HRC Family Project, Jan. 31, 2006
Ellen Kahn, Human Rights Campaign Family Project Director, recently had a chat with Robert Bernstein about his new book, Families of Value - a collection of real-life stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents raising their children in a society that can sometimes be hostile.
Ellen: Many of us can only dream of having a parent as supportive as you. It means a lot to us, and does a lot for our movement, when straight allies step into the fold in such a public way.
Bob: I receive a lot of "Thank you"s from parents and children, which makes it all worthwhile for me. Recently, a father who is active in the Montgomery County [Maryland] sexuality education debate told me that he is where he is because of my first book, Straight Parents, Gay Children. He has a gay son. It's these words from other parents that mean so much to me.
Ellen: I imagine that being so public about having a lesbian daughter and writing on a "controversial" issue can be challenging. Have you had any negative experiences?
Bob: I never had a problem being honest. I am totally open, just as my daughter is. I write op-eds on a variety of topics for about 60 papers around the United States. Once a paper pulled a quote of mine and created the headline, "My Daughter Is a Lesbian." What they neglected to include was the rest of the quote: "And she is the light of my life." I really had nothing to lose by sharing that my daughter is a lesbian, and by writing about GLBT issues. I was motivated and inspired by my daughter and by many GLBT folks who choose to live openly. I am inspired by their integrity, courage and refusal to be silent. I became involved in PFLAG because I believe core values are family values.
Ellen: I noticed in your book that you often share some of the "inside" humor that is common in the GLBT community. For example, the title "fairy godmother" for a gay male. Was it hard for you to get used to some of the "culturally queer" references?
Bob: I very quickly developed a very broad circle of gay friends, and it didn't take long before I "got" the humor and inside kind of jokes. I do sometimes give pause to writing some things that might be too hard for a certain audience to understand, if you know what I mean.
Ellen: Your book has very broad appeal. I wonder if you have a specific audience in mind when you are writing.
Bob: Well, I am writing to somebody, though I'm not always conscious of it. The book is aimed at straight people - reasonable, decent straight people who have not had the good fortune to become acquainted with some of these outstanding people in the GLBT community. I wanted to make these people and their families real, to help folks actually get to know them.
Ellen: Are you staying in touch with any of the families you met when writing your book?
Bob: We are very good friends with the Potter family in Oregon, and visit them on occasion. We are staying in touch with the Lofton-Croteau family, and a few others. They are all wonderful people, and I feel honored to have spent time with them.
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