guest post by Iowa State Senator Zach Wahls
by Sam Ames, Interim Executive Director
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.
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.
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.
I serve as Family Programs Director here at Our Family Coalition. I’m a lesbian mom, an immigrant, and have been a proud Bay Area resident for the past 25 years. I live in the East Bay with my spouse, our son, and our cat Frederic, whom we consider our second child.
I came to work at Our Family Coalition for deeply personal reasons that I’d like to share with you, before inviting you to join us in our work with a generous end-of-year donation.
My family had attended the LGBTQ Family Night at the YMCA in Berkeley since our son was a toddler, so we knew first-hand that the organization offered amazing programs and classes for families like mine. We saw more queer families under one roof in one night than we could hope to see in a year! And we kept coming back.
Then in 2011, we needed help dealing with homophobia at my son’s school. I had worked with the school to launch their first LGBTQ family group and became the VP of LGBTQ Affairs on the PTA’s Executive Board, but knew we needed more to make schools inclusive for our son and his classmates. I contacted OFC’s stellar Education Team to do a training for the teachers and parents. When I saw their impact on our school community, I knew that I wanted to be a part of that work.
When an opportunity to join OFC’s team came up, I leapt at it, and I’ve considered this work a calling ever since.
OFC’s family support programming is truly unparallelled: no other organization – locally or statewide – offers the quantity and quality of opportunities that we do for LGBTQ parents and caregivers of young children. At our workshops, playgroups, support groups, and community events, people break their isolation and find one another; they strengthen bonds with their kids and their community. Families learn about valuable resources and expand their leadership and parenting skills in spaces where families like ours are the norm, not the exception: all this thanks to Our Family Coalition’s work.
My son is now 12 years old. On the verge of his teen years, he wants to give back. He said to me,
“Mommy, I don’t have much money to donate. But I can give what I can spare.”
And he has been true to his word.
In addition to his modest donation, he has helped at our CampOuts. He helped kids with science projects at San Francisco Pride Family Garden, and helped kids make buttons declaring their family pride at Oakland Pride Family Garden.
It’s not always easy to get a tween to engage in something bigger than themselves. Yet when they do, they put their heart into it. My son sees the value of what OFC gives to the community and our family, and he wants to be a part of it. I couldn’t be more proud.
Our grant and foundation funding only goes so far – we have to rely on our community to reciprocate, to give back in whatever way they can. We offer nearly all our family support services on a donation basis, counting on those who can to help us.
If you’ve ever attended a workshop that gave you information that helped you support or protect your family; if you’ve ever gone to a parenting class or a support group that helped you feel you weren’t the only one; if you’ve ever come to a playgroup or a community event and saw your child playing with a wide-open heart, surrounded by families that looked like yours: please donate what you think that information, or that belonging, or that community has been worth to you and your family.
Your support will enable us to keep bringing our community together. Together, we build resilience and understanding. And with that, we can change the world.
Yours with pride,
Family Support Programs Director
by Don Romesburg
I’ll be honest—back in my twenties, I wasn’t one of those gay men who knew I wanted to be a dad. In fact, I was thrilled that being gay could mean rejecting the whole marriage-and-kids deal. But 20 years ago, when I got together with my partner, David, I started to think differently about it. Still, we always faced the long journey to foster-adoption from a win-win perspective: Without kids we’d continue to have a great life together, and if we could bring kids into the mix, all the better.
In 2008, our older daughter joined our family as a foster kid and, a year later, we all adopted each other. In 2013, our little one also joined us. Taking the journey we have as transracial foster-adoptive dads in an open relationship with our kids’ first families is a road I never imagined taking when I was younger. Now, in my late forties, I can’t imagine a richer life to be living.
Our Family Coalition has been a part of our story since the late 1990s, when David and I would see their booths at Pride and the Castro Street Fair, always reminding us of parenting as a possibility ahead. What I didn’t know then was that OFC was advocating for pathways to fostering and adopting free from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Since having kids, we’ve also been grateful for the many social events and ways to come into community with other LGBTQ families. In San Francisco, we can sometimes take a shared world of queer families for granted. But I never take OFC for granted. It is an essential organization for LGBTQ people and their kids throughout California.
Help keep Our Family Coalition going strong:
your donation now will be matched 1:1 through December 31!
As a professor, historian, and activist I’ve been fortunate to spend the last six years advocating for LGBTQ history to be taught in our schools. Our Family Coalition has been leading and supporting that work every step of the way, from the passage of the FAIR Education Act in 2011 – which ensures LGBTQ people be included in K-12 history and social science education – to the California Board of Education’s adoption of a first-in-the-nation LGBTQ-inclusive K-12 History Social Science Framework in 2016, and, most recently, the state’s approval of textbooks that accurately reflect that history. This work is perhaps the most important legacy I leave my daughters’ generation. But it would not have been possible without OFC steadfastly prioritizing it, directing resources, dedicating staff time, and remaining vigilant throughout the years it has taken to bring our state so far.
All of us, as LGBTQ families, are making history. This organization’s contributions to my family’s life, to the lives of countless others like us, and to the transformation of K-12 education in California, would never be possible without individuals like you and me stepping up and giving what we can.
Join me in supporting Our Family Coalition this year! We can leave our children an incredible legacy – of justice, of understanding, and more – when we work together.
OFC member and proud dad Don Romesburg is Professor Women’s and Gender Studies, Sonoma State University and lead scholar for the FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition