Mombian by Dana Rudolph

Mombian offers a mix of parenting insights, book reviews, media analysis and political and legal commentary for and about LGBTQ parents and our children. It takes an LGBTQ-focused look at parenting topics and explores other aspects of the LGBTQ community with a parent's eye. Dana Rudolph is the the founder and publisher of Mombian, a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents. She's the lesbian mom of a middle-schooler and lives with her spouse of over two decades. For more information, visit www.mombian.com.


Those of us with kids in school know that this time of year means the approach of an event that can cause distress even in the hardiest of us: Back-to-School Night.

This annual observance is on the surface a meet-and-greet with our children’s teacher(s), where they tell us all about the amazing things our children will be learning and doing this year, and we try to avoid signing up to bake cupcakes for school events. Usually, I come away a little jealous of all the great things my son will get to experience (though occasionally I’ve sat through a dreary, droning recitation of the syllabus).

For LGBTQ parents, however, Back-to-School Night can bring with it a host of additional questions: What if the teacher is homophobic or transphobic? What if the other parents are? Will I stand out because of my gender expression? Will there be other LGBTQ families there, or LGBTQ students in the class? Will there be LGBTQ-inclusive books and lessons?

Some of us may have already spoken with our children’s teachers to introduce ourselves and answer any questions they may have about LGBTQ families and individuals. This can be helpful, especially the first year in a school. Sometimes, however, our schedules prevent this; other times, we may choose to give our children, especially tweens and teens, the chance to control how and when to come out about their families. There is no one right answer for every family every year. The first year in a school may require a different approach than the third. We may even mix methods the same year when dealing with homeroom teachers as well as music, art, physical education and other specialists.

This past Pride Month saw an explosion of rainbows on products from sneakers to snack foods, reenergizing the debate over whether and how corporate America should be involved in Pride. For me, two things come to bear here: My belief that companies should support LGBTQ equality if they are going to market to us — and the fact that my family would not exist as it does now if it was not for the benefits my spouse and I received from the companies where we worked.

When my spouse and I first tried to start our family 17 years ago, we searched vainly for a book on assisted reproduction that was authoritative, detailed, and inclusive. A new book by a fertility expert — who also happens to be a lesbian mom herself — is just the book we would have hoped to have.

Not only has the number of LGBTQ-inclusive picture books increased greatly over the past few years, but also more are being published, even for the youngest children. Here are some new ones aimed at babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Robin Stevenson’s “Pride Colors” board book (Orca Book Publishers) takes the original meanings of the colors in the Pride flag, as envisioned by creator Gilbert Baker, and turns them into a poem from parent to child.

Passover begins the evening of April 19, and although I’m somewhat casual in my observance, I love that the holiday, which commemorates Jewish people’s journey out of slavery in Egypt, has become a time for reflection on freedom and social justice. This year, I’ve been thinking about how we LGBTQ parents might use the traditional “Four Questions” of Passover to guide our modern-day journeys.

During the Passover Seder, a ritual meal, we use a book called a Haggadah to retell and symbolically relive the story. Some of the passages come from traditional texts and liturgy, but much of the Haggadah is open to creative input. Because of the theme of freedom from oppression, many Haggadot (plural) aim at exploring various areas of social justice and include readings from modern civil-rights leaders, poets and other thinkers.

March is coming in like the proverbial lion with a wave of good news for LGBTQ families.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed a bill Feb. 19, expanding the state’s paid family-leave law in a number of ways, including by expanding the definition of “family” to include chosen families and expanding the definition of “parent” to include foster parents and those who become parents via gestational surrogacy.

“New Jersey is now the first state in the nation to offer paid family leave that is inclusive of all families,” according to the Center for American Progress, which also observed in a statement, “Making paid leave available to chosen family is especially important to LGBTQ people and people with disabilities, as they are disproportionately likely to need time off to care for chosen family.”

People and families come in many forms, as any LGBTQ person can attest. Now, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) is using that concept to improve upon its already LGBTQ-inclusive employee benefits. The FORTUNE 100 company, which has approximately 7,500 employees around the country (and more than 130,000 life insurance policy-owners in Pennsylvania), is rolling out new benefits around leave, gender affirmation, family creation and more that empower all employees and demonstrate a deep understanding of LGBTQ people’s lives.

A new year may motivate many of us to ponder new endeavors. For some, this may mean taking the first steps toward parenthood — so I wanted to revisit some of the tips I found most useful as my spouse and I began our own journey. This is not a guide on how to create a family (there are too many options to explore in a column of this length), but rather some suggestions on what you may want to do first in order to start weighing those options.

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