On What Makes a Family

My mother used a sperm donor to have me.

I’ve only met a few people who have not responded to this
by asking me if I know who my “father” is, expecting me
to need to know where I came from.

They would call me “test-tube baby.” Maybe
I am an experiment in being, to test how much
the human specimen can overcome. I wonder sometimes
about my Italian ancestry, whose side of the family
I got my big butt from, meaningless things. DNA
doesn’t make a family, it’s been proven that it can’t even hold one together.

The fact that a random man who jacked off
in a cup for money in the early 90s is given more credit as a parent
than my Mama, a woman who has raised me for over 20 years says something
about what we think a family is.

My mothers wanted me so badly they had to fight for me. This
is where I came from.

I came from two women. I came from small neighborhood New Jersey,
devout Catholicism, and 7 siblings to come out to. I came from poor,
divorced, from no one noticing a student missing from school
for weeks, from lost friends, unsafe family reunions and workplaces,
bible-belt-fearing, neighbor, boss-fearing, AIDS and hate-crime generation
surviving women. They have out-lived everything the world
has thrown at them.

My mothers met in nursing school.
They’ve made a living out of learning how to help themselves survive,
help other people survive. I do not think this is a coincidence.
People ask me, if it was hard having two mothers and no male role model.
No, it was hard having friends make fun of my moms to gain popularity,
hearing fag and gay thrown around classrooms and hallways
more frequently than hello, it was hard receiving two hundred
anonymous hate messages online, to walk around school unknowingly
next to people who have told me to kill myself, the principal tell me
“there’s nothing we can do about it.”

My mothers knew how to help people survive, 
they helped me survive. I was calculated, carefully crafted
to come into this world baring my teeth against all of these people.
I do not identify with rainbows or coming out of the closet, I was conceived
in the lion’s den, birthed into the wild, fighting slurs and stares,
primitive ignorance, straight people in their natural habitat.

I am the revolution my mother started the first time
she kissed a woman’s neck, my mama’s footsteps
at every pride march, my head is like any other picket sign --
I hold it high, shout: I will not back down, I will not shut up
or hide, be ashamed of your fear, my parents
fought for me to be here. I will tell them, years from now,
it wasn’t in vain, that I’m glad they went through all the trouble,
don’t worry, I’ve got it from here. I came from war heroes, fighting
is in my blood. 


Marissa is a world-traveling, Beyonce-worshipping, wine-loving, gay woman living in Boston, Massachusetts. She recently took a Buzzfeed quiz to determine her style based on her favorite color and horoscope and it told her she is a "Salty Grandma" and that was probably the most accurate thing that’s ever been said about her. She is a poet, researcher, and activist on issues including mass incarceration, violence against women, and LGBTQ rights. Her writing serves to break silences, call attention to social problems, and illuminate the complexity of human emotion, typically centered on survival, resilience, and emotional vulnerability. Her work has been published in Bustle Magazine, One Billion Rising, The Voices Project, Impossible Archetype, HYSTERIA Magazine, Dirty Paws Poetry Review, and OFI Press.