Leading up to the March 26-27 Supreme Court hearings on DOMA and Propositon 8, Family Equality will feature some of the young people and families who helped create the Children’s Voices amicus brief. Sarah Gogin is one of our partners in submitting this brief, which describes LGBT families across the nation.
“We’re a pretty traditional ‘untraditional’ family,” muses Sarah Gogin. The traditions that mean the most to her family? From a young age, Sarah and her parents had Friday Night at the Movies: ordering pizza and watching a classic film together every week. From this time with her fathers, Sarah claims a lifelong appreciation of black and white films, and, she jokes, “a great sense of fashion!”
The McPherson-Gogin family is Irish, Italian, and Catholic, which means “big celebrations at Christmas and Easter,” and “of course, a lot of food.” Religion, she adds, “is a very important part of my family’s life.” So is their connection to their community. They have “a lot of San Francisco pride,” and, Sarah adds, her Pop has become a mentor for many of her friends and classmates over the years. In the Children’s Voices Supreme Court brief, Sarah describes how her Dad “became assistant soccer coach and one of the key members of the [high school] Athletic Board,” while her Pop “became the first male president of the Mother’s Board.”
To get there, though, Sarah’s dads had to put a great deal of time and thought into finding an open, supportive school environment. In order to educate their daugher at a Catholic school, they had to go outside their local parish due to what Sarah calls “this tension… sort of beating around the bush because of my family background, but not always saying outright ‘we won’t accept Sarah.’” The end result, she says, was absolutely worth it—“tons of faculty and family support, across the board.” Her friends and their parents felt comfortable asking questions about Sarah’s family, even challenging ones like, ‘How are you going to teach her to be a woman?’ Her dads’ response, Sarah says, was always, ‘Just like any other parent.’ “They raised me to be a contributor to society. They would tell people, ‘We’re teaching our daughter to be a responsible, loving, successful adult.’”
As a teen, Sarah became “the fourth generation McPherson-Gogin to attend St. Ignatius College Preparatory.” While she had the typical ups and downs of adolescence, Sarah also confronted homophobia. “Going down the hall,” she remembers, “you could hear people saying ‘fag, queer’, and even if it wasn’t directed at me it still affected me…” The lessons Sarah learned at home helped her to confront prejudice and negativity with action, and compassion. As she describes it, “My parents have taught me, you can either learn from a bad situation or you can run from it. They’ve taught me to keep moving; remember the past but keep going forward.” So Sarah did: she started reaching out, teaching people about her family, and at age 16 was featured in the COLAGE documentary In My Shoes: Stories of Youth with LGBT Parents. Although Sarah’s high school would not allow a GSA, she helped to create a Safe Spaces Club that hosted an annual Day of Silence, along with a number of speakers and other programs.
If she had to give some advice to young people with LGBT parents, Sarah would say, “Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid. I think a lot of times kids get scared of what other kids might do if they say their parents are gay. And yeah, times are gonna get rough, but you have to be strong about who you are and who your family is.” Sarah attributes a lot of her personal strength and conviction to her upbringing. Her parents taught her “some great lessons about building relationships… to stand up for myself, and not change just because someone else wants you to.” As she describes the challenges her fathers have faced and overcome through the decades, it’s clear that Sarah’s heritage has inspired her to live her own life with determination and authenticity.
And now Sarah has sent a message to the Supreme Court, telling her family’s story alongside other outspoken youth. She sums it up, “My parents must have done something right, to get to this point. They have worked so hard, through so much adversity, to reach this point where they are successful and happy. Why would you have anything against them being married in the eyes of law?”
If the Court agrees with her, Sarah says, it will be “a time to celebrate everything we’ve been through to reach this point, and the good to come.” But regardless, in Sarah’s own words, “My family is the same as yours.”
We love the same, we hurt the same—we are the same as you.”