Lynn had just moved to Seattle for graduate school. Lisa had recently moved from the Northeast and was hunkering down to study for the Washington State Bar. It was
1980. How to meet new people? Holly Near, the iconic feminist Women's Music folksinger, was coming to town. Lynn looked at the other social-work students to determine who might be interested in a Holly Near concert. There was Molly in overalls, comfortable shoes, and no make-up. Lynn introduced herself and asked if she wanted to go to the concert, explaining she was new to town and wanting to meet people. As luck would have it, Molly and a friend were having a potluck before the concert and then all going together. She invited Lynn to join them.
Lynn arrived early, for the first and only time, and there was Lisa, so warm and friendly, cooking up a batch of cornbread and as welcoming as a warm, breezy Hawaiian day. Immediately, Lynn was determined to have Lisa be a mainstay of her community of new friends.
Six months later, after many meals, concerts, plays, and awkward situations that left us in hysterical laughter with tears rolling down our cheeks, our relationship switched from close friends to lovers.
That first year after our relationship transitioned was tense. What did it mean to choose to live your life with another woman... as a Lesbian? Could we still have a family of our own? Would the families we grew up with accept us? Wouldn't it just be easier to be with men? Both of us that year were drawn to other men, forcing us to keep re-evaluating our choice of one another. We were relatively young. Lynn was 24 and Lisa was 25. After a year of dancing around one another, moving closer than apart, than back towards one another again, we settled into a comfortable waltz. Moving together in rhythm, one taking the lead and then the other.
Family was another matter, and Lisa and I reached out to our families in our own typical ways. Lisa didn't say anything regarding our relationship and simply slipped me into the family by bringing me along on her visits to Connecticut. My mother flew up from the Bay Area within the first year of our relationship and I immediately declared to her my love for Lisa. This began a six-year episode of high drama as my mother would yell out in restaurants, 'But you can find a man like Lisa!' She would try to set me up with blind dates when I came down for a visit and would alternate between killer hugs filled with tears or screaming out in public places horrible things about me or lamenting, 'What did I do wrong?' I tried to help her see that she was outing me way more then I outed myself. I wasn't going into restaurants and screaming out that I am Lesbian, but she was screaming it aloud at the Greek restaurant in Seattle, the Italian restaurant in Burlingame, and while walking along the streets of various cities.
Weirdly enough, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Having grown up in an extremely enmeshed family, this forced me to stand up for myself, and my values. Thanks to Lisa's support and my fury at my mom being hurtful to Lisa, I was able to declare that we would no longer stay at their home when visiting until they could treat both of us with civility and respect.
Lisa got a job with legal services in Olympia so we moved down there. We built a community of folks that was a combination of straight and Gay idealistic twenty-somethings who believed through government work, nonprofits, and music we could change the world. By then, our band, which I managed and Lisa played bass and sung in, called the Righteous Mothers, was starting to get a good following in the Northwest and we were doing gigs for all sorts of exciting causes.
After 3 years or so, and after spending a lot of time with a friend's infant, I really started wanting to have a child. Lisa wasn't so sure. So we got a dog to see if we could parent together well and had the patience to look after someone beside ourselves. Then we started a game with one another that we played for years. As we went about our life we would observe situations at the grocery store, on the street corner, at friend's homes, etc. where we would see kids starting to act up and watch how the parents handled it. Once, out of earshot, we would ask one another, 'What would you have done?' We learned fairly quickly that we had a compatible parenting style.
We also decided to simply start researching ways, as a Lesbian couple, to have a child. At that point we didn't know any Lesbians who had children, except one woman who had a child with her female partner - they broke up and she was single-parenting. So we invited her over and asked her how she had gone about conceiving her daughter. Thus began our education on sperm banks, fresh and frozen sperm, known vs. unknown donors, turkey basters, whether doctors should be involved or not, whether to use one donor or more than one, etc. We started making a list of what we wanted in a donor and the pros and cons of a known vs. an unknown donor. Early on we decided we wanted it to be someone we knew who didn't live too close and would not be a parent to our child. We had no clue who that that could be. We also made a list:
o Good health
o Physically fit
o Sense of humor
Strange doing this. It did feel a little like mixing qualities in a test tube to produce the perfect child.
We decided Lisa would try to get pregnant first. Next step was to figure out who the donor would be. We were not comfortable with any of the people we were coming up with. Then, one day, we were reading Newsweek and there was an article on the Wobblies. They were interviewing the director, who happened to be an old friend of Lynn's. He was soon going to return to Bellingham, a three-hour drive from Olympia. And he met all of the criteria on the list for a donor.
We phoned David. 'Hi, we have a proposition for you, but we don't want you to answer now. We want you to really think about it.' And we let him know what we wanted. David immediately said yes. 'No, David, you have to think about it. It can be a pain. No hot tub, no drinking near ovulation time. We live hours apart yet everything has to be dropped for us to find a place to meet. You have to be comfortable doing your thing into a jar, please think about it.'
Ten seconds later, 'OK, thought about it, YES!'
By now we had been driving to Seattle to attend the Lesbian Resource Center's 'Baby Maybe' classes. It was fun meeting a few others considering having children too. We all asked lots of questions, especially legal ones. We asked about the second parent adopting the baby but were told that Washington law did not allow this.
In May of 1985 the stars and Lisa's ovaries were aligned and we were pregnant. We couldn't believe it. How easy it all was. We tried just one time and it worked. Lisa started feeling nauseous, she hated the smell of tuna, and for the first time ever was repulsed by coffee. We blabbed the news to friends and family. They were jubilant.
Twelve weeks into the pregnancy Lisa started to bleed. Then cramping began. The doctor said, 'Get to the hospital right away.' We rushed over to St. Peter Hospital where I worked as an on-call social worker. We scurried in petrified and went straight to the admissions desk. They whisked Lisa through the emergency room doors and would not let me go with her. I panicked and didn't know what to do. Finally, after about thirty minutes, I rallied myself together and thought, 'this is ridiculous, I work at this hospital and this is my Love, I'm going in there.' So, without asking permission I walked straight through the large double doors of the emergency room and started looking for Lisa. There she was, all alone, lying on a small gurney shaking out of cold and fear. Our baby was gone.
Devastating as that was, we didn't give up and after a few months decided to try again. One year later, we again became pregnant. This time we kept our mouths shut until we got past the 12-week period. We were so frightened as we got closer and closer to 12 weeks. But it came and passed!
The pregnancy was moving along beautifully and we started signing up for the requisite baby classes. Suddenly we were realizing how 'out' having a baby forced us to be. Our classes consisted of couples in the military, including the Rangers, a wide variety of religious backgrounds, and certainly almost everyone who had never 'met Lesbians' before. We felt we had to be ambassadors for all Queers, smiling, being nice, not touching one another too much, and answering sweetly the numerous inane questions we were asked. We would come home from these classes exhausted in large part due to being so aware of what we were saying and doing. At times we felt very resentful of the role. We didn't want to be there as educators or diplomats, we simply wanted to be two parents excited and scared to be having a child.
During this time we were getting more and more unsettled regarding our baby not being legally both of ours. Lisa, being an attorney, looked at Washington state adoption law and thought that it did not foreclose the possibility of what was starting to be called second-parent adoption. Second-parent adoption is similar to step-parent adoptions where one parent, usually the father, gives up his parental rights and then the court, after a social worker completes a home study, grants adoption to the stepparent. In our case the biological father had already signed away his rights but we wanted Evan to have an additional parent, myself.
She spoke to a family-law friend of ours, Raven Lidman, who agreed with her interpretation. So we decided to try and have Lynn adopt Evan so that Evan would legally have two Moms.
On February 11, 1987, at 10:30 p.m., our daughter, Evan Brodoff Grotsky, was born and shortly afterward we started the process of filing for adoption. We talked to both families about us fighting for the adoption so Evan would legally have two Moms. Both families begged us not to do it. They felt it would be too dangerous and were scared that if it went public some deranged person could come and kill us all. Plus, Lynn had just opened a group private practice working with sexually abused children and they were worried that the practice could be targeted and could ruin any chance of the practice becoming successful.
But we wanted to make sure Evan was protected. So we filed and the ordered not only a home study by a social worker but also that a guardian ad litem (GAL) be assigned who would decide (1) if Washington state law allowed same-sex couples to adopt and (2) if it did, whether it would be in the best interest of our child.
Our GAL was a white male who was known for some ACLU cases he had done. Raven asked him if he had any problems with Lesbians being mothers and he said no.
The social worker came out to do the home study and she was wonderful. She asked all the appropriate questions that she would ask any other parents who were doing a second-parent adoption. She was funny, warm, and extremely professional. We felt very comfortable and that she truly saw who we were.
The GAL asked that we come to his office and not bring the baby. He then proceeded to ask us almost every stereotypical question you can possibly imagine regarding Lesbians: 'Why do you hate men?' 'Who would be the mother and who the father?' and many questions that I have completely blocked out. I remember feeling so violated and dirty as he asked the questions. We knew we were in trouble. It was so clear that this man was so biased that he never saw us as people, as individuals. We were simply Lesbians - his version of Lesbians.
He took many months to write up his report and when he did he found that Washington State Law did not allow same-sex adoption and that even if it did, it would not be in the best interests of our daughter because she would be teased too much. He added that maybe when she was 14 years old she could decide for herself if she wanted to be adopted by me. We decided to go ahead with the adoption anyway, which meant that the GAL was now our opposing counsel. Two years later we finally had our day in court.
Our Thurston County judges recused themselves, so a Pierce County judge was chosen. It was an all-day trial with many character and expert witnesses.
We were so nervous. This was about the safety and protection of our daughter and we might very well lose. We arrived armed with paperwork and photos of Evan. I taped the photos all over the witness stand and in a way that the judge could see them too. I also put them at our table so we would all be reminded who this was about.
Poor Lisa, most of the testimony was all about her demise. If Lisa dies, then & If Lisa were to be killed or incapacitated, then & If Lisa were to end up in a coma, then & Of course they also talked about the benefits for Evan not only emotionally with this adoption but also practically. The adoption would guarantee Evan's right to receive Social Security benefits, inheritance, life insurance, medical insurance, and child support through me. All of our witnesses were so articulate and positive.
When I was on the stand the first question was, 'Why do you want to adopt Evan?' I paused, said 'Why? Because she is my daughter!' and immediately burst out crying.
The trial started at 9 a.m. and at 5 p.m. the last witness was done. The judge went to his chambers and returned with his verdict. When he returned he sat down and basically said, 'I am going to grant it. Rather than keep you in suspense, as most judges do, and go into a long dissertation &'
'What? What did he just say?' Lisa asked.
'He just said yes!' I screamed. We screamed and cried. We couldn't believe what we were hearing. My head was spinning with thoughts. Oh my God, he just said yes. Our Evan legally has two moms.
Life calmed down some. There was a bit of a media frenzy following the decision but mostly we could go on with our daily lives. To protect my practice, we did not use Evan's last name, Grotsky, in the media and we referred to me as Ellen instead of Lynn. It felt uncomfortable to do that but we were worried that my work with sexually abused children and my therapy business that included many other clinicians could be severely compromised if my real name was too public. Not too long after, we became pregnant with our second child. Micha, our son, was born on June 19, 1990, and his adoption was simple. We filed shortly after his birth and met with the judge in her chambers. Everyone smiled and said how sweet this is and that was that.
The kids started to go to school. They were the first children of Lesbians in our district. Kids would ask Evan and Micha about who their Dad was, or who is their real mother. But mostly, they got through elementary school with more of a focus on their being Jewish than having Lesbian parents.
When Micha was around five years old we were taking one of our family vacations with Lisa's family. We had flown all day to Puerto Rico and then got on a cruise ship. While we were flying to Puerto Rico, two separate times people had asked Lisa and me if we were sisters. This was common for us and usually we would just answer no, or sometimes we would say, 'No, we're life partners.' In fact, this happened to us so often, we didn't think much of it.
When we arrived in Puerto Rico and finally got on the boat, Micha was getting cranky and tired. We decided to go to the dining room to grab a bite to eat. The four of us were seated at a table with a couple that looked just like the comedy couple of Stiller and Meara. Clearly, they were tired and hungry too. They ordered, looked at us and said, 'are you sisters?' Micha, exasperated, shouted out, 'NO, THEY'RE LESBIANS!'
Dead silence in the dining hall - it felt like that old commercial for E.F. Hutton. We held our breath, looked at one another, and suddenly the couple burst out laughing. We all fell into hysterical laughter. The man then pulled out a bunch of balloons and little toys from his pocket and he and our kids became fast friends for the rest of the trip.
When Evan was 10 years old (in 1997) there were two bills being considered in the legislature. One was to ban Gays and Lesbians from adoption or foster care. The other would define marriage as between a man and a woman. One night, around midnight, I was walking by Evan's room and heard her sobbing. I went in to ask what was wrong. It took her a long time and finally she cried out that she was so scared. What was going to happen to her? She was going to be taken away because they weren't allowing Lesbians to adopt. She had overheard a news program and had been living in fear that she was going to be removed from our home and never see us again.
Once we realized this, as a way to empower her, we asked if she would want to let the legislators know how she felt. She said yes. By then the bill against adoption and foster care had failed in committee. The marriage bill was still being considered. We arranged for Evan to testify at a hearing. This was 1997, and hate and fear against Gays and Lesbians by the extreme right was virulent. As we all went together to the Capitol, Evan bravely walked through 50 or 60 people, all holding signs, standing in front of the legislative building, yelling at her that she and her parents were going to Hell. She then sat in the hearing room listening to one person after another stating in their testimony horrible things about families like hers. And then Evan bravely went up to the microphone and courageously gave the following testimony.
'My name is Evan Grotsky and I am 10 years old. I am the daughter of Lynn and Lisa, who are Lesbians and are American citizens, just like almost everyone else in the building.
We are people who are kind and loving, like most families are. We have a dog and cat, a nice house, and a brother. I have lots of friends and many good teachers.
'I have been scared of people taking my parents away because of the stupid worries they have that are not true about Lesbians and Gays. I also have many friends who are Gay and Lesbian, and they are all very nice people. I hate it that they are not considered people of our society, like everybody else.
'My family is a great family. My parents are kind, loving, gentle, funny, and anything good that you could think of. Why are people afraid of us? Everyone is different in some way. Everyone knows they are different. I like that! If everyone was the same, they'd be wearing the same hat, same shirt, same colored eyes, same color skin, same everything. If everything was the same, the world would be boring, dull, and not a place anyone would want to live.
'My friends don't care that I have two moms. They think it's OK. Why do adults have such worries? My belief is that God believes in us all. He made us exactly how we are supposed to be. If he didn't want this, then I wouldn't be here to talk to you about my family today.
'I figure that since I am a child, maybe you will listen to me better. All that I have said is true. My family is different because I do have Lesbian parents and I am Jewish. But I am proud of this!
'And if you are different, and proud of yourself, you would not spread such hatred, and try to stop the rights of others. You wouldn't be so afraid, and you would want Gays and Lesbians to have the same rights as everybody else, including the right to get married.'
That year, the bill on marriage being defined as between one man and one woman failed, but it did become law the following year, 1998.
Our lives continued on but by then there were many more out folks with kids so we weren't such an anomaly. Our son came out as Gay in high school and had some struggles with that but did graduate and want on to college and did great.
Our daughter fell in love with a wonderful guy, and is in school and working and is also very happy.
And all of us our thrilled to finally have the opportunity to have equal rights at the sate level and looking forward to the day we all have them at the federal level too. A time when people see all of us for who we are, and not have the first definition of us be, 'Oh, that's Lisa the Lesbian,' or 'Micha the Gay guy.' It is happening.
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