Family Pride, by Michael Shelton, is a good book with a bit of an identity problem. The subtitle, “What LGBT Families Should Know about Navigating Home, School, and Safety in Their Neighborhoods,” makes it seem like a parenting guidebook. The back cover further says it will offer “concrete strategies that LGBT parents can use to intervene and resolve difficult community issues, teach their children resiliency skills, and find safe and respectful programs for them.”
While it does contain some actionable information for LGBT parents, however, it feels less like a guidebook and more like a readable synthesis for all audiences on the state of LGBT families in our country today. The book should be as valuable to allied policy makers, teachers, doctors, and youth and faith leaders as to LGBT families ourselves.
Shelton, a therapist and author, draws from academic works, news coverage, and personal interviews to paint first a broad picture of the demographics and structures of LGBT families. Notably, he emphasizes the racial and economic diversity of LGBT parents, and even reminds us that some LGBT families may include undocumented parents.
Shelton also looks at the obstacles we may face in coming out, and the frequent pressure of wanting to appear a perfect family in order to banish societal doubts about our ability to raise children. He then looks at specific challenges related to schools, health and mental health care, recreation and leisure, religious institutions, and the legal system.
I have a few quibbles. Despite the many sources Shelton uses (including this column), he overlooks the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, the largest and longest-running study on lesbian families. The book’s concluding recommendations also rely too heavily on the recommendations of the Movement Advancement Project’s All Children Matter report—and while that is an excellent report with fine recommendations, one wishes Shelton would have given us some further ones of his own. It is also misleading to say that Barack Obama was the first President to acknowledge LGBT Pride Month, without noting that President Bill Clinton proclaimed Gay Pride Month in 1999. Additionally, the book could have benefited from better copyediting; it contains a number of obvious typos.
Nevertheless, Shelton has produced a valuable work that should help both LGBT families and others better understand our diverse nature and the societal pressures and inequalities that impact us.
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