As the world continues to learn more about coronavirus and its spread, it's vital to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. However, it's also important to make sure that the information being distributed is from credible sources. To that end, Between The Lines has compiled, [...]
By Susan Erspamer
As many of you are aware, I have been involved in a very personal matter being played out in a public forum. Custody proceedings relative to my children, my beloved and adored children, are pending in the Oakland County Circuit Court. My first reaction to the case was as a parent, a mom doing everything and anything in the best interest of her children. The stance I took, along with my wife of three years, was informed by deep personal feelings, without a full picture of policy ramifications and what our legal actions meant to the LGBT community, my community, the community I belong to and represent as the executive director of Affirmations. Based on this new understanding, I am using this very public forum to release a statement and share how we are proceeding from here forward.
Between the Lines recently ran a story which primarily focused on one angle and viewpoint; I would like to offer this statement in order to further understanding from my perspective and offer transparency.
I am a private person and have always held my personal life close to me and rarely brought my personal life into the work setting. My wife and I, along with our two children, live a quiet life in Wixom, Michigan where the kids go to school; we socialize with friends and neighbors and live a very inclusive life as members of a wonderful community. Prior to this job, my interaction and utilization of LGBT services and attention to LGBT advocacy efforts was admittedly minimal. I accepted the position as executive director, excited to bring my education and years of professional experience to Affirmations while at the same time learning what services and public policy issues are paramount within the LGBT community.
As a member of the LGBT community, I bring to Affirmations a deep personal knowledge of living many years “in the closet,” searching for acceptance and a place to belong and feel safe to be who I am. I know the pain of growing up as a lesbian youth in the 1970s and 1980s when no resources or services were available to me. I have a personal journey that gives me more insight than any education could have ever afforded me, and when I accepted the executive director position at Affirmations, it was with a passion for a job I have never felt before in my professional career. I was taking the next step in my career and excited about what the future held for me and for Affirmations.
My current legal situation began this past summer. At this time, my wife and I retained an attorney and quickly made a personal decision strictly based on the best interest of our children and upon legal advice from counsel. The children are our number one priority in life, and their health, safety and well-being comes before all else, including our personal feelings. Our goal has been and still is to do the right thing so they grow up to be happy and well-adjusted young adults.
With that being said, the past two weeks have been consumed with personal reflection and outreach to key community members which led to new clarity, understanding and awareness of what our position meant to our community, the LGBT community. My wife and I sought advice from many, including Jay Kaplan from the ACLU, and various other well respected community members. They indicated their support for a change in legal strategy, a strategy that is in the best interest of the children while maintaining my support for a change in legislation that will no longer discriminate against the LGBT community and others.
To put it clearly with continued transparency: I regret the initial litigation strategy undertaken by me through counsel, and after consideration of the policy ramifications, I now understand I must change course and abandon this discriminatory tactic. I have retained new counsel and completely altered my position in this litigation. I have asked my new lawyer, Carol Breitmeyer, to advise my ex-partner’s attorney of my intentions and she has done so. Breitmeyer is an ally to the community who understands our desire to change course and she provided us with thoughtful recommendations on how to proceed.
It is mine and my wife’s intent to enter into private mediation in order to bring this to resolution. I ask for privacy and understanding now as our change in course no longer involves a public policy issue. It is a very private matter involving two wonderful and sensitive children who deserve space as this new unexpected family matter is introduced to them. With this correction in my personal course, I look forward to the focus shifting back to Affirmations.
I am very passionate about Affirmations’ mission and programs and the potential that lies ahead. The needs of LGBTQ individuals and the community as a whole are still great. I am highly committed to making others’ journeys less painful and easier to navigate while generating community support through education and outreach. I will take this personal lesson with me forever as I lead Affirmations into its next chapter. I hope I can count on your support in shaping Affirmations’ future and making a difference.
This next year will be a transition year where we will work to stabilize the organization and position it for growth. The year will include strategic planning and the development of a new three-year strategic plan, establishment of strong internal operations and heightened revenue generation with a focus on diversification of revenue streams in support of Affirmations’ mission. A priority in the strategic planning includes forums for stakeholder and community input and your voice is welcome and encouraged. I ask that you to join me in authoring the next chapter for Affirmations. Together we can make a difference.
Thank you, and I look forward to meeting and working with you this next year.