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social sciences

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Children of GLBTQ Parents  
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COLAGE has been particularly active in the Bay Area, where it has supported advocacy of glbtq families in creative ways. In 2003, COLAGE's Youth Leadership Action Program created an exhibit of images, text, and art titled, "That's So Gay: Portraits of Youth with LGBT Parents," which documented their lives and experiences.

Donor Sibling Registry

Children born via artificial insemination--both to same-sex and heterosexual parents--have also developed networks of support. In September 2000, Wendy Kramer and her son Ryan founded the Donor Sibling Registry, a non-profit organization devoted to helping children born through artificial insemination connect with their sperm donors and half-siblings. Although the organization assists anyone involved in this process--sperm, egg, or embryo donors, as well the children born from these donations--most of the connections that DSR facilitates have been between half-siblings.

Sponsor Message.

As the children born from artificial insemination have grown up, they have begun to advocate for their own interests, which sometimes conflict with a system that has traditionally privileged anonymity. Testifying to the importance of biology even in family contexts that have otherwise proven supportive and nurturing, many of these children desire to know their sperm donors and the other children he fathered. Of the over 3600 matches that have been facilitated by DSR, many of them involve the creation of half-sibling family networks, which allow these children to develop relationships with each other. Some of these reconfigured families spend holidays or parts of their summer vacations together as a way to connect with an extended family.

Summer Camps

In the past ten years a number of glbtq community centers have developed summer camps as one way to support glbtq youth and children of glbtq parents. One of the overarching goals of these camps has been to provide these children with a yearly retreat where they are able to meet and form supportive relationships with children from similar backgrounds. Often children of glbtq families feel isolated, so the opportunity to discover children who share their backgrounds is especially important to them.

In 2005, there were fourteen camps for children of glbtq parents and their families, seven of which focused primarily on children. The most recent addition then was Ten Oaks, a camp in Ontario, Canada, which was formed to provide these children with a traditional camp experience without the need to explain or justify their families' structures.

Other well known camps include the Seattle LGBT Community Center's Camp Ten Trees in Washington state and Mountain Meadow in southern New Jersey, an hour outside of Philadelphia. These camps stress the power of immersing these families and children in the natural world as a means through which to develop powerful connections with new friends and feel honored and supported in their families.

In this way, these camps work to normalize the experience of children with glbtq parents and empower them to make a difference in their everyday social worlds.

A related event is the Family Pride Coalition's annual Provincetown Family Week, where thousands of glbtq families gather to celebrate and network and, perhaps most of all, introduce children to other kids whose families are similar.

R Family Vacations, a commercial travel venture, specializes in family-friendly vacations and cruises designed especially for the glbtq community.

Queerspawn Speak for Themselves

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, publications emerged that presented the experiences of children of glbtq parents in their own words. In contrast to much of the scholarly research, these accounts reflect a much more personal sense of the complex experience of growing up as a child of glbtq parents.

These writers generally affirm their families and express love and appreciation for their parents, but their interviews, essays, and memoirs also record the difficulties of their experience and paint a more nuanced and complex portrait of how children respond to growing up with glbtq parents. They register embarrassment, self-consciousness, fear, resentment, shame, and guilt, in addition to respect and gratitude. (These emotions and ambivalences are, of course, also common among children of heterosexual parents as well.)

For example, a fifteen-year-old daughter of a gay man stressed the difficulties of negotiating her father's coming out, her parents' divorce, and its impact on her: "Sometimes it's crappy being with my family, but I love them anyway."

"Having a gay dad can be challenging," she told Jane Drucker, "but it doesn't really bother me. Any adult, gay or straight, who cares about you, loves you, and doesn't abuse you in any way gives you a healthy family."

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