Tag Archives: lesbian

Parental Rights in Unwed Lesbian Relationships

When it’s still not legal for lesbian women to wed in many states, how can courts decide about their parental rights in a “divorce?”

This Los Angeles Times article, Both Lesbian Moms Have Parental Rights, Florida Court Rules, presents a dramatic family saga, no less disturbing if it were a heterosexual couple.

A lesbian couple fell in love. One womans egg was fertilized by donor sperm and then implanted in the womb of her partner of many years. Because the birth certificate has only one space for “mother,” the birth mother’s name was the only one on the birth certificate, while the biological mother’s name was omitted. Jump to years later when the couple breaks up and are fighting over custody. While the initial Florida court regrettfully sided with the birth mother citing current Florida state law, a state appeals court overturned the ruling on Dec. 23. The article states, “The 5th District Court of Appeal ruled that the U.S. and Florida constitutions trump Florida law and give parenting rights to both women. State law, it added, has not kept up with the times.”

But this situation has long-term implications for the rights of gay and lesbian couples. I am curious to see how this case might set a precident in future decisions.

This situation also has all the makings of a movie-of-the-week. The birth mother had fled with the child to Austrailia without the biological mother’s permission, but has since returned with apparently no legal repercussions.

Who would have thought that all this reproductive freedom we now have access to could be misused so terribly? Of course, we don’t know the circumstances within the couple’s relationship, but we definitely seem to be tromping through a gigantic gray area regarding parental rights in same sex couples. Let’s hope the muddiness is cleared soon.

(illustration courtesy of The Guardian)

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A Son and Citizen

This Moveon.org video of Zach Wahls, a young man conceived using anonymous donor sperm and raised by two lesbian moms, speaking to the Iowa State Congress about gay marriage made me cry with pride. He’s well spoken and would make any mother proud.

Amen Zach. Amen.

The Fabulous Susie Bright

Last week at Village Books I had the pleasure of meeting the notorious Susie Bright, famous for her sex-positive parenting, activism in the feminist movement, and long-time editor of Best American Erotica series from 1993-2008.

Susie was in town reading from her new memoir, Big Sex Little Death, from Seal Press and she did not disappoint. She read two hilarious passages about her early days writing for a radical high school newspaper and later for the first lesbian erotica magazine called On Our Backs. Listening to her reading made me want to go through my entire book and incorporate more humor because Susie’s unique voice made each vignette irresistible.

I must admit that when I attended, I was just going to listen to and meet another memoirist, but I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I was in the presence of a celebrity who paved the way for lesbian activism and who, in our lifetime, has drastically changed the way people think about sexuality and intimacy.

Susie mentioned that she had children, so I asked her if she ever felt judged by fellow parents because she writes so candidly about her sexuality. She admitted that there had been a few parents of her children’s friends who would not speak with her or allow their children to visit her home, but for the most part, she raised her children in progressive west coast communities. Then she recommended I read one of her previous books, Mommy’s Little Girl: Susie Bright on Sex, Motherhood, Pornography, and Cherry Pie. I can’t wait to get to hear her take on how your sex life influences your children’s future sex life.

While there I purchased two copies of Susie’s Love and Lust: A Sex Journal for my 20-ish nieces. The journal is prompted but also allows for free writing with writing prompts like “Write three sexual confessions about yourself. Make two of them true and one of them a lie.” When I stayed after to ask Susie to sign them, she said that she also had a blog for the journal where you can anonymously post your personal entry. I haven’t figured that out yet, but if anyone knows, please post it here in the comments section.

I was also pleased to discover that Susie has an offering for writers as well: How to Write a Dirty Story: Reading, Writing, and Publishing Erotica. I’ve not yet tried this type of writing, but you never know!

If you get the chance to meet, see, or read the fabulous Susie Bright, jump. It promises to be a wild ride.

Are the Brit’s Ahead of Us?

We don’t see it in the news here, but the UK seems progressive and organized when it comes to their egg and sperm donors.

BioNews reported last week that Natalie Drew and Ashling Phillips, a lesbian couple who have two children by a sperm donor, set up The Gay Family Web Fertility Centre  in Birmingham, England. The clinic is designed to help gay and lesbian people build their family. They were motivated by their experience conceiving their children at a clinic that catered primarily to heterosexuals. British law dictates however that they cannot turn away heterosexual couples.

In addition, a new documentary film, traveling around European indie film festivals, Donor Unknown, is  making headlines. Cameras follow 20-year old JoEllen Marsh as she searches for the sperm donor father she only knows as Donor 150.

Through an online registry that connects donor-conceived children, she manages to track down a half-sister in New York. The New York Times picks up the story, and, over time, 12 more half-siblings emerge across the USA.

Donor Unknown follows JoEllen from her discovery of her siblings, to the moment Jeffrey steps forward to identify himself as Donor 150, to her decision to travel to California to meet him. We also meet the half-siblings spread across the U.S. Danielle in New York, who was not told by her parents that she was donor-conceived till the age of 14, is uncertain of the kind of relationship she could ever sustain with Jeffrey. His decision to let go of anonymity is a step few donors have taken.

This story is fascinating and the closest I’ve seen to my own. From the film web site:

“Linked by their connection to a single sperm donor – 150 – parents and children are creating and navigating a new set of relationships. They are discovering first hand what a close biological connection to a stranger means for themselves and their identity.  What happens next opens up some fascinating questions about nature and nurture, the responsibilities of parenthood, the moral integrity of the cryobanks, and the hazards of genetic inheritance. As the laws on donor anonymity change in some countries, there are fewer sperm donors and there’s a roaring trade in ‘fertility tourism’, for overseas sperm and egg donation….Now they’re living with the unpredictable consequences of their choice. What impact will meeting this stranger – Donor 150 – have on their children? What kinds of relationship can the children build with their biological father? How will letting Donor 150 into their lives affect their relationships as a family? And how will meeting his biological children change Jeffrey’s life?”

So why isn’t this film showing here across the U.S.? Right now its screening in New York, London, and Poland. I’m excited to see it. I’ll be contacting my local indie film theater, The Pickford Film Center, to see if they can get their hands on it. Send a message to YOUR local indie film theater letting them know you’d like to see it as well. This type of story needs to be seen.

“The Kids Are All Right”

If you haven’t seen the movie, The Kids are All Right, yet, it’s out on DVD and I think its definitely worth the two hours. I loved watching it knowing that I would blog about it afterward because its theme is related to my memoir.

Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play a married couple who chose to make two babies using an anonymous sperm donor 18 years ago. Now that the kids are old enough, they rifle through moms files, contact the sperm bank, and get in touch with their sperm donor, played by the super hot teddy bear, Mark Ruffalo.

The early part of the picture does a great job of exploring the awkward “Getting to know you” phase of their relationship. Benning’s character is an uptight OB/GYN and she interprets Ruffalo’s character’s successful organic gardener tied to chique restaurant as just another failure in the “food service industry”. She is worried that his single, spontaneous motorcycle-riding, college drop-out persona will be a bad influence on her 15-year old son and 18-year old daughter, played deftly by Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska.

The movie does a great job of showing the range of feelings that might occur when someone meets their not-so-anonymous donor. Benning and Moore play moms who feel very cautious at first, not wanting their teens to seek parental guidance outside of the family they built. The kids seem curious to know about their donor, even if they don’t know what to do with the information once they have it. Ruffalo’s character approached meeting his biological children the same way I did, with an open mind and heart in hopes that something great might come from it.

But of course, this is a Hollywood movie and no matter how authentically the writer and director, Lisa Cholodenko, tried to make it, there needs to be drama. The latter half of the movie centers around the sexual relationship that happens between Moore’s  and Ruffalo’s characters and what happens when the rest of the family finds out about their secret trysts.

I’m so sorry to disappoint you, but my memoir will not include any sexual relationship between me and anyone besides my husband. But I do hope that doesn’t keep you from buying the book when it becomes available some day in the next two or three years (be forever optimisitc!). 

Even though I didn’t expect a Ruffalo/Moore relationship in the early part of the film, there was some build up. I just didn’t think they’d go there. I suspect that some of my lesbian friends might both love and hate this movie.

They probably will love that the main couple are women who’ve been together in a loving, yet imperfect, relationship for over 20 years, intently focused and thoughtful parents in a relationship that is rarely portrayed on screen. But what they might hate is that the couple occasionally watch gay male porn during sex and that Moore’s character throws caution to the wind for some super-hot Ruffalo action. The sex scenes in this movie seemed so authentic, and the editing of them only made them better. This definitely is not a movie for anyone under 18.

The one other thing I noticed about this movie was that it seemed as if the director had the actors shoot a scene many times and then chose the imperfect scenes, where the actors made mistakes that real people make. It made if feel more like you were watching the out takes instead, which made the characters more real to the audience.

As far as I know, its the first time a movie has been focused around the issue of children conceived from donor sperm (or eggs) meeting their donor. I love that this has come out around the same time that I’m finishing my memoir. To me, this might be the start of a trend in the media or the world, that the anonymity of the donor process is coming to an end and that the subject will become a bigger part of mainstream consciousness.

Please tell me what you thought of the movie.

Oh, and BTW, I just passed 38,000 words today!