Monday, September 03, 2007

Gay Parents Find Similar Souls at 'Pride' Conference

by Stephanie Caballero

Paul Chavez

LOS ANGELES - The bouncing, little baby looks like any other with those chubby cheeks, hints of drool and gah-gah sounds.

This infant, named Joseph, is a bit different, though. He’s a foster child with two gay fathers.

Ken Martinez, 39, brought the baby to a recent “Parenting with Pride” conference where prospective gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender parents mingled with others who already have started families.

The conference was started nine years ago by the “Pop Luck Club” - a Los Angeles-based support group for gay fathers. The group has about 275 families, including 250 children, said Larry Riesenbach, a group member.

Each year, the conference draws foster agencies, adoption lawyers and surrogacy and egg donor companies, Riesenbach said. Last year, the conference added a resource fair with 20 workshops for gay parents and their children.

Martinez, who also has a 2-year-old boy he adopted with his partner, said the conference helped allay his fears that his children would endure hardships for having gay parents.

After listening to the experiences of children with gay parents, he realized his own children would be fine.

“Hearing them talk today and be proud of who their family is was a great experience for me,” Martinez said.

Children of gay parents

Meredith Fenton, a program director for COLAGE, a support group for children of gay parents, held workshops at the conference for youths ages 8 to 16.

“We give them a safe space to talk about their experiences, school and what our experience was on coming out about our parents,” said Fenton, whose mother is a lesbian and whose father is straight.

The group has been participating for the past four years in the conference and has grown over the years with some of the same children returning year after year to share their experiences.

“All of them thought they were the only ones; just meeting was revolutionary for them,” she said. “Now they know, at least hypothetically, that there are other families with LGBT parents.”

Bi-mom

Katrina Thompson, 31, says she has a 4-year-old son from a previous relationship and as a bisexual woman came to the conference to meet other parents like herself.

“The most useful part for me was the workshop on coming out and how it’s a continual process on coming out to yourself and your kids and your whole family,” Thompson said.

“That was useful to me to know I’m not the only one going through these kinds of things.”

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