Tag Archives: our family coalition

A Night Out with Our Family…

By Martha Boesing

marthabpic There we were, my partner and I, invited by my daughter-in-law (Our Family Coalition’s Programs’ Director)  to attend an astonishingly elegant cocktail and dinner event at the grand Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco.

We walked into this sumptuous glass building to find ourselves in the midst of a massive crowd of people, all talking at once. They stood in line to collect a vodka and rum drink called “Tantrum.”  (Get the joke?) My partner got one. I didn’t. There was so much noise that, for my own sanity, I quickly pretended I was in a jungle surrounded by thousands of chattering monkeys – monkeys I can handle. I tumbled back and forth between wondering “who were all these people? Were they all gay?” to feeling overwhelmed in the “monkey jungle happy hour.”

After an hour or so, we were invited to move to the dining area where we were seated at the grandparents table. My partner and I might have been the oldest grandparents there (both of us being in our late seventies), not to mention possibly that the only gay people at the grandparents table. The others all seemed to be heterosexual single women or couples whose children had come out gay and whom they had chosen to support, like parents in PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).  I found myself assuming that they might have raised their kids in nice middle class homes, instilling conventional values in their young minds, while we had been out marching in the streets, “Taking Back the Night,” getting arrested, living in communes, moving in and out of primary relationships (“everything changes – don’t get attached!”), writing plays and novels about what it was like to be gay and proud, and bursting towards “Yes!” as lesbian-feminists on the cusp of the second wave of the Women’s Movement. It felt at that table that we were somehow not quite cut from the same cloth. But there we were.

martha01On the stage our proud, gay grown-up children were giving out awards to teachers, students and counselors who had worked to bring equality and social justice into their classrooms, their meeting halls and onto the streets, and showing us photos and videos of gay parents playing with their children, tossing them into the air, bathing them, hugging them, just like all parents do every day all over the globe.

It seemed likely to me that a majority of the speakers at this event had come out on their own, with no foremothers or forefathers there to light the way. They had to tell their straight parents that they were queer, and suffer the consequences. Some parents had accepted their choices and were there tonight to celebrate their extraordinary accomplishments and courage, while others had thrown them out on their butts.

But then there were those of us who were on the front lines way back then when the radical gay movement and the passionate second wave of the women’s movement took flight.  We built a defense for ourselves by simply not caring what the rest of the world had to say about us. We turned away, denying that they had any power over us. Many of us were artists, activists from the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements, and – for the most part – we could choose not to hang out with anyone who gave a damn about who we were sleeping with. So we didn’t have to notice that there was a whole society out there composed of people who scorned us and thought we were losers, crazies, perverts.

BUT….

Our children had to notice. They did notice.

Our children had to face bullies and bigots, who might have made fun of them for having gay parents. Almost every day.

martha03Then it struck me – I realized that the other grandparents sitting at this table with us, no matter what our differences might have been, were banded together by a common thread. We were all there to witness these children of ours celebrate something truly magical that they had diligently worked for over many years, which is to provide a safe and loving environment for all our wondrous and perfect grandchildren to grow up in. Our Family Coalition has accomplished something I couldn’t have even imagined back then when we were walking in the streets. They have created a net, which will one day hopefully reach out over the entire nation; that enables children growing up in a gay family to feel perfectly normal. Normal – what a concept for an LGBTQ family!

That is something my children never got to feel, but are a part of creating for their children and my grandchildren – a path toward equity and visibility for their family in society.

My children had to face, every day, a society I was not part of. That society believed a family consisted of a Mom and a Dad, two kids, and a dog. And my kids knew, somewhere deep in their bones, that this was not the kind of family they had.

As I approached my daughter-in-law following the event in gratitude of this work, she kept trying to assure me that what her generation has accomplished could not have happened if we had not paved the way. “We were standing on your shoulders,” she said, again and again. Of course that’s true.  I believe it is deeply important to acknowledge our ancestors, as she has done ever since I first met her. But then of course there’s also that shadow side that we must live with. There’s always a cost, and that cost being that my children did not have the comfort of feeling their family was normal while growing up.

martha03On the other hand, my lovely grandchildren will not grow up with that pain. They will be free– not only because their parents love and support them, but because the society they live in will not dare to reject them. They will be free because of the work being done and celebrated here at this event by our children. They will be free to love whoever they love, in whatever way they love, free to open their hearts to life however life presents itself to them. Now I am filled with gratitude for my daughter and her amazing partner and their peers – grateful for bringing this dream, which we hardly knew we could dream, to life. Grateful to sit at the table with this group of people I was unclear I’d have anything in common with but after leaving the event I am more certain than ever we are banded together but the ever-growing visibility and inclusion of our families. That we were together and it was normal.

The Rainbow Letters

by Julia Winston and Zach Wahls
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We are Zach and Julia, and we have LGBTQ parents.

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Zach is a DI baby from Iowa with two moms, and Julia’s dad came out when she was just a kiddo back in Texas. We’re all grown up now, and because we care about our families so much, we love connecting with and learning about other people like us who have LGBTQ parents.That’s why we started a creative writing project called The Rainbow Letters.

During this remarkable time of progress in the LGBTQ and family equality movements, the fact remains that the public still has minimal exposure to the unique perspectives of children.

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Well, we want to hear what they have to say!

The Rainbow Letters is a collection of original letters written by people (like us) with LGBTQ parents, no matter how old we are or where we come from, to shed light on our experiences. Every person has a different story, and every story matters.

Why letters? For hundreds of years, letter writing has been one of the most personal and intimate methods of communication. In today’s highly connected yet largely impersonal digital world, we can’t think of anything more genuine than a good old fashioned letter. Our writers can choose to address their letters to anyone in the world, and to identify themselves as the authors of these letters openly or anonymously.

rainbowletterspullquote1We started collecting letters just a few months ago and already dozens of beautiful pieces of self-expression are flooding in! The letters we receive run the gamut from humorous to heartbreaking and everything in between, and are addressed to people as diverse as RuPaul, a 9th grade crush, and an 11-year-old self. We’re so touched by every submission and we can’t wait to make these letters available for others to read and digest.

The purpose of this project is to generate reflection, self-expression, and the development of a community that will provide the world with a better understanding of our shared humanity. Ultimately The Rainbow Letters will become a published collection intended to illustrate that differences truly are okay, and that there’s no such thing as “normal when it comes to family. When the project grows large enough, we also intend to host an ongoing interactive platform online to invite conversation and facilitate discussion.

What do we need to bring this vision to fruition? More letters, of course! And we’d like to call on you to get involved and be part of it.

If you are an LGBTQ parent, let your kids know what we’re up to! We would love to hear from them.

Irainbowletterspullquote3f you’re the child of an LGBTQ parent or parents, consider writing a letter! You can write to anyone you want, say whatever is in your heart, and submit as many letters as you’d like. We think you’re voice is incredibly valuable; we would love to hear it, and let it be heard by others.

You can submit a letter on our website at www.therainbowletters.com, read current letter snippets on Facebook, or reach out to us directly at info@therainbowletters.com.

It’s clear to see that we are in the midst of a “family revolution.” 

The kids are right there, front and center — and we think society can really benefit from hearing what’s on their minds.

Pockets of Fun and Love at the Berkeley YMCA

by Maria Luisa Jimenez-Morales, Our Family Coalition Parent

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

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

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

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

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

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

What on Earth is “Family Activism,” anyway?

By Shareena Clark, Programs Coordinator, Our Family Coalition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Time to Make Education FAIR

NARRATIVESAs a person of color that went through the ‘American’ K-12 education system, I felt that the social sciences we were taught did not accurately reflect the history of communities of color or any other marginalized groups–times minorities were mentioned were when we learned about exploitation, colonization, racism, etc. I never understood why inner city schools, such as the one I attended, taught history that was irrelevant to the demographic of the school—most being sons and daughters of low-income immigrant parents. Narratives of significant people and/or historical events were briefly told, if told at all. And of course, they were told through the colonizer’s point of view rather than by the colonized.

Once I got to college, I learned that there were classes that offered an alternative point-of-view to the history I had been taught. The content from these classes differed from what I had already learned in the sense that it presented me with relatable material and material that was more inclusive to the diversity that exists within the United States. Classes I took ranged from ethnic studies to gender and sexuality studies. I found it a bit problematic that I had to go out of my way to seek such courses rather than being presented with the information earlier in my education career; however, I am grateful to have had the privilege to access these resources that helped develop my consciousness and form my identity.

With just four years of getting out of the California’s K-12 public school system, I am excited to know that there are positive changes to the curriculums of public schools coming down the pipeline. In July 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 48—the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. It calls for the inclusion of people with disabilities and LGBTQ Americans’ important historical contributions to the economic, political, and social development of California.

Now in 2014, I was disappointed to see that the Instructional Quality Commission really did not fulfill the intent of the FAIR Act since their recommendations to the new social science framework are minimum to none.

In an attempt to align the History – Social Science Framework with the requirements of SB 48, Our Family Coalition (OFC) partnered up with Gay-Straight Alliance Network and the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History (CLBTH) to recommend revisions to the existing framework and submit those to the State Board of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC). The revised Framework calls for a transformational approach in which students understand concepts and issues from the perspectives of diverse groups of people.

Here are some recommended revisions by grade and theme that were brought up in the Making the Framework FAIR report that I support:

• Grade 2: LGBT families in the context of understanding family diversity as a contemporary and historical reality

• Grade 4: Central roles played by gender and sexuality in California’s history as a site of rich, contested, and changing diversity

• Grade 5: Variation over time, region, and culture in colonial American practices and laws with regard to gender and sexuality

• Grade 8: Fundamental transformations in gender and sexuality in conjunction with nineteenth-century urbanization and industrialization

• Grade 11: The evolution of modern LGBT communities and identities; twentieth-century persecution of sexual and gender minorities and the growth of the LGBT civil rights movement

The inclusion of the LGBT community in California’s K-12 public school curriculum is long overdue. The LGBT community represents a significant part of the history and social fabric of California, yet their presence in textbooks is nonexistent. I believe the absence of such communities in the early learning stages of youth can affect their perception of the LGBT community. It can be something that they do not see as ‘normal’ thus they may develop a sense of dominancy and begin harassing the community.

As we know, individual students feel safer at school when diversity issues are included in the curriculum; this is true for LGBT students and for their straight peers. Schools without inclusive curriculums see more cases of reported bullying. Maybe if I would have seen myself accurately represented in textbooks, I wouldn’t have to wait until college to truly understand my history and that of my peers.

its timeNow let’s hope that the inclusion of LGBT communities in history and social science classes actually helps students navigate the economic, political, and social development of California rather than just present students with a few token historical figures. It is time to call for a truly representative curriculum that does not exclude to contributions of great portions of our communities, including the LGBT community.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE FAIR ACT IMPLEMENTATION AND PUBLIC COMMENTS THAT YOU CAN SUBMIT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

By Isidro Manuel Lopez, communications/media intern at Our Family Coalition and broadcast & electronic communication arts student at San Francisco State University.

 

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:

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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!

 

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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

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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.