Hey, you drought-tolerant LD readers! I have a question for you.
I’ve been given the wonderful opportunity to be on a panel about LGBT families at this weekend’s National Lesbian & Gay Journalist’s Association LGBT Media Summit and National Convention. Â I’ll be joining several others — Judy Appel, Executive Director of Our Family Coalition, the Bay Area’s LGBTQ Family organization; Mark Snyder, Communications Coordinator at COLAGE; and Charlie Spiegel, founding Executive Director of Our Family Coalition, former Lambda Legal Board co-Chair, and family law attorney.
What should LGBT journalists know about our families? What stories are important to you and your family that aren’t being reported? Are there images or notions about us — inaccurate, or even oversimplified — that you find are beginning to lodge and need displacement by more nuanced reporting? Do you have any fresh, inventive ideas about how interested journalists can find us and tell our stories, or get our “angle” on LGBT and general-purpose family stories?
Anything you leave here in a comment (or directly to me via my contact form) I’ll be able to peek at and share at the panel, which happens in the afternoon on Saturday, September 4. Short notice, I know. I’ll appreciate whatever you can share with me, and via me, them.
10 thoughts on “What’s the story?”
I’d like to see us start to explore a wider range of families and to tolerate a broader range of discussions. I know that we also need to get “good PR” for our families, but we also need to tell a wide range of stories. I wrote a little about this after we came back from family week: http://firsttimesecondtime.com/2010/08/family-week-support-advocacy-and-difficult-conversations/
Fantastic! And thank you! I forgot to ask: links! To material you’ve written, to material you think is integral to/ supportive of good reporting on our families and our issues. That alone would be great to bring to the panel. I’m a teacher from way back before the internet, and feel naked walking into any sort of teaching/learning situation without a good handout.
And PS: My first thought, about what issues/ truths could use more airing, was totally in line with yours: who are we? We are way, way different than most non-LGBT Americans think. The stats in California alone, as well as the nation (which I expect Judy Appel to share) are eye opening. Not just about our ubiquity, across every county in the country, but how much more brown and working class we are. Which, of course, mirrors the narrow spectrum of reportage in a lot of manistream media.
Now off to check out your post! Thanks for the link to it!
One of the things I heard Jennifer Chistler say at family week was that the queer family movement got pushed out of the work on Prop 8 early on and look what happened there. We need to be sure that stories about lgbt folks need to include the fact that our kids need for our families to be recognized and supported — in other words at least be sure when reporting that you don’t leave out families either because you think we’re best kept in the closet or because you just don’t know us!
Right there with you. I’m so glad Judy Appel is on the panel. She drove me (& others, including Beth Tepper, COLAGE ED) back from the big (way overdue) Prop 8 debrief in San Francisco in March of last year (wee postlet on it here). One of the things I found most compelling (and heartrending) was that on that car ride back I learned that Kate Kendell tried (and tried, and tried, ultimately with no success and therefore I believe to the campaign’s severe detriment) to get Judy on the Prop 8 Executive Committee, or whatever it was that was the ostensible oversight body on that campaign. Of course what we heard at the debrief was that for most of the key visual media campaign decisions, no queer family were in the proverbial room (i.e., on the conference call). Likewise women, likewise people of color. Not on the committee itself; some were there — Tawal Panyacosit of API Equality, bears all the POC weight on his shoulders, poor chap, and Kate Kendell is a mom (in an interracial relationship with an African American son, for what those personal bio facts are worth) — but they weren’t actually able to influence some key media decisions at key moments. That was a really gut-turning thing to hear. But the campaign we saw definitely showed that gaping absence.
I was on a statewide conference call once, engineered, if I recall correctly, by folks at Our Family Coalition, among other entities. It was regarding LGBT families and their presence in the campaign, and of course we who were trying to make a difference in the campaign against the proposition were now trying to make our concerns heard to the campaign organizers themselves. This was circa six weeks out from election day. Meaning, of course, six months WAY too late. But by then every behind-the scenes lever had been pulled and yanked and ripped off its hinges, and it was obvious that we weren’t being represented/ spoken for/ thought about at all, or at all effectively enough by the campaign as it was evolving. I recall someone running some aspect of the campaign from Southern California talking about all the focus groups they’d done, and about how they’d learned that family issues were touchy because the so-called “moveable middle” felt nervous thinking about how they’d talk about our families to their kids, etc. In other words, talking about our kids already being in classrooms with their kids — hell, talking about our kids, PERIOD — triggered some kind of cognitive tension we were encouraged to avoid.
I don’t mean to be flip — doesn’t help a thing — but obviously, the tension was there: it was in our kids’ bodies, in their experiences at school and on the schooyard and after school. I just now searched all over (clearly, in vain) for a link to the Marriage Equality USA report on the impact of the Yes on Prop 8 campaign on kids in LGBT-headed families. Compelling; what you might expect; hard. All the shit we saw on streetcorners during that campaign? Think biomagnification, and imagine how it played out on the playground. Lots of kids thought their parents were going to be broken up if 8 passed, that their families would be torn asunder.
Anyhow. The way kids were used as a battering ram in the Yes campaign was outright immoral (again, no time to dig up the many links to the various ads, but a lot of you-all saw ’em & you know what I’m talking about), and the people those kids were used to batter — those most vulnerable — were our kids. None of these kids picked that fight. Also, I think of all kids as our kids, all proper adults should, insofar as we as humans are responsible for caring for one another, period. Anyhow. Lots of moral indignation here. Hopefully I’ll not be in a ragey-menopausal mood tomorrow from 2-3:15 PST.
Yes, yes and yes to everything that has been said so far.
But because I am a strong believer in the power of the individual story to drive the larger meta-story deep into a listener’s heart, I submit this: http://babyb-t.blogspot.com/2009/03/back-to-bubble.html, and some ruminations thereon: we were fortunate that the local hospital we were forced to choose did, indeed, have a lovely birthing unit. We were fortunate in the extreme not to have to choose between the expense of my having to adopt my own son, or our having to use a less-inviting, less-prepared hospital. We were also fortunate, when all of those well-laid plans went out the window, and our baby was born a month early while we were on vacation, that said vacation took place in NY, where our marriage is recognized. We could just as easily have been in Rhode Island, or Pennsylvania, or anywhere else in this country where up-a-creek-without-a-paddle wouldn’t even have described our legal situation.
Personally, I find it hugely insulting to be told I should adopt my own child. All the more because straight friends, who underwent the same basic type of conception that we did (he had had cancer as a child and couldn’t father a baby) gave birth in RI, and he was put on the birth certificate with no questions asked – just because of his gender. (and there’s my dose of moral outrage for the day.)
In addition to what’s already been mentioned, I’d like to see some in-depth thoughtful writing on how bridges are being built across what are usually described as unbreachable cultural/moral chasms. I’m thinking mostly of the kinds of conversations that have been inspired by your blog (and other blogs), when real-life stories and the love and openness behind them inspire people to really see one another.
So much political rhetoric (all of it these days?) is made up of members of the extremes yelling across these divides at one another, but bit by bit some people here and there are allowing themselves to open up more to each other, and hearing about these cases is good for all of us. “Good news” reporting, for a change!
All I can add is my answer to this question: “What stories are important to you and your family that arenâ€™t being reported?”
The short answer is how hard it is to even make a family. The obvious complication of two same gender parents is the initial complication that with the help of modern medicine or some legal wrangling can be overcome. Yet my partner and I still sit without a much wanted addition to our family unit after years of trying. There are fertility issues we are working on but that has proven to be a much larger deal because we are an “unmarried couple” in legal terms. It took 4 referrals to find a clinic that would even speak to us let alone treat my partner as a legally single adult woman seeking to become pregnant.
Unfortunately after many attempts we are beginning to give up on that avenue and are looking into our other options, like adoption, which brought to light another major hurdle for us. In our state, any single legal adult may adopt a child, but not two of them unless they are legally married. So now I can pursue adopting a child on my own, or my partner can, but we can not adopt them together! This is of course assuming we even pass the mandatory screenings for becoming an adoptive parent in our state and from some stories I have heard, as a lesbian household that will be difficult at best.
This weekend’s Times Magazine had a “Lives” column dedicated to a lesbian mom talking about her son’s struggle to understand his origins and adoption:
I’ve really appreciated the way that this dad has blogged about his and his husband’s journey through cross-racial adoption and parenthood: http://www.lathefamily.org/
YES to all of this, but Shane’s comment is close to my heart.
I often feel that the face of LGBT child-bearing is the face of fertility. (Granted, the face of all child-bearing is mostly about fertile folks, but at least there is some visibility for sub/infertile straight people, while I see none of us gayz.) On an emotional level, this can be frustrating for those of us who don’t always feel we belong to either club — the turkey-baster lesbian pregnancy club or the infertility club, with all its assumptions of husbands and so on (I have yet to read anything about infertility on paper that assumes anything but straightness).
Then there are the many, many, many of us who are denied care on the basis of sexuality, whether because insurance clauses are written in deliberately exclude sperm-deficient lesbian households (but not straight couples with male-factor infertility or vasectomies) or because clinics refuse care.
I would like to see the LGBT movement more involved in the medical aspects of reproduction, including pushing for better laws forcing insurance companies to treat infertility like any other disease and making sure those laws don’t allow them to exclude us. In New York, for instance, infertility coverage is mandated, but vague. Different companies offer *very* different coverage and to different groups of people. And that’s in a “good” state.