Panel discusses experiences of queer families

Grace Berchem

(by Kofi Fosu )

A Queer Families Talk, sponsored by GLOW, was held this Monday, Feb. 28. Formerly called the Queer Parenting Talk, the name was changed this year to place the emphasis on the idea of family.

A panel of Lawrence staff, faculty and community members shared their experiences raising children. The panel included Assistant Director of Admissions Chuck Erickson, Associate Prof-essor of Biology Nancy Wall, Assistant Professor of Art Ben Rinehart, Assistant Director of Admissions Teege Mettille and his partner, Associate Director of Admissions Nicole Buenzli and Diversity Coordinator of the City of Appleton Kathy Flores.

The panel discussed the various types of struggles and inequalities LGBTQ couples face both socially and legally surrounding their status as parents.

However, plenty of time was allotted for the panelists to share family pictures and stories about their children. At the end, the panel opened up to questions from students.

Said Rinehart, “I want to show the LGBTQ people that there are endless possibilities when it comes to forming a more unique family structure. It’s rare that any two paths are the same and that makes it special in so many ways.”

The panel represented a wide range of different family situations.

Erickson and his partner take in boys between the ages of 18 and 24 who are not accepted by their families after coming out and are essentially left homeless. Mettille and his partner are the only gay family registered with the foster care system in Outagamie County.

Flores came out when her three daughters were already teenagers. Both she and her youngest daughter ended up coming out at the same time. Flores commented, “I promise you, gay parents don’t make gay children, but I had the unique experience of coming out the same time as my daughter.”

Wall and her partner had their child Hayes with the help of a male friend who, with his partner, all play a large part in raising their son.

Noted Wall, “We are all co-parents and the kid comes first. I don’t know how, but it’s worked amazingly well.”

Rinehart’s family is comprised of himself, his partner, two sons and a dog. They adopted their first child from his partner’s cousin. Their second child was conceived with the help of a surrogate mother, which led to a lengthy and expensive legal battle because the state of Wisconsin does not allow same-sex adoption.

Buenzli and her partner conceived twins with the help of an anonymous donor. However, they have yet to go through the legal proceedings that would allow her partner to officially adopt their children.

GLOW member Jared Gebel said, “It is inspiring to see these queer parents clearly doing a marvelous job raising their children. It was nice to see these members of the community glowing with the love of their children.”

GLOW works to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues as well as to provide resources and support by bringing events such as this to Lawrence.