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Judy Appel Headshot

Straight Talk From a Lesbian Mom

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I am a real live lesbian mom. My wife and I have been together for 23 years, way back before we could even think of being wives. We have a 16-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter.

We are pretty much like any of you and your families. We get up every morning, make lunches for our kids and then scramble to get them out the door to school on time. Then, my wife Alison and I rush off to work, texting when we can catch a moment during our busy days to navigate the chores and details of dinner, shopping, dentist appointments and the ever changing complexities of our kids' schedules. At the end of our work day, we rush home, make dinner, help with homework and, like many other parents these days, nag our kids to put away their electronic devices. When we are lucky, they share their struggles and their triumphs with us. And, in between all of this, we worry about our kids. Actually, we worry all the time, for all the reasons every parent does.

We are fortunate in that we live in a place where our kids are growing up in an oasis of inclusion, with a community of friends and family that span the rainbow of sexual orientation, gender identity, race and class. Inside our bubble there is a culture of acceptance. Lesbian moms are hardly worth noticing, certainly far less noteworthy to our children and their friends than our questionable fashion choices or embarrassing dance moves.

But, our bubble is transparent, and both the awesomeness and the ugliness of the world are right outside. Our kids are tuned into American culture through social media, literature and Hollywood movies; but, until very recently, they saw little, if any, reflection of our family in the media, on television, on the web or in the books they read. However, partially due to the popularity of shows like Modern Family, Glee and The Fosters, this has begun to change. Now that marriage equality is cascading through the blue states, and even some of the red ones, corporations like Coca-Cola and Chevy are clamoring to embrace family diversity to grab a piece of the market share and consequently, send a message out to the world that change is no longer coming, it's here.

Unfortunately, there are some that still react with fear and hate to families like mine. The conservative opposition continues their 50-year crusade leveraging the anxieties of well-meaning straight people, advancing the tired and unfounded notion that somehow gay people, like my wife, and me, will harm their kids. They continue to demonize our families with unfounded truths like, "Kids need both a mother and a father to be well-adjusted members of society" or "Children will be harmed if they grow up in gay or lesbians families." These statements are slightly watered down version of the repressive Russian laws that led to an international outcry as LGBT families were pushed deep into the closet and out of their homeland. The same way of thinking leaves American children of LGBT parents vulnerable when they are denied legal connections to both their parents in so many states.

Our families are scattered throughout the United States: a quarter of all same-sex couples are raising kids in the American South. Salt Lake City has the highest ratio of same-sex couples raising children. States in the South and Midwest that have the highest percentage of same-sex couples raising children, also have the most precarious legal protections for their families. We have become accustomed to the one step forward and two step backwards pace of achieving equality. Yet, I feel confident that our path is inexorably set and that we will ultimately, some day, triumph in the Supreme Court.

The battle for acceptance is not solely taking place in the courts, but also at playgrounds, schoolyards, little league games, chess tournaments and in churches, synagogues, mosques, everywhere LGBT families are quietly going about the business of raising children and living their lives. LGBT parents are your neighbors. We are your kids' coaches, team managers and fellow carpool drivers. We can be people you rely on, people you turn to, people you trust with that most precious being, your child. We don't just stay in our bubble and neither do you.

The only way I know to start paving the way for a future of full-scale equity, one that goes beyond marriage equality, is for us to reach our hands across the playground and really meet one another. I ask you to put away any discomfort you might have about my family or other families that are different or simply don't look like your own. Welcome that two-dad couple when they come to Back-to-School night; take the leap and let your kid attend my kid's birthday party. Let's get to know each other. It is the only path to real change.

Our Family Coalition seeks to create an inclusive and just world where all LGBTQ families with children have visibility and opportunities to thrive as valued participants in our schools, institutions, and communities.