Imagine my surprise – six years and two girlfriends later – when I began a 30 year relationship with the woman who would become the founder of momazons, “a national organization for lesbian mothers and for lesbians who want children in their lives.” (The organization’s name was intentionally never capitalized.) Kelly McCormick birthed our only child, a son in 1991. But long before Keegan’s birth – with Kelly in the lead – momazons was dedicated to making space for lesbians who were “choosing children.” She was momazons’ driving force; I was its major funder and head foot soldier.
Explicitly feminist, the momazons model for activism included publishing a bimonthly newsletter designed to facilitate “a dialogue about lesbian experiences and opinions” for women “seeking camaraderie, information, and support.” This was in the pre-internet era of ugly lesbian custody battles, denied access to reproductive technologies, and often insurmountable legal and policy barriers blocking the pathways to parenthood offered by international and domestic adoption and foster parenting.
Throughout the region we organized momazons’ work sessions and “founding mothers” leadership meetings, social gatherings for families, a wide variety of educational workshops, and intensive group sessions for “Thinkers & Tryers.” Whether you were single or coupled, the goal was always providing support for “the many different ways lesbians choose to include children in our lives.” Referrals were researched by momazons for lawyers, doctors, adoption agencies, and school systems in Ohio and throughout the US. Our membership list neared 1,000 at its peak and stretched across the country and overseas.
Courts of the previous era (circa 1970s & 1980s) relied on almost universally negative psychological models that held lesbians to be pathological and “unfit” to be mothers. We rejected the notion that “good” lesbian mothers were invisible. As activists – momazons’ “founding mothers” and membership – dismissed the need to conform to cultural standards of femininity and regularly waved our banner proudly at both local and national political, cultural, and social events. The goal was creating safe space for our families. The tactic was visibility.
Criticism came as often from our fellow lesbian feminists or more “old school” dyke networks as from the ranks of unsupportive medical, legal, and education professionals. It was indeed a radical notion to assert that single lesbians might choose motherhood, that women with kids from previous heterosexual marriages could indeed be lesbians, that lesbian couples could create families of their own, and that co-parents – not just biological mothers – could be an indispensable part of raising children in loving nurturing families.
Today most folks in our LGBTQA communities take for granted that gay male, lesbian, bisexual, or trans* parents are capable of providing positive role models for our children while challenging restrictive gender norms. It is self-apparent that having LGBTQ parents won’t make a child gay or trans* and that kids can and do grow up healthy and happy in our families. The radical choices of just a decade or two ago have given rise to a new normal.
Rather than grieving the loss of parenthood as a social option, young LGBTQ folks are increasingly confronted not by barriers but instead by the reality of making choices about their own parenting paths. Our community lost Kelly McCormick in 2011, but if she were still alive today, I think she might think it is time to start organizing some “Thinkers & Tryers” meetings again. Parenthood is not for wimps, and I for one still think that there is plenty of radical work to be done by our next generation of momazons. I’ve still got the banner… if anyone wants to wave it
Phyllis Gorman is a Columbus native and longtime activist who served as the second female executive director of
Stonewall Union from 1991-1994 (aka Stonewall Columbus). A feminist sociologist, “Dr. Phyl” teaches at
Ohio University - Pickerington Center. She currently serves on the United Way of Central Ohio’s Diversity & Inclusion
committee and Pride Leadership sub-committee.