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I Married the Gay Father of My Child

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Transcript

Lucy Sexton, in the Manhattan loft she shares with her family. (Amy Pearl)

New York-based performance artist Lucy Sexton was never one for convention. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when it came to having a family, she found a way to make it happen on her own terms. When she found herself childless, divorced, and pushing 40, she decided to have a child with a friend, Stephen Daldry, the openly gay British director.

But what started as a planned transaction grew into a close relationship, and then a marriage. Add to this arrangement another mother and daughter who share Sexton's loft, along with a few other adults. To Sexton, who grew up one of six in Brooklyn, this complicated crew is family. “That structure is there for a reason,” she says of marriage. "I think for me, [we are] more stable because the commitment is so much about the family, and the primary piece of it is not a romantic situation."

I spoke with Sexton about the choices that got her to this point, what she tells her daughters, and what she learned about parenting from her Irish Catholic mother. 

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

Deciding to get pregnant first, married second:

We were trying to have a kid together. We wound up getting married. We really wanted a family together. And that went from being sort of, 'Yeah we’re friends and I know you want this Lucy so I’ll help you out,' to really both of us being a unit....Then it’s also health insurance.

How she explains their household to her daughters:

One interesting thing is that you do have to be conscious and intentional about who you are telling them is family. Because we have lots of grownups who also have other relationships, and then I also live in the loft with other roommates, and in one sense they’re all part of an extended family and have been and it’s been incredibly valuable. On the other hand, they need to know who's never leaving.

Lucy performing on WNYC's Kings County with Kurt Andersen in 2012. Photo by Josh Rogosin.

Committing to marriage like a true Catholic:

I would absolutely would say there is a lifetime commitment to it, a deep love commitment to it, a sacred commitment to it, there’s nothing more sacred than making a commitment to raise children together. And that is a primal, deep, human activity. The more we can surround it with sacred support the better.

She’s not the only one with an 'unconventional' household:

Probably the most unconventional [among my siblings], but still, there’s an unmarried couple with two kids and they haven’t married yet. They didn’t live together for a while....My sister had two [kids], a baby and a toddler, when her husband died, so she was single for a while and then she married somebody else that had kids so they have the blended family thing....You just don’t know how life is going to go. So you keep making it up as you go along. So in that sense, I don’t feel like I’m that weird in my family.

Read a full transcript of the interview.

And to see a bit of what Lucy does when she’s not running a household, here she is performing with her Dancenoise duo at The Pyramid Club in the mid-1980's:

She’s not alone in figuring out ways to have children and raise kids. Fertility challenges, adoption, LGBT families dealing with the law, multiple parents after divorce and remarriages, and even the basics of creating routine for kids when you, the parents, are busy making money to support them. We’re collecting stories about all this — leave a comment below, or tell us in an email how you’ve built family in your life. We’re at deathsexmoney@wnyc.org.

Guests:

Lucy Sexton

Hosted by:

Anna Sale

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Comments [11]

Jo from NYC

This podcast was so frustrating, the questions of death, sex and money were completely avoided. There was no conversation about the things that people need to talk about more. Just a woman talking about her family in the most conventional way, and refusing to address the interesting questions. How do they handle money? What about sex? what would happen to the arrangement if one of them died? All of those would have been interesting, but instead we got only the barest surface. Very disappointing.

Jul. 08 2014 05:12 PM
JL from Canada

It's hard to admire her entirely for her 'unique' approach to being a parent and spouse with/to an out gay man when she won't talk about her real or any potential relationships with a NON-gay man. The 'protecting the child' thing doesn't quite cut it when already the child unfortunately seems to have some negative views of her family set up - which is a shame - a loving family is a loving family. Trouble down the road for the daughter who, never having had her mother discuss this issue with her or been open with her about it, thinks her mother 'sacrificed' her sexual/intimate self to do all for her daughter, or that she 'hid' intimate relationships from her?? Anyone???

Jun. 13 2014 12:02 PM
keith

The first two questions I would ask are:

1. Why did you want to have children?
2. Did you consider adopting?

For many, it seems having children with our own DNA is something we "have" to do, and don't give it any more critical thought than we would paying our taxes - even though the world is already overpopulated and there are countless orphans and foster children who want nothing more than a loving family.

That these basic questions weren't asked, as far as I can tell, undermines the entire interview.

Jun. 09 2014 12:10 AM

To, Etienne Lemal from Chamonix, France & WNYC, I've notice that a lot of these pieces lately have really backed off from tough questions and it is upsetting. This piece is one example, as you point out, and another recent example was about gas stations in Manhattan, where the interviewer didn't ask the tough question, "why are you driving from Harlem to the Financial District?" Because even I, as a casual listener, was about to point out that the time it takes to drive, park, find gas, etc... is almost double that of the subway. The excuse that was given via Twitter is childcare, but how does doubling your commute (and costs?) give you more time to spend with your child? Anyway, I'd really like to see WNYC redouble the efforts here, ask the real questions, get into it with people, explore the reasons behind the choices, etc... or else, all this is, is, puff pieces that are not with paying attention to.

Jun. 06 2014 10:56 AM
Nathan

I think WNYC should do a spot on all the unconventional families that fail and the decades long impact this has on the kids. I am a case in point (along with my brother and sister). We have parentally introduced half-family, adopted family, ex-steps, former-loves, etc...all over the United States and the main issue being that it becomes hard to treat some of these people as anything more than faux-family after 30 years of watching this transience. Maybe the people in this segment are more focused in the attempt to ameliorate this transience, but it nonetheless exists. Or perhaps I am just jaded to the idea that kids will grow up knowing what it means to have someone in their lives they can count on when the majority of their lives they were witnesses to this transience as stand-in for permanence.

Jun. 06 2014 10:51 AM
Joanne

I came to live in Manhattan after college, a TOUGH city to meet people, hard to even make a friend, let alone find the love of your life. Once you leave college, the playing field is totally unbalanced and you really need a group of friends to manuever thru this city, I came by myself, no roommate, no college buddies, few people to do things with, the friends you made move on, transfer jobs, marry etc. ... so I am grateful that for all these years as a single woman I was welcomed by my married friends...yet it only goes so far, I stayed slim and attractive (NYC is a walking city and keeps you on your toes especially if you want to stay in the business world with those MUCH younger) and don't think for one second that isn't noticed. So you learn to adapt yourself to the situation or else you celebrate occasions/events by yourself...I could write a book on "unusual" families... as more and more women remain single for whatever reasons, you have to find other ways to find a family and/or support system, the traditional family is a thing of the past for many, not necessarily a deliberate choice, just the way the world is evolving.

Jun. 05 2014 11:07 PM
Etienne Lemal from Chamonix, France

I don't understand why you backed off on the main questions: sex, death and money. I get the need to be sensitive to the interviewee, but when Lucy basically no-commented you on the "romance" question, you should have dug more. How will they navigate the sex question with their daughter? Indeed, what about with the second "daughter"? If we're celebrating the uniqueness of this set up, why is she hiding it from her child(ren)? Are she and Stephen having sexual relationships on the side (it seems they are), and how are they managing that, even on a logistical level? Have they ever hooked up? And not to dwell just on sex--how about death: Lucy seemed to be taking the lead on the decision making in this relationship, based on how this show played out, but where is Stephen in all this? What if she dies, then who plays the caretaker role? Is the upbringing of the child(ren) as balanced as she makes it out to be? And money, well, there are a thousand questions there.

This is an assumption about the listeners of your podcast, but it seems we're all pretty well educated and/or exposed to the variety of life that exists out there, which removes the novelty from this particular woman's story. So why not go to the next level and start pealing apart the relationship a bit and explore why it does work and what may not. Others may then be able to apply some of that. Certainly, you went to that level with the "Senator" podcast. Don't hold back. Keep going on those three key questions. There's more to be found here that others are not addressing as candidly as you have been.

Jun. 05 2014 07:41 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

I have to add to my comment that my husband and I have a single, close friend whom I consider in almost all our planning for holidays. We always talk about the fact that we'll "take him wherever we go," as he truly is treasured, and as he nears 50, feels he'll remain single. He was my husband's best friend when we met, and I'm delighted we share him as our nearest and dearest. No kids among us, but we do have dogs who are besties, and we live blocks from one another.

Jun. 04 2014 12:16 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

alanwright - Au contraire! I think the 20th century saw some very "unconventional" family structures that were rather intentionally created--whether for practical or intrinsic reasons. At least that happened in my larger family:

I'm an adult in my 40s now, but growing up, there were a couple of multigenerational households in our family. These families, and at least one more family with whom we were acquainted housed a lifelong single man with them--men who began as a friend or colleague, but for whatever reason, didn't marry, and began lodging with the family, living with them the rest of their lives in all cases, and all earning the honorific "uncle" by all of us. There was also a single woman who rented a room from my grandmother who was an "aunt." She wound up getting married in her late 40s, just before my grandparents sold their building to move into a small apartment in their early 80s.

They were parts of family businesses, were part of our holidays, and for all intents and purposes, family. I never really questioned it as a child, and still don't. But it occurred to me that in the mid-20th century, there were probably a lot of single people who, for whatever reason, didn't or couldn't live in an apartment alone, lacked local family when coming to find work in the city, and city families either employed or rented a room to them, integrating them into their lives at this higher level.

I liked having these additional adults around, and it certainly taught me that not everyone followed the same trajectory of school/job/marriage/children, and that if they didn't, it wasn't so tragic--there were people who welcomed them. Life was richer for it, and I guess it had some practical aspect for my forebears. In a couple of the cases, the men were long-term employees, as well.

Jun. 04 2014 12:12 PM
francesfriedman from Manhattan

When ! was 16, my mother married a man who already had 3 children, two full brothers and a half-sister. The years that followed were often difficult and stressful as my sister and I tried to fit into this new family and vice versa. Long years later, when my step-father died, I suddenly felt freed from the strain and obligation of being part of a family I had never had a choice about. I pulled away and felt great relief. Then, gradually, I found I wanted to rejoin the family, but on my own terms - now it was based on choice, friendship, history and love. In every family, alternate or not, we will not feel the same about all the members and children need to know that's OK. You may never have the same sense of connection with half, step, adopted, or even full relationships, but where there is a sense of freedom and choice then love, loyalty, support and all the things family can mean can flourish within that freedom.

Jun. 04 2014 10:20 AM

This discussion is premised upon the idea of "conventional" Anglo-American family. I think that may have existed only for a brief period of the 19th/ 20th century. At points our society/ government/ and some people's morality put a priority on that family structure.

The specific membership of this family may be rare, however (openly gay man + woman + others). What may be the most rare is that the man is openly gay.

Jun. 04 2014 09:16 AM

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