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Caryn Aviv (Archive)
Last update - 18:17 06/04/2008
My big fat gay Jewish family
By Caryn Aviv
Tags: Jewish, gay, lesbian 

I will never forget the day I was propositioned to become a gay co-parent. I was 32 and had already been thinking about the baby question, but was still single and fuzzy on the details. So when David gingerly popped the question, "Would you be interested in having a kid with me and Gregg?" I thought the earth was moving underneath my car as we drove through the Castro district in San Francisco.

David and I met a few years earlier at Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, the local gay and lesbian synagogue. I had recently arrived in town to start a new chapter in life after finishing research in Jerusalem for a Ph.D. Newly out of the closet and eager to connect with the gay Jewish community, I signed up as a part-time Hebrew school teacher. David had returned from his graduate school research in Moscow with his husband Gregg, to resume his post as head of the synagogue's school. We hit it off immediately, so much so that we started writing the first of our three books together.

Two years later, my would-be gay dads had moved to Denver for David's teaching gig at a university. I was still living in San Francisco, and we were still talking about co-parenting. But now the weekly conversations became complicated by distance. How would an overeducated, nice Jewish girl from Chicago make such a life-altering decision? I decided to develop a Powerpoint presentation analyzing all the pros and cons of all the various options.
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Did I want to be a single lesbian mom by choice in San Francisco and have either David or Gregg act as the sperm donor and "special uncle?" Certainly not, given Bay Area real estate prices, and no viable partner on the horizon to help with diapers and a mortgage. Did I want to act as a surrogate for David and Gregg to have and raise a baby in Denver? That idea seemed even more unappealing. If I moved to Denver, would I ever find a suitable girlfriend, instead of the revolving door of Jewish recovering alcoholics and emotionally needy cat-lovers I had been dating in San Francisco? Could I consider living in a state without a Trader Joe's? Clearly, the stakes were higher than I thought.

I spent a year exploring a move to Denver. It was a gamble to leave behind a well-paying job, my beloved city, and a seemingly endless supply of inappropriate lesbian dating choices. I reasoned that we would either figure it out or not, and if the whole plan didn't work, I could always move back to California and learn to love cats.

While debating a move, I put my research skills to work. From my contacts at the synagogue, I interviewed lesbian moms and gay dads who were doing this already. "Just make sure you have all your agreements in writing in case people split up!" intoned one solemn lesbian mom who was battling her ex-wife in court. "Try to find a duplex to make daily logistics easier," advised a happy gay dad who lived with his partner next to his lesbian co-parent and kid in the Castro.

Fast forward another year. I moved to Denver, and rented an attic owned by a lovely gay couple who applauded my moxie and family plans. David and Gregg and I began to spend a lot of time together, essentially weaving ourselves into a family even without the presence of a kid. After six months of intense conversation, we decided to seal the deal, with a contract, of course.

We had worked through all the usual things that straight couples negotiate (except the sex), like values, money, and which families we'd visit for Rosh Hashanah and Passover. We also considered our legal options, given that Colorado law doesn't really know how to handle a family with three parents. I think we all felt giddy about the prospect of trying to get pregnant, and our plan was to start inseminating at the beginning of the school year. All our parents began buying baby clothes as soon as they heard the news. Life was ripe with possibility.

On our second try, a great miracle happened. I got pregnant. Who knew it would be so easy? In retrospect, I wouldn't have chosen to experience the insomnia and hormonal lunacy of pregnancy as a single person. But in a sense, I wasn't really single. I had the support of not one, but two excited future dads who watched with fascination and awe at the growing blob in my belly that waved and gurgled on the ultrasound machine at the OB's office. Nine months later, I showed up at the hospital with my birth ball, doula, and two dads. The nurses didn't know what to make of us, but I was too engrossed by the crazy things that were happening to my body to care much by that point. And even though I don't consider myself religious, the first words out of my mouth after our daughter Sasha arrived were "Baruch Hashem!" (Blessed is God!)

Fast forward another two years. It's been almost a decade since I first met my gay dads. We often simply watch with delight as our daughter Sasha happily runs around after David and Gregg's two dogs. It gives me indescribable pleasure to watch Sasha laugh, dance to Shir-La-La (outrageously hip Jewish kiddie rock), and get excited at the prospect of lighting candles for Shabbat.

Many straight folks, when they hear about my family, earnestly ask me how we do it. I often get questions like, "Does Sasha get confused about who her parents are?"

I've learned to answer these questions graciously, reminding myself that it's a learning opportunity for people to expand their understanding of the word "family." In other words, I have lots of chances to act as a poster child for the gay rights/gay family movement, and I take that responsibility seriously. Here's what I tell people: "Think of a divorced family in two houses, except in our case, there's no acrimony, just lots and lots of love." Their eyes light up with this analogy, but in many ways, the shorthand is completely wrong.

Unlike divorced families, we intentionally created this family structure, without any legal recognition, and without any of the rupture and pain that often accompanies divorce. Clearly, we need to find better and more illuminating explanations. But perhaps it would be better if we gay folks simply stopped relying on straight analogies altogether to describe our families.

I know that this kind of co-parenting isn't for everyone. And I know that some people reading this will probably cringe out of fear for our child's future and bemoan what is happening to the Jewish people. That's okay.

What I do know is that for me, my gay dads, and hopefully for our daughter Sasha, the big fat gay Jewish family we've chosen to create makes perfect sense. And at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

Caryn Aviv is a lecturer at the University of Denver and the author of 'New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora'
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  1.   Great Story, Mazal Tov! 18:18  |  JS 06/04/08
  2.   writers blocked 19:07  |  K 06/04/08
  3.   writer`s block??? 19:25  |  daniella 06/04/08
  4.   Our gay Catholic community salutes you 19:25  |  Yaakov Sullivan 06/04/08
  5.   How nice 20:29  |  Z 06/04/08
  6.   Love Knows No Limits 20:30  |  Lior 06/04/08
  7.   Hello Yaakov 20:34  |  David 06/04/08
  8.   A more thoughtful form of family 20:35  |  DS 06/04/08
  9.   Haaretz has shown its true liberal strips once again 20:59  |  Eli 06/04/08
  10.   i didnt understand who`s who 21:10  |  me 06/04/08
  11.   Awesome article 21:20  |  Haldrik 06/04/08
  12.   ;-) I sense a new sitcom 21:24  |  Haldrik 06/04/08
  13.   Your "family" is based on selfish and self absorbed needs 21:32  |  Tom 06/04/08
  14.   In the Bible, a family ("house") includes everyone 21:36  |  Haldrik 06/04/08
  15.   Author loses out. The men have everything 21:56  |  Laila 06/04/08
  16.   #7 David I was born into Catholic family, but still.. 22:06  |  Yaakov Sullivan 06/04/08
  17.   What makes you Jewish? 22:06  |  TG 06/04/08
  18.   #10 Right. Gays, Lesbians, Sado-mazo, Trabsexualt are NOT taboo 22:18  |  Yaakov Sullivan 06/04/08
  19.   What non-sense 23:22  |  Dror 06/04/08
  20.   What a great thing Kol HaCavod 23:41  |  Daniel 06/04/08
  21.   How totally disgusting 23:51  |  hollingsworth 06/04/08
  22.   Yaakov Sullivan the gay catholic jew married to a Palestinian 23:55  |  Mike 06/04/08
  23.   no such thing, yaakov 00:16  |  hollingsworth 07/04/08
  24.   Congregation Sha`ar Zahav, the local gay and lesbian synagogue. 00:34  |  aaa 07/04/08
  25.   selfish 00:41  |  Phil 07/04/08
  26.   #22 Mike. you don`t have to like my gayness, but respect it 00:47  |  Yaakov Sullivan 07/04/08
  27.   Trader Joe`s 01:03  |  LK 07/04/08
  28.   #19 Good example of hypocrisy 01:04  |  Elly 07/04/08
  29.   #21 Your comment is intolerant 01:06  |  Liliane 07/04/08
  30.   #22 Please learn how to spell before insulting Yaakov 01:08  |  Fortunee 07/04/08
  31.   But which of the 2 "fathers" is the biological dad? 01:17  |  Shalom 07/04/08
  32.   Yaakov Sullivan, why do you confuse people like this 01:17  |  Dror 07/04/08
  33.   Korim li Yaakov 01:22  |  Yaakov Sullivan 07/04/08
  34.   Torah is Torah 01:47  |  Dani 07/04/08
  35.   Stay away from children 02:12  |  nm 07/04/08
  36.   Jewish continuity 02:20  |  Nadav 07/04/08
  37.   Congregation Sha`ar Zahav? 03:31  |  Bigot 07/04/08
  38.   #33 "Korim li Yaakov" broken Hebrew 03:43  |  Yaakov Sullivan 07/04/08
  39.   Ugh, more carpet burners in Denver 03:45  |  Denver Native 07/04/08
  40.   #33 stop impersonating me 03:49  |  Al 07/04/08
  41.   #19 What`s wrong with gay agenda. Nothing to do with wars 04:00  |  Yaakov Sullivan 07/04/08
  42.   #20 Daniel, thank you for your sensetivity and tolerance 04:02  |  Yaakov Sullivan 07/04/08
  43.   liliane 04:36  |  hollingsworth 07/04/08
  44.   Gay couples should have children, not pets 04:36  |  My opinion 07/04/08
  45.   LOL Yaakov Sullivan, I like the imposter`s version of you better! 04:44  |  Joe 07/04/08
  46.   Your family 05:00  |  lana 07/04/08
  47.   to yaakov 05:20  |  hollingsworth 07/04/08
  48.   gay families not kosher 05:35  |  Josh 07/04/08
  49.   #38 How can a Catholic Jew be anti Semitic? Nonsense. 05:51  |  Yaakov Sullivan 07/04/08
  50.   What a Long Strange Trip Its Been 06:06  |  Leah 07/04/08
  51.   #46 The guy who claims to be me is a homophobic from Moldova 06:08  |  Yaakov Sullivan 07/04/08
  52.   #44 As I said my mother was Jewish and my father was a janitor 06:16  |  Yaakov Sullivan 07/04/08
  53.   Me too no comprendo 06:23  |  Chad 07/04/08
  54.   How can a Catholic Jew be a self-hating Jew? 07:09  |  *ring* *ring* 07/04/08
  55.   #31 Who`s your daddy? to Shalom 07:56  |  hala 07/04/08
  56.   Keep homosexuals away from children 08:24  |  Rina 07/04/08
  57.   Nature never intended to have children by homosexsuals 08:32  |  Just an opinion 07/04/08
  58.   nasty 09:07  |  butros 07/04/08
  59.   To Yaakov Sullivan # 3 09:13  |  dovale 07/04/08
  60.   only history will tell 10:54  |  asher 07/04/08
  61.   #4 Roman Catholic Jew ???????? 12:58  |  Suad 07/04/08
  62.   Mazel Tov 13:13  |  mfr 07/04/08
  63.   Repugnant article, thanks haaretz !!! 13:36  |  trumpeldor 07/04/08
  64.   # 48 you are NASTY 13:41  |  Suad 07/04/08
  65.   # 1 this is so fanatic 14:16  |  Suad 07/04/08
  66.   fagg 14:18  |  david 07/04/08
  67.   # 66 how could I find this article ? 14:30  |  Suad 07/04/08
  68.   WHAT A BIZARRE STORY 15:06  |  Boris Havel 07/04/08
  69.   Thanks for sharing & Mazal Tov :) 18:08  |  Ofira Roll 07/04/08
  70.   #26 Yaakov Sullivan #30 Thanks 18:49  |  Mile 07/04/08
  71.   Why? Really 19:33  |  Joe 07/04/08
  72.   Wonderful Story 20:58  |  Russell 07/04/08
  73.   1st Zoroastran Bahai Chiite Druze Community meeting of celibates 01:19  |  Funny I Sully 08/04/08
  74.   How Wonderful!! 02:28  |  Moved 08/04/08
  75.   My family is straight, but not narrow 20:16  |  Debbie 08/04/08
  76.   My Big Fat GAY Jewish Family 15:12  |  Bill Holloway 10/04/08
  77.   :):):) 12:03  |  Jess 12/04/08
  78.   My big fat gay Jewish family 12:06  |  Daniel Sod 12/04/08
  79.   My big fat gay jewish family 02:22  |  Naomi 13/04/08
  80.   gratitude 02:08  |  kate Bastedo 21/04/08
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