In his collection of LGBT essays, A Family by Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships
(2015), Bruce Gillespie explores what family means today, and how far we have come from the traditional definition of the family unit. Receiving a warm critical reception, the book was nominated for the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for an LGBT Anthology. A nonfiction author and editor, A Family by Any Other Name
is the fifth book in Gillespie’s series redefining 21st-century families. When he isn’t working on his books, he edits websites and anthologies, and he writes for newspapers and magazines.A Family by Any Other Name
is a collection of essays, each one dedicated to a different family. Gillespie compiled A Family by Any Other Name
to challenge preconceived notions of what a family should be. The traditional, religious definition of “family” is a household comprising a husband, a wife, and one or more children. Many members of the LGBT community struggle to use the word “family” to describe their household because it doesn’t fit into this traditional mold.
Gillespie aims to show everyone that it is okay to widen the definition of family. A family can be so much more complex than the traditional household. He encourages the LGBT community to embrace their identity, calling their own partners and children what they are—their family.
The essays cover a diverse range of topics. Some explore what it is like to be straight while raising a gay or transgender child. Others look at how difficult it is to come out to family members who don’t accept homosexuality, while others consider what it means to enter into a same-sex marriage. From divorce to death, Gillespie attempts to capture the trials and triumphs of LGBT relationships.
The first essay “Rare Species,” tells the story of two lesbian women and their son. Spotting a frog on the beach one day, he cannot understand why the frog only has one mother. He thinks every family should have two mothers because that’s what his family looks like. His mothers teach him that families come in all forms and that they are all normal.
“More Than a Donor” also considers lesbian women raising children. They talk about how their daughter’s classmates challenge her because she has two moms. She is the only child in the class with lesbian parents. The mothers find it hard to describe their family unit to their daughter because the terminology doesn’t exist for it yet. They must learn how to define themselves because no one else will do it for them.
“Requiem” follows a gay man who grew up with an absent father and a hippie mother. When he told his mother about his sexuality, she embraced it. She encouraged him to make his own choices and to be who he was born to be. This all feels great to him until his mother comes out as a lesbian. Somehow, he feels he has lost the uniqueness of his identity, and he secretly resents her for taking that away from him.
In the essay, “It Could Happen to You,” a gay man offers hope to others like him who feel they will never find love. His family rejected him for his sexuality, and he didn’t have many friends growing up. Everything changed for him the day he met the love of his life, and he has never looked back. He encourages other gay people to stay hopeful and to remember that there is love out there for them.
“I, Didi” follows a lesbian woman who doesn’t want a long-term relationship. She works long hours, and she wants to make a living as a writer, so she doesn’t have time for marriage or a serious commitment. When she meets a woman who wants something serious, she must choose between her own needs and her partner’s. As she explains, it is not an easy choice to make—especially not when one of them gets pregnant.
In another essay in the collection about lesbian pregnancy, “About a Butch.” a woman describes how she whole-heartedly embraced her butch identity until she became pregnant. For the first time, she questions what “feminine” feels like, reconsidering what it means to be a woman. She now better understands her sexuality and identity.
Also about pregnancy and children, in “Piecing My Family Together,” a gay man and his partner describe the struggles they faced as a homosexual couple trying to adopt a child. They talk about what it means to them to have a child, and how they hope this process will get easier for gay men in the future.