The end of January is here, which to me means a few last days for New Year’s resolutions. The middle of a global pandemic is perhaps not the best time to commit to any big life changes (though if you can pull them off, more power to you), so here are a few small, suggested resolutions for us LGBTQ parents as we start the new year. I hope that one or more of them speak to you.
Make sure your legal documents are up to date.
If you are a nonbiological, nongestational, and nonadoptive parent, remember that being on your child’s birth certificate is not enough to guarantee your parental rights. All major LGBTQ legal organizations recommend that you also do a confirmatory (second-parent) adoption or get a court order of parentage or equivalent. If you’ve been putting it off, consider resolving to do it this year. Additionally, do you have a will and powers of attorney? Have you made any big life changes, like moving to a new state or getting married, since you last updated them? Do you have copies of all the above documents to bring with you when you travel? Travel may be curtailed because of the pandemic, but why not be prepared for later? (Need a lawyer to help? Visit the LGBTQ+ Bar Association’s online Family Law Attorney Directory.)
Help another LGBTQ family.
Whatever stage you are at in your parenting journey, someone else is less far along, and might benefit from your advice. Whether in-person or online, share something that has helped you — a referral to a friendly lawyer or doctor, an inclusive book you love, or how you have discussed donors, surrogates, birth parents, family types, gender, or other topics with your child. Resolve to do this at least once this year — or once a month or week, should you have the time.
Read a book about a different type of family.
We LGBTQ parents often urge others to learn more about us; we should return the favor. Pick out a book or books about a person or family with at least one aspect of their identity that differs from yours. Make sure such books end up on your own and your child’s bookshelves. Visit weneeddiversebooks.org if you want ideas.
Support a small LGBTQ cause.
Support the big organizations, too, if you wish, but don’t forget the smaller ones like local community centers and youth groups, HIV/AIDS service organizations, organizations that serve and advocate for subgroups within the LGBTQ community (e.g., elders or people of various racial and ethnic identities), and music, art, and theater groups. If you can’t contribute financially, help spread the world about their services, events (many virtual), and fundraisers. Visit charitynavigator.org and search “LGBTQ” for ideas.
Teach someone something about your family.
We don’t all have to be outspoken advocates 24/7 — but if we each commit to saying even one thing during the year that helps a non-LGBTQ person better understand LGBTQ families, we’ll be making progress. Share what it means to have books and other media that reflect your family, explain how a certain piece of legislation would affect you, or suggest how another parent might discuss your family with their kids, for example. You could do so in person, an online forum, an op-ed to your local paper, or any other medium. (Hiring a skywriter might be a bit much, but you do you.)
Take action for LGBTQ families or another cause you believe in.
Call or write to your members of Congress and tell them to support the Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, public education, foster care, adoption, and more. Tell them to support the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in federally funded child welfare agencies, like the Equality Act, but also prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and marital status, and has provisions for training, data collection, and resources. Or speak out for voting rights, reproductive rights, or other causes. At the state level, too, you can make your voice heard on legislation impacting our families. And local town and school board meetings have often become the front lines for defending inclusive curricula and books that represent the lives of LGBTQ and other marginalized people. You don’t need to take part in everything — but commit to doing something.
The midterm elections this November will determine control of Congress, impacting LGBTQ rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, social services, climate change policy, and more. Resolve now to vote—and for bonus points, commit to helping at least one other person get to the polls.
Be kind to yourself.
The pandemic is putting pressure on all parents. On top of that, LGBTQ parents and those of other marginalized identities continue to face discrimination, harassment, exclusion, and unfair legislation. We can fight all that, but we can’t fully control it. What we can do, however, is at least be kind to ourselves. If the laundry doesn’t get folded for a day, the world won’t end. If your kid has a little extra screen time so you can get some work done (or take a nap), it won’t impact their chances of getting into a good college. None of us are perfect — and it’s healthy, I believe, for our kids to see us being imperfect and moving forward anyway. Be kind to yourself and let the kindness flow outward to your family and friends. We could all use a little of it this year.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory, with a searchable database of 800+ LGBTQ family books, media, and more.