03.09 “COLAGE” Your World
Resources for Kids (and Adults) with LGBTQ parents
By Meghan Ennes
“I grew up in a granola-lesbian ranch home with chickens, dogs, a turtle, and a hedgehog,” says Debra Rosenberg, 21, “so growing up in an upper middle class white town was interesting.” Today, the Framingham State art student is not only still proud of her unconventional pets, but also her two moms, Miriam and Diane, who adopted her the day she was born. She tells The Pulse, “It was hard to be out about my parents in middle school, but now it’s a great conversation starter… My family is quite unique.”
CNN.com tells us that nearly 10,000 same-sex couples have tied the knot since gay marriage in Massachusetts was legalized in 2004, and now more are finding it easier to settle down. With the increased occurrence of gay marriage, there’s a growing population of kids with LGBTQ parents ~ and this is where COLAGE comes in. COLAGE stands for Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere. This community works toward a world in which “all families are valued, protected, reflected, and embraced by society,” as their website states. “I couldn’t imagine what I’d be without COLAGE,” says Rosenberg, who still lends a hand at her local Boston chapter, where she says she’s made many of her current friends.
One of COLAGE’s contacts in the Worcester area is Abbie Goldberg, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Clark University. She conducts research on children of gay/lesbian parents and receives many of her participants via the COLAGE online community. She finds that regardless of shame often experienced during childhood, adult children of LGBTQ parents tend to feel a sense of pride in their unique families, as well as closely identify with the gay community. Children of these distinctive families usually feel that it’s their duty to educate others: “The biggest tool towards greater understanding and respect for our families is education,” she tells us. “Folks should learn more about LGBTQ families and especially let their opinions be informed by the youth and adults from these families”
COLAGE offers a variety of resources for people of all ages with LGBTQ parents. Their publication, Just For Us, has been running for nearly 20 years and publishes articles on tough issues like marriage, schools, and coming out. The web site offers online communities which are only open to children of LGBTQ parents, of which COLAGE program director Meredith Fenton says, “Often once youth are connected to a vibrant community, they want to find ways to make change on behalf of that community.” COLAGE offers a Speak OUT program to help make that change through media advocacy. Speak OUT provides education and training in public speaking to young adults with LGBTQ parents. COLAGE then will put them in touch with certain media contacts (for example, The Pulse Magazine!) so they can start combating intolerance by recruiting others and spreading awareness about their families.
COLAGE has 32 chapters across the country ~ in Boston there are meetings every month in addition to special events like the annual family weekend in Provincetown. At chapter meetings, kids will find a safe environment to talk about their “moms” or “dads” without fearing judgment. Rosenberg says her chapter helped her get through some of the tougher times: “Having a safe space like this has been so great for me and has definitely changed my views to become more proud and out about my family.”
To find out more about COLAGE, visit www.colage.org.