Guest Bloggers

Smart is the New Norm

By Flavia Francesquini

For as long as we have lived in society we have tried to little avail to define Normal. What is and is not considered “the norm” varies immensely depending on who you ask. I went to school with a girl named Daisy. Her younger sister was also named Daisy and neither answered by a nickname because they thought that two siblings having the same name was normal. The family who lived next door to my first home ate dinner sitting on beach chairs that they neatly lined up on their front lawn. For them, watching the street as they chowed on steaks was normal. There are couples on reality TV shows giving birth to their twentieth child, a fact they all seem to consider normal. When I decided to become a lesbian mom with the help of a friendly donor, folks didn’t measure words to let me know that my arrangement was not normal.

It seems that as long as we are all doing, feeling, saying and thinking the exact same thing we are alright. The problem with that starts with the fact that we can barely get our own friends to agree on what to order for dinner or what movie to watch after it. How can we possibly come up with a reasonable consensus of normalcy that appeases the masses? I’ll give you a second to ponder about this.   Yep. It’s hard. But here’s a noble idea, how about we try to accept the theory that people who don’t live, look, think or act like us are also normal?

The concept of normalcy and its ripple impact in society, but also in individual lives,  has been brought to light by the brilliant Ryan Murphy. If you are familiar with his work you know that pushing the envelope is what he does best. Murphy has brought us Glee, Nip/Tuck and the awesome American Horror Story. This award winning film and television screenwriter, director, and producer has made no secrets about his own sexuality and in fact, his recent wedding to long time partner David Miller has some people speculating if his newest project is loosely based on personal experiences. To those waiting to see what else Murphy would bring to our living rooms, don’t miss the premiere of The New Normal.

The New Normal premieres on NBC Tuesday, September 11th and its cast is impressive. Hunky Justin Bartha (who almost didn’t get married in The Hangover), and the adorable Andrew Rannells (who has awed Broadway audiences in The Book of Mormon), are a loving couple with one desire, to start a family. In comes Georgia King (the thoughtful Rosamond of Jane Eyre), a young mom from a Midwestern town trying her luck in Los Angeles. Georgia agrees to become their surrogate but her own mother, the legendary Ellen Barkin has her own views of right, wrong, and most importantly, normal. As their lives become irreversibly intertwined, they deal with the ups, downs and simply funny ways in which a group of people can become a family.

To help bring these characters to life Murphy has enlisted Ali Adler as one of the writers and executive producers for the show. Adler, who has two children with actress Sara Gilbert, can certainly draw from her own experience as a lesbian mom, and I hope she will. The show will not go on air without a certain amount of controversy. Since we still have a long road before we all arrive at my proposed philosophy of life – you know, where we all accept each other as normal – some folks are up in arms over the concept of two loving adults raising a child.

First an NBC Utah affiliate has refused to air the show due to its contents! The station, KSL, is surprisingly owned by the Latter-day Saints church, and I do hope you catch the sarcasm here.  Then One Million Moms decided to boycott it, claiming it was “harmful to our society.” It’s too bad they won’t be able to see one of their very own represented on the show. Ellen Barkin’s hilariously bigoted character is a member of the Million Moms. If for nothing else, watch it to see Barkin’s performance!

Perhaps a little controversy is the added bonus to this very funny show. Perhaps talking about surrogacy, adoption, and the impact of bigotry and homophobia on our families will help demystify some of the fears and misconceptions surrounding LGBTQ families.

The roads we take to form a family are diverse, and sometimes complicated, but they should all lead to the same destination, a loving home. The New Normal is a refreshing and very funny way of taking a close look at what happens when love takes the lead and ignorance ends up left in the dust.

Flavia Francesquini is a regular contributor and Assistant Editor for Gay Parent magazine.

Psyched About Wanda Sykes

By Flavia Francesquini

Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes

 

“If you are against same sex marriage, don’t marry somebody of the same sex!”

No one approaches controversial issues with more common sense than Wanda Sykes. The fact that she can bring any subject to light, rip it apart and throw it back at us in a way that is both funny and enlightening is a talent that few comedians posses. Intelligent humor is a brand of comedy that Sykes has been performing from the beginning of her career. Whether she is talking about family issues or politics, Sykes has a unique way of gently coaxing her audiences to look at the world from a different perspective.

I recently caught up with the Goddess of comedy during a break in her most recent tour. She started by apologizing for the background noise, “Oh Lord, you can hear the dog? I’m sorry! I should do like my wife, when she needs to talk on the phone she locks herself in her car.” But the sounds behind Sykes reflect a regular day in a home with children, a happy home that is, and I like it, it makes me feel like I know her better. It’s good to know that my dog is not the only one barking at inappropriate times and that I am not alone in my desire to hide from my own child in search of five minutes of peace and quiet. This starts out well, the queen of funny is very approachable.

Part of what makes me a huge fan of her sense of humor is her willingness to express her opinions. That kind of courage combined with her undeniably funny delivery style have paved the way of her very successful career. It’s been a while since she first performed at a Talent Showcase in the DC area. Since then she has ranked amongst the 100 greatest all-time stand up comedians by Fox network. She was also one of Entertainment Weekly‘s 25 Funniest People in America.

In 2009 Out magazine placed her in their annual Power 50 List. That same year Sykes performed for the Annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, an honor that had never before been bestowed upon an African American woman nor an openly LGBTQ person.

No one can forget the hilarious Barb on New adventures of Old Christine, one of many reoccurring roles Sykes has played in various other successful TV shows.

But it is the material she brings to her stand up tours that I love the most. Seeing Sykes in her element is a like being allowed inside her head for a couple of hilarious hours. Her observations on life as a black woman, a mother, a wife and a lesbian have the uncanny ability of bringing the audience together, and regardless of our backgrounds we find ourselves relating to her experiences.

On the phone she sounds just like I expected, friendly, witty and just a little bit frazzled. She is in the middle of a long tour and I wonder if she enjoys all the traveling around, “Are you kidding? I have 2 three-year-olds! Who wouldn‘t want to get out of the house?” But she is half kidding of course, although every mom can use a few nights alone in an air-conditioned hotel room away from family commotion, leaving the children behind for too long is not an easy part of her job, “I do miss them a lot. I was in Australia recently and it was hard, the distance, the time difference… I love being on tour but I do miss the kids.”

Despite the hardships of being on the road, Sykes admits to doing what she loves best, seeing her fans, being in front of a live audience and hearing the room explode with laughter. Hers is one of the few shows that leave with more than memories of a fun night, I always walk away feeling like I have been shown a new angle of a picture I had seen before and it is now funnier and more ironic.

Although Sykes didn’t set out to go across country on a super hero cape using her super powers to get people to laugh and think, she is sure succeeding at doing just that!

If you are on the East Coast, get moving quickly, she will be in Hyannis, Massachusetts on August 15th in Boston on August 16th, then Hampton Beach, New Hampshire on August 17th. But you live in Chicago you say? She’ll be there in September, but not before she stops in Oregon, Ohio and Minnesota.

October will bring her back to Rochester, New York and from there she will continue her tour through Pennsylvania, Georgia, South Carolina, California, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, Wisconsin, Canada and the Dominican Republic. So, look for the location nearest you and reserve your tickets now because you don’t want to be the only person at the office who didn’t see Wanda! You can find Wanda Sykes’ full schedule on http://www.wandasykes.com/WandaSykes_calendar.php

Read Flavia’s complete interview with Sykes in Gay Parent magazine’s September-October 2012 issue #84

Flavia Francesquini is a regular contributor and Assistant Editor for Gay Parent magazine. Photo of Wanda Sykes courtesy of PMKBNC

Shopping for Wedding Bands at Tiffany’s

By Ben Suazo

Shopping for Wedding Bands at Tiffany’s

This is a photo of the ring. The actual rings are being engraved B&D for David’s and D&B for my ring.

 

Took a walk this afternoon to Tiffany’s to meet my partner David to purchase our wedding bands. For several weeks now I have been feeling anxious about this day but not for the reasons one might immediately assume. Two men walking into Tiffany’s shopping for wedding rings. Would they stare? Maybe we would be ignored?  What about all those customers, what would they think? I have been creating and imagining all sorts of things. When I arrived, David was already there. He told me that the wedding section upstairs had some 50 people – all men and women…. straight couples!

I have to admit that I was too busy looking to see if anyone was staring and so was David. Maybe we were being silly, after all, this is “gay marriage” New York? Not surprisingly, we were the only gay men choosing rings…. and as with many instances in our lives, like attending PTA meetings or little league games we are always coming out and the only gay men. They are little courageous steps that challenge us to live freely and be our true selves. It can sometimes be an isolating feeling which only bonds my partner and I even more. Our son will be our ring bearer and I made sure to let the staff know this. It turns out David was feeling the same way.  They were wonderful, by the way and we purchased our wedding bands.  But, one day it will be nice if we didn’t have to have these concerns.

Ben Suazo is Gay Parent magazine’s Marketing and Administrative Assistant.

Forever Dads – One Child’s Empathy

By Tony Zimbardi-Le Mons

Tony Zimbardi and family

The author Tony Zimbardi, far right with (left to right) John, Antonio, and Erik

 

“Tell me again, Papa, who are we visiting in Palm Springs?”  Erik asks from the back-seat.  “Remember guys, my ex, Terry?  We all went Kayaking together when he lived in Long Beach?  Well now he lives in Palm Springs.”  “Oh yeah,” they respond in unison.  It’s early October and Antonio is out of town for the weekend, so I thought I’d take the boys for a father-son getaway to Palm Springs before it gets too cold to go in his pool.

“Hey guys, how are you all?” Terry warmly greets the three of us at the door of his new home in a gated community in Palm Springs.  “Now the first rule of the house boys is that you don’t open any windows or sliding doors beyond where they already are,” Terry begins.  “I put pieces of wood between the open door of the window and the jam so no one can try to break in by sliding any doors or windows further open” Terry adds.   “Why did you do that?” Erik asks.  “Well, because of burglars” Terry answers.  Turning to me, he goes on “You know, the only thing I don’t like about living in this community is that the security walls around the homes are only about seven-feet high, I feel they should be much higher. Why, I could scale one of these security walls myself!”  Terry offers.  I observe the boys getting a little restless.

‘You have burglars here?” John asks a little alarmed.  “Well,’ Terry begins, “Burglars are everywhere, you can never be too careful.”  Don’t you know that burglars are everywhere?  Why I’m sure they have them in your neighborhood too, you can never be too cautious!”  I’m lugging our suitcases into the bedrooms listening to all of this thinking that this is the kind of bad combination of mingling a paranoid aging man and little kids, it’s not sounding too good to me.

My fears are realized when together the boys begin, “Papa, we’re scared!  Papa, do we have burglars in our neighborhood? “I shoot Terry a look much like the days when we were a couple and I was annoyed by something that came out of his mouth.  I look back at the boys, “You don’t need to worry guys, we DO NOT have burglars in our neighborhood.  I’ve lived in our house twenty-one years, never a problem, never! Let’s change the subject, Terry, why don’t we, Terry?”  Without missing a beat, Terry goes on, “Maybe it’s my grief, you know, I couldn’t bear the thought of having my father move in with me when his health began to decline, but after two years of having him live with me, and now that he’s been gone for six weeks, I can’t believe how much I miss him.”  I see that Terry is looking emotional.

“Our Mom’s in jail!” John blurts out.  “Yeah, our mom’s in Jail!” Erik repeats.  “And we’ll never, ever, see her again!” John adds.  We’ve been in Terry’s house all of fifteen-minutes and I’m thinking all three of them are losing their minds.   “Alright everyone,” I announce emphatically, let’s get out of the house and down to the pool.”  “This is what happens when you put older people and children together and throw in their fears and paranoia, I mutter to myself as I exit the room to unpack their bathing suits.

Few hours later, Erik and Terry are in the pool and I turn to John, “Sweetie, what was all that business about your mom being in jail?  You never mention her at home, and all of a sudden you’re blurting it out here where we’re guests in someone else’s home?  What’s going on?”  “Well you know… Terry” John answers.  “What about Terry?” I ask as I coat his arms with suntan lotion.  “You know, Terry’s dad.”  “What about Terry’s dad?” I ask.  “Like, our mom abandoned us when she went to jail.  When Terry’s dad died, Terry felt like his dad abandoned him!”  I turn away, not wanting him to see how touched I am by his explanation in that moment; my eyes instantly fill with tears.  I realize that he didn’t quite have the words at the time, but this is genuine and accurate empathy John was trying to express to Terry.  I turn back to John, “You mean, you wanted to let Terry know that you know how he felt?  Because he lost a parent and you lost one too?”  “Yes!” John said declaratively nodding his head forward for emphasis.  “Come here, sweetie,” I grab John, pulling him in for a warm embrace as I kiss the top of his head, my heart breaking open with love and pride.  “You are just the sweetest, boy,” I stand him back a little so I can make eye contact with him. “That was a very nice thing you did, trying to let Terry know he wasn’t alone in his experience.  You are a very special child John, do you know that?”  “Papa?” He looks up at me with his big brown eyes.  “What sweetie?” I ask tenderly.  “I love you.”  “I love you, too,” I reply, knowing this is a moment he’ll probably never remember but I’ll probably never forget.  “Now can I go jump in the pool with Terry and Erik?”  “Yes, sweetie, now you can go jump in the pool with Terry and Erik.”  I sigh a proud sign as my little empathic-one leaps up into a ‘cannonball’ and then hits the water.

Tony Zimbardi-LeMons and his partner Antonio LeMons are raising their sons John and Erik in West Hollywood, California. Zimbardi-LeMons is a psychotherapist and writer. His book, Forever Dads, A Gay Couple’s Journey to Fatherhood chronicles the adoption of his sons from the Los Angeles County. Read more of Zimbardi-LeMon’s column Forever Dads (formerly Bringing Up Gayby) in issues of Gay Parent magazine (use our search tool for Tony Zimbardi) or go to back issues.

It’s Him….our adoption story

By Henry Amador

I can still, so vividly, remember the day I received the photo..

It came via text messaging which I quickly turned around and emailed myself in order get a larger look.

 

I opened the image and looked with a mixture of amazement, fear and disbelief.

A few moments later I finally shared it with my Husband.

Look what she sent me, i said..

It’s him..

 

Ben 5 months old

 

We both spent a few silent moments gazing at the image.

You see we had not even met the woman on the other end of the text,

I had only exchanged a few polite messages with her up until that point.

 

How did we come to receive this photo?

An acquaintance of ours was related to this young woman.

 

She knew we had been trying to grow our family, 

and she also knew her sister had not wanted to grow hers.

 

Rather than play the middle man she asked her sister if she could give us her number,

to which she agreed.

 

sat with that number for nearly a full day.

You would have thought I would have jumped on it but I didn’t, I sat.

 

What would I say to her?

 

I heard you wanted to give up your baby?

 

What a tiny approach to such a giant thought.

 

Do I bring up the fact that we were two married men now?

What if that crushes our hopes?

What if that idea was unacceptable to her?

 

I was so consumed by all the questions that I just sat there frozen and fearful.

 

Two adjectives that I would have never used to describe myself before that day,

But this situation, this opportunity, had the potential of shaking all the leaves from my tree.

If it worked out, my life, our lives would never be the same.

And it was that very truth that turned me into a scared and still man..

 

I eventually mustered up the cowardly nerve to text her..

I introduced myself..

took a shot at a sincere attempt at understanding how incredibly difficult this decision must be for her.

And thanked her for considering us.
She responded quickly and after a few exchanges asked when we’d like to get together.

Thank God the ice was broken.
I suddenly felt safe behind my phone and asked if it could be soon.
It had dawned on me that if this was going to happen we would have to be proactive and quick.

I already knew she had tried to abort this child…she was too far along.


I also knew she had already reached out to an adoption agency.


If we were going to have a chance at convincing her that we would be the perfect family for her unborn baby we would have very little time to waste.

We agreed to meet at a coffee house the next afternoon.

Would you like to see a picture of him she texted next,
A recent sonogram photo,

I said yes.


*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      * 

And there we were, my Husband and I looking at this little forming stranger who suddenly entered our lives like a cold rush of air though a crack in a window.

In the privacy of our own home, 
without having yet met the woman carrying him,
we were lookin at his photo..

I asked my Husband how he felt?
he was thoughtful and rather quiet and said he wasn’t sure.
I remember I actually said,
what if this is the first time were looking at our son?
What is this is the first of our one million photos of him?

Shouldn’t we be excited?
Happy?
Should we tell anybody?
Should we forward this picture to your mother? 
What if she’s going to be a Grandmother?

But truthfully we weren’t happy, we were too afraid to let happiness in.
And we didn’t share the news,
as a matter of fact there were many people who knew nothing until the day that we brought that 5 pound baby boy home from the hospital.

So many variables with scenarios like this,
so many what ifs between the moment the possibility shows itself,
and the lofty, far away idea of he actually being ours.

What if we can’t afford it?
What if she doesn’t like us?
What if she changes her mind?
What if, God forbid, something happens to the baby?

What if.. what if.. what if..?

We were so lost in the uncertainties that we lost sight of the dream, our dream.

On that now amazing day,
we were indeed looking into our babies face for the very first time.

He soon would be ours..he is ours..

And out of all the millions of pictures we already have in his short 4 months here on Earth,
This first photo,
our first photo will always mean more than you could possibly understand.

Namaste

This is an entry from Henry Amador’s blog DADsquared (http://www.dadsquaredblog.blogspot.com). In addition to blogging Henry is also the owner of Salon Mantra in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

 

 

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