HBO's 'Nuclear Family' Explores Lesbian Couple's Unprecedented Fight to Save Their Family

The three-part docuseries — directed and produced by filmmaker Ry Russo-Young — premieres Sep. 26 on HBO

An upcoming three-part docuseries tells the extraordinary true story of filmmaker Ry Russo-Young's first-generation lesbian family's fight to stay together.

Directed and produced by Ry, HBO's Nuclear Family follows her mothers, Sandy Russo and Robin Young, as they decide to start a family in the 1980s — a time when same-sex marriage wasn't yet legal and fertility clinics didn't serve lesbian couples.

They were eventually able to conceive their two daughters, Ry and her sister Cade, with the help of two different sperm donors, both gay men living in northern California whom they were introduced to by a mutual friend.

In the early years of their childhood, the girls would visit their donors with their moms a few times a year. The family's relationship with Ry's donor, Tom Steel, was initially warm but became frayed and increasingly fraught over time. In 1991, when Ry was 9, he sued Robin for paternity and visitation rights. The landmark four-year lawsuit that ensued threatened the Russo-Young family's very existence.

Nuclear Family

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Ry, 39, uses Nuclear Family to explore "the ambitions and desires of her moms, her sperm donor, and all their allies and enemies as she struggles to hear and accept their divergent perspectives," according to the official network description.

In the teaser trailer above, Ry's parents open up about how they always wanted to start a family together. "Being gay meant that you were not going to have children," Robin says. "It was like you were giving up that right to start a family."

Says Sandy, "I always wanted kids."

Life felt complete after Ry and Cade were born. Their moms lovingly raised them in New York City and told them they didn't have fathers, but rather men who had "helped make them."

Then everything changed: "Tom, the donor, didn't think, 'I am going to fall in love with this child.'"

"He changed his mind," adds Sandy.

Nuclear Family premieres Sep. 26 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO and airs subsequent Sundays at the same time. It will also be available to stream on HBO Max.

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