Message from the USC Lambda Alumni Association

 

A Message from USC Lambda Board Member Deidre Strohm MPW ’96

Creating Family and Honoring Core Values

Here we are at the beginning of a new year, still in the throes of a pandemic that has arrested our
lives and livelihoods for going on two years now. Yet as we close out 2021 and ring in 2022, I find room for hope and optimism. Over the holidays, I was able to spend time with friends and family, decompress a bit from work, enjoy some festivities around Los Angeles, and, in spite of the rampant spread of Omicron, take a brief road trip. I tried to find a sense of normalcy in all of the chaos, and eke out connections new and old in a world that told me to isolate.

In my new year reflections, I am thinking so much about my children. How much I adore them. How fast they are growing. How proud of them I am. They are simply amazing to behold. I am fortunate, and thankful. My children are a big reason why this is true.

I always knew that I would be a parent. It did not matter to me that I identified as a lesbian. I did not know how I would have children; I most certainly did not think that I would actually give birth. Nevertheless, sometimes the right things happen at the right time times, the stars align, and all those other clichés. I found myself in a relationship with someone who actually wanted to have and raise children with me, and I thought this sounded like a fine idea. So, long story short, we decided to ask someone she knew, whom I had just met, to help make this happen. He was handsome, smart and gay, and agreed to our terms. He wanted to be involved as little or as much as we wanted him to be. He lived on the other side of the country, and it was perfect.

Though she was a few years younger, my partner had our first daughter, and 18 months later, I had our second. Though they had the same biological father, they could not have been more different. We were now recognized as the lesbian moms, and our daughters as the girls with “two moms.” So, while being an out lesbian in Los Angeles was not such a big deal at the time, having children was not so common. We would sometimes meet two dads on a playground in West Hollywood (we lived in Studio City, but hoped to find other same-sex parents there). Frankly, our kids did not seem to care until a classmate told our oldest daughter that two women could not make babies. Our daughter argued and said it was not true. So we had to tell our girls more about their story.

My children, who are now 16 and 18, have been my most precious life-altering gift and challenge. They are also the best decision I ever made in my life. Their mother and I have not been together for the last nine years, and that has been a difficult situation for them. For me, the hardest part is missing half of their lives. But we manage.

I have learned a lot from my children. I have learned how to love—really, really love. I have learned how to forgive and to experience joy, sometimes for the first time. My childhood was not bursting with joy. I have been able to retake some of those missed moments, thanks to my children. I have learned how to listen and be patient. I take all of these gifts from my children to my relationships with friends, family and co-workers.

As a parent, I  have tried to share core values with my children since they were young. One of these core values is the importance of giving back to others, whether it’s in the form of money, time or a donation of a good or service. Early on, I gave them three jars for money they were either given or had earned–money they could save, spend or give away. We would often volunteer together at animal rescues, or they would help at my work, stuffing envelopes or serving Thanksgiving meals to formerly homeless veterans. I wanted them to understand that community is more than just living somewhere, going to work and coming home again. It is also about lifting up those around us and paying our gifts forward.

This is one reason I am proud to serve on the USC Lambda Alumni Association Board of Directors. I engage with the community in a way that I was not able to when I was a student. I want to help raise funds for USC students who support and/or identify with the LGBTQ+ community, because these students matter. They will make important contributions to our world. As a board member, I am showing my children that we can continue to find community through our alumni networks. It feels good to be accepted—to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. It is purposeful and rewarding to have a role in making a positive impact on people’s lives, even in small ways. In fact, you could say it almost feels like being a parent.

Deidre Strohm MPW ’96
USC Lambda Board Member