Loving Outside the Lines

Jun 30, 2021 | 2018 Spring - Chosen Family


In 2004, I met a newly single father of two and fell instantly in love. By the time we started dating in 2009, his brood had grown to six (through a combination of births, reunifications, and stepparenting). I went from single and child-free to stepmom of six basically overnight, including having two of my stepsons move in with us within the first month of our relationship. My life, which had formerly consisted of drinking, promiscuity, and a few college classes, was suddenly filled with homework, carpool, and home-cooked meals.

I loved being a stepmom. It wasn’t easy dealing with kids ranging from diapers to driving, or with three biological moms and varying schedules, but my bond with my stepkids made it all worth it. Unfortunately, my partner’s struggle with addiction and my rampant codependency lead to the demise of our relationship after just three and a half years.

My biggest fear was that in losing my partner I would lose my kids as well. The thought devastated me. I viewed these kids as my own children and could not imagine living life without them.

Five years after our breakup, my fears have never come true. I spend every weekend with my youngest three stepkids, and see the older three, as well as my five-year-old granddaughter that my oldest stepdaughter blessed me with, several times a year. Every year around Christmas I make sure to get them all together for presents and a rare group photo. They are the most important people in my life and I would do anything for them. New people that I date have to be willing to accept my complicated chosen family in order to be with me.

I have known that I was bi since I was about 15, but had only come out to a select few friends over the years. My family didn’t know, and I didn’t plan to tell them unless it was absolutely necessary (like, if I got in a serious relationship with a woman). Then, the Pulse Orlando shooting happened. I felt a ton of different emotions—fear, anger, sadness, grief, and isolation. I felt that being in the closet was keeping me from getting the community and support I needed to cope with how I felt about what had happened (and what else might happen in the future). I decided to come out. Not just to my friends, but to everyone, including my brother, my parents, and all my stepkids.

The youngest two, ages seven and ten, had lots of questions. Had I ever kissed a girl? Dated one? How long had I been bi? Everyone was accepting and supportive. The following spring, they helped me make bi and pan pride flag magnets to give out at our local community Pride celebration. My youngest stepdaughter (now almost 12) started making me lots of presents featuring the bi pride flag paintings, plastic flowers, and little notes.

This fall, she came out as bi to two of her brothers and me. We were the first family members she told—even before her mom. I told her that I had kind of suspected as much based on how excited she was about me being bi, and she confided that me coming out to her was a big part of why she felt comfortable coming out to me. I told her how proud I am of her, and how I wish that I had understood my own orientation at such a young age, much less come out. Maybe if I’d had an out bi adult role model in my life at her age, I would have. I’m just glad I could be that person for her.

Our family doesn’t follow any of the usual rules about how families are supposed to form or function. We’re not all connected by blood, and I don’t have any legal ties to my stepkids, either. We just love each other. The way I love them doesn’t fit in a little box or conform to “normal”, and neither does my sexuality. I love who I love regardless of their gender, and I view these kids as my family regardless of their unofficial relationship to me. I’m thankful that my unofficial role as stepmom gave a young queer kid the courage to come out. I hope I can continue to bring as much love, safety, support, and joy to her life as she and her siblings have brought to mine.

JMC is a nonprofit development professional, activist, and stepmom emeritus who is biologically childfree by choice.

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