It was a school project that became a teachable moment about being proud of your family- not just for my kids, but also for me.
My daughter, a second-grader, came home with instructions to create a family timeline. In the past, every school project that even hinted at family – a family tree, a family photo project, Mother’s day cards, Father’s day cards – created some anxiety for me.
Will my two daughters feel comfortable talking about adoption? Will they get questions about where their mom is? How do they explain that they have biological siblings who don’t live with us?
Since the day they were born, my partner and I have told them their story and have worked to make sure they could relate any part of it that they felt comfortable sharing.
It’s something that has been difficult for me because my own family story is not easy to share.
For years, being gay was just one part of my identity that I struggled to talk about.
It was hard for me to explain that I was raised by a single mom and that my four older siblings are the product of her previous marriage. While we share the same mother, I’ve never known my own biological father. It was impossible to hide that fact. It was written all over my face because his genetic material made me look white- completely different from mom and my brothers and sister.
It’s taken years for me to even be able to write my own family profile, let alone share it freely. Being a parent who is LGBT has pushed all of my identities out of the closet. If I want my kids to be proud of their family- two dads, one Catholic, one Jewish, both gay – then I realized I had to rid myself of any shame or embarrassment I felt about my own family.
So as we sat down to do my youngest daughter’s family timeline – I began to answer some of the questions that I’ve struggled with over the years. Who is your dad? Why do you look different from your family? Why did your mother get divorced from her husband? Were you always gay?
I realized that answering the questions wasn’t the only way I could help them with their stories. I also had to explain that sometimes questions will always be uncomfortable and that they could choose how much to share with someone and when.
It’s a challenge many LGBT families go through. How do you instill family pride when for years society told us to be ashamed of ourselves or our families if they didn’t fit some “traditional norm?” It’s not as easy as completing a school project. Sometimes it’s a project you work on for years.
Family Equality Council is working on its own project for June that will help our families show their own pride. #ShowtheLove is a photo sharing project allowing our families to tweet or instagram family photos during Pride month – and show that our families are everywhere, they came in a wide variety of forms and identities, and that we are proud of our lives and the love we have for one another.