Tag Archives: LGBT Families

So…who’s the bride?

18 Apr

gay_wedding_lo-713823It’s no secret that I’m getting married a month from today. The generally frazzled look, messy hair, hundreds of wedding planning Google docs open on my computer – there’s really no hiding it.

I’ve always heard that the three most stressful things in a person’s life are moving, depression and planning a wedding. I’ve dealt with the other two, but this is my first wedding. I can happily say that overall, it’s been a very happy event. A few minor disagreements here and there, but overall it’s been pretty smooth sailing. Except for one little thing.

We all know stories and maybe even have friends who’ve experienced direct discrimination when it comes to wedding planning. A good friend of ours just dealt with someone on Etsy who refused to make a guestbook for them because Jesus didn’t want her to or something. And then there’s the story of the Washington florist. A gay man went to her regularly, spending lots of money and developing a nice relationship with this florist – all of a sudden, when it came time for the man’s wedding – the woman could no longer take his money. Having zero to do with marriage equality of course, and everything to do with that state’s anti-discrimination laws, the woman is now being sued by the state for violating those laws.

Those are huge infractions and those business owners who choose to violate state laws banning discrimination against gay people should absolutely be held accountable for breaking those laws. But then there are the seemingly little things.

With nearly every vendor we’ve dealt with (with the exception of the caterer who is located in Provincetown and services more gay weddings than straight) has asked us “who’s the bride” at one point or another. It’s an understandable question as I realize that gay weddings are a relatively new phenomenon. But it’s nonetheless a constant reminder of the fact that we’re still not “normal.”

Luckily, we haven’t run into any outright bigotry with any of our wedding vendors – so we feel very fortunate. But every time I see a form, or am asked for the name of my soon-to-be wife, it’s another conversation I have to have. But instead of feeling that shame I spent much of my 20s trying to get rid of, I take it to the next step and ask to speak to a manager. Or I simply make a formal request for that company to change the form and educate their employees.

255414_313640668743948_771725876_nFrom the time I was a little kid – every movie I saw, every book I read, every TV show I watched – featured straight couples, causing me to think there was something wrong with me. If by asking a company to correct a form or change their phrasing to “what’s the name of the other party?” or “what is your fiancé’s name?”, I can help stop someone from recalling those unfortunate feelings of inadequacy, I’m happy to do it.

At the end of the day, we’re in a very exciting time – it means more work for us – more calling out of the things that make us feel less than, and most importantly, more patience and assumption of good intent.

The guy who works at Men’s Wearhouse who asks me the bride’s name isn’t intentionally trying to make me feel bad that I’m not straight. But if I take a moment to calmly tell him that there’s no bride, but I’m happy to tell him the other groom’s name, he may stumble and feel awkward for a moment – but I bet he’ll think twice next time he makes that assumption.

Look, it sometimes sucks to have to be the ones who forge new territory, but at the end of the day we have an awesome opportunity to make the next generation of LGBT people feel more comfortable through some really easy conversations. Speak out when someone says one of those things that makes you feel less than. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to change their form so that it’s inclusive of you and your family.

Again, most often, there’s no ill-intent, just a lack of education or experience. It’s up to us to make it easier for the next generation.

 

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.

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!

Catholic Charities Abandons Thousands of Children Instead of Adopting to LGBT Parents

15 Nov

It seems one of the final frontiers in the struggle for equality for LGBT families is teaching the rest of the world that we are incredible parents and that our families not only deserve equality, but we are suffering without it.

Even some who I once considered allies in our fight have said to me “I think you should be able to get married, but I really believe children should have a mother and father” or “gay people should not be allowed to adopt.” This belief stems from generations of lies which make people think of gays and lesbians as pedophiles. From public service announcements in the 50′s to anti-gay hate groups scraping to connect the recent child rape tragedy at Penn State with gay men, we have never been at a loss for people who – even subconsciously – carry this ignorant defamation.

In 2005, I was lucky enough to go on Rosie O’Donnell’s first “R Family Cruise.” I watched shows, had conversations with LGBT parents and I wished that some of the people who have spoken so falsely about us could see how much love there was there.

Almost every one of these children had to be fought for – some parents lived in states where same-sex parent adoption was not legal and some fought tooth-and-nail through divorces where anti-gay judges refused custody because one parent was gay. And I thought – how many heterosexual parents do I know that can truly say they had to fight for their children – legally – in court? How many straight parents do I know had the state they live in tell them they have no rights as a parent?

Well, times are changing.

Every reliable study that has been done, has proven again and again that LGBT parents are just as, if not better equipped to parent than opposite-gender parents. And a recent study released by the Family Equality Council shows us all the great inequalities our well-equipped families are facing all over the U.S. And in the past decade, the number of lesbian and gay adoptive couples has tripled.

Anti-Gay Governor Bob McDonnell

In states across the country, adoption agencies are still discriminating against gay and lesbian parents. In Virginia, a study was done by the previous governor which confirmed what every other reasonable study has found – that we make excellent parents. But of course, under the current anti-gay administration, all the scientific findings were dismissed and the lesbian and gay adoption ban was left in place by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell. This, despite the fact that there are more than 6,000 children in the Virginia foster care system waiting for a forever home.

Catholic Charities in many states have fought tooth-and-nail against laws which require adoption agencies treat all families equally. And after a hard-fought battle in Illionois, Catholic Charities has chosen to abandon up to 2,200 children instead of allowing them to be placed with capable, loving gay and lesbian parents. Several Catholic Charities Adoption Agencies have chosen to do the same in other states. Over and over again, the Catholic dioceses have made the conscious decision to abandon orphans and foster children rather than place them in loving, forever homes, based on nothing in their actual belief system.

As the Bible clearly says zero about lesbians and gays raising children, the choice to close down their agencies has nothing to do with their religion and everything to do with wrongfully-held beliefs based on nothing but rumors and baseless fear tactics created decades ago. It is indeed heartbreaking to see those who claim “Christian” beliefs act so hatefully by leaving thousands of children with nothing to fall back on.

Fortunately, Catholic Charities around the country represent a tiny sliver of all the adoptions that take place on a regular basis and the children represented by them will be taken in by state agencies which do not practice discrimination. So, at the end of the day, this is a good thing and those kids will now have a much greater shot at finding their forever home.

What if your parents were gay?

25 Oct
Our conversations that have been pushing our movement forward so expediently most frequently revolve around rights and protections for ourselves. The conversation is most always focuses on why we can’t get married, violence against us or own rejection from our families, friends and society. It’s time for the conversation to change.

The Family Equality Council and Center for American Progress released a new MAP (Movement Advancement Project) study today which is the first comprehensive and thorough study of LGBT-headed families in the United States. Their findings not only change the conversation, but they blow apart the last walls of defense for those who continue to propagate bigotry and hatred.

The most devastating conclusion found in the report, which needs to be shared around this country – is that the discriminatory laws of this country are actually harming children. Here is a sampling of some of the staggering statistics:

  • There are up to 2 million children in this country being raised by LGBT parents.
  • Across 18 years, sams-sex parents will have an added $219,262 financial burden which heterosexual parents will not have.
  • Children of binational parents live in fear that one of their parents may be deported.
  • Children of LGBT parents may be denied health insurance if a parent’s employer requires documentation of legal adoption in a state which does not allow same-sex parent adoption.
  • LGBT parents may not be able to take time off work to care for a sick child or spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act.
  • LGBT families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty.
  • 18 states treat LGBT partners and non-adoptive parents and their children as legal strangers. This means if a parent has to take a child to the hospital, they have no right to make medical decisions.
  • Children of LGBT parents are denied financial protections should a parent die or become disabled.

These and many other findings in this groundbreaking report have the capacity to become game-changers. With a half-million children in this country living in foster care and 30 years of competent research stating that children of same-sex parents are just as happy, healthy and well adjusted as those from heterosexual parents, the laws need to change.

Those who so frequently claim that they are “fighting to protect children” as their primary defense of heterosexual-only marriage, can no longer claim that. We now have the facts to support the opposite. This is no longer about us working for our equality. This is about our children who face devastating inequality through no action of their own.

The Family Equality Council has put together a comprehensive website which includes not only the findings of the report, but the next action steps we can take to be certain this report is getting the attention it needs.

On the site, there is a place for LGBT families to “Tell Your Story.” I highly recommend that if you or someone you know is an LGBT family, that you take advantage of this. It is through stories like these, that we will best see these gross inequalities represented. Nothing is going to change if no one knows something is wrong.

Please enjoy the photos below from this morning’s panel on LGBT families and please share the following video wherever you can:

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler

Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress

Jonathan Capehart

Bryan Samuels

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

The panel on LGBT Families

Jonathan Capehart

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Bryan Samuels

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Ineke Mushovic, Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Ineke Mushovic, Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress

Aisha Moodie-Mills, Center for American Progress, Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Reverend Dennis Wiley

Jeff Friedman, Andrew Zwerin and their son Josh with Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Capehart

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