Gay Pride Events Becoming Family Affairs
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ For 10 years, Bryan Nadeu strutted in the Gay Pride parade as part of a marching band, hammering out a beat on a drum while wearing a rainbow-plumed hat. But that was B.F. _ Before Fatherhood.
Now, with a 14-month-old toddler in tow, he has other things to worry about while preparing for Sunday’s San Francisco parade: Baby backpack or stroller? Will there be diaper-changing stations? And how to retreat if his kid melts at the loud music and crowds?
``It’s like I’m figuring out how I can be a father and still be gay,″ Nadeu said.
With 32 percent of same-sex couples now raising children, according to the 2000 census, organizers of gay pride parades across the nation have had to rethink their notions about a tradition founded on celebrating sexual freedom and challenging the status quo.
In New York City, which also has its Pride parade Sunday, the local Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center is sponsoring a children’s entertainment area for the first time. ``Family gardens″ have sprouted at Pride events in San Diego, Seattle, Columbus, Ohio, and Austin, Texas.
Steven Boulliane and Olivier du Wulf will march with their sons Laurent, 3, and Patrice, 2, in the San Francisco parade, along with about 200 other moms, dads and children from Our Family Coalition, a support group for gay parents.
They asked for a kid-friendly spot in the lineup, hoping to avoid a repeat of last year _ when their stroller brigade was awkwardly sandwiched between two groups of leather-bound sadomasochists.
``I don’t want my kids to see that, and I don’t think either side was too pleased,″ said Boulliane, 35.
No one knows how many U.S. children have gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual parents, although the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force estimates 1 million to 9 million.
These parents are making their influence felt beyond once-a-year gay pride events, transforming social dynamics both within and outside the gay community.
John Kirkley, 36, an Episcopal priest in San Francisco, says that after he and his partner adopted a son almost five years ago, straight couples, rather than other gay men, became the foundation of their social network.
``We had a lot more in common with straight parents than single gay or lesbian folks in terms of understanding the joys and challenges of parenting, understanding we can’t be as flexible with our schedule,″ he said. ``Some gay and lesbian folks of a certain age had lived in an all-adult world for so long they weren’t really comfortable relating to children.″
Gay and lesbian parents also have become their community’s ambassadors to schools and other public institutions, breaking down stereotypes and biases, said Lisa Bennett, director of the FamilyNet project of the Human Rights Campaign.
``It’s the most powerful thing I’ve seen that is changing public perceptions,″ said Bennett.
Gay families with children also build momentum for civil rights battles, said Aimee Gelnaw, executive director of the Family Pride Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. ``Everybody can identify with a family, so it’s one of the things that everyone, gay or straight, can understand.″
But despite Thursday’s landmark Supreme Court ruling throwing out state sodomy laws, gay parents still face many legal hurdles. Laws affecting dual guardianship of their children are ``dramatically different from state to state, county to county and even judge to judge,″ according to Bennett.
In Florida, Mississippi and Utah, gays and lesbians are prohibited from adopting. Nine states allow gays and lesbians to adopt the children born to their partners and 18 allow such ``second parent adoptions″ to be sanctioned at the county level.
Lyn Shimizu still remembers the grilling she got from the California social worker investigating her application to adopt twins with her partner, Silvia Castellanos.
``She really let her opinions be known and you had to listen to them for hours because she had the ability to make this incredibly important decision,″ Shimizu said. ``She asked who was dominant in the relationship ... and she was also against taking your children to the Pride parade because she thought it was politicizing your children.″
Boulliane hopes that changes will come in areas beyond just legal issues.
``My hope is that gay and straight will evaporate, to be replaced by the terms `with children,′ and ‘without children,’ where I just get treated like any other family guy,″ he said.
On the Net:
Human Rights Campaign Family Net: http://www.hrc.org/familynet//index.asp
Our Family Coalition: http://www.ourfamily.org/
Family Pride Coalition: http://www.familypride.org/
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: http://www.ngltf.org/