Gay couples raising kids find a magazine they can identify with.
The hardest part of raising a 9-year-old daughter in a gay partnership, Angeline Acain says, is being open to the public all the time.
Gay parents don’t have the luxury of living under the status quo radar straight parents do; there are school functions, play dates, parent-teacher meetings. Living in a constant spotlight as a gay parent is often a challenge.
With that in mind, Acain started Gay Parent Magazine out of her Forest Hills home.
“At the time there wasn’t much out there as far as resources,” says Acain, who now lives in Rego Park. “I thought it was a good way of connecting gay parents who may feel they’re isolated. The goal of the magazine is to help them feel connected.”
Acain and her partner, Susan, adopted their daughter in 1997 while they were living in Hawaii. Susan, originally a resident of Forest Hills, wanted to give up the Honolulu sun and move back to New York. When the family moved back to Queens in 1998, Acain set up the magazine. Within two hours of its publication, she received an overwhelming positive response from people on the Internet.
The magazine’s content consists of articles submitted by freelance writers and the many articles that Acain writes herself. She says she enjoys running the magazine because of the opportunities for learning about people in similar situations to hers. She focuses much of her energy on interviewing gay parents who are active in churches and religious affiliations, as well as other authors on the subject.
“I had an interview with Dan Savage, who is a columnist for ‘Accepted Life,’” she says. “Personally, that was a very exciting thing to do.”
Gay Parent Magazine is a nationally distributed publication, with a readership of nearly 10,000. The magazine is printed every two months. According to Acain, half of that readership number is based in New York. She says that more and more gay parent couples have been contacting her from around Queens.
“People sometimes see me as a help center,” Acain says. “I have gotten parents who have said their child was rejected from school because they were a gay couple.” In order to deal with such hardships, Acain encourages gay parents to read greatly on the subject and take advantage of the growing number of resources that are available.
Straightforwardness Over Silence
One way Acain has avoided facing such discrimination from public institutions in her own life is immediately revealing the fact that she is a gay parent. Most of her friends are straight couples that have children her daughter’s age. She says they accept her because she approached them openly about her sexuality. Her daughter attends public schools and summer camp at Hillcrest Jewish Center. There, Acain again avoided confusion and secrecy by approaching the principal and the camp’s director from the start.
“As a gay parent, it is very important to be very secure with being out,” Acain says. “Once you have a kid, you have to be out and active. It takes a lot of energy to effectively raise a child. Gay parents must be ready for whatever response they receive.”
One of her main worries as her daughter grows up is the questions that her daughter may face from other kids once she reaches middle school, a phase of childhood that is notorious for being awkward and sometimes outright vicious for any kid. “She’s already 9, so kids ask her about her parents sometimes. She usually replies by saying ‘because that’s the way I wanted it,’ an answer that she came up with herself.”
Acain says the gay community within Queens is a positive one, but needs to be more united. The two community centers in the borough should be conjoined into one entity, she says, so that gays in Queens can feel more solidarity amongst one another.
“Queens can definitely use a few more venues. It seems to be coming together, but it hasn’t yet. In Manhattan, there are a lot more resources for gays and gay couples. Queens has a ways to go, but it’s definitely increasing.”
To learn more about the magazine go to www.gayparentmag.org.
Deborah, Everett and Barbra Ann Perina.
The following is an excerpt from a Gay Parent Magazine interview by Angeline Acain with Barbra Ann Perina, a transgender woman, and her wife, Deborah Matut-Perina, who are raising their son, Everett, in Bellerose.
Deborah: I joined the PTA and people would see that we were a loving family who cared about our son and our home. But once I received a hate letter.
Barbra: An anonymous vehement hate letter was left in Deborah’s PTA mailbox at school. But they made a mistake because they didn’t know who they were dealing with. I made one call to the first deputy commissioner’s office at the police department and that afternoon the entire hate crimes task force took over PS 18. They fingerprinted the teachers, interviewed the parents, the principal was very upset because the task force literally took over the school. They took the letter to forensics and dusted it for prints. They narrowed down the suspects but the suspect family ended up leaving the neighborhood because they realized they were going to get nailed. They never admitted but it was obvious.
Deborah: It was obvious because what was written in the letter were the same things that were actually said to our son, word for word. Because the way we are, Everett can’t understand how kids can hate.
Barbra: Clearly, there are still some areas in Queens that have that Archie Bunker mentality and that’s unfortunate. When we first moved here this was a very blue-collar white Irish Catholic neighborhood, there were no people of color. But over the years there’s been a dramatic change. This is still a blue-collar neighborhood but they are people of all racial backgrounds. It was wonderful to watch the diversity of the neighborhood change and there has not been terrible resistance.
Deborah: We go to nearby Alley Pond Park where they let you run your dogs up until 9 p.m. Everett loves animals.
Barbara: People shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves and be fearful of what other people think. People should be true to themselves because they will be fine. I’m truly blessed. If it wasn’t for the support of Deborah and my friends, I wouldn’t be here today - I would dead. I am an example of what people of trans experience can be if they have that support and choose to be true to themselves. We are a very healthy family, very stable and comfy.
Deborah: People need to realize that everyone is basically the same with all the same feelings. You’ll be surprised at how people will react when you are honest and open.
If you are open and honest, it does make for a better place to live because our kids can grow up and be honest, open, caring and loving and hopefully the hate will go away. It’s tough but it’s something you’ve got to strive to do.