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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!

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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.

PHOTOS: Family Equality Council’s Night at the Pier and GLAAD’s NY TGIF

27 Apr

Last night, I had the opportunity to see what the Family Equality Council has been up to at their annual Night on the Pier. Outside of raising over $200,000 to continue their fight to change national and local policy to protect LGBT families, but they also managed to bring together a slew of Broadway celebs and some recently discovered heroes from the movement.

Most of you remember the 19-year old Iowan, Zach Wahls and the incredible speech he made before the Iowa House regarding his life as the son of two lesbian moms. The speech made him an instant youtube sensation and has garnered him a lot more attention than this engineering student ever thought he’d receive. He made his way to a few interviews during the day, including this one with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, and then showed up to the pier.

Also at the event were cast members from Broadway’s Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Rosie O’Donnell, Broadway performers such as Kate Shindle, Audra McDonald, CAA’s Joe Machota, R Family Cruise’s Gregg Kaminsky and Kelli Carpenter and hundreds more. (Full disclosure: Talk About Equality Co-Founder Sean Carlson is the New Media Associate for Family Equality Council – and I was thrilled to share the evening with him!)

Another wonderful new event that is picking up speed in several cities is GLAAD’s TGIF ( Thank GLAAD It’s Friday) parties. I’ve been able to visit one in DC and now one in New York. The networking event has been set up by local chapters of GLAAD and seeks to expand membership and to educate about the important work GLAAD is doing throughout the US.

Please enjoy photos from these two events!

Miss New York Claire Buffie and Hugh Gallagher

Jonathan D. Lovitz from Logo's The Set-up Squad

Thomas Roberts, Claire Buffie and Patrick Abner

Family Equality Council's Jennifer Chrisler and Zach Wahls

Jennifer Chrisler and Kelli Carpenter

Kimberly Galberaith and Broadway's Jodi Capeless

Rosie O'Donnell and Jennifer Chrisler

Jack Mackenroth

Bishop Gene Robinson and Douglas Carter Beane

Tracy Kachtick-Anders and Rosie O'Donnell

Will Swenson and Audra McDonald

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

Priscilla's Nick Adams

Wonderland's Kate Shindle and William Franzblau

Priscilla's Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson and Nick Adams