Author Archives: Our Family Coalition

We’re redesigning our website: let us know what you want!

We’re kicking off the new decade and new year with a new website! Can you take a few minutes and take quick survey below, to let us know what we should keep and what we should add?

Fill out my online form.
Zach Wahls with moms & sibling at kitchen table

Join me in supporting Our Family Coalition

guest post by Iowa State Senator Zach Wahls

It’s an honor to write to you today to share a bit about why I love Our Family Coalition, and why I’m urging you to support OFC generously this holiday season.

Zach Wahls with moms & sibling at kitchen table
I’m the proud son of two amazing moms, and in 2011, as a 19-year-old college student, I spoke about my family to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee. They were considering a ban on same-sex marriages, which our Supreme Court had found constitutional just two years before.

When a videotape of that speech went viral on YouTube, it became clear that my defense of my family – and of the dignity and worth of all our families – touched a nerve. Our recognition was long overdue.

A lot has happened in the eight years since then. I’ve gotten an even keener appreciation of the importance that visibility, inclusion and community holds for LGBTQ families. And I’ve come to know who’s been making a difference in that work. Our Family Coalition has been providing visibility, advocating for inclusion, and building community for our families since I was barely old enough to spell out L-G-B-T-Q.

I’m proud to now serve as an Iowa State Senator. When I ran for this seat, education was central to my platform. Iowa public schools taught me most of what I know, and I feel that we have a moral responsibility to make education better and more accessible. That’s why OFC’s stellar work for LGBTQ families in our schools means so much to me.

And this work is getting to a critical point right now: after ensuring LGBTQ-inclusive education is part of state education code, subject matter standards, and textbooks, perhaps the most consequential chapter of this work is just beginning: helping schools and teachers bring this content into the classroom in an accurate, effective way.

You should know that the incredible leadership OFC has provided around this in California spreads to other states working on LGBTQ-inclusive education, by way of example, inspiration, and more. This year, OFC launched LGBTQHistory.org, a website providing resources and materials to support K-12 educators nationwide who are just beginnng to teach LGBTQ-inclusive history. This, all while training more than 1,000 educators and school community members throughout California in 2019!

I hope you will join me in supporting this critical work by this vital organization, by making a generous donation today!
young-person-at-Ohlone-gathering-Coyote-Hills-2010

Grief, gratitude, and witness

by Sam Ames, Esq., JD, MTS
Interim Executive Director

On this day – for some a day of gratitude, for others a day of grief, and for many a day of both – I want to start by acknowledging that the history of this holiday can be a painful one. It’s especially complex for many LGBTQ people, for families facing food insecurity, and for those indigenous to this land.

Like every community, we owe our lives to the generations that came before us. Some were brought here against their will, some had to leave their homes in hope of a better life, and some have lived in this place for millennia. Today, we begin by paying respect to them – to the elders of the Raymatush Ohlone tribes both past and present from whose land I write this letter.

This originates from a practice in many Indigenous traditions when traveling to another’s home to acknowledge being guests and acting with respect. But today, we have to also acknowledge that 250 years ago those who traveled here didn’t arrive as guests but as colonizers. In a season when Indigenous culture is often reduced to costume and grief whitewashed by gratitude, we have to remember that safe and loving community only grows where we are willing to hold ourselves and each other accountable.

Part of what accountability looks like today is honoring the descendants of those from whom this land was taken – who are still here fighting for recognition – by paying into the Shuumi land tax that funds the efforts of the Sogorea Te Land Trust in East Oakland, and supporting groups like the Indian People Organizing for Change, which works to preserve sacred sites in the Bay Area.* Part of it is talking to our families about the history of our country with tools like the books for all ages collected by Nambé Pueblo professor Debbie Reese. And part of it is not turning away from the complexity of a season that is many things to many people.

Whoever you are, and however you hold this day, you’re part of this family.

If you’re Indigenous and reminded every time you turn on the television that, on your Day of Mourning, this country would rather hold a multimillion dollar parade than a moment in honor of the ancestors you lost;

If you’re too queer or too trans or too political and reminded every time you open a newsfeed, filled with smiling faces around long tables, of the family you lost;

If you’re a survivor of abuse and reminded every time you make eye contact across the table of the childhood you lost;

If you’re grieving and reminded every time you see an empty chair of the love you lost;

If you’re a descendent of enslaved people and reminded every time a football player kneels that your leaders will pardon turkeys and torturers but won’t stop criminalizing Black bodies even after they’re lost;

If you’re a person without legal immigration status and reminded every time there’s a knock at the door of how much you could still lose;

If you’re in the dark, no matter the reason, and reminded every time you open your eyes of the light you can’t see –

We see you. And we’re so grateful you’re part of our family.

*And also: Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits and Indian Canyon.

This Is What Family Looks Like

by Sam Ames, Interim Executive Director

[they/them]

One thing we all know–especially those of us building families and expanding understanding of what families are–is that change is one of life’s most dependable constants.

Over 20 years ago, Our Family Coalition started creating space for family inside LGBTQ advocacy and support systems. Queer families existed then, but in relative isolation. Our community-based organizations by and large didn’t recognize us. Our larger institutions didn’t see or support us. Our culture was indifferent to us at best, hostile at worst. And we saw virtually nothing on the horizon to suggest the day would come when we could walk down the street holding our heads high and our hands together–as family.

We built and raised our families on our own, usually in the face of huge risks–legal, medical, or emotional, or all three–sharing our growing knowledge with each other as best we could. We’ve grown since then, as a society and as a community of families that have been in this together since the beginning. And in the process, we’ve helped bring about massive change: mind by mind, and heart by heart. Through it all, we’ve come to realize that it’s our love–of our partners, of our children, and of the just future they have the right to–that keeps our families strong.

Today, we need you to help keep the OFC family strong.

The love that defines us has driven an expansion of the very definition of family. We are chosen family. We are extended family. We are multigenerational, multiracial, multigender family. We are age-old ways of making family. We are brand new ways of defining family. We are your family. This is what family looks like.

We know that work this big takes generations, and we know we have miles to go before we sleep. The victories we celebrate along the way aren’t finish lines; they are mile markers, and fuel for the fight.

Wins like these are not effortless. OFC’s ability to commit and stay committed–not just to survive, but to help our families thrive–depends on significant financial resources. Your investment is among the most important, direct ways to show your support for this mission, and for the work it takes to live it. It’s how our work becomes your work.

Now through December 31st, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation
will match your donation dollar for dollar!

Supporting Our Family Coalition means supporting diverse queer families. It means supporting culturally humble and evidence-based direct services to our community. It means supporting visionary institutional change work that prioritizes and follows the lead of those who are most impacted by unjust systems.

Help OFC build an inclusive and just world for all queer families

by donating today.

When I reflect on this past year, I return to this core truth: it is you, our community–our family–who remains our fuel for the fight, our strength, our true north. You show us what is possible when we lead with love. You show us what family looks like. Thank you for being part of our family, and for letting us be part of yours.

Our Families On Trial

 

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in what promises to be one of the most significant civil rights cases in our lifetimes. It will determine whether existing federal law prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people, but it will impact the lives of a majority of Americans.

Opponents of equality — including our very own Department of Justice — told the highest court in the land with dramatic vehemence that the case for equality is convoluted, that you have to bend over backward in order to understand it, that it’s just a cynical attempt by radical queers to “bootstrap” protections into the law where no lawmaker intended them to be.

It’s an insidious talking point. It encourages people to not bother even trying to understand. It doesn’t just overblow the complexity of what is actually pretty straightforward logic; it underestimates the attention of the people watching.

I hope you’re watching.

And I hope that when you do, you remember that your voice matters, and you can use it:

Organizations like OFC have been working hard to ensure our community remains as strong as we can – regardless of where the legal and political winds blow.

And wherever they take us: know that we’ll be there with you.

Are you our next Family Programs Director?

Are you our next Family Programs Director?

If so, you form the backbone of our organization’s core service delivery, overseeing and managing family support programming for hundreds of LGBTQ-headed families throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. You lead the Family Support Team in planning, managing, and helping deliver over 200 community-building and educational events annually, including support groups, playgroups, informational workshops, seasonal community celebrations, and more.

As a member of OFC’s leadership team, you illuminate the diversity and experiences of LGBTQ families for partner agencies, and help provide direction for the oldest and largest regional LGBTQ family support organization in the nation.

• Complete position description–including responsibilities, qualifications, benefits, and salary–here: Family Programs Director Position. [opens PDF]

• To apply, please send a resume along with a cover letter to shari@ourfamily.org. Candidates will be reviewed on a rolling basis and position will be filled when a successful candidate has been identified, so it is best to apply as soon as possible.

East Bay events: summer hiatus, fall reboot

Dear East Bay families and friends:

Good news!

As you may be aware, in late spring we were surprised to hear that our longtime funding for East Bay programs would not be renewed by the City of Oakland. We advocated, worked with our allies, and brought supporters to urge the city to continue its support of our families. Then, in the nick of time, thanks to leadership from Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan and unanimous support from the City Council, funding was restored!

We thank Kaplan for her advocacy, and we thank all of you who called, emailed, and showed up for late budget hearings, to express your support for OFC and for LGBTQ families in Oakland. We are beyond grateful that we will be able to continue our over twenty-year history of providing high quality resources, support, advocacy, and community for LGBTQ families and our allies. Since a majority of our staff and board call Oakland home, it feels right in every way.

For July and August, our East Bay-based programming will be on a summer break. We’ll return to programming with our can’t-miss Oakland LGBTQ Festival Family Garden!

Please save the date to join us on Sunday, September 8th. The Family Garden will be open 11am to 4pm; we’ll share more details as we near the event date. Note that entry to the Festival area is fee-based, benefitting Oakland Pride.

Meanwhile, here are some ways our East Bay families can stay connected over the summer:

  • ourfamily.org/eastbay 
    • A page with a list of places families could self-organize meet ups for pop-up playdates. (Not formally vetted by us – just some places we’ve enjoyed ourselves, or held events in the past, or have had recommended by good folks.) Let us know what other ideas or resources will help folks stay connected and have fun doing it!

We’re already looking forward to seeing you in the fall!

Looking forward,
Your friends at Our Family Coalition

Farewell Renata, welcome Sam!

Dear families and friends,

After a careful search, Our Family Coalition’s (OFC’s) Board of Directors and I are pleased to announce the unanimous selection of Sam Ames as OFC’s new Interim Executive Director!

“We couldn’t be more pleased that Sam was as eager to work with OFC as we were eager to work with them,” said outgoing Executive Director Renata Moreira. “Sam has had many years of experience working in the LGBTQ movement and is very familiar with OFC’s work. I am thrilled to be passing the baton to someone so skilled and passionate, to co-lead our next chapters with our brilliant board and team.”

Sam comes to Our Family Coalition most immediately from Trans Lifeline, where they served as Interim Executive Director for over a year while the organization conducted its own transition to their new Executive Director. Sam brings to their work deep experience in Bay Area-based, national-impact LGBT social justice work, having served as Staff Attorney and Policy Fellow at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, where they founded and coordinated the very successful #BornPerfect campaign to protect LGBTQ children and youth by enacting state laws to end conversion therapy.

Sam has also served as Chaplain at UC San Francisco’s Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. Sam received a Master’s in Divinity from Harvard, a law degree at George Washington University School of Law, and their undergraduate degree from UC Santa Cruz.

We invite the community to join OFC’s staff and board in extending Sam a hearty welcome to Our Family Coalition, and look forward to discovering together what’s in store for our organization and the community we so passionately serve.

In solidarity,

 

 

Renata Moreira
Outgoing Executive Director

P.S. We look forward to seeing you on Friday, June 28: OFC’s Trans Family Zone; Saturday, June 29: OFC’s Dyke March Brunch or Sunday, June 30: OFC’s Pride Parade Contingent & Family Garden!

East Bay funding: in process, stay tuned!

A quick update on our ongoing work securing the resources we need to provide the support programming, school trainings, and family advocacy we so love to provide for LGBTQ families in Oakland.

In late May we learned our regular funding was not renewed (after nearly 10 very successful grantee years), and that we needed to appeal to the Oakland City Council.  Since then the Oakland City Council has been reviewing and debating amendments to the year’s budget, which include funding provisions for so many urgently needed Oakland resources: fair pay for Oakland workers; proper supports and resources for unhoused Oaklanders, park maintenance, fire abatement, and so much more.

We’ve attended and spoken at the past two City Council meetings, last night reminding City Council members just how many LGBTQ-headed families call Oakland home (a ton: Oakland’s got the state’s largest % of LGBTQ families), how many districts we live in (all of them), and how many of us really need the support the City of Oakland would provide.

If you haven’t yet, please let the City Council know that resources for LGBTQ families are indeed very much noticed and and very much needed:

The City Council will have one last meeting next Monday, June 24th (cliff hanger!), at which they’ll vote on the amended budget proposal.  Throughout this process, we’ve put our thinking caps on  around summer programming, and will share again when the full picture comes into focus next week.

Meanwhile, thank you for your ongoing support.  OFC was founded over 20 years ago by LGBTQ parent community members with vision and initiative, and we will continue to thrive with that same vision and initiative.

Words of Wisdom from One Great Dad

above: Martin, Bob, and sons

Martin Mitchell works as an administrator in the Oakland Unified School District, and served as a member of Our Family Coalition’s Board of Directors for years. He’s now an OFC Emeritus Board member, and also Treasurer and a Deacon at City of Refuge UCC Church.

OUR FAMILY COALITION: Tell us a bit about your family: anything you’d like to share about how you came to be?

MARTIN MITCHELL: Bob and I have two adopted sons, one 16 and the other 24. We’ve been together for 18 years and legally married for five. Both our sons were adopted as teenagers, which is a bit unusual —but there’s a huge need in that area.

OFC: Has your notion of community uplift changed since you became a parent, and if so, how?

MM: No, it hasn’t. I’ve just had to learn how to plan better! (laughs) I’ve always been involved with the community. I’m almost 60, and I worked on my first political campaign when I was 16 years old! Throughout my life I’ve always been involved, whether it’s with some organization, mentoring young men, or tutoring kids—it’s how I was raised. You give back to the community when you can. So when I had children, I didn’t want to give that up. I just had to be sure that what I was involved with did not take time away from my family, and instead ideally include them.

OFC: What kinds of community volunteer work do you engage in now that has been family-friendly, and why?

MM: We’ve found the kids can easily be involved with us at church. For years, Bob was involved with the church food pantry. Our youngest son James would go with him twice a month. They would get there about 5:00AM, set it up, and then end up staying until it closed. It was how he got James involved. And it stuck.

OFC: Do you see your sons showing you new directions in community involvement?

MM: Both Bob and I come from families that were very involved where we grew up. Now that we’re parents, we know our children will eventually emulate what they grew up with. Since our parents instilled in us a sense of service, we’re hoping we can instill the same in our sons. The value of giving is multi-generational.

Lawrence, our oldest, is a court advocate. He works with young people who are in the juvenile justice system and are out on parole or waiting for their court cases. Helping others is a critical part of a career, for him. It’s just part of his personality.

James is the same way. When he first came to live with us, we used to talk a lot about helping others. But we saw that he already had that value in him; helping just came naturally. When he was in middle school, we always told him, “Don’t fight. Just walk away.” But the fights he got into were when he was protecting other kids who were being bullied. He’s very caring. Even when Bob couldn’t go to the pantry, James would make arrangements to have someone pick him up so he could still go.

OFC: How do you manage manage a life of service as a working parent?

MM: Whatever you engage in has to be something you’re going to enjoy. There are hundreds of organizations that need volunteers. Find organizations that your children can get involved in as well, so they can go with you, and at least from time to time, get involved. If you have a busy work life, your kids have sports and school, you just have to set a time aside and say, “As a family, we’re going to do this once a month.” If you can get the entire family involved, it works. And if not, as an individual you start that example, and maybe everyone else will follow.

OFC: Anything else you’d like to share?

MM: It’s a gift to be able to give back. And it teaches your kids to respect individuals who are less fortunate than they are. It’s just the luck of the draw. Any of us can be in that place at any time in our lives. You have to help others because there may be times when you’re going to need help. Life has a way of showing showing up at your front door when you don’t expect it!