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Family Data

Dear Mom,

In 2013, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case which eventually declared California’s Proposition 8—banning marriage between same-sex couples—unconstitutional. During oral arguments, Anthony Kennedy asked “The voice of those children (of same-sex couples) is important in this case, don’t you think?”

Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending the ban, replied in part “On that specific question, Your Honor, there simply is no data.”

This back and forth, and the general question about the well-being of children who have LGBT parents, inspired photographer Gabriela Herman, herself the daughter of a gay mom, to photograph and interview children with one or more LGBT parents. The result is the stunning and insightful collection called simply “The Kids.”

THE KIDS
Judges, academics, pundits and activists keep wondering how children are impacted by gay marriage. Maybe it’s time to ask the kids.

–Gabriela Herman

At least one face was familiar—Zack Wahls, who we have written about in the past. I haven’t made it through all of the interviews yet, but there are some fascinating stories here. There is John, whose mom bought him a copy of the book “Daddy’s Roommate” when he was 6 years old to initiate a conversation about his dad’s sexuality, and Kerry, who says she was an evangelical Christian and felt like she had to save her mom after she came out.

There’s also Robin, who grew up in a gay family with two moms and whose donor dad is a gay man. For her, being surrounded by gay parents and essentially a member of the LGBT community herself was her normal, although she mentions how, roughly 20 years ago in rural New Mexico, there was a dearth of other families like her own and consequently her family remained, in many ways, closeted.

Listening to these interviews makes me think about Jordan and Isabella’s perspective on their their family. Some day—perhaps on your next visit—you could arrange an interview with each of them individually. I think you would probably have more success getting an honest response, particularly from Isabella, who these days seems to only want to tell us about the latest episode of The Flash or complain about how many rules we have.

My hope is that our kids would recognize how large and diverse their family is, and how many relatives—both blood relatives and those related through their adoption—are in their lives.

Your letter from a couple years back about spending the Christmas holiday in Buffalo did make me think about the traditions and gatherings we missed this year by not making the trip. I missed seeing Lillian and Aunt Judy and our extended Buffalo friend family. We also missed out on Patrick’s Long Island family, and Geraldine’s pizza and Stromboli on Christmas Eve, or his Aunt MaryAnne’s New Years Day feast. The distance prevents us from attending every year; as I write that I can hear Dad’s admonition to “move closer for Crissake!”

This year, I loved hosting you all here at our place, and know what you mean about the excitement of planning, decorating and baking in anticipation of a house full of guests. Some friends suggested we were crazy to have everyone here, but we all seemed to just go along with the chaos, noise, and fun. Our continued practice of being together under one roof for so many years, and working out the kinks, has helped. (Sneaking off to the quiet bathroom with a Scotch is no longer necessary.) Oh, and no more babies and sleep deprived parents goes a long way towards general sanity as well!

Another bonus for us being in Seattle this year is that the kids got to be in their home for the holiday. Their were play dates with their friends and activities they love. And there was also the comfort of this place that, although far from you and the rest of our relatives, is where they are from.

A couple days before your arrival, we had the house full of another family: Jordan’s birth dad, his girlfriend, her son, and the birth grandparents. This extended family has been a part of Jordan’s life ever since he came to live with us, and they continue to be present in small and large ways. They shower Jordan, Isabella, and us with support, love, and gifts on birthdays and Christmas, and make a consistent effort to remain close. They are a link to where Jordan came from, and in that way help to ground him in the reality of his origin.

Also over the break, Isabella had an opportunity to spend time with her big sister Shelby. Although not biologically related (they were originally paired with the help of Big Brothers Big Sisters), Shelby has been a part of our family for years. A combination of mentor, friend, and role model, Shelby and Isabella have bonded over dogs, movies, and more than one trip to the feminine products aisle at the drugstore. During this break, I took both of them skiing at the pass, and we all learned about changing a flat tire in the cold and dark. We all feel so lucky to have Shelby as a part of our Seattle family.

I miss snow on Christmas morning, Aunt Judy’s cookies, and the warmth of familiar routines on the East Coast. AND I marvel that our family has expanded in so many rich and unexpected ways here in Seattle.

Much love,
Christopher

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