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My mother named me the same way they named hurricanes. Something gentle on the tongue and dangerous to the heart.

Key Ballah

EDITOR’S NOTE To all the sleepless nights, tiresome mornings, diaper rashes, bottle changes, constant cries, brush-your-teeth-now fights, unending Disney Channel cartoons or High 5 reruns, and the scars our boobs get from when our babies have their first tooth, we say cheers! Being a mom is never easy. But as we all know, it’s always worth it. This mini-mag is our small tribute to all lesbian moms in celebration of Mothers’ Day. Continue to be your awesome, feisty selves! Happy Mothers’ Day!




Mothers, Too

Read up on three stories of hope, love, and the struggles of being a lesbian mom. The narratives are different but within the words lay the same sentiment: no matter what type of family you have, no one can ever love as much as a mother can. And because kids with lesbian parents have two moms, you can bet the love is even stronger.

Parenting changes you as a person and makes you want to be better for the sake of your child. - GERMAINE LEONIN

Married for almost a year, Germaine Leonin and Toni Abuan met via Downelink (a free LGBT social network and mobile app) in 2012. Their holy union was facilitated by Pastor Myke Sotero under the Metropolitan Community Church, Quezon City. Families and friends, including Toni’s little angel, 3-year-old Venice, and LGBT advocates alike, were all present in celebration of their love. As a single mom, Toni admits that she found it hard to balance work and caring for her child. Her past relationships were hesitant in accepting the child as well. Being in a long distance relationship at first, Germaine didn’t know that Toni had a daughter. Finally, the time came when Toni informed her by unexpectedly sending a picture of the little girl to see the kind of reaction she’d have. “Baka mamaya tulad lang ‘to ng dati,” Toni says, “paulit-ulit ko sinasabi sa kanya: sigurado ka? May anak ako, ready ka ba?” Germaine didn’t mind at all. “I don’t have any problems with kids kasi ang dami ko rin naman pamangkin. Sanay din ako sa kids,” Germaine says, “So at the outset we were open about it. Alam namin na yung relationship hindi lang kami, there’s going to be a family. There’s a responsibility na may batang kasama. Malaki yung responsibilidad talaga not just for ourselves as a couple, but for the family [and] for the kid din.”

Tell us something about your family. Toni: Germaine is in government service, while I work for a professional association of doctors. We are human rights advocates in our spare time so our involvement in volunteer work for various vulnerable sectors like LGBTs, senior citizens, women and children also exposes our child Venice to different people.

Germaine: Deep in my heart I was dreaming of having a family, having kids. There was a point in time na sa previous relationship ko na should she not be able to get pregnant, I was willing to get pregnant. I was really emotionally and psychologically prepared for it. It satisfied a deep yearning. I wanted to have a family, I wanted to have a kid. She made it happen. I’m very glad that she came into my life and she made it happen. Silang dalawa.

We have so much love to give and share with others. - TONI ABUAN

How is life like as a mom? Parenting takes you to another place inside of you. It’s a different kind of “responsibility” – something you just don’t owe to the world, but to God. Parenting changes you as a person and makes you want to be better for the sake of your child. Most of the time, it’s challenging especially on the practical aspects, i.e., finances, yaya, but it’s a unique experience we wouldn’t miss for anything. We’re concerned about where to enrol Venice for school especially with regards to the presence of gender-bias and prejudice in common educational facilities. We were already considering home schooling her. But we do see the need for her to be part of institutions that enable her to socialize with kids her own age.

Have you experienced any type of discrimination when out with the family? How did you deal? Germaine: Occasionally you get stares from other people in public places. When registering Venice at a playground/playstation, attendants only address Toni and I was ignored and inivisibilized. So Toni deliberately points to me as the registered parent/guardian” who can claim Venice from their facility. Toni: [There was a time when] a guy pointed and asked Germaine why she was there and where was her child. So [Germaine] pointed to her beautiful little girl and the gorgeous Mommy, of course. It’s been our experience that the kids really don’t mind which adults take care of them as parents, guardians, or yayas. It’s the adults, mostly other parents, who have a problem with our set-up.

Do you have any advice to other lesbian moms or lesbian couples wanting to start their own families? We say don’t miss out on the experience. If you feel you want to have kids and believe you can be a good parent, go for it! With our natural caring and nurturing nature, we have so much love to give and share with others. Besides biological considerations, there are other legal alternatives, and finances, while a valid aspect, isn’t the only priority. So I’d say the psychological and emotional preparedness is the most important. You can never be financially stable enough to know when the time is right, but when you FEEL you’re ready, you just know it. We always say, in LGBT families there are no “unwanted” kids or “accidental” kids from one-night of passion. Every kid in an LGBT family is loved and wanted. It’s a conscious effort and you can’t imagine what we all had to go through to establish our families.

Just love from the heart and take the time to explain everything clearly to your children. - SHANE URBANO

For this couple who’s celebrating 24 years of being together in November this year, it was love at first sight. Coming from a co-ed school since kinder until high school, Trish Sotto was not familiar with the girl-to-girl relationship. But when she first saw Shane Urbano, she knew that it was different. Theirs is a relationship that can best all the teleseryes and local drama movies combined. And with 13 years of experience under their belts, an 8-monthseparation which almost threatened to destroy their relationship, a habulan-sa-airport scene, family dramas, and more, they finally decided on filling what they felt was missing in their lives – a child to complete their family.

Tell us something about your family. Trish works at home for Asia Galileo Travel Corporation while I work as a business consultancy firm manager. Trish thought she was straight until she saw me and I have always been a player until I met her. Our 10-year-old daughter Sondré is the best thing that happened to both of us in 13 years. Our family is one that hears everyone. We discuss everything amongst the three of us and agree on what we need to do next. We are always filled with love & have each other’s best interests at heart. Trish and Shane consider communication and honesty as keys to connecting with their daughter. From when Sondré was just a little kid, they make sure to answer all her questions truthfully – no baby talk.

Shane: All of the questions that she asks, we take seriously. So let’s say, it could be just “Mom, why is the tree brown?” and we would answer “Because, hon, it starts out as a seed, it grows up, it starts out green, the stems, and it becomes brown eventually because it gets older. “ We explain to that level so that she understands. At the end of the explanation, we check for the understanding if it’s there. And if it’s not there, we try a different explanation, a different approach until at that point where she says “ah okay. I got it.” Trish: And we make sure like whenever she asks “Ma...” whatever we do, we drop. “Yes, hon, what is it?” We make sure. Not unless we’re talking, she will not butt in. She will say “Excuse me,” she would do that.


Shane: And if we’re really, really busy, we tell her “Hon, can you wait 5 minutes? So I can give you my full attention.” But every time we do explain to her, we give her our full attention. [A] Hundred percent. And if it takes both of us to be there, we both drop everything and we just go there and explain to her until she understands. How long have you been together and when did you decide to have a family? We’ve been together for 23 years, turning 24 this November. Both of us individually have always been fond of kids and have always decided to have them one way or the other. As a couple, when we felt like we’ve done everything and we were mature enough, we decided to have our own family.

Shane: [Having a kid] didn’t feel like it was a burden. We never went through yung sleepless nights and whatever else new parents often complain about. There was none of that with us. Talaga parang overjoyed lang kami na andito s’ya and then we felt that we were so blessed. And so I think it translated into how we brought her up. Sabi nga ng mom ko, nagugulat siya kasi [Sondré] doesn’t eat that much as a child, as a baby, pero she was really packed. Sabi ng mom ko “how many bottles a day does she drink” and it turned out it was average. Then she said, “busog sa pagmamahal yang anak niyo”. That’s what my mom said. And so, that’s how she grew up eh. Parang, she just grew up filled with love.

How is life like as a mom? Shane: Life changed a lot when I became a mom. It changed my priorities and I started trying not to be my bratty self, growing up. This includes being careful with what I say and how I say it so I don’t give the wrong impression to Sondré.

Have you experienced any type of discrimination when out with the family? How did you deal? Yes, slightly when we watched her in a school activity. When they were in a line, passing in front of us, one of her classmates asked her where her parents were. She pointed at us & another classmate said, “ay, why are they both girls??” Dré just simply said, “Eh that’s my family eh, there’s nothing wrong even if they’re both girls.” Do you have any advice to other lesbian moms or lesbian couples wanting to start their own families? Trish: Don’t be scared. Be emotionally, physically, mentally ready for a kid. Financially? Shane: We’re never really financially ready for anything, right. Even if you want to put up your own business, you’re never really financially ready. You have to go borrow something, invest in something else, and get partners. Hindi ka talaga one hundred percent ready for anything eh. Especially financially. But it’s how much you want it.

Trish: We wanted it so much so look. [Now SondrÊ’s] 10 years old.

Shane: Just love from the heart & take the time to explain everything clearly to your child(ren). Nothing can go wrong with proper communication and a heart full of love.

Every day, there’s always something to marvel at or look forward to. - SHEF ZAMORA

The power couple behind the famous Twitter account, @PinayLezMums, Kelly Morrison Valencia and Shef Zamora have been together for almost 4 years. They have two kids: a charming 9-year-old son named Uno and cute 18-month-old baby girl named Kyrie. Theirs is a complicated love story, as almost all lesbian couples do, coming from two very different relationships before meeting, falling in love, and building their family. Tell us something about your family. Shef: We’re both late bloomers, i.e., we realized we’re lesbians when we were already adults. We both already had our own lives when we found each other. After several months of being friends, we have decided to pursue our feelings for each other and we never looked back since. Kelly was already a mom to her 9 year old son. And somehow, after a series of extraordinary events, Kelly had our baby girl during our transition into being together. We welcomed her as a blessing to our relationship and to the beginning of our life together. Our children are both creative and loves numbers. They also are the sweetest, greatest, most loving and most awesome son and daughter any mum can ever have! Haha! We see ourselves as a normal but goofy family. We call ourselves the “Pamilyang Bugoy”.

How long have you been together and when did you decide to have a family? Kelly: We didn’t really decide to have a family. It just happened. Our relationship was really complicated back then. But even before we had our little miracle, we’ve talked about having a family and it has always been in our plans. We also plan on having more kids in the future because Shef always wanted to have a big family. But we’ll probably stop at 4 - 2 from Kelly and 2 from Shef - LOL. At least that was the plan. Don’t ask us how we are thinking of managing this, but according to Shef, it’s all about “justifying the means.” We know there will be a way for our family to happen. We didn’t know back then that we’ll have Kyrie but there you go. It’s just the universe conspiring to help us with our dreams.

You have to know yourself, know your center - have a very strong reason for having a family and always hold on to that. - KELLY MORRISON VALENCIA

How is life like as a mom? Shef: For me, it’s just like an adventure that keeps getting better and better. In every stage of our baby’s life, I would go ‘wow this is amazing’ nothing beats this moment or feeling... then Kyrie would learn to do something new and you get amazed and excited all over again. Every day, there’s always something to marvel at or look forward to. Kelly: It is a never ending journey that I find very rewarding and fulfilling. It entails heaps of responsibilities since I want to ensure that I give my children a better future and at the same time balance my equilibrium for sanity’s sake. It’s like a brand new adventure every day because you take part and witness your child’s developmental stages, just like what Shef said. It is more of a gift of life, hope and sunshine every day.

Have you experienced any type of discrimination when out with the family? How did you deal? Yes, but not too often from strangers. Maybe it’s because we choose not to care since we don’t know them. We somehow got used to the stares but there were also instances that we are “somehow” accepted as a unit and people do get fond of us. I think the real discrimination affecting us are those [that come] from the people who are close to us - family and some friends even. The fact that some do not see us as a family unit but more of a partnership - where they get to see us as two women who are merely best friends co-parenting children. How do we deal with it? We just show them how we are as a family - how we love and nurture each other like any normal family. And that somehow makes a difference. Since there are conflicts between their beliefs and what they see of us, we try not to push it down their throats. I think what is important is that we show them how much we accept ourselves and how happy and free we are hopefully, that will suffice.

Has your kid ever asked about your family set up? For our baby, not yet. But we’ve been preparing for when that time comes. Right now, we don’t have any concrete script yet in our heads- it’s still in the works. We believe that so long as we stay true to her, to others and most especially to ourselves, the right words will come out from us by the time that we have to speak to her about it. For our 9 year old, it’s different. Because he was aware of what’s happening while it was happening. So the realization from him was gradual and from experience. We told him that everyone is entitled to love and be loved, by no less than whoever they choose; that we should all respect each other’s choices just as he can expect others to respect his. But Kelly made sure the he understands that his birth parents are irreplaceable - he will always have his dad and his mom - and also, he has extra parents, i.e., his Dada and tita.

Do you have any advice to other lesbian moms or lesbian couples wanting to start their own families? Kelly: You have to be strong mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. You have to know yourself, know your center - have a very strong reason for having a family and always hold on to that. I say these because we know for a fact that having a family entails heaps of responsibilities. Yet, having an unconventional family makes it more challenging because we want to protect the children from any bias. We have to ensure that we make it as normal as possible. Shef: My only advice is this: Just do it. Nothing and no one can keep you from doing this but yourselves. Don’t give to other people’s doubt and judgments. A family is made not by any piece of paper, but with the strong bond that holds you together. No judge nor priest nor society can create that but YOU. ONLY YOU. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

We love you, Mom. For this issue, we have partnered up with Katha Magazine’s very own Geli Balcruz for chic and colorful Mothers’ Day cards you can print out and give your Mom (or partner) for today. FEISTxKathaMagazine

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