Mom laughs with son in a candid portrait


From Rejecting Femininity to Embracing Straight Moms

Dec 1, 2020

When I first came out to my parents at age 19 in the 90s, gay marriage wasn’t legal in Ontario. My father said: But every father imagines his daughter as a bride one day. My mother responded with disbelief: But, you’ve almost liked pretty scarves and eyeliner — how can you be gay? They implored me to think seriously about my “decision” and whether I could change my mind. They worried I would have a more difficult life if I were gay. They also thought being gay meant that I had to let go of all the plans they had for my future.  

"Being queer gave me the license to reject aspects of a feminine identity I’d always found oppressive, including many aspects of religious Judaism."

I was brought up in a traditional Jewish family. Although both my parents had PhDs and worked as psychologists outside the home, they adhered to stereotypical gender roles in our house. My mother planned and cooked most of the meals. We attended a synagogue that separated men from women, mandated that women wore dresses and didn’t let women lead the services. As soon as I had my Bat Mitzvah, I stopped attending synagogue voluntarily. It’s not surprising that my parents saw my assertion that I was a lesbian as part of a larger rebellion against the traditional values that included specific plans for my future, such as marriage and children. 

Though I always identified as a girl, I didn’t feel like other girls. Flirting, and dressing a certain way to attract boys wasn’t my thing, but there was a brief period when I did care more about my appearance and tried wearing makeup.

When I came out in university, I cut off my long, curly hair in favour of a popular androgynous style, wanting to be visible as a lesbian. I joined the Women’s Centre, minored in Women’s Studies and spent time talking about identity politics. Being queer gave me the license to reject aspects of a feminine identity I’d always found oppressive, including many aspects of religious Judaism. 

I didn’t think I ever wanted to get married — I also didn’t imagine myself having children until I turned 30. It was while I was working as a teacher, the only out lesbian at a religious Jewish elementary school, that I started to wonder what I’d be like as a parent of my own child. I felt sad that I might never create my own family and wondered who would keep me company when I got old?

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At 35 I met my life partner, Jessie, at Yom Kippur services. We shared similar values: she was extroverted, loved nature, was family-oriented and a social worker. My family loved her warmth and the fact that she was Jewish. Though we never got married, we quickly moved in together and lived as a couple.

Two years later, we talked about planning a family. We attended a group called Dykes Planning Tykes, where we met weekly with a group of other lesbians and learned about all of the different ways we could have children. After some deliberation, we chose an anonymous donor from a U.S. organization called Xytex. I was lucky, and got pregnant on my second try. 

Visibly pregnant, I discovered with surprise that women I’d never had much to say to before, talked to me and shared their stories about childbirth. It was similar when I went to our local café to write. I ran into old friends from elementary school and we suddenly had so much to say to each other. It was as if a door had magically opened — a door I hadn’t realized was shut — into straight femininity. And, strangely enough, I embraced it.

"I realize now that the lesbian identity I cultivated in university was actually socially constructed and not all of who I was."

After our daughter was born, the elderly Portugese ladies on our street smiled at her in her carrier and warned me about how quickly children grow up, cautioning me to cherish these moments. I joined a mom and babies group run by a local doula and yoga instructor. I was the only lesbian, but I was surprised that the new moms and I shared a lot of the same concerns such as sleep training, self-care and how to get on the list for a daycare. 

When our daughter was six-weeks-old we created a baby-naming ceremony for her. We honoured the women who came before her, our own relatives and Biblical ancestors. Since we’d never had a wedding, this was an opportunity for our parents’ friends to see us together as a couple. Engaging in this ritual helped us reconnect with our Jewish community who welcomed our entire family and supported us in our transition to motherhood.

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I realize now that the lesbian identity I cultivated in university was actually socially constructed and not all of who I was. I felt the need to reject both my Jewish identity and my feminine identity to come out as queer. But gradually over time, I have built back the parts I missed. 

Now our daughter is in fourth grade at our local public school. She has been there since daycare, and we know many people in the community. As one of the only queer couples, we’ve had to advocate for recognition as a queer family. But we have many friends, other mothers and fathers, who share many similar concerns to us about child-rearing and who helped us plan school-wide Pride celebrations.

We are proud to be part of this community and so is she.

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