The ladies over at Lesbian Family are up to great things supporting two Mom households with a way to connect, learn, and inspire one another. I recently had the chance to connect with founder, Liza Barry-Kessler and learn a bit more about her and the site. As part of my ongoing committment to bring you thoughtful interviews with other successful lesbians, read on to learn more about Liza and Lesbian Family…
What was your inspiration to start Lesbian Family?
My original inspiration was this: When I got pregnant, I became suddenly obsessed with finding other pregnant lesbians and other women who were due around the same time as me.
Eventually, I found a few “ttc” lesbians with great blogrolls, but I always seemed to be missing someone or something interesting. I also found the wonderful Babes in Blogland , which I think strives to list every ttc/adoption/pregnant blog on the Internet. (And she’s got a great list of parenting blogs, too.)
Shana, the founder, and I became friendly — that’s when I realized that what I really wanted to do was create a similar easily sortable portal for lesbian families.
She’s is a straight SAHM with 3 little kids, not the stereotype of a GLBT-supporter, but she has been fabulous. Not only is she explicitly inclusive of our families on her site, but she also designed LesbianFamilies and created the adorable rainbow spoon logo. She also hosts LesbianFamily.org forums on Babes in Blogland.
What kind of experience do you have/did you have before starting the site?
I’d been blogging on my personal blog since January 2005, and on a short lived corporate security technology blog that my company ran for about 6 months. I’m in the Internet industry, but I’m not a programmer or a designer. When I was struggling to design LF myself, it was horribly, horribly ugly. 🙂
What is your long-term vision for LesbianFamily.org – what do you most want to have happen as the impact of your work?
My vision is all about connecting people. One of the best things about the Internet is how it can help people anywhere find other people with whom they have common interests. Lesbian families in big cities may know other lesbian families, but LesbianFamily.org offers that — easily — to lesbian families everywhere. And not just other lesbian families, but other lesbians with teenagers, or toddlers, or twins, or in interracial families.
We also want to recognize our extended families and the wonderful “friends of the family” whose support we depend on — so I want to be easily findable by the Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, etc, not just the lesbian parents.
How has being out affected your career and life both on the job and off? What has been the biggest benefit? The biggest challenge?
This is a great question!
For the most part, I think being out has been good for my career. I’m good at making people who haven’t been exposed to a lot of out lesbians comfortable, able to see it as “no big deal.” This translates at work to being able to handle difficult conversations and sensitive issues with a comfort level that not everyone can bring.
The biggest single benefit is being able to be who I am. Several years ago, I started a new position about 6 weeks before my wedding. When I got back from my honeymoon, my new co-workers had decorated my cubicle with “just married” balloons and streamers, and pitched in on a gift. If I’d been closeted, I would never have had this touching, human moment with them. And rather than being happy for my new marriage, many of them would never have had the opportunity to get to know a happily married lesbian. (Incidentally, I use the term “married” here, but this was not a legally recognized wedding.)
The challenge is that there are people who can’t quite get past their own homophobia. They get stuck being uncomfortable, and bring forth that discomfort in a sort of constant awkwardness. (Or worse.) I did have a manager like that once, but fortunately, not for very long.
I recommend that everyone at least consider coming out at work. Not only does it make a huge difference in your life, and in your relationships with your colleagues, but it also makes a difference for all the rest of us. When you come out, the people whose lives you touch no longer think they don’t know anyone gay, or that all gay people are XYZ.
What keeps you going on the tough days?
My partner and our son. Knowing that I can come home and get a hug and a smile from them makes it worth while.
Also, being able to talk through my frustration or aggravation. Or blog about it, when that’s appropriate. I subscribe to the idea that “joy shared is doubled, sadness halved.”
What are your top three measures of success?
- Is my partner’s life working for her?
- Am I happy/fulfilled?
- Am I making a difference?
- (Bonus) Am I being appropriately well compensated for what I do?
Number 1 really is my #1. I took a vow to cause her life to work for her, moment by moment, for the rest of our lives.
The amazing thing is that my own life works much better when I keep her life working for her front and center in my priorities. It’s when I start getting all “me me me” that my own life actually gets difficult or stressful. Really. In fact, if you are having relationship difficulties, I recommend trying this on as an experiment for a week — not both of you, not “I’ll do it if you do it,” just you.
What is the wildest success story you can imagine for your business’ future?
That I make a fabulous living on my writing.
What brings you the most joy personally or professionally?
Professionally (both in my job and my writing), it’s when I know that I’ve made a difference. Personally, when family is laughing and being silly together, just being in the moment.
How can people learn more?
Come visit! Visit Lesbian Family on the web at http://www.lesbianfamily.org
Liza Barry-Kessler, Founder of LesbianFamily.org, is an attorney, writer, and mother. She and and her partner have been together for five years and have a one year old son.
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