The rise of the 3-parent family


The typical path to parenthood didn’t work for David Jay, a founder of the asexual movement. So he designed his own household—and is trying to show others what is possible.

David Jay is the oldest of 12 cousins on one side of his family and the third-oldest of 24 cousins on the other. As a kid, family to Jay meant having a lot of people around, a feeling of community, and crucially, a sense of permanence, that these people would always be in his life. Later, as an adult living in collective housing, he could access the feeling of family with those around him, but the permanence was gone. His roommates started finding romantic partners, having children, and dispersing. Jay had always wanted his own family with kids—and had known, for almost as long, that he wouldn’t be able to build one the usual way.

Jay is the founder of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network and one of the most prominent people in the asexual movement. (Asexual people, or aces, don’t experience sexual attraction, though many do have sex and form romantic relationships.) After starting AVEN as a freshman at Wesleyan University in 2001, Jay spent years explaining asexuality to the public, speaking at events and talking to the press. As he grew older, the questions on his mind moved beyond identity and attraction to issues of parenting and family life.

The problem for Jay was never how babies are made, and fostering and adoption were options. The problem was that he wanted kids and also wanted a co-parent to help him raise kids, but wasn’t interested in romantic partnership. Before exploring single parenthood, he was curious whether there might be another way to form the family he wanted.

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