The show Modern Family on ABC is well scripted, funny, and does a great job introducing the notion that gay people raising children is no big deal. What the show doesn't portray is the real demographics of American families.
Through my recent involvement with COLAGE: People with a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ) Parent, I have learned that our families are more beautifully diverse than most of us ever think about.
I have met young people who have four gay dads and two lesbian moms. I have met some of the first young adults born through donor insemination to lesbian parents. I have met people who were adopted across racial and ethnic lines and live in multicultural families. I have met youth who grew up with a transgender parent and youth who have a parent who transitioned later in life.
I have also met many people like me, with parents who divorced after one parent came out as gay.
The propaganda pushed by the right wing is that the ideal American family is headed by a married father and mother, but the real demographics of our families portray another story. We live with our single parents, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, and beyond. Hillary Clinton was right about a few things: "it takes a village," and there is a "vast right-wing conspiracy"!
There are often times when even the LGBTQ community feels pressure to portray our families as "perfect," upper-class, mainstream, two-parent homes. For example, marriage equality organizations decided not to showcase any LGBTQ families during the Prop 8 battle in California out of concern that showing our families with kids would feed into the right wing's fear-mongering messages about gays "corrupting" children.
I believe many of us in the LGBTQ movement have learned that hiding behind our realities will only set ourselves back further by dampening our morale and portraying weakness. It's time to be proud of the variety of familial structures that have existed forever and the new ones we are building. It's also time to admit that marriage equality will not provide all the necessary protections, rights and responsibilities to ensure that all families have access to health care coverage and other basic needs.
The truth is LGBTQ families struggle with the same things most families struggle with. For example, according to the Williams Institute, the 2000 census showed that 1 in 5 children being raised in gay and lesbian households live in poverty. And like most families, LGBTQ families sometimes deal with difficult challenges like divorce, death, alcoholism and abuse.
As more LGBTQ families are formed through donor insemination, surrogacy and adoption, new joys and challenges arise. In order to support each other and make change in the world we need to be honest about all of these issues and work together to develop resources and language for us to speak about them. That's why organizations like COLAGE are so relevant and important.
The Obama administration has made progress in the area of family recognition and protections by opening up hospital visitation rights for all family types and by expanding family medical leave laws to include LGBT workers to qualify for family leave to care for their nonbiological or nonadoptive children. There is a lot more work to be done, so we must keep the pressure on and keep sharing our stories.
The notion that every child does best in a two-parent, heterosexual, married household has been disproven by most psychological associations and many cultures over many centuries. But it is only recently, thanks to new media and a changing popular culture, that all kinds of families are amplifying their voices.
One young person proudly sharing his family story is Kyle Fa, who has two gay dads and a lesbian mom. Check out his inspirational story below:
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