News & Politics

A Few Minutes with Zach Wahls, Every Lesbian Mom’s Dream Son

I was fortunate to be at the cheap prednisone 10mg Netroots Nation‘s LGBT Pre-conference the other day in San José, California, with LesFam collaboratrix and SalonLGBTQ mastermind Deb Rox. Not long after the proceedings started, I looked up from some note taking just in time to see a strapping young man stroll in, sporting jeans and a blazer, a backpack slung over his shoulder. He leaned over to shake hands with and hug one or two of the day’s organizers at their table, and when he had taken his seat, I noted he was none other than Zach Wahls, Every Lesbian Mom’s Dream Son.

If you’ve been under a rock of late, Zach would be the young lad (he’ll be 22 next month) whose eloquent and moving testimony before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in February 2011 went mega-viral on YouTube. Meaning it accumulated over a million views within two weeks and over 18 million by now; it was the most viewed political video on YouTube that year. He has since been interviewed by Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Stewart, and David Letterman, debated anti-gay Boy Scout opposition on CNN in his capacity as founder and Executive Director of Scouts for Equality, written a book, My Two Moms, and delivered a short, stirring speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The Netroots Nation LGBT Pre-conference day was full of connecting and brainstorming with some of the smartest, most effective queer journalists and activists I know. ( Campaign Director Eden James Tweeted: “It’s always wonderful to connect w/ the rock star influencers at #nn13lgbt. The seeds of full federal equality are being planted here today.”)  It speaks to the calibre of the participants there that Mr. Wahls was in such good company. But when it was over, it was this chap I made a beeline for. Because I had to know: how do I–or any of us–fertilize and irrigate our kids so they can grow up to pal around with the President and inspire more than a few folks to hope they run for that office one day?



Zach chillaxing with his various mover-&-shaker chums, the POTUS and yrs truly. How tall is he? 6’5″, if you must know.


Welland LF: You’re the first generation of kids of LGBT parents coming into voice as they come of age. My first question is, what is it that gives you the most inspiration or hope in the work that you do? And also what’s the most powerful tool that you’ve been finding in your change work?

ZW:  I think it’s always important, especially in the work I do, to remember: I am not the first generation of kids of queer parents. There are a lot of kids before me. And there are a lot of other kids who just happened not to have been given this platform that I have, and so I’m always very thankful for that and it’s always important for me to remember that–

LF: You’re quite humble. Because you helped create that platform through your eloquence, I would say.

ZW: Well, you know, it was being in the right place at the right time. And a lot of it’s beyond my control, and I’m perfectly aware of that. However, in terms of the kinds of thing that give me the most hope: it’s certainly in the fact that we now have an entire generation growing up with Modern Family being on television. The ability of our media to set norms is extraordinarily powerful. That’s why it’s important for organizations like GLAAD are so important. They help make sure that [media are] accurately representing America and what our families really look like. I think probably that implication is, is you have kids growing up who don’t think it’s weird or different or unusual for families like ours to exist.

And that’s very important because when I was growing up in the nineties and early noughts in Iowa and Wisconsin, there were a lot of people who weren’t necessarily homophobic, but were certainly scared, to some extent, by the differences between our families. And to put it­– there are some very real differences between families with gay parents and families with straight parents. And when we try to pretend otherwise, we do ourselves a disservice.

Our emphasis–and I think this is probably the most effective tool you were asking about–the most effective advocacy work for our families comes when we can say yes, there are some differences.  And we shouldn’t pretend that those don’t exist. But the things that are most important–the love, our commitment to work through hard times so that we can enjoy the good ones–that is exactly the same. And that’s really what matters most.

LF: Yep, yep. So here’s a step more personal: what is it, do you think, about your family life or your growing up that helped you take your steps, or find your voice as an advocate like this?

ZW: You know, one of the most fascinating things about the human experience is that even within the same family, you can have a very wide range of personalities, and that’s certainly true of my own family as well. I’m much more like my Tall Mom [Terry Wahls], in that I’m very outspoken and very outgoing. And my sister’s much more like our Short Mom [Jackie Reger], in that she’s very quiet and more introverted.

LF: Are you older or younger?

ZW: I’m older than my little sister. So there were a lot of things that were a part of that. The fact that I did speech and debate I think gave me some of that confidence, some of those tools. I think the fact that I had some experience being in the theater gave me some of the eloquence; that was helpful. But I think at the end of the day there are some personal things that made me a little bit more inclined to that kind of thing than I would have been otherwise. And regardless of who your family is, it’s kind of the luck of the draw.

LF: My last question: what do you think’s most important for young kids of LGBT parents to know, so that they may find their voice and grow up self-empowered?

ZW: There are three things I always try to keep in mind whenever I’m talking to other queerspawn. The first is that you’re not alone. And sometimes it’s really easy to think that. I think in the post-Modern Family age it’s more difficult to do that, but that’s certainly important, especially in rural communities, to remember: you are not alone. You are not messed up. There are an awful lot of people who spend an awful lot of time trying to convince kids like us that we are flawed or different or what have you.

LF: Studies notwithstanding. They’ll find or make another one that says otherwise.

ZW: Yeah. So we have to be aware of that. And finally, it gets better. We’ve heard it a lot, but it’s worth repeating: it does get better; we have to understand that. And I’m going to make this a caveat: it gets better because we make it better. And so when you have that opportunity to do so–and this isn’t always appropriate–but when you do have that chance, stand up for yourself, stand up for your family. It’s part of what makes it easier for that next generation of kids.


Zach Wahls will be among the closing keynote speakers at Netroots Nation starting 4:30pm on Saturday, June 22, in San José, CA. 


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