By Kim Stowell
In 1988, a small group of young people with gay and lesbian parents came together while their parents were attending an annual Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition conference. Recognizing that they had much to share with one another and the larger world about growing up in same-gender parent families, they soon began putting out a periodic newsletter and organizing local chapters.
Today, COLAGE (originally called “Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere”) has chapters across the country. They provide community, empowerment, education, and advocacy for children and youth with LGBTQ parents. Chapters offer comfortable and safe places for youth to meet, support one another, have fun, and talk about issues related to having LGBTQ parents.
The Rhode Island chapter has been in existence for many years, with numerous leaders. Leaders have historically been themselves the children of LGBTQ parents. Today, however, their leader is a lesbian mom – Veronica Jutras. A recent transplant from New Hampshire, she and her wife, along with their twin toddlers, moved here for work; Sarah teaches at the Moses Brown School, Veronica at the Gordon School.
“I wanted to find a way to do activism,” said Jutras in a recent interview. “I wanted to feel I was doing something, especially for my children.” When the leadership of COLAGE came into transition, Jutras stepped up. “It was just what I was looking for,” she added, smiling.
The group is small but growing, and they are exploring what they want to be as a group. “Often,” she said, “COLAGE chapters engage in activism, public education, and advocacy work, making the world a better place for children of LGBTQ parents. Right now, though, our members are just really enjoying being together.” The meetings – which always include food – have a brief check-in where members can talk about their families and friends (if they choose to), followed by games, basketball, cards or whatever the group chooses. It is during these activity times when friendships form – “It’s almost automatic,” asserted Jutras. “They have such a strong common bond.”
Jutras’ first meeting with the group was in September, and she is energized by being with the members. “I am learning so much from them, ways to be a better parent. And their relationships are beautiful. They have a lot of fun together.”
Plans are under way for the group to have a booth at the Pride Festival in June, and the newest member of the group – the young man who spoke so endearingly at the House Judiciary hearings on marriage equality earlier this year – is interested in organizing a youth rally, but for now the focus is on attracting new members to add to the nine or so that come to the meetings now. “I want all this to evolve in an organic way, focused on the choices and wants of the members,” she said. Of course, she is quick to admit that she has a vested interest in seeing the group perpetuate until such time as her own children are old enough to join.
For more information about the RI Chapter of COLAGE, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.