Tag Archives: LGBTQ-headed families

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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Our Family Forest

by Anthony M. Brown, Board Chairman of Men Having Babies

anthonybrownandfamilyWhen my daughter documented her family tree for a class project, there were so many branches that it covered an entire poster board. My heart soared: It was a family forest! I’m called “Papa” by three amazing kids. My son is the biological child of my husband; we had him 4 years ago with the help of a gestational surrogate. I adopted him and he lives with us. My daughters, now 8 and 3, live with their mothers in the same neighborhood as our family. I call them my daughters because I am their biological father through sperm donation, but the truth is that I am not their parent.

This is a critical distinction that donor dads must make. I am not a coparent with my daughters’ mothers. But that doesn’t mean that I do not have a reciprocally fulfilling relationship with them, it just means that the major life decisions that relate to my girls are made by their mothers, the two amazing women who taught me how to be a dad. I am not sure whether we picked them, or they picked us, but from the moment we met at an equality fundraiser, we instantly hit it off. This wonderful family life didn’t always seem possible for me. In the ’70s and ’80s, as a closeted teenager and young man, I would have been in denial if you had told me that one day I, too, would have three children. Or perhaps it would have been a relief; an affirmation that I could change my orientation. I desperately didn’t want to be gay and, after running from my true self for what seemed to be ages, I did what many young people who grew up in my era did: I tried to end my life. My parents found the bottle of pills I had taken and, on the advice of our family doctor, walked me around the backyard of our house for hours attempting to allow the effects of the pills I had taken to wear off. I just wanted the pain to stop, but my parents wanted their son and fought for my life. I am thankful every day that they did.

familyforest-pullquote1After that moment, I knew my parents loved me and, eventually, with much soul searching and self-acceptance, I learned that I could be happy… and gay. Once that switch was flipped, life turned on. My family is the culmination of that awareness and of so much love. But that love had to start with me. I don’t think anyone who doesn’t truly love themselves could be a donor dad. It requires patience, responsibility and, most of all, faith. I had to have faith that my daughters’ moms would allow me to have a relationship with them. They also had to have faith that I would be a man of my word and surrender my parental rights to the non-biological mother. We all had to have faith that we would be able to conquer whatever parenting trials would come our way.

And that faith is constantly tested. When my first daughter was born, my husband and I would babysit her about once every other week and, once she was old enough, have sleepovers once a month. I remember getting a call from one of her mothers after we returned her from a sleepover right after the adoption hearing had taken place—a hearing where I formally surrendered my parental rights. She was asking about a small burn mark on my daughter’s leg. Neither my husband nor I could recall anything that could have caused it, but then I remembered that at one point over the weekend we were all in the kitchen. I was holding her when I turned to my husband and brushed up against an open toaster door. I didn’t think it had touched her, and she didn’t cry, so I thought nothing of it at the time. When I realized she had gotten burned, I was terrified that we would not be allowed to see her again. I went through a short-lived freak out until the moms calmed me down, reassuring me that it happens to everyone (she had even fallen off the changing table a couple of times under their watch).

It is moments like that when you truly understand perspective. But the one person that was most tested by my being a donor dad was my husband. He often felt like the odd man out. While I was busy going to clinics and running out of events because “mom was ovulating,” he was often left alone and feeling out of touch with the whole process. If I could have done anything differently, I would have made sure that he was more involved and included him more in the process. The reality, now that the kids are older, is that all three of them refer to my husband as “Daddy” and to me as “Papa.” When asked, they are the first to tell you that they have “two mommies and two daddies.” This, to me, is one of the coolest things ever.

Because we are honest with all three kids about where they come from, they feel special. They understand that their mommies and daddies loved them so much that they worked together to make our family a reality. If I can offer any new perspective on being a donor dad, it is that anything is possible with honesty, careful preparation, and love. You can have the family of your dreams, no matter what it looks like.blognote-surrogacyconference

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


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

What’s So Funny about “Transparent”?


Review of Amazon Studio’s series Transparent for Our Family Coalition

The deep pathos about not living an authentic life is made very concrete with the double entendre of the word “transparent” in Jill Soloway’s new comedy-drama, Transparent, on Amazon. The theme of secrets and their long-lasting emotional and psychological scars are revealed through clever dialogue and plot structure in the show through the Pfefferman family. The central question of what happens when you parent as not an authentic and transparent parent while raising children drives most of the drama and backstories.

The series is structured around Mort Pfefferman’s (Jeffrey Tambor) social transition into Maura at age 69 and backstories—as family members recall different experiences of their understandings—which center around events that occur mostly between 1985 and 1994, and the revelations of the long-lasting damage his closeted transgender identity wrought on his family. Her whole life of having been pretending to be a man and a father forces his children, Sarah (Amy Landecker), Josh (Jay Duplass) and Ally (Gaby Hoffman), to re-question their childhood and adult lives in ways that are fundamentally transformational.

The pilot episode begins with Pfefferman’s children talking about how daddy has summoned all of them, and how they are all worried that she has cancer. Through comedic twists and turns of the trials and tribulations of modern lives and the limitations of each child’s personalities, they are finally gathered at Mort’s Palisades home. She announces she is going to sell the house.  Mort cries, “I am done with the house!” We hear a one-way telephone conversation later that evening from Mort saying he couldn’t tell the children.

The following day at the Los Angeles LGBT Center you hear Jeffrey Tambor’s voice, the camera pans to a group session and slowly reveals Mort as Maura, and the audience understands that the previous evening was meant to be the big revelation about Maura’s transgender confession. Maura tells the group, “I don’t understand how I raised three selfish kids who can’t see beyond themselves.” This statement and the group session position the audience as an ally with Maura in her transgender social transformation throughout the series.

The series weaves in and out of backstories and recollections to great effect for the mystery of how the children become the way they do doesn’t become revealed until the final episode. This is great storytelling and the sense of how memory functions in repression in that it takes multiple attempts to uncover deep, family secrets. The Pfefferman family system created a dysfunctional system in which Maura has attempted to suppress her authentic gender identity by playing the ideal husband, which is symbolized by her beautiful Palisades home. The impact on her marriage and on her neglected wife, the time spent away from family, and the lack of authoritative parental guidance during the critical teenage years, however, is illustrated throughout the series without any clear resolution until the finale.

As with Solloway’s Six Feet Under and The United States of Tara her examination of the American family is where the series shines at its best and most heart wrenching. It is also where it made me cringe the most as a member of the transgender community. (I know there are criticisms against Solloway for hiring a cisgender actor to portray Mort and not a transgender actor. Those aside, Solloway did hire transgender actors and consultants for the series, and for that I applaud her.) I watched the metamorphosis of Mort into Maura and a lot of her self-loathing and discomfort about the female gait and posture became more natural and accepting over the series. I wish that it were a more happy narrative of having a transgender parent, but I suppose this is where Solloway was brave in providing a cautionary tale. The viewer is meant to understand that if one is able to be one’s authentic self in term’s of gender identity and by living your best life you provide a role model for your children that is transparent, honest, and authentic. We need to have more authentic and explicit conversations with our children about race, class, family, gender and sexuality. I hope for this new generation of transgender and gender expansive people protected by law and a discourse promoting more civility and respect that the need for secrecy and pain that drove Maura inside is no longer required. We can celebrate all of our diversity-race, gender, sexuality, family, class, ability-in this big “whirlpool”-together.

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                                                                                                          By Sandra S. Collins, Ph.D.

Executive Director and Founder of Bay Area Rainbow Day Camp and Assistant Professor of East Asian History, California State University, Chico


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 tarah@ourfamily.org – 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 www.meghanlewisphd.com for more information or go to www.lgbtqperinatalassociates.com


VICTORY: Governor Brown Signs the Modern Family Act!

Dear families and friends,

I am thrilled to share with you that the Modern Family Act (AB2344) is now the law!

Over the past twenty years California’s LGBTQ families have been gaining increased legal protections through the legislature and the courts. This victory shows the great impact that we can have when working united for laws that keep up with the evolving nature of our families. Your support is critical to our making change.

You may be asking what exactly the Modern Family Law means for our families. The law essentially does three things:

1. Establishes a statutory form that spells out the agreement between a donor and parents – much like the one that currently exists for wills – that may be used in the event of pregnancy achieved through sperm donations. The form would include  parenting rights and responsibilities, if any, for the donor. While we still advise that parents seek counsel, this form adds protections for all parties involved and will reduce future litigation on the issue.

2. Provides  clear specifications related to the financial responsibility of medical costs of the surrogate and the newborn.  This is important since some insurance coverage specifically excludes surrogacy.

3. Provides a streamlined adoption process for parents that meet these specified criteria and would waive associated fees.  This rectifies the inequity caused by states, unlike California, that do not accept birth certificates unless they include one female mother and one male father, forcing same-sex couples to go through an expensive and invasive step-parent adoption process to guarantee parental rights in other states.

I am elated knowing that the Modern Family Act will help build clarity in families that can help prevent non-biological parent from losing contact or custody of their child, in addition to removing the unnecessary financial and emotional cost that our families currently have to undertake to protect our kids across state lines.

We applaud Assemblymember Tom Ammiano for championing this bill in Sacramento, in collaboration with our many allies, and thank Governor Brown for signing the Modern Family Act. This bill is a big step in the right direction toward protecting families across California.

We need your help to build on two decades of work supporting and protecting families. Our Family Coalition is built on reciprocity, we cannot continue to exist and push for progressive policies without your generous support; please join our movement and make a donation today.

Please keep an eye out for more information about all the ways you can get involved with Our Family Coalition and help in the fight for equity and justice. We simply can’t do it without you.

Towards a new future for all of our families,

PS. In more exciting news that supports healthy schools and families, the Governor also just signed AB420 which prohibits suspending students in grades K-3 and prohibiting expulsion for willful disruption/defiance. We played a central role in advocating for this bill and will continue doing so with your support!


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.

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 🙂


Lessons Learned: Ashley’s reflections on being OFC’s Policy Intern

I open the door with butterflies in my stomach. It’s not every day that you get to follow your dream by applying to a policy internship at a progressive nonprofit. It’s not every day that you get the internship, apply for a stipend, find housing, and move across the country, all in one month. I followed a career-related whim to work as the Public Policy intern at Our Family Coalition and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

My heart pounds as typical vestiges of doubt rear their ugly heads. “What if you’re not good enough?” “What if it’s too hard?” “What if the staff is mean because you’re the mew intern?”

All of my fears were quickly put to rest as I met Renata Moreira. The quick talking, but even quicker-witted, Policy and Communications Director welcomed me with open arms. Staff members were quick to introduce themselves with genuine smiles and fun tips on where to visit in San Francisco. I was visiting OFC to get a feel for the office and discuss the specifics of my internship, but before I knew it, I had tickets to go to QWOCMAP, a queer, women of color film festival. I also received an invite to an alternative networking mixer for prospective LGBTQ parents.

All of this before my first day of work! I was overwhelmed, to say the least, but I couldn’t shake the fact that I was overjoyed. Not only was the work environment welcoming, but everyone knew their stuff. As a student leader at Washington University in St. Louis, I am used to working with some of the best and brightest academics in the country; however, to be in a work environment with an array of individuals well versed on advocacy, law, communications, and educational policy made me feel like I was going to leave this internship with more than I had hoped.

AshleyPullQuote1Before long, I started my first official day and was imbued with knowledge of local, state and national laws and policies that affect millions of LGBTQ individuals across the country. I was aware of some of the policies because of my interdisciplinary background in Urban Studies, but most of the information was new due to the mutable nature of our justice system. Working at OFC requires knowledge of these policies and an ability to brainstorm effective ways to combat said policies’ bias and discrimination. One of the main projects that I have been working on, the Reframing Our Families Project, utilizes my organizational, people, time-management and oral communication skills all in one. At first, working on the Project seemed daunting, but with help from Renata and Judy Appel, OFC’s Executive Director, I felt equipped to break down the Project’s main components and develop efficient strategies to complete them.

Besides the beautiful view from the office, there are two things that I will definitely take away from this experience.The first is that the policies in this country need some serious work. Let’s be honest! States like Virginia don’t even allow unmarried couples to adopt and since same sex marriages are not legally recognized in Virginia, LGBTQ couples in the state are not legally allowed to adopt children. Though this may change in due time, this means that, currently, more unplaced children will be denied loving and welcoming homes because of legal bias and discrimination. The more work and research that I do, the more I learn about the significant challenges I will have to overcome as I form my own family. But as I work, I am in awe of the seemingly furtive battles that have already been championed on my behalf.

AshleyPullQuote2The second is that our society needs organizations like Our Family Coalition. As one of the only organizations that deal with LGBTQ headed families, OFC is a rare, but essential gem dedicated to the advancement of LGBTQ individuals and their families. After discovering policies like those in Virginia, I began to develop a large sense of doubt in our political system. However, working at this internship reassured me that there are a slew of organizations, both locally and nationally, fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people everywhere. Being able to say that I was a part of one of them, is truly an honor.

Overall, this internship was a lot of work mixed in with a lot of fun. I’ll be honest, it’s not for everyone. But if you are committed to LGBTQ equality and social justice, then it will be for you, too.

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.