Introduction
the questionnaire seemed to go on forever. Renee looked
around at the other patients who had come to San Mateo Fertility Associ-
ates and wondered who they were. Was she the only lesbian here? Her
friends Jan and Marilyn had told her that lots of lesbians used the doctors at
this clinic. Renee and her partner had spent the last month going through
the donor catalog and had arranged to have three vials of sperm shipped to
this o≈ce. Renee refocused on the form: she knew the date of her last
menstrual cycle, but was it diabetes that had killed her uncle? As she waited,
she tried to focus on the baby she was so eager to conceive.
Renee is a lesbian in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California. Hers is the
story of a significant cultural group, one with its own fascinating history,
assumptions, mores, ethics, practices: she is part of a large population of
lesbians who are bearing and/or raising children. Lesbian identifications
have to some extent shifted, one is told, from flannel and softball to strollers
and day care. In the United States an estimated 1.5 to 5 million lesbian
mothers reside with their children (Hequembourg and Farrell 1999).
Despite these numbers, the research literature is relatively silent on how
lesbians (or gay men) go about reproducing and forming families. How do
lesbian women negotiate their paths to motherhood? How do they concep-
tualize family? How do they go about conceiving children? What kinds of
medical assistance do they seek? What other routes do they take to building
a family? As K. R. Allen and D. H. Demo noted, ‘‘Where these families have
been studied, they have been problematized and their diversity has been
overlooked’’ (1995, 11). While researchers have begun to fill this gap, much
more remains to be known, especially in the realm of ‘‘chosen families.’’
Renee’s story is about cultural change, about the ways that feminism in
general, and lesbian feminism in particular, has influenced the contempo-
rary culture(s) of lesbian lives; once geared to resist dominant culture,
lesbian feminism now appears to embrace parenthood and all the tropes of
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