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Why Children of Same-Sex Parents Should No Longer Feel Invisible

4 minute read
Ariel Chesler is an attorney and writer in New York. He is the son of feminist author and psychologist Phyllis Chesler.

As I nervously await this month’s Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, which may extend same-sex marriage to all 50 states, I’m thinking about what comes next. As a child raised by two women during my formative years, I’ve previously written about the invisibility and non-recognition of my family in media, culture, and law, and how my silence about my family led to a deep and unnecessary shame. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling, there is still much work to be done to make sure the children of same-sex parents are no longer invisible.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve come a long way in what seems to some like a short amount of time, although those who have been part of the struggle for 30 years or more may beg to differ. But, truthfully, I am, in a way, jealous of children currently being raised by same-sex parents.

In the 1980s, when I was getting teased on the playground for having two moms, we didn’t have shows like Glee or Modern Family or films like The Kids Are All Right. This was way before Orange Is the New Black, with its diverse cast of characters, and even well before Will and Grace appeared on our screens. There were no revolutionary legal rulings recognizing gay families, and anti-sodomy statutes were still on the books in some states.

We also didn’t yet have the classic children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. That book, and the many others like it that now exist, would have been so helpful to me. While I didn’t have the opportunity to see that aspect of my family in book form, I do recall reading Megan’s Book of Divorce by Erica Jong, which normalized my status as a child of divorce, and helped me work through the pain and frustration of not having my father in my home.

So, in many ways, the kids of same-sex couples today are so much more all right than I was because they can see themselves in books and on screen—which both validates and changes how they view themselves. Hopefully very soon they will see themselves and their families protected equally by the law.

But even with all this progress and with much of the focus of the same-sex marriage legal battle on the children of gays and lesbians, the world still doesn’t know nearly enough about the estimated 6 million children in America with an LGBT parent, and, speaking as one of those children, we don’t necessarily know enough about each other.

Enter organizations like COLAGE, which unites people with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer parents into a network of peers, supports them, and allows them to share experiences and create community. This is such important work because allowing us to see other children with common but also unique family stories strengthens us and allows us to be seen as well.

Gabriela Herman, a Brooklyn-based photographer whose mother is gay, is also aiding the cause of visibility by collecting portraits of and interviewing people raised by gay parents. She describes each portrait and interview session as therapeutic and says she found that, as diverse as their experiences were, they all shared the feelings of silence and isolation.

I recently had the honor of meeting Zach Wahls, who famously defended his moms in front of an Iowa House committee, wrote a book about his family, and who now serves as executive director of Scouts For Equality. He and Julia Winston are collecting letters from children of gay parents in a project they’ve named The Rainbow Letters. I plan to participate.

I hope that the Supreme Court recognizes that all families are equal. But I also hope that in the future when my daughters tell their story of having three grandmas, their peers will turn to them and say “I’ve heard that one before.”

Read next: How I Explained Caitlyn Jenner’s Transition to My 7-Year-Old Daughter

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