choose a known donor, and that many of them have to do with extending the idea of “family” beyond some traditional notion of two parents and a baby into something more fluid and open and creative. … My sense is that [known-donor] families are becoming more popular and also more possible. Now you see much more of “Well, the guy is part of our family and we’re part of his family.”
How long have you and your partner been together, and how did you find Rob, your donor?
Rachel and I have been together for 15 years. Rob is a gay man who went to grad school with Rachel. They had been joking about [him being a donor] for a long time and as time went on the discussions got more serious.
Did you consider going the anonymous route, with a sperm bank?
We didn’t, because we always had Rob. We used to joke that gallons of sperm are wasted every second, and I couldn’t get my head around paying for it. Plus, going through a fertility clinic felt quite invasive to me.
You now live in Thunder Bay, Ontario (a town of approximately 100,000; nearest major city is Duluth, Minn.) Where are you from originally, and what’s it like being queer and Jewish in a remote town?
I grew up in Toronto. I went to day school and grew up surrounded by Jews and Jewish tradition. Living there, you could be, as I like to call it, “Jewish by osmosis.”
We moved to Thunder Bay six years ago, for my partner’s job.
I was prepared to deal with a lot more curiosity, hostility and ignorance about the queer thing than we ever have. People seem to roll with it in a way that I’m happy about.
But the Jewish thing is more of an issue: not in terms of anti-Semitism, but in terms of [people knowing nothing about Judaism or Jewish tradition]. There’s a synagogue and it’s got maybe 30 members and is dwindling. Our kids can’t be Jewish by osmosis. I have to do a lot more active work to give them a sense of Jewish identity.
I notice that a lot of the contributors to “And Baby Makes … More” are Jewish. Why do you think that is?
I would say that at least half the contributors are Jewish or have extended family who are. We wanted to get as diverse a group of voices as possible, but when we solicited essays we were often doing so based more on the strength of someone’s creative work rather than their identity … To the extent that the queer Jewish community may contain good storytellers and writers may partly explain their representation in the anthology.
What are some of the parallels between being Jewish and being part of a known-donor family?
Being Jewish in North America you have to kind of carve your identity … and if you’re a thinking person you have to interrogate your identity and think about what it means. You can’t just coast. Similarly, when creating a family this way [as lesbians with a known donor dad] you have to really think about what it means. Not just, how do we get pregnant, but what do we call ourselves, how do we tell our story, what language do we use and where do we fit in with the traditions? How do we create our own traditions? … That’s part of why we wrote this book: to give people a larger sense of the conversations going on. We wanted people to feel they weren’t alone.
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