A deeply personal essay that celebrates the unique advantages that can come from growing up in a lesbian home…

by: Jordain Haley-Banez

During my childhood, having two mothers led to a lot of confusion. Not for me personally, but for everyone in my orbit — teachers, doctors, librarians, well-meaning adults who hesitated, trying to formulate child-friendly responses without betraying their shock and confusion, and so forth. For some, I was like a test run; their very first chance to prove open-mindedness. If they could continue the conversation without tripping over their words, they got a gold star of allyship. While this sort of treatment wore a bit thin to my childhood self, I can retroactively appreciate the effort. The early 90s into the 2000s predated mainstream internet and rainbow capitalism so I was quite an anomaly of the times.

In elementary school, I remember making a card for Mother’s Day. My teacher approached my desk, swaths of craft materials in hand, positively brimming with excitement.

“Now Jordain, I know you have two mothers. Would you like to make two cards?” she asked, offering me a handful of colored markers.

I paused, mulling over the choice. It struck me as a bit unfair. Why should I have to do double the work as my classmates?

“No,” I shook my head, reaching forward to pluck a single piece of construction paper from her multicolored bouquet.

“I’ll just draw both of them on one card.”

She beamed. “What a wonderful idea. Perhaps you could draw yourself as well. Make it for the whole family!”

To my eight-year-old brain, that seemed like a fair solution. My “whole family” just consisted of my mothers and myself (pets notwithstanding), so it would not be particularly challenging. I agreed and got to work.

While Mother’s day was always a bustling affair, father-focused celebrations have remained a bit of an enigma to me my entire life, like an important religious holiday for a faith I am not a part of. I’ve read about the customs online. A quick google search will tell me what date on which it falls. I can find lists of gift ideas. The internet has no shortage of restaurant and activity recommendations. But it’s part of a creed I will never gain access to.

As an agnostic American, I’ve spent my entire life being bombarded with Christian dogma. As a human existing in the nuclear family era, I’ve also been inundated with the concept of paternity. I understand what a father is from a theological perspective. I understand the role he is intended to play within the scripture. I understand that my deference to him is expected. I understand that if he is a “good man,” he will protect me from all manner of dangers, ranging from busy parking lots to potential suitors.

I tried to deepen my understanding through careful study. I watched my friends interact with their fathers like an acolyte observing their first procession. I learned to group patriarchs into different categories. There were the sinful deadbeat dads, the kind that only appeared with the threat of legal repercussions or financial incentives. There were the righteous, hardworking but emotionally distant providers. There were the wrathful, impossible to please tyrants. There were the overly affectionate, borderline embarrassing smotherers.The prevailing theme throughout all of my research seemed to be this: Dads were a source of great emotional turmoil.

And yet all of the theoretical understanding in the world could never bring me spiritual understanding. I will never truly get what my friends mean when they say “Well you know how dads can be.” I can only nod and try to formulate some point of reference based on my mental rolodex of fathers. 

I don’t necessarily consider this lack of understanding to be tragic. As an only child, I will also never understand sibling dynamics but was able to benefit from being the sole focus of my parents’ attention. My youth was formed by two women that were pioneers of their time, confident that they could fill in any perceived deficiencies.

“That’s terrible! Who’s going to teach you how to fish?”

  • I categorically lack the patience required for fishing.
  • Not a seafood fan.

“I feel so bad for you! No one’s going to show you how to work a grill!”

  • My mother loves grilling with as much zeal as your average red-blooded American male.

“So there’s no man in the house?! Who’s going to protect you?”

  • I didn’t realize houses needed men to be considered safe.
  • As dangerous as suburban Connecticut is, I think I’ll manage.

People with the above notions were so wrapped up in the hardships they projected onto me, they completely blinded themselves to some of the unique advantages that can come from a lesbian home.

Chores were divvied up in terms of preference and ability, not by gender. I was adopted into a vibrant and loving queer community from the time I was an amorphous “allied” kid to the moment I realized I too was gay. I received a very thorough education on human biology and reproduction about a decade prior to my peers. The notion of being an independent woman was not something I learned, but rather the foundation of my entire upbringing.

Over the years, I’ve spent much time learning which parts to hone in on to dispel people’s preconceived notions about my childhood. Nowadays, the mention of having lesbian mothers is enough to halt the conversation and steer it towards a mini run through of my own conception and experience growing up. It doesn’t contain the same shock and awe power as 20 years ago, but it’s novel enough that people get curious. My teenage self would find the retelling redundant, but I’ve grown fond of being able to represent my community in a positive familial light. I’m proud to have been a part of the first generation of test tube lesbian babies. As science and politics progress, I am excited to see what the future holds for my successors. I have no doubt that the children of my sapphic sisters will be able to thrive, fatherless and all.


Jordain Haley-Banez is a Filipina American writer based in Tokyo, Japan. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2017 with a BA in East Asian Studies and a minor in English literature. Her work explores her relationship with her Filipino roots and the lesbian community as the first generation of sperm-donor conceived children. 

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