Photographer Gabriela Herman amplifies the voices and experiences that come with same-sex parenting
Political rhetoric has the tendency to make dire issues feel distant and unconnected. Same-sex families are too often victims of this effect, with academics, activists and judges burying their voices in undesired opinion. How often do we hear from the voices of kids of LGBTQ families? Photographer Gabriela Herman will tell you not often enough and her recently released photo book The Kids: The Children of LGBTQ Parents in the USA propels kids of queer families firmly into the spotlight.
The project features 75 portraits of kids from LGBTQ families across America including New York, Boston, LA, Chicago, Miami and Kansas city. “This is the most personal project that I've ever done that almost came out of necessity,” says Herman. “My mum came out when I was in high school and for me, it was a very traumatic experience. It didn’t just disrupt the family but it was also the gay component at the time was very unheard of. I didn't know a single other person that had a gay parent. It was just traumatic in the sense that I was so angry at my mum. I didn't talk to her for a while. We never really dealt with it, but it very much affected me.”
“Stigma happens when people just don't know. If you grow up in a rural town and you've never even met a gay person, the unknown is very scary for some people” – Grabiele Herman
Not only a projection of unheard voices, The Kids is an exploration of the complexity of family structures that persists no matter the sexual orientation of its parents. “Most people just think of a mum and a dad and their two kids or whatever, but all of these subjects show such a range of family structure. For instance, one of the last people I photographed was this woman who had been raised by two gay fathers. The hardest thing to find (to photograph) was people who were raised from birth by two gay dads – it was definitely the least common. But she was born with the sperm of one of her dads and then the egg of the other dad's sister so she actually has the DNA of both her two dads. And that was such an amazing story. She was the 80th person I had interviewed and it was so interesting to come across that at the end.”
The Kids' wider importance is the way in which it challenges stigmatisation faced by kids of LGBTQ parents globally and also how society can work to silence the discrimination. “In my experiences, there is the conservative right-wing argument that gay parents make gay kids and that is seen as a negative thing. Obviously, I don't buy into that at all, I think it’s silly.”
For Herman, education and exposure are the strongest weapons in the battle against queer discrimination. “Stigma happens when people just don't know. If you grow up in a rural town and you've never even met a gay person, the unknown is very scary for some people. When it becomes more common and you have more interactions with people, you realise that we are just like everyone else. As more and more kids come out about their parents or there are more and more queer families raising children, I think it will become easier.”
Below we meet three faces from The Kids.
Adrian was raised in Pembroke Pines, FL by his dad and mom who came out when he was in college.
"One Thanksgiving, I came home from college and there was this other woman living in the house. My dad had already sort of moved out... So it was like, I didn't know if I was walking on eggshells or walking on a bombshell... My parents are immigrants – my mom is from Jamaica... On my dad's side of the family, we have Jehovah's Witness and black immigrants. Add all that to the mix.”
Molly was raised in Worcester, MA by her mom and dad who transitioned when she was 14.
“It was the eighties, and it had not been on Oprah... We're from a very progressive, liberal Democratic family, but this just seemed so bizarre... It was very disruptive to my family... it became clear after a while that my dad felt like she couldn't fully be herself and be in our family...”
Jamie was raised outside Chicago by her mom and various partners.
“I actually got in a fight with a kindergarten substitute teacher who insisted that I must have a dad, because everyone has a dad. We were making Father's Day cards, and I was adamant that I did not have a dad. She didn't believe me.”
You can find out more about The Kids: The Children of LGBTQ Parents in the USA here