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The delights of being different

Two new parenting books explore the gay dynamic in families



‘Far From the Tree’ explores how parents can celebrate the differences between themselves and their children. (Photo courtesy Penguin Group)

Most parents love their children, yet accepting and being supportive of offspring who differ from you is one of life’s toughest challenges.

Two provocative and moving new books about parenting, difference and identity are just out: “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity” by Andrew Solomon and “Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality” by John Schwartz.

Solomon, with his husband John is a parent, and Schwartz, who is straight, is the father of a 16-year-old gay son Joseph. The Blade talked with Schwartz by phone and interviewed Solomon before he spoke on Nov. 16 at Politics & Prose in Washington.

Schwartz, a national correspondent with The New York Times, and his wife Jeanne knew early on that their son Joseph was different from his older brother Sam. Joseph wanted nothing to do with Sam’s trucks. “Joe went for the dolls,” Schwartz writes. “As Jeanne recalled it, ‘Barbie never looked so fabulous.’”

As time went on, John and Jeanne Schwartz felt it likely that Joseph was gay. John and Jeanne Schwartz, who’d met in 1975 at age 18 at the University of Texas in Austin, were fine with Joseph’s sexual orientation.

“We were comfortable with Joseph being gay,” John Schwartz says. “We wanted to support him.”

Schwartz was happy when Joseph, then in the seventh grade, came out while they were eating sushi at dinner one night. Then, just as things seemed to be going well, there was trouble.  Though he received support at home, the school wasn’t supportive of gay students, Schwartz says.

“Joseph is a quirky guy,” he says. “But the school put labels on him — from Asperger syndrome to depression. It wouldn’t acknowledge that being gay was a key way in which Joseph was different. We wanted the school to see Joe as a whole person. The schools in the New Jersey town where he lives are good. We’re happy with the teaching. But if these schools are good, what’s going on in other parts of the country?”

Angry at the way in which the boys talked about girls, Joseph taunted them. After the boys told the guidance counselor that Joseph’s taunts had made them uncomfortable, Joseph took an overdoes of pills. After hospitilization and months of therapy, Joseph recovered from his depression. Today, Joseph is involved in theater and other activities and finds support in his gay peers. His children’s story “Leo, The Oddly Normal Boy” is a touching ending to “Oddly Normal.”

“I thought parents were the obvious audience for the book,” Schwartz says, “but it’s had a delightful resonance. A 72-year-old man e-mailed me that he’d just come out and told his wife that he’s gay.”

Being normal only gets you so far, Schwartz says. “The things that make you different … are the things that make you interesting.”

Solomon, 49, knew he was different even before he could conceptualize his sexuality.  He was unpopular at school because he was so unlike the other boys.

“I never traded a baseball card, but I did recount the plots of operas on the school bus,” he writes.

Today, Solomon and his husband John and their children, are a loving family. John biologically fathered two children for some lesbian friends in Minneapolis while Solomon has a 5-year-old daughter with a friend he knew in college and a son who lives with them full time they had with a surrogate.

Solomon used to worry that it would be difficult for children born into such a different type of household.

“But people are born into households with parents who are cruel or born into terrible poverty. Or they’re born into a whole variety of other challenges,” Solomon said, “I would like to think…that our household is one in which there is a great deal of love and that it will carry the day.”

“Far from the Tree” is a provocative study of difference and identity as well as an argument for acceptance of diversity. Solomon interviewed about 300 families who have raised offspring with differences from themselves. These parents had children who were deaf, dwarfs, autistic, schizophrenic, transgender, prodigies, had Down syndrome, were conceived in rape or became criminals.

There are vertical identities such as ethnicity, nationality or religiosity that are passed on from parents to their children, Solomon says. But there are horizontal identities such as being trans, gay or deaf that are usually not passed on from generation to generation, he says.

“Many parents will love children with horizontal identities, but they’ll have trouble accepting them,” Solomon says. “The tension between love and acceptance can be terrible.”

“Far From the Tree” grew out of an article he wrote in 1994 for the New York Times magazine on deaf culture. “When I began meeting deaf people, I was astonished by what a vital culture it was,” Solomon says.  “I discovered that most deaf children were born to hearing parents, and that they frequently didn’t discover deaf culture until their adolescence.”

Solomon felt a connection between their stories and his story.

“As a gay person, it took me a long time to find my culture and all of it seemed so resonant,” he says.


Out & About

Mayor’s office to host Pride tie-dye party

Guests to make colorful shirts for ‘PEACE. LOVE. REVOLUTION’ theme



(Photo by Prime Look/Bigstock)

The Mayor’s Office for LGBTQ Affairs will host “Love Out Loud: Tie Dye Party for Pride” on Wednesday, June 7 at 5 p.m. at the Frank D. Reeves Center of Municipal Affairs.

The event, hosted along with the DC Center for the LGBT Community and Capital Pride Alliance, will be an afternoon for community and artistry. Guests are encouraged to bring their creativity to make some colorful tie-dye shirts in line with this year’s Pride theme, “PEACE. LOVE. REVOLUTION.”

This event is free to attend and more details are available on Eventbrite

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Out & About

D.C. to celebrate LGBTQ poetry

Pride Poem-a-Day presents second installation



(Screen capture via Vimeo)

DC Pride Poem-a-Day will present its second installation of short videos featuring LGBTQ poetry from the Washington, D.C. area to celebrate Pride month.

A new video will be released each day in June and will feature different poets reading an original poem on the theme of “heritage.”

The videos highlight LGBTQ poets from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, races, and countries of origin, and also poets from minority religions, multi-lingual, and disabled. 
To access the poetry, visit DC Pride Poems’ website.

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Calendar: June 2-8

LGBTQ events in the days to come



Friday, June 2

Center Aging: Friday Tea Time will be at 2 p.m. on Zoom. This event is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults. Guests can bring a beverage of choice. For more information, contact [email protected].

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Pride Kickoff Social” at 7 p.m. at The Commentary. This event is ideal to make new friends in the LGBTQ community and enjoy the bottomless happy hour specials at Puro Gusto. Admission is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Saturday, June 3

Virtual Yoga Class with Jesse Z. will be at 12 p.m. online. This is a weekly class focusing on yoga, breath work, and meditation. Guests are encouraged to RSVP on the DC Center’s website, providing your name, email address, and zip code, along with any questions you may have. A link to the event will be sent at 6 pm the day before.

LGBTQ People of Color Support Group will be at 1 p.m. on Zoom. LGBTQ People of Color can come together and talk about anything affecting them in a space that strives to be safe and judgment free. There are all sorts of activities like watching movies, poetry events, storytelling, and just hanging out with others. For more details, visit or

Project DC Events will host “DC Pride Crawl” at 2 p.m. at Dupont Circle’s best bars. Guests are encouraged to put on their brightest and most colorful outfit, grab friends, and enjoy a day of drinks and celebration. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased on Eventbrite

Sunday, June 4

AfroCode DC will be at 4 p.m. at Decades DC. This event will be an experience of non-stop music, dancing, and good vibes and a crossover of genres and a fusion of cultures. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

“Largest LGBTQIA+ Singles Flamingle” will be at 7 p.m. at THRoW Social DC. Guests can enjoy signature cocktail and wine specials, food, games, and live music while mingling with single people in the local LGBTQ community. This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Monday, June 5

Center Aging Monday Coffee and Conversation will be at 10 a.m. on Zoom. LGBT Older Adults — and friends — are invited to enjoy friendly conversations and to discuss any issues you might be dealing with. For more information, visit the Center Aging’s Facebook or Twitter.

Capital Pride Interfaith Service Planning Meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Zoom. The Capital Pride Interfaith Service is an “integrated service” respectfully demonstrating the breadth, depth, and sincerity of our faith, exposing the lie that anti-gay fundamentalists have a monopoly on faith and religion. For more details, [email protected]

Tuesday, June 6

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Pride Reception” at 5 p.m. at Turkish Coffee Lady. This event is to foster cross-cultural connectedness and make friends in the LGBTQ+ and allied community. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Pride on the Patio Events will host “LGBTQ+ Social Mixer” at 5:30 p.m. at Showroom. Dress is casual, fancy, or comfortable and guests are encouraged to bring the most authentic you to chat, laugh, and get a little crazy. This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite

Wednesday, June 7

Job Club will be at 6 p.m. on Zoom. This is a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking — allowing participants to move away from being merely “applicants” toward being “candidates.” For more information, email [email protected] or visit

Center Aging Women’s Social & Discussion Group will be at 6:00p.m. on Zoom. This group is a place where older LGBTQ+ women can meet and socialize with one another. To register, visit the DC Center’s website

Thursday, June 8

KINETIC Presents will host “KINETIC Pride 2023 DC Weekend Pass” at 10 p.m. at four D.C. venues. This partnership with Capital Pride Alliance will feature a performance by global pop star Betty Who at Echostage, stunning visuals, and top talent. Tickets start at $149 and can be purchased on Eventbrite

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