Category Archives: Our Family Coalition Events

Pockets of Fun and Love at the Berkeley YMCA

by Maria Luisa Jimenez-Morales, Our Family Coalition Parent

FamilyPortraitSpring2014Our Family Coalition’s “LGBTQ Family Night at the Berkeley YMCA” last year was my first ever visit to a YMCA. Our six year old son, Alejandro, had only heard of it from the Village People song on his Wii dance game, and he was expecting a nightclub dancing style party! I explained to him that it’s a time for us to do sports and see and play with the friends we’ve made with so many Our Family Coalition staff and the many families who attend OFC gatherings.

eastbayplaygroupMy almost three year old daughter, Ana, and I have been attending the weekly play group on Tuesday mornings in Oakland for over a year. We have created family with two other children and their parents. I was expecting to just see our friends at the Y even, so when we came to the large dinner area I was shocked to see the large number of families I did not recognize!


That was another first for me, seeing so many of us LGBTQ folks with kids in one place. It is amazing how OFC creates these spaces that don’t exist anywhere else in the universe. I’m not just talking about renting a venue and making it available for us LGBTQ families: I’m talking about how you feel when you come to one of OFC’s gatherings. You feel enthusiastically welcomed.

pollyatymcaThe YMCA in Berkeley is huge and a bit daunting to me, but I saw friendliness and love as soon as we reached the OFC table there. Even if there is someone I don’t know at an event table, I always feel warmth emanating from whoever is helping us. My son was a bit shy, so it really made a difference when the first thing we felt was welcomed. Soon after we arrived we went to eat with folks, and then we did our different playing activities with the kids. At every turn, the OFC staff was helping and guiding and available, providing support to all the families. There were so many great moments that night, like talking to other parents and meeting new families or just watching our kids play.


What sticks out for me most are small interactions that remind me why it matters that it was an LGBTQ friendly space. It came down to swimming in the pool, dressing our kids and using the bathrooms and seeing kids and adults of varying gender differences in the open locker room — feeling comfortable and maybe somewhat vulnerable but safe and supported to be ourselves. I reflect on loved ones who have struggled with this moment that maybe takes seven minutes: get a locker, change clothes, put your clothes away, use toilet and swim or rinse off after pool, use toilet, dress, and go. My son dressed for the first time in front of “strangers” but he adjusted well. He quickly realized we were all on a time crunch for the next swim time to start and saw that we were all families just getting ready to have a good time together.

My kids liked the kindergym area and swimming the most. Victoria and I enjoyed the time with other families like ours and watching our kids have so much fun. It was much more fun than the nightclub dancing style party my son thought it would be! Thank you Our Family Coalition for creating pockets of fun and love in this world for our families.

What on Earth is “Family Activism,” anyway?

By Shareena Clark, Programs Coordinator, Our Family Coalition



As of late, it seems like the phrase “family values” has been hijacked and co-opted to represent a very narrow and exclusive interpretation of the idea. Fortunately, we are aware that the definition of “family” and “values” is defined by much more than the ideas and actions of a splinter cell of religiosity. Although the extremist definition of family values can at times feel like a black hole pulling progress and positivity toward a horizon of foolishness, it is comforting to remember that all of that malarkey is just a tiny speck on the continuum of love, power, and possibility that expands forever into the past and future.

Yes, we (the LGBTQ community) frequently use the word family in a fast and loose manner that includes biological, chosen, and intentional formations and a host of possibilities that grow with our community; the values of that family are as wide ranging as the colors on the flags that represent us. This handsome assortment of folk – comprised of a melange of identities, ethnicities, practices, races, family structures and on – has a common desire, however. As a community, we wish to be seen, heard, and understood on our own terms. So, in that sense, we are all activists. The force of activism is strong as we persistently work for the good of our various tribes. Sometimes our activism takes the direct form of throwing a high heeled shoe at a police officer in defense of our sisters, while at other times it is in the form of pushing legislation for protections in our places of work and learning, but at all times our communities are active.

FamilyActivismPullquote2Activism is not only a way for us to be visible and heard, it also a means of survival. it is imperative that we do everything humanly possible to ensure the survival of our community and our family politically, socially and otherwise. Like Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Meaning: we, as a family community, need to work for and with ourselves; and for and with other communities who are also marginalized within the current systems of domination. Our collective goal, then, is to free ourselves from oppression, or at least get our subsequent generations a little closer to Dr. King’s famed mountain top. Not now, but RIGHT now. We are long past ready for equity.

FamilyActivismPullquote3But how? What does activism look like anyhow? Protesting? Voting with our dollars? Letter writing? Going off the grid? Boycotting? Wearing a pin? Tweeting? Walking in an “_______a-thon”? Why is it that massive movements seem to flare up and fizzle out so quickly, leaving us wanting? How can I make change all by myself? How can I speak up without endangering myself, my partner(s), or my family?

These are all questions that come up time and again within activist circles, and unfortunately, there seems to be no way to get to a consensus here. What I do know is that activism of any sort is a journey that begins with a desire to see social change. And that journey does not need to be approached alone: We are many families, remember? There is a popular African saying that goes,”if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Through cooperation and collaboration we can explore some of these tough questions together.

FamilyActivismPullquote4It is believed that cooperation is the biggest factor in the survival of a species, (sorry Darwin, your theory has gone the way of the barbed wire tattoo). Cooperation is also the key to the survival of an action or movement, and just within your household or circle of friends and family you have a troop of cooperatives. What better activity to bring a family closer, than to work for a common cause? And what better way to build community and camaraderie with others than collaborating with another family in the spirit of social change?

Activism has always been and continues to be an LGBTQ family value, and as the dead prez say, “we won’t stop until we have our full freedom”. Won’t you join us? Bring the kids!


Registration: Click here!
When:  Sunday, February 22, 3 – 5pm
Where: California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission St., San Francisco

Men Having Babies San Francisco 2015: A look inside the Bay Area’s largest Gay Surrogacy Conference

By Sam Chally, NWSC
Also posted on NWSC Blog

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Wow! Over 160 future gay dads showed up for the 2015 San Francisco Men Having Babies Conference.  The event was held at the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Community Center and was co-sponsored by our friends at Our Family Coalition and Men Having Babies.

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Highlights of the event included a panel of surrogates and gay dads telling their stories. The standing-room-only crowd also got to hear experts discussing legal, medical, and philosophical issues surrounding surrogacy. Northwest Surrogacy CenterOregon Reproductive Medicine, and other providers supported the event. We were extremely happy to see so many future fathers learning about the process of building their families through surrogacy.

Veronica, a NWSC surrogate, speaking at the Men Having Babies San Francisco 2015 Conference

Veronica, a NWSC surrogate, speaking at the Men Having Babies San Francisco 2015 Conference

Attendees also got the chance to hear Veronica, one of NWSC’s surrogates, speak about her experience in greater depth. She was perhaps the most captivating and popular speaker at the event. (Watch a documentary video about Veronica’s experience!) We want to thank her for making the trip from Oregon to share her story!

Attorney and Gay Parent Activist Charles Spiegel kicked off the event with some good humor and candid observations about several aspects of becoming a parent through surrogacy. Among the things he addressed were the risks often associated with twin pregnancies. I was glad to see a candid discussion about the potential risks of two embryo transfers at the conference.

We also got the chance to meet with some future dads from the Bay Area over the weekend. We are truly encouraged by their thoughtfulness, interest, care and concern expressed for their future surrogates.

We want to thank Our Family CoalitionThe SF LGBT Center, and Men Having Babiesfor putting together such a wonderful event!

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Everyone’s Schools Town Halls through a Queer Parent’s Eyes

Meghan Lewis, Family Advocacy Liaison, Oakland Unified School District

meghanI attended the last four “Everyone’s Schools Town Hall” gatherings sponsored by Our Family Coalition. As a queer parent of a fourth grader in OUSD, I was deeply inspired and filled with hope learning about all the positive programs happening within the different school communities throughout the Bay Area.

It is truly valuable having the opportunity to hear from – and work with – other parents, teachers, administrators, OFC’s staff and so many other bright voices in our community. I see that necessary changes are being identified, and that strategies toward improving learning environments are being gradually implemented so that all children and families can come to school knowing they will be kindly respected and appreciated.

TownHallIlloI am delighted that my child’s elementary school, Glenview Elementary, will be hosting OFC’s next Town Hall gathering in the East Bay! Glenview is becoming like an oasis of positivity and welcoming energy for LGBTQ families, so I am personally excited to share with others throughout OUSD how a welcoming school environment can evolve, look, and feel.

Those who attend the Town Hall can expect to get a feel for the kind of enthusiasm that initiates, promotes, and creates lasting change within a school culture. They will also gain:

  1. inspiration to get involved

  2. strategies for effective advocacy

  3. ideas to better implement activities unique to their school’s identified needs

  4. new connections and friends

Don’t miss the opportunity! Everyone’s School: OFC’s Annual Town Halls on LGBTQ Inclusive Schools will happen on Thursday, Oct 23 in San Francisco and Thursday, Nov 20 in Oakland.

We hope to see you and your family there! Get more information and register now!

PS: What happens after the Town Hall? We get that it takes time to implement sustainable, deep cultural shifts in our schools and communities. With the goal of continuing the fruitful conversations that emerge during the Town Halls, OFC has launched a new “Family Advocacy Program (FAP).” Parent Advocates worked with our support to contribute to the creation of authentic inclusive environments for ALL families in their schools. Here are some of the great activities that the parents co-created during the first round of FAP:


Interested in contribute to a more inclusive culture in your school? Join us at the upcoming Town Halls or get in touch with – We look forward to working with you!

BIO: Dr. Meghan Lewis is the founder of Integrative Perinatal Psychotherapy as well as LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Associates of the Bay Area with offices in Oakland and San Francisco. With over 18 years of experience in reproductive wellness, Meghan brings unconditional support to her clients exploring a range of preconception, pregnancy, birth, postpartum and early parenting concerns. Her work with families also includes facilitating support circles and has done so at Bloom Retreat in Walnut Creek, Natural Resources and Our Family Coalition at the LGBT Center in SF, The Tulip Grove in Oakland, Blossom Birth in Palo Alto as well as BirthWays in Berkeley where she has served on Board of Directors. Meghan also has professional training and experience as an apprentice midwife, birth and postpartum doula, and in perinatal bodywork. She is a queer solo parent by choice of a 9 year old son who enjoys painting, sailing and exploring new terrain. Please visit for more information or go to


Evening S’Mores, Wild Turkeys, Fun-Filled Campout… Oh my.


Campout2014007This past weekend, several dozen LGBTQ families and allies finished off the summer in style, with our ever-popular BBQ & family camp-out in the East Bay hills, this time at Tilden Park’s Wildcat View Group Camp. This year we added an extra night, and more than half the families were able to take advantage of it, arriving Fridayevening and making a longer weekend of it. That amounted to two nights of Jiffy Pop popcorn over the fire!




Planned events included a foam pool noodle obstacle course, messy art, an excursion to Little Farm (complete with celery), and evening s’mores. A great selection of books was available in a shaded toddler story time area, and several of the older kids volunteered to help OFC staff lead the youngins in games. A BBQ lunch, a burrito bar dinner, and continental breakfast were provided by OFC staff, along with between-meal snacks.


Campout2014008Unplanned? A visit by numerous wild turkeys, a glow-stick path laid out through the meadow leading the way to the outhouse (a nighttime boon!) and a rollicking earthquake directly under our sleeping bags!  The next morning, we polled and discovered that 100% of the parents were awoken by it, and 0% of the kids. But none of us were worried by it: under the trees was the best place to be. And the hot coffee awaiting us the next morning didn’t hurt.



We’re already dreaming of next year’s late-summer family camp-out. If you couldn’t make it this time around, try to make it next year! We can promise it’ll be at least as fun. Though we can’t promise another earthquake 🙂


5 Pride Pro-tips for Pride-Rookie Parents

Polly at Pride

Polly at Pride

If this your first Pride with your family, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to get through the day with your good humor — and your wee charges – intact. And for good reason!

The downside of pride-as-a-parent: it’s not the same as when you were a footloose, fancy-free non-parent. The parade route covers nearly a mile and a half, which amounts to a half-hour walk on hard pavement even before you factor in the pre-parade wait and the stop-and-go of parading.

The pride-as-a-parent upside, especially if you march with the OFC contingent: it’s nothing short of transcendent, walking up Market Street with your whole family, watching your children be cheered on by rainbow flag-waving strangers like they’re astronauts returning from the moon.  The supply of pride from that s/hero’s welcome lasts a year, and is well worth what you go through to enable your kids to experience it.

If you make it to the Family Garden (or go there directly), you’ll be greeted by a veritable sea of our families, safely frolicking inside our very own playground.  We’ll have healthy snacks and beverages inside there, plus our own port-a-potties (not to be underestimated!). Also: balloon animals, face painting, story time, and play structure fun.

So! For all pride-rookie parents, here are five essential things to remember:

  1. Bring food and water.

  2. Bring wheels, if you can.

  3. Remember sun protection.

  4. Attach an ID to the little ones.

  5. Create an exit strategy and end on a good note.

1. Bring food and water. This one’s close to a parental no-brainier: it’s a warm, sunny June day, and even in the most minimalist of scenarios you’ll be out in the elements for hours plural. We’ll be distributing some water at the contingent gathering spot, but even so, be sure to bring enough water to hydrate yourself and your little ones. Plus do bring easy-to-carry healthy snacks to curb the hunger pangs.  We’ll be selling healthy snacks and smoothies at cost in the Family Garden, so just hold it together ‘til you get there!

2. Bring wheels, if you can. The only thing nearly as important as food & water are wheels, any wheels, whatever wheels you’re able bring to the parade site & schlepp back home: stroller (no big kid is too big if they can jam into it!), wagon, scooter, tricycle, skateboard, roller blades, bikes: whatever conveyance you can bring that will ease the mile, bring it! I even saw a family with a custom rig: someone attached wheels to the bottom of a crib, and they rolled that ’til it gave up the ghost half-way up the street.

3. Remember sun protection. It’ll be sunny, and sun protection of any & all sorts is in order: wide-brimmed hat; sunglasses; sunscreen. Again: it’s going to be hours in the sun on a fine June day. Don’t overheat or burn.

4. Attach an ID to the little ones. Whether you go low-tech and write your name (not the kids’ name) and cell phone number on their little forearms, or you affix one of those ID wristbands on ’em, or you somehow securely attach a laminated card to your kid’s person, be sure there is a super-clear way for someone to know to contact you in the unlikely yet very upsetting event you’re separated.

5. Create an exit strategy and end on a good note.  Talk together as a family about what to expect from Pride, and how much is going to feel like enough. Reading through Gayle Pitman’s fantastic new book This Day in June would be fantastic prep; she’ll be in the Family Garden this year reading from the book and hanging out with families. Agree in advance how you’ll decide when it’s time to go, whether it’s the grown ups or the kids who are supersaturated. It’s a thrilling day, but for years, my own family simply marched up Market Street and then dropped down into BART at Civic Center, as full as we could manage. One of the key tenets of dog training is “End on a good note!” so that the most recent memory is a positive one. That goes for Pride, too.

Together we can make this the Best! Pride! Ever!

By Polly Pagenhart, Family Programs Director at Our Family Coalition
Polly also blogs at Lesbian Dad

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.

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.


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.

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!

Everyone’s School

Rick Oculto, Our Family Coalition Education Coordinator

In October and November Our Family Coalition gathered teachers, school administrators, and families in San Francisco and the East Bay to talk about how to address intersectional needs of diverse families and students at school.  They say that you need a happy environment to have a happy home and the same is true for our schools. In order for our students to succeed we need to provide an environment where they do not have to fear being ostracized for who they are, where they come from, or what they believe. Families from different faith structures, have interracial caregivers, speak different languages, are adopted, have LGBTQ parents, are headed by an aunts or grandparents, have one parent, and many other family structures are every bit as deserving to feel welcome and included at their schools.

The crowd gathered at the East Bay Town Hall 

The events hosted approximately one hundred families and we talked about the importance of representing the diversity of our communities in schools. With topics ranging from racism, homophobia, cyberbullying, transphobia, and cultural identity it was a packed night filled with rich insight on how to address these various issues from a comprehensive and intentional perspective. Guests learned that providing for and understanding different family structures requires visibility of those differences that celebrates rather than segregates; we all win in an environment where we can appreciate one another. Furthermore, the absence of the pressure of not fitting in allows youth to fully embrace their identities and explore their potential without negative prejudice about how that potential should develop. Families were encouraged to participate by sharing their stories and school staff were eager to learn that they had partners in their parent communities to help them with these issues.

The end of each of the events were marked with parents and teachers talking with one another about the needs of their students and what they could do to create a climate that felt supportive and schools that are better suited to help them succeed. The dialogue from these events is only the beginning and with more involved partnerships between schools and parents our schools will only become better. It’s true, the work is far from done and Our Family Coalition is proud to be here every step of the way to educate and advocate for families that are LGBTQ!

Join us as we continue the work throughout the year! Our next event is Everyone’s Story at the Oakland Main Library. We’ll be reading a recommended book from our book list and running a Welcoming Schools lesson plan. Come see what inclusive schools are like in action and learn how to advocate as parents at your own schools!

Rick Oculto