Growing up, my family always felt like an anomaly. My sisters and I were born into a two-parent heterosexual household, but around the time I turned 11 years old, our mom met the love of her life — the woman who would become our step-mother. Representation and visibility were scarce. That's why I couldn't be more ecstatic that This Is Us star Mandy Moore opened up about her nontraditional family recently. It took me a long time to meet another kid who grew up with two moms (or dads, or in a family that wasn't built on the cishet traditional dynamic for a long time.
Moore —who I love beyond measure — spoke with People about her hit NBC show, This Is Us, and how its celebration of the nontraditional family reminds her of her own in a lot of ways. According to People, Moore's mother left her father for another woman when the multi-talented star was 23 years old. She also has two brothers, both of whom are gay.
The 33-year-old singer and actor told the magazine of her "extraordinarily close" family,
As a teenager, I didn't see or meet other families that look like mine, whether in real life or television. The closest representation I had was Friends, Ross Geller's ex-wife Carol Willick was set-up to be played for homophobic laughs, rather than part of an honest representation of a two-mom household. And I spent most of my time in high school and undergrad defending my family and its right to exist in the way that it does. If I had a nickel for all the times I've had to say, "My moms didn't ruin me," I could own at least 10 mansions.
That's why I become excited every time a celebrity around my age opens up about having two moms or growing up in a way that bucks tradition. Their stories lend visibility to a family structure that has become increasingly common over the decades since I was a preteen. Kids today are being raised by more nontraditional families than ever before — and I don't just mean in same-sex households like mine.
According to the Pew Research Center, only 46 percent of kids younger than 18 years old are being raised by two married heterosexual parents. That means more than half of children are living in households that don't look like the Cleavers on Leave It To Beaver. Today, you have children being raised by two dads, a trans mother, multiple parents, a single parent, two grandparents, former lovers-turned-friends, or in a blended household. Sure, nuclear families still exist, but they don't look the same as they once did.
And that's wonderful. A healthy and supportive family is not contingent upon whether or not there is a husband and a wife. It's not contingent upon whether there are 2.5 kids and a house with a backyard and white picket fence. A loving family is only contingent upon the people who love each other, whether that means being raised by two moms, a single dad, or with three parents under one roof.
Of course, there's a segment of anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ people who will say that your family is a sin for not subscribing to the traditional framework. But two decades of research collected by Columbia Law School's What We Know Project have shown that kids raised in nontraditional families are, in fact, all right. Hell, I don't even need research; I can tell you that from first-hand experience.
Even though, growing up in the 1990s, I didn't see my family dynamic represented around me, I still knew what we had was wonderful. I knew it when I had my two moms cheering me on during my high school and college graduations. I knew it when my moms went to Staples to photocopy the prototype of a zine I created at 18 so I could staple copies together to hand out. And I knew it when my moms called me as often as possible on the drive down from the Poconos to Brooklyn while I was waiting to be induced into labor.
Those are the moments that create a loving, healthy, supportive family — not the makeup of your household. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.
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