There’s only one thing in this life that I find more intense than heartbreak. One thing.
Think about it: This coven of people imprints its values on you. These people see you when you’re sick. When you’re ugly. When you’re acting out. They know your weak points. Your triggers. They know what really went down when you ran away at fourteen.
Their job is to protect you. Sometimes they fail to protect you and that feels like a betrayal on the most primal level. Sometimes they overprotect you and that feels suffocating on the most visceral level. Sometimes they royally suck. Sometimes they’re so amazing you feel as if you’ve won the jackpot in life. More often than not, they’re both sucky and amazing.
Whether you grew up in a tight-knit family or an absent family — I think we can all agree on one thing: The Topic of Family is Loaded Like a Gun.
In episode 203 of “The L Word: Generation Q” Angie takes an ancestry test although she’s not allowed to take the ancestry test because her moms say so. Her moms also have forbidden her from attempting to reach out to her donor until she’s eighteen. She’s seventeen. A year when you’re a teen girl is a lifetime.
Teen girls also teem with more curiosity than your cat could ever dream of. Not only that, they’re the world’s greatest sleuths. It’s not just the internet generation that made detectives out of them. Teen girls have been unearthing deeply buried secrets since the beginning of time.
Especially when those secrets have to do with them.
This is why it came as zero surprise that seventeen-year-old Angie decided to take matters into her own hands. And damn. Angie is floored to discover she has a half-sister after taking an ancestry test. Can you blame her? When you’re a kid, you think everything mom says is gospel. When you’re a teen, you realize things are so much more complicated than they seem. It’s one of the most jarring epiphanies you’ll ever have in your lifetime.
Angie and her sister (also a teen girl) decide to meet on the sly at an LA coffee shop. At first, Angie had plans to bring Jordi, her ride or die, of course. Your teen ride or die will do anything for you.
And even though you’re so grateful to your teen girl soulmate for risking getting into big trouble defending your honor, so many times you just wish you could do the scary thing with…your mom.
Angie’s mom, Bette, is a force. She’s one of those mothers who can sense when her daughter is “up to something.” The only person that can throw a wrench in a teen girl’s intricate plan is an intuitive mother. So Angie confesses. And even though she has a healthy fear of getting into trouble with her no-nonsense mother, it’s evident by the wash of relief on her face as the truth nervously tumbles out of her mouth that she’d prefer to just be honest with her. Secrets are heavyweights. Secrets from the woman who raised you? They’ll crush you into the ground. It’s why the teens you think are just “angsty” are usually just imploding with secrets dying to be set free.
Initially, Bette is angry at Angie for going behind her back. But the anger quickly fades. She gets that regardless of her fears, this is something Angie needs to do. She hugs her and tells her it’s going to be okay and that she’ll even escort her to meet this mysterious sister. Angie’s face lights up. Mom gets it.
And while I truly believe that Bette is doing the right thing, I couldn’t help but feel the intensity of her plight.
Real talk: Instagram ~loves~ same-sex parents at the moment. They’re all the rage. Some of the most recent viral posts I’ve seen are of same-sex couples posing merrily with positive pregnancy tests. And as a lesbian who’d like to have a child of my own sooner rather than later, I find these posts encouraging. It’s affirming to see LGBTQ+ people experiencing the same major life milestones as straight people. I’m happy for them.
But you know what Instagram doesn’t like? Nuance. And having a kid when you have a same-sex partner is nuanced as fuck. It’s not as simple as having unprotected sex (though I know for many straight couples it’s not that simple either. It’s that we’re also robbed of the fantasy of conceiving being as simple as unprotected sex).
You have to think about whether or not your donor is going to be from a sperm bank or someone you know. You have to think about how you’re going to handle that sacred information. Will it be out in the open? Will it be a secret? What will you tell your child when they come home from school with questions?
Do you even have the money to pull this off?
I get why same-sex couples don’t reveal this side of child-rearing to strangers on social media. Even me — an open book who’s been spilling her dirtiest of secrets online for over a decade will likely not share nitty-gritty details of my pregnancy publicly. Not just because of the epidemic of “mom shaming,” but because it’s not just about me. It’s about my partner. It’s about the donor, whoever he ends up being. And most pressingly, it’s about an innocent kid who’s going to have to deal with enough scrutiny in this world, just by the virtue of having two moms.
That being said, the understandable privacy of having a child when you’re queer is lonely. When all you’ve been exposed to is the highlight reel of positive pregnancy tests, it’s a shock to the system when you’re finally confronted with the glaring reality of how challenging this whole process *actually* is. I’m pretty plugged into all things lesbian, yet I still have yet to find a reliable source to guide me through these dark and stormy waters. I mean, finding a queer-friendly doctor that accepts insurance is hard enough. Asking someone for advice about how to handle your daughter one day asking who her donor is? That feels distant like a dream.
This is why I was so moved by “Gen Q” confronting this issue head-on. I was just as moved seventeen years ago when Bette and Tina first started trying. Watching them attempt to wrangle the firestorm of wild emotions when it came to choosing a donor was stressful but honest. Watching them handle this new challenge of grappling with their daughter’s sudden desire to know her donor is stressful but honest. And raw honesty makes me feel far more hopeful than a filtered photograph of two smiling women. I mean, what inspires strength more than watching people work through the grit of real life?
My partner and I haven’t even started trying yet, but we’re already stressed out about the complex relationship with a donor. We hate secrets. But we want to be the only parents in our child’s life. And even though everyone tells you, “You are the parents no matter what,” you can’t gloss over the inevitable insecurity of not being biologically connected to your kid. Especially when you exist in a culture that tells you family means blood and nothing else.
I don’t believe family is as simple as just being bonded by blood. And my core belief that family is deeper than a shared bloodline was so deeply affirmed at the end of this episode. Bette doesn’t take Angie to meet her sister alone. Alice in her patterned power suit and Shane with her swaggy baby bangs are also in tow. And even though Bette looks like she’s about to hurl all over the sidewalk she’s such a nervous wreck, having her two lifelong friends by her side creates this circle of protection. And when you’re protected you can take risks. You can do the hard things. Because you know that when you fall, you’ll have a safe place to land.
Unconditional love is far more powerful than biology. Biology doesn’t guarantee that people are going to show up for you the way Shane and Alice show up for Bette and Angie.
After watching this episode, I’ve realized that family can mean both chosen and blood. So no matter what happens, I now understand that so long as I’m surrounded by love on this new, wild adventure I’m about to embark on, I’ll always have a family.