By Beverly Prince-Sayward
Instant videos streaming over the internet, Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets, cameras on cellphones, and instantly connecting with anyone anywhere all over the world have created a new social structure. Society is no longer just who lives next door. What does this mean for those who formerly found themselves on the outskirts of society? Is the world more accepting of differences now because of this?
For one lesbian couple in West Hollywood, California, the internet, and more specifically Facebook, has given them a sense of acceptance and community they never imagined possible. Andrea and Carissa Levine were originally east coast girls; Carissa grew up in the Boston area while Andrea laments to growing up “the only Jewish girl” in a small town in Pennsylvania. While Carissa had more exposure to differences and in general a more accepting atmosphere growing up, Andrea felt like the leper amidst germ-a-phobes. This feeling of being different and the outsider in her community never quite left Andrea until the internet.
Identifying as a bisexual woman, Andrea met Carissa while working in Boston. She felt an immediate attraction and having spent the majority of her life thus far dating men, she decided it would be a great time to have a summer fling with a woman. Little did she realize at the time that summer fling would turn into the love of her life. When she updated her Facebook status to indicate her new love, she hesitated out of fear of how people would accept it. To her surprise, her friends, even those ones from small town Pennsylvania, expressed happiness for her.
When the relationship started to become serious and Andrea realized she was truly in love with Carissa, she panicked. Her memories of growing up the outsider, “the only Jewish girl” in her small town, still created fear in her. She knew she wanted to be a mother more than anything else in the world and would she feel comfortable bringing a child into a gay family, knowing that child might be ostracized as different? Her fears brought her to break up with Andrea and only after much soul searching and a little therapy did she realize her fears stemmed from her own childhood and do not reflect the reality of what her potential child would face.
So she went back to an understanding Carissa and the relationship bloomed. In March of 2011, Andrea and Carissa had a full blown wedding weekend in Palm Springs, California with friends and family. They both had decided to move to West Hollywood as there were both job opportunities for them in the area and they figured it might be a more comfortable place for a lesbian couple to raise a family.
Just like the relationship status update in Facebook years earlier, Andrea was happily surprised to find well-wishers congratulating her on her marriage. She was openly gay on-line and people completely supported her! Unlike her childhood of having her head jokingly checked for horns one time by an unthoughtful teacher after returning from taking days off for a Jewish holiday, people didn’t treat her like she was weird, wrong, or different. According to Andrea, “Facebook provided me with a lot of support that I didn’t count on. It really was a big part of my healing process to realize that the world was changing and society is ready for gay marriages.”
So then, when the big news of having a child was to be shared, Andrea and Carissa decided to go online again and created a video titled “Magic”. They shared their video on Vimeo (http://vimeo.com/49765315) and Facebook. Six thousand people watched their video and not only supported them, but shared sentiments of how lucky any baby would be to be born to two such creative, loving women! They were overjoyed to realize that so many people were on their side.
When asked if she feared bringing a child into a gay family anymore, Andrea confessed that maybe not all her fears are completely gone, but she definitely feels like her child is being born into a more accepting world and one that is ready to embrace gay families. She feels that “gay topics are coming out everywhere and pushing the envelope of acceptance.” She admits that becoming a parent is pushing her to be more active in the gay community and showing her how much she wants her child to be exposed to the variety of families in the world. “We’re not a LESBIAN couple with a child, even though we are of course. But we’re really just like any couple or person having a child. We all have more in common than we think. We’re parents who love our kids.”
So has the internet changed our world? Has it opened the doors to more acceptance for gay families? For Andrea and Carissa Levine, it most definitely has made them feel more accepted.
Photos by Katie Robertson
Copyright Gay Parent magazine