Jennifer Schumaker

I am a lesbian mother of four. Although I had my children as a result of a now-dissolved hetero marriage, my creation of an LGBT family is no less real. As I remark on that, I add to it my respect and admiration for all of you creating your families through extraordinary means. I honor the joy, pain, success, and struggles I’ve witnessed my friends go through while lovingly bringing their families into being.

Jennifer ShumakerNot only am I a lesbian mommy, I have the honor of shepherding a gay son as he grows. Our “outness” and our pride–not just mine and my gay son’s, but all of ours as a family–is a miracle; though I am aware all the while that the way we are able to embrace ourselves and one another for who we are must become the rule, rather than the exception. I hope that by sharing one of our family stories with you, that evolution may be served in some small way.

When my youngest son was five years old, he made the most amazing statement. His siblings and I were watching a movie, and the theme of marriage came up in some way cursory to the plot. My son stood up on the couch, spread his arms wide and announced loudly, “I’m never getting married. I’m gay.”

Wow! What a moment. And the whole nuclear family (their other nuclear family is with their dad) was witness to it. Let’s unpack this incredible declaration. First, my son knows that there are different ways to be, to be in love, to feel toward others of the various sexes/genders. We have always had that diversity in our lives, far before I understood my own, dear sexual orientation. So here is this boy, who did already appear quite different from his brothers in many ways, and he tells that as far as he can discern, it means he’s gay. It certainly seemed to fit. And in case, dear reader, you are experiencing something that crops up repeatedly when I share my son’s revelation from age 5; in case you are feeling pulled into the mighty trap of a reaction something like this: “Five years old? How could you know?” Let me tell you something that I’ve found helpful, and has gotten me out from under hours of excruciating exegesis in the description of how, naturally, our sexual/affectional orientations develop, from birth, from infancy, from who we are, not from imminent sexual expression.

Here’s what I’ve said over and over and what has proven quite helpful: “My son who is 9 has been convinced since he was 5 that he likes girls; that he’s straight, that he wants to grow up and marry a woman someday.” Here I receive a rather blank stare that I interpret as the listener wondering why I am stating something so obvious, so eternal, why, after all, would you point out that tomorrow the sun will, in fact, rise? On the heels of my statement about my very, very hetero-boy, I say just as matter-of-factly, “My 7-year-old has been convinced since he was 5 that he likes boys, that he is gay, that someday he wants to grow up and be with a man.”

Let me tell you, putting the two sexual orientations on equal footing is nothing short of revolutionary for most of us, gay and straight alike. My simple two little sentences expose how deeply we have ALL been trained to view non-hetero identities as a default setting only to be considered when the “main” orientation starts to seem not to fit. But guess what? My children, like a few others in this stage of social and psychological evolution, have been raised to see all the possibilities on an equal plane, so the possibility of naturally growing into their sexual orientations is just there, waiting for the unfolding.

Shumaker FamilyAmazing. Wonderful. Cutting edge. Evolved. All those qualities were there in his epiphany. Then there’s that other thing. Here was a kindergartener with his arms out to embrace the world, and his words stating what he already knew to be inexorably true: marriage was not to be his. We, as a culture, had already taught him that this esteemed—if flawed—cultural and personal institution was open only to people in heterosexual relationships. With this profound and ultimately changeable reality looming over my young son, I find the strength and impetus to do what I can to bring the change that will envelop him and all LGBT youth in fullness. We will offer them and have reflected back to us full personal and social evolution, and full participation in every arena of life that expands our experiences of life and love.

As I walked from one small town to another on my 500 mile Walk for Togetherness this past summer and faced the most difficult day on my, my belief in the transformations that are coming from our work for wholeness brought me into a place of vision. I saw my son’s future in a shroud of absolute acceptance. I created a fantasy, but with an eye to the reality that is and will be. My fantasy did not touch on marriage, but as you read, you will see that it addresses the milestones that our young people reach and we as the passers of culture witness.


Month of May, 10 years in the future:

My youngest son comes home from school one beautiful Spring day, excitedly telling me that he finally got up the courage to ask the boy he likes to the prom, and the boy said “yes!”

Soon, we are shopping for a tuxedo, and since I am not too good with “bling,” my son asks his older sister to come along, to my pleasure and relief. Since my son has the same favorite color he’s had since he was five, I’m sure we will end up with shiny gold cumberbund, tie, and hankie. His sister tries to talk him into fuchsia, her favorite color, but he has his heart set on gold. We find a beautiful white dinner jacket and black tux pants, but alas, the accessories at the shop are too tame. My boy wants… sparkle. So after the fitting, we head to the fabric store. My son and daughter flit about the bolts of metallic fabrics, then seek advice from the clerk, who knows which dazzling gold materials can be turned into bow ties and their mates. The clerk asks if I will be doing the sewing. After my kids and I wipe the tears of laughter from our eyes, we get a referral for a good garment crafter.

A few days before the prom, my son finds out what his date—let’s call him Juan—is wearing and we pay a visit to the florist. Juan’s got a more understated style and is going with the traditional black tie ensemble. My son picks out a classic deep red rose with white baby’s breath and a white satin bow.

On the big night, Juan comes to our house and I take picture after picture as my son adorns his date’s lapel, and receives his own boutonniere–a white carnation tipped in burgundy on a bed of green and tied with a sparkling gold bow. They pose outside in front of the fan palms and red bougainvillea and I take more pictures. They are stunning together. They are enamored of their dressed up/grown up trappings. But to my eye, their attire is far outdone by their youthful, expectant smiles.

Next, I chauffeur the boys to meet their friends. (Yeah, right, mommy driving them to the prom… hush, it’s my fantasy.) I pull into the valet area of the Hotel del Coronado and the elegant prom-goers disembark, but not before both have thanked me gratefully and sincerely for the ride (like I said, it’s my fantasy). I watch them flow, couple by couple, into the lobby to join their classmates, headed for a night to remember.

As I pull away, I have only (only?) the usual mom worries: will they have fun? If any ex-boyfriends are there, will they all behave well and avoid drama? If they go to the after-party, will they skip the alcohol, or if not, have a designated driver, and call me to say where they are going, and call me for a ride if needed, as they’ve promised? Will they behave with respect for themselves and one another, heeding at least some of what I’ve tried to teach about self-esteem, health, and safety?

These worries are worries enough. It’s nice to know that we have finally created a world where parents of all kids share in these common concerns, but no longer under the weight of anxieties that stem from bigotries gone-by. I head home for a night of sitting up, pretending to sleep, jumping for the phone, and getting a real breath only when that door opens and closes and I hear my son’s footsteps on the stairs. I fall asleep, hoping and dreaming that this was but one in a series of wonderful milestones in the life of my “baby.”


We have 10 years to make this a fantasy a reality for my son, and for millions of others. I believe that together, we can make it come true.

I hope that sharing like this through The Rainbow Babies, we are creating this world full of events: pregnancies; first steps; finalized adoptions; birthdays; family dinners; proms and weddings. All this, without limits for all of our children, born and unborn, however they come to us and whatever the make-ups of our Families of Love.

Visit my website: Walk For Togtherness

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