Category Archives: Family Reflections

Baby Boy

Guest Post by Nicole Opper

Nicole and Kristan document their journey into the foster care system to adopt a child in their new comedic documentary web series The F Word: a Foster to Adopt Story. Our Family Coalition is proud to be a supporter of the film and a co-presenter of its screenings at Frameline Film Festival. Below, Nicole shares a morsel of their story. Come for more at the screenings June 18th at the Roxie in San Francisco, or June 20th at the Elmwood in Berkeley.


When my cell phone rang I thought it was going to be our social worker calling about two siblings we’d seen photos of earlier that day in her office. It’s a bizarre monthly ritual: showing up to leaf through the new collection of flyers featuring foster children awaiting homes. Some of these children reappear month after month. Others are new faces. Their descriptions say things like “Enjoys playing soccer” or “Has an infectious smile,” before divulging the inevitable traumas they’ve faced.

We had made the decision to build our family through fost-adoption two years earlier and signed up for parent training classes at a local agency. We were open to any child age 0-4 and were told that it would be about a two year wait because everyone wants little kids. For awhile we thought about taking on an older kid, but knew this was unrealistic for us – we live in a tiny rent-controlled apartment in Oakland, and to leave this apartment would mean to leave the Bay Area altogether. Many of our friends had already been priced out. So we decided to stick to our guns, and two years later, almost to the month, I was answering this phone call, expecting to hear about next steps for the two little girls who had captured our hearts that morning, a two year old and her six year old sister. Not only had we broken our age rule but we’d doubled our number to two, deciding we’d make up for our lack of space with boundless love and plenty of outdoor adventures.

But the call about the siblings never came. In the time it had taken us to see their flyer and inquire about them, another family had already been selected. This was the third potential match that we’d gotten our hopes up about but that ultimately fell through.

The call was, in fact, about a baby. “Baby Boy” was what they called him, because he hadn’t been given a name. When I think back to the day we were told about him, none of it seems real. For one thing, my wife and I were already starting to feel pretty cynical about the whole process. Either we’d see a kid and get excited but wouldn’t be picked by their social worker, or we’d be picked but then it would fall through for other reasons. We knew this was part of the deal; that adoptions through foster care were messy and hard, that there would be joy but also profound grief. We just didn’t expect it to take so long to even be considered. Was it the gay thing? Our small home? Our income level?

We were told it was a concurrent planning case, which means there was a chance Baby Boy would be reunified with birth family. Were we still interested?

“Yes,” we replied.

Well okay then, we’d hear by the end of the day if we were selected. We spent the day wondering if the Yentas of the child welfare system would deem us to be a match. Sure, Baby Boy’s social worker had a thirty page document cataloging most of our major life choices, but how do degrees, careers, hobbies and the cities we grew up in add up to any sense of whether we’d be the right parents for a particular kid? Most kids in the system aren’t there because of abuse or abandonment. Most are there due to neglect. Poverty is an indicator for neglect, and the idea that there are kids in foster care who wouldn’t be there to begin with if their parents had received the support they needed was not only unjust but completely heartbreaking. This system treats the symptom instead of the cause, yet we put our faith in the process, because a broken foster care system doesn’t get fixed by those who ignore it, but by those who engage with it.

And then the call came. At 5pm later that day we were told we’d been selected. We would have a disclosure meeting the following week where we’d receive information about the child’s history and his needs. We knew next to nothing about him, but we knew he had a story, one written onto his heart and his body if not his conscious mind. It was a story that included two months of doctors, nurses, social workers and even volunteer ‘cuddlers’, but began months earlier in his mother’s womb, and centuries before that with his ancestors. We knew so little, but one thing we were clear about: our task was as much to honor this child’s story as it would be to care for him.

The F Word: a Foster to Adopt Story screens at  Frameline June 18th and June 20th and streams on PBS Digital Studios in the Fall. On Twitter/Instagram/Facebook @thefwordseries.

Here’s how you can help change the world.

changetheworld

by Charlie Spiegel, Esq. SF
Proud Our Family Coalition Member

Dear Families and Friends –

 After September 11, 2001, I didn’t know how to parent my then 4-year old daughter if the country’s tallest skyscrapers could be made to “fall down.” A wise educator gave me advice I followed for many years, explaining we had to provide our children with the illusion of security, and as adults, remember it was only an illusion.

charlie2After November 9, 2016, I think we need to do more of the same—provide our kids the illusion of security, while remembering it is only an illusion. As adults, we need to do even more and support institutions that protect our community and change the world. That’s where supporting and strengthening Our Family Coalition (OFC) comes in. I hope you will join me in making a special tax-deductible contribution to OFC right now so they can expand their work to support LGBTQ families.

LGBTQ  families are surely at risk in this uncertain future just  as we were during Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage initiative. OFC fought to have LGBTQ parents front and center in the campaign, successful years later, to change public opinion, in large part because our family members go into institutions where undecided fellow citizens are, and can change minds there one person at a time.

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Today feels the same.  Our families must be even more visible and engaged in order to change the hearts and minds of people, one by one. A strong Our Family Coalition helps make that change happen.

OFC’s work making California schools welcoming and affirming of family diversity provides the safety and warmth that helps shape our children into their own best advocates. At the same time, OFC’s work training parents to be effective media spokespeople, linking what happens politically to the day-to-day safety of our families, is crucial right now. And OFC provides the fun social spaces and activities that gives us all the strength for these fights.

Fifteen years ago, I parented by providing my daughter an illusion of safety. Now she’s 3,000 miles away, a sophomore in college, and there is no illusion that I can protect her from the difficult national environment we face. Instead, my sense of security comes from knowing she is a strong advocate for herself and others, and that her pride in her family will allow her to be confident, visible, and an advocate among families and students with less apparent diversity and understanding of differences.

I credit Our Family Coalition with providing each of us the spaces, tools and events to create, nurture, celebrate—and effectively advocate for– our families. That’s what our tax-deductible contributions to OFC support—now when the need is even greater.

bigdonatebutton-rectangle-whitebgI know you are part of this movement and this moment, and that this movement will succeed. I hope you can support OFC financially to the greatest extent possible for the months and years ahead.

Our Family Coalition makes that difference; please join us in changing our world, some more!

Charlie Spiegel, Esq. SF
Proud Our Family Coalition Member

PS: One of my strongest takeaways from this election is that a new generation of diverse activists will lead and win this fight in a world that is constantly changing. We saw 11 years of Judy Appel’s leadership wrapping up in September of this year, and see new possibilities again with Renata Moreira as Interim Executive Director. My tax-deductible donation to Our Family Coalition is specifically made to support Renata and all the employees of OFC to be our next generation of LGBTQ pioneers!  I hope you will too. Thank you.

Alphabet Soup Episode 4: Racial Justice Edition

Featuring

Amber Todd, Co-chair of Oakland Pride
Tarah Fleming, Our Family Coalition’s Education Director

Food for Thought with Allen Johnson, Our Family Coalition’s Development Associate

Host: Renata Moreira, Our Family Coalition’s Acting Executive Director

What does it mean to be an ally? How can privilege be used to move the pendulum of change? How can we give our kids the tools and knowledge needed to navigate growing up in a racist society, and empower them to use their voices to be a part of the solution?

Tune in to Alphabet Soup to listen to moving and urgent conversations with Amber Todd, proud mother of four and co-chair of Oakland Pride, and Tarah Fleming, Education Director of Our Family Coalition and co-founder of the Youth Action Project, which exists within the White Privilege Conference.

Solo Parent Support

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By Dr. Meghan Lewis

soloparentspicAs my bio-clock struck thirty, the resounding tick-tock of surging pregnancy urges pushed me eagerly into musings over a wide range of reproductive and family building options. Having hoped from the days of my youth that I would grow a baby, as a queer-identified, single person, I began to seriously consider how that might actually happen.

I wondered if I would eventually marry a woman with whom I’d raise a family, perhaps via the offering of a donor-relative on her side. Maybe I’d seek out a close friend to share in a lifetime of parenting. Perhaps I’d meet a gay male couple who’d be delighted to co-create a kid or two.

Fast forward five years: No wife in sight, no potential donor-friend living in close proximity, and no family-oriented gay male couple in my inner circle. With the desire to grow my family soaring cycle-by-cycle, it became clearer to me that the path to parenthood would be unfolding quite differently then expected.

I had, however, often imagined self-fertilization as part of the process. So, when rolling out Plan B, i.e. intentional solo parenting via anonymous donor, I figured my next step was to explore alternate avenues for seed seeking. And like good gardeners do, I sought the best seed for a healthy, fruitful harvest. (My bottom line: no GMO’s, only homos). After narrowing down my choice of local sperm banks, I finally picked my heirloom seed and as fastidious farmer, turned my physical form into fecund field; an empowering process of planting and propagating my very own progeny.

soloparent-pullquote1Throughout the last ten years of raising said progeny on my own, I have found it to be an equally empowering process though not without bouts of great challenge and a kind of slow birth of deep perseverance, lots of unknowns, and unexpected twists and turns. Likewise, it seems similarly true for single parents who are on their own due to unanticipated circumstances such as divorce, death, or deportation of a partner or spouse. These parents also must conjure up enduring fortitude, self-determination, and exemplary flexibility.

Regardless of our families’ unique formation, for all of us parenting solo, I believe it is essential to cultivate a persistently empowered perspective– one that also holds our unique family as a complete family. Contrary to popular belief, solo parenthood does not have to be outrageously difficult, lonely, isolating, profoundly exhausting, or brokenly awaiting the buoyant balancing of another. We have access to what it takes to raise our children with optimism, love, tons of fun, and a deep sense purpose, belonging, and connection.

To help support the continued growth of an empowered parenting perspective, each month OFC offers a dinner gathering for solo parent families at the Children’s Creativity Museum, SF. Join us for community building and parent-driven discussions on a wide range of experiences and topics while your kid(s) enjoy supervised exploration of the many creative activities the museum has to offer.

– Discuss effective strategies for handling the unique challenges and responsibilities of solo parenting.

– Identify your hopes and intentions for yourself and your child(ren) and explore creative ways of attaining your personal and parenting goals.

– Learn healthy decompression/stress reduction practices.

– Discover helpful Bay Area parenting resources.

– Receive support and understanding while growing your community of local solo parents.

Register now! Free.

About the facilitator:

Dr. Meghan Lewis is a queer, solo parent by choice of a ten year old son and the founder of Integrative Perinatal Psychotherapy with offices in Oakland and SF.  She is also the founding member of LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Associates of the Bay Area, a group of LGBTQ-identified professionals dedicated to the health of our community’s growing families. Meghan served on the Board of Berkeley’s BirthWays and is currently on the Advisory Board of Oakland’s Then Comes Baby where she offers support for LGBTQ families-to-be, those trying to conceive (TTC) and throughout early parenthood. Additionally, she offers preconception consultations and birth doula care through Wombservice Midwifery.

meghanlewisphd@gmail.com
www.lgbtqperinatalassociates.com
www.wombservicemidwifery.com

The Alphabet Soup – Episode 2: Family Activism Edition

In the second episode of The Alphabet Soup with Our Family Coalition, Julia and Zach of The Rainbow Letters share inspiring and powerful stories about growing up with parents who are lesbian or gay. Listen in to an engaging conversation with Willy Wilkinson on parenting, activism and his new book Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency.

Guests:
Zach Wahls and Julia Winston, The Rainbow Letters
Willy Wilkinson, Author, Activist & Parent

Host:
Judy Appel, Executive Director

Food for Thought with:
Renata Moreira, Policy and Communications Director
Our Family Coalition

The Rainbow Letters

by Julia Winston and Zach Wahls
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We are Zach and Julia, and we have LGBTQ parents.

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Zach is a DI baby from Iowa with two moms, and Julia’s dad came out when she was just a kiddo back in Texas. We’re all grown up now, and because we care about our families so much, we love connecting with and learning about other people like us who have LGBTQ parents.That’s why we started a creative writing project called The Rainbow Letters.

During this remarkable time of progress in the LGBTQ and family equality movements, the fact remains that the public still has minimal exposure to the unique perspectives of children.

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Well, we want to hear what they have to say!

The Rainbow Letters is a collection of original letters written by people (like us) with LGBTQ parents, no matter how old we are or where we come from, to shed light on our experiences. Every person has a different story, and every story matters.

Why letters? For hundreds of years, letter writing has been one of the most personal and intimate methods of communication. In today’s highly connected yet largely impersonal digital world, we can’t think of anything more genuine than a good old fashioned letter. Our writers can choose to address their letters to anyone in the world, and to identify themselves as the authors of these letters openly or anonymously.

rainbowletterspullquote1We started collecting letters just a few months ago and already dozens of beautiful pieces of self-expression are flooding in! The letters we receive run the gamut from humorous to heartbreaking and everything in between, and are addressed to people as diverse as RuPaul, a 9th grade crush, and an 11-year-old self. We’re so touched by every submission and we can’t wait to make these letters available for others to read and digest.

The purpose of this project is to generate reflection, self-expression, and the development of a community that will provide the world with a better understanding of our shared humanity. Ultimately The Rainbow Letters will become a published collection intended to illustrate that differences truly are okay, and that there’s no such thing as “normal when it comes to family. When the project grows large enough, we also intend to host an ongoing interactive platform online to invite conversation and facilitate discussion.

What do we need to bring this vision to fruition? More letters, of course! And we’d like to call on you to get involved and be part of it.

If you are an LGBTQ parent, let your kids know what we’re up to! We would love to hear from them.

Irainbowletterspullquote3f you’re the child of an LGBTQ parent or parents, consider writing a letter! You can write to anyone you want, say whatever is in your heart, and submit as many letters as you’d like. We think you’re voice is incredibly valuable; we would love to hear it, and let it be heard by others.

You can submit a letter on our website at www.therainbowletters.com, read current letter snippets on Facebook, or reach out to us directly at info@therainbowletters.com.

It’s clear to see that we are in the midst of a “family revolution.” 

The kids are right there, front and center — and we think society can really benefit from hearing what’s on their minds.

The Entrustment Ceremony – Creating meaningful ritual in open adoption

By Leah Sheldon
Originally Published by Adoption Connection
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Ashlee (left) and adoptive mom Bobbie exchange vows and bracelets at the entrustment ceremony of daughter Fait

Rituals have always been used to signify a change or rite of passage, or to mark a transition in the life of a person or community. Although they are often interwoven with religious traditions, rituals can be anything that symbolizes and celebrates a life change.  We mark birthdays, baptisms, bar/bat mitzvahs, and weddings with a special ceremony, so why not open adoptions?

The transfer of parental rights from one family to another in an open adoption is bittersweet. The birthmother is giving up her role as caregiver while the adoptive parents are gaining a new family member to love and nurture. The role of a ritual–or entrustment ceremony– to honor this event is becoming very common as adoptive and birth families feel empowered to create open and trusting relationships.

Just as each open adoption unfolds differently, each entrustment ceremony is unique and can be tailored to fit the needs of the birth and adoptive family. Ideally, the ceremony should emphasize that the two families are now creating a new, extended family connection that will forever honor and respect the birthmother’s biological bond to the child.

Tips To Planning an Entrustment Ceremony:

  • Make sure that the ceremony is directed as much as possible by the birthmother and her family. (It is okay if it is planned by the adoptive family, adoption agency, or clergy member if it suits the situation.)
  • Invite key contributors: the birthmother and selected family members of her choosing, along with the adoptive parents and the baby.
  • Make sure everyone has a role in the celebration, however small. Poems or religious passages may be read, or perhaps both the birth and adoptive parents can speak about their hopes and love for the baby.
  • As with all festive rituals, flowers, food, candles, and meaningful music can all be a part of the ceremony.
  • There is no right or wrong way to plan an entrustment ceremony. Do what feels right and what will contribute to connection and meaningful memories.

The Ritual Unfolds

Adoptive parents Karen and Chris suggested the idea of creating an entrustment ceremony with Denise, their son Jonah’s birthmother. Before the ceremony took place, the couple videotaped Denise holding Jonah and saying her goodbye on camera. (She had said a private goodbye the day before.) The family brought in a local pastor to lead them in a few readings, and the adoptive family shared an oath and a commitment to raise their son in a strong and loving home. Flowers were exchanged, and birth and adoptive grandparents and friends were present to witness the special ceremony.

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Eric and Robin originally planned on a ceremony at the hospital as well, but plans changed when Shelly, their daughter’s birthmother, had an unexpected Caesarean section. Much of her family wouldn’t be able to make it. They decided to meet at the birth family’s home the day after Shelly was released from the hospital, when her extended family could participate. Shelly and her mother were able to print and frame pictures of the baby taken at the hospital, as well as images of family and friends to display around the house. The birth grandmother ordered a sheet cake with four candles for the four days of life their daughter had had. Eric says, “We called it a ‘Celebration of Life’ so it wouldn’t take on a religious tone, and it really was a celebration. The family had put together family heirlooms for us to take home for Madison, including Shelly’s silver baby rattle.”

Eric and Robin knew that Shelly and her family were private people, so instead of speaking publicly at the party, they gave her a letter that they had written the night before.  “We wanted to let her and her family knows how thankful we were for them and how much we love our daughter,” says Eric.

Bobbie and Eli and their birthmother, Ashlee, waited until two weeks after their daughter’s birth to host a ceremony. It coincided with the signing of Ashlee’s relinquishment papers, making the adoption legally binding. Bobbie says, “Waiting those two weeks felt like a good decision for everyone because leaving the hospital was such an emotional experience for all of us.” During their ceremony, Bobbie and Eli presented their birthmother with a special bracelet that was inscribed with the words “Faith, Hope and Courage,” which matches one Bobbie wears as well.

Birth grandfather and poet, Paul, incorporating a special adoption poem during the legal relinquishment process of his daughter creating important memories and a keepsake in their open adoption process.

Take the Long View

An entrustment ceremony isn’t going to be possible for every adoption, but Lynne Fingerman, Director of Adoption Connection, believes adoptive parents can do little things in the hospital that can ease the transition and celebrate the birthmother’s love and care. “Whether you send flowers to your birthmother or have her family participate at the hospital in feeding the baby, there are things you can do to create trust and ongoing tradition… things that you can tell your child about later on.”

When Bill and Danielle adopted their daughter, Cassandra, their daughter’s birthgrandmother wanted to be the first to hold her. The adoptive family made it as easy as possible for her by finding a room next to the nursery where a rocking chair would fit so that she could have some quiet moments with Cassandra and be the first to hold her.

entrustmentceremonyquote2An Event to Remember

When Bridget chose to place her son with Erik and Christina, she was hesitant to go forward with an entrustment ceremony at the hospital. “I was initially scared and only agreed because Erik and Christina wanted to do one,” she says. “But it turned out to be very powerful for me.” Since both families were Catholic, the couple brought in a member of the clergy to say a few words during the ceremony.

Bridget would definitely recommend a ceremony to other birthparents. Her advice? “Be open-minded to the adoptive parents’ ideas and just let them plan it if you feel overwhelmed.”

Taking pictures and videotaping the event are also good ideas. When adoptees start to ask questions about where they come from, they want to taste, touch, and feel as much of the early stuff as they can. Having a video or pictures of the entrustment creates a legacy of caring and love for the child. Just as importantly, it can show the growing child that his or her adoption was a deeply loving choice based on a conscious decision.

Straight Talk From a Lesbian Mom

Judy Appel and Family (Oakland Tribute Pictures 1)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.LesbianMomPullquote1

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 bub  ble 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 A-Bs outsideFosters, 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.LesbianMomPullquote2

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.

LesbianMomPullquote3The 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.

Originally posted on the Huffington Post blog

A Night Out to Remember

By Jessica Israel Cannon

cannonsatprideFor the past five years, Our Family Coalition’s Night Out has been an annual favorite event for the adults in my family. We get dressed up, head into San Francisco and enjoy a festive date night, while supporting OFC’s amazing work.

As an elementary school administrator and a bisexual mom (married to a transgender dad), I know firsthand the power of Our Family Coalition’s professional development to empower educators. They work hard to bring inclusive curriculum to many schools throughout the Bay Area, including the one our son attends. And they are fiercely dedicated to creating truly welcoming environments for all our children and families, helping many of us to embrace and celebrate our full selves.

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One of our favorite Night Out traditions is to invite our son’s teacher to attend the event as our guest. We know how hard these teachers work and inviting them to the Night Out festivities is our 20131129_124541way of saying thank you for all they do for our family. We have been so lucky to have one caring, inclusive educator after another. Each of these dedicated individuals has been completely open to our unique family story and has gone out of her/his way to make sure all families are represented in the classroom. The teachers we have invited share a huge sense of connection with the other guests at the event and are proud to be a part of Our Family Coalition’s work.

My husband Ali and I are so proud of being part of this family that, after our first year as attendees, we decided to become Table Captains. In this capacity, we have been able to share the inspiring stories behind Our Family Coalition with other queer parents, co-workers, extended family and numerous straight allies. I cannot describe the feelings as I sat at the event next to my straight father-in-law two years ago, watching his eyes fill with tears as he realized how much this organization has done for his family. That same year, one straight couple was so moved by what they witnessed at Night Out, that this year they are captaining their own table.

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Best of all, Night Out is fun!  It’s a great opportunity to meet other queer parents and educators, and catch up with old friends who we may not have seen in quite some time. The hotel is exquisite and the food delicious. We also enjoy competing in the Silent Auction knowing that all the money we spend will go to support such a fabulous organization. The emcees, such Marga Gomez and more recently Alec Mapa, bring unforgettable queer humor to the event. And, the awardees, from Jesse Tyler Ferguson to Betty Degeneres to the Bay Area’s own Jill Rose, have been inspiring leaders in promoting visibility and equality for all families.

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Each year, my husband and I leave Night Out feeling a renewed sense of community, commitment and connection. It is an amazing experience to be a part of something that so benefits our family, but is also so much bigger than we are.  Night Out celebrates that work and reminds all of us of the tremendous possibilities for social transformation when people are truly able to celebrate who they are.

We are looking forward to this year’s celebrations and we hope many more families will also be able to share OFC’s amazing work with their own family and friends!

Wedding in a Week

Post by Maria Iorillo of San Francisco Midwife

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Dina and I have been together for 19 years. She is amazing, wonderful, marriage-material-from-day-one! A few years back, I really can’t remember, I asked her to marry me. She knew that marriage was actually a difficult topic for me, so she had said, “I won’t pressure you, I won’t even ask. But someday, you are going to ask me. Even if I have to wait until I am 65, I know someday you will ask.” So, a few years back, after working through my own self doubts and hesitations, I asked.

Of course, she said yes.

But what did it really mean? It was a sentiment from my heart. I want to marry you. But, there really was nothing else to do at that point. I didn’t want to get married in a different state and then come back to California. So, we waited. Between then and now, I probably asked her to marry me again a couple dozen times.

On June 26th, 2013, Prop 8 and DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) went down in flames. I watched, riveted, to my television at 7am (which I usually never do). I texted my son that love conquers hate. He asked me if we were gonna go for it. I said, “I think so. Wanna be there?” He said, “Don’t you dare do it without me!”

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I imagined Dina and me waiting on line with hundreds of other couples and us tweeting as we were getting closer to our turn. “Marriage in 2 hours.” “Meet us in 15.” Truth be told, we didn’t even know HOW to get married. It was Gay Pride weekend, so that Saturday, we asked another couple who had recently partaken in this ancient ritual, how it was done.

Go online.

On the City and County of San Francisco website, they announced that they would be marrying couples all weekend. City Hall is usually closed to the public on Saturday and Sunday but they knew the time was now.

LineOn Sunday, we got on line with hundreds of other giddy, in love couples. There were families with children, two men, two women, some in tuxes, some in sneakers and jeans. As each couple passed with their marriage certificate, the crowd cheered. Dina and I filled out our application for a marriage certificate and after 2 and a half hours, we were done with part A of getting married. We needed to wait for Tyler for part B, the ceremony.

Fortunately, Tyler, who is 21, came home from college the next day. We went online. We made an appointment. July 9th, 1:30pm, County Clerk’s office.

By Tuesday, July 2nd, we were starting to plan, but I was dreaming of a bigger venue in City Hall. I skimmed over a wedding package on the San Francisco county website where more people could come. Then, I found it. Weekday Balcony rentals. Click. I called to the City’s Events Planning Office and asked what they had available, as soon as possible. Tuesday, July 9th would work on the 4th-floor balcony. You can have 120 people. I’ll take it!

Dina and I went down that afternoon to look at the balcony. It is on the fourth floor with beautiful natural light and white marble everywhere — certainly a gorgeous place to have a wedding.

July 4th. Potluck at Stephanie Forster’s. Which shirt do you like the best? What shoes should we wear? Stephanie, Sam and Liz took us under their wings and coached us for 3 hours about what we needed, from girlie undergarments to make-up and hair. Dina and I came home overwhelmed, excited, and maybe a little nauseous. This was really happening.

The 8th. The Day Before Our Wedding. We still didn’t have rings. Down at City Hall, checking out the venue. Here’s the plan: 93 in the Bridal party! 15 midwife bridesmaids with 17 babes-in-arms will follow, announcing the baby’s name and age. Dina and I proceed in. 53 flower girls and boys follow, each announcing their name and age and giving Dina and I one flower each. Obviously, these are all “my babies”, from 9-day-old Micah to 22-year-old Natasha.

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Rings. Yeah, those. Okay, we make one last ditch effort to find rings in our sizes before we will have to order them and just use stand-ins for the wedding. We go to the back of REI to the Diamond Center on a tip from Kevin Ehrenrich, Oliver’s Dad (Baby 1001). There we find a man who says he can make our rings, to size, with engraving, by 11am tomorrow. Really? It’s GO time!

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July 9th. Wedding Day. Excitement, beauty, joyful ruckus, happy chaos. Kate Holcombe (mother of Calder, Hayes and Sam) came up to us at the last moment and gave us both something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. We loved it! All went perfectly and beyond our wildest dreams. We felt so much love and support from this amazing community. We feel blessed, grateful, giddy, overjoyed, lucky.

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Read the full article on Wisewoman Childbirth Traditions Newsletter: Wedding in a Week!