Over at Gays with Kids, award-winning journalist E. J. Graff (herself a lesbian mom) is “Talking with Grown Kids of Gay Parents.” She offers 10 smart tips for us parents, based on feedback from grown kids of gay and lesbian parents. Her piece brings to mind Abigail Garner’s 2004 book Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is, which I’ve long recommended. Two of the points highlighted by both Graff and Garner that I’ve found particularly useful are, first, that kids of LGBTQ parents having a “coming out” process about their families; and second, that many don’t identify “allies,” but rather as “culturally queer,” even if not LGBTQ themselves. (The phrase “culturally queer, erotically straight” was coined by advocate Stefan Lynch, the first director of COLAGE.) There’s much more, so go have a read.
The above inspired me to compile a list of other good resources by and about children (young and old) of LGBTQ parents:
- COLAGE’s publications the Donor Insemination Guide (for kids created through DI; my review and author interview here) and the Kids of Trans Guide, not to mention the rest of their resources, both for kids and to help us parents better understand our kids’ perspectives.
- In addition to Abigail Garner’s Lambda Literary finalist book, Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is, Garner’s Families Like Mine website archives her years of advice columns in which she answers questions from and about the kids of LGBTQ parents.
- Let’s Get This Straight: The Ultimate Handbook for Youth with LGBTQ Parents, by Tina Fakhrid-Deen, for teens with LGBTQ parents. (About which more here.)
- Out of the Ordinary: Essays on Growing Up with Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Parents, edited by Noelle Howey and Ellen Samuels, is a little older (2000) and focuses on children whose parents came out after becoming parents, but remains valuable.
- And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents, and Our Unexpected Families, ed. Susan Goldberg and Chloë Brushwood Rose, is a volume I’ve long recommended. It’s an anthology, and not exclusive to the voices of those with queer parents, but includes them as well as those who have used a known donor and those who have themselves donated sperm or eggs or been a surrogate.
Movies, Videos, and Television
- Meema Spadola’s documentary Our House: A Very Real Documentary About Kids of Lesbian and Gay Parents, first released in 2000 and updated in 2008 (my review and author interview here).
- In My Shoes, an award-winning short film from COLAGE. (Stream free at the link.)
- Queer Spawn, a documentary by Anna Boluda that shows the life of several teenagers with two dads or two moms. (Stream free at the link.)
- Sharon Shattuck’s memoir From This Day Forward, about her father coming out as transgender when Sharon was in middle school.
- Becoming Us, a reality series on Freeform (formerly ABC Family) about a teen whose father is transitioning as a transgender woman.
- Gayby Baby, by award-winning Australian filmmaker Maya Newell (who herself has lesbian moms), profiles the lives of four young people—Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham—who also grew up, or are growing up, with same-sex parents in Australia. The film made headlines when the New South Wales Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, banned its showing during school hours. Watch a trailer here.
- Victoria’s Secret model Josephine Skriver, in a video for Harper’s Bazaar’s One Take series, talks about standing up for her family—and how her lesbian mom had put out an ad seeking a gay dad to have a baby together.
- My YouTube playlist of nearly 70 videos featuring the children of LGBTQ parents.
Projects for Storytelling and Activism
- Gathering Voices: People with LGBTQ Parents. “A story project; a collection of conversations with people raised by LGBTQ* parents. Through interviews, film, and photography we’re telling the stories of growing up in LGBTQ families, in our own words.”
- The Rainbow Letters, a collection of letters by people of all ages and walks of life, revealing their experiences growing up with or discovering that they have a parent or parents who identify as LGBTQ.
- The Gay Dad Project, a place for conversation about families, aiming to connect other children and families who are going through, or have gone through, having a parent come out as LGBTQ (not just gay dads).
- One Million Kids for Equality, an organization working collectively to engage, educate, and empower youth with a voice around LGBT equality.
- The Recollectors, a storytelling site and community for the many children and families left behind by parents who died of AIDS. (Not exclusively for those with LGBTQ parents.)
Memoirs by Children of LGBTQ Parents
- Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood, by Melissa Hart. A memoir of growing up separated from her mother, who lost custody of her children after she came out as a lesbian.
- My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family, by Zach Wahls. The civil rights activist and YouTube sensation’s “response to all those who say I am ‘different’” because of having two moms.
- Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father, by Alysia Abbott, tells of the author’s childhood and young adulthood being raised by her single gay father in 1970s and 80s San Francisco. Her father, Steve Abbott, was a poet, author, editor, and a leading figure in the New Narrative poetry movement. After he died of AIDS-related complications in 1992, Alysia began reading his journals, and eventually interwove them with her own memories to create a compelling tale that is part history, part memoir, and part coming-of-age story.
- Not to be confused with the above, Alison Wearing’s Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad also brings us back to the 1970s, but this time in Peterborough, Ontario.
- Family Outing: What Happened When I Found Out My Mother Was Gay, by Troy Johnson. A scathing, funny, ribald case study in what can go wrong when honesty and openness are missing in a parent-child relationship, by a man whose mother was outed to him by her ex-girlfriend when he was 10 years old.
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, is Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel about growing up as a lesbian, particularly her difficult relationship with her father, whom she later discovers has had relationships with men.
- Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods—My Mother’s, My Father’s, and Mine, by Noelle Howey (see her edited collection above), tells of her family’s journey after she discovers, as a young teen, that her father is transgender.
- Queerspawn in Love: A Memoir, by Kellen Kaiser, is not about being the child of queer moms, but Kaiser’s four moms are a constant background presence: Nyna, her biological mom; Margery, Nyna’s former partner; Helen, Nyna’s best friend, who parented with them; and Kyree, Nyna’s spouse from the time Kaiser was five until she was 18. Kaiser shows us how her upbringing imbued her with certain values and cultural touchstones, both Jewish and queer, that she carries into later life.
- Riding Fury Home: A Memoir, by Chana Wilson, is not a cheery tale. In 1958, when Chana was seven, her mother tried to die by suicide and was given medications and electroshock therapy to try and cure her of the lesbianism that was causing her such anguish. As traumatic as this was, she and her mother eventually find support in each other as Chana comes out as a lesbian, too.
- A List of Things That Didn’t Kill Me: A Memoir, by Jason Schmidt, is a similarly difficult tale about the author’s childhood with a gay dad who abused drugs, neglected Mark, and was diagnosed with AIDS during the height of the epidemic in the 1980s.
- Musician and actor Carrie Brownstein’s autobiography, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir, is not about being in a queer family per se, but rather about her own quest for identity from childhood through her years in the riot grrl band Sleater-Kinney. She writes at length of her dad’s coming out at age 55, however, and the section was excerpted in the New Yorker.
- Laura Hall’s blog, My Dad’s Closet, isn’t a published book like the above, but is a memoir of her mother and father’s marriage and how her father led “a double life until the day he died in 2008 at age 90.”
- Zachary Matheson, who was adopted at birth by two men in 1987 (when that was still a rare occurence) wrote a piece at Quora in answer to the question, “What is it like to be raised by two people of the same sex?” He also responded to the Quora question, “What is the hardest part about being a gay parent that straight parents don’t have to deal with?” in a lovely essay that captures some of the obstacles for same-sex parents during the early gayby boom, and some of the changes that have benefited our families since then. You should also go read the full Quora threads, with answers from a variety of people to “What is it like to be raised by two people of the same sex?” and “What is the hardest part about being a gay parent that straight parents don’t have to deal with?“
- The Voices of Children brief, filed with the United States Supreme Court by the Family Equality Council, COLAGE and Kentucky youth Kinsey Morrison in the case that eventually legalized marriage equality throughout the U.S.
- Photographer Gabriela Herman captures the images and words of adults with one or more LGBT parents in a beautiful photo essay that also appeared in the New York Times.
- In “Here’s What It’s REALLY Like Having A Transgender Parent,” an 8th grader shares her personal experiences.
- In Australia, several young people with same-sex parents spoke with the Daily Telegraph about “What it’s really like growing up with same-sex parents.”
- Ruth Krebs Buck’s piece in Slate, asks, “I Grew Up Going to Pride With My Moms. Do I Still Belong in the Parade?.”
- The speech that 12-year-old Corin gave in Victoria, Australia, at a seminar of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) is also worth a listen. He explains why it is important to discuss with young kids how they were made, what it was like to meet his donor and donor siblings, and what kids should do if they get teased for having a donor—or simply asked intrusive questions. I also like the observation from his mom, Jacqui Tomlins, that “Once you tell your kids their story it belongs to them and you have no control over who they tell, or how they tell it. And that can be a bit scary, or not.” Kudos to her for posting his unedited words (with his permission).
- The New York Times did a piece in 2004 on “Growing Up with Mom and Mom,” profiling sisters Ry and Cade Russo-Young, who are also featured in Our House. (Ry was interviewed for Families Like Mine, too.) It’s filtered through an interviewer, but lets their voices come through.
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