Op-Ed: Take a ‘Look-Back’ at What LGBT Families Look Like

Takepart.com

When my children were babies, my partner and I used to play a game we called “the airport look-back.” While pushing our two toddler daughters through an airport, we would count how many look-backs (or double-takes) we got from other travelers. As two gay men with one African-American daughter and one of mixed race, at times we felt like were on display. This was true especially on the moving sidewalks where we felt like a slow-mo window display for the thousands of other travelers who stopped and stared as we went by.

Now that our children are older, we notice fewer look-backs. Perhaps we’ve become immune to them. It’s more likely because, increasingly, Americans see more and more families like ours—not just on popular TV shows—but next door to them, in the pews of their churches and on the soccer sidelines. We know there are one million other parents in this country who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender who are raising 2 million kids. It should come as no surprise that our family is not alone and certainly not unique.

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We all know that America—that great melting pot—is diverse. The same is true of its families. Today, only 69 percent of children live with their married opposite-sex parents. One in four children in the United States today is being raised in a single-parent household. Our country is made up of a vibrant and diverse fabric of families. Children are just as likely to be raised by single dads, divorced moms and dads, stepparents, grandparents, older siblings, foster/adoptive parents and same-sex couples.

That rich diversity is also present within the LGBT family community.  According to a new Gallup Special Report on LGBT people:

Both black and Latino same-sex couples are more likely to raise children than white same-sex couples. More than 41 percent of Hispanic and African-American LGBT women and 38 percent of Asian LGBT women are raising children, compared with 28 percent of white LGBT women. In the LGBT population, 39 percent of Hispanic men, 31 percent of Asian men, and 14 percent of African-American men are raising children compared to 10 percent of LGBT white men Nearly half (46 percent) of bi-national same-sex couples are rearing children compared to 31 percent of same-sex couples in which both partners are U.S. citizens

 Clearly these statistics are worthy of their own mental double take. They tell us that LGBT families reflect the same diversity we see in all American families.

The All Children Matter Report, co-authored by the Family Equality Council, the Center for American Progress and the Movement Advancement Project demonstrates the diversity of where LGBT families live.

LGBT families live in 96 percent of U.S. counties. Same-sex couples in the South are more likely to be raising children than those in other regions of the country. More than 25 percent of same-sex couples are raising children in 12 states. Mississippi is number one. Arkansas is number four, Louisiana six and Alabama nine.

 So, as it turns out, my family and families like mine should no longer be made to feel that we are that much different in how we look, where we live and how our family is composed.

What I tell my children when we still do get the occasional look-back is that other people may be showing surprise that we are so similar to them. We take our kids to synagogue, coach the soccer team and volunteer with the PTA. We want the same things that all parents want for their children. I call them the kitchen table concerns: Good schools, safe neighborhoods, healthcare, and financial security.  

 I want my children to grow up thinking the curious stares are saying, “Look, they’re just like us!”

So, the issue now for my family is no longer what our modern American family looks like to everyone else. Instead, it’s what should America look like for our modern family.

Recently, Family Equality Council highlighted some of the areas of American life where diverse families like mine are routinely underrepresented—areas like employment and benefits, poverty and economic security, family creation, immigration, family definition, youth and education, healthcare and housing. In short, they are our kitchen table concerns.

Modern Families: Ensuring the American Dream for All Families is a blueprint for politicians and policy makers so they can change laws and policies to make sure modern American families have access to those same opportunities for their children. We are encouraging all modern families to sign on to the platform and send a clear message to the President and lawmakers. We want the America they envision to be reflective of the America we all truly live in.

So this holiday season, as we make our annual trek through airports, I will encourage my kids to acknowledge the curious looks and ignore the hostile stares. We still don’t want to be on display. But neither do we wish to remain invisible.

What does family look like to you? Verbalize what you picture in COMMENTS.

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Steve Majors is the director of communications for the Family Equality Council—the national organization that supports, represents and connects the 1 million parents in the U.S. who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and their 2 million children. Steve is a veteran communications professional and worked for nearly two decades in local TV news as well as at CNBC, MSNBC and NBC News. He and his partner Todd live in Takoma Park, Maryland, with their two daughters, Claudia and Shoshana. Email Steve | @family_equality

 

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