ANN ARBOR – With two recent bills proposed this month that attack LGBT parenting, “Love Makes A Family,” an exhibit highlighting LGBT families, travels across Michigan, stopping at universities, the Detroit Public Library and the State Capitol.
“We’ve got the heat turned up on our families,” said Sean Kosofsky, Triangle Foundation’s director of policy.
At the opening reception on April 4 on the University of Michigan’s campus, LGBT families and allies showed their support for “Love Makes A Family.” Diana and Nikki Klein brought their children, Elijah, 2, and Jonah, 7 weeks.
“We have always had our family be out,” said Diana, front chair for the Lesbian Moms’ Network in Ann Arbor. “Hopefully other families will see that we’re just like everyone else’s family.”
Susan Wilson, director of the Office of Student Activities and Leadership for U-M, and partner Bob Fisher, both featured in the U-M family division of the exhibit, sang an a cappella version of their song “Love Makes A Family.”
“What makes a family a family? If you’ve asked that question, I’ve got a suggestion, the answer is destined to come down to people…love makes a family, love makes a family,” they sang.
Jackie Simpson, interim director for U-M’s office of LGBT affairs, spoke during the gala. “At a time in history when LGBT people continue to fight for basic human rights including the right to legally marry, the right to lead a boy scout troop, the right to have access to partner health benefits … but also the right to be adoptive and foster parents, ‘Love Makes A Family’… helps cut through all of the political arguments right to the heart of the issue, that it really is love that makes a family,” Simpson said.
The exhibit, which features photographs and personal stories of LGBT members and their families, is intended to open up minds. “This exhibit seeks to challenge and change damaging stereotypes about LGBT people and their families,” Simpson said. “At its most basic level ‘Love Makes A Family’ combats homophobia by breaking silence and making the invisible visible by encouraging people of all ages … to affirm and appreciate diversity and ultimately make the world a better place for everyone.”
“Love Makes A Family” travels through the state during what’s considered Michigan’s Month of the Young Child. With many schools and businesses celebrating families, Shannon Cuttle, organizer of A Celebration of Diversity Across Michigan, advocated celebrating every family structure.
“We have to remember that families are diverse and that they need to include in their celebration gay and lesbian families,” said Cuttle, director of Lavender Playhouse. “I think it’s really important in the month of April that ‘Love Makes A Family’ does tour Michigan.”
Diana hopes that no matter what, the exhibit will challenge people’s opinions about her family and other LGBT families, basing their views on a visual and not just conversation. “[I hope others] will see this exhibit and put faces to the situations and see that it’s not this awful, horrendous, horrible thing,” she said. “We’re excited about it. We’ve got hope that it’ll make a difference.”
Kosofsky believes polling has made LGBT people and their families a target for right-wing conservatives. “They know our families are fragile; they know our families are not strongly supported by our communities,” Kosofsky said. “So this exhibit does exactly what we need it do, which is to put an actual face on our families and show that the sky is not going to fall and the world is not going to collapse around us if we see images of gay and lesbian families.”
Remaining dates for the “Love Makes A Family” exhibit: April 13-14 – Grand Valley State University
April 17 – Michigan State University
April 18 – Family Lobby Day State Capitol, Lansing
April 19 – State Capitol, Lansing
April 20 – Central Michigan University
April 25 – Eastern Michigan University
April 27-29 – Detroit Public Library Main Branch