Tell Your Story, Change the World!
August 4, 2009
Ed. Note: This is the next in a series of posts from Alison Delpercio, HRC’s Workplace & Family Project Coordinator, who is spending the week in Provincetown, Massachusetts volunteering at Family Week.
At HRC we often talk about “changing hearts and minds.” Especially with our work in the Foundation as we support our public policy goals by helping Americans get to know the LGBT community and support equality. I know my blog post from yesterday left you on the edge of your seat thinking – “Tell your story, change the world”? What’s that all about? – well, it’s about changing hearts and minds. The more people know members of the LGBT community and our families, the more pro-equality they are. By telling our stories, COLAGErs are changing the world. This can mean telling teachers, friends, coworkers, etc. about our families or being active in a local COLAGE Chapter. Liz Wall, a volunteer staff member here at PTown (who just so happens to be my roommate this week), is accustomed to telling her family story on a larger scale. Take, for instance, this ABC News story about Liz’s family that was posted online yesterday! (Danielle and Jeff, two adult COLAGErs quoted in the CNN story from June that I linked to yesterday are also here in PTown this week. That’s right. I’m name dropping.) Liz and I sat down together at a café on Commercial St. and read the ABC article during our break. I was curious to know what it was like to talk to a reporter about her family and hear Liz’s thoughts on how the article turned out. Below are some highlights from what we like to call the The Interview about the Interview.
Alison: So, Liz, how did ABC get in touch with you for this story? Liz: ABC contacted Meredith Fenton, the national program director of COLAGE, and said they were looking for an adult with gay or lesbian parents who was adopted and has been with their family since a young age. So I called the reporter during a lunch break here at COLAGE training and we did the interview over the phone. Alison: How many interviews like this have you done? Liz: I started sharing my story at a young age. My parents were very open so it was easy for us as a family to get out there and talk. Whenever someone asked us to tell our story, we would do so nearly without exception. One of my first experiences of this is when my parents and I would go to a class and talk at a local college. When I got involved with COLAGE I knew I wanted to continue to speak out about my family. I’d say I’ve been involved with 20-30 different interviews and documentaries. Alison: We’ve talked some here in PTown about the pressure COLAGErs sometimes feel to be “poster children” for LGBT parenting. Do you ever feel that pressure? Liz: I’ve never felt like I had to be a poster child but sometimes in my life when I didn’t know anyone else with gay parents I did have that fear that I would be the only one up there as an example; the only standing up for my family. But once I came out to my friends, they were there for me, right by my side. My friends supported me and my family. They were willing to help out in school. Alison: How did your friends support you in school? Liz: They helped me explain my family. Like if I was meeting a new friend and had some friends with me, maybe I’d say “yeah I have two dads” and another friend would say “yeah, her dads are awesome” or something like that. It would take some of the pressure off of me and help make the situation easier. Alison: What would you say the perks of being a COLAGEr are? Liz: Guaranteed admittance into any college. Alison: What? How do I not know this? Please explain. Liz: A lot of my COLAGEr friends have written about having LGBT parents for their admissions essay into college. It’s kind of like a guaranteed in. Like - “Oh! This one’s different. We have to take her!” Alison: Okay, Liz, back to the ABC article. My readers are dying to know – how did this story compare to others? Liz: [rolling her eyes at me] This interview was pretty typical. I’m used to a lot of the questions like: What do you call your dads? How was your time in school? Did you wish you had a mother? Alison: Is there a question you’re never asked that you wish you were? Liz: Reporters don’t often ask me about the present or my future plans very often. They usually focus on the past, my childhood, etc. Alison: Okay, let’s wrap up The Interview about the Interview with this then: what are your future plans? Liz: I just went to Africa to work at an AIDS orphanage over spring break. There are a lot of COLAGErs out there and I feel like I don’t always have to be an LGBT advocate. I’ve thought about joining the Peace Corps and doing AIDS activism. I think I’m going to write a thesis at school on something related to HIV/AIDS on a global scale.
Before Liz and I rushed off to our next activity of the day, we read some of the comments on the ABC News page. Of course some of these comments reminded us of the many hearts and minds still left to be changed. For example, someone equated lesbian and gay families with a “Frankenstein family.” This person definitely gets points for originality. I’d also like to thank them for the great laugh they gave Liz and I in the middle of our busy day. One last thing I wanted to mention is that the ABC article doesn’t discuss bisexual or transgender parents and their children at all. These families are here in PTown and out there in America helping to change hearts and minds every day. COLAGE’s mission and work is inclusive of our entire community (check out their Kids of Trans program) and I hope similar stories discussing the “Gayby Boom” will broaden their scope to show the diversity of the LGBT community and our families. Okay, that’s all for now – Liz and I are off in search of Frankenstein costumes for the COLAGE dance on Friday!