Rainbows Over Flagstaff
The first time that my boyfriend met my stepmother was on the way to her wedding. He had the pizza, I had the iced teas, and we all piled into an SUV headed north from our place in Berkeley, California to Sonoma County to seize the opportunity to marry my mothers while they were in town for vacation—a happy, whirlwind introduction to life with my family. Part of the extended family of “aunties” joined us from Arizona and California for the festivities. In Santa Rosa, California where I was born and my parents first met 18 years before, my parents exchanged vows and rings in the flowered courtyard with the help of a young woman from the county clerk’s office.
My stepmother and other champions of my hometown like to say that we came to Flagstaff for the environment and stay for the people. At the base of a mountain, Flagstaff is a bustling little city with an extraordinary community. The high desert mountain air is dry and crisp, the sky bright blue most of the year, and the Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks dominate the skyline. But what really holds on to you are the people building life on the edge of the Colorado Plateau.
With my family, though, you first encounter the people—and then you notice the social and legal landscape of our lives. We are a family that nurtures and delights in our community. What matters most is doing good work that makes the world a little better. We savor sharing good food and wine with friends, and, while visiting home, a full view of the Peaks. We love walking in the woods and then watching the summer storms gather. My mothers find and hold on to good people to take on the tough work of local leadership. We celebrate with the moments and accomplishments of our friends and neighbors while scheming about what comes next, and work hard to keep struggling neighbor kids in school or to help create other options. And each day, my mothers work to build and protect the physical and social infrastructure and natural environment that holds the Flagstaff community.
My family has gone about living full, energetic lives driven by the people, places, and activities that we love. And in the process, we have been part of path breaking changes that have reconfigured the place of same-sex relationships in our society. In the mid-1980s, my mother joined an early wave of lesbian women seeking children to conceive me using sperm from an anonymous donor at the California Cryobank. In 2008, my parents were married by the Sonoma County clerk’s office during the five months between a California Supreme Court ruling striking down that state’s ban on same-sex marriage and the passage of a new constitutional amendment (Proposition 8), among a few lucky couples able to have their marriage recognized in the California before same-sex marriage was ultimately legalized there through the federal courts. And in 2014, 24 years after my mothers created our family, their home State of Arizona finally recognized their marriage.
Growing up with two mothers means that I have a dossier of information about my sperm donor. It means filling in the mandatory “FATHER’S FIRST/MIDDLE/LAST NAME” lines on paperwork like the FAFSA with “ANONYMOUS/SPERM/DONOR.” It means that fighting for marriage equality and standing on the steps of the Cambridge City Hall at midnight on May 17, 2004 as the first marriages began in Massachusetts held special resonance for me at 18 years old. It means two years working the halls of the Massachusetts State House and the doorsteps of voters with MassEquality and the Freedom to Marriage Coalition to protect the right of all families to be recognized by the law.
The journey we have taken through critical legal and social changes of our time are very much part of what it means to have two mothers. But most importantly, having two mothers means a whole lot of love, adventure, and community.