WU recently had a chance to take Dana Rudolph away from her phenomenal blog Mombian to answer some of our questions about Wellesley, having a family, and the LGBT Blogging World.
1. What was your experience like at Wellesley? Was it LGBT friendly when you were there?
I graduated in 1988, and LGBT awareness was certainly not as widespread as it is today. There was an official “Wellesley Lesbians and Friends” group, however, which had occasional gatherings. Transgender people, if any, were invisible, and there was very little discussion of trans issues. I didn’t start coming out until my senior year, so I was only minimally involved in anything LGBT related, alas. In some ways, that feels like a lost opportunity—but I remind myself that we each take this journey in our own time.
LGBT issues aside, I had a wonderful four years at Wellesley, and have many, many fond memories of my time there—so many, that I jumped at the chance to go back. (See #6 below.)
2. What made you start Mombian?
I created Mombian in 2005 after noting a lack of sites with current, practical news and information for LGBT parents, or sites that looked at other aspects of LGBT culture with a parent’s eye.
3. What advice to you have for LGBT alumnae looking to start a family?
If you’re partnered, talk, talk, talk. Communication with each other is key. Make sure your own relationship is secure, and that you are each committed to having a family. (Some qualms are natural, of course.) Talk about your expectations of parenthood, your roles in childraising, the values you hope to convey to your child(ren), and how you will sustain your own relationship while raising them. Remember, too, that it can take time to start a family, however you choose to do so. Be prepared to support each other through the process.
If you’re single, try to build a network of friends, neighbors, and relatives who can assist you as needed, in both practical and emotional ways.
Also, see a lawyer before you start trying to get pregnant or adopt. Make sure your family is legally protected to the extent possible where you live.
I think there can be great pressure on LGBT parents to be perfect, as if we need to prove to the world that we are good parents. That can lead to pressure on our kids to be perfect as well. Being a good parent doesn’t mean being perfect, however; it means trying our best, learning from our mistakes, and realizing that most of parenting is on-the-job training.
Finally, reach out for support and advice. Find other lesbian families in your community or online, and talk with non-LGBT parents, too, about the common issues of parenthood. Realize that there are many allies out there—not just other LGBT families, but also single-parent families, foster and adoptive families, multi-racial families and even many “traditional” households who realize the love of a family is more important than its structure.You’re not in this alone!
4. What are some of the biggest challenges LGBT parents face?
For many of us, the biggest challenges are the same as those of any parents—raising children into some semblance of well-adjusted adulthood. For others, the lack of understanding and inclusion for LGBT families looms larger. Legal challenges remain significant. Not every state allows joint adoptions or second-parent adoptions (where one mom adopts the child who is already legally the other mom’s), so only one parent may be legally able to interact with schools, doctors, etc. on behalf of the child. If same-sex parents separate, and one is not a legal parent, the other may be cut off from all contact, and will not be required to contribute to the child’s support.
For parents who come out or transition after having children, the biggest challenge may be explaining their changed identity to their children, and helping them through the process of understanding.
Many LGBT parents, too, must deal with the lack of representation of our families, in everything from children’s books to school forms to television. We must make sure our children—and their friends and classmates, teachers and coaches—know that families come in many different forms.
5. What is the LGBT blogging community like? What inspired you to start the Blogging for LGBT Families day?
The one constant of the LGBT blogging community is our diversity. Some blog for LGBT equality; others promote different causes; some simply share stories of themselves and/or their families. Sometimes these goals overlap. We are care enough about something, however, that we are willing to devote our time to blogging about it.
I started Blogging for LGBT Families Day for two reasons: to bring together the community of LGBT parents, our families, and allies, and to share our stories with the wider world in order to promote understanding and acceptance.
6. Aside from mombian what else do you do? Who else do you write for?
I syndicate a Mombian newspaper column to a number of LGBT newspapers across the country. I have also covered LGBT legal and political news as a correspondent for Keen News Service, through which I have had pieces appear in numerous LGBT newspapers including Bay Area Reporter, Bay Windows, Between the Lines, Dallas Voice, Georgia Voice, Metro Weekly, LGBTQ Nation, South Florida Gay News, and Windy City Times. I’ve had pieces appear in the Huffington Post, the Washington Post’s “On Parenting” site, an independent supplement to USA Today produced by Mediaplanet; After Ellen, After Elton, The Bilerico Project, and 365gay.com.
In my non-freelance life, I am very pleased to be back at Wellesley College, now as a staff member. I am the online content manager for the National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum at the Wellesley Centers for Women, a program of teacher-led faculty development seminars that help teachers learn to use their own experiences and those of their students to create more gender fair, multiculturally equitable, and globally informed curricula.g
When I’m not working, blogging, or doing various parenting and household tasks, I might be found reading a book, camping with my family, baking something, or riding my bike (but not all at once).