“Mya and Her Moms” is a 10-week video series from CafeMom Studios featuring Florida lesbian moms Lisa and Laura and their eight-year-old daughter Mya. The videos give us a charming look at a lovely family—and the positive depiction of an LGBT family on a mainstream parenting site always has tremendous value. The way the site is positioning the videos, however, is a bit problematic.
The videos themselves are a wonderful look at the family, showing not only their daily activities, but also the things that are unique to LGBT-headed families, like coming out stories and having to do a second-parent adoption for the nonbiological parent.
I also like that it is not until nearly five minutes into the first video that we find out how they created their family. Too many profiles of LGBT families lead with this, as if it is the most important fact about us. Truth is, our family creation often makes for a good story, but it is seldom the defining part of our ongoing lives. CafeMom gets points for their handling of this.
My concern is with some of the framing of the series. The publicist’s e-mail about the show said, “Together, Mya and her parents make up a happy and normal family.” I understand the point she is trying to make: that lesbian moms are as good as anyone else at raising kids. That’s not a bad thing. At the same time, I cringe a little at terms like “normal.” What is “normal”? Are all “normal” families White, suburban, middle-class, two-parent families, like Laura and Lisa’s?
Well, no. Not the population as a whole, and not LGBT families in particular. The latest findings from that fount of LGBT demographic wisdom, UCLA’s Williams Institute, “debunk popular misconceptions about parenting among same-sex couples, particularly that those raising children are predominantly white, urban and wealthy.” (For more on poverty in the LGBT community, see this Williams article.)
And with over one-third of children in the U.S. living with a single parent, two-parent families, while still a majority, have less of a claim to ”normal.”
Not only that, but the descriptive blurb on the show’s site says:
Mya is, in many ways, a typical 8-year-old girl. She takes piano lessons, loves to read, and enjoys the girl scouts. She has two parents who love her and want the best for her. What’s not so typical, is that both her parents are moms. Take a peek into the daily lives of Lisa, Laura and their daughter Mya, and see if you can spot the differences between this family and any other.
While Mya seems happy and well adjusted, I dislike applying the term “typical” to anyone. Do all (or even most) eight-year-old girls take music lessons, love to read, and enjoy Girl Scouts? Of course not—but if Mya is “typical,” does that make those who are unlike her “not typical”? There’s a fine line between “not typical” and “not normal,” and then a fast slope down to “something wrong with.”
But I’m a lesbian who doesn’t play softball, so maybe I just have a thing against the word “typical.”
I’m also scratching my head over the line, ”see if you can spot the differences between this family and any other.” Assuming they know viewers will quickly spot the fact that there are two moms here, are they asking them to take a more careful look at the differences, like the fact that one mom had to petition for legal rights? Or are they asking the question like a challenge, because they believe there really aren’t any differences to spot?
If the former, that’s all well and good. If the latter (as I suspect, based on what the videos emphasize), then they’re glossing over the fact that some families are poor, or wealthy, or are families of color, or multiracial families, or have a member who is differently abled, or have multiple children, or have only one parent, or have a grandparent living with them, or don’t have a dog, or. . . .
Perhaps they really mean “see if you can spot the differences in love and affection between this family and any other” (assuming we exclude outliers like abusive parents). That would make sense, and if it’s what they meant, it’s commendable. A little clarity on the point, however, would reduce the risk of flattening out the varied texture of family differences and perpetuating the myth that all lesbian and gay parents are White, middle class, and coupled, and that that defines “normal.”
The bottom line is that these are very well done videos, and well worth watching, despite some unintentionally dubious framing by the marketing folks. CafeMom is to be commended for creating them, and for their support of lesbian moms. I hope the videos show viewers what life is like for this one lesbian family and help them realize that children can thrive with lesbian parents. Perhaps they will even inspire some of their lesbian viewers to start families of their own. Laura, Lisa, and Mya deserve our thanks for letting us have a glimpse into their lives.
We all need to be careful, though, that in our drive to spread acceptance of LGBT families we don’t create a “normal” that excludes vast stretches of our community. After all, if we aren’t going to champion diversity, who is?
There are five episodes that have aired so far, with new ones appearing each Wednesday. Watch below.