Meet the Guy who gave the “Two Lesbians Raised A Baby And This Is What They Got,” Speech

By now, you’ve no doubt seen the incredible speech by 19-year-old University of Iowa student, Zach Wahls. Wahls, who was raised by a lesbian couple, spoke out last February in opposition to a bill that would have banned gay marriage and civil unions in Iowa. The video went viral shortly thereafter.  It’s gone viral for a second time  after being posted over at moveon.org …

 

 

On Wednesday, Zach made an appearance over at Reddit.com’s IAMa thread which allows fellow redditers to interact with those who share their stories. It turns out a lot of people were curious about what it was like to be raised by two women.

Here is a sampling of some of those questions and answers…

 Redditer:  How do you think having two mothers HAS affected you. you talked a lot about how you are the same as everyone else, but do you think there are any major(or minor) differences?

Wahls: “There’s no doubt that having two mothers has affected me, and in large ways, but there are other things that make my family different that I think are much more important. My tall-mom being diagnosed with MS when I was nine is probably the single most impactful “trait” of my family.

And over the last nine months, I’ve figured out that when most people ask about growing up with two moms, they’re actually asking about what it’s like growing up without a father.

I had to learn how to shave from my best friend’s dad. It’s something I was briefly bullied about when I was growing up. It made me aware of the whole gay marriage debate–and the effects it might have on my family–from a young age.

But my moms were fairly strict with me and my sister growing up. They always had to know where I was, I didn’t get to go to parties, etc. And having to deal with Terry’s MS aged me quickly. I had way more responsibilities than most kids my age in making our family function and that level of responsibility is… aging?

I also had to deal with the reality that there are a good number of people out there who literally think I shouldn’t exist and that my family isn’t legitimate. (True story, the newspaper of my hometown refused to publish my birth announcement because, and I quote, “We don’t do illegitimate children.”) That’ll make a difference in your life and will force you to question yourself and your family, no matter what your parents say.”

Redditer: How did you address your mothers growing up? Did you call them by name? Obviously you just can’t yell out mom. 😛

Wahls: Good question. First off, I’ll point out that it’s different for every single kid. For me, my biological mom had me and then my sister when she was single and didn’t meet Jackie (short-mom) until I was five. So by that point, Terry (tall-mom) was already, “Mom,” and Jackie was “Jackie.”

Interestingly over the last nine months as I’ve talked about them more and more in public, and I’ve had to refer to them as “Terry” and “Jackie” to keep them separate, I’ve actually found myself referring to Terry by her first name. Jackie’s was super confused the first time I got home from a trip and asked if Terry was in.

Redditer:  How long did it take you to prepare for the speech?  Do you think you changed anyone’s opinions? Because if they don’t get it after watching you, I think there might be no more hope for humanity.

Wahls:  I went through three different drafts before I got to a set of themes/ideas I really liked. Whole process was about six hours. Practiced it to myself during the drive from Iowa City to Des Moines.  In some ways, though, I feel as though I had been preparing for that hearing my whole life. Dealing with my tall-mom’s MS, Boy Scouts, being in speech and debate, etc. It all built up to that moment.

And from what I’ve been told, it’s changed some minds. My favorite message thus far has been one I received from a guy just a few years older than me about to ship out to Afghanistan. 

Verbatim: “man, i just watched your video on youtube. being from the south, the deep south, I have been raised ‘anti-gay.’ Pardon the slur. but that completely changed my view on the subject. Just amazing. Im leaving for the army in two weeks and was pretty upset about don’t ask don’t tell being repealed but again you changed my view on that. I just thought it would be nice for you to know you truley opened someones eyes. Thank you.”

Meeting Ellen DeGeneres was really cool, and she’s a neat leady. Reading that message was better.

Redditer:  I saw your speech several months ago when it first became viral on the internet and I was incredibly impressed by the power, and most of all the simplicity of it. I was wondering how the people in your church view the fact that your parents are gay? Do they have any problems with it or does your family belong to a more open church such as the universal Life Church?

Wahls:  We’re practicing Unitarian Universalists, actually. Lifelong, in my case. My moms actually met at a UU coffee house. If you’re wondering what the hell Unitarian Universalism is, if you’ll recall in the Office when Angela thinks the office is cursed, she thinks it’s cursed because Phyllis’s husband Bob Vance, of Vance Refrigeration, is a Unitarian.

Redditer:  Are you guys cool with atheists? I sort of miss the community from having a church family, but I certainly do not miss the dogmatic religion. I get the impression that UUs are different.

Wahls: Yep, UU’s accept everyone. Each individual church is different on their predominant church members, but mine in particular is pretty heavy on the athiests. We also had people from a lot of different religions (like Buddhist, as an example), not just Christian sub-religions.

Reddditer:  Do people jump to conclusions after finding out you have to mothers? Meaning do they think he must be gay or his childhood was one big ball of gender role confusion. I want to word this to sound slightly more intelligent but I’m not slightly intelligent so I hope you get my point.

Wahls: This is interesting. As I pointed out in my testimony, nobody has ever been like “OH! You!! You have gay parents!” out of the blue. But now when people meet me and the sexual orientation of my moms has preceded me, I have been asked if I’m gay. But usually, people get to know me before it comes up that I’ve got gay moms, seeing as I don’t walk around introducing myself as the kid with two moms, and most folks figure out that I’m straight pretty quick.

Zach has written a book tentatively to be called My Two Moms: Everything I Needed to Know About Gay Marriage I Learned in Boy Scouts. It should be on shelves over the summer or in the early fall.

He also owns and operates a peer tutoring company.

Read the full Reddit thread HERE.

Here’s Zach on Ellen last winter:

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2 Responses to Meet the Guy who gave the “Two Lesbians Raised A Baby And This Is What They Got,” Speech

  1. Here’s our interview with Zach where about how his life has changed after this speech thrust him into the public eye, what it was like growing up with two mothers, what led him to decide to go and speak before the House of Representatives, and what other young people can do to fight for equality and speak out against intolerance.

    http://patv.tv/blog/2011/04/06/talking-with-yale-cohn-with-zach-wahls/

  2. malcolm says:

    Perfect!

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