LGBT parents say support groups allow kids to see that their families are normal
CARROLLTON — As Monica Moran and Alma Garcia played with their daughter Sarayu at W.J. Thomas Splash Park on a hot July day, they said they were glad other LGBT families were out in the sun with them.
The couple brought their daughter to the splash park for an outing with the local LGBT family group Rainbow Roundup, a social Facebook group.
Moran and Garcia heard about the group last year and have enjoyed surrounding 3-year-old Sarayu with other children that have two same-sex parents.
“I think the best thing about it is to give her an opportunity to see other families that look like hers and just to get to meet other families as well,” Moran said. “It’s kind of hard to have venues where you can just hang out with GLBT families.”
The group is the first of its kind the couple has found, and they enjoy the social gatherings where they and their daughter can make friends with kids and other parents, as well as share advice and parenting information.
Garcia said that while their daughter is still too young to understand her family’s dynamics, she hopes time in the group will help her see as she grows up that her family is just as normal as others.
“I think just having an opportunity for her to socialize with other kids who have two moms is good,” Garcia said. “If she doesn’t get it now, later on it’ll be like ‘OK, my family’s not weird or different.’”
Kimberly Kantor, the group’s founder, started the group in September to help unite LGBT families and help them and their kids in North Texas get to know one another. While the group is mainly social, she said members share information and advice about parenting and adoptions.
“I wanted it to be a safe place for all of our kids to be with other kids that have families just like theirs as they’re growing up and so that they have support and unity,” Kantor said.
As the number of same-sex couples raising children continues to soar, the group is one of several that have sprouted up in North Texas to meet the needs of LGBT families.
Kantor said the group has been good for her two daughters, Carlie, 8, and Kaia, 3, who will grow up knowing other kids with families like theirs and make friends that they’ll have throughout their grade school years.
The Facebook group started with 19 members and has grown to more than 400 members.
“And they’re all families just like ours,” Kantor said of the group’s membership. “I think it’s been really successful.”
Wendy Taylor and her partner Rachel have been involved with the group since it started.
Taylor said she liked that their son, Ayden, 2 ½, will grow up knowing children with other gay parents.
“It’s nice to be able to have other families that are like your own and then the kids can be able to kind of know each other and as they grow up they’ll feel like their family is just like any other family,” she said. “I think it’s good for the kids and for us to kind of normalize families. Families are all different and come in all different varieties and the one they have is wonderful.”
Shannon Rhodes brings her daughter, Zoe 3½, to the group and likes that she can communicate with kids her age about having two moms. She also enjoys the friendships she’s built with the other parents in the group.
“It’s a blessing to be able to see that she’s not alone,” Rhodes said. “From a mom’s perspective, I love hanging around with these other moms because they know what it’s like to be a lesbian with children so it’s a good place for us to build friends as much as it is for our kids to build friends.”
While Rainbow Roundup is more social, another group, the local HRC Family Project Committee, combines events with a focus on advocating for the rights of LGBT families and providing them with resources.
Tempest Redding, co-chair of Family Project Committee, said the group plans workshops and panels on family planning and resources for LGBT families.
Its members are organizing a first-ever family-friendly area at Dallas Pride in September. Vendors and activities will be geared toward families in a fenced-in area at the Festival in Lee Park. Redding said the committee heard from people with children who don’t attend Pride because of the drinking and some of the attire that’s on display, so they planned something for everyone.
“We wanted to have a place for families at Pride where they felt comfortable,” Redding said.
Mia Talbot joined the committee a couple of months ago because she loves families and works as a family educator in Rockwall. While she’s only been involved for a short time, she said she’s excited about the Pride event and looking forward to learning about resources.
“I’d love to gain some tools for myself and tools to share with the community at large,” she said.
Talbot said she and her partner, Stephanie, have been looking into starting a family of their own.
“We’ve been thinking about it but hadn’t had the tools for getting the ball rolling” she said.
She hopes her involvement with the group will teach her about cultural diversity among LGBT families because she and her partner are African-American.
“For me, what’s important is cultural diversity in families,” Talbot said. “We’re wanting to know how to start a dynamic family.”
The Family Equality Council is a national organization that plugs LGBT families across the nation into resources and advocacy opportunities.
Andra Oshinsky, senior programs associate at FEC, said while it’s been a decade since Dallas had an active chapter, Texans can still benefit from the organization’s national outreach of webinars, workshops and panels that educate people on how to start parent groups and advocate for rights.
“These LGBT parent groups are very fluid and very hard to formalize,” she said.
Oshinsky said FEC is working more with Texas groups and will be at Austin’s Pride in September, adding that the organization would want to come to Dallas’ Pride as well.
Texas doesn’t have a COLAGE chapter either, which is a group for kids with same-sex parents.
But Oshinsky said FEC launched a program last year called Outspoken Generation that allows young adults with gay parents to connect and discuss their families and experiences growing up in an LGBT family.
“It’s really great to hear from young people themselves because they know what it was like growing up with LGBT parents,” she said.
No matter what group families join, Oshinsky said LGBT family groups help members surround themselves with others who understand the challenges their kids and parents may face, whether they be legal issues or societal encounters at school or other events.
“It’s really helpful for children to see family units, models that reflect their own,” Oshinsky said.
“To see that they’re not alone and that there’s a family like theirs is really beneficial.”
To be invited to the Rainbow Roundup Facebook group, email info@rainbowroundup-DFW.org. For information about the HRC Steering Committee and the Family Equality Council, visit www.HRC.org/steering-committees/dallas-and-fort-worth and www.FamilyEquality.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 26, 2013.