Today was my first on-air interview, promoting the panel I am moderating and speaking on this week. “LGBTQ Families: Raising Children in the Susquehanna Valley” is a reprise of our panel discussion last March as part of the 2017 Bucknell University Diversity Summit – and a chance to broadcast our stories to an even larger audience.
One question my fellow panelist and I often get is “why is this topic important? Why should any parent – or community member – come out to hear this?” The answer, really, is understanding. My co-facilitator Todd and I talk about our experiences, in a personal (and hopefully engaging) way; mine as “Baba” (or one-half of a same-sex parenting team) to my 2 year old and 5 year old and Todd’s as a straight, cisgender male raising two teenagers – one who is transgender and another who identifies as pansexual. This week, we’re adding a third speaker, Tracy – a heterosexual, cisgender mom of three boys, one of whom came out as gay while in high school.
While all three of us have specific stories to tell related to our LGBTQ families, the majority of what we discuss is universal to the global parent experience. We all strive to raise strong, healthy, independent and kind children who are able to move through life in a confident, mindful and inclusive way. We struggle with bed times and curfews, drive carpools, juggle activities and birthday parties, and deal with navigating the school system from entering kindergarten, to finishing high school, and embarking on the first years of college.
Yes, we have our share of challenges raising an LGBTQ family within a rural, conservative landscape and at times we worry about our children’s safety and well-being. But we also have stories about community, about inclusivity, and about friends and neighbors who have rallied to support us and our families, even across a spectrum of political, religious and social beliefs. There are stories of empathy, of understanding, and of perspective. I learn more every time I hear my fellow panelists speak because while I may be a member of the LGBTQ community, I have never experienced raising an LGBTQ child and what that process is like in this current day and age. It’s endlessly fascinating – and humbling – to hear my friends and colleagues share their stories as they open eyes and minds.
So, this Thursday, in front of a room full of parents, colleagues, friends, neighbors and community members, we will once again share our personal stories and perspectives. While we don’t claim to represent anyone’s experiences other than ours, we hope that by being part of discussion, we can help even one person move towards greater understanding and acceptance.