My Facebook feed has been stuffed with photos of parents and children decked out in rainbow gear, smiling and waving as they head out for their local Pride celebrations. My own family celebration was more muted—my spouse was away on business, and our son was immersed in end-of-year school projects. Still, I can’t help reflecting on what we LGBTQ parents have to be proud of over the past year.
Our children, as always, head the list. They are, on the whole, growing up as happy and well-adjusted as any others, despite being born into a society that has often excluded, shortchanged, and stigmatized their families. Social science research has affirmed this beyond doubt—but most of us can draw on our own experience here, too. Our children are doing just fine—not perfect (no one is), but no more flawed than any others.
On a personal note, my son just had his bar mitzvah, which traditionally demonstrates a readiness to take on the responsibilities of an adult. Thirteen may not be quite full adulthood in our modern society, but it’s a significant step along the way—and I am bursting with pride at the young man he is turning out to be. The teen years will bring their own challenges for all of us, I am sure, but we head into them with love and gratitude for each other. I suspect our family is not alone in this.
We LGBTQ parents have a long history to be proud of as well. Writers Oscar Wilde and Vita Sackville-West, comedian Jackie “Moms” Mabley, and poet Lord Byron, for example, all had partners of both sexes and were parents. The Greek poet Sappho, the original lesbian, may have had a daughter.
In more modern times, the first national lesbian rights organization in the U.S., Daughters of Bilitis, held some of the first known discussion groups on lesbian motherhood back in 1956. And the term “gayby boom” is now over a quarter-century old. (It was first documented in a 1990 issue of Newsweek.)
We’ve come a long way. This April, we reached another milestone when a federal judge overturned Mississippi’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples—the last such state ban.
At the same time, so-called “religious freedom” bills threaten that progress. The same week that they allowed adoption, Mississippi also enacted one of the broadest such bills in the country, one that would allow religious organizations to cite “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” as a reason to deny a wide variety of services, including ones related to foster care and adoption services (as well as weddings, gender transition, and access to public facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms).
And same-sex parents in states such as Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Utah, have had to continue fighting, even after marriage equality, for the right to put both parents on their children’s birth certificates. I am proud of them and of the LGBTQ legal organizations who championed their cases.
The thing that has made me most proud of the LGBTQ community (parents or not) in recent months, however, is that we have risen in support of our transgender members, who are bearing the brunt of current anti-LGBTQ sentiment. Individuals across the spectrum are speaking out—and we have created enough goodwill and understanding that our allies remain beside us even after marriage equality. Companies like Target have made a point of saying trans customers can use the bathroom facilities of their identified gender, even in states with trans-phobic legislation, like North Carolina. The federal Justice Department has affirmed its support of transgender students and their right to bathroom access. This fight is not yet over, but we can be proud that we’re fighting it.
There are non-political signs of progress, too. The number of LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books continues to grow, for example. Notable new picture books this year include J. J. Austrian’s “Worm Loves Worm,” about a relationship beyond gender; and a revised, 40th anniversary edition of Norma Simon’s classic “All Kinds of Families,” which now includes same-sex parents among its diverse cast. For tweens, there is Dana Alison Levy’s “The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island,” a sequel to her 2014 book about a family of four kids and two dads; and Robin Stevenson’s “Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community,” which blends a history of the event with a broader look at the struggle for LGBTQ equality.
And on-screen inclusion for kids continues to creep forward, with a pair of lesbian moms featured in the Cartoon Network’s “Clarence” and a likely two-mom family shown briefly in Disney/Pixar’s upcoming “Finding Dory.”
We have a lot to celebrate, then: triumphs big and small, personal and societal. Inequalities still abound, though—both for LGBTQ people and for other marginalized groups in our country and around the world. We have made tremendous gains in the past year, but we have also seen backlash. Now we must take our feelings of pride and use them as momentum towards action. Celebrate what we have done, but also think about where we are going, as individuals, families, a community, and a world. Happy Pride, all.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.