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The Bombshell That Blew Up Two Lesbian Moms’ Loving ‘Nuclear Family’

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Nuclear Family’s title refers to the simultaneously traditional and trailblazing clan that director Ry Russo-Young’s lesbian mothers, Robin Young and Sandy “Russo” Russo, crafted for herself and her older sister Cade. It also, however, suggests the atomic-grade bomb that nearly destroyed their happy unit when the sperm donor who was biologically responsible for Ry, respected San Francisco gay-rights attorney Tom Steel, sought to be legally declared Ry’s father in order to secure custody rights. It’s a story that made national headlines in the early ’90s, and one that Russo-Young—now an accomplished filmmaker in her own right—tackles in her three-part autobiographical documentary (Sept. 26 on HBO) with a frankness and nuance that’s nothing short of astonishing.

Brave, balanced, and brimming with empathy, it’s a strong contender for the best non-fiction work of the year.

As they explain in one of numerous revealing interviews—some new, some taken from the 1999 PBS documentary Our House, and many featuring Russo-Young herself as either questioner or subject—Robin and Russo were a love-at-first-sight couple. Moreover, they shared a desire to have children. Despite the less-than-progressive attitudes of the late ’70s and early ’80s, they chose (after reading a homemade informational pamphlet) to go the artificial insemination route. On the recommendation of close friend Cris Arguedas, they picked gay bachelor Jack Cole to be the donor for Russo (producing Cade), and selected hunky gay attorney Steel as the donor for Robin (begetting........

© The Daily Beast

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