In the fight for fair and equal treatment of our LGBT families, visibility is important. Here are 12 women who have put a public face on queer parenthood.
Melissa Etheridge, musician
Melissa Etheridge, whose music I’ve been following since her first album was released, was probably the first out lesbian mom I was ever aware of. She and partner Julie Cypher had two kids: Bailey, born in 1997, and Beckett, born in 1998. The couple revealed in 2000 that the sperm donor was famous folk-rocker David Crosby.
After Etheridge and Cypher split in 2001, Etheridge began dating Tammy Lynn Michaels. Michaels gave birth to twins, girl Johnnie and boy Miller, in 2006. No famous donor this time — or at least not that was identified. Etheridge and Michaels parted ways in 2010 and fought acrimoniously for custody, finally reaching a settlement in May 2012 to share custody. But as recently as this past week, Michaels accused Etheridge of ruining the twins’ Christmas by welching on child support payments. Eeep!
Wanda Sykes, comedian and actor
Wanda Sykes and partner Alex had twins Lucas and Olivia in 2009. Sykes is a proud mama, telling many a funny story about her tykes.
Cat Cora, professional chef
Iron Chef Cat Cora and wife Jennifer have four boys: Zoran, Caje, Thatcher and Nash. The children share the same anonymous sperm donor. From there, things get a little unusual. Both of the women had eggs harvested and fertilized by the donor sperm. Then Cat had Jennifer’s embyro implanted and Jennifer had Cat’s embryo implanted, so that each woman gave birth to her wife’s biological child. That was for Zoran and Caje. Then Jennifer had two eggs implanted, one of her own and one from Cat, which means the couple don’t know for sure who Thatcher’s biological mom is. At the same time Jennifer was pregnant with Thatcher, Cat was pregnant with Nash — the brothers were born just 4 months apart. Phew! Quite a family.
We love our four boys. We are so blessed. Of course, it is a challenge for me to juggle everything and be home as much as possible as well — but it is a rowdy, busy household, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Cynthia Nixon, actor
Cynthia Nixon, best known for playing Miranda Hobbes on the hit show Sex and the City, has been with partner Christine Marinoni since 2004. The couple were married in 2012. Together, they raise Nixon’s two children from her relationship with photographer Danny Mozes, along with a son that Marinoni gave birth to in 2011. Nixon, who identifies as bisexual, has been an outspoken advocate for marriage equality and other queer issues.
On becoming a parent for the third time:
Every kid is different and every kid presents new challenges, but the hardest part is when they are really young and you are sleep deprived. I will say, the more you do it, the more familiar it gets.
Ani DiFranco, musician
Unabashedly bisexual and fiercely independent, Ani DiFranco has been a feminist folk-rock icon to an entire generation of women. She and her husband, producer Mike Napolitano, have a daughter named Petah, who was born in 2007. (OMG, how adorable is that kid?!) In a Sept 2012 interview, the singer-songwriter revealed she and Napolitano are expecting a second child.
On becoming a mom:
The whole thing of becoming a mom is new little things to think about. [The song] “Present/Infant” was an early reflection. She’s squinty and purple and ugly in the way I’m ugly…. This song was a tool I used to whittle away my profound heartbreak. I needed to address my own self-loathing so she knows she’s perfect.
Rosie O’Donnell, actor and talk show host
Rosie O’Donnell has been a vocal activist for gay marriage, LGBT adoptions and children’s issues for well over a decade. With long-time partner Kelli Carpenter, she adopted three children: Parker (born 1995), Chelsea (born 1997) and Blake (born 1999). The couple also have a fourth child, Vivienne, who was born to Carpenter in 2002. The two women started R Family Vacations, a cruise ship company for queer families. O’Donnell and Carpenter broke up in 2007. O’Donnell is now married to Michelle Rounds.
Jodie Foster, actor, director and producer
*sigh* I’ve never seen a bad picture of Jodie Foster. Ever. This woman is just six kinds of beautiful. Intensely private, Foster has never publicly come out, though it’s widely assumed she is gay. In an acceptance speech at a Women in Entertainment event in 2007, Foster thanked “my beautiful Cydney, who sticks with me through the rotten and the bliss,” which many interpreted to be an acknowledgement of her relationship with Cydney Bernard. The two met while filming Sommersby in 1992. Foster is birth mom to two boys — Charles (“Charlie”), born in 1998, and Christopher (“Kit”), born in 2001. Foster, Bernard and the boys were often seen together, further cementing the belief that they were a family. Foster and Bernard broke up in 2008, reportedly because Foster was seeing someone new.
Update Jan 13, 2012: Jodie very clearly acknowledges Cydney as her partner and co-parent in her Golden Globes acceptance speech on Jan 12.
…one of the deepest loves of my life, my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love but righteous soul sister in life, my confessor, ski buddy, consigliere, most beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard. Thank you, Cyd. I am so proud of our modern family. Our amazing sons, Charlie and Kit, who are my reason to breathe and to evolve, my blood and soul.
When Foster’s boys were younger, this is what she had to say on parenting:
Every once in a while I’ll have one of those days when I’ve fed the fish, cleaned 10 poops from the patio, taken the cat to the vet, sewn my son’s karate stars on until my fingers bled, and made sure that he has everything, and he wakes up and goes, ‘Oh, what’s for breakfast?’ He doesn’t know, and why should he? Right? But there’s absolutely no sort of acknowledgment or reward for this — except for the intangible of my kids growing up to be wonderful people.
Jane Lynch, actor
Jane Lynch makes me laugh. Though perhaps best known for her role as Sue Sylvester on TV’s Glee, she also has dozens of other ace comedies to her credit including Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Lynch met her wife, clinical psychologist Lara Embry, at a 2009 fundraiser in San Francisco. A year later, they were married. Lynch is now step-mom to Embry’s daughters, Haden and Chase.
Lynch told the New York Times in 2010 that she never expected to be a parent:
I’m almost 50, and I thought that possibility was behind me, so this is a real delight.
Update July 2013: Jane Lynch and Lara Embry have filed for divorce. There’s been no mention as to whether Jane will have a continued role in the lives of Haden and Chase.
Sheryl Swoopes, pro basketball player
Sheryl Swoopes is a three-time Olympic gold medal winner and the first woman signed to the WNBA when it was formed in 1997. She married her high school sweetheart, a man, in 1995 and the couple had a son together before splitting up in 1999. In 2005, Swoopes went public about her relationship with Houston Comets assistant coach Alisa Scott. The women were together for seven years and raised Swoope’s son, Jordan, together. In July 2011, Swoopes announced she was engaged again, to a man. Backlash in the community was huge, with one commenter calling her a lie-sexual, proving that biphobia is real and persistent.
Sara Gilbert, actor and talk show co-host
Did you know Sara Gilbert is Melissa Gilbert‘s little sister? I’m stunned I didn’t know this, but it’s true. Darlene Conner is Laura Ingalls’ sister. Huh. Anyway, Gilbert (Sara, that is) is also a lesbian mom. She had two kids with partner Allison Adler: Adler gave birth to Levi in 2004 and Gilbert gave birth to Sawyer (a girl) in 2007. Adler and Gilbert broke up in 2011 after 10 years together.
Meredith Baxter, actor
Put your hand up if you had a crush on Meredith Baxter as Family Ties mom Elyse! This hottie mom was married and divorced three times before she started dating women. Now she’s happily settled with building contractor Nancy Locke, her partner of seven years. Baxter told People magazine she was totally open with her five kids about her new identity. “I’m a lesbian mom!” she proudly announced to the world. Her son Peter was thrilled: “I just couldn’t stop smiling because she finally figured it out.”
Sandra Bernhard, comedian
For many, Bernhard might best be remembered as gal pal to Madonna in the 1990s. Though it was widely assumed the pair were lovers, Bernhard has admitted they never slept together. Bernhard has been with her partner, Sara Switzer, for over 10 years. Together they have raised, Cicely, the daughter Bernhard had on her own in 1998.
Becoming a mother used to be the last thing on my mind, but I decided I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. I did it on my own, so I wasn’t worried about being held accountable to somebody else. Having her was more and better than I expected. I really cannot imagine not having done it.