We are family
BY Jennifer Chrisler
May 12 2006 12:00 AM ET
fa-mi-ly!” Most of us have sung along loudly with the
classic Sister Sledge song at some point in our lives.
As Mother’s Day arrives, it appears that the
words to our much-beloved LGBT anthem have new
meaning: Queer families are more visible than ever.
HBO’s recent release of All Aboard:
Rosie’s Family Cruise and ABC’s announcement
that, at the invitation of Barbara Walters, Rosie
O’Donnell will be taking a seat on the daily
talk show The View highlight this visibility. As both a
mother of 4-year-old twin boys and the head of an
organization that promotes equality for LGBT families,
I recently found myself at the center of this media
After months of
organizing by Family Pride—and enduring the expected
attacks from political extremists who would prefer that LGBT
families did not exist—my family made our stand
with more than 100 other LGBT families and supporters
by participating in the annual Easter Egg Roll at the
White House. My partner, Cheryl, and I and our sons braved
the rain and chill of that day to roll brightly
colored eggs across the South Lawn and to visit with a
number of well-known children’s characters, like
Cookie Monster, Curious George, and Clifford the Big
Red Dog. Like the other LGBT families in our group, we
wore rainbow leis around our necks to identify
ourselves and raincoats on our backs to protect us from the
The event was
amazing in many ways, but it was also unexpectedly moving.
As I stood with my family with the White House just feet
away, I was moved by the knowledge that the White
House belongs more to me than to whomever its current
resident might be. As U.S. citizens, my family and I
were claiming our heritage and our right to participate
fully and proudly in all aspects of our society. At
the same time, however, I had to spend a few minutes
that day away from my family debating Bill O’Reilly
via cell phone on his radio show and defending our
right to participate visibly in the event.
It has been easy
in recent years for lesbians and gays to feel
disenfranchised within this country. Opponents of our
equality have politicized the most intimate aspects of
who we are and whom we love. They have attacked our
desire to shelter our loved ones with the protections
of domestic partnership and civil marriage. They have
attacked our desire to expand our families and to provide
safe and nurturing homes to children in need of foster
care and adoption. They have objectified our families
and used us as a “wedge issue” to influence
elections. Our opponents would have the American public
believe that lesbians and gays are somehow separate
from the rest of the country.
reality is that we are—and always have been—an
integral part of American society and history. And we
will be a part of its future as well. “We the
People” includes lesbian and gay individuals and our
families. In the current legal and political climate, it is
as important for us to remember that fact as it is for
us to educate others. When we wore rainbow leis to the
White House Easter Egg Roll, we identified ourselves
as a part of the fabric of American society. In addition, we
were able to look out across the expanse of the lawn and see
other families like ours enjoying the festivities.
Just as our raincoats protected us from the rain, our
rainbow leis protected us from invisibility.
introduce ourselves, we take another step towards achieving
equality. When we tell the full story of our lives and our
families, we humanize ourselves to those who might not
know us or might deny our place in American society.
We make it that much harder for our opponents to
objectify us and use us as a means to achieve their
political ends. When the Supreme Court decision in
Lawrence v. Texas came down, our sexual lives became
legal. But the harsh fact is that our family lives are not.
The attacks continue, and our opponents are organized and
well funded. We have not made so much progress that we
can rest on our laurels or lessen our vigilance.
Now more than
ever it is time for us to stand up and introduce ourselves.
It is time for us to say it loud and say it proud:
“We are family.”