a bite-sized q&a with lesbian couple Becky & Alexan Blanco
A friend and I used to joke about writing a book called If, When, and How Many Kids: A Guide for People Who Get to Decide. I was still childfree. She was a mother of one (and done.) And, sometimes, when parent-loving people would ask us why, (why not kids? why not more?) we’d reply, Well, why did you decide on children? And, sometimes, it was as if we had asked, Well, why is the sky bathed in blue? It just was. We just did.
Which seems to me one of the baked-in gifts of same-sex couples like Becky and Alexan: they genuinely (if not sometimes painstakingly) get to decide the question of children. “It’s not like there will be accidents,” Becky quips. It’s hard not to romanticize this ability to shape one’s reproductive relationship by design rather than default. This fidelity to the questions rather than assumptions.
Do we even want children? If so, will we do the biological parenting thing? The totally awesome auntie thing? Which one of us will carry and whose sperm will we use and why does it feel like it matters—to us, yes, but also to the nosy stranger, too? What will the hypothetical kids call us? Who will we celebrate on Mother’s Day? or Father’s Day? How does this all really work?!?
This time two years ago, I got to interview then fiancées Becky and Alexan for the actual book I ended up writing. We flicked mosquitos off our forearms on my back porch, Becky in a loose Black Lives Matter t-shirt, Alexan in cool shortalls and wire-framed glasses. We were still new friends then, and I found them totally charming and earnest and hilarious. (When I took a bathroom break, they took the opportunity to talk fake shit about me on the recording.) Two months later, they would elope.
So, in this month’s Q&A from the Someone Other Than a Mother cutting room floor, you’ll hear more from Becky and Alexan on how they were thinking about to parent or not to parent, why having a biological child might be both out of reach and mean more, and the lonely and thrilling work of redefining womanhood.
This is what I love about their story: it reminds me of the lonely and thrilling work of us all, the work of adulthood: to know the joy and limits of writing our own story, within some bigger stories. To choose to see cotton-candy skies.
Erin Lane: OK. You’re engaged (at the time of this interview). What are the conversations around to parent or not to parent?
Alexan Blanco: We've gone back and forth a lot on this question. Both of us love kids. Both of us love the idea of having our own kids. But, honestly? The big conversation is whether we can afford kids. And not just the financials of paying for kids but, like, physically being able to conceive a kid. Also, we kind of like our life now.
Becky Blanco: Yeah. For me, I’m such a weird all or nothing kind of person. So I think of either having a whole football team of kids or just being this old lesbian couple with no kids and being able to do whatever we want. That sounds selfishly fabulous. I don't know what sounds practical or doable or right. It all sounds fun.
Erin: Oh, I love that approach. It all sounds selfishly fabulous and completely divine to me. Did you always approach the idea of parenthood this way?
Becky: My philosophy around parenting—and the purpose of sex—has changed as I’ve sexually matured. I grew up in Miami, the daughter of Cuban immigrants with a conservative Christian mindset. So I thought the truest form of sex was to conceive. That that was the best way to have sex which, as it comes out of my mouth, just sounds so self righteous, like, I'm like holding this flag on a hill and I'm like, yes, I will perform sex valiantly. Like, how weird is that? In my mind, I’m like Joan of Arc. But why am I the only one there?!? There should be some sort of husband!
Erin: Wait, you had a self-fertilization fantasy?
Alexan: Or were you thinking more like the Virgin Mary?
Becky: No, no, no, sorry. A big part of my story is that I was married to a man for two years and not using birth control because God was supposed to decide when we had kids. Eventually, it became crystal clear that my sexuality was not something that was going to go away. It wasn’t something that I could hope at, like, the age of fifty-two wouldn’t be there anymore. But that was the plan. I was planning on having kids or grandkids or whatever and just not accepting myself fully.
So, yeah, parenting has weird origins for me that I’m still trying to figure out.
Erin: That sounds painful. And also miraculous that you were able to rewrite the ending to your own story. What about you Alexan?
Alexan: All of the older women in my family are single—by divorce or death or circumstance. So I feel like I've always had both a weird and cool relationship with the matriarchy. But I've also seen divorce tear families apart and kids get lost in the mix—me being one of them. Even so, motherhood was still always something that was expected.
I think I expected it for myself, too. I was already a little mom at age five. My mom worked overnight. My stepdad worked 12 hour-shifts in the daytime. So I was constantly taking care of my brothers, constantly taking them to school, feeding them, helping with homework, all of that. So I feel like I've done it, you know? And I’m really good at it.
But I also want to appease everybody. So, when I hear someone say, Oh, you’d make a great mom, it makes me think, Oh no, I have to do that.
Erin: So, how do your gender identities bear on your parental imagination now? I’ve read research that shows that the less traditional views of gender you hold, the less likely you are to become a parent.
Becky: I remember when I was younger, maybe nine-years-old or something, my sister was getting ready for prom and my mom said something to me like, “Oh, isn’t it great that we [women] are the ones that get to wear makeup and we are the ones that get to have kids?” But Little Becky just wanted to play and be sweaty and be silly and do all the things that little girls weren't supposed to do.
Erin: So being a woman was not a selling point?
Becky: I thought girls were such basic bitches! But these days I’ve been revitalized thinking about the idea that I get to pioneer the course of what a woman looks like for me. And I don't have to be a woman the way nearly anybody else thinks a woman should behave or act. I get to be a strong, badass woman, doing my thing to make good in this world and bring heaven on earth and love really hard and make mistakes really hard and live very publicly and very out and very honestly, as much as I can. And none of that is about children—which is bizarre given my upbringing.
Erin: We get to shape the course of what a woman looks like. That’s the work and the wonder, huh?
Becky: You know—you didn’t really ask us this—but I also want to say that as a lesbian couple we get bombarded with questions that no straight couple would ever get asked. Like, I remember we were ring shopping recently, and the lady said, Oh my gosh, which of you is thinking about carrying the child?
Erin: Wow. How do you respond?
Becky: I always say, We've been trying for a while but we’re not pregnant yet! That’s my go-to. We keep on trying, but so far…
Becky: Yeah, it's not okay to put your assumptions on me about what a woman is—and that is so tied to being a mother. It’s assumed that we’ll have kids, that that’s the obvious next step. You get a ring. You get married. You have kids.
I’m a pretty open and forward person. So for me to be offended that somebody’s prying is pretty rare. But I think it's the idea that I felt very “othered” in that moment. And I can't imagine she would have asked that question to the other ten couples she helped that day.
It was a way for her to feel like she had planned our future family with us. But she hadn’t earned the right to ask that question.
Erin: Do you mind me asking, then, what have the conversations around family planning looked like?
Becky: Two Father's Days ago, I remember texting my brother and being like, Okay, you don’t have kids, but would you ever consider being a sperm donor? And him being like, Oh my gosh, I'm crying right now. Like, yes, a 1000 times yes. We [he and his wife] would love to do that. We have a buddy of ours, who's a sperm donor for his sister and the kids call him Tio Papi, like Uncle Pops.
And I remember when he said yes just like putting down the phone weeping because the idea that my kids could have my DNA was really soft. I mean, who gives a fuck what DNA your kids have right? But, for me, it was the validation that I needed that my parents could actually have biological grandkids and could never say Alexan wasn’t a part of the family.
Which, I know, is a lot to put on hypothetical kids.
Erin: And completely understandable. Have you talked about what those hypothetical kids might call you? I am very into the jubilance of Tio Papi.
Becky: Oh, yeah, we’ve talked about, like, if you’re Mom, am I Mama? Is that weird? I don’t know! Or, like, how do you do Father's Day? Does one of us get Father's Day so that we each get our own day? I don’t know. I’m still so stuck on how all this really works. Like, is there a Mommy and Me group for lesbians?
Alexan: Honestly, we would love to find another couple that we can emulate, a couple who knows what we’re going through, who we can have dinner with or whatever. Like, we love you and Rush. We love (our friends) Kellay and Reese. But we just haven't found a couple—or even a book—that we can relate with. So that also obviously informs our conversations about parenthood.
Erin: The discernment sounds like sometimes lonely and also thrilling work.
Alexan: You know, as much as I think I have the personality to be a great mom and I feel like I’d like having kids, the reality is that Becky works with kids [at a local church] and I'm going into a profession [social work] where I'm going to end up taking a lot of shit home. I just can't imagine also putting that stress on kids. Sometimes I feel like I know too much about where we are as a society and how things are going to want kids.
Becky: When we knew that we were going to get married, it was assumed that we would have kids. I feel like not till later—not till COVID—did I start saying out loud to Alexan, Hmmm, maybe I'm okay not having a kid. Is that horrible? I don't know if that's forever or just right now but I just need you to know that, okay? And then Alexan was like, Okay. Maybe me too. Okay. We don't have to. I think that's the interesting part about our relationship. It's not going to surprise us. So we get to have that conversation. And we get to genuinely decide when we feel like the time is right.
Erin: Daaaang. Getting to genuinely decide the question of kids is something I wish more heterosexual couples had the means and the moxie to consider.
P.S. Want to celebrate Becky and Alexan for doing the work and sharing their stories? If so, consider joining them in supporting their favorite local organizations: Equality NC and the LGBTQ Center of Raleigh.
P.P.S. I haven’t read it myself but have heard good things about Modern Kinship: A Queer Guide to Christian Marriage by David & Constantino Khalaf. And, if you’re looking for something theological about the queer ways of Jesus, my favorite is Dale Martin’s Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation.
P.P.P.S. Are you genuinely deciding the question of if, when, and how many kids? I’d love to know what questions you’re asking, truths you’re testing, mentors you’re emulating. It’s vexing, glorious work. Keep going.