This is a safe space for us to better understand the LGBTQ family experience by reading, writing and sharing letters.


To all the Melanies,

I came from a sperm bank, well I came from a vagina, but first I came from a sperm bank. That’s not generally my opener, but we need to make it clear. My moms discovered their sexuality long before I came along in 1992. When I was three, they separated. Gay marriage had not been legalized up to this point, so there was no divorce process involved. However, my mama, Sharon, she gave birth to me, and she wanted full custody of me. My other mom, Sylvia, worked tirelessly to pay for my existence and Sharon’s pregnancy care; she loved me, and I was her child no matter what. They went to court, and Sylvia became one of the first lesbian parents in the state of Texas to receive shared custody of a child that was not biologically hers. In some cases, this still doesn’t always happen, particularly in cases with gay and lesbian parents, regardless of how involved the parent is in their child’s life.

“Who do you want to live with?”

Flash forward seven years or so, and I’m being given more power than a ten year old should ever be given. I remember sitting in a fancy chair in front of the judge asking me this question. I thought to myself, “Well mom (Sylvia) has taken me to see ‘George of the Jungle’ like five times this month, but mama (Sharon) sings ‘you are my sunshine’ to me every night before I fall asleep.” I stared at the judge for a long time. I think even at ten years old I knew that this wasn’t a choice for a child to make, and it seemed pretty obvious to me (AT TEN YEARS OLD) that both of these women cared so much about me. I didn’t understand why I had to choose one. The visitation arrangement had originally had a time limitation, and that time was up; I was now meant to choose.

Don’t get me wrong, separations are gritty and messy, I don’t blame either of my parents for the choices they made. While both of them unconditionally love me, neither of them are perfect. Sylvia is a low key survivalist, and she is fully prepared to live off the grid if the world ever ends. Sharon has just the right amount of narcissism blended with her genuine soul to be in her position of leadership. I often remind myself of their strength to be open about their sexuality throughout their personal lives as well as their careers. I witnessed the trials they faced in their relentless pursuit to be who they are, and I didn’t realize as a child that I was watching them continue to grow and become comfortable with who they are in their own personhood. The South in the 90s was still not warmed up to the idea of same-sex love. While my moms tried to shield me from the discrimination and scrutiny, as an intuitive child, I still sensed it. One of my most vivid childhood memories is my mama Sharon coming home after finding out she had been passed over for a job promotion she rightfully deserved. She had the most qualifications and the most experience. A man was given the job because he grossly misrepresented his accreditations. I remember my mom brought me home from school, and she was quieter than she usually was. She went to her bedroom, laid down, and closed her eyes. I knew that something was wrong, but also that she needed this time. A couple of hours later, she got up, checked on me, and helped with dinner as if nothing had happened. That was one of my first lessons in never giving up. I tear up thinking about it now. Not only was she denied this job as a woman, but as a gay woman in a society that was hell-bent on not accepting her despite the time and effort she devoted to her career.

I didn’t realize I was a part of history in my unwillingness to choose a mom. I think that while Sharon wanted full custody of me to help make her life easier, the result of the trial was still a validation towards the fully undeniable capacity of lesbians to raise healthy, beautiful children. Of course, at the time, the jury was reminded to consider the facts of the case, not the “sinful nature” of the women involved. The judge reminded the jury that regardless of what they decided I would be living with lesbians. It’s funny to look back on that, as if having women who were with caring partners would somehow ruin my psyche or childhood. In the end, my mom, Sylvia still maintained shared custody of me. This technically only applied up until I was eighteen, but she’s still my mom now, and she always will be. The irony is that the only thing that even slightly confused me were the Melanies.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t until I was around thirteen years old when I realized that when parents divorce or separate they don’t always then begin relationships with women named Melanie. These were two different Melanies, and they both loved me almost as much as my moms do. Sylvia’s Melanie was a mom herself. She has two beautiful daughters, and I enjoyed playing with them as a kid. Melanie was always finding creative crafts and cooking us delicious meals. She gave the best advice, and she was always interested in the drama at my school. She’s still alive, but I speak in the past tense because her and my mom Sylvia separated when I was a teenager. Her impression on my childhood was so impactful, and I hope that one day I’ll be as cool as she was as a mom.

Sharon’s Melanie didn’t have any other children. I won’t lie, I think that I was a bit of an imposition in her life. I was child who was obsessed with the Disney channel, and I was a moody and angsty teenager who wanted to spend all of my time on the computer. Still, she tried. She taught me how to make delicious meals, and she often helped me get out of trouble when I made mistakes. She passed away in 2009, and my mama and I are listed in her obituary as “close friends.” In 2009, I didn’t know any better. In 2019, I know that what my mama and Melanie had was much more than friendship. I was sad when I realized that in writing this article, but then I realized that obituaries are just constructed, fake narratives of what others wanted us to be. Melanie was so much more than what was in her obituary, and if she had written it herself, it would have included much more profanity. Melanie and Sharon took me to my first protest which was at a Synagogue in Dallas against the Westboro Baptist Church. The idea that hatred should not be tolerated has always been ingrained in me.

My moms, the Melanies, and the partners my parents have had since then have taught me so much about life. Generally, these lessons mostly begin with showing love to others. When I was kid, my parents took me to a Queer friendly church called the Metropolitan Community Church. Even as I got older, I would often visit this church and recommend it to Queer youth I encountered because it’s simply a place of acceptance. As a teenager, one sermon in particular always stuck out to me. Our pastor said: “Fear is the absence of love.” Now, I have a huge tattoo on my back that says “Fearless.” It’s meaning always changes for me, personally, but it’s symbolism of devotion to unconditional love is something that I will always attribute to my parents; my moms.




Shannon Baughman

And Then She Wasn't There

And Then She Wasn't There