Category Archives: Night Out

5 Reasons I Give to Our Family Coalition: Ali Cannon

Ali CannonWe recently spoke with Ali Canon, former OFC Board member, about why he supports Our Family Coalition, and why he urges others to as well.  What follows is an edited version of that conversation.

Ali will be at our upcoming Night Out gala fundraiser next Friday evening, May 12. Join us there, and continue this conversation with Ali in person!

1. OFC helps me and my family feel reflected. One of the biggest reasons that I’ve given to OFC all these years – my time, financially, as a family, my wife and I, with my own involvement – is that as a transgender dad, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to see myself reflected in the world. As a parent, and particularly as a transgender parent – even within the world of queer parents – it’s still a relatively small minority of folks that have a parallel identity to mine and our family. So knowing that OFC is supporting my family in concrete, programmatic ways makes all the difference.

2. OFC engages in powerful, transformative work in the schools.  I’m super passionate about the education work of OFC. I’m an educator, married to a principal. I came up through the public schools, and my family have been middle and high school teachers; I know the impact of OFC’s work in schools. And I think educational work is significantly about institutional change. Educators who are wanting to do LGBT-inclusive work need the kind of resources that OFC provides, so they can support schools and districts. The evidence shows that doing ‘welcoming and inclusive schools’ work in fact makes schools safer. Finally that data has arisen: when there are multiple interventions in place – the curriculum, the supportive staff, the outreach to parent communities – all those things make schools safer. The same goes for the presence of secondary-level things like GSAs, and student groups that are also engaged in supporting queer students and allies. To me, OFC is a leader in that work, and it still remains fairly dangerous and risky to do that work at the elementary school level. And that’s where OFC has located itself for years now, making significant inroads in the Bay Area and other parts of California. Thanks in part to OFC’s advocacy, we’re now seeing the arrival of the FAIR Education Act. OFC has been at the table helping determine what that curriculum looks like. It’s going to roll out in schools soon, and that’s huge. It will lead other states to consider what that could look like for them. And that’s good news.

3. OFC as an organization has grown and evolved along with our movement. In going on nine years of involvement with the organization, I’ve seen significant growth. And that makes me more excited to remain involved. Growth in the organization has increased capacity, which has turned into policy work that we now stand for. That engagement capacity, that collaboration capacity, increases the visibility of the work that we do. For instance: when we got involved with the marriage equality campaign, we worked to keep families visible, and at the table there. And now LGBTQ families are part of the national marriage equality conversation. That wasn’t so when marriage equality work got started, and it’s also under great threat with our current administration.

The work that OFC does can’t go away. Supporting OFC at Night Out is an amazing opportunity to celebrate that work, and to guarantee that it will keep going strong through the tough times ahead.

4. The backlash to all our gains is real, and OFC needs the support to counter it. We’ve made institutional change, which is great. But when institutional change occurs in the community, that’s when you see backlash. One of Trump’s first (successful) initiatives was removing Obama’s protections of transgender students in school. Now states can formally discriminate against transgender students, or gender nonconforming students, and jeopardize their safety. Students in the Bay Area are experiencing horrific racist and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks; gender nonconforming and transgender students are experiencing microaggressions and more blatant forms of transphobia because of that action. The good news is that educators in many places, even the most conservative ones, want to make their schools safe. They’re invested in that. Are there are also people that are not there for all kids? Absolutely, and those are unsafe schools and districts. The Trump administration is giving people who harbor hatred, who function from a place of hatred and have been waiting for a “green light,” to go for it. Young people attacking one another; adults attacking young people; adults attacking other adults. That’s how I see it: a green light on violent response to institutional change. Which in a way is why we have the regime that we have: people are pissed about that change; they’re afraid, and they’re hateful.

5. OFC continues to show up for families who are at the margins.  I’m proud of the work that OFC does, and I’m proud of the kind of opportunities that OFC creates for individual families, unlike mine, who have less access to power and privilege. My privilege as a middle class white man is not lessened because of my transition. I’m aware that my family has a lot of access that other families who are much more marginalized don’t – whether they’re people of color, in low-income communities, or are immigrant families. I’m proud of the amount of ways that OFC is supporting families who don’t  have the ability to navigate different systems of support – whether those are education or health or neighborhood supports – and I think that’s really vital.  Now more than ever, we have to keep fighting and celebrating the institutional change that we, particularly in California, have achieved.  Organizations like OFC are the ones who have given us those wins.  We have to lead the way for the states that are going to be really vulnerable, we have to help protect the most at-risk people. That includes families, LGBT students and allies, everyone that wants to make communities and schools safe. The work that OFC does can’t go away. Supporting OFC at Night Out is an amazing opportunity to celebrate that work, and to guarantee that it will keep going strong through the tough times ahead.

Our Family Coalition Celebrates 21 Years Advocating for LGBTQ Families at Night Out Gala

SAN FRANCISCOOn Friday, May 12, 2017, Our Family Coalition (OFC), California’s premier LGBTQ family organization, brings together 400 attendees for a Night Out to celebrate the organization’s 21 years of advocacy, education, and community-building. The gala event includes elected officials, corporate sponsors, community partners and major donors, many of whom are LGBT people with children.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee will receive the Notable Ally Award at the gala.  Lee, long one of the Bay Area’s fiercest voices in Washington, serves as Vice-Chair and Founding Member of the LGBT Equality Caucus and Co-Founder & Co-Chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.

President of AT&T California Ken McNeely will receive the Luminary Award. McNeely, who lives with his husband and two children in San Francisco, is leading the way in the private sector. He was the first openly gay officer of AT&T, and serves on the Officer Advisory Board for AT&T’s LGBT and allied Employee Resource Group, the oldest LGBT employee resource group in the nation.  

San Francisco attorney Charlie Spiegel will receive the Groundbreaker Award for his lifelong advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ families. Spiegel helped co-found Our Family Coalition as it formed from the merger of two Bay Area LGBTQ family organizations. He has also served as Board Member and Co-Chair for Lambda Legal, and as a longtime organizer of Gay Future Dads.

“At 21 years old this year, Our Family Coalition is all grown up,” says OFC’s first Executive Director of color Renata Moreira. “We’re more than ready to meet the challenges facing LGBT families under the Trump administration. This event gives us a chance to celebrate our resilience, take pride in where we’ve been, and generate energy for our next, bold, intersectional steps forward.”

“I am honored Congresswoman Barbara Lee will be there and honored as well–though I am more likely the ‘as well,’” jokes honoree Spiegel.  “Michelle Meow is the usually hilarious political comic MC.  The work I’m being recognized for has been about helping make sure LGBT couples are included fully in family law settings.  That work goes hand-in-hand with the number of LGBT families who OFC has supported in coming and being out, being legally protected, and thereby changing the political landscape for marriage equality.  That work is now redoubled by OFC and all of us.”

Now in its 9th year, Night Out has established itself as the only event exclusively supporting LGBT families with children in the Bay Area. The general public is warmly invited to this adults only event. Tickets are on sale now at ourfamily.org/give-back/night-out.

Press inquiries may be directed to Polly Pagenhart, Policy & Communications Director

California Congresswoman Barbara Lee will be honored at Our Family Coalition’s 9th Annual NIGHT OUT Gala on May 12th, 2017 at 6pm at the Intercontinental San Francisco. Lee will be awarded the Notable Ally Award for her work in Congress supporting pro-LGBTQ measures and those that promote equality and fairness for our families and our community. She has been hailed as one of the most pro-gay U.S Representatives in Congress, for good reason.

Congresswoman Lee was educated locally at Mills College, where she served as the president of the Black Student Union, all while raising her two sons. Her participation in the community–through small business and community organizing–propelled her political career. She served in the California State Assembly from 1990 to 1996, during which time she authored numerous bills, including the California Schools Hate Crimes Reduction Act in 1995.

In 1998 she was elected to serve California’s 9th Congressional District (which is now the13th). She has continued to use her position as a change maker and ally for the LGBTQ community. In Congress last year on the occasion of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia,  she said:

Unfortunately, homophobia, transphobia and discrimination against the LGBT community can still be found in communities across our nation and around the world. Whether it is in the form of hatred, exclusion, bigotry or violence, no form of discrimination should be acceptable in our society. No one should ever feel unsafe in their school, community or home because of their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.  Ensuring the safety and health of our LGBT family, friends and neighbors should be our highest priority.

Just a few of the bills she has sponsored and co-sponsored bills include the Anti-Bullying and Harassment Act of 2011, the Respect for Marriage Act, Real Education for Healthy Youth Act of 2011, and the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011. These bills, among many others, show the outstanding commitment to justice that has marked her career.

Please join us on May 12th, 2017 in honoring Congresswoman Lee with the Notable Ally Award.

photo credit: Adam Bouska, 2012

A Night Out with Our Family…

By Martha Boesing

marthabpic There we were, my partner and I, invited by my daughter-in-law (Our Family Coalition’s Programs’ Director)  to attend an astonishingly elegant cocktail and dinner event at the grand Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco.

We walked into this sumptuous glass building to find ourselves in the midst of a massive crowd of people, all talking at once. They stood in line to collect a vodka and rum drink called “Tantrum.”  (Get the joke?) My partner got one. I didn’t. There was so much noise that, for my own sanity, I quickly pretended I was in a jungle surrounded by thousands of chattering monkeys – monkeys I can handle. I tumbled back and forth between wondering “who were all these people? Were they all gay?” to feeling overwhelmed in the “monkey jungle happy hour.”

After an hour or so, we were invited to move to the dining area where we were seated at the grandparents table. My partner and I might have been the oldest grandparents there (both of us being in our late seventies), not to mention possibly that the only gay people at the grandparents table. The others all seemed to be heterosexual single women or couples whose children had come out gay and whom they had chosen to support, like parents in PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).  I found myself assuming that they might have raised their kids in nice middle class homes, instilling conventional values in their young minds, while we had been out marching in the streets, “Taking Back the Night,” getting arrested, living in communes, moving in and out of primary relationships (“everything changes – don’t get attached!”), writing plays and novels about what it was like to be gay and proud, and bursting towards “Yes!” as lesbian-feminists on the cusp of the second wave of the Women’s Movement. It felt at that table that we were somehow not quite cut from the same cloth. But there we were.

martha01On the stage our proud, gay grown-up children were giving out awards to teachers, students and counselors who had worked to bring equality and social justice into their classrooms, their meeting halls and onto the streets, and showing us photos and videos of gay parents playing with their children, tossing them into the air, bathing them, hugging them, just like all parents do every day all over the globe.

It seemed likely to me that a majority of the speakers at this event had come out on their own, with no foremothers or forefathers there to light the way. They had to tell their straight parents that they were queer, and suffer the consequences. Some parents had accepted their choices and were there tonight to celebrate their extraordinary accomplishments and courage, while others had thrown them out on their butts.

But then there were those of us who were on the front lines way back then when the radical gay movement and the passionate second wave of the women’s movement took flight.  We built a defense for ourselves by simply not caring what the rest of the world had to say about us. We turned away, denying that they had any power over us. Many of us were artists, activists from the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements, and – for the most part – we could choose not to hang out with anyone who gave a damn about who we were sleeping with. So we didn’t have to notice that there was a whole society out there composed of people who scorned us and thought we were losers, crazies, perverts.

BUT….

Our children had to notice. They did notice.

Our children had to face bullies and bigots, who might have made fun of them for having gay parents. Almost every day.

martha03Then it struck me – I realized that the other grandparents sitting at this table with us, no matter what our differences might have been, were banded together by a common thread. We were all there to witness these children of ours celebrate something truly magical that they had diligently worked for over many years, which is to provide a safe and loving environment for all our wondrous and perfect grandchildren to grow up in. Our Family Coalition has accomplished something I couldn’t have even imagined back then when we were walking in the streets. They have created a net, which will one day hopefully reach out over the entire nation; that enables children growing up in a gay family to feel perfectly normal. Normal – what a concept for an LGBTQ family!

That is something my children never got to feel, but are a part of creating for their children and my grandchildren – a path toward equity and visibility for their family in society.

My children had to face, every day, a society I was not part of. That society believed a family consisted of a Mom and a Dad, two kids, and a dog. And my kids knew, somewhere deep in their bones, that this was not the kind of family they had.

As I approached my daughter-in-law following the event in gratitude of this work, she kept trying to assure me that what her generation has accomplished could not have happened if we had not paved the way. “We were standing on your shoulders,” she said, again and again. Of course that’s true.  I believe it is deeply important to acknowledge our ancestors, as she has done ever since I first met her. But then of course there’s also that shadow side that we must live with. There’s always a cost, and that cost being that my children did not have the comfort of feeling their family was normal while growing up.

martha03On the other hand, my lovely grandchildren will not grow up with that pain. They will be free– not only because their parents love and support them, but because the society they live in will not dare to reject them. They will be free because of the work being done and celebrated here at this event by our children. They will be free to love whoever they love, in whatever way they love, free to open their hearts to life however life presents itself to them. Now I am filled with gratitude for my daughter and her amazing partner and their peers – grateful for bringing this dream, which we hardly knew we could dream, to life. Grateful to sit at the table with this group of people I was unclear I’d have anything in common with but after leaving the event I am more certain than ever we are banded together but the ever-growing visibility and inclusion of our families. That we were together and it was normal.

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!