I Started A Magazine For Gay Parents In 1998. Here’s What’s Changed Since Then.
The editor-publisher of Gay Parent Magazine on the joys, challenges, and surprising evolution of LGBTQ+ families.
In 1998, editor-publisher Angeline Acain broke ground when she launched Gay Parent Magazine. Back then, in the early days of the internet and another era of LGBTQ+ rights, resources for same-sex parents were few and far between — some mainstream parenting publications wouldn’t even feature a queer couple on their cover until decades later. Here, in her own words, Acain reflects on the joys, challenges, and surprising evolutions of the magazine in its near-25-year history.
My partner, Susan, and I had just adopted our daughter, Jiana, in 1997 when Susan wanted to move from Honolulu back to New York. I was working on a holistic health magazine, but I thought it would be a good idea to start a publication for LGBTQ+ parents since parenting was fairly new — both to me and the community — at the time. Susan was so nervous about me doing it because being part of the LGBTQ+ community means you’re always taking a risk if you go public with something. But I felt like it was a good way to support and connect with other LGBTQ+ people across the country and, eventually, the world.
So in the fall of 1998, when I was turning 40, I decided to jump right in. I did the website first, and immediately got feedback from people — mostly in the U.S. and Canada — saying that they were so happy to have found it. Most of the content I feature, I interview parents who are just so happy to talk about how they became parents and how they grew their family. But I’ve also had people wanting to talk about their LGBTQ+ parenting difficulties, like how they were closeted and in a heterosexual marriage until they finally came out, and how their children didn’t accept them. The first print cover featured these two dads I knew in Hawaii: Bob and his partner at the time, Tai, and their adopted son. Bob was a pediatrician and Tai was an internist, and they were subjected to a horrible, demeaning home study. Their genitals were wired as they went through a plethysmograph test, which records sexual arousal and is used on suspected sex offenders — definitely not part of the standard home study procedure for gay couples.
Over the years, the stories shift with what’s happening. When I first started out, international adoption was easier for LGBTQ+ people, and now that’s not as relevant to us anymore — more people are adopting domestically. A lot of people are doing open adoptions or co-parenting with other people. Lately more people are talking about splitting up and custody issues. There are a lot of people I’ve featured on the cover that aren’t together anymore. It’s unfortunate because even now people are not doing second-parent adoptions. They think if you have your name on the birth certificate, that’s good enough. In some states, maybe, but it’s important to take that extra step.
When I started, I did get hate mail. And when certain things happened, like when other states were opening adoption to LGBTQ+ people while Florida was steadfastly opposed, people would send religious scriptures or write saying they want to shoot us, they want us to die, they don’t want us to be printing. During the Trump presidency, there were more people hate-commenting bigoted stuff on our social media. When your address is on the internet, people can find you, and you start to think, Hopefully things will be OK. I hope they don’t come here.
Because my wife and I live in New York City, we didn’t experience a lot of difficulty ourselves. When Jiana was about 6, a classmate asked why she had two moms, and she answered, “Because I wanted it that way.” There was one time when we had a parent-teacher meeting and the school guard wouldn’t let us in the building because we were two women — she didn’t believe we were our daughter’s parents. The guard eventually did let us in, but it was a teaching moment. Every time Jiana — who’s 26 now — went to a new school, we met with the principal and teachers to introduce ourselves and let them know Jiana has two moms. In a family with two moms or two dads, the parents are constantly coming out to their child’s doctors, teachers, friends, and other parents while also having to advocate for their child.
It’s important to keep us visible. In the beginning, there was this woman who wrote that she thought she was the only gay parent in her area and said I inspired her to form her own support group. I think the best is when people want to share their stories in Gay Parent Magazine because they know it’s going to reach other people. More families want to be featured because of what’s happening with the world right now, like the Black Lives Matter movement. From the very beginning, I tried to feature many parents of color.
I used to do all the writing, but now I have about three or four regular writers. I also have about five people on staff. I’d been doing print all the way up until the pandemic in 2020. I couldn’t deliver any of the paper to my distribution points, and I just thought, “Well, we’re going to do away with print.” I guess I was ahead of my time because I’ve never, ever worked in an office with other people. It’s always been remote for as long as I’ve been doing this. We still put out six issues a year, and I also publish an issue that just focuses on the New York tri-state area. I’m going to just keep on trucking, putting it out until I can’t — I am still just a little mom-and-mom organization.
As told to Lacey Vorrasi-Banis.