Below is an idiosyncratic glossary of terms used in this blog. A more detailed introduction to this Glossary can be found at this post. A key to nicknames or aliases I use for family (on this blog) can be found here. Abigail Garner, author of Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell it Like it Is, has a nice FAQ page following up questions many have about LGBT families.
intentional (same sex or LGBT) families
Maybe Baby groups/classes
alternative insemination n. Insemination by means other than the old-fashioned tab A in slot B method (!). “Artificial” insemination is the term that many in the medical establishment have used (as well as in the law, media, etc.), but many lesbians — heck, I’m sure even straight people who employ it — find the word “artificial” to be somewhat pejorative and also a little misleading. Amy Agigian, in Baby Steps: How Lesbian Alternative Insemination is Changing the World, provides an extensive definition in one of her appendices, and also offers these synonyms: “donor insemination,” “alternative fertilization,” and “self-insemination.” Shortened to AI, it slips into the space where “artificial insemination” first went; AID, or alternative (/artificial/assisted) insemination by donor is also in the lexicon. Donor insemination or DI (see below) is another synonym.
baba n. A term or diminutive for father in over a dozen languages; also short for “babushka,” or grandmother in Russian. Adopted by yours truly and untold numbers of other U.S. lesbian parent gals as a title to complement “mother.” (Note: its prevalence in other countries as a bona fide word for “father” leads me to think that its usage will likely remain in the U.S. lesbian subculture, but then again who the heck knows with language; it’s wacky that way.)
birth (also biological-, also bio-) mom n. She what carried and birthed the kid. Used, as you might imagine, with implicit reference to a or the mom who didn’t carry and birth the kid. This term is used both in the context of adoptive parenthood (birth mom & adoptive mom) and in the context of lesbian parenthood (birth mom & ________ ). The blank space there is tribute to the many challenges inherent in naming a woman parent who is parenting side-by-side with one who did the birth-giving. Many of us find our fur rubbed the wrong way by a title which emphasizes lack or non-ness (non-bio, non-birth, non non non). One lesbian mom proposed “baba mama” as a cheery alternative to biomom, and I for one am happy to concur. Like “baby daddy” but without the deadbeat connotation. (See note above re: international wild card aspect of all language. For instance, here’s what you get with “babamama” on Google.)
donor n. In the context of alternative insemination (or AI), one seems not to even need to qualify this as Sperm Donor. Don’t know if that’s because folks are squeamish about saying the word SPERM!, or simply because it goes without saying. Donors can be: Known, Personally Known, or Unknown. Cheryl Deaner, writing on the Lesbian Health Research Center site, breaks it down thus: A Known Donor is someone who has “agreed to become known to your child under certain circumstances, such as when your child turns 18 or if he or the child contract a life-threatening illness before the age of 18.” A Personally Known Donor can also be known as a directed donor, and is “someone with whom you have personal knowledge of and/or a relationship with before the insemination takes place.” An Unknown Donor is someone who is “not willing to be known to you or to your child under any circumstance. Some sperm banks have discontinued the use of unknown donors,” writes Cheryl. For a discussion of the legal distinctions and the ramifications of these various kinds of donor relationships, see Deborah Wald’s extremely informative synopsis, Donor Insemination From a Legal Perspective, at About.com.
doula n. Wikipedia says, “A doula is a non-medical assistant who provides physical, emotional and informational support in prenatal care, during childbirth and during the postpartum period.” Here’s a bunch more info from the Berkeley Parents Network: key highlights are that the support and advocacy of doulas help decrease total labor time and decrease the incidence of unecessary Caesarian section. And this gem: “The midwife/doctor’s primary responsibility is the baby. The Doula’s primary responsibility is the mother.” My partner and I received the services of the doula of our choice as The Most Generous shower gift for our first child, and benefitted enormously. I don’t know the rates at which lesbians use doulas (vs. heterosexual women of comparable classes). But given our well-founded concerns about respectful treatment at hospital and such (and given that the doula is a paid advocate), I wouldn’t be surprised if, across comparable class levels, our doula use is higher than that of straight families’. [Thanks to smurf for suggesting this term.]
gayby boom n. A sharp increase in the number of gay parents, which includes lesbians having babies and same-sex couples adopting children. First appeared in an article by Eloise Salholz, “The Future of Gay America,” in Newsweek, March 12, 1990. [courtesy WordSpy]
genderqueer n. Wikipedia sez, “A genderqueer person is someone who identifies as a gender other than ‘man’ or ‘woman,’ or someone who identifies as neither, both, or some combination thereof. In relation to the gender binary (the view that there are only two genders), genderqueer people generally identify as more ‘both/and’ or ‘neither/nor,’ rather than ‘either/or.’”. GenderCrash.com notes: “GenderQueer term started to come into use in approximately the late 1990s. It has been associated with primarily youth communities and those who are white and were born female and are now along the masculine spectrum, but there are many folks along the age and race/ethnic spectrum that use it to describe themselves and also those who where born male and are along the feminine spectrum. Has also been written as Gender Queer or Genderqueer.” This shoe more or less fits yours truly, who would also offer such terms as “gentle-manly woman” as a slightly more fine-tuned, personally descriptive variation. [Thanks to smurf for suggesting this term.]
genetic mom n. A woman who donated the egg carried by her partner. See also gestational mom. [Thanks to Dana at Mombian for suggesting this term.]
gestational mom n. A woman who carried and delivered a baby who humbly began as a fertilized egg from her partner. See also genetic mom. [Thanks to Dana at Mombian for this term.]
intentional same sex parents, or intentional LGBT-headed family n. In the context of lesbian/gay/bi/trans families, the term “intentional” refers to families headed by queer folks that began within a queer relationship (whether the kids came to the family via adoption or alternative insemination). Its usage draws an implicit distinction from families headed by queer folks which began within a heterosexual relationship, after which one or both parents came out and continued to raise the kid(s). Before the current “gayby boom” (see above), such “unintentional” gay families were the primary origin for kids who were ultimately raised by queer parents. My partner, for instance, was raised by a woman who gave birth to her when she was married to a man, but who subsequently came out as a lesbian. (And guess what: her dad came out, too! That makes my partner a Bothie [scroll to the third bullet point at the bottom for a definition of "bothie"]!) Since alternative insemination practices have expanded, with the help of advances in fertility options and creative adaptations by queer folk, and since impediments to openly gay people adopting are (slowly, in some regions) eroding, many kids are now raised in families that were queer from the start. But this is by no means the experience of all. (Note: the terms “intentional family” or “intentional parent” appear in other contexts, such as in reference to unplanned or unintentional heterosexual parenthood, or in contrast to planned childlessness, or as a term for a particular ethos of Christian parenting.)
lesbian dad n. To my mind, a lesbian dad is a lesbian or genderqueer parent who feels that traditionally female titles (i.e., “mother”) don’t quite fit, and who is willing to appropriate and redefine existing male ones (i.e., “father”). Often she’s a non-biological parent in a lesbian family, whose role relative to the child in many ways resembles that of fathers. Tongue may be either in cheek or not, when the term is used. Either way it works for me. [For what it's worth and so far as I know, I coined this phrase when I squatted the URL for this site back in late June 2004. I hadn't seen it in published use before then, though I am thrilled to see it begin to make sense to more and more people since then. Abbondanza!]
Maybe Baby groups/classes n. A Melbourne group described their Maybe Baby group as “A social group for people who are considering forming a rainbow family.” Some are run through midwifery practices, or through LGBT parents’ organizations, or through community-based women’s centers. Many references I found using this term were for LGBT groups. Are we (who go the alt. route) the only ones who think this through so thoroughly? Hard to say. But if so, I gotta say, there’s a huge benefit — in the way of readiness, of willingness, of sobriety — when you don’t get a kid in your life just by falling off a log. As it were. I highly recommend finding and attending one. The camaraderie will be worth it, and if it’s run well, you’ll learn a lot about your next steps (whether they be via adoption or conception). [Thanks to smurf for suggesting this term.]
social parent n. A proactive term to complement “biological parent,” so far as I can tell, mostly used by DI or donor insemination dads. I am a social parent in both senses of the word. Okay, sometimes when I’m stressed I can get pretty antisocial.
TTC n. An acronym for “Trying To Conceive.” Lesbianism brings with it a built-in, ’round-the-clock, organic contraceptive system. That’s just one of myriad upsides. The downside is that conception, if you’re angling for it, doesn’t just happen. (Though I’m sure that will never stop some gals from studying up on spontaneous generation and parthenogenesis.) The major, obvious difference between queer and straight connotations of this term (since it’s also used by hetero folk trying to conceive) is that we almost always consider multiple routes to conception (and of course even more routes toward becoming parents than hatching the kids oneself). So the Trying part of TTC often entails a lot of research and deliberation and chit-chat. Witness, on the LesbianFamily.org blog aggregator site, this list of fifty lesbo TTC blogs (and counting!).
Queerspawn is a term adopted by some people who have one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender parent. The term was proposed in 1995 by Stefan Lynch, the first director of COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) for use as the title of a ‘zine, but was considered too controversial by other COLAGE leaders at the time. For years Lynch maintained his personal website under the URL http://www.queerspawn.com, and in November 2005, Kate Ranson-Walsh launched Queerspawn.community using Lynch’s URL. An intentionally provocative term to challenge traditional notions of identity and queer pride, “queerspawn” offers kids of queers a direct connection to queer community instead of “through” the identity of their parent/s. The term is gaining in popularity and acceptance, but is not yet common enough to be considered a mainstream word. [Thanks to smurf for suggesting this term; text courtesy Abigail Garner at Damn Straight. See also self-definitions at queerspawn.community.]
page last updated: 09.06.07