Tag Archives: gay parents

The Little Engine that Could: Family Week Day Six

4 Aug

My favorite book growing up was The Little Engine that Could. It was the most requested bedtime story and I think it has also provided a bit of a narrative for my life. And other than the creepy clown in the illustrations, it always made me happy.

We’ve been through five days and there’s only two more to go. I think I can, I think I can. Growing up gay is a constant reminder of the struggles that little engine faced. Getting knocked down and getting back up again over and over again, whether it’s literal or figurative – it’s something every LGBT person I know can relate to. And when we have kids, they’re sometimes going through the same thing on our behalf – helping to educate on what discrimination does to families like theirs.

The Outspoken Generation is a new program started by Family Equality and chaired by Zach Wahls and Emma Robinson. It’s focus is to provide a platform and guidance for teen children of LGBT parents. This morning we started with a heavily-attended panel featuring several of these well-spoken teens. Emotions ran deep and kids spoke from their hearts about their incredible families. Some kids have been raised in places where they’ve never faced a single adversity regarding their family and others have felt at times that to protect themselves, that they needed to lie about who their parents were.

Coming Out is not just something we do as LGBT people, it was explained by Zach Wahls and other members of the panel that it’s sometimes a similar process for our kids. And like us, we are sometimes faced with communities that are intolerant and even hateful. But as was made evident by the panelists, it seems the younger the kid the more tolerant and supportive our communities have become. The youngest people on the panel spoke about their families and the bigotry shown their parents almost as something you only hear about on television – all their friends and their friends’ families have never treated them as anything but another family in town. So as the panel progressed, it became more clear that through education, and through excellent parenting, the world is changing before our eyes.

If I learned anything from the panel, it’s that the parents of these young people have done an extraordinary job bringing them up.

Following the panel, we began preparations for the Annual Clambake. This is one of Family Equality’s major fundraising events and it’s held in one of the most beautiful places on earth – the base of the iconic Pilgrim Monument.

Roughly 300 made the climb up the hill to the tent next to the 100+ year old tower. Rainbow leis around everyone’s necks and smiles on their faces, they sat down to a lobster dinner. The kids were running circles around the monument and I was able to take photos of some beautiful families with one of the most stunning backdrops I’ve ever seen.

Following some brief remarks from Family Council leadership, a special guest of the event came up to Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler. A lesbian veteran burdened with an oxygen tank, bringing with her an enormous brood of kids said to Jenn “my daughter has something to say to you.” The young teen reached into her canvas purse and handed Jenn a crumpled $20 bill and a handful of change. Choking back tears, Jenn helped her fill out the donation form so the young girl would get proper credit for her contribution.

Dinner was followed by lots of incredible conversations and lively dancing. Please enjoy some of the day’s photos. Many more can be seen at Equality Photography.

 

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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!

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.

A More Perfect World: Celebrating Our Families in Provincetown

10 Aug

Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, MA (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

I had been to Provincetown twice in my life – once as a 13-year old with a summer camp field trip and once in 2005 on Rosie O’Donnell’s R Family Cruise as a correspondent for BroadwayWorld.com. It was always an exciting place to be. A weird sort of Narnia where the world was upside down, straight was gay and gay was straight. But the Provincetown I saw last week changed my life.

Family Equality Council‘s Family Week is intended to bring together LGBT families from across the country for one week of sun and fun. But that’s not all it is. Throughout the course of the week, kids are in summer camp classes learning about photography, dance, playwrighting, nature and all sorts of other summer campy-type disciplines. Parents are taking part in “Parent Cafes” learning about the state of the movement and meeting with other LGBT parents struggling with a lot of the same challenges they face. The week is filled with teen dances, movie nights, clam bakes, and whale watches. In this magnificent Utopia, kids get to be kids instead of “that boy with two moms” or “that girl with two dads.”

Brent Wright (Family Equality Council), his daughter, Olivia (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

For three years, I was the camp director at Camp TLC – a summer camp for inner-city teens living with HIV and AIDS. Not since that time did I see the difference it made in a child’s life to feel like they weren’t alone. Like at Camp TLC, these kids got to spend one week out of 52 weeks a year where they weren’t “the other.” For this week, every kid they knew was in the same boat as them and the support they felt and gave each other was palpable. I like to think they’ll be able to carry that through the other 51 weeks a year.

Family Week Parade (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

Most of the families I met last week came from parts of the country where marriage equality is not the law and where bigotry and hatred is alive and well. One young girl told us the story of her school chorus singing a song where one of the lyrics was “gay.” The kids snickered as kids will do and the teacher explained that the word “just meant ‘happy,’ not the other kind of gay – the other kind of gay is just wrong.” This wasn’t the only time this daughter of two moms faced these kinds of comments. But not this week – this week, instead of finger-pointing and exclusion, these kids are literally celebrated in a special parade down the main street of town.

For this one week, these families got to see what life could be like in a place with no discrimination or hatred, where they were the “normal” ones. Also encouraging to see were a few straight families bringing their children to Family Week. I spoke with one Dad who told me that this is the world he wants his children to grow up in. His two boys were adopted and he said this was one of the only places he could take them where the majority of other kids are adopted as well.

I learned a lot this week – far more than I could ever teach or write about here – but more than anything, I learned that as cliche as it may sound – it’s not biology that makes a family… it’s love.

Please enjoy some of our photos from this week and check out the slideshow we put together with the Family Equality Council. And also drop by their site and make a contribution so that Family Week can continue and grow to include as many families as possible. (all photos copyright: Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

VA’s Gov. McDonnell Playing Politics with Children

7 Apr

The state of Virginia is known historically for leading the way among the southern colonies so that our country could declare our independence from a tyrannical King George.

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell

A few centuries later, the great state of Virginia is now behind the times with the actions of bigoted Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who tried to force VA’s colleges to rescind their LGBT-inclusive policies and now GOP Gov Bob McDonnell is set to stop VA’s adoption policies from including lesbian and gay families.

Family Equality Council is leading the fight to educate the Governor on some terrifying statistics. 1 in 3 youth in Virginia’s foster care system wind up aging out of it before ever finding a permanent home. Nearly half of the kids in the system have been in 3 or more homes. Research shows us that youth who age out of foster care without ever finding permanency are at a high risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood.

McDonnell is claiming that his decision is to “protect” Catholic charities and other faith-based adoption agencies from being “forced” to give gay parents children. One should note: the current adoption laws include single parents who could be gay or straight.

Family Equality asks the important question: With all of these problems facing the Virginia foster care system, why is the Governor intentionally limiting the number of loving families ready and waiting to adopt?

Please take a moment to visit Family Equality Council’s website here, sign this urgent petition to help these kids and pass it along to your friends.

Virulently Homophobic Lawmaker Inspires Gay Blogger

25 Mar

Homophobic Lawmaker Eugene Delgaudio

Okay, so I’m one of those people who signs up for the mailing lists of the people who hate me because I’m truly interested in reading the arguments others are using to fight against my equality.

The most offensive and idiotic of the-eblasts I get, are from a man named Eugene Delgaudio. Eugene is a Virginia lawmaker frighteningly enough, and once in a while, his lunacy gets some attention. His homo-erotic pulp fiction once included the following:

“One stormy night I drove to a mailshop hidden deep in a nearly deserted stand of warehouses. I’d heard something was up and wanted to see for myself. As I rounded the final turn my eyes nearly popped. Tractor-trailers pulled up to loading docks, cars and vans everywhere and long-haired, earring-pierced men scurrying around running forklifts, inserters and huge printing presses. Trembling with worry I went inside. It was worse than I ever imagined. Row after row of boxes bulging with pro-homosexual petitions lined the walls, stacked to the ceiling. My mind reeled as I realized hundreds, maybe thousands, more boxes were already loaded on the tractor-trailers. And still more petitions were flying off the press.”

I’m sure if we look at the un-edited version, we’d find moments where the earring-pierced men pushed him against a forklift, grabbed the back of his head and forced their tongue into his plump lips past his teeth. But I digress…

Most recently, he spoke up about the recent changes in the TSA security checks at airports. While many viewed these changes as extreme due to the “intimacy” involved in the pat-downs – Eugene announced via his website, that the new enhanced security measures were “part of the homosexual agenda.” Apparently, gay TSA employees are getting their jollies by feeling up male passengers.

Today, he sent out the shortest message I have ever received. While most of his emails begging for cash rival War & Peace, this email was simple, short, and to the point. Eugene warned “Watch at your own risk” and included links to a video from a school in Cambridge, MA. After some research, I discovered this was filmed more than 15 years ago. While the video is titled “Homosexuals Brainwashing Public School Children,” a simple Google search will show that the first school featured in the video is a private school.

I felt ready to be offended when I pressed play – prepared to see a propaganda film from the homophobic movement. But then I went to youtube and watched both parts of the video. I found myself crying. The two-part “documentary,” though offensively titled on youtube, features educators talking with grade school kids about acceptance for their fellow students and citizens. The children are being educated properly and though I’d assumed it might be edited to make LGBT families look terrible it is actually a beautiful piece of journalism. The things being taught to these young children gives me hope that our next generations will have less hate.

So once again, I would like to thank wingnut Eugene Delgaudio for giving me some hope that the right thing is happening in this country.

Please watch the following videos (ignoring the addendums by whatever homophobic person posted) and watch them quickly as I’ve notified the filmmaker of the copyright infringement that is clearly taking place and they could be pulled from youtube soon.

Lesbian Mom Takes Own Life After Losing Custody Battle

3 Jan

A heartbreaking story today about a lesbian mother who has taken her own life because of a custody dispute over her son.

Debie Hackett and her son, from her facebook profile.

The news comes from the Dallas Voice, which had covered the legal battle this summer. In July, Debie Hackett had sued her former partner and the biological mother of their child, Kim Ferris for proper visitation rights with their son. Debie won in an appeals court and the case was remanded to a lower court, where this past month, Debie lost. To explain further: the appeals’ court ruling did not grant Debie visitation, but did allow for the case to continue and not be dismissed as Ferris had hoped.

On Christmas Eve, distraught by the fact that she could may possibly never see her child again, Debie took her own life. The Dallas Voice asks: “Could interpretation of laws to discount a same-sex relationship be the underlying cause of this needless death?”

A sad story to start of 2011, but will hopefully ignite some fire in us to continue creating the change we so desperately need.