Palette Magazine

Family Matters: A New Portrait of the American Family

By Sole Sastre

Clockwise from left: Vanessa Bench, Sandra Garcia Hector and Genesis;
Clockwise from left: Vanessa Bench, Sandra Garcia Hector and Genesis;

On October 16, the Pride Center in Fort Lauderdale broke ground and built a playground for LGBT families to enjoy. It took six hours to build, met with wide praise and was instantly adopted by a community that lacked a dedicated space. “A playground is more than just a physical space,” says Robert Boo, CEO of The Pride Center at Equality Park. “Creative play is developmentally important for our children and future leaders.”

Todd Delmay, who along with his husband Jeff was one of the first same-sex couples to get married in Florida when marriage equality came to the state in early 2015, agrees. “Pride Centers have served many important needs within the LGBTQ community over the years, but this need in particular broadens and exemplifies our ideals for equality,”

he says.

While statistics vary from state to state, the 2010 U.S. Census analyzed by The Williams Institute reflects a growing number of children being raised by parents who identify as LGBT — approximately 2 million nationwide. Increasingly American families are coming together in different ways, and the idea of what a family looks like is changing faster than anyone expected. Whether blended, interracial, ethnically diverse or same-sex, people are challenging the notion of a traditional family. While the fear and hesitation about whether same-sex couples should raise children has dissipated, it hasn’t disappeared. Just last November, the Church of Latter Day Saints officially updated its handbooks to address these rapid social changes, barring the children of same-sex couples from services until they have turned 18, moved out of their homes and denounced their parents.

While that may be how some see this social development, a recent study by The Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin reveals another part of the story that can inject some data into the national conversation. According to the study, same-sex parents spend more time with their children than different-sex parents, with families headed by two mothers spending the most amount of time together — 40 percent more time than parents spend on average.

For many, the natural drive and desire to raise children is inescapable, regardless of what their orientation is or what social obstacles may be present. Places like the playground at Equality Park may reflect a growing acceptance of this reality. But it will take time to make something as normal as a family appear, well, normal. The following couples shared their stories in their own words.

PARENTS: Simone Williams and Courtney Krasnor

CHILD: Margot, 2

CITY: Hollywood

 

Courtney and I met in Gainesville when we were in college in 2002. We started dating a year before graduation. I proposed to her on Christmas day in 2006. We had a symbolic wedding/celebration of our love at the Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood in February 2011. Both Courtney and I definitely wanted children, and Courtney always wanted to experience pregnancy. So after choosing a sperm donor and deciding on artificial insemination, Courtney got pregnant with Margot. Our beautiful baby was born on June 24, 2013. We were legally married at the Hollywood Courthouse the week gay marriage became legal in Florida earlier this year.



 

What changed the most for you when Margot came into your lives?

I think our perspective of parenthood has changed since becoming parents. We never fully understood how much patience and sacrifice our parents gave us throughout our lives and still to this day. Also, we never realized how profound and unique our love for Margot would be. It is an amazing love that we have never felt before. 

What is the most difficult part of parenting for you?

It’s the insecurity of being first time parents. It’s a lot of work and responsibility to train and teach a person to be a well-rounded and happy individual. Sometimes I [Simone] over-analyze situations. I need to step back and let some things go. 

What do you wish people knew or understood about your experience?

I was thinking about this question a lot today and initially I felt that our experience of parenthood and family is probably a universal one. Then I thought about how we have never been so out in our lives, both personally and professionally. We are so proud of Margot and want her to grow up being confident about her identity and her family. It is because of her that we feel we need to lead by example and be proud and out about who we are.



 

What makes it all worthwhile?

MARGOT! We are overjoyed to share our love and lives with such a beautiful little being.  Every day is a new day that brings feelings of contentment, happiness and an intense love between us. Also, the love between me and Courtney that continues to grow in different areas is wonderful. It is amazing to feel our love expand and evolve — received and reciprocated. I don’t think words can give it justice.



 

Are facilities like the playground at Equality Park necessary?

We are very excited about this playground and think it’s important for LGBT families to have a space where they have a shared identity with others. Margot may not necessarily have similar family structures with her classmates, relatives or friends, but it’s nice to know she will at the park. •



 

PARENTS: Todd and Jeff Delmay

CHILD: Blake, 5½

CITY: Hollywood

We met and started dating in 2003. Although the landscape for same-sex families was very different than it is today, we discussed having kids on our second date. Looking back, we never recall talking about marriage though — that just seemed too unlikely. As our relationship grew, we knew that we were making a lifelong commitment.

In 2009 we learned about the opportunity to adopt a baby boy, and we jumped at the chance. Because we could not marry, we decided to go through the legal process to change our last names to Delmay, which is a combination of our birth names — Delsol and May. It was made official just two days before Blake was born, so together we’ve always been the Delmays. We knew his birth mother, so we were in the delivery room and cut the umbilical cord. It was such a life-affirming experience for us, and the hospital staff was superb.

Amid all of the joys of being new dads, we still had to face the reality that our family would be treated differently. In fact, when we adopted Blake the law forbidding gays from adopting was still in force, so our first step was for Jeff to adopt Blake as a “single parent.” It was humiliating, but we were prepared to do what it took to make our family safe. When the gay adoption ban ended, we went back to court so I [Todd] could complete a second parent adoption.



 

What has changed the most for you since Blake came into your lives?

Our priorities changed almost from the moment we knew Blake was going to be born. It’s more than just about who is going to watch him, where he’s going to go to school or making time for play dates and birthday parties. It’s about defining and teaching him the values that are most important to us. It’s about putting his needs as a human being front and center and enlisting our community of friends and family to demonstrate those values too.



 

What is the most difficult part of parenting for you?

Time is always the greatest difficulty when it comes to parenting; you never feel like you have enough. We don’t think parenting has been more difficult by being same-sex parents, but it has certainly created a need for us to talk about our family.



 

What makes it all worthwhile?

Every milestone we see Blake reach, or when we see him treat a friend with care or show his concern for those around him, we feel that our efforts are worth it. It makes all the difference to know that he is growing up to be more accepting of others, and that he can be accepted.



 

Are facilities like the playground at Equality Park necessary?

Absolutely! The playground at Equality Park is so very exciting, and it’s so necessary. We love that Blake has many friends with same-sex parents, and that they now have a place where they can play together. It will also be a great place for same-sex parents to talk about the challenges of raising kids.•



 

PARENTS: Sandra Garciaand Vanessa Bench

CHILDREN: Evan, 16 [not pictured]; Genesis, 7 and Hector, 3

CITY: Miami

Vanessa and I actually met online. She messaged me and complimented a picture I had posted. I obviously had my two kids before we met, Genesis and Hector. Both of my children were products of artificial insemination. Our family blended immediately. Vanessa and I would see each other every day, and when it was time for her to go home, Vanessa, Genesis and Hector would all start to cry because they didn’t want to part. It was very sweet. She is amazing with them and they have a mutual love that is wonderful to see. Her son, Evan, is an amazing young man. He’s so smart and sweet, just like his mother.



 

What has changed the most for you since becoming a family?

Several things changed for me. When the kids were born I was forced to immediately grow up. I was no longer me focused. I worried about everything and everyone that came into contact with them. I became aware of the world and how it viewed families like mine. We haven’t encountered much discrimination, but it has occurred, and it’s tough having to explain that. As for my involvement with Vanessa’s 16-year-old, he’s made it so very easy. He’s a great, strong young man. He’s easy to talk to and is never negative, nor has he ever said anything unkind to the two little ones when they become annoying little siblings.



 

What is the most difficult part of parenting for you?

It’s hard not cracking a smile or laughing at their antics and the things they say. Something else that’s difficult is raising them to be good, decent, responsible and productive members of society. Raising a man and a woman that are compassionate and secure. I question my decisions on a constant basis, because I worry about how it will impact their future. Before Vanessa came along, I was a single parent for three years. I was consumed by my children. It’s grown to be quite a difficult task to spend quality alone time with my partner without feeling guilty. Vanessa is amazing at understanding me and that we have the kids around 98 percent of the time.



 

What do you wish people knew or understood about your experience?

I wish people would know and recognize that we’re a family like any other, no need to stare or criticize. Our children can hear and see you. We just built our family a little differently, but we still love and respect each other. We’re a household that does the same things any other would do. We cook, clean, etc.



 

What makes it all worthwhile?

It’s the unconditional love and look in their eyes. It’s exhausting, but when they say they love you or look up at you half asleep, smile and kiss you....words can’t describe it.



 

Are facilities like the playground at Equality Park necessary?

I think it’s AWESOME that the Pride Center built the first playground for LGBT families in the country. The center is a wonderful place full of resources for our community. It’ll be a playground where all kids will be welcome, and the kids will see that there are other families like us out there.•



 

PARENTS: Kate Harrison and Naumara Delgado

CHILD: Kyla Cruz, 14

CITY: Hollywood

We met in New Moon. I already knew Naumara because we were both in nursing school. I had a huge crush on her and everyone knew it. One night my best friend and I decided to go to a lounge in Fort Lauderdale, and there she was. After a couple drinks my best friend tricked me into walking past her. As I passed, she stopped to tell me I was beautiful… And that was that. We met for coffee twice, and the rest is history.

On our first coffee date Kyla was one of the first bombs I dropped. My daughter at the time was 10 years old.

Naumara: When she first told me that she had a child, I was taken aback. I wasn’t sure this is where I wanted to be. Although I had always loved children, I had given up on the thought of having my own. But I was wrong, Kyla is another piece of the puzzle. She is an extension of Kate; they are my everything.



 

What has changed the most for you since becoming a family?

Kyla: Truthfully, only few things have changed, and they have changed for the

better. Instead of one maternal influence, I now have two mothers showing me how to be an important woman in society. I can also say that while there’s more discipline, there is a lot more fun. The three of us are like the Three Stooges or the Three Amigos.

Naumara: There was quite a bit of adjusting for me. It took me sometime to realize that I could not live the way I used to. Spontaneous was replaced by calculated. It is all to create a safe and comfortable home, so she has a strong foundation. Being a good role model for my child is a priority now, as it is for any parent. Being able to figure this out is what makes you ready to raise a child, not whether you are gay or straight. It is what you are willing to compromise to raise that little person the best way.



 

What is the most difficult part of parenting for you?

Naumara: As an adult you see the world through tainted eyes. As a child you see the beauty in everything. That beautiful innocence is what scares me. I try to talk to her constantly, about everything.



 

What do you wish people knew or understood about your experience?

Naumara: I wish people would understand that our relationship is just like theirs. We experience the same trials and tribulations that all couples experience. It is still the same compromising and understanding of another human being.



 

What makes it all worthwhile?

Kyla: There is nowhere I would rather be. I love people who love me with all the might in their hearts, and at the end of the day, there’s no one I feel more comfortable or safe or natural around but my parents.

Naumara: The love and memories on this journey make it all worthwhile.



 

Are facilities like the playground at Equality Park necessary?

Kate: Equality itself means that everyone is the same. I don’t think that a single park makes us equals per se. We should feel comfortable and safe taking our children to any park we’d like.

  Comments