Book reports. “Twilight” fan fiction. Tweets to One Direction.
These are things you might expect the average 12-year-old to write.
But Emma is not your average kind of kid. She spent her last summer writing a 1500-word essay about the wedding of her gay dads Ben and Chet, an article that wound up featured in the October issue of “Lavender,” a Minnesota LGBT magazine, and shortly afterwards on Advocate.com. Emma, now 13, is as articulate and precocious on the phone as she is in her thoughtful, heartfelt writing. She told Gays With Kids that she had a very simple, earnest reason for sharing her story.
“When I look around, I realize that not everyone is accustomed to the idea of gay marriage,” said Emma. “I thought that hearing the point of view of the kids might help them think about things — and realize that it’s really not that different.”
It’s the universality of love that Emma (photo above, center) emphasizes in her story, which she began outlining shortly after Ben and Chet’s June wedding. Sure, she covers the details of the ceremony – from the sparkly dress on her back to the butterflies in her tummy as she walked down the aisle to watch her dads say their vows. But it’s the overriding sense of joy and familiarity that she reiterates for her readers again and again.
“I don’t know if I expected it to feel any different as a ‘gay wedding,’” wrote Emma, “but at this moment it just feels like the best wedding in the world."
Her dads couldn’t be prouder of her sentiment. “It’s incredible. Seeing the level of emotional maturity with which she approached it is heartwarming in and of itself,” says her dad Ben, who had Emma and her little sister, Sophia, during a 14-year marriage with his ex-wife. Today the blended brood includes a youngest child, Dominic, whom Chet had adopted with an ex-husband. The sweet family of five live a pretty normal day-to-day existence in St. Louis Park, a Minneapolis suburb. But Ben has been happy to see Emma’s story spread far and wide on social media, delivering a loving family portrait to every corner of the country — and the globe. “In terms of the bigger picture, she [Emma] recognized the fundamental importance of the role that we all have in contributing to a dialogue,” says Ben, who has even received messages from particularly oppressive cultures in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, who had come across their inspiring family story.
Of course, there are plenty of people here in America who could benefit from Emma’s message. It's something that Ben and Chet know all too well. Both grew up in the Midwest in conservative, religious families, and both experienced difficulties in their own coming-out processes. Chet was outed to his parents during first semester of college, when they took it upon themselves to read his journal. He says extended family members who came across Emma’s story have sent him loving feedback. But despite extending opportunities to reconnect – sending Christmas cards and flowers, for instance — he hasn’t been able to have a close relationship with his parents in many years. Their absence at his wedding did not go unremarked upon.
“As I look at all the faces in the room, I start thinking about Chet’s parents and others who have chosen to not come to our wedding,” wrote Emma in one particularly touching passage. She elaborated: “I wish they would want to see Chet and my dad make a commitment to each other. I feel sad because they are missing this important moment in their son’s life. I wish they could find it in their hearts to meet me and my sister. They are still my new family even if I never get to meet them. They are a part of Chet so I still will love them either way, because I love Chet.”
Ben faced his own challenges. He grew up knowing he wasn’t like other boys, and the constant feeling that he was always doing something wrong led to emotional insecurities that were tough to shake. But after the birth of his second daughter, Sophia, he realized that he couldn’t be a role model to his children or reach his full potential as a partner and professional, if he didn’t live a fully honest life. “For all those years, I believed the world was holding me captive,” says Ben. “Then, one day I realized that no matter how awful those real, oppressive factors were, the only person really holding me back was myself.”
Today Ben and Chet are great dads to their children according to Emma, who says she was never bothered by the fact that her dad is gay, because she realizes how happy he is now. And now, her story about her parents’ wedding is finding support from all over the country. Emma says she’s only received positive feedback about her piece, even from former classmates at a previous school “up north in the sticks,” where she was once a bit nervous about disclosing that she had two gay dads. But, she figures, maybe that’s not so surprising considering that more and more kids feel that being gay has become a non-issue.
“I know about the struggles that my dads have gone through,” says Emma, who hopes to turn her writing talents into a future career as a newspaper or magazine editor with a commitment to LGBT advocacy. “I’m so happy with the way that my generation is moving.”
If only all of them had such a way with moving words.