My Big Fat Gay Jewish Family

By way of, I
came across this interesting post titled “My Big Fat Gay Jewish
Family” by Caryn Aviv on

I will never forget the day I was propositioned
to become a gay co-parent. I was 32 and had already been thinking
about the baby question, but was still single and fuzzy on the
details. So when David gingerly popped the question, “Would you be
interested in having a kid with me and Gregg?” I thought the earth
was moving underneath my car as we drove through the Castro
district in San Francisco.

David and I met a few years earlier at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav,
the local gay and lesbian synagogue. I had recently arrived in town
to start a new chapter in life after finishing research in
Jerusalem for a Ph.D. Newly out of the closet and eager to connect
with the gay Jewish community, I signed up as a part-time Hebrew
school teacher. David had returned from his graduate school
research in Moscow with his husband Gregg, to resume his post as
head of the synagogue’s school. We hit it off immediately, so much
so that we started writing the first of our three books

Two years later, my would-be gay dads had moved to Denver for
David’s teaching gig at a university. I was still living in San
Francisco, and we were still talking about co-parenting. But now
the weekly conversations became complicated by distance. How would
an overeducated, nice Jewish girl from Chicago make such a
life-altering decision? I decided to develop a Powerpoint
presentation analyzing all the pros and cons of all the various

Did I want to be a single lesbian mom by choice in San Francisco
and have either David or Gregg act as the sperm donor and “special
uncle?” Certainly not, given Bay Area real estate prices, and no
viable partner on the horizon to help with diapers and a mortgage.
Did I want to act as a surrogate for David and Gregg to have and
raise a baby in Denver? That idea seemed even more unappealing. If
I moved to Denver, would I ever find a suitable girlfriend, instead
of the revolving door of Jewish recovering alcoholics and
emotionally needy cat-lovers I had been dating in San Francisco?
Could I consider living in a state without a Trader Joe’s? Clearly,
the stakes were higher than I thought.

I spent a year exploring a move to Denver. It was a gamble to leave
behind a well-paying job, my beloved city, and a seemingly endless
supply of inappropriate lesbian dating choices. I reasoned that we
would either figure it out or not, and if the whole plan didn’t
work, I could always move back to California and learn to love

While debating a move, I put my research skills to work. From my
contacts at the synagogue, I interviewed lesbian moms and gay dads
who were doing this already. “Just make sure you have all your
agreements in writing in case people split up!” intoned one solemn
lesbian mom who was battling her ex-wife in court. “Try to find a
duplex to make daily logistics easier,” advised a happy gay dad who
lived with his partner next to his lesbian co-parent and kid in the

Fast forward another year. I moved to Denver, and rented an attic
owned by a lovely gay couple who applauded my moxie and family
plans. David and Gregg and I began to spend a lot of time together,
essentially weaving ourselves into a family even without the
presence of a kid. After six months of intense conversation, we
decided to seal the deal, with a contract, of course.

We had worked through all the usual things that straight couples
negotiate (except the sex), like values, money, and which families
we’d visit for Rosh Hashanah and Passover. We also considered our
legal options, given that Colorado law doesn’t really know how to
handle a family with three parents. I think we all felt giddy about
the prospect of trying to get pregnant, and our plan was to start
inseminating at the beginning of the school year. All our parents
began buying baby clothes as soon as they heard the news. Life was
ripe with possibility.

On our second try, a great miracle happened. I got pregnant. Who
knew it would be so easy? In retrospect, I wouldn’t have chosen to
experience the insomnia and hormonal lunacy of pregnancy as a
single person. But in a sense, I wasn’t really single. I had the
support of not one, but two excited future dads who watched with
fascination and awe at the growing blob in my belly that waved and
gurgled on the ultrasound machine at the OB’s office. Nine months
later, I showed up at the hospital with my birth ball, doula, and
two dads. The nurses didn’t know what to make of us, but I was too
engrossed by the crazy things that were happening to my body to
care much by that point. And even though I don’t consider myself
religious, the first words out of my mouth after our daughter Sasha
arrived were “Baruch Hashem!” (Blessed is God!)

Fast forward another two years. It’s been almost a decade since I
first met my gay dads. We often simply watch with delight as our
daughter Sasha happily runs around after David and Gregg’s two
dogs. It gives me indescribable pleasure to watch Sasha laugh,
dance to Shir-La-La (outrageously hip Jewish kiddie rock), and get
excited at the prospect of lighting candles for Shabbat.

Many straight folks, when they hear about my family, earnestly ask
me how we do it. I often get questions like, “Does Sasha get
confused about who her parents are?”

I’ve learned to answer these questions graciously, reminding myself
that it’s a learning opportunity for people to expand their
understanding of the word “family.” In other words, I have lots of
chances to act as a poster child for the gay rights/gay family
movement, and I take that responsibility seriously. Here’s what I
tell people: “Think of a divorced family in two houses, except in
our case, there’s no acrimony, just lots and lots of love.” Their
eyes light up with this analogy, but in many ways, the shorthand is
completely wrong.

Unlike divorced families, we intentionally created this family
structure, without any legal recognition, and without any of the
rupture and pain that often accompanies divorce. Clearly, we need
to find better and more illuminating explanations. But perhaps it
would be better if we gay folks simply stopped relying on straight
analogies altogether to describe our families.

I know that this kind of co-parenting isn’t for everyone. And I
know that some people reading this will probably cringe out of fear
for our child’s future and bemoan what is happening to the Jewish
people. That’s okay.

What I do know is that for me, my gay dads, and hopefully for our
daughter Sasha, the big fat gay Jewish family we’ve chosen to
create makes perfect sense. And at the end of the day, that’s all
that matters.

Caryn Aviv is a lecturer at the University of Denver and the
author of ‘New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora’