The Queer Tax on LGBTQ+ Women Who Partner With Women

When Jaime was 44, we fell hard for each other. We had been working on queer youth projects together over 10 years and in the middle of our second date, we decided to have a child. We know the cliché — lesbians usually bring a U-Haul to the second date. Amazingly, masculine-identified, gender non-binary M’Bwende brought a bassinet.

So, in a few short months, we took a massive leap of faith that many people in love take: we got pregnant with the help of some great fertility choreography. M’Bwende’s 35-year-old eggs, Jaime’s 45-year-old womb, and sperm from a 49-year-old gay male beloved who had sired Jaime’s then 6-year-old son.

In 2006, we felt nothing but grateful for this option. When Jaime came out in 1984, lesbians could not even access sperm at a sperm bank — only heterosexual, married women “qualified.” Our family’s reproductive journey to our daughter ultimately took nearly a year of overstimulating egg production, retrieval, implantation, one failed attempt, and $40,000, which we financed by taking out a loan on M’Bwende’s house.

A recent lawsuit against Aetna insurance company for discriminating against LGBTQ women in fertility coverage has brought this all back to us in technicolor. In our family, it’s gone like this: the miracle baby is in her first year of high school; our romantic partnership long ago ended; our parenting partnership is solid; and M’Bwende lost their house to the predatory loan undertaken to bring our daughter into being.

There’s been so much more hemorrhaging of cash and dignity along the way — the work and cost of “adding” one of us to our daughter’s birth certificate, inability to access health insurance during the many years when only one of us was on the birth certificate, one of us has been fired twice for being “too activist” (actual quote), one has navigated unemployment and underemployed due to racism and their gender presentation, one of us has suffered outrageous police harassment, one has endured humiliation at various agencies for not being our daughter’s “legal” parent… the list goes on and on.

Today, Jaime is part of a team of veteran LGBTQ+ activists that has created a new National LGBTQ+ Women’s Community Survey to capture all of the blood, sweat, tears and lost assets that come when LGBTQ+ women form and grow our families. How do sexism, racism, and anti-LGBTQ animus impact families headed by lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, intersex, and/or transgender women? What do masculine spectrum people who identified as or were perceived to be women have to tell us about their experiences in relationships with women who partner with women? How do LGBTQ+ women and their families thrive, regardless? What are our brilliant adaptations and forms of resistance? We want to know!

It is thrilling to finally have this place to tell our stories. The larger world needs to see us, and all we have been forced to endure to make our amazing lives work. Policy makers, corporations, and movement organizations need to wake up to our realities and change laws and priorities. We want equity and justice for all of us. The LGBTQ+ National Women’s Community Survey is over 100 questions long and yet it will ultimately only scratch the surface of the complexity of our struggles. Six thousand people who formerly or currently identify as an LGBTQ+ women have already taken the survey. We plan to be the largest repository on data by, for and about LGBTQ+ women in the world. Come join us.

M’Bwende Anderson is an organizer/activist with various nonprofit, NGO, and government agencies. Dr. Jaime M. Grant, author of Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, and Great Sex: Mapping Your Desire, is an equity expert, researcher and trainer.