Erika lives in Spokane, Washington. Her stories appear in several publications so hip you've probably never heard of them. When her university refused to recognize equality for LGBT students and staff in 2005, she took to the school paper to challenge the administration's decisions. She's been writing ever since.
When he started his adoption journey a decade ago, Benjamin Carpenter was the youngest gay adopter ever in his municipality. Now, the 31-year-old single dad has four kids and is considering adopting a fifth.
As soon as Stefan came out at 16, his mother sent him to Mexico City to live with relatives. When Stefan returned, she made him live in the basement. His mother and father, who were separated, had been fighting with each other for years in custody battles over who had to take him.
When Evan McCormick forgot his son's lunch at home, he went back for it after dropping him off.
He arrived back at school and walked up to the classroom to find the lights were off. In one corner of the room, the teacher sat under a reading light with a book, surrounded by all the children. All the children except his 3-year-old son Elias.
McCormick finally spotted Elias in the far corner of the room, playing alone behind a bookshelf in the dark.
Incensed, the adoptive stay-at-home father called the school and demanded a meeting with its administrators.
“My initial thought was, 'She's ignoring my child because he's black. He's the only black child in there.'" He walked into the meeting prepared to raise hell. Instead, he left in tears.
McCormick had begun to notice small things about a year prior. Elias's temper tantrums were intense. He increasingly resisted going to school. He didn't seem to be speaking as much as he should.
When McCormick researched the symptoms online, autism would frequently appear in the results. Still, doctors said Elias was developing normally. McCormick and his husband, Jeremy Goldbach, didn't have enough experience with babies to really know what healthy development looked like.
“This was our first child," McCormick says. “We didn't know what was normal for temper tantrums."
Sitting in the meeting, prepared to accuse the school of failing his child, McCormick heard it from someone else for the first time: Elias might be showing early signs of autism.
The couple was devastated.
“When somebody turns the light on all of these things that we thought were so small and you think, 'How was I so stupid? How did I not see this?'" McCormick says. “You feel a lot of guilt. I think my husband did too."
Goldbach-McCormick family photo with Santa: Jeremy (left) with Holland on his lap, and Evan holding Elias