A confluence of people, largely comprised of fathers, gathered near the Alamo recently. It’s a yearly custom, this gathering. The locale changes, but the goal of it does not: to be better fathers to our children.
The name of this collection of creatives and parents is Dad 2.0. They come from all manner of places: cities, rural communities, other countries. A wide array of viewpoints and opinions descend into one place, seeking out camaraderie and experiences together. Whatever someone is looking to glean from this assemblage of talent, they’re bound to find it. Whether from panels, speakers, or conversation amongst the crowd, there’s limitless perspectives and stories to find and hear.
Ordinarily, the stories are what I relish most. This year’s conference did not disappoint. Some stories elicited laughs, others brought tears. The gamut of emotions was run.
This year was special for me, though.
I was given the opportunity to moderate a panel about a topic I’m incredibly passionate about: gender and sexuality, especially as it pertains to raising children. I was even more fortunate to have a stellar panel: Amber Leventry, a non-binary parent with three kids, including twins, one of whom is transgender; Nick North, a trans male who birthed 4 kids before he transitioned and remarried a woman who had a child from a previous relationship; Jillian Zeigler, my wife and mother to a trans son and a non-binary child; and Brent Almond, a gay father with an adopted son that he parents with his husband.
An hour was simply not enough time to cover the enormous swath of territory that encompasses gender and sexuality, especially in these times where kids are able to articulate who they are at earlier and earlier ages. We made due with the time allotted and spent more time with those who had questions afterwards. It was an incredibly informative panel, and one that I’m proud to have been a part of.
This was near the end of the summit, so I had some time to contemplate that panel session, and one recurrent theme was apparent: making space.
Making space for everyone, no matter their gender identity or sexual identity. More importantly, I need to use my privilege as a straight white male to not only make space for our LGBTQ+ friends, but to maintain and broaden that space wherever possible. We all do. Inclusivity is elastic, and if you don’t stretch its boundaries, it will snap back to its original size. We must use our leverage to expand the space we all inhabit as humans so that everyone has a voice. The LGBTQ+ community is strong, but they need our help to combat the ugliness of bigotry that seeks to shrink their voices and the spaces in which they occupy.
It is incumbent upon us as allies to stand beside our LGBTQ+ brethren, and beyond that, elevate them so their voices are heard and respected. We also need to listen, REALLY listen, to what they are saying and what they need, then amplify their message.
It starts with making space. The next step is expanding that space so that they know they’re being heard and respected. The more we push, the more they will be seen as equals by those that seek to quell their demands for equality.
That’s the thing about elasticity; if given enough time and pressure outward, the elastic breaks. Then the space is truly inclusive, and permanently so.