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LGBTQ Parenting and the Profession

Kristina Milnor

Barnard College

This paper uses my own experiences becoming a parent to explore some of the challenges to both having and raising children as a lesbian and academic classicist. It begins with a description of my personal history: I completed my PhD in 1998 at the age of 28 and moved directly into a tenure track job at Barnard College, where I was granted tenure in 2006. My first book also was published that year. I became pregnant in 2009 as the result of IUI (a type of assisted reproduction in which a doctor introduces sperm directly into the uterus) with frozen sperm from an anonymous donor. My daughter was born in the summer of 2010. My second book appeared in 2014, and I became pregnant in 2015 as a result of IVF (in vitro fertilization). My son was born in January of 2016. God alone knows when my next book will appear.

The truth of the matter is that I have been - and continue to be - the recipient of so much unwarranted kindness and dumb good luck that it seems almost ridiculous to use myself as an example for others. I almost can’t innumerate all of my advantages, but for the purposes of this paper, I will focus on three: first, timing and the biological clock. I took no time off between stages of my academic career and moved directly into a tenure track job after grad school, so I was able to wait until after tenure to begin my reproductive journey, something which many people (not just lesbians) are not able to do. Second, because of my stable, long-term job, I also had stable, good quality health insurance. This is important because, although it is theoretically possible for a gay female couple to become pregnant with a known donor and a turkey baster, most lesbians I know have had to employ some kind of professional assistance. For gay men, of course, the biological hurdle is much higher, and the financial burden correspondingly much greater. Finally, I have had the advantage of having and raising my children in the professional environment of a women’s college with an extremely generous maternity leave policy (as well as tremendously supportive colleagues) and in the personal environment of progressive New York City. Many academics do not have a choice about where they pursue their careers, and there are many places where gay parents face significant discrimination and prejudice as they simply try to live their lives. This is true of gay people generally, but having children forces one to interact with people and institutions one might otherwise have been able to avoid.

There are, of course, a number of ways in which the challenges of lesbian/gay academic parenting are not distinct from those of straight academic parenting - or of lesbian/gay parenting in other professions. I also cannot speak directly to the experiences of gay male parents, or trans parents, or single parents, or foster parents, or adoptive parents, although I will allude to some of the stories I have heard from others. I hope, however, that my personal experiences will be able to shed some light on the processes and politics of gay parenting as an academic classicist, both for those who are interested in pursing this path themselves, and for those interested in supporting them as they do.

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LGBTQ Classics Today: Professional and Pedagogical Issues

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