Reflections on five years of parenting and progress

    This column marks five years of Mombian columns for me. Looking back, it’s been a time of tremendous change for LGBT families — and for me personally. I’ve learned a lot over these years, both as a parent and a chronicler of our LGBT-parenting experiences. The best part of doing this column has been speaking with a wide variety of LGBT parents, authors, activists and others working toward equality for our families. If my words here mean anything, it is because they have been informed by theirs. Here are a few of the things I’ve gleaned along the way.

    We have a long history. Some still speak of the “gayby boom” as if it were a new thing, but the term was coined over 20 years ago. And lesbian moms have been a vital part of the LGBT-rights movement since after the Stonewall Riots in 1969, when their need for legal advice in custody battles motivated them to organize. (I’m sure GBT parents existed at the time too, but their history has yet to be fully illuminated.)

    Our kids are all right. Study after study has shown that children of LGBT parents are as well-adjusted and happy as any others. Most recently, new research from the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, the longest-running and largest study of American lesbian families, found that 17-year-olds raised by lesbian moms did not differ in psychological well-being from those with heterosexual parents.

    Our kids are more than all right. Children of LGBT parents are making their mark in the world. College student Zach Wahls gained fame when, at an Iowa House hearing last February, he spoke eloquently about his two moms and against a bill that would ban marriage for same-sex couples. A video of the speech became a YouTube hit — and had an unexpected resurgence in November, with some 18-million views total.

    NBA basketball player Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets has two moms, and has spoken publicly about their positive influence on him.

    Less famously, Utah college student Cara Cerise, who has a gay dad, was named the 2011 Utah Young Humanitarian by a panel of community leaders.

    I don’t want to imply that all our children are, or should be, overachievers — but clearly, having LGBT parents isn’t holding these individuals back. In fact, it might be motivating them.

    Heather has two mommies — but Tango has two dads, Chloe and Mia have gay uncles, Donovan has two moms who are getting married and Violet, Katie-Rose, and Yasaman have a friend with two moms. Lesléa Newman wrote “Heather Has Two Mommies,” the first children’s book to feature a child with two moms, in 1989. Since then, a bevy of other children’s and young-adult books have featured gay or lesbian characters, including “And Tango Makes Three,” “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding,” “Mini Mia and Her Darling Uncle,” “Donovan’s Big Day” and “Luv Ya Bunches.” (Books featuring transgender parents/relatives are still much needed.)

    The volume of children’s and young-adult books with LGBT content has grown so much, in fact, that the American Library Association has been releasing a yearly “Rainbow Books” list of recommended titles since 2008.

    Best of all, fewer of these books treat being gay as an “issue” that needs explanation, and simply include gay characters as part of the world.

    We are stronger together than alone. We connect, share and help each other, whether it be through the venerable annual Family Week in Provincetown, other LGBT family events coast to coast, casual neighborhood get-togethers or online-only friendships. We know we are not the first, won’t be the last and have a responsibility to pay it forward.

    We have allies. The major medical, psychological, legal and adoption policy professional organizations have all issued statements in support of LGBT parents and our children. And more of our neighbors, colleagues and relatives are learning to include and stand up for LGBT families.

    We are gaining justice. Most notably of late, a Florida court in 2010 overturned the state’s ban on adoption by gays or lesbians, and the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2011 unanimously upheld a ruling that struck down a ban on adoption and foster parenting by unmarried couples — by definition all same-sex couples in the state.

    Less well known, but just as important, are the rulings that have upheld the right of non-biological or non-adoptive parents to custody and visitation — even in states not known for LGBT friendliness. Not every ruling has been favorable, but the trend seems to be positive.

    We are united by the commonalities of parenting more than we are separated by our LGBT identity. By becoming parents, we have an instant connection to all people who have ever raised a child. We have the opportunity to bond over that shared experience — an experience that affects us like no other — and to build bridges despite our differences.

    Thanks to the editors who have believed in my work, and to the readers who have (I hope) found things of interest here. I look forward to sharing the future with you. n

    Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (www.mombian.com), a blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.