10 Books Every LGBT Parent Should Read

(Originally published with slight variation as my Mombian newspaper column.)

Books about LGBT parenting are few and far between, but here are ten that I recommend for all LGBT parents and prospective parents. I chose works that each showcase a variety of voices, rather than single-person memoirs, so each one would resonate as widely as possible. I also chose books that focus on the emotional side of parenting rather than medical and legal how-to works, since the latter tend to be specific to particular segments of the LGBT community.

I hope these selections, taken together, will help us better understand our collective, yet diverse, experience of being LGBT parents.

Feel free to add further suggestions in the comments.

First, five essay collections:

Who’s Your Daddy?: And Other Writings on Queer Parenting, ed. by Rachel Epstein, embraces the full sweep of the LGBT spectrum with insight and compassion. The writers discuss topics such as single parenting, infertility, co-parenting with a sperm donor, butch identity, going to a fertility clinic as a transgender man, whether to disclose bisexuality during a foster parenting interview, what it means to “parent queerly,” and much more.

Love Makes a Family, ed. by Peggy Gillespie, with photos by Gigi Kaeser, compiles images, essays, and statements of LGBT parents and their children, across various family structures, races, and ethnicities. The book wears its dozen years well, although the resource guide is outdated.

And Baby Makes More, ed. Susan Goldberg and Chloe Brushwood Rose, includes essays by parents who have used a known sperm or egg donor, those who have themselves donated or been surrogates, and the children created by these acts. They explore the challenges and benefits of including donors (and oftentimes, their partners and relatives) as part of the family, the importance (or not) of biological connections, and the need for new language to indicate the web of family relationships.

Confessions of the Other Mother: Non-Biological Lesbian Moms Tell All, ed. Harlyn Aizley, chronicles the challenges of not having biological ties to all or some of the children one is raising with the biological mother. Although focused on lesbian parents, it should appeal to non-biological parents across the spectrum. The authors discuss their emotions as their partners conceived (sometimes after the authors had attempted to do the same), how they have worked to define their parenting roles, both for themselves and for the world at large, and how they have confronted an often hostile legal system.

Gay Dads: A Celebration of Fatherhood, by David Strah with Susanna Margolis, and photos by Kris Timken, includes profiles of more than 20 families headed by gay dads. Although again focused on only one segment of the LGBT community, I include it here to balance the lesbian-heavy emphasis (whether intentional or statistical) of many of the other books.

Next, three books from the perspectives of youth and adults with LGBT parents—aimed primarily at that group, but invaluable for us parents as well:

Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is, by Abigail Garner, pulls together stories and anecdotes from dozens of adults with LGBT parents (the full spectrum, despite the title), covering topics such as dealing with a parent’s coming out, coming out about one’s family to friends, and being a “second-generation” LGBT person with LGBT parents.

Let’s Get This Straight: The Ultimate Handbook for Youth with LGBTQ Parents, by Tina Fakhrid-Deen, covers some of the same ground as Families Like Mine, but for a younger audience—tweens and teens. It draws on interviews with dozens of youth and adults to offer advice, but also includes quizzes and journaling activities to help youth assess their own feelings and school climates, and to begin telling their own stories. If you have kids in the target age range, read this yourself, then give it to them.

The Kids of Trans Resource Guide, by Monica Canfield-Lenfest, is likewise aimed at tweens and teens, but focuses on those with transgender parents, an area where Fakhrid-Deen is light. Canfield-Lenfest provides succinct advice (again, based on extensive interviews) on matters such as what to expect when a parent transitions, what to call them, how to come out about having a transgender parent, and more. An additional piece has “Transition Tips for Parents” to make the process easier for everyone in the family. Available for free download at colage.org.

And two more to round out the list:

Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Research on the Family Life Cycle, by Abbie Goldberg, is a more academic work, but worth the effort for those interested in what legitimate social scientists have found out about our families. Goldberg, an assistant professor of psychology at Clark University, has synthesized decades of research by herself and others, concluding that children of lesbian and gay parents “are developing normally.” Some studies have even found that lesbian and gay parents are more involved with or responsive to their children, and the children may be more accepting of differences in others. Goldberg incorporates the little research that exists on transgender and bisexual parents and their children, but notes that further studies need to be done.

Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families—and America, by Adam Pertman, is LGBT-inclusive but not LGBT-specific. It chronicles the struggle of adoptive parents and their children over the last decades for greater acceptance, openness, and a broader definition of family. This is a must-read for adoptive parents, potential parents, and adults who were adopted as children—but I recommend it for all LGBT parents because of the parallels between our challenges and those of even non-LGBT adoptive parents. May it inspire us to build bridges.

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