by Bonnie Wurst
About a decade and a half ago, two women sharing their lives decided they wanted to start a family. Mona and Nicole began a journey (facing many obstacles and legal challenges), one that would ultimately lead to a newborn baby and the beginning of a loving and nurturing family. Their road also led to the creation of what was first called the Lesbian Mother’s Association (LMA) and would ultimately become the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-identified (LGBT) Family Coalition – a fully bilingual organization.
Mona Greenbaum & Nicole Paquette are pioneers in the fight for equal rights and opportunities for homosexual parents in Quebec – women and men – who want to have children and raise them in a safe, healthy and loving environment.
At that time, same-sex couples faced a lack of legal and social recognition in the adoption or fostering of children – by both partners involved. Fertility clinics were not exactly waving rainbow flags outside their doors either.
In 1998 a group of 40 lesbian women congregated in Mona & Nicole’s living room, some mothers, some want-to-be mothers. They sought to create a place where families with ‘two moms’ could get together, hold activities and share information. Playgroups abounded all over Montreal, but none existed addressing their needs and concerns, without questions and curious looks – some with disdain. The LMA of Montreal was founded.
Besides sharing anecdotes on how to get rid of diaper rash, treat a cold, calm an colicky infant or proudly announce their baby’s first steps and words, they wanted to support each other in the challenges they faced as lesbian parents. Sharing activities such as picnics, pumpkin picking and holiday parties were great family fun and community builders.
They were mothers who wanted to hold potluck dinners, celebrate their children’s birthdays together and discuss the merits of Sesame Street versus Barney. They wanted to do all the normal things that parents do together with their children. And so they did.
These were brave and courageous women. Women, who in the face of all challenges and discrimination still forged ahead in their very conscious decision to raise a family.
Slowly, gay fathers started to show an interest in the group. Men who identified as gay and wanted to have children had a fairly different road to follow. Adoption, fostering and surrogate mothers were their only options – with many forming extended families with the mothers. And the ‘Teddy Bear Group’ for Dads was founded.
By 2008 things had evolved considerably and in association with the Papa-Daddy Group the LGBT Family Coalition was born. By 2013 the original group grew from 40 women in a living room to 1300 member families across the province of Quebec.
A lot has changed since 1998. In 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world and the first country outside Europe, to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act which provided a gender-neutral marriage definition. Both partners of a Lesbian or Gay couple can now have children or adopt them as any heterosexual couple can – as their parents.
Playgroups are now filled with children of every color of the rainbow. It’s okay to have two moms or two dads or extended family structures. The kids are getting it, but not necessarily all the adults.
“The need for advocacy is not over,” according to Mona Greenbaum, now the active Executive Director alongside President Gary Sutherland of the LGBT Coalition.
Mona is deceivingly unassuming, soft spoken, yet relentless in her pursuit of the legal and social recognition of LGBT families. She works in collaboration with government bodies and the media, working to increase visibility and raise public awareness of the reality of LGBT families.
The group has received many accolades for their work, including winning the prize for the best project or initiative at the Arc-en-ciel Gala held on October 27, 2008 at the Lion D’or and the Caisse Desjardin’s Annual Prize for Service to the Community in October 2010 – where Mona also received the Medal of the National Assembly for her years of advocacy work for the LGBT community. Later in the month, at the Gala Arc-en-ciel the group was awarded the ‘Prix Projet Par Excellence’ for their training workshops and resource kits.
Another mandate of the LGBT Family Coalition is to create resources for the school system, health and social service institutions as well as community organizations – designed to sensitize the public about LGBT families and the diversity of family structures.
One of the Training Sessions available, Family Diversity and Strategies to End Homophobia sensitizes educators working in elementary and high schools, as well as those working in youth-oriented community organizations, to the impact of homophobia. The interactive workshop provides intervention tools for educators and youth workers when faced with homophobic or sexist incidents and intimidation among elementary and high school students.
The other, Family Diversity: Strategies to Fight Homophobia and Promote Inclusion, sensitizes those working in social services, the health sector and in youth-oriented community organizations, to the reality of families with LGBT parents. During the workshops, participants receive information, strategies, practical examples and a vast array of tools to enable them and their workplace to promote change.
As Mona eloquently states, “We fought a lot for advancement… our legal rights. We accomplished legal equality here… there is not another place in the world as advanced as Quebec is in terms of our laws – and that includes the rest of Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden. We are more advanced in the recognition of our families than anywhere else in the world. But there’s still homophobia, there’s still heterosexism. So the day we can eliminate all that is the day I will retire and I’ll retire happily… when our group becomes just a social group – that will be retirement for me!”
If you would like more information about Family Memberships (giving you access to activities, newsletters, resources and support), a Schedule of Events or information on Training Sessions, Workshops, Conferences, Tools & Resources and Teachers Guides – you are welcome to contact them at:
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or Phone: 514-878-7600