When I dated men, I never wanted kids. Now that I'm in a queer relationship, I suddenly want to be a parent because there are no rules.

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When I dated men, I never wanted kids. Now that I'm in a queer relationship, I suddenly want to be a parent because there are no rules.
The author, right, and her partner.Eryn Johnson
  • I never wanted kids, but when I was in a relationship with a man, I tried to convince myself I did.
  • When I met my queer partner, I decided I wanted to be a parent.
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"I'm never getting married, and I'm never having kids," I told my mom as a middle-school feminist in Limited Too jeans and dangly earrings from Claire's.

I was a little girl growing up Christian, so marriage and kids were supposed to be my life's purpose.

I didn't yet have the words for my queerness or fledgling feminism, but I knew that husbands and kids would only get in the way of what I really wanted: to be my own person and to have adventures. All that changed when I met the right person.

As I got older, things got less straightforward

At 22, I started dating a cisgender man six years older than me. Both of us valued our independence, and neither of us was interested in having kids. As he crossed the threshold into his 30s, that changed. The question was left to me: Would I get on board, or would we break up?

It should have been simple. I was queer, and I had never wanted kids. But I grew up in a world where a queer life was an impossible dream. And sure, I had never wanted kids, but maybe I was just scared to become my parents, or maybe I was fighting so hard against what I was supposed to do that I couldn't figure out what I authentically wanted.

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I was confused and scared to be alone, so I convinced myself I could want what he wanted. But for the last two years of our relationship, I was tortured by what I'd committed to. I tried to tell myself that having a kid would be great if I took some more time and did a little more healing. My partner was a good person who would be a great dad. I just needed to figure out how to want what he wanted.

In the end, I couldn't do it, and the inevitable played out. After I broke up with him, I felt guilty for not leaving sooner. I'd stolen years from him that he could've spent with a partner who wanted a future with him. I wouldn't hurt someone — or abandon myself — like that again.

When I met my queer partner, Quinn, everything changed

Dating Quinn felt how I'd hoped dating would feel my entire life. We fell in love fast. When I thought about our future, I felt a steady pulse of certainty and excitement.

"I want to have a baby," they nervously admitted in bed one night, early on in our relationship. "I know you don't, and that's OK. I can do it alone."

We were polyamorous at the time, and we could structure our relationship any way we wanted. But the thought of Quinn building a family without me made my heart sink. An unfamiliar desire filled me, and I couldn't imagine a better thing to do with my life than to love this person and have a baby together.

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"I don't want you to do it alone," I said slowly. "Let's do it together."

Nothing about deciding to have a baby together felt like it did in my straight relationship

For me, it wasn't about having a kid or not. It was about having a baby with the person I wanted to have a baby with.

When I was a closeted queer person in a straight relationship, having a baby with my partner felt like it was solidifying my straightness and forcing me into a cis-heteronormative life. But my and Quinn's family could look any way we pleased. I wouldn't have to play the prescribed role of mom, and I wouldn't have to give birth, which I'd never wanted to do. The rules were out the window; we got to choose.

As we cuddled our 3-year-old godson to sleep and cooed over our baby niece, we dreamed about what being parents could look like for us.

We're now planning out how to have the family we want

Of course, it's not that easy for us to have a baby. In our class on LGBTQ+ paths to parenthood hosted by Philadelphia Family Pride, we learned our options — from adoption to donor sperm — and things to consider, including legal donor agreements and second-parent adoption.

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I still have fears: Will I ever write or see my friends again? What if Quinn and the baby have a special bond that I'll never have as the nonbirthing parent? How will we pay for expensive procedures like intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization if we need them? Will my anxiety — already hyperattuned to the safety of people I love — spiral out of control?

Regardless, I know what I want, and I know exactly whom I want it with. As Quinn and I swing our godson between us, lifting him off the ground on a count of three, we meet each other's eyes and see our future. We smile.

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