From the Editor: Do It Yourself Families

By Andy Lien August 21, 2014

Categories: Lifestyles & Communities, Our Lives

I’m sure you’ll recognize the people in the Children & Family Quarterly later in this issue; it’s the family that was on our Lavender 500 Pride in Pictures Issue. It was one of those serendipitous situations that comes along every once in a while that makes an editor just as pleased as punch. The Pride in Pictures Issue was on the stands for about a day and was getting great reviews. Then, an email message showed up in my inbox with the subject line: Lavender’s 500th Issue – Cover Family! It was from Tony McClay and, in it, he informed me that he and Dan Porter were thrilled to be on the cover, their son Leon was just adopted last year, and they were going to be married the following weekend. What a thrilling message to get; one of those that makes me grin from ear to ear.

Then, I got a follow-up email from Dan announcing that they’d just been selected for the School Safety Technical Assistance Council to develop and monitor the guidelines for the legislation that had passed for Safe Schools in Minnesota last session. Rapidly, my mind connected all the dots for this current issue that includes the Children & Family Quarterly with a focus on going Back to School:

New Family –> Adoption –> School Age Son –> Marriage –> Safe Schools = Happy Editor

So, we give you the unforeseen follow-up to our Pride in Pictures Cover. We want you to meet the Porters. All three of them. Their story is absolutely delightful.

Interestingly, even before this story had developed, I was planning on talking about another family I encountered while traveling for this Fall Getaways Issue. Now the segue is even stronger. Just after our Pride Issue (497) went to press, I ended up hopping on a plane for Las Vegas. Every once in a while I get invited to attend media trips to different locations. They’re valuable as not just a way for me to get out and explore, but also to become familiar with rainbow communities elsewhere. On this trip, we visited the The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada and discovered a superb, succeeding place where the GLBTQ community can find safe harbor, and can also have access to resources and interact with the community around them in a constructive, enterprising way. It has a library, classrooms, a cafe, and spaces that are rented out as an additional revenue stream. I soaked it all up.

On top of the travel, I’m usually with other journalists and editors from other publications that represent various segments of the GLBTQIA community and the trips become mini-retreats; a little like “Continuing Ed. at Large.” I don’t have a counterpart here in Minneapolis/St. Paul; so the professional development and idea-sharing I gain while traveling with people who do my job for the same community but in different markets is worth my weight in gold. Our Vegas trip was no exception. I spent four days with professionals from Canada, California, Mexico, and the UK…and I bled them for their knowledge and thoughts. Whereas I’m only a few years into this job, some were a few decades into theirs…or masters of other professions, such as acting.

We found out rather quickly that the journalists sent from the UK were not only partners, but also fairly famous. Cameron Laux is a writer with a novel coming out shortly. His partner, Charlie Condou, is an actor who’d most recently ended a multi-year run on Coronation Street, a television show that’s aired approximately 2.5 hours a week in Britain. So, he was easy to identify for those from across the pond who were vacationing in Las Vegas and we got stopped for photos every once in a while. It was fascinating to get to know them and learn about their life together. And, as travel companions, they were wonderful. Engaging and charming, funny and canny. Charlie was recently honored as one of GLAAD’s Global Voices at the 25th Annual Media Awards in April in Los Angeles and he’s recognized as one of the most influential gay men in the UK. He’s both an advocate for gay causes in general as well as for gay parenting. Believe it or not, this is where it really gets interesting (as if they weren’t interesting enough already).

Years ago, Charlie’s friend, Catherine Kanter, asked Charlie if he would have kids with her if she hadn’t found “Mr. Right” by age 40. He said yes. He’d always wanted to be a dad. Time passed, she turned 40, and she came back around to the subject. By that time, Charlie was with Cameron and it went from being his decision to being their decision. They decided yes and, years later, the three of them have two children, Georgia a few years older than Hal. While the guys were traveling with us in the United States, the kids were just with their mom as a normal part of their co-parenting schedule. (And their dads really missed them.) Cameron is just as close to them as Charlie is, without being biologically connected, and is their primary caregiver whenever Charlie is shooting on location and the kids aren’t with Catherine. It’s been a wonderful experience; Charlie used to write a column about their family and you can find it online if you search for their names.

I’m sure it has its snags every once in a while, but it sounded like a dreamy arrangement that works well for everyone, considering that sometimes our Mr. and Ms. Rights don’t always come along during our child-bearing years. Might Cameron and Charlie marry? They think so. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Britain, it’s a likelihood. But, love makes them a family. Period. Just like the Porters’ t-shirts said on the cover of the Pride in Pictures Issue.

The beauty of these stories is in showing how many different ways a family can be composed. I’m using the term “how” in two ways…one as in what it’s composed of, the other as in how it’s assembled as a composition. In the case of the Porters, the family is composed of two fathers and a son. How they assembled their family was by looking into the foster system, finding an older child, and adopting Leon. They could’ve stopped there, but they took “family” a step further and added marriage to the mix, involving the trio in the entire process. As for Charlie, Cameron, Catherine, Georgia, and Hal, there are two dads and a mom; how it happened was through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with the mother carrying both children to term. Other families we’ve featured in these Children & Family Quarterlies have shown two mothers using artificial insemination with one carrying both children to term, two fathers having a baby with a surrogate mother via IVF, and two mothers using artificial insemination, one carrying the first baby, the other to carry a future baby. All versions of “how” are of interest to this community so that we can see what the families look like and how they got there. All are valid; all are just the beginning of how what the future will look like for households with same-sex parents. Do It Yourself Families, some assembly required.

I look forward to traveling more, learning more, meeting more, and telling you more.

With you and with thanks,

Andy

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