For 18 years, Elizabeth B. and Jay G. have been united. Working through their tribulations and successes like any straight, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) couple, Elizabeth and Jay were determined to make their situation work. And in 1997, they became domestic partners.
The topic of marriage between same-sex partners has been one of much speculation in recent years. Especially with New York legalizing the union in 2011. For Jay, becoming a legal couple was more than just a title. It was about becoming a “regular couple within society.” The pair wanted the legal protection of being a family recognized by the law.
Elizabeth was raised in a conservative family. Her grandparents came from Puerto Rico with 11 children. After her grandfather was no longer around, the 11 children took the initiative to take care of the household. After that, “We were very close, and every holiday was spent together— moms, dads and all of their children,” Elizabeth explains.
Her conservative foundation is enforced by a parochial education. She has a brother and sister who are both in heterosexual marriages with children.
Jay was raised in a single-parent household with three sisters and one brother. Her single mother was constantly working to support the family. Jay was essentially raised by her older sisters. Today, two of her sisters are in traditional marriages with children, and her other siblings are involved in heterosexual relationships.
Elizabeth and Jay met little resistance when establishing their homosexual lifestyle. Both partner’s families are strong in their support of the two. And unlike many homosexual couples, Elizabeth and Jay’s romantic choice was never questioned. Within their Park Slope, Brooklyn, community, residents are open-minded and gay proactive. They are able to live an open and happy life.
In 2009, Elizabeth and Jay decided to start a family of their own. To be a lesbian couple with a child meant countless considerations had to be taken into account, from choosing an OB/GYN and fertility specialists who understood their lifestyle, to donors and what they wanted to their child to look like. Committed to starting a family, Elizabeth gave birth to their son, Jonathan, later that year.
The proud parents are thrilled to be raising their child. When asked how they will handle the concerns, potential bullying and emotions that Jonathan may face, Jay acknowledges that parenting is still new for them. However, the fear of these things did not stop them, nor should it stop anyone from becoming parents. “It’s a beautiful thing. I thought we were never going to have a child. You can’t think about what society has to say because no one has the right to take the dream of parenthood away.”
While New York City welcomes all types of communities, many obstacles remain for LGBT individuals. For example, recently, the city’s Department of Education considered implementing a gay curriculum in which children would learn about alternative lifestyles— families with two moms, two dads, etc. In light of major protests from administrators, educators and parents, the curriculum was denied. This is unfortunate as education is a way to show that alternative lifestyles exist and are a part of society. Elizabeth and other members of the gay community embrace the idea of teaching a gay curriculum in the academic arena.
In planning their son’s entrance into the religious community, Elizabeth and Jay called 10 churches to have Jonathan baptized. The couple was either denied or told that they would have to go through labyrinths of paper work to get special permission for the sacrament. Luckily, a Catholic Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, said that they would not acknowledge the union of two women, but would bless the child. Although this stipulation took them out of the milestone, Elizabeth and Jay were excited. The baptism certificate was the first document acknowledging both of them as parents.
In July 2012, for the first time, a branch of the church decided to start recognizing and offering blessings to same-sex couples. The Episcopalian Church said the decision was “all about inclusion,” but this does not represent a marriage.
It is within the professional world that the lifestyle choice became a reason to worry. Although Jay’s workplace recognizes that she has a wife and a child, Elizabeth cannot speak of her personal life at the office. When Elizabeth and her colleagues encounter LGBT individuals or couples, there are whispers and judgements are passed. For this reason, Elizabeth fears that revealing her lifestyle choices may cost her job.
Acceptance of individuals within the gay community has greatly increased. However, it seems there is still much more to be done to ensure the protection and security for these individuals.