The year 2020 was loaded with so many groundbreaking news stories — of relevance to the LGBTQ community, and otherwise — you could be forgiven for forgetting some of them, or even missing them entirely. (Was it really just this year that Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union proved themselves to be the badass celebrity parenting allies of our queer dreams?)
There's no question that 2020 — which has been scientifically proven to be the longest of our collective lives — has had some incredibly difficult moments for the LGBTQ parenting community. But we also had major victories this year. And even moments of levity. Below is our roundup of these top moments, in chronological order. Did we miss something major? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In January 2020 (also known as the Great Before) we brought you the story of Trystan Reese, a gay, trans dad based in Portland, Oregon, who took to Instagram to share a moving, if incredibly concerning, experience. Reese, who at the time worked with Family Equality Council, was speaking at an event in Boston, and learned before his appearance that a group of protesters were planning to attend.
"As a trans person, I was terrified to be targeted by anti-LGBTQ people and experienced genuine fear for my own safety," Trystan wrote. In response, he did what many LGBTQ people would do in a similar situation — reach out to his community in Boston, and ask for their support. "And they came," he wrote. But it wasn't just anyone within the LGBTQ community that came to his defense, he emphasized — "you know who came? Gay men. Gay dads, to be exact. They came, ready to block people from coming in, ready to call building security, ready to protect me so I could lead my event. They did it without question and without reward. They did it because it was the right thing to do."
Despite all the amazing progress we've made as LGBTQ parents this year, and years previous, there are still day-to-day occurrences that remind us of how far we have to go, still, to have our right to have and raise children respected. Take this instance from February 2020, when James Moed took an Uber with his husband, and their newborn son, to the Marriott Marina hotel in the San Diego area. As their newborn son cried in the backseat of the car, the family's driver offered this piece of helpful advice: "The baby just needs his mother."
Any queer dad has been through this scenario a million times — the dreaded "Where's the Mommy?" question. But even when the dads explained that their son had two fathers, not a mother, the driver "didn't back down," Moed said via Twitter.
Little did the couple realize just how perplexed the driver actually was. At 1:30am in the morning, the couple was greeted by a loud knock on their hotel door. Officers from the Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department were on the other side, demanding to see the couple's identification — and their son's. Read our story from this past February for more.
February 2020 — Pete Buttigieg Becomes First Gay Person (and Aspiring Gay Dad!) to Win Delegates to a Major Party's Convention
Of course, the BIG political news of 2020 is the changing of the guards soon to be happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — out with the notoriously Bye, Don, Welcome, Biden! The incoming administration has promised to be the most progressively pro-LGBTQ in history, vowing to reverse the ban on transgender members of the military, ban conversion therapy, and — important for our purposes — protect and expand the rights of queer people to become parents.
But a more subtle victory this year came in the form of the wunderkind political sensation known as Pete Buttigieg, who, after winning the Iowa causes in February of this year, became the first openly gay man to earn delegates to a major party's political convention. Regardless of whether or not "Mayor Pete" was your preferred candidate, this was a major moment for the LGBTQ community. Pete and husband Chasten aren't dads yet, but we're claiming them as honorary queer fathers anyway — the two spoke openly on the campaign trail about their desire to start a family in the near future and hopes those future kids are "puzzled" that opposition to LGBTQ parenting was ever a thing.
Like many other parents across the country, José Rolón — a single gay dad based in New York — suddenly found himself attempting to juggle working from home, homeschooling children, and generally attempting to stay sane as the world shut down all around him during the early days of the Covid-19 crisis.
We all found ways to cope (hello wine!), but José's method — making adorable and hilarious TikTok videos with his three children while sheltering in place at home — also propelled him to Internet fame. His super relatable posts about life on pause in New York quickly earned him 170,000 followers on Tiktok, who have collective liked his posts over 3 million times. Back in April, we rounded up some of our favorites in this post.
April for this year also brought about a major victory for surrogacy advocates that largely went underreported as our attentions were (rightfully) focused on the escalating health crisis wrought on the country by Covid-19. That month, a years-long battle about the state of compensated gestational surrogacy came to an end in New York when Governor Cuomo signed into a law the Child-Parent Security Act in the 2020 as part of the state budget. The state was one of the last in the country that still criminalized the practice.
The effort stalled in 2019 after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections. The law is set to take effect this coming February 2021.
June 2020 — Racial Justice Movement Forces a Long Overdue Reckoning within the LGBTQ Community
This past June, following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the country experienced the greatest racial justice awakening since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Protests erupted across the country, and world, to draw much needed attention to the treatment of Black people, and communities of color, at the hands of law enforcement.
That this movement occurred during June, typically celebrated as Pride Month in the United States and across the world, also proved fitting — it proved a welcome reminder that Pride parades began as protests, too, over-policing and police brutality targeting the LGBTQ community. The parallels drove many within the LGBTQ community towards a healthy (and long overdue) moment of introspection and realization: all too often, the LGBTQ movement has advanced its work without centering the needs of the most marginalized members of our community — queer, trans and gender nonconforming people of color, who face disproportionately higher rates of violence, discrimination, harassment and death than white cis-gender queer people.
The LGBTQ parenting community — which is itself incredibly diverse along racial, ethnic, gender and family formation lines — took this important moment to reflect as well. At GWK, strive to lift up and celebrate the experiences of queer dads of color, and the many multiracial families, we count in our community. But, of course, we could also do a better job of it — as noted by Joseph Sandusky, who wrote on the need for all parents to gain an education in racial justice, but particularly white gay dads who are raising children of color.
We at GWK proudly reaffirmed our commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement this month, and year— and promise to continue doing so by bring you the stories of lifting up the experience of queer dads and kids of color, and calling out hate and intolerance in all its forms.
Speaking of calling out hate and intolerance, this past June, Steven Arauz — a foster dad who worked at a Seventh-day Adventist School in Florida — was fired from his teaching job at Forest Lake Education Center in Longwood for no other reason than being gay. Steven was out to some colleagues at school, he told the Orlando Sentinel, but was let go after appearing in an article published on our site celebrating him as a foster and adoptive parent and advocate.
Steven’s employer and church, too, repeatedly recognized his leadership and advocacy on behalf of the more than 400,000 children in the foster care system — he appeared on the cover of religious magazines with his adoptive son, and was described by his peers as a “model” foster parent. All this certainly lends credence to the idea that Steven’s sexual orientation has absolutely no bearing on his ability to work with or raise children.
But as soon as Steven took his story to the pages of a publication with the word “gay” in the title, his school had no problem throwing all these accolades out the window — along with the salary Steven used to support the family his employer once so eagerly praised as a model.
We were pained that an article published on our site — one intended to celebrate Steven's accomplishments as a much needed advocate for the country's foster care system — instead resulted in his firing. But we're also inspired to see that Steven is fighting back by taking the opportunity to tell his story.
In November 2020, the Supreme Court — with its newly minted Trump-appointed member, Amy Coney Barrett — heard a case that may end up allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on the basis of so-called "religious freedom".
The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, concerns whether the City of Brotherly Love is allowed to enforce a policy prohibiting anti-LGTBQ discrimination in a contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS), a private, religious foster care agency. In 2018, the city stopped paying the agency to place children in private homes after learning the CSS refused to work with prospective LGBTQ foster parents — a breach of Philadelphia's anti-discrimination policy.
The 6-3 conservative majority on the court, including all three justices appointed during the Trump years, appeared sympathetic to the argument. Justice Brett Kavanaugh called Philadelphia’s position “absolutist” and “extreme,” while Justice Barrett offered a bizarre false equivalency, suggesting the city's decision to enforce its anti-discrimination policy was akin to the government "taking over" a hospital and forcing doctors to perform abortions. These, unfortunately, are the legal minds that will be hearing cases concerning LGBTQ rights for the foreseeable future. Either way, the court's decision — which we will received by June this coming year — will surely end up in our 2021 round up as well.
In December 2020 we received much more encouraging news from the Supreme Court when the nation's highest judicial body decided not to review a case, Box v. Henderson, which sought to allow the state of Indiana to refuse to place two mothers on their child’s birth certificate. Advocates breathed a bit easier thanks to this pro-LGBTQ decision from an increasingly conservative Supreme Court.
"Today’s Supreme Court decision once again affirms that marriage equality under Obergefell v. Hodges means that married same-sex couples are entitled to be treated equally under the law," said Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign. "We refuse to allow our love to be treated any differently under law, and will fight to make sure skim-milk marriage never becomes the law of the land."
This wasn't the only surprising pro-LGBTQ decision to come from a court that hasn't so much as tilted but lurched to the right under the Trump administration. This past June, in a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the country's 1964 Civil Rights Law prohibits employers from discriminating against their workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The ruling caught many by surprise, particularly coming from a court that hasn't so much as tilted but lurched to the right under the Trump administration.