This month, Southern Regional Manager Tatiana Quiroga interviewed author Michelle Darné about her new book Parent Deleted.
Michelle Darné: Even as the Founder and Executive Producer of And Baby – the pioneer magazine, radio show and TV series for alternative parents – I did not practice what I preached: I did not legally adopt my non-biological children. By the time our relationship ended, I had made it too easy for the system to erase me as a “nobody” in the lives of my daughters, and nearly lost them forever.
No child or parent should ever go through what I experienced, and yet about 22 million parents are, to varying extents – and that is in the US alone. Like all great equalizers, it doesn’t discriminate – it affects the biological parents and anybody who dares let a child into their heart, and plagues therapists and family lawyers alike – but the LGBTQ+ parents are acutely vulnerable. Ironically, legalization of same-sex marriage may have created a false sense of safety. That is because unlike even the most casual of heterosexual unions, even the now-legal LGBTQ unions do not come with the presumption of parentage, or with dissolution rights.
I believe that if left unchecked, parental alienation is set to become an epidemic in the LGBTQ community. So after vacillating for nearly a decade, I wrote Parent Deleted because I could not stand by and watch our biased and antiquated legal system senselessly destroy loving families.
TQ: What do you personally feel makes a family?
MD: Love, of course. The active, selfless kind. Showing up for each other, without pretence and with hearts wide-open. And respect for our children. I believe that in some mysterious way, our kids choose us for our unique ability to equip them to do what they come to do in this vast, complex world. So what makes a family is the parent(s)’ commitment to doing what we can to help kids thrive.
TQ: What does ‘equality’ look like to you?
MD: Equality is when every individual has equal rights, access, and protections. I believe that having a family is a basic human right. I believe our legal system hasn’t kept up with the evolving diversity of today’s family compositions, and it must. Much work remains to be done before all who love can marry, and all who want to let a child into their lives can do so – and go on to travel between states and countries without fear that their rights won’t be recognized. And we must not stop until everybody has protections should their relationships dissolve. To do so, each and every one of us must continue to examine the assumptions that govern our society and institutions – they are often archaic, biased, and result in more harm than good. We will all be equal when every child has secure rights to those she loves, and when good parenting is protected in all of its diverse genesis, forms and colors.
TQ: Whose books do you admire and why?
MD: I admire books that are hard to write, and hard to read. Not a drag to read, but a work of heart, and of mind. I believe we choose, every day, the level at which we live our life: the basic level of least resistance, the ultimate level of our greatest contribution, or somewhere in between. So it seems I have always chosen books that explore the courage, the turmoil, and the joy that comes with trying to live
our mandate. So from Tony Morison to Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey, I find myself reading books by and about trailblazers, renegades and revolutionaries.
TQ: What’s coming up next for you?
MD: Advocacy. Parent Deleted is but a springboard for Simply Parent, the non-profit focused on relegating institutionally endorsed parental alienation to the pages of history books. It supports research, fuels debate, publishes Parent Survival Guide, a quarterly magazine for parents that don’t recognize themselves in any other publication, and coordinates an international network of support groups. And as it grows, Simply Parent aims to develop tools, training and a help-line. What gives me hope is that as a society, we have done this before. In the last decade alone, we have taken on the wrongs such as bullying or drunk driving, and persevered until the entire system rejected the unacceptable behavior.
Michelle Darné has been a prominent figure in the fashion, advertising, marketing, publishing, and entertainment industries for more than thirty years. In 2000, she bet on a market nobody believed existed when she decided to publish And Baby Magazine: Redefining Modern Parenting which became the pioneer national magazine to focus on alternative parenting. Within a few years, And Baby became a radio show with 7 million listeners, and then a TV series followed by 35 million homes through Time Warner cable. In 2005, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) named Darné the inaugural Entrepreneur of the Year. She is currently the CEO and Executive Producer of Patina Entertainment, a digital media company providing quality content for underserved niche markets. To amplify the impact she aims to have through Parent Deleted, she also recently founded Simply Parent, a non-profit that is dedicated to forging a society where good parenting is protected in all its diverse genesis, forms, and colors.