The Kids

By Gabriela Herman

Judges, academics, and activists keep wondering how children are impacted by having gay parents. Maybe it's time to ask the kids.

Excerpts from the book:

Photograph of Jamie
Jamie, raised outside Chicago, IL by her mom and various partners “ I actually got in a fight with a kindergarten substitute teacher who insisted that I must have a dad, because everyone has a dad. We were making Father’s Day cards, and I was adamant that I did not have a dad. She didn’t believe me. ”
Photograph of andrew
andrew, raised in Santa Monica, CA by his dad and mom who came out when he was 11 “ I was hanging out with my friend, skateboarding or something and just talking about our family, and he was just like, “my mom’s partner,” and I’m like, “Oh, is your mom gay?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” So I’m like, “My mom’s gay too.” And we high-fived about it.”
Photograph of Jaz
Jaz, raised in Webster, NY by her mom and stepmom “One of my best friends growing up who I’m still very close with—she wasn’t allowed to sleep over for a while, and then when her parents finally said that she could sleep over, her mother took my mom aside and was like, “You can’t kiss in front of my daughter.” ”
Photograph of Moshe
Moshe, raised in Ithaca, NY by his two moms “Coming from this family, I always knew that I wasn’t alone, but that didn’t mean I didn’t feel alone in school. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you still can’t feel awful when you’re being teased. ”
Photograph of Paloma
Paloma, raised in Newton, MA by her dad and mom who came out when she was 13 “ In some ways, seeing them as a model—they’re a very loving couple—and even just looking at a household headed by two women and the things they do and the roles they take on, that maybe had an effect on me, just thinking, “Well, they can do it, I can do it.” It’s not something that is portrayed in an ordinary way on TV. It has to be the plot of a book or the plot of a movie, or there has to be some big drama around it. ”
Photograph of Zach
Zach, raised in Iowa by his two moms “I think the operative word in describing our family is not LGBT, it’s family. It isn’t something that I try to point out about who my family is. It really is no more accurate to say my moms are gay-married than to say they are Packers fans or work in health care. Your sexual orientation is part of who you are, but it’s not particularly good at defining who you are. ”
Photograph of Brittnee
Brittnee, raised in East Palo Alto, CA by her mom and dad who came out when she was 14 and her stepdad “We were really into RuPaul, and through RuPaul, as funny as it seems, I’ve really been able to get more comfortable and really understand my dad a lot more. I feel like he is RuPaul. I really do.”
Photograph of Aaron
Aaron, raised in Berkeley, California, by his two moms and, after their separation when he was 7, by his mothers and step-father “My moms split up when I was about 7, because my biological mom fell in love with a man. I knew my family was different, but it wasn't weird different, it was just a different kind of family.”
Photograph of Hope
Hope, raised in New York City by her two dads “ I knew that there were other structures of families because I would see my friends’ families and my aunts and uncles, and I knew that people had something called a mother that I didn’t necessarily have, but I didn’t really think that I was in the minority.”
Photograph of Elizabeth
Elizabeth, raised in Boston, MA by her mom and dad who came out when she was in college “I was on the phone with my dad one day, and I was getting angry at him, and he was like, “I think that I just need to tell you what’s going on.” And I was so scared, and he was like, “You know, it’s just time for me to confront my identity.” And I was like, “Are you gay?” And he goes, “Well, I think so, but I haven’t had any experiences to be sure.” ”
Photograph of adrien
adrien, raised in Pembroke Pines, FL by his dad and mom who came out when he was in college “I didn’t know if I was walking on eggshells or walking on a bombshell. Maybe she wasn’t ready for, or maybe, in retrospect, I wasn’t completely ready for it. It wasn’t a bad feeling. I didn’t feel betrayed, I didn’t feel deceived, but I also wasn’t over the moon either. I think I needed to take a step back and really process it. ”
Photograph of bryan
bryan, raised in Tulsa, OK by his dad and mom who came out when he was a baby and stepmom “I had a lot of friends over who had probably never had any kind of interaction with somebody they knew was homosexual, and especially for it to be this warm mothering person who just wants to feed you and hear about what happened during your day and all that. In hindsight, I think I can say that maybe pushed some people a little farther down the path to acceptance.”
Photograph of caroline
caroline, raised in Newton, MA by her two moms and stepmom “The famous story in our family is that my little sister Jing—she’s the best—she cried the first time she saw straight people kissing because she was so confused. She was probably four or five years old. ”
Photograph of chelsea
chelsea, raised in Malibu, CA by her two dads “Finally, when it was legal in California, in that window before Prop 8 passed, I told my parents, “Alright, guys, this is it.” I was fifteen, and I was like, “It’s happening.” And they gave in. The wedding was huge and fun and amazing.”
Photograph of Danielle
Danielle, raised in Takoma park, MD by her two moms and four dads “I used to be really paranoid about people finding out about my family to the point where I had a close friends who were generous in inviting me over to their homes, but I never invited them over to my home. I was really proud of my family and wanted my family to know how much I loved them. On the other hand, I was terrified of showing who my family was. They were amazing people, amazing activists. I learned so much from them. And yet, this family, I was told on a daily basis, was not a legitimate family based on what a family was supposed to look like. ”
Photograph of Erica
Erica, raised in Redding, CT by her dad and mom who came out when she was 15 “I was fifteen when my lesbian mom came out of the closet. I feared her for being gay for the first few years. I had internalized society’s images of gays as being gross pedophiles. It took me time for me to trust her again as my mom. I started believing she would hit on me as her daughter. Of course, it never happened; it’s ridiculous what beliefs and prejudices we get from mass culture.”
Photograph of luke
luke, raised in Gainsville, FL by his dad and mom who came out when he was 15 “Her first girlfriend, Ruth, had been hanging out around the house a little bit. She was introduced as her friend, and she was very butch and, like, fixed her car. I had one good friend named Jonathan who would come over and we’d hang out. He didn’t know because I didn’t tell him my mom was gay. He thought Ruth was just a good friend ”
Photograph of Jessica
Jessica, raised in Missoula, MT by her mom and dad who came out when she was 10 “I remember watching Oprah every single day, waiting, hoping that she would do a show on gay parents. She never did. That’s how isolated we were. There was no Internet. There was no way to reach out or connect.”
Photograph of Lauren
Lauren, raised in Kansas City, MO, by her mom and dad, who came out when she was 7 “Society is becoming much more accepting. I think at one point it was almost cool to have a gay guy friend you could go shopping with; that was kind of like a commodity. When my girlfriends found out my dad’s gay and that we’d go shopping together, they were kind of jealous. ”
Photograph of Mark
Mark, raised in Snyder County, PA by his mom and his dad, who came out when he was in college “Because I had been openly gay and gender non-binary for many years, I was able to provide my father with resources, information, and support from my own experiences. ”
Photograph of molly
molly, raised in Worcester, MA by her mom and dad who transitioned when she was 14 “Especially around transgender issues, people are fine with it in theory, and then it gets really close to them, and they’re like, “Oh shit! This is for real and I’m uncomfortable.””
Photograph of Niko
Niko, raised in Newton, MA by his dad and mom who came out when he was 11 “For the longest time I remember thinking that being gay meant that your family breaks up. To me it was, “Okay, mom is moving out.” ”
Photograph of Paul
Paul, raised in Norristown, PA by his two adoptive dads “There’s just a lot about caring for aging LGBTQ parents I think doesn’t go reported. ”
Photograph of Robbie
Robbie, raised in Los angeles, CA by his two adoptive dads “ Nowadays, I feel more pressure to be a role model because I represent my family. If a kid acts out, they’re like, “Who are their parents?” And especially with what’s going on politically in the country, I’m more aware of it now.”
Photograph of Robin
Robin, raised in Santa Fe, NM, by her two moms and two dads “It wasn’t that we were actively closeted, but from a young age, I very much knew not to talk about it. They were very careful with how they were out to people. They used the term “partner,” which at the time, people assumed meant business partner. ”
Photograph of sam
sam, raised in Brookline, MA by his dad and mom who came out when he was 12 “I started getting excited about talking about power and privilege and race and sexuality with all sorts of people, and then I pretty quickly realized that being a straight white guy with two moms is not really a marginalized identity. ”
Photograph of savanna
savanna, raised in Fountain Hills, AZ by her mom and stepmom “They were reading this email that this woman had sent to somebody on the radio station, saying, “Who we need to worry about are the children of these gay people.” And I got so angry, and they said, “If you have any comments, please call in we want to hear you.” And I kept calling and calling and finally got through, and was like, “I am a child with gay parents, and I am truly appalled at this email. No one needs to feel sorry for me. My parents are amazing.””
Photograph of zach
zach, raised in Waltham, NY by his adoptive two moms “I had less trouble with having two moms and more issues with finding myself in terms of race and ethnicity. ”
Photograph of Emilie
Emilie, raised in Brookline, MA by her two adoptive moms “When I was in middle school my mom would take me to this camp that was specifically for girls adopted from China but by white mothers. It was ten to fifteen families, all girls around the same age with two moms. I think my mom was the only single mother there. They didn’t really specify that it was for kids with gay moms. We didn’t really talk about the fact that our parents were gay. It was just kind of, “You’re Asian. Let’s hang out.” ”
Photograph of Gabriela

My Story.

My mom is gay. But it took me a long time to say those words out loud.

She came out nearly 20 years ago when I was in high school. My parents soon separated, and eventually, she married her longtime partner in one of Massachusetts’ first legal unions. It was a raw and difficult time. I hardly spoke to her for a year while I studied abroad. It felt like a fact that needed to be hidden, especially among my prep-school classmates. The topic was taboo even within our otherwise tight-knit family. My younger siblings were dealing with the same emotions, but meaningful conversation eluded us.

Five years ago, at age 29, I embarked on a project to meet, photograph and interview people with similar stories. Despite living around the world, I had never encountered anyone else raised by a gay parent. When I mentioned the idea to my sister in San Francisco, she connected me with the non-profit group, COLAGE, the only national organization focused on supporting those with L.G.B.T.Q. parents.

Danielle Silber, who has six parents and who had become an organizer for the group, soon invited me to her East Village apartment one night. Her living room floor was filled with young people telling their own family’s “coming out” story. Since that night, I’ve documented the stories of dozens of children and met many more. Each portrait and interview has become, in an unexpected way, my own therapy session.

The Supreme Court ruled on June 26th, that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage nationwide. In the past, when confronting this issue, the justices had pondered the impact on children.

In 2013, during oral arguments on same-sex marriage in California, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked: “The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”

The lawyer defending the ban, Charles J. Cooper, replied, “on that specific question, Your Honor, there simply is no data.”

The studies may be sparse, but the stories are plentiful. The Williams Institute estimates there are at least six million children with gay parents in the United States.

In my interviews, I met Ilana, whose mom unintentionally came out to everyone at her Sweet 16 party. And Zach, who found himself compelled to defend his two moms in front of the Iowa State Senate. And Kerry, who was raised as an evangelical Christian and who felt she needed to “save” her mom.

As we talked, we recalled having to juggle silence and isolation. Needing to defend our families on the playground, at church and during holiday gatherings. Some aspect of each story resonated with my experience and helped me chip away at my own sense of solitude.

While my experience was difficult, I am hopeful that won’t be the case for the next generation. This inequality will fade, and my future children will wonder what the fuss was about.