Tag Archives: Marriage Equality

Confused Children (Or Not…)

What is it about lesbian moms and gay dads that sends thoughtful and rational folks off the rails? I’ve had versions of the following conversations too many times.

Conversation #1

I draw the line at gay parents.”

Why?

“Because the children will be confused.”

Conversation #2

Children need a mom and a dad.”

Why?

Because the children will be confused.

Conversation #3

“It’s one thing to be gay, and another thing to impose it on children.”

Why?

“Because the children will be confused.”

At this point, faced with a National Epidemic of Confused Children, I ask the same question: “Do you know any same-sex parents?” Almost always, the answer is NO.

But I do. I know families with two dads and two moms. Down the line, the kids are quite clear about the identities of each parent, about their own identities, about their places in their families. Of course the kids have issues, and if you’re bound and determined to Blame The Gay, then I can’t stop you. But honestly, all kids have issues; it’s the nature of growing up.

So let’s reconsider. Are these children truly confused?

NO. And YES.

As a parent of three, I’ve seen the world through the eyes of two developing boys and one developing girl. I’ve learned that the world is a confusing place. Why do we eat in one room, but not another? Why are some words fine at home, but forbidden at school? Why do we say “thank you” to a friend for candy, and the same “thank you” to our doctor for a shot? If kicking is wrong, why isn’t soccer illegal? How can bite and sight possibly rhyme, and what in the world is an irregular verb?

Every day presents challenges, and many are confusing. But the issues that confuse a child are not always the same issues that confuse an adult. If you know any kids who have two moms or two dads, then you know that these children are not at all confused by their family constellation. However, other people’s reactions are quite problematic. Other adults look in, hunting with determined tenacity until they find a sign that the child is somehow at risk, or the parents are somehow deficient. The issue here is not a confused child, but rather a confused adult. What confuses the child are the baffling reactions of these adults, and of the children who follow their cues.

Each subculture has its own set of unspoken, unwritten, complex rules and expectations. But same-sex parents are just moms and dads, raising their kids, forming a family. As a mother of three grown children, I can count on parenthood to remain extremely straightforward and totally confusing. I’ll always welcome all parents of any gender to help me figure it out.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, and follows one family’s journey after their daughter comes out. Her second novel, Tightwire, includes a strong friendship between a gay man and a straight man, as well as a two women, a couple raising 2 children, who become role model parents to the main character. Amy’s blog has several posts written in ally support of LGBTQ+. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under family, LGBT, Marriage Equality, parenthood, same-sex parents

Rainbow Cake

On the evening of June 26, 2015, my daughter and 2 of her friends baked a rainbow cake. They chose a complicated checkerboard pattern, which involved fitting smaller cakes into larger cakes, layering them like a 3-dimensional puzzle, using the colors of the rainbow. The project involved precise measurements, strategic food dyes and most important, continuous celebration.

That morning, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld Marriage Equality. Same-sex marriage was finally validated and respected, supported and protected — long overdue, here at last, a constitutional right. When the news hit, my husband shouted for me to come to his study, and pointed to his computer screen. My daughter tore around the house to find me and relay the news. Her friend was visiting, and he barreled into the hallway. We all hugged.

Since then, I’ve found myself thinking about the people I knew as a child, friends of my family, same-sex couples who shared their lives until parted by death. They couldn’t marry, but they paved the way for those who now can. I like to think they’re smiling down on us. I’ll bet the rainbow cake in heaven is ambrosial.

Now, days later, our kitchen has still not quite recovered. A few minutes ago, I stepped on something sparkly and sticky. Earlier today, I found a bit of dried icing spattered on the refrigerator door. I brushed off my shoe, cleaned up the fridge, and smiled.

As they grow older, my daughter and her friends will remember June 26, and each of their stories will be different. One might focus on the chills that ran down her spine as the immensity of this historic moment took hold. Another might grin, recalling how he held the electric mixer too high, and rainbow icing spattered all over the kitchen. My daughter might remember the shot of triumph when she cut the first slice, and saw the perfect checkerboard pattern. Each memory will be both shared and unique, the experience of living history.

Before my daughter’s friends left, I took their picture. As the years go by, when they look at that photo, they’ll think back to June 26, 2015. They’ll all remember standing together, arms thrown around each other’s shoulders, celebrating that their world had just become a better place.

When I look at the photo in the days ahead, I know I’ll think of Marriage Equality and living history. I expect to think about my parents’ friends from my childhood and my own friends from today. I’m pretty sure I’ll remember something sparkly and sticky on my shoe. I’m absolutely certain that I’ll always carry the love radiating from my daughter and her two friends, and the finest cake I’ll ever know.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, and follows one family’s journey after their daughter comes out. Her second novel, Tightwire, includes a strong friendship between a gay man and a straight man, as well as two women, a couple raising 2 children, who become role model parents to the main character. Amy’s blog has several posts written in ally support of LGBTQ+. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Love Is Love, Marriage Equality, SCOTUS

Reading Guides for Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable and Tightwire

Dear Readers,

I’ve received emails from members of book clubs who are reading my novels. Some asked for a reading guide, so I created one for each novel.

When I give talks, my favorite part is opening the floor to questions. Your ideas always kick-start new ways of thinking within me – and I’m grateful. If you want to respond to the reading guides, feel free to contact me through my website. I love hearing from readers, and I try to respond to every message. http://amykaufmanburk.com

For those of you who are including my novel in your book club, in your classroom, on your  personal list of books to read – thank you so much.

Best,

Amy

READING GUIDES

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

1. As the book opens, Caroline has just transferred from a private school to her local public high school and she is terrified.  But from the start, she shows signs of being much more than scared and intimidated. What are the first signs that Caroline has hidden strengths? Have you ever felt strong inside in ways nobody could see?

2. This novel has lesbian and gay characters, as well as straight characters. Each character adds a vital piece to the story. Yet, unlike many books in the “Gay And Lesbian Literary Fiction” category, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable does not offer explicit details of sex. In writing the story, this was a careful choice I made. What do you think of this decision?

3. A theme of my novel is defying stereotypes. Some of the stereotypes in the story are racial, sexual and gender based. Some are about other kinds of assumptions. For instance, what does it say about a person if he/she is a prostitute, the leader of a gang, a cheerleader, extremely academic? Have you ever felt that others stereotyped you?

4. I wrote my book in reaction to the bullying of gay boys that I witnessed in high school. Have you ever been bullied? Have you ever acted as a bully? Have you ever seen another bullied? How did you handle it? Will you handle it differently next time?

5. A subplot in the book is based on growing up in the film industry. Have you ever been in an environment that was a mismatch for your true self? How did you navigate the situation?

6. From the first chapter, Caroline begins to find friends in her new high school. She builds a friendship group that is racially, sexually and economically diverse. Is that sort of diversity important to you?

7. Several high school characters have secrets – Caroline, The Duke, Valerie. Have you ever held a secret inside, that you were afraid to speak out loud? How does it feel to have a secret?

8. Sexual assault should happen to nobody, but it can happen to anybody. This is a subplot in Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable. Have you ever been assaulted? Have you known someone who has been assaulted? Do you have the support you need to heal? (If not, please contact a rape crisis center near you, or talk to a therapist.)

9. When I speak to gay/straight alliances, I often hear stories of adolescents coming out to their families, and getting unsupportive, hurtful responses. I decided to include in my novel one family’s journey to support and acceptance. Have you ever felt unsupported by your family when you most needed support?

I wrote the following blog posts to help families stay supportive and bonded.

“They Came Out And Gay Fills The Room” https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/they-came-out-and-gay-fills-the-room/

“When Your Daughter Or Son Comes Out” https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/when-your-daughter-or-son-comes-out/

“If My Child Came Out As Trans”     https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/if-my-child-came-out-as-trans/

10. Homophobia can show itself in many forms. It can be subtle, damaging, hurtful, deadly. Through different characters, I decided to demonstrate different kinds of homophobia, and model different paths to support and acceptance. Have you ever seen someone move from homophobia to support and acceptance? Have you taken that journey to becoming an ally?

11. Readers often tell me they have picked a favorite character in Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable. Do you have a favorite character from the book? What draws you to that character?

12. Do you have an idea to add to this study guide? I’d love to hear from you! http://hollywoodhighbook.com/?page_id=70

Tightwire

1. Tightwire tracks Caroline Black through her first year as a psychology intern, working with her first patient, Collier. As the book opens, Collier feels hopeless. As the book progresses, he discovers his capacity to heal. Have you ever felt hopeless? Have you found a way to heal? (If you need help, please reach out to the resources in your community.)

2. People have all sorts of ideas about therapy and therapists, and their ideas sometimes include a stigma. I hope this novel shows how helpful a “talking therapy” can be, and helps to diminish the stigma. Did the story make the idea of therapy less “strange,” possibly more comfortable?

3. Sexuality can feel confusing, even terrifying. At one point in the story, Collier (the patient) questions his sexuality. Have you ever questioned your sexuality or your sexual identity? How did you resolve your questions? Are your questions still ongoing? (If you need support, please contact an LGBTQIA center near your home. The Trevor Project is also an excellent organization to offer support. http://www.thetrevorproject.org)

4. Two important characters in Tightwire are Jeanne and Tracy, a lesbian couple with two children, who become role-model-parents for Collier. Have you met a same-sex couple with children? Are you comfortable with that family constellation? Why or why not? (If you’re open to growing more comfortable, maybe Jeanne and Tracy can help!)

5. One theme of this book is that if you’re motivated, it’s never too late to change. Do you have parts of yourself that you’d like to change?

6. Sexual assault can happen in many forms. People can feel a wide range of emotions including violated, betrayed, contaminated, frightened…also guilty, confused, depressed, doubting the validity of their own experience. Sexual assault is a part of this novel, and the survivor’s healing is a central theme. Have you ever had a sexual experience which left you feeling assaulted? Were you able to trust the validity of your experience, even if the assault fell outside the legal definition of “rape”? Have you ever felt safe enough to tell another person? (If you need help healing, please reach out to a rape crisis center or a therapist.)

7. In one session with Collier, Caroline (the therapist) has no idea how to handle the situation, and she makes several mistakes. She is certain that she has torpedoed both the treatment and her career. She expects her supervisor to kick her out of her psych internship, and her patient to quit. But to her surprise, her supervisor is supportive and helpful, and her patient comes back to continue working. What does Caroline do that earns the respect of her supervisor, and allows Collier to return to his treatment? Have you ever made a big mistake, and then been given a second chance?

8. Tightwire is structured with chapters that alternate between Caroline’s sessions with Collier, and Caroline’s life as she grows up. Did you find the structure engaging? Why or why not?

9. Do you have an idea to add to this study guide? I’d love to hear from you! http://amykaufmanburk.com

____

Novels By Amy Kaufman Burk

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her college prep academy for the local public high school, which opens her world. Written in reaction to the bullying of gay students I witnessed in high school.

Tightwire

Caroline Black, now a rookie psychology intern, goes through one year of training, working with her first patient – a young man who is stormy, seductive, complex and troubled. Written in support of healthy sex and sexuality, in support of same-sex parents, and as a voice against the stigma of psychotherapy.

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Ally Support, bullying, LGBT, Marriage Equality, NoMore, psychological, Stereotypes, therapy, writing

Assuming An Ally Must Be Gay

I read a post on Facebook supporting the marriage of two men. Someone commented that while he supported gay marriage, it was time to “stop making such a fuss”. So I wrote, “To respectfully respond, we can ‘stop making such a fuss’ when all 50 states endorse and support Marriage Equality.” The too-much-fuss-person posted another comment saying that “heterosexuals” don’t make a production about being straight, and the rest of us should follow suit.

I was struck by an underlying assumption in his second comment – that anyone who “makes a fuss” in support of Marriage Equality must be gay.

I wrote about this assumption in an earlier blog post called “Speak Gay With Pride”. https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/speak-gay-with-pride/ The piece discusses the derogatory expression “It’s So Gay”, which I’ve heard from some of my children’s friends. I always stopped the conversation, and explained why I don’t allow that expression in my home. Most were polite, but puzzled that I cared. Some assumed I must be gay.

I stepped back from the Facebook exchange because there seemed no point in continuing. Maybe I was wrong. Would the person have given more thought to the issue if I had announced my straight-ness? Did I miss the chance to help someone become a stronger ally?

I don’t have the answer. Maybe there is no answer. But I’ll never stop trying to figure it out.

___ 

Novels by Amy Kaufman Burk

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her college prep academy for the local public high school, which opens her world. Written in reaction to witnessing gay students bullied in high school.

Tightwire

Caroline Black, a rookie psychology intern, goes through one year of training, working with her first patient – a young man who is stormy, seductive, complex and troubled. Written in support of healthy sex and sexuality, in support of lesbian and gay parents, and as a voice against the stigma of therapy.

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

All Love Is Created Equal

I was raised in a home with straight parents, whose friends were bi, straight, lesbian, gay and one trans couple. All were in committed relationships. Most stayed together for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until parted by death.

These couples shared homes, triumphs and failures. They celebrated holidays and birthdays. They went out to dinner, to concerts, to sports events. Sometimes they chose a quiet evening at home, reading by firelight. They formed a group of friends who often gathered in my parents’ home. During good times, they relaxed and celebrated. During tough times, they united in support.

One couple gardened. Another lived at the beach and collected sea glass. A third loved antiques. Can you guess which was the gay couple? The lesbian couple? The straight couple? Does it matter?

I was 8 years old when I discovered that I was supposed to view LGBTQ+ folks and LGBTQ+ love as damaged. I remember saying to my parents, over and over, “It doesn’t make sense.” They agreed. They tried to explain ignorance and bigotry, but I became more confused.

To sort it out, I began an observational research study. For two weeks, I watched my parents’ friends — how they behaved, how they spoke, how they interacted. I asked questions: What’s your favorite color? Favorite ice cream? Favorite song? Favorite pizza? I entered my data in a yellow binder with silver glitter, using a color coded system and a new box of crayons. I pored over my results. After several days, I arrived at my conclusion: I couldn’t find one single significant difference between LGBTQ+ love and straight love.

As an adult, my perspective on many aspects of relationships has changed. I now understand that long-lasting love takes work. I now understand the extremely private, powerfully passionate piece that renews the bond again and again. I now understand that each love is a unique, complex, multi-dimensional tapestry. But the view that LGBTQ+ love is fundamentally different from straight love, that it’s somehow lesser, that it’s a distortion of “real” love – that made no sense to me as a kid, and it still doesn’t.

Back then at age 8 and today at age 59, my conclusion remains the same.

All love is created equal.

_____

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, and follows one family’s journey after their daughter comes out. Her second novel, Tightwire, includes a strong friendship between a gay man and a straight man, as well as two women, a couple raising two children, who become role model parents to the main character. Amy’s blog has several posts written in ally support of LGBTQ+. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon — click on the link to check out Amy’s novels.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Two Weddings And A Novel

I began writing my first novel in 2004, when Gavin Newsom, San Francisco’s Mayor, became a soldier for marriage equality.  For a brief window of time, before lesbian and gay marriages were shut down, same-sex couples obtained licenses and exchanged vows throughout California.  My husband and I were living in Mill Valley, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and we attended two weddings during that pivotal period.

Hillary and Kathy walked down the aisle wearing classic black suits. My husband sang an a cappella Hebrew prayer. The wedding took place before fifty people, in a restaurant, with many guests participating in the ceremony.  I was honored to officiate, standing under a huppa (a hand-stitched canopy).  Hillary stomped on a glass, and the guests yelled Mazel Tov. People heaped their plates from the buffet, and mingled on the deck.

A few weeks later, Trixie dressed in a traditional wedding gown; her bride, Carla, wore a tux. They were married by a judge, in City Hall, with a sit-down dinner for 200 guests.  They walked down the aisle to The Crystals, “Going To The Chapel.”

Carla led Trixie through the first dance, replete with twirls and dips.  They invited “anyone who is married, who couldn’t marry before” to join them. Five couples walked onto the dance floor, two gay, three lesbian. Nobody dancing, not a single person, grew up expecting to marry.  Not one of them took this moment for granted.  The quality of joy was elemental.

At a certain point, both couples toasted their guests.  Curiously, these women, so different in style, chose the exact same words.  “We want to thank all of you for always treating us like a real couple.”

As a straight woman, I never experienced the casual chipping away at the spirit, being treated as less than a full person, less that a real couple.  Now, two couples, four fine people, stood empowered before their loved ones, celebrating their unions, finally recognized as real.

I drove home invigorated, motivated to publish my book.

Then Prop 8 won, shooting down marriage equality.

My reaction surprised me: I stopped publication of my novel.  I knew the book was missing some vital piece, and I was still sorting it out in the summer of 2011, when my family moved to Chapel Hill, NC.  I was immediately drawn to the lush green, the blend of rural beauty and urban convenience.  The emphasis on education and learning matched my own comfortably nerdy style.

Then, in a sick twist of fate, I found myself voting on the losing side of Amendment 1, which banned same-sex marriage and civil unions.  I took comfort in Chapel Hill’s voting overwhelmingly against Amendment 1. Still, I lay awake seething.

The next morning, I knew how to fix my novel.  I had written the road to acceptance for the LGBTQ characters as downhill and paved.  I dirtied up the road, roughening the terrain.  I changed the viewpoints of several characters to travel different paths to becoming Allies.

I hope my book will be read by potential Allies of the LGBTQIA community.  I hope that my characters model options for questioning one’s beliefs, changing one’s mind, rethinking one’s assumptions. I hope that my readers will respect every individual and couple in my story as “real.”

If my novel helps one person become an Ally, I’ll deem my work successful.

____

Novels by Amy Kaufman Burk

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her college prep academy for the local public high school, which opens her world. Written in reaction to witnessing gay students bullied in high school.

Tightwire

Caroline Black, a rookie psychology intern, goes through one year of training, working with her first patient – a young man who is stormy, seductive, complex and troubled. Written in support of healthy sex and sexuality, in support of same-sex parents, and as a voice against the stigma of therapy.

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized