Category Archives: Info and Guides

Legal advice for LGBTQ families post-election

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Legal advice for LGBTQ families post-election

The information in this post is also available as a PDF.

Most of us are worried about the future of our families, communities and country. Now more than ever we need our LGBTQ family community. Our Family Coalition remains a strong voice for LGBTQ caregivers in California and we will continue to advocate for the rights of our families.

What does this mean for parental rights?
We cannot say this enough: it is highly recommended that non-biological parents complete a second-parent adoption or parentage judgement. Being on the birth certificate or being married to the child’s biological and/or legal parent does not ensure parental rights. By completing a second-parent adoption the parental legal relationship is secured in states outside of California. We understand that this process can be expensive for working class families and encourage you to contact the National Center for Lesbian Rights for referrals to attorneys who may be able to offer pro bono services and/or reduced fees to those who may qualify.

What does this mean for trans parents?
The federal rights of transgender students and employees should remain secure as those are based on federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution. It is recommended to get your ID documents updated while choosing your gender marker is an option. This includes passport, state ID, social security.
What does this mean for healthcare?
While it is not yet clear what will happen with the Affordable Care Act, any changes will take time. Check to see where your insurance plan is from and if it is covered by the Affordable Care Act and if any LGBT provisions may be affected.

How will the election affect undocumented immigrant people & families?
We encourage folks to contact a legal services provider to be screened for any possible immigration options immediately. The Immigration Advocates Network maintains a national directory of more than 950 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration services providers in all 50 states. We are also collecting stories of LGBTQ immigrant families who may wish to support advocacy campaigns. Please email policy@ourfamily.org if interested in participating.

What does this mean for marriage rights?
It is highly unlikely that marriage equality will be overturned. The process would take years and include replacing several Supreme Court judges and working a case through the Supreme Court. It is also very unlikely that married couples would see their marriages overturned. The law has strong protections against valid marriages being invalidated by subsequent changes law. “For individuals who are not currently married but who may wish to marry in the future, it is also highly unlikely that the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry will be challenged or that the Supreme Court would revisit its 2015 holding that same-sex couples have that fundamental right.” We highly recommend anyone who counters any problem with your marriage being fully respected to contact our partners at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

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Our Family Coalition hosted a LGBTQ Family Post-Election Community Call on 12/8, answering questions from the community on LGBTQ family issues including marriage, adoption, immigration, and gender and name changes. A huge thanks to our amazing legal partners Chelsea E. HaleyNelson, partner at HaleyNelson & Heilbrun, LLP, Ora Prochovnick, Director of Clinical and Public Interest Law Programs and professor of law at John F. Kennedy University, and Charlie Spiegel, www.CharlesSpiegelLaw.com, for being present on the call.

Download an audio recording of the conference call here (unedited): MP3, WAV

OFC in-person LGBTQ Family Post-Election Family Forum
1/12 6-8pm, at Laurel Bookstore in Oakland
Our Family Coalition is hosting an in-person Post-Election LGBTQ Family Forum to discuss the potential impact of a Trump administration on LGBTQ families. Emily Doskow, Linda M. Scaparotti and Angela Bean, attorneys with decades of experience working with LGBTQ families and immigration issues, will be onsite to speak and answer your questions and concerns.

Share Your Family Building Stories – LGBTQ Family Visibility Project
Our Family Coalition and SprOUT Family are gathering voices of LGBTQ families in California to assist with support, education and advocacy in the upcoming year. Sharing your family’s story can help move hearts and minds. We welcome stories from LGBTQI parents and caregivers, prospective parents, donors, children of LGBTQI parents, siblings and extended families (PFLAGers). All stories will be edited in collaboration with you and featured on Our Family Coalition and SprOUT Family websites. Email policy@ourfamily.org if you want to share your family’s story to build support for LGBTQI families.

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Resources for talking to our kids and students about the election

resources-squareRight now, we are all being called to the work of explaining these difficult times to our children. There is uncertainty, division, and—most of all—fear. We are committed to supporting families and teachers to be the loving guides children need now.

We have gathered some links and resources to guide you in your discussions with your family. First, check out an Our Family Coalition made resource, What a Trump/Pence Presidency Means For LGBTQ Family Rights. More suggested resources include:

PS: Our Family Coalition is hosting a Post-Elections Community Call on December 8, 12pm, for all of our families who are concerned about our current state of affairs and need to hear directly from our legal team and partners. Register now.

The Importance of LGBTQ Inclusive Education

maraineyBy Maya Berkley, Policy Intern 

Growing up queer and of color, the endlessly vast reach of queerness did not spontaneously occur to me, and it certainly was not taught to me until I reached college and began pursuing a minor in GSFS and actively seeking out classes in my school’s Africana Studies Department. Learning about history in college in a way that intentionally includes historical figures who look and love like me has helped me feel more represented and engaged in my own learning and the history of this country. I know that if I had had access to facts and information about LGBT people throughout elementary, middle and high school, I would have a better educational foundation entering into college, as well as a more pronounced interest in the history I am learning because it represents the diverse, beautiful United States that I am a part of. Though I have taken multiple classes in multiple disciplines in an effort to bridge the gap in my/my college/my country’s cultural and academic understanding of black queerness, I recognize that my understanding of the cultural and historical implications of my identity are limited by the framework within which I was presented my history; my culture.

This summer, however, I have been able to vicariously experience a more LGBT-inclusive primary and secondary education through my work interning with Our Family Coalition (OFC) and working with a history teacher at Berkeley High school. We are developing a curriculum to teach the Harlem Renaissance with a focus on the many black and LGBT identified prominent figures of the era. This will provide California teachers with tools to comply with the FAIR Education Act and most recent revisions to the History Social-Science Framework .This work is not only extremely rewarding for me, as a queer artist of color with an intended minor in GSFS , but it also allows me a totally new perspective on the Harlem Renaissance that California’s students will soon have the privilege of engaging with at a much more pertinent point in their academic careers. This is one example of the many ways that California’s groundbreaking decision to rewrite its History-Social Science curriculum to be more inclusive of LGBT history will positively impact its students for years to come.

An inclusive and diverse History-Social Science education is essentially not only to provide all students with the most accurate and unbiased representation of history possible, but for many students from marginalized communities, it is one of the many first steps in developing a healthy self-concept in a world that would have them do otherwise. I find that I am constantly unlearning myself as a black and queer person living in a society built and shaped for and by white cis-hetero people, when I am in fact a black and queer person living in a society built and shaped by black people, queer people, other people of color, Muslim people, immigrants, those living with disability, as well as white cis-hetero people.

gertrudepridgettFor example, I really enjoying listening to and creating blues-folk music, and for a long time, my image of blues and folk music was white; I thought of Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac; modern blues revivalists like Hozier. This was the framework I was given to understand music within- black people created hip hop, the rest was white. It wasn’t until high school when my musical framework was challenged. I learned that blues music began as black music, was, for a while, the called and responded-to voice of black sorrow and joy, both individual and collective. Still, within this framework, it was the music of straight black masculinity. It wasn’t until this summer, when I began my work on this summer that I came to realize just how many black, queer, femme musicians created blues music, and the many art forms that stemmed from the Harlem Renaissance. Ma Rainey, Gladys Bentley, Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters, these are just a few examples of black queer women without whom there would be no blues, and as a result, no jazz, no rock, no hip hop, no American culture as we know it. I am grateful that I have a chance to unlearn a history that either intentionally erased or otherwise failed to include the history of so many marginalized communities, however,  it is not my job.

I should not need two years and counting at a private liberal arts college to understand my place in this nation’s history. Education should not be unlearned, and this is what makes California’s newest revisions to its History Social-Science Framework so important- it empowers students to create positive change by showing them that people like them have always shaped the world that they live in. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, same or many gender-loving, gender non-conforming, gender expansive people that we now peg with the umbrella title of LGBT(Q) have always been, and will always be, a part of every culture, every era, every great movement in the United States. In this world. Whether marginalized or celebrated, tolerated or embraced, we have always been here.

We stand against fear and for love.

Dear OFC Community:

Orlando vigilOur hearts broke when we learned of the hate-based gun violence in Orlando this past Sunday at a gay nightclub celebrating Latin Night. Many in our community are shaken to the core. We want to reach out to connect to you, and let you know we are processing this together with you.

Our hearts and minds are with the families and community members who lost loved ones in Orlando. We stand with all who are the victims of violent hate crimes. It seems like the number of people who are victims of violence is mounting, from the senseless massacre in Charleston just one year ago today, to the invisible, ongoing violence against transgender people of color every day, to the random acts against our Islamic brothers and sisters.

We stand against fear and for love.

We stand in solidarity with and support of Islamic queer families in our community whose religion has been singled out as the cause of this terrible tragedy, when  homophobia and easy access to firearms are in fact at the core of this attack. We stand with President Obama who said yesterday afternoon, “This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”

For our community, this event is sure to resonate deeply and widely. We are committed to doing all that we can to work together to come to grips with this, which strikes close to our hearts. Please stay in touch with us and we’ll relay to you all that we are learning and doing. Together.

In solidarity,

Our Family Coalition

Resources on how to deal with trauma and talk about tragedies with your kids:

Common Sense Media: Explaining the News to Our Kids

VillageQ: Tragedies in the News: A Resource List for Parents

Mental Health America: Helping Children Cope With Tragedy Related Anxiety

The Washington Post: How teachers and parents can talk to kids about the Orlando shootings

Huffington Post: When I told my gay son 49 people died for being just like him

We Are Orlando – resources, information about vigils and how to help out

The core messages:

  • Role model the calm you’d like your kids to have;
  • Let your kids know that your family is safe;
  • Do what you can to eliminate repetitive iterations of the news via background TV or radio (or online) news;
  • Consider your own kids’ temperament as you engage the subject;
  • Keep communication lines open;
  • The younger the kid, the less likely they either have heard of the event, or can process it. The older the kid, the more likely, and the more important it is to let them express their feelings.

LGBTQ-Friendly Summer Camps

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Famly Camps

PACT Camp

July 3-8, 2016
Tahoe City, CA
www.pactadopt.org/events/

Putting It All Together: Adoption, Race & Family
A Gathering for Adoptive Families With Children of Color
A weeklong summer retreat where adopted children of color and their families can share their experiences while learning from experts and each other.

Camp It Up!

July 30 – August 7, 2016
Quincy, CA
www.campitup.org

Camp It Up! is an experience, a feeling of belonging, of connecting – a powerful expression of how life can and should be for all of us. It’s where each of us is safe to be just who we are, where kids can run free and be held by an entire community.

Camp Tawonga – Keshet LGBT Family Weekend

Aug 25-28, 2016
Yosemite National Park
www.tawonga.org

This innovative program draws participants from all over the country. The first of its kind in the Jewish camping world, we offer a truly incredible community. Renowned educators from across the country will lead specialized workshops.

Day Camps

Girls on the Go! Camp

June 20-Aug 19, 2016
www.girlsonthegocamp.com

Girls explore, engage, and connect with one another and the beautiful Bay Area. Special guests share their talents in interactive playshops, with a special focus for each week. Girls enjoy summer days filled with spontaneous and planned adventures.

Monkey Business Camp

June 13 – August 26, 2016
www.monkeybusinesscamp.com

Monkey Business Camp was founded by two lesbians.They started Monkey Business Camp to nurture the creativity and individuality of each child in a loving and magical environment. They develop programs to achieve a balance between structure and spontaneity, to provide for the varied needs and interests of campers, and to build a powerful, peaceful, fun-loving community.

Brave Trails

July 3-16, 2016
San Bernardino National Forest
www.bravetrails.org

A residential summer camp for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, asexual, and allied youth (LGBTQ), ages 12-20. Campers will focus on developing their personal leadership skills while enjoying activities, workshops, and fun programing. From roasting marshmallows and drag shows to horseback riding and social justice workshops, there are plenty of activities to choose from!

Bay Area Rainbow Camp

June 20-July 1, 2016
El Cerrito
www.rainbowdaycamp.org

Bay Area Rainbow Camp is a play-based camp for gender-creative kids to reinforce positive, gender fluid identities in a community of peers. Psychotherapists who are gender specialists will be available after drop off and before pickup to answer questions and facilitate the parent support discussion group.

R Family Vacations

July 9-16, 2016
http://www.rfamilyvacations.com

Sail from Istanbul to Rome on the luxurious Celebrity Equinox. Wwe return to one our favorite destinations: Wonder Valley Ranch Camp! These vacations are perfect for the entire LGBT community including families, couples, singles, and friends.

5 Pride Pro-tips for Pride-Rookie Parents

This piece was originally published on the OFC Blog on June 24, 2014. It is re-posted here with current links for the 2015 Pride extravaganza!

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

Top-10 Quintessentially Queer Self-Care Tips: Enjoying Parenthood & Partnership in the East Bay

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Congratulations! You have mastered the art of early parenting. You’ve figured out how to make it through the day on very, very little shut eye; you’re managing to shovel in cold bites of leftovers from the ever-so-appealingly-prepared Meal Train drop offs; biodegradable bamboo diaper changes on the fly are already a breeze; you’ve got the supplemental chestfeeding system down like it’s nobody’s business; and, you skillfully snatch scarce seconds uploading the cutest sleeping baby pics ever, so your eagerly awaiting Ello family of friends can virtually coo with you.

Now that you’ve indeed tackled the newest of newborn care techniques and are overly supplied with what seemed the most baffling in baby gear, it’s beginning to feel like you’ve got this. So let’s take a moment to look at what else you’ve got, for your other babe—your partner over the past many years. You know you have a sound thing going on; you’re both in it for the long-haul. How to focus attention so the chemistry stays fierce and fiery amidst the new family frenzy? What steps can you take to insure no fizzling out on your end?

Whether you identify as any of the myriad of parental self-signifiers such as Mama, Baba, Mapa, Pama, Papa, or DykeDaddy, down time essentials are as unique and intentional as you are. Finding the balance between raising your baby and meaningfully engaging with your wife, quife, hersband, spouse or partner requires a steadfast forging of a sustainable self-care regimen. To help keep you feeling fortified for you and your family, with your heart and health in mind, here’s a Top-10 sampling of the East Bay’s quintessentially queer offerings:

1. Get your Butch Yoga on with Skeeter or Richelle at Namaste Yoga.

2. Pound it out solo or lift with a skilled trainer at the nation’s first LGBTQ gym, The Perfect       Sidekick.

3. Hop on the Redwood Regional trail system with the San Francisco Bay Chapter of Gay and Lesbian Sierrans.

4. Make a friend date with a pal and enjoy a locally made meal or a double shot of espresso at dyke-owned Hive Café: the Place to Bee.

5. Start a queer parent MeetUp Group around a special interest (such as one for non-gestational co-parents) or join the already existing lesbian moms MeetUp group.

6. To further build your community of queer families, check out the TransDads or the Mamas and the Papas groups and events at Our Family Coalition.

7. Connect with other new LGBTQ parents and parents-to-be at Then Comes Baby.

8. Join the LGBTQI/SGL community at the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) Alphabet Sangha for your mindfulness meditation practice.

9. Book yourself a body-mind tune-up of acupuncture, chiropractic care, deep tissue massage or integrative counseling with your choice of the many LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Associates.

10; Settle in by the lake, at a gastropub, or in your backyard hammock with a good queer parenting read:

  • Who’s Your Daddy and Other Writings on Queer Parenting – By Rachel Epstein
  • Confessions of the Other Mother: Non biological Lesbian Moms Tell All – Edited by Harlyn Aisley
  • Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of a Queer Motherhood – By Cherri’e Moraga
  • Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag – By A.K. Summers
  • And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents, and Our Unexpected Families – By Susan Goldberg
  • The Queer Parent’s Primer: A Lesbian and Gay Families’ Guide to Navigating the Straight World – By Stephanie Brill
  • Family Pride: What LGBT Parents Should Know about Navigating Home, School, and Safety in Their Neighborhoods – By Michael Shelton

Or peruse useful web resources:

If not daily, at least a weekly partaking of some enriching activity or contemplative practice will aid tremendously in renewing your internal resources, in invigorating your parenting stamina, and in maintaining your relationship passion. In gifting yourself the opportunity to recharge, you will cultivate a self-care ritual or routine that will support, nourish, and inform you throughout the many enjoyable years of parenthood and partnership.

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. Please visit www.meghanlewisphd.com for more information or go to www.lgbtqperinatalassociates.com

Banned Books Week Special: Some favorite kids’ lit titles

bookstackBanned Books Week (this year, Sept 21– 27): always a favorite among bibliophiles, and a particular favorite among we who keep finding books about us banned. I want to call out a half dozen or so favorite kid’s book titles from our family’s library.  There aren’t nearly enough books for children with family or gender diversity in them, but the lists I consult can still be dizzying. And given how few images our kids get of ourselves and our families in the culture around them, dull, one-dimensional, pedantic, inadequate, or pat books are even more disappointing. It’s tough, but it’s true: when there’s a paucity of imagery, what is out there is subject to high scrutiny and higher expectations.

rainbowfamilycollectionsEnter the indispensable resource Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children’s Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content (Libraries Unlimited, 2012). Author Jamie Campbell Naidoo lists and reviews some 175 picture books, over 30 chapter books, and over 40 other media resources for children (defined as birth up to 11 years old) that depict “same-sex parents, queer relatives, nontraditional families, gender-variant children, and influential LGBTQ historical figures.”  It’s written as a resource for librarians, and priced in that range ($50!). As harsh as that price tag is, it really is a fantastic resource.  Dana gave it a thorough review at Mombian back in June 2012.  The main thing I want to note here is that that the descriptions and ratings of each title (“Highly Recommended,” “Recommended,” “Additional Selection,” and “Not Recommended”) are a great help to those wishing to build a home library of even modest proportion.

What gets a book a mediocre rating is overly didactic content, or uninteresting illustrations, or words or language (one e.g.: “innate”) that are ill-suited to the reading level of the intended audience. These are just the sorts of complaints I’ve had of the lesser options in this literature.  The “Not Recommended” titles are often ones that are confusing to children, or depict some homophobic treatment in the storyline but don’t sufficiently explain or resolve it (thus creating more problems than they solve); some are outright homophobic and recommending the dissolution of a gay couple, for instance, or insinuating that gay people are pedofiles.  All of this is useful stuff to know about a book before you buy it sight unseen based on the title.  Out of the 175 titles listed in the “Picture Books” section, Naidoo either recommends or highly recommends some 79 (including some vintage titles from 1972, like William’s Doll). I was surprised to find some titles only designated as “Additional Selection”: Lesléa Newman’s The Boy Who Cried Fabulous, or Patricia Polacco’s In Our Mothers’ House, both of which are major favorites of our kids.  But: à chacon son goût.

And speaking of goût! Here’s some of what’s to my family’s taste: a few of the books that have become favorites at “books ‘n’ milk” time in our household, and why:

  • abcfamilyalphabetbookABC: A Family Alphabet Book, written by Bobbie Combs, illustrated by Desiree Keane & Brian Rappa (Two Lives Publishing, 2000).
    • This is your alphabet book. One of the earlier books to include same-sex parents but without fanfare or hoop-dee-do. Basically it’s an alphabet book. But there are numerous sorts of same-sex parents (both of color, both Caucasian; interracial; one using a wheelchair, etc.).
    • The illustrations are fun, featuring kids doing something or another fun, wacky, madcap, silly, etc.
  • inourmothershouseIn Our Mothers’ House, written and illustrated by Patricia Polaccco (Philomel Books, 2009).
    • Sweet recollections of family life by the eldest child, now grown; all kids are adopted, two are interracially adopted (African American & Chinese American) by the two white moms.
    • Gorgeous illustrations, rich and sufficiently developed/ evolved story (note: our kids now 5 & 8; it was a little too long for the little guy up until a year or so ago).
    • Set in the kids’ hometown of Berkeley! Woah nellie! We let out a whooop whenever we’re on the street where they live.
    • Note that it includes reference to the moms’ eventual passing, but in a sweet way; I was skittish that it’d set our kids off to weeping, but nope!
  • frecklefacestrawberrybffFreckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever, written by Julianne Moore, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Bloomsbury, 2011).
    • Yes, that Julianne Moore.
    • A fun story  about friendship between two kids; the fact that one has two moms is (ideally!) treated totally incidentally and folded in smoothly, which is still relatively rare: too many books published in earlier years are issue-driven, and also presume a homophobic or uncomprehending reaction from other characters, which may well not be many of our kids’ experience–or perhaps, may be something some would rather not plug into their kids’ heads earlier than necessary.
    • The text doesn’t have a particularly zippy rhyme scheme, but it’s still a sweet story and the illustrations have a cool, retro-y feel that could engage keep grown-ups & kids alike.
  • boywhocriedfabulousThe Boy Who Cried Fabulous, written by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Peter Ferguson (Tricycle Press, 2004).
    • The story of an exuberant boy whose enthusiasm and fascination with the beauty around him is uncontainable–so much so that he loses track of time and arrives late to school. Also he loves spiffy clothing and nice handbags and some of the sorts of things you might imagine a future gay man might like
    • Fantastic illustrations, zippy rhyme scheme makes it somewhere between tolerable and fun for the grown up to withstand multiple re-readings
  • what-makes-a-baby-coverWhat Makes a Baby, written by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth (Zoball Press, 2012).
    • The all-time best, most direct, simple, explanatory, every family configuration-inclusive picture book about how a person comes to be. As in: a sperm (from somewhere! could be the person one calls “dad,” but not necessarily!) meets up with an egg (from somewhere! could be from inside the person one calls “mom,” but also possibly not!) and develops into a baby, which leaves the birth mother’s body in any number of ways (including Caesarean), usually being fully developed, but sometimes not quite! Which baby joins a family in any number of ways! I’m making it sound wacky, but really it’s just calmly inclusive and big-tent.
    • The first printing of this book was totally crowdsourced! How frickin’ cool is THAT?
    • Our 8 yr old, who is keen on becoming a medical doctor (cardiologist? brain surgeon? she can’t decide) is interested in it; 5 yr old engaged more by the fabu imagery. We like it that our family’s origin story can sit inside, and is not relegated to the outside, of the narrative in this book.
  • donovansbigdayDonovan’s Big Daywritten by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Mike Dutton (Tricycle Press, 2011). and Mom and Mum are getting Married, written by Ken Setterington, illustrated by Alice Priestley (Second Story Press, 2004).
    • Both of these are sweet stories focussing on the excitement of a kid (Donovan) or kids (Rosie and Jack, Mom and Mums’ kids) on the thrilling occasion of their parents getting married. Both have great illustrations, a fun plot that builds enthusiasm toward the big moment which, though about their parents, is also about them, since they play a big role in the ceremony (as ring bearer or flower petal strewer).
    • Donnovan is centered entirely around the boy, whereas Mom and Mum tells the whole family’s story more or less through the kids’ viewpoint. One of the moms in Mom and Mum is just a weeeensy, teeeensy bit butch. Ish. In one illustration (kind of goes Then There’s Maude for the ceremony outfit).  That’s the next big milestone for LGBT depictions in kids’ lit: gender traitors. Meanwhile, baby steps.
    • Neither story makes any to-do about the legality (recent, revoked, or il-) of the unions. Also, each one includes loving family members and an extended friendship network in a weave of support and excitement around the event.
  • rainbowsThe Duke Who Outlawed Jelly Beans and  The Day They Put a Tax on Rainbows, written by Johnny Valentine, illustrated by Lynette Schmidt (Alyson Wonderland, 1991 & 1992).
    • Three or so stories in each collection, following, for lack of a better term, the classic European renaissance-era Fairy Tale genre. As most of the best such books do, the story line foregrounds the kids, and has their same-sex parents occupying about as much air time as parents do or should in a kids’ story.
    • These were among the first books we read to our kids (our local library has both), and it was such a delight to be able to sink into a genre that was so beloved and find (quietly, in the background) families like ours.

And for good measure, I’ll include a few more books here that don’t have same-sex parents or LGBT people in them, but illustrate the huge value of the larger narratives of self-love and respect in spite of difference. These, too, mean a lot to our kids, and are high on our list of favorite reads.

  • boywhogrewflowersThe Boy Who Grew Flowers, written by Jen Wojtowica, illustrated by Steve Adams (Barefoot Books, 2005).  Basically, a boy comes from a really unusual family which includes many odd birds (from snake wranglers to people with snakes for hair, more or less). His special trait is that on the full moon, he sprouts flowers from his hair. He befriends a girl who has her own difference, and together, they see each other. Beautiful illustrations, amazingly sweet.
  • ilikemyselfI Like Myself! written by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow (Harcourt, 2004). Infectious rhyme scheme and very imaginative illustrations. An exuberant girl (African American) basically sing-chants her way through the book, declaring all the things she loves about herself, “Inside, outside, upside down, from head to toe and all around.”

My favorite page of I Like Myself gets me verklempt every time:

No matter if they stop and stare, no person ever anywhere can make me feel that what they see is all there really is to me.

So there.

What about your family? What are your favorite books? Share them with us in the comments! Or better yet, blog about it and give us the link!

By Polly Pagenhart, Our Family Coalition Programs Director and Lesbian Dad! An updated version of a 2012 post.

Exploring Sequoia with Balta and his cousins

Family Destinations Near San Francisco – Just a Few Hours but Worlds Away from SF

The San Francisco Bay Area offers so many great family activities and unique spots to explore, why would anyone ever leave?

But maybe, just maybe, your family decides to get away for a change of scenery, perhaps to be in a different climate or just take a break from the daily routine. If so, we’ve got some recommendations for you: some of our favorite spots within a half-day’s drive from home.

Monterey: About two hours

You could easily spend a full day enjoying the many exhibits and animals at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It also provides an excellent foundation for future explorations along the California coast. After our son learned at the Aquarium about the sea otters’ habit of floating on their backs in kelp beds, he searched every visible one on the rest of our coastal drive, spotting hundreds of otters in the wild. “Edutainment” at its best!

Our son Baltazar kayaking in Morro Bay

Our son Baltazar kayaking in Morro Bay

Morro Bay: About four hours

Morro Bay is another coastal family favorite and a good home base for a visit to Hearst Castle.  The beautiful bay is capped by giant Morro Rock rock that gets larger and more imposing as you approach it. We took our son for his first sea kayaking experience on the calm waters of the bay and were delighted when a seal swam along side us for a portion of the trip!

Sacramento: Less than two hours

Heading away from the water, Sacramento is much more than a fast-food stop on the way to Tahoe. Visiting the state capitol is a must-do right of passage for kids, and they’ll learn a bit of history at the California State Railroad History Museum. Plus, the Sacramento River offers opportunities for boating, fishing and swimming. You can also head towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a family rafting trip on the American River.

Lake Tahoe: Three to four hours

Of course, Lake Tahoe is a great all-season resort for families with skiing in the winter, hiking in the spring and fall, and swimming and boating in the summer. You can choose from different types of resort properties here—many with mid-week and off-season discounts—as well as a huge supply of comfortable vacation rental homes. We like to relax, read and play games for by the fireplace on chilly nights.

Yosemite: About three and a half hours

It’s hard to think of a more awe-inspiring place than Yosemite Valley. While this popular national park can be crowded during the summer, it’s a great place for a spring or fall visit. Enjoy a stay at the historic Ahwahnee Lodge or in one of the tent cabins at Curry Village.  It’s hard not to notice and appreciate the many different ways the sunlight illuminates the canyon walls throughout the day. And even if it rains, you’ll be rewarded with brilliant waterfalls afterwards. If you visit in summer, take a day to explore the less-visited Tuolumne Meadows area (closed in the winter).

Sequoia: About four hours

While many visitors to Sequoia spend just a few hours seeing the highlights, we recommend spending at least a night or two there, either in the Lodgepole Village campground or in a cabin at General Grant Grove. Doing so will give you more time to walk and play among these gentle giants, and to explore some lesser-known sites in the park. We visited with our son and nephews on a summer weekend, and the Crystal Cave tour was a big highlight. The half-day adventure included a short hike into the cave, using flashlights to explore the dark parts, and walking on boardwalks above a running stream once inside.

Exploring Sequoia with Balta and his cousins

Exploring Sequoia with Balta and his cousins

Costanoa: Less than two hours

Finally, closer to home, the Costanoa Resort north of Santa Cruz is an incredible family-friendly spot to get close to nature while enjoying a few vacation comforts, including a restaurant featuring organic local foods. There’s a wide range of accommodations, including lodge rooms, cabins with fireplaces, and comfortable tent cabins. There are no TVs at Costanoa—and the cabins have shared bathhouses—but really nice ones with fireplaces as well! The beach is a short hike away, and you’re far away from the crowds and noise of Santa Cruz’s boardwalk. Once on a spring visit a few years ago, we sat mesmerized for nearly 30 minutes watching a sea lion tend to her newborn cub while waves crashed around them on their rocky perch.

Former Californians now living in Austin, Texas, Steve and his husband Carmine have an adopted son Baltazar (18). The great family travel memories they’ve built together inspired Steve to start gayfamilytrips.com, a website devoted to the topic of gay family travel.

 

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