Tag Archives: our family coalition

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.

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.

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

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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

The Equal Protection for All Families Act is one step closer to becoming the law!

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This Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass the Equal Protection for All Families Act (Assembly Bill 960). This important bill – authored by Assemblymember David Chiu and co-sponsored by Our Family Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Equality California – is expected to be voted on by the full Senate in two weeks and will continue to move towards the governor for signature. And we need YOU to make sure the Equal Protection for All Families Act becomes the law of the land.

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At present, California’s laws regarding assisted reproduction are outdated and fail to recognize the diverse ways that families are formed and to provide legal protection and security for parents and children alike. Unmarried parents who use assisted reproduction to conceive children in the privacy of their home are not recognized as the legal parents of their children. The new bill would update the current assisted reproduction laws in the state to ensure parents and their children are not at risk and do not have to jump through unnecessary legal hoops in order to secure what should be a basic right.

AB960will

  • Allow unmarried people using assisted reproduction to be fully recognized as parents on the same terms as married parents.

  • Remove the requirement that couples must involve a doctor when using assisted reproduction in order to ensure that the donor is not a parent.

  • Provide clear direction for how egg and known sperm donors should be treated under California law; protecting both parents and donors from very real concerns.

“This bill is about granting recognition and economic access to all prospective parents, ” says Renata Moreira, Our Family Coalition’s Acting Executive Director.” AB 960 is going to particularly benefit lower income LGBT parents who will be able to use more affordable methods of assisted reproduction, and still be protected under California law.” By failing to provide legal protections for these families, the state is failing both parents and children. All families deserve equitable protection and recognition under the eyes of the law.

As we continue to advocate for the passage of AB960, we call on you – LGBTQ parents who may have been affected by the current discriminatory legislation and may be ready to speak out. Personal stories and testimony have a powerful impact on lawmakers and can play a key part for the decision to pass the Equal Protection for All Families Act. Specifically, Our Family Coalition is looking to connect with:

  • Parents of any relationship recognition status who used home insemination, then had to terminate the donor’s rights and do a second parent adoption in order to be protected.

  • Unmarried or unregistered domestic partnered couples using assisted reproductive technology to conceive who had to adopt to protect their parental rights.

  • Potential donors who were afraid to support a friend or relative’s family formation due to the informality of the arrangement and the prohibitive costs of intervention by doctors or lawyers.

Do you recognize yourself or anyone you know in any of these descriptions?

Are you willing to share your story to help lawmakers make the right decision for families in California?

Please contact policy@ourfamily.org if you want to support for the Equal Protection for All Families Act and help shape the future of our families.

 

Thanks for Making Pride 2015 a Success – and a preview of our pics!

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Dear Families and Friends,

Wow! This year’s Pride was incredible, as the whole Bay Area celebrated our victory in the Supreme Court last Friday. Hundreds of kids – including more teens than ever – gathered with parents, grandparents, caregivers, friends, and allies at both the Parade and in the Family Garden. I had such a great time at Pride this year. The energy was electric and fun.

DSC_9468I know our work is important to you because it impacts that which is most precious to you: your kids. I am asking you to please make a donation to Our Family Coalition so that we can continue to do all we do for our families and build on our momentum for change.

_MG_6448The nationwide right to marry offers hope for the future of our children. We cannot stop here. We need your financial support to continue the momentum for our families.

Thank you so much for celebrating this historic Pride with us!  Every one of us makes a difference.

In gratitude,

PS: We are so glad to hear that your family and friends also had a great time at Pride. Please share your photos and great memories on our Page to inspire other families! See you at Oakland Pride on September 13! #familypride #proudofmyfamily.

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The Alphabet Soup – Episode 3: Pride Edition

In this episode of The Alphabet Soup with Our Family Coalition we discuss Family Pride. QMOC Anayvette Martinez and her daughter Lupita share their inspiration and goals for the amazing group the Radical Monarchs. Then, Captain Chris Armijo, a fierce advocate and single gay dad of twin girls, speaks about creating inclusive spaces for his family in Texas

Featuring:
Anayvette Martinez, Community Organizer, Parent and Advocate & Lupita Martinez
Chris Armijo, Parent, Captain & Advocate

Host: Judy Appel, Our Family Coalition’s Executive Director

Food for Thought with:
Polly Pagenhart, Our Family Coalition’s Family Programs Director

The Alphabet Soup – Episode 2: Family Activism Edition

In the second episode of The Alphabet Soup with Our Family Coalition, Julia and Zach of The Rainbow Letters share inspiring and powerful stories about growing up with parents who are lesbian or gay. Listen in to an engaging conversation with Willy Wilkinson on parenting, activism and his new book Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency.

Guests:
Zach Wahls and Julia Winston, The Rainbow Letters
Willy Wilkinson, Author, Activist & Parent

Host:
Judy Appel, Executive Director

Food for Thought with:
Renata Moreira, Policy and Communications Director
Our Family Coalition