This June, COLAGE and COLAGE’s Youth Action Board hosted a writing contest for young adults to share their experiences as a child of one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and/or asexual (LGBTQIA+) parent or caregiver. Young writers submitted pieces in one of two categories—under 18 years old and over 18 years old—, and it was our privilege to view and read all the amazing stories they shared.
Today, we are thrilled to present the stories of our two winners, Inanna M. S. Balkin and Carissa Barry-Moilanen!
Inanna M. S. Balkin—Age 9
In my experiences having LGBT parents for the most part benefits you because it makes you really think, and because it makes you try new or different things. But, on the other hand, having LGBT parents is a disadvantage because you can get teased or bullied for it. These are three reasons why having LGBT benefits me for the most part.
My first reason why having LGBT parents benefits you is that it really makes you think before you speak. I believe this is true because I have been bullied by other people (with straight parents), so I want to not make people feel uncomfortable, and like they had a bad family or they weren’t right. All because I was bullied for who my family was. This is my first reason why having LGBT parents benefits me.
My second reason why having LGBT benefits you is that it makes you try, like, and do more things. For example, without having lesbian parents, I probably wouldn’t like rainbows, I wouldn’t go to pride, and probably many more things I’m not thinking about at the moment. I do enjoy all these things, but without having lesbian parents, I wouldn’t get to experience all these amazing things. This is my second reason why having LGBT parents benefits me.
My first reason that it is a disadvantage to have LGBT parents is that you can get bullied for having a “different” or “wrong” family. For example, I have had to bring fights to teachers, because people were bullying me. And once, they even prayed for me to get a dad. That really made me feel bad, and at first, I was really mad at my moms, but then, I realized that that was just who they were. But that wasn’t going to stop it being wrong to tease me, but now I have put it behind me, especially because we moved away. This is my last reason why having LGBT parents is a disadvantage.
These are my last reasons why having LGBT parents is an advantage for the most part, because it makes you really think, and because it makes you try new or different things. But, on the other hand, having LGBT parents is a disadvantage because you can get teased or bullied for it. These are my last reasons why having LGBT parents benefits you for the most part.
Carissa Barry-Moilanen—Age 18
“How could my best friends forget about me?” I watched an unfamiliar look of confusion and anger cross my mom’s face when I asked this seemingly simple question after kindergarten one day. Later that evening, we discussed how my best friends “forgot” to invite me to their birthday party; it wasn’t until years later that I learned the real reason I was not invited. Their mom ludicrously believed that, because my parents were two women, my family hated fathers, and that my family was a situation to be avoided. I will never forget the pain I heard in my parents’ voices as they told me this, and they will never forget the devastation on my face. What I had thought was forgetfulness had actually been ignorance. I never talked to my “best friends” again.
Growing up with two moms, I was never far from ignorance. In school, I got all the questions. Constantly. “Who’s the mom and who’s the dad?”, “Did your dad die?”, “How were you born?” It turned out that I was, and still am, the only person in my grade with LGBTQ+ parents. Although there was acceptance from some, certain situations—like when my sister switched schools due to incessant bullying, or when many families in our neighborhood stopped pretending to be tolerant after years of closeted homophobia—made being part of a nontraditional family feel more difficult than special.
Two years after the incident with my so-called friends, my family found ourselves in Provincetown, Massachusetts for its annual LGBTQ+ Family Week. Nothing in Medway had prepared me for what I found in Provincetown. The rainbow flags flying high and proud, two men or two women unapologetically holding hands, the confidence, the prideful grins on the face of every person in town: it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The uniqueness and diversity of the town had me staring in amazement and, later, sobbing the whole way home. I didn’t know it yet, but this extraordinary town had inspired a change in me.
Every summer for the past 10 years, we have traveled to Family Week, and I have participated in a program called COLAGE, Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere. During my first year in COLAGE programming, we introduced ourselves; I remember being ecstatic to share who I was. I was overwhelmed by the comfort, relief, and belonging I felt as I shared and listened to everyone’s stories of diversity and perseverance. We talked about struggles we face, the power of our community, how to change the world. Each year became more rewarding than the last: I started off in elementary school programming discussing school issues, and now, as high schoolers, we discuss topics such as socioeconomic inequality, political issues, and how to take important action in our own communities. I have gained more confidence, education, and friendship from one week each summer than I have anywhere else. I am thrilled to be a facilitator in COLAGE next year and to educate that next 7-year-old girl who stares at Provincetown in wonder.
Being a member of the COLAGE community has turned me from an alienated and confused child into a warrior, a fighter for the rights of all marginalized people. The LGBTQ+ community will always be my home base, but fighting for the rights of all other minority groups is my strongest passion. I have walked proudly in powerful events such as the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter marches, and March for Our Lives. I have canvassed for politicians whom I believe will make important changes. I see hatred and ignorance as an opportunity to educate people. The COLAGE community I am blessed to be a part of has created the part of myself I am most proud of, and I am ecstatic to continue this important work that I care so deeply about when I enter college.