Celebrate LGBTQ+ Families Day on June 1 with PrideVMC
June 1 isn’t only the kickoff to Pride Month; it’s also a holiday in its own right: LGBTQ+ Families Day.
Now in its eighteenth year, the holiday began as a blogging event to encourage LGBTQ+ parents to connect and share what they were going through—because while all parents will have certain common experiences, there are joys and tribulations that are specific to families in the LGBTQ+ community.
Today, LGBTQ+ Families Day has grown into something much bigger, and to celebrate, PrideVMC (along with sponsors Zoetis and Boehringer Ingelheim) will be co-hosting a virtual LGBTQ+ Parents Panel for members of the community, as well as anyone who wants to be an ally.
Daniel Edge, DVM, MBA, MSc, director of petcare medical affairs at Zoetis, will join the panel—and he does so with enormous gratitude for the opportunity to share his experience as a parent in the LGBTQ+ community.
He said he’s excited that the discussion will include the voices of people who’ve taken a variety of paths to parenthood such as adoption, surrogacy, and more.
Edge and his husband, AJ, both work at Zoetis and were recently named “working parents of the year,” a recognition that he couldn’t have dreamed of receiving when he was younger. “Never, ever as a kid did I think I’d be able to be married legally, or that I’d ever get to have kids,” Edge said.
Although he now lives in a north New Jersey neighborhood with lots of other LGBTQ+ folks, his family’s journey was far from simple—and it’s one he believes is important to share.
Continuing to pave the path
When the Edges adopted their children, who are now 12 and 17, they lived in North Carolina.
“Both of us couldn’t [adopt them together] because legally, we weren’t recognized as a couple, even though we were married in Iowa,” Edge said.
They decided to have Daniel proceed with the adoption solo. Then, in order to secure AJ’s parental rights to their children, “We literally had to move our family back to Iowa and jump through legal hurdles,” he said. “That’s a challenge that a lot of other people just don’t have to think about.”
While parents today are unlikely to need to take those measures thanks to national marriage equality legislation, remembering that these were real issues not so long ago matters. “We’ve had challenges before,” Edge said. “There are people a generation or two ahead of us that were doing this, back when we were little baby gays, and the people ahead of us had to deal with even bigger challenges.”
He is inspired by the battles fought and won by the LGBTQ+ community to smooth the way for his family. “There’s a path they’ve paved for us,” he said, “and we have to continue to pave the path for those behind us.”
Helping children live their truth
Edge said the panel will also discuss challenges faced by children within the LGBTQ+ community, whether they identify as part of it themselves, or because they come from two-mom or two-dad homes.
“We want them to be authentic, be themselves,” he said, “and they want to be authentic, and not feel like they need to hide who they are.”
But living their truth—and their family’s truth—can come at a mental health cost, especially for kids in areas with a small or less-visible LGBTQ+ community, or in parts of the country where anti-LGBTQ+ views are often heard in the state legislature (and on the news). “How do we prepare them for that?” Edge said. “How do we mitigate their anxiety, especially now that they have access to so much news through social media?”
Celebrating the joys
While challenges like this will be addressed in the panel, Edge is quick to point out that this event won’t be a downer—it’s also meant to celebrate the joys of parenthood, as well as the common experiences sustained by anyone helping a child become his, her, or their best self.
“We want this to be an open conversation about what it’s like being a parent,” he said.
To ensure a variety of parenting experiences are represented, the panel consists of individuals representing numerous identities within the LGBTQ+ umbrella who are parents of children of all ages.
“We have challenges that are going to be common to anyone,” he said, “but we also have challenges that are very unique in the sense of how we form our families and how we protect our families.”
As for who’s invited to the LGBTQ+ Parents Panel, Edge said that he considers it an open invitation to those within the LGBTQ+ community and allies, alike.
“The more you know about a community that you're wanting to support, the better you can support them,” he said. “I think we'd love any and all people to come in, be part of it, and to spread the word.”
And he hopes people don’t stop there this Pride Month.
“It’s easy to just do social media, and that’s great—follow diverse voices, amplify diverse voices.” But if you’re able, go beyond what’s easy and comfortable. Consider joining (or starting!) an advocacy group at your workplace, he suggests, and look for ways to get involved in events centering around diversity in your area.
“Be active and vocal,” he said.
PrideVMC LGBTQ+ Parents Panel Details
The LGBTQ+ Parents Panel will take place on Thursday, June 1, on Zoom from 7:00pm–8:00pm Central Time. Register in advance for the event here.
In addition to Daniel Edge, other panel participants will include:
- Aaron "AJ" Edge, MBA (he, him)
- Donja Pettiford (she, hers)
- Ewan D.S. Wolff, PhD, DVM, DACVIM (SAIM) (they, them)
- Jennifer Neal, DVM (she, her)
- Kate Toyer, BVSc (she, hers)
- Nathanael Oster, VMD, MBA (he, him)
- with facilitator Ginger Templeton, DVM, MS, CPC (she/her)
Photo credit: © malerapaso E+ via Getty Images Plus
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