Before I started writing my newest book, The Sh!t No One Tells You About Divorce, I reached out to several divorced people I know. I asked them if they would be willing to chat with me about their experiences. I talked to women and men, gay and straight. Some of these people I knew well and others were just acquaintances.
And yet, every conversation lasted over two hours and immediately moved beyond the pretenses that can exist when people are talking about sensitive subjects.
Is Divorce Different for the LGBTQ Community?
There is something universal about the experience of having a life blown up by divorce. No matter our particular details, life is life, and hurt is hurt. My book is written from this general point of view, and I personally didn’t feel like my divorce was any different simply because I was a woman divorcing a woman.
I live in a liberal state (California) and I did not have an overly contentious divorce. Divorce definitely wasn’t an easy process, but being gay didn’t complicate matters in any significant way. But when I started talking at greater length to other queer people, I realized there can be a lot more nuance to queer divorce than I understood or experienced previously.
My ex and I have two children. I gave birth to both kids, but my ex is listed as a parent on each child’s birth certificate. To me, that is the end of the story surrounding parentage for our kids. They have two moms, and each mom is 100% their parent. But that is not always the case when same sex couples split up. Divorce can get messy and mean and sometimes that cruelty can lead to parentage being questioned or litigated.
There have been LGBTQ divorce cases where the biological parent has been successful in keeping their ex from seeing the kids following a divorce. I have queer friends who have experienced discrimination in the California court system because they are not the biological parent of their kids. It is 2023, why is this still happening?
And I know, even in our case, I had family members suggest I should get more time with our kids after the split because they are biologically mine. My ex will always have a tiny rumble in the back of her head that she could lose her kids if she had to fight for them in court. These are just not the kinds of things that come up when straight couples go through a divorce. Never does a straight man have to worry that getting divorced might throw his parentage into question or affect his right to joint custody of his kids.
This was an interesting one for me because I didn’t even realize it was a thing I experienced until someone pointed it out. One of the biggest pains of being queer is the fact that you constantly have to come out or choose to stay hidden. You are constantly evaluating situations and gauging whether it’s safe to out yourself. For instance, when I’m talking to a new person, I automatically use gender-neutral words when referencing a partner or my ex. It’s barely even something I’m conscious of anymore, I just default to those pronouns. The world has gotten a lot kinder in recent years, but I never know how someone is going to react to the fact that I am gay, so I usually don’t bring it up.
This comes into play during divorce because it is a time when you need a whole lot of help from strangers. You need lawyers, mediators, moving companies, therapists, and so on. And you need all of those people to be queer-friendly. If they aren’t, you will not get the help you deserve during a really difficult time.
I remember we had to have a mobile notary come to the house to notarize our final divorce agreement and let her know in advance that it was two women signing the documents. It wasn’t something I wanted to spring on a person who was coming into my house. Straight couples don’t have to worry about these kinds of things.
This might seem silly or insignificant, especially to those who couldn’t care less about a person’s sexuality. But the fact is discrimination still exists and members of the LGBTQ community still have to take a few extra steps to make sure they are seeking out divorce resources that are queer-friendly.
In recent years, there has been a significant social shift in the acceptance of the queer community. There are many celebrities, gay marriage is legal, and young people are very supportive of their LGBTQ classmates. But this acceptance is not universal and was not the experience for a lot of queer individuals of older generations.
For some members of the LGBTQ community, their marriage felt like a validation of their sexuality. Maybe they had been judged or shunned in their family and getting married felt like a way of proving that their love was just as real as any other. Maybe they feel like their marriage failing is also a failing of their identity. Maybe they feel like they will be judged for their failure more than a straight person would be judged, simply because that has been their experience when it comes to their identity.
A lot of LGBTQ folks fought really hard to even get to a place of having a queer relationship, so divorce can feel like something much more significant than just one relationship not working out.
So. Many. Women.
This one is not as serious as the others, but it definitely made my divorce different from what my straight friends experienced. I was a woman divorcing a woman. That woman then partnered up with another woman not long after our split. That adds up to…a whole lot of women. I’ve never been straight divorced, but I’m here to tell you that having a surplus of estrogen during the divorce process didn’t always lead to the calmest of proceedings.
But on the other hand, estrogen hardwires women for community and connection, it’s just biology. In the long term, there are probably worse things than having three women co-parenting kids together. As the years pass and the emotions of divorce fade away, I am left with a situation where I get to raise kids with another person who takes motherhood just as seriously as I do and who understands intrinsically what it means to be a part of a parenting team.
I’m taking this one as a win.
DAWN DAIS is a freelance writer and designer. Her previous books, including “The Sh!t No One Tells You” parenting series and “The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women” were published by Seal Press, have topped Amazon.com bestseller lists, and have been featured by countless TV and print media sources. Her uniquely sarcastic yet inspiring tone has entertained and guided an enthusiastic core of readers toward their various ridiculous parenting and athletic goals. Dawn’s most recent book, “The Sh!t No One Tells You About Divorce” was released in January 2023.
Dawn lives in Roseville, California, with her two kids, one dog, four chickens (unfortunate quarantine decision), two cats, and the occasional mouse brought into the home by said cats. You can find out more about Dawn and her books on her website, www.dawndais.com.