Stephanie Haynes is the executive director of Philly Family Pride. We spoke with the family advocate on debunking myths about LGBTQ parenting, the upcoming PFP Family Matters conference, and why the community should consider being foster parents.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My wife and I live in West Philly and have twins who just turned 11. We also just celebrated the 21st anniversary of our commitment ceremony! I grew up in Paris, Texas, and then attended the University of Miami in Florida for undergrad, where I majored in music. I’ve been a stay-at-home parent for the past 11 years since our kids were born. Before that, I worked in various capacities for the Public Interest Network running canvass offices, recruiting staff, and managing websites. After being home with my sons for two years, I accepted a part-time position with Philly Family Pride, which I’ve held for the last eight and a half years. We also homeschool/unschool our kids, so we have a lot of fun reading, doing science experiments, and going on field trips to various museums in the region.
You’ve been working with LGBTQ families for years. What has been your general experience so far advocating in Philly?
Philly is a great place for LGBTQ-led families to raise their kids. We have supportive elected officials and local businesses, resources for families, a vibrant LGBTQ community, and lots of kid- and LGBTQ-friendly places to explore. This isn’t always the case outside the city limits, but more and more suburban families are finding welcoming schools, playgrounds, and family services that embrace and celebrate their families.
You’re the executive director of PFP. What are some of the major misperceptions the organization has debunked about LGBTQ parenting in the community?
I think one major focus we’ve had recently is communicating that there isn’t just one or two ways to make a family or one way to be a family. There are PFP parents who create their families through assisted reproduction with sperm donors, egg donors, reciprocal IVF, and surrogacy. There are blended families where the kids were created in a heterosexual relationship before a parent came out as LGBTQ-identified. Families adopt all ages of kids through the foster-care system and use open adoption through a private agency to adopt infants. There are PFP families who have adopted members of their own extended families (kinship adoption) and folks who have co-parent agreements with other adults to create and raise kids. There are families who have some kids brought into their families through one path and other kids brought into their family from another path. PFP also represents more than two-mom and two-dad families. There are PFP families with one parent, two parents, and three or more parents. We have many transgender parents in our group as well.
PFP is having its eighth annual Family Matters conference on October 7th at University of the Sciences. What are some new aspects to the event that attendees can look forward to?
There are several new things to look forward to at this annual event for LGBTQ parents, prospective parents, and our kids of all ages. One thing that’s new is that we’ve changed our fee structure to a flexible, “pay what you can” sliding scale of $1 to $50 per adult. This includes breakfast, lunch, parking, child care, big kid programming by COLAGE, and workshops for adults. Also included this year is a free family photo shoot by photographer Kelly Burkhardt for those attending the event.
For prospective parents, in addition to the regular intro sessions on baby making, adoption, and becoming foster parents, we’ll have a screening of the interactive documentary Building Blocks by PFP parent Laura Zaylea. Other new workshops for parents include “Knowing Your Rights: Protesting and the Police,” presented by the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s transgender advocacy coordinator, Naiymah Sanchez; “Maintaining Intimacy for LGBTQ Parents,” with therapist Jessica Floresta; and “Spiritual Spaces for LGBTQ Families,” led by Lucinda Megill Legendre from Tabernacle United Church. We’re also really excited to have PFP parent, Temple University professor, and author of Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter?, Heath Davis, as this year’s keynote speaker. Heath’s talk is titled “Parenting Through the Bureaucracy of Gender.” More conference info and a complete schedule can be found on our website.
If you only had one case to make for why more LGBTQ adults should become foster parents, what would it be and why?
There is a huge need for foster parents in Philadelphia, and specifically to foster LGBTQ-identified youth. When our youth in the foster system are in homes that don’t support their identities, they may run away and experience homelessness. LGBTQ adults can provide safe, stable, loving homes to these youth and work with their families of origin to help reunite these kids with their birth parents when possible. PFP, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, is holding a series of LGBTQ Foster Parent Recruitment events at the William Way Center this fall. We held our first one last Monday night, and will hold our next two on October 18th and November 15th, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and at William Way.