Change at Our Family Coalition

by Judy Appel
Executive Director, Our Family Coalition

After over ten years at the helm of Our Family Coalition, I will be concluding my time as Executive Director next month. I will join California School-Based Health Alliance as Executive Director, building on the educational equity I am so passionate about in my role on the Berkeley School Board. I am deeply honored to have been a part of this organization, with all of you.

I am very pleased to announce that Renata Moreira-Bilella – Our Family Coalition’s talented Communications and Policy Director and last summer’s Acting Executive Director – has the Board of Directors’ unanimous endorsement as Interim Executive Director this fall, as the Board conducts a comprehensive search and review process for the next Executive Director.

Renata-Judy-NightOut - 1In my eleven years at Our Family Coalition, I am proud to have seen the organization grow from local, to regional, to national prominence. The staff has grown from only two of us to over a dozen, and its annual budget has grown from a few hundred  thousand to over a million dollars. Our family support work now includes over 200 events per year, reaching nearly 3,000 community members from across the Bay Area. We work in coalition with some 120 nonprofit and social justice partners, serving statewide as an LGBTQ-inclusive voice on family issues, and a family voice on LGBTQ issues.

Policy wins during my tenure at Our Family Coalition have been numerous, including most recently the passage of our first co-sponsored bill: AB 960, the Equal Protection for All Families Act. We’ve seen Our Family Coalition take the lead as the state’s training source for Welcoming and Inclusive Schools, ensuring all children are educated in an environment that recognizes, understands, and respects their families and their whole selves. Finally, Our Family Coalition has developed an approach to LGBTQ social justice which deeply accounts for the multiple, intersectional identities of our community, and prioritizes solidarity work with movements for racial and economic justice. The racial diversity of both our staff and our Board reflects that of our state, something that makes me not only very proud, but very confident in our capacities to make change in 21st century California.

Many of you know my interim replacement Renata – pictured with me at left in the image above at a recent Night Out gala. She brings nearly two decades’ experience in educational and nonprofit leadership to her work at Our Family Coalition, and has served in advisory roles to a range of organizations, from the California Immigrant Policy Institute to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. This past year, in addition to becoming a mother, she has been a Changemaker Fellow in the Spirituality and Social Change program at the Pacific School of Religion.  Her passionate, skilled advocacy has been at the center of so many of Our Family Coalition’s recent successes. In her words:

I’m thrilled to be stepping in as OFC’s Interim ED. This is a moment of personal honor for me as a queer mama who has been working to promote equity for LGBTQ people and our allies for over 15 years. It is also a moment of deep personal responsibility that I do not take lightly. I will work tirelessly, with my eyes on our mission, my ears open to the voices of all, and my heart committed to LGBTQ parents and our families.” 

With Renata as Interim Director, we are confident the organization will be will be in very able hands during the upcoming transition.

I want to thank you, the community, for the opportunity to spend my kids’ childhoods leading this incredible organization and its dedicated staff. I am proud of the strong team we’ve become, and I take my next step knowing the organization is well-positioned to take on the challenges to come.  From not so very far away, I will be looking forward to Our Family Coalition’s next chapter with Renata’s strong leadership of the amazing OFC team.

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

lgbtq-friendlysummercamps

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.

Out of the Dark: Emboldening Schools to Welcome Everyone

By Rick Oculto,
Education Coordinator at Our Family Coalition

8b68132b-157e-44b5-87e1-2ac91f7bbd5dOnly a few blocks from the White House is a building with giant glass windows. You can see right into the main meeting room from the street and every floor of the building is exposed to the light of the outside world. Even if you wanted to hide, it would be difficult. On the walkway to the entrance the ubiquitous blue and yellow equal sign hangs proudly from its façade. This is the national headquarters of the powerful LGBTQ rights machine known as the Human Rights Campaign. It is not ostentatious, but sleek, clean, and unapologetic… a marked difference from how the rest of the country is accustomed to talking about LGBTQ issues; under hushed whispers in the dark. In many places, gay is still a dirty word.

The week of Halloween, on the top floor of this building, on arguably the most exposed floor were about forty people from across the country dedicated to ensuring that LGBTQ youth and families never had to hide again. The irony of the impending holiday was not lost on me. The fact that many people in LGBTQ communities find solace in this holiday because it allows us to assume identities that are not always socially available to us also did not escape me. As trainers who have put ourselves on the frontlines of addressing issues of difference, we have encountered a great diversity of difficult situations. And now, we were charged with sharing the knowledge on how to do that; how to come out of the closet about our own experience, and how to create spaces that allowed others to do so. The task ahead would not be easy.

As a trainer, you never know what the participants will bring to a discussion. Many times it can lead to very deep and meaningful exchanges and sometimes the intersections of everyone’s identities crash into each other like a multi-car pileup on the freeway. When that happens, just like a freeway, everyone’s got to slow down to make sure we can all move forward together. If not, all traffic comes to a dead stop.

groupatFCT-1So, here we were eight floors above the ground in a glass room filled with eager minds and good intentions. Each face represented a story of struggle, and hardship, and tenacity to have come to this place to create and sustain inclusive spaces for everyone, but especially for those who have traditionally been unwelcome. And then it happens… as we go into examples of our communities, the inevitable and pernicious stereotypes about the threat each of our communities might pose comes to the forefront; first about gender, then about race. Everyone is on alert. The mood of the room went from jovial to urgent as representatives from each community plead their case for better understanding. Any amateur facilitator would have shied away, changed the subject, and inevitably hampered learning. We slowed it down and leaned into it. After all, we were here to help everyone better navigate identity, not ignore it. No one in the room was an amateur. We moved forward together.

The Human Rights Campaign has been criticized for its myopia and exclusivity, specifically on its actions around transgender issues and people of color. In recent years the organization has taken some initiative to address those shortfalls with some success. The Welcoming Schools Approach and the training of facilitators to address difference is part of the outcome of that effort. For the past five years Welcoming Schools has operated as a program of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation with the mission to make schools more welcoming of diverse families, inclusive of LGBTQ-issues, address biased based bullying, and to support transgender and gender expansive youth. It has been a labor of love that has grown and evolved as the national conversation on difference has taken center stage. It was formed out of the need for representation of LGBTQ individuals and families and has been tempered by the passing of Leelah Alcorn, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Seth Walsh, along with many other events. There has always been an undercurrent of liberation; knowing that the topics Welcoming Schools touched upon would thrust those issues uncomfortably into the light. The visceral experience of the aforementioned events further molded the conversation in ways that were more responsive and inclusive. Our Family Coalition, in conjunction with the other Welcoming Schools trainers, have been at the heart of this cathartic shift.

It was a long three days. There was laughter and tears and conversations that would have never have happened in the dark. The impact of Welcoming Schools had been constrained by a small and dedicated group of about ten people responsible for several regions around the country. After this 03f0b4a8-1985-4ef6-b0bb-a391540325d6training there were now thirty more. We have not found the panacea for the disparities we find among our communities because there is no one thing that will address the myriad of issues that impact our different identities. What we have found is a way to recognize, respect, and celebrate our differences without diminishing or excluding one another. With the inaugural facilitator training, these practices will have an even wider reach.

At the end of the week, with few hours to spare, I was able to take my traditional walk down the Washington Mall. Autumn in DC smelled differently than it did in San Francisco. I was joined by a colleague that would become a new trainer a continent’s length away in the Puget Sound area. We passed the White House with lines of children in Halloween costumes visiting the President and First Lady, passed the World War II Memorial and found ourselves at the reflection pool where only a little over fifty years earlier thousands upon thousands gathered together to recognize and affirm the humanity of our African-American brethren. A short while away stood the Lincoln Memorial lit up against the eastern dusk and we realized we were on the same path.

9462b4ce-5f04-4d9b-80b8-d83ab9b98ef9“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all [people] are created free and equal.”

–          Abraham Lincoln, July 10, 1858 Speech at Chicago, Illinois

Just the Beginning

By Michael Mortensen,
an Our Family Coalition Communications & Media Coordinator for Summer 2015

It is 9:12 and the San Francisco BART train will be coming any minute.  I make my way through the crowd, and squeeze into the closest car.  Today is my first day at Our Family Coalition as a communications intern, and I cannot be late.

I have been looking forward to starting this internship since the moment I applied.  Ever since I visited San Francisco this past December, I knew I had to get an internship there.  “Communications intern needed for Bay area LGBTQ Family non-profit”.  I have always wanted to get involved in the LGBTQ community, I am great with kids, and it is in San Francisco!  This was the perfect internship for me.

I quickly learned that the working with Our Family Coalition is so much more than posting on Facebook and sending a few tweets.  On a daily basis I was challenged, and almost convicted, by my previously held beliefs and opinions.  I thought I knew about the problems and discrimination LGBTQ families faced, but this Arizonian came to realize that he still had (and has) so much to learn.

Our Family Coalition provides an outlet for Bay area LGBTQ families to come together and create a world of inclusion, advocacy, and social justice.  This includes creating LGBTQ education, supporting policy, and gender neutral bathrooms.  Coming from a conservative state, this was all very new to me.  It never occurred to me that these issues existed, and how important fighting these social injustices are for children and families.

I had the privilege to witness history in the making at San Francisco City Hall an early June morning, to hear mayor Ed Lee, NCLR’s Kate Kendell, and Gavin Newsom speak about this win for America.  I still cannot believe that I was literally there when Marriage Equality became nationwide, and at the place where it all started, at the heart of San Francisco.  And yet, this was only the beginning.

Before this internship, I thought marriage was the final step to LGBTQ discrimination, but there is still so much more to be done.  Transgender rights, black rights, LGBTQ adoption and foster care, and LGBTQ family protection are just some of the many issues OFC is tackling.  Our Family Coalition is making a real difference in the Bay Area, and throughout my time here, I was educated on these issues and their importance.  Before, I thought “hey, this doesn’t affect me” but now I am beginning to realize that yes, it actually does, because it affects everyone.   I have the freedom to marry, but I cannot take this for granted.  It took decades of hard work and unprecedented violence for change to happen. I no longer want to stand on the sidelines watching social justice take place.  I want to be in the crowd and on the front lines, demanding change

Living in the Bay Area this summer, I grew my digital communications skills, maturity, but most importantly I developed a new responsibility to use this momentum of change to make a difference.  I want to inspire others back at home to join the crowd, educate themselves, and advocate for real equality.

On Queer and Racial Justice: A Walk with Reality

sibuTo live in an environment which criminalizes being queer can be quite a drag.  so one can only imagine my excitement when I got selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders which gave me an opportunity to live in the United States for a total of thirteen weeks. From the media, I could tell that being queer in the US is not the same as being queer in my country. Or so I thought.

One thing I keep saying is that the media representation of the US is really not quite what is on the ground. Back home, I have to deal with the consequences of being queer. In Zambia, I live a pretty interesting life depending on the particular space I find myself in. I must mention that I participate in the queer movement, feminist movement and these feed into the general human rights movement. What I find particularly interesting about the spaces I find myself in are the layers of different kinds of ‘treatment’ I receive. Within the queer community, I am considered a leader so there is an interesting way that I am treated. It is with respect and my opinion matters there. When I get into the feminist space, well, I get in that space as queer and that sort of drops the respect and the weight my opinion carries because I am queer. In the general human rights space, I go in as queer, young and female. In a male dominated space with the older generation taking the lead, you can only imagine the value my opinion gets.

In the U.S on the other hand, my existence comes with an extra layer, my race. You see, my race is not really a problem when I am in my country, where the population is predominantly black. I have only had very few instances where I directly encountered a situation, which highlighted white privilege.

I arrived in the US four days after the Charleston church shooting at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The media covered the story widely. I do, remember the framing of the crimes that have seen black young men being killed and I realized that there was a certain way the media was framing the shooter at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was not that he was racist or that he was a criminal. Rather, I was struck at the almost ‘victim’ representation he was getting. People talked about him being a troubled child and how that led to him shooting 9 people and he received more than decent treatment from the cops.

A few weeks later, the story about a black woman, Sandra Bland hit the media. She was arrested for a wrong signal on a highway in Texas. I saw the arrest video and it was completely horrifying. One would think that she was being arrested for shooting 9 people and not a traffic offence. Sadly, the lady was found dead in her police cell and the police said she ‘hanged herself’ which did not make sense to me but that is a blog for another day. Anyway, these two stories to me symbolised one thing if not more, that racial injustice was alive and kicking in the US.

I realised that not only was I in danger because of my sexual orientation, my race was also a point of discrimination during my entire stay. It gets worse when one is a low-income earner.

One of the programs during the Fellowship was being attached to an organization for professional development experience and I am so lucky to be working at Our Family Coalition. One conversation which has come up is the queer movement and the involvement when it comes to racial justice. I feel that the intersectionality between race and sexual orientation and/or gender identity is something that cannot be ignored as these are two of the most fundamental strands to one’s identity. They contribute hugely to one’s sum of parts and how they are positioned in the various systems in the US society.

To discuss gender identity and leave out race especially in the US reminds me of the time when the women’s movement discussed middle class, white women’s issues and made women look so homogeneous when that is not the case in reality. This meant that others felt left out in this struggle and the struggle did not address their needs. The result of this was a fragmentation of the women’s movement. Same principle applies to the queer movement as queer people are not positioned in a homogenous way. People need to realize the privilege they come with in different queer spaces and to make a conscious effort to include issues that affect other queer people, race and ethnic background being paramount.

I get that marriage equality was a huge step for the movement. But on close inspection, I wonder who it really is serving. In as much as marriage is a declaration of love, it also expresses issues like economic security and stability. With the number of homeless and unemployed queer people, I am not sure how this would benefit them. I am left thinking of the homeless, queer youth of color, low income earners and the Trans community and how this law benefits their different struggles and the question I find myself asking is who defined this agenda?

For a while, I actually thought the people that have families in areas like San Francisco are white gay men as they are the ones who are frequently profiled. I was amazed to see so many different family formations (with white families being dominant still) at a campout which was recently organised by Our Family Coalition. I wondered why POC queer parents were not profiled more in the media and I realised it’s the race issue. To pretend that in the queer movement, race is not an issue would only mean ‘othering’ issues that are fundamental to people’s existence.

staff-sibu-and-interns

Since coming to the US, one thing is clear. I am scared not only because of my sexual orientation but my race too. I do understand that there are more progressive laws as compared to the country I come from but my fear is not that of the law but the law enforcers themselves and how the media profiles people like me, a black, queer woman. Never the less, I plan on enjoying my stay in San Francisco and learning as much as I can.

Biography: Sibusiso Malunga has over 5 years experience in human rights work with a specific focus on LGBTQ rights as well as women and girls rights. She has experience in HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives as well as economic empowerment for women in rural areas. Sibusiso is also largely involved in regional feminist organizing and she is active in the young African feminist movement. She is a co-founder of an LGBTQ organization called The Lotus identity based in Zambia, which works on advocacy, capacity building, and research and documentation. She was selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a Young African Leaders Initiative by president Barrack Obama which brings 500 young leaders from across Africa to some top universities in the US for six weeks intensive training in leadership skills. 100 of the fellows remain in the US for the professional development experience and Sibusiso is currently a fellow at Our Family Coalition in the policy department.

Alphabet Soup Episode 5: Family Equality Edition

Featuring:
Cathy Sakimura, Deputy Director & Family Law Director at NCLR
Tarah Fleming, Our Family Coalition’s Education Director

Food for Thought with Hali Martin, Policy Intern at Our Family Coalition

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

Tune in to the new episode of Alphabet Soup, where we discuss family equality with Cathy Sakimura and what is still at stake for LGBTQ-families. Some topics touched upon are what steps families can take to protect themselves until full legal recognition and protection of LGBTQ families is established, and increasing access to legal services for low income families through the Family Protection Project.

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

facebookeventheader
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