Queerly Beloved is a column and forthcoming podcast about queer relationships that expand our understanding of "significant other" and celebrate LGBTQ chosen family.
About six years ago, Laura and Lucy Power (both of whom had different surnames then) began working together at a charity for adults with learning difficulties in Midlands, England. Lucy (now 46) was the boss, and Laura (now 28) was the intern.
One night, driving back from an out-of-town work trip, Lucy could tell that something was on Laura's mind. She pulled over at a bar, bought Laura a pint, and demanded to know what was up: Laura, then a self-described “baby dyke,” admitted that they were in love with a straight girl, and heartbroken. Luckily, Lucy, a seasoned lesbian, had a wealth of advice to offer.
Over the next several years, Lucy and Laura naturally grew from a mentor and mentee relationship into a mother and daughter one, filling crucial gaps in each other’s familial lives. Then finally, one year ago, they decided to adopt each other officially. The pair cemented the decision by reading vows at an adoption ceremony, getting matching tattoos, and even changing their surnames.
For Queerly Beloved, they opened up about building an intentional mother-daughter commitment, creating new traditions through their personalized ceremony, and the power of choosing one’s family.
BROADLY: Was there something about your dynamic immediately or about each other that let you fall into this relationship organically?
LUCY: During that whole time, I was attempting to adopt an actual baby, with my ex, and that did not work out. Then I think when I realized that I was old enough to be baby Laura’s mum, we just started to relate differently to each other. It always had a sense of fun attached to it, but also a commitment. But now I feel so completely committed to baby Laura and being baby Laura’s mum.
Laura, were you looking for someone to fill that role at the time or did it just happen that way? Was there a sort of gap there?
LAURA: When I broke off things with my biological mum maybe two or three years ago, Lucy was a really big part of the kind of processing and working out my thoughts and feelings around it and things like that. Yeah, there definitely was a gap for a while there, and also when we kind of made this commitment together.
In those conversations, what did you decide that your commitment should look like?
LUCY: So we articulated the commitment we were going to make by writing vows to each other for our ceremony, which, for me, were all about being all the things that I know Laura needs from their mum. So I promised honesty, and authenticity, and love, and unconditional support, and many, many other things that really were all the things that I knew that Laura had a gap for and was missing out on. And all the things that I am really, really keen and full of and ready to give to them as a child to me.
LAURA: Yeah, and I think for me it was a lot around trust. Which is a big one. Knowing that Lucy is not going to abandon me.
How did conversations about formalizing your commitment to each other come about?
LUCY: So I had just finished with my ex-partner and I was feeling vulnerable and questioning everything—all the stuff that has been part of the architecture of my life over the last 10 years or so. And one of the things that I was grieving at that point was that I hadn’t become a mum. I was feeling really quite sad about it. And then I was on my own in a hotel room and I’d recently read the book A Little Life, and in that book there is an adult adoption, so I encountered that as a possibility, and I had this epiphanous idea: that I would ask baby Laura to be my child so that we could do some healing together. I could heal the fact that I’d not managed to become a mum and Laura could heal the fact that they didn’t have a mum they could trust and love and feel safe around; who didn’t honor them and give them all the mum stuff that they needed. So I sent Laura a text just saying, “I have this idea, would you allow me to adopt you?” And she got back to me and said, “Yes, I would love that!”
That was four to six months before we did the ceremony, and we did lots of planning, and in that planning, we did lots of talking about the parameters of our relationship and how it would work and what we wanted to offer to each other and all of that kind of stuff.
LAURA: And I think for me, when you did first ask me, it was obviously lovely and amazing but I first had that disbelief. I was like are you sure you want this? And that’s why I think the whole ceremony process was so important, because it really brings that gravitas and permanence to what we were doing.
Was the ceremony part of the plan from the beginning?
LUCY: Yeah, we talked about it early on. I had no idea what shape it would take, but we were both really keen on the ceremony because although we can’t legally adopt an adult in this country, we wanted to do something that demonstrated to our community the importance of this to each other.
LAURA: I hadn’t heard of anything similar, so we were also just kind of making it up as we went along. But then that also makes it quite special because then you can just make your own traditions and make it personal.
Totally, and what did the ceremony look like?
LUCY: Oh, it was gorgeous.
LAURA: It was in my back garden in Brighton. I’ve still got a really good relationship with my biological brother, and it was really important for me to make sure he knew that he’s still part of my family even though I’m making this decision. So, we all had this dinner together. Then we had a ceremony on the beach where we burnt some things that we wanted to let go of in order to enter into the commitment. Then, the next day, we had about 20 people who were all queer in the garden. I was very aware that a lot of people who were there might also have complicated relationships with their family that were actually quite difficult for them as well, so I wanted them to feel included. So, we gave everybody a little rock and then they had to think of something that they were going to leave behind in order to take part in the ceremony. And then we got everyone to make a little cairn, which is like a Scottish thing that’s like a mountain of stones. Then after that, some people said some things and read some poems, things like that. And then we read the letters to each other.
We also gave everyone a piece of lavender, because that was the symbol for the ceremony.
LUCY: Because lavender is a very lesbian symbol, but it also represents healing and it grows in difficult environments and things like that.
LAURA: Then some of my friends did some performances and played some music and then we had a BBQ. And our friend gifted us matching tattoos of lavender that really represented the permanence of the relationship.
LUCY: The words that some of the people spoke, gifts that people brought to mark the occasion, and performances people did were really special to me because I felt really held as part of a community and it felt like this thing we were doing wasn’t a brand new thing, and it felt as important as any other ceremony I've ever been to. It felt very natural, it didn’t feel like, "Oh, this is a really weird thing."
"We’ve all been told, 'you can't choose your family you can only choose your friends,' but Laura and I have chosen our family. "
LAURA: Yeah, I was a bit worried it might feel a bit cringy, or a bit weird. But it was really nice. I think everybody really valued it, and quite a few people said thank you to us for doing it, because it actually meant quite a lot to them as well—knowing that that could happen, this sort of thing.
LUCY: Yeah, I think what we had done is show other people that there are options for them and that it's possible for them to create a new style of family—a new way of being with each other. That was something that I thought particularly was really important: showing the lesbian community that there's a new way for lesbians to be together that isn’t around a sexual relationship, it's around a different kind of family relationship and around choosing your family. Because we’ve all been told, “you can't choose your family you can only choose your friends,” but Laura and I have chosen our family. We've made an absolutely explicit commitment to each other to be mum and child for the rest of our lives. And I just think that’s really, really groundbreaking and special.
And you also legally changed your name, right?
LUCY: Yeah, we both changed our names to Power, which was my grandmother’s name who died before Laura met her, but she was very strong and inspiring and powerful. So it’s kind of a family name.
LAURA: I’d been wanting to get rid of my surname for a while because it’s my biological family name and I’d never really felt attached to it and also, I think having a name that's ours felt much better.
What were some other practical parameters you considered?
LUCY: Quite recently I’ve been asked to be a guarantor for Laura’s rent in their new house, so I've very happily done that—even though it's very complicated. It’s stuff like that that I’m really committed to doing. And the legal stuff as well. I don’t have a will at the moment, but when I get around to writing one, which I intend to do, my stuff will be left to my kid.
How has the last year been? You’ve been close for a long time, but has it felt different?
LUCY: Yes! Absolutely it’s changed us. I feel my life is complete now that I have a kid and that that kid is Laura is just absolutely amazing. I feel so, so proud and so loving towards Laura. I feel so much gratitude towards Laura for letting me become the mum I’ve always wanted to be, and I just feel so, so much love. It’s beautiful.
LAURA: Awww. Yeah, being totally honest, it did feel really strange at first because it felt really new. We had our first Christmas together as an official family, and I think that was really wonderful and lovely because that's such an important family event, and Lucy went a little overboard with presents and things like that. That made it really real to me. So that was really special, and I'm super excited about her coming to my graduation.
How would you say queerness and lesbianism have shaped your relationship and made it different from, say, a regular adoption?
LAURA: I think totally. I think me being queer a lot of the time means doing things in a completely different way and doing them because they’re important to you rather than what society might expect. If we were straight, I don't think we would have ever done this.
LUCY: Yeah I completely agree with that. It feels like we couldn’t have done this if we weren’t queer. And for me, to adopt a baby lesbian who wasn’t being nourished by their birth family is really important, too. I feel like I’ve made a space in our community for this to happen between other lesbians and I hope it will. To me, it feels like it could only have grown out of being queer and being a lesbian.