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“The Perfect Baby”: Parenting in The L Word: Generation Q, S3E5 | #parenting | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

Micah and Maribel are choosing a sperm donor in the latest L Word: Generation Q, and they’re finding out what many of us know—it can be a surreal experience, but also an opportunity for learning. Here’s my parenting-focused analysis of the episode, with real-life resources.

Maribel (Jillian Mercado) and Micah (Leo Sheng), in The L Word: Generation Q. Photo credit: Nicole Wilder/SHOWTIME

Spoilers ahead.

Micah has finally told his mom that he and Maribel are dating, and she was accepting. He and Maribel discuss how to celebrate. Maribel suggests looking for a sperm donor; all Micah had in mind was organizing the Tupperware drawer. “Maybe we could be wild and do both,” he suggests.

Maribel agrees, as long as they can be in bed by 9:00. Micah counters with 8:30. Ah, the queer lifestyle.

Soon, they’re looking at sperm donor options online. Somehow, the show has skipped any conversations they might have had about using a known versus an unknown donor, which is a shame, since that’s really an important conversation for anyone using donor gametes. I am, however, glad they’ve avoided the “seeking a known donor” trope (which has been overdone by shows including, but not limited to, Season 3 of the original The L Word; NYPD Blue, Cashmere Mafia, If These Wall Could Talk 2; Exes and Ohs; and Rick & Steve: the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World).

Even just looking at unknown donors, however, Maribel is overwhelmed at first, noting, “We have a ton of options here,” but soon realizes the “ton” narrows pretty quickly once one actually starts looking at traits. She is adamant she wants a tall donor, explaining, “My family are all shorties. We have to average it out somehow.” (As a shortie myself, I feel for her.)

Micah insists the whole process is “weird” and “feels like eugenics.”

Maribel tries to look on the positive side: “We have a chance to design the perfect baby”—then catches herself, realizing, “Yeah, it’s eugenics.”

She has a point, in that building a family with a gamete donor opens up a world of possibilities. How even to begin? Later, she has a revelation. “Let’s not focus on perfection,” she says. Instead, she wants a donor who is like Micah.

Micah thinks about his traits. Being Chinese American “feels important.” He’s also anxious, he says, but neither of them wants their kid to be so. He likes books—but they can’t find a section for that in the donor profiles. This somewhat contradicts what my spouse and I found in donor profiles, which was that even though there might not be a specific question about a particular interest (such as liking books), there were also open-ended questions about interests and talents that helped us find what we wanted.

Still, it’s hard when one has to dig to find the information. Micah and Maribel are clearly frustrated. Maribel says the whole process is making her sad, and while it was supposed to be fun, “it’s just depressing.”

“I just wish we could make a baby that’s part of you and part of me,” she adds, expressing what so many of us queer couples have felt. It’s part of why my spouse and I did reciprocal IVF (RIVF), with my egg and her womb (and donor sperm)—we both wanted to be a physical part of the process, and this was as close as we could get.

Micah observes, “Cishets can just get drunk and do this on accident, but we have to self-reflect.”

True—but I’d encourage queer folks to see this as a benefit rather than a burden. Our kids will be better off for it. As Maribel notes, “Cishets definitely need to be doing some self-reflecting, too.”

“And there should be a test,” Micah continues. “There’s a test for everything, except to be a parent. Any idiot could do it.”

“Oh, and they do,” Maribel concurs. They’re leaving out foster and adoptive parents in this, of course, who do have to pass tests to become parents—but they have a point, in that a little more training for all prospective parents could be a good thing. (That being said, the fact that many states still require home studies and background checks of nonbiological and nongestational queer parents doing confirmatory adoptions of their own children is ridiculous.)

Maribel then suggests they figure out what they have in common, “So the baby fits in our family, you know?”

Micah loves that idea, and jests, “Let’s see if shit-talking is a category.” He looks at the laptop. “It’s right here. Under religion,” he jokes.

Ha! I think they’re on the right track towards what feels right for them, though. For real couples going through the process of choosing a donor (or even choosing whether to use one), I recommend:

Queer Conception: The Complete Fertility Guide for Queer and Trans Parents-to-Be, by Kristin L. Kali (Sasquatch Books), which has a whole chapter on choosing gamete donors (known or unknown) laying out various considerations. Also helpful is We’re Here! A Guide to Becoming an LGBTQ+ Parent, by B.J. Woodstein (Praeclarus Press) and LGBTQ Family Building: A Guide for Prospective Parents, by Abbie Goldberg (American Psychological Association), which includes many insights from research on families that used donor conception.

Alas, when Maribel and Micah run a search with their (unrevealed) final characteristics, they get no results. “Back to the Tupperware,” Maribel sighs.

Maribel (Jillian Mercado) and Micah (Leo Sheng), in <em>The L Word: Generation Q</em>. Photo credit: Nicole Wilder/SHOWTIMEMaribel (Jillian Mercado) and Micah (Leo Sheng), in <em>The L Word: Generation Q</em>. Photo credit: Nicole Wilder/SHOWTIME
Maribel (Jillian Mercado) and Micah (Leo Sheng), in The L Word: Generation Q. Photo credit: Nicole Wilder/SHOWTIME

They have, however, only searched one sperm bank, as far as we can tell. There are many others:

Let’s hope Micah and Maribel soon discover these resources, choose a known donor (without a trope-y parade of inappropriate donors), or decide to adopt.

I have to note, too, an older trope that writer Sarah Warn discussed back in 2003 in a piece titled “TV’s Lesbian Baby Boom,” observing that many shows convey “the notion that ‘woman’ is synonymous with ‘mother,’” while the same isn’t true for men and fatherhood. For lesbians, “the strategy is to make the lesbian characters so ‘normal’ and easy to identify with, viewers will almost forget that they’re gay.” She adds that there’s nothing wrong with being a mother—“it’s that their storylines revolve around their role as a mother as if it defined them exclusively.” As important as it is to see representation of trans men and disabled people like Micah and Maribel as (prospective) parents, then, I hope this doesn’t become a way of reducing their characters only to the socially acceptable role of parent. I also want to see more of Micah and Maribel’s careers, hobbies, and friendships. I want to see them as well-rounded people and thus good role models for viewers who may be considering parenthood themselves.

I’ll be staying tuned to see if this happens, and hope you’ll join me.

Catch up on my other parenting explorations of this season’s LW:GQ:


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