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Read this letter from Obama to a little girl and try not to cry

4 Nov

On Tuesday, we have an extraordinarily important decision to make. Many look at the economy and wish the recovery was happening more rapidly. Some would like to see a larger return on their stocks. And a select few look at their family and hope each day for the same protections most every other family in the country currently has.

You might remember a letter I posted last week from young Sophia Bailey Klugh.

10 year-old Sophia penned a letter to President Barack Obama. In the letter, she told the President how happy she was that he agreed with her on the topic of marriage equality. You see, young Sophia has two dads.

She continued on and asked the President an important question.

“I am so glad that you agree two men can love each other because I have two dads and they love each other, but at school kids think that it’s gross and weird, but it really hurts my heart and feelings…If you were me and you had two dads that loved each other and kids at school teased you about it, what would you do?”

Well, lo and behold, in the middle of his fight to be re-elected, the President took some important time to share a little advice with a little girl.

Dear Sophia,

Thank you for writing me such a thoughtful letter about your family. Reading it made me proud to be your president and even more hopeful about the future of our nation.

In America, no two families look the same. We celebrate this diversity. And we recognize that whether you have two dads or one mom what matters above all is the love we show one another. You are very fortunate to have two parents who care deeply for you. They are lucky to have such an exceptional daughter in you.

Our differences unite us. you and I are blessed to live in a country where we are born equal no matter what we look like on the outside, where we grow up, ow who our parents are. A good rule is to treat others the way you hope they will treat you. Remind your friends at school about this rule if they say something that hurts your feelings.

Thanks again for taking the time to write me. I’m honored to have your support and inspired by your compassion. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to dinner, but I’ll be sure to tell Sasha and Malia you say hello.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign recently stated that he believes gay and lesbian families visiting one another in the hospital is a privilege and not a right. Additionally, he has spoken out against gay parents adopting children. Finally, the Governor has pledged to write discrimination against LGBT people into the US Constitution.

I hope that young Sophia wakes up on Wednesday morning to find there’s someone in the White House who believes her family should have the same protections as every other family in the country.

10-year old shows us all why this election is so important

29 Oct

On May 9th, 2012, I was visiting New York. I was with my fiancé who works for the Family Equality Council and I was taking some pictures for them as they rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

No one knew until a few hours before it was going to happen that the first sitting President in U.S. history was about to come out in favor of marriage equality.

I was in a room off the NYSE floor with 7 or 8 families led by gay parents when the text came in. “He said it.” Sean said to me. scrambling for cell service in this marble room in the depths of Wall Street, finally I was able to pull up the text of the interview.

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council’s Executive Director spoke to the room and read the text of Barack Obama’s interview to all these moms and dads and they in turn, took a moment to tell their young children just how important this moment was. Then we walked across the floor, the kids and their parents climbed the steps and rang the bell to close the stock exchange for the day.

A lot has happened in these short few months since then, but one thing remains the same. President Obama hopes to fight for full equality for LGBT Americans, while the alternative has pledged to write discrimination against LGBT Americans into the U.S. Constitution.

Many don’t realize just the difference a President’s acknowledgment made when it comes to his recognition of our families. But one little girl sees the importance.

10-year old Sophia Bailey Klugh has written a letter to President Obama which is quickly making the rounds on Facebook. Sophia’s Dads Jonathan Bailey and Triton Klugh posted the unprompted letter with the comment:

I’ve refrained from all the political posts, but this is just too close to home to ignore. This is not about President Obama – it’s about what’s right. So frankly, if you don’t agree with the innocent, heartfelt and surprisingly straightforward position of my 10 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER, then please unfriend me because we don’t actually belong connected here in the first place.

Please take a look at just how much someone notices when someone everyone knows stands up and does the right thing.

The Giving Tree: Family Week in Provincetown Day 5

2 Aug

I’m trying to figure out why I’m calling this day The Giving Tree. It’s obviously one of my favorite children’s stories and I’m a fan of pretty much everything Shel Silverstein wrote. I also look at the story as a euphemism for parenting.

This morning, my day started with an emotionally-charged panel featuring kids from Family Equality Council’s “Outspoken Generation.” 7 teen children of LGBT parents were on the panel and it was one of the most heavily-attended events I’d seen all week. The room was packed to overflowing and Dr. Kim Bergman moderated the event. While one of the main draws of the event was Youtube star and author Zach Wahls, all the kids had really poignant and important things to say.

With the recent (and quickly debunked) study from Mark Regnerus has provided a springboard for misinformationists to spread lies and falsehoods about our families. But with these young men and women on the scene, a firsthand experience of being raised by LGBT parents can be told. I’m hoping Family Equality Council lifts up this vital program that’s currently missing from the national dialogue. Every one of the young people on the panel today should be appearing on television wherever we can put them.

Following the panel, Sean and I had scheduled time for some wedding planning and wound up at a tasting at one of the locations we’re thinking of. It seems we have a lot more work to do, but that just means another trip to Ptown this fall! I was also really happy friends Amy, Ty and (an asleep) Declan joined us for a little stroll as well. Wedding advice is always helpful!

The late afternoon and evening activities included a screening of The Muppets, a happy hour for Transgender parents and then a fundraiser comedy night starring Kate Clinton. All were extraordinarily well-attended and Kate’s show was so packed, I got booted from the theatre, so I couldn’t take the photos I was asked to. It looks like Family Equality is having quite a successful week!

The night closed with some drinks with the now-legal Zach Wahls and then a run-in with some old friends from New York. I’m glad the rain seems to be gone as it was one of the most beautiful nights I’ve seen in a long time!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Family Week Day 4

1 Aug

What a day!! There are so many incredible families here. I think probably twice as many as there were last year. It all reminds me of being on Rosie O’Donnell’s R Family Cruise when it was brand new. Seeing so many dads and moms and these kids that nearly every one of them had to fight for. I believe there’s something to be said for that.

How many straight parents can say they had to fight to have their children? Of course there are many, but I don’t know of a single case where a gay or lesbian couple was able to fall into parenting. They all either adopted, worked with a surrogate, had to deal with artificial insemination, or even if they had kids from a previous heterosexual relationship, many live in places where their spouse still isn’t the legal parent of their child. I’m sure there are cases out there where everything worked out swimmingly, but the vast majority of gay parents had to/has to fight to be a parent. I’ve never heard of a gay or lesbian couple having a child by accident. Every one of these kids is wanted, loved and it shows.

This morning, I went back to take some more shots with the Littles. A whole lot more bouncy house time, some bouncy slide time, facepainting, temporary tattoos and pure joy everywhere. I followed that up with a trip to Kidapalooza where everyone was tie-dying t-shirts (or legs and arms if you ask Riane from Family Equality). I stopped to support Cape Cod’s PFLAG group and pick up a gorgeous rainbow sweater for Eli – pictures of that will follow once we return home.

In the afternoon, I got a surprise text from my extraordinarily pregnant friend Amy. She’s amazing and one of my besties from high school. She and her husband Ty and adorable boy Declan were in town for the day and wanted to grab a bite. I was happy to have a little break where I could join them!

Then came the bonfire. Now as history tells it, we’ve never (or at least very infrequently) had a bonfire night that wasn’t at least a little rainy. Last year it drizzled a bit throughout, but I don’t recall it being all that bad. And as of this past weekend, things looked pretty good. No showers in the forecast. But then apparently, someone must have told whoever’s in charge that it was bonfire night. And the rain came. Now the bonfire and s’more-making (with a generous donation from Hershey’s) happens to be the obsession love of Family Equality Council’s Executive Director, Jennifer Chrisler. Unfortunately I’d heard Jenn wasn’t going to be coming to Family Week this year due to the very recent birth of her third little boy, Matthew. But there were then rumblings that she would be here on Wednesday. Why would she come on Wednesday? The day AFTER her beloved bonfire and s’mores??

The bonfires were set-up, with holes dug and fire started by my very own Beyoncé, Family Equality Council’s New Media Manager Sean Carlson. The misty rain was annoying and it was overcast, but it looked like it maybe possibly perhaps could clear up. And it did, briefly anyway. Then in came the families. I was in shock. We all assumed no one would come due to the rain, but there were twice as many there as last year. I was instructed to get photos of the messiest s’moriest faces I could, and it wasn’t hard.

Then the rain turned from a mist to a drizzle. The camera was put away so it still works for the rest of the week. And the s’more-covered kids (and adults) made their way out. Drenched, we worked to extinguish the fires – btw – didn’t know this, but you’re not supposed to just cover a beach fire with sand. You have to put it out with water because the heat from the fire will get trapped under the sand and stay hot for days. Then someone could step on it and get burned. Crazy, right…just a little tip for all you beach fire lovers. And just as we were about to put out the last one, there’s Jennifer Chrisler – also drenched, toasting a soggy marshmallow over the flickering flame. She just couldn’t stay away.

Where The Wild Things Are: Family Week in Provincetown Day 3

31 Jul

The wild things were abound this morning in Bas Relief Park. The park, for those who haven’t been to Provincetown, features…wait for it…a bas relief of the pilgrims signing the Mayflower Compact. I happen to have two ancestors who were on the Mayflower who both happened to sign the compact. This makes me fancy. But I digress.

The morning activity for the smaller kids, called ‘The Littles’ featured two bouncy houses (when I was a kid we called them “Moonwalks,” what happened to that?), face painting, parachutes and a story telling from Family Equality Council Board Member and children’s book author, Tommy Starling. His book, “Bob the Ladybug” is one of those great new children’s stories that hits home the idea that it’s okay to be different – the terrifying gay agenda at it’s best.

Following that, Kidapalooza and afternoon camp activities began. While the kids played, the parents participated in “Parent Cafés.” At the cafés. parents get the opportunity to discuss the specific challenges they are facing raising children – everything from adoption and pregnancy options available to fighting discrimination in their local schools. It’s a really useful tool for LGBT parents and this kind of thing is where Family Equality Council is able to provide the leadership that our families really need.

On to afternoon activities with teens from the Outspoken Generation (teen children of LGBT parents), gatherings for Moms and for Dads, and an Interfaith Photo Exhibit. We Have Faith is a touring photo exhibit which highlights LGBT people of many different religious backgrounds and their stories. It’s a truly eye-opening and stunningly photographed display. They are currently seeking funding and partnerships to bring the exhibit to more locations. More information is available at their website.

Here are some photos from yesterday’s activities!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: Family Week Day Two

30 Jul

Despite a whole day being overcast here in Provincetown, we brought the party.

Registration was set up early and the families began streaming in. Strollers covered in rainbows, sneakers coated in glitter – this is going to be one fabulous week.

The music was pumping in Crown & Anchor’s Wave Lounge as parents picked up the swag from Target and Children’s Tylenol. Staffers were dancing and babies were being passed around the room as the “Aaaawwwws” surpassed the One Direction tune coming from the Bose.

Then, in comes the Bermea family. We’ve written about Felix Bermea, Roy Messerschmidt and their 4 kids here before. Family Equality Council decided to fly them in from Arizona so they could forget some of the torment they faced in their hometown of Gilbert. Just to review, the Bermeas have been harassed for the past several months by their neighbors. Windows and doors rattled late at night, bushes in front of their home set on fire and even a break in where vandals scribed anti-gay epithets on their young daughter’s bedroom wall. All this while police did nothing, barely even a response from over 14 phone calls.

And here they are at Family Week – being shown there are hundreds of families just like their own. We’ll have more on them later in the week, but we’re super glad they’re here.

Following registration, a little nap followed by a meeting for Family Week newbies, the Outspoken Generation and then the Multi-Cultural Ice Cream Social! Here are some photos from the day:

Make Way for Duckings: Family Week Day One

28 Jul

It was a book that was read to our class in Kindergarten, First Grade and again in Second Grade. Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings about a family of ducks looking for a place to raise their young ones was always a favorite – especially in my Boston suburb school. And it’s a story I’m frequently reminded of at Family Week. Finding a safe place for us to raise our children is a concern of every LGBT parent. And considering Family Equality Council’s guests of honor this year, it’s particularly significant. More on them later…

I’m going to attempt, I repeat, ATTEMPT to keep a daily blog of my week long excursion to Family Equality Council’s Family Week in Provincetown, MA. I’ll be surprised if I make it through Day 1.

We started EARLY. A 6:20 flight out of DCA had us up at 4:30…AM. Sean poked his head in the sh0wer, “Is this like, and ACTUAL time?” Sean walked Eli and took out the trash, I did a load of dishes and got the house ready for our Eli sitters. Said our goodbyes to the pooch and out the door.

Not much can be said about the airport trip other than they had nothing to eat for breakfast in the JetBlue terminal. Hungrily we took our seats.

We arrived in Boston and cabbed it to the Provincetown Ferry. It was packed. It was hard not to notice lots of gay and lesbian couples with their kids in tow – clearly thrilled for a week on the Cape.

A little overcast, but warm and misty in that summery way that only New England can do. This was the kind of weather I loved growing up. We made our way down the pier and to our hotel. Family Week volunteers were frantically and furiously setting up for registration. Water bottles, t-shirts, wristbands and name tags were flying. But everything in order. They were ready to greet these families from all over the country. These families who are coming to spend this week where they won’t be the only one like them in their town. Kids getting to meet and hang out with other kids who have two moms or two dads. For the first time in many of these kid’s lives, they aren’t “the other.”

Registration began, along with games on the beach, hosted by my Beyoncé, Sean. I snapped photos while the children kicked sand on him, tackled him and made him happier than I often get to see him. He secretly loves kids and I can’t wait to be a Dad with him someday. He lights up and is such a natural with them. Never talking down and always meeting each kid where they are whether it’s tossing a frisbee or holding a 3 year old’s hand – just because that’s what the 3 year old asked for.

Enjoy some photos from today! There will be more to come if I’m not too tired!

Gay Dads, 4 Kids Terrorized by Neighbors – You Can Help!

13 Jul

Roy, Felix and their four children

You may recall last week when we told you about the Arizona family that has been threatened, had their property set on fire and their children chased down the street by men with guns while police did nothing.

While local authorities are  still being pressured by the media and people around the country to investigate this and prosecute accordingly, not much has changed for the two dads and their four adopted children.

While we can’t go wave a magic wand and make Arizona police and elected officials comprehend the idea that all families should be treated equally, we can show them they’re not alone.

The Family Equality Council and their new media manager, Sean Carlson (my fiancé) are attempting to do just that. Last August, I took part in a life-changing week in Provincetown, MA. Family Equality Council’s Family Week is a place for families of all different combinations. Two Dads, Two Moms, Two Grandpas, Two Grandmas – no matter what – everyone is welcome.

For the first time in many of their lives, children of LGBT parents are shown they are not the only family like theirs. In fact, not only are they introduced to a world with hundreds of families like their own, they are even celebrated in a parade down the main street of town.

With your help, the Family Equality Council is going to be bringing this family to Provincetown for Family Week this year.

From their fundraising page:

“It started with grafitti, then escalated to setting their bushes on fire and banging on the windows at night. Then the unthinkable happened: someone broke into their home and vandalized the children’s furniture.

The past few months have been a nightmare for the Bermeas – the harassment, the late night calls to the police, the aftermath, and the increased media attention have all made this time a less-than-ideal summer vacation.

We can do something about this – raise enough money to send the entire family to Family Week in Provincetown, MA.

Please help show this family they’re not alone! Contribute Now!

Why do Arizona cops let people chase kids with guns?

3 Jul

For four months now, Felix Bermia, his husband Roy and their four young children have been terrorized in their own home.

Violent rapping on their doors and windows when the kids are home alone,  hateful slurs keyed into their vehicles, fires lit on their lawn and around their property and even a break-in with more vandalism and slurs on the walls. Then just last week, two men stepped out of an SUV and pulled a gun on the two young boys and chased them home.

Since the first incident, Felix has called the police 14 times. The story received some national attention in the past few weeks and added pressure for the local authorities to take some action, but they’ve come up empty-handed. There’s a young girl who is now afraid to sleep in her own room after vandals wrote anti-gay profanity on her pastel walls, with her stuffed animals lying all around.

Despite this marathon session of this constant harassment, vandalism and terror inflicted on the family, the police magically have yet to be able to find a single person who knows anything about the crimes.

The local authorities have issued a statement claiming they’ve been on top of these incidents, despite no action seemingly being taken until after 12 phone calls reporting the crimes.

Lou Colagiovanni at the Examiner outlines the history of events and points out that there will be a rally on July 14th to bring further attention to the police department’s apparent lack of attention to the matter.

School Board Bans Book for Mentioning Gay Families Exist

4 Jun

Me, circa 1982.

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and I knew from a very young age that I was different from the other kids. My story starts off like many of yours. I read all the storybooks you read, saw all the Disney Princess movies you saw and I knew there was a reason I liked Bo & Luke so much more than Daisy.

When I was 10, I started performing in musicals and at 11, I was in a Longwood Opera production of Gianni Schicchi. At the cast party, a very tall slender African American man was talking to my mother. Another man came up next to him and was introduced as his “lover.” Of course I knew what they meant, but I’d never seen someone who was gay. Not in any book, or Disney movie or TV show. This was a first for me. It was the first time in my childhood I didn’t think there was something wrong with me.

In Erie, IL yesterday, the Erie School Board voted to ban Todd Parr’s “The Family Book” from it’s elementary school. The book tells young children that families are different. It speaks of large and small families, families with of different ethnicities, single-parent families, families with adopted children and then of course…the most terrifying of all “Some families have two moms or two dads.” It’s this single line which caused such a stir in Erie, Illinois, that the school board has taken the book off the shelves. Parents called and complained that children that young should not be taught this kind of material. It’s okay if it’s taught to older children, but not younger kids who are potentially picking on other kids because they have two moms or two dads.

It seems that due to the complaints of just 4 parents, the Erie School Board, led by School Board President Charlie Brown decided to ban the book.

Brown additionally took to Facebook to endorse putting “the Bible back in schools,” as seen here in the screenshot:


I spoke with Zach Wahls, the young man from Iowa who courageously defended his own lesbian parents and their family about this story and he responded:

“As the grown son of a lesbian couple who attended public K-12, this is both frustrating and frightening. For the board of a school district to say that my family structure is an ‘issue’ that shouldn’t be included ‘at the elementary school level’ not only fails to explain why that’s the case but also alienates the students in that district who do have two moms or dads. This is another startling reminder of the fact that not all bullies are just adolescent kids: some of them grow up to be school board presidents”

Erie School Board President Charles Brown

Additionally some educators from the elementary school where the book was banned made statements. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they feared they couldn’t do so publicly without risking their jobs.

“As an educator at the elementary, I am very disappointed that the GLSEN materials and Todd Parr books won’t be used again. They were excellent resources for the diversity unit and completely age appropriate. At no time was there anything mentioned that was inappropriate. The elementary level is the perfect time to teach acceptance and respect for everyone and all types of families. I am also very disappointed that these materials were taken away from everyone due to a small group of parents that opposed it. The best option would have been to leave the materials in place and those that wanted their children to opt out do so. By banning materials and books, we are not moving in the right direction. I am very saddened by the whole situation!”

Sean Leeds, a former student in the district, has started a petition at Change.org. In it, he requests that the school board reconsider their actions. Please tell School Board President Charles Brown that all families matter. As of now, more than 100 Erie parents have signed another petition asking for the reinstatement of both the book and other anti-bullying educational materials.

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