This is Jen Goldberg's first Mother's Day since she and her partner of 21 years separated, and they're recreating their traditions. Although the two women live apart now, they will sleep under the same roof on Mother's Day eve so their kids can bring them both morning coffee.
"These are things that we can do in our queer community that aren't necessarily normative, but it's perfectly fine to be at my ex-partner's house and sleep over with my children so we can celebrate Mother's Day together," Goldberg, a midwife from Toronto, told HuffPost Canada.
Creative thinking comes more easily because "we're just already thinking differently about kinships, and relationships, and family," she added.
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Mother's Day can bring bubble baths, coffee in bed, and pedicures. It can also bring complex dynamics, cis and heteronormative Hallmark cards, and assumptions about family structures — especially for sexual and gender minorities.
Here are some ways — other than scented candles — to celebrate and support LGBTQ2 parents this Mother's Day.
Appreciate the diversity that exists within the LGBTQ2 community
LGBTQ2 families often have a more nuanced journey to Mother's Day, in part due to the sheer diversity in the community, which is often invisibilized.
"I tried Mother's Day our first year of being parents," Kent Chan-Kusalik of New Westminster, B.C., told HuffPost Canada. "It was neat, and I felt cared for, but it didn't really feel right."
Chan-Kusalik is a gender non-binary parent who uses they/them pronouns — their wife is transgender, and uses she/her and they/ them pronouns. The couple is working to create traditions that fit their family and help each parent feel honoured. That said, families such as Chan-Kusalik's often get erased — so, checking assumptions would be a great gift this year.
"Sometimes, parenting is so heteronormative, but it can also be homonormative," Goldberg said.
People might see two female-presenting parents, for instance, and assume they're lesbians. But there are so many other invisible identities and orientations: One or both partners could be bisexual or pansexual, and gender presentation does not always match gender identity or assignment at birth.
Goldberg emphasized that inclusion "doesn't mean we have to push other people away. There is enough room to be included."
Acknowledge that Mother's Day can be complex
"Before I had kids, Mother's Day was simply a day I celebrated my mom," Alaina Shadlock of Calgary told HuffPost Canada. "And now it's actually a complex day, because we have two moms in our family."
When considering how LGBTQ2 parents might like to be celebrated, she said: "I think for me it goes deeper than what do I want allies to say or do on one specific day." Shadlock and her wife were pregnant at the same time, so their kids are one month apart, and she said their story is not always well-received.
"What I really want that's something tangible is a night alone in a hotel. But bigger picture, what I want is to be able to share our story without feeling judged or alienated for that. Like, how beautiful it is that they have two moms, and they each biologically have a different mom," Shadlock said.
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Mother's Day can also bring up wounds for sexual and gender minorities.
"Some of us have terrible, toxic relationships with our parents," Kent Chan-Kusalik said. "Some of us were kicked out of our childhood homes, or had to leave because it's unsafe. Some of us have had to leave our own children behind, or have had our children taken away from us."
Advocate for policies that disproportionately affect LGBTQ families
While the flash of the LGBTQ loonie gets all the attention, many are working hard behind the scenes, pushing for equitable policies. A formidable list of advocates, researchers, and academics have been speaking to the House of Commons over the last three months during a study on LGBTQ2 health, for example.
One inequity is reproductive technology and fertility services. "A lot of these services are not publicly funded in Canada and most provinces," said Francesca Scala, an associate professor of public policy in the Department of Political Science at Concordia University, and author of Delivering Policy: The Contested Politics of Assisted Reproductive Technologies in Canada.
For all communities, in particular LGBTQ2 communities it's important to consider "whether or not they have access to these treatments that allow them to enjoy the benefits and rights of parenthood," said Scala, who is advocating for public funding of some services.
Mother's Day can bring reflection on how LGBTQ2 families are made, and advocacy for things like reproductive technology, surrogacy, and adoption.
"In our culture at this time, there are a lot of reasons to be grateful," author and Mount Royal University professor Natalie Meisner told HuffPost Canada. For instance, her children often bring home two gifts for their moms when Mother's Day crafts are made at school.
Meisner, who was given a chainsaw for Mother's Day this year, just released a children's book called My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother, and Me. While the book does feature biracial mothers, and "several different types of interwoven diversity," Meisner said she was also just happy to create a gentle, fun, and wondrous tale.
Contributions like this emphasize that LGBTQ2 families have changed society in positive ways.
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"What queer culture offers to the mainstream," Meisner said, "is a rethinking and a way to crack apart some of the things that we do without even thinking about it."
Accordingly, the Chan-Kusaliks challenge dominant notions of family, and can be a reminder of what Mother's Day is about — being seen and honoured.
"I celebrated Mother's Day for years before I became a parent, so I did want to keep the tradition alive," Chan-Kusalik said.
"I celebrate my grandmother and my mom, and now I celebrate my wife. We have a rare chance to hang out for an early morning brunch, and I'm grateful to have a chance to make her feel special and appreciated. She's wonderful."
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