A Message from Beth Teper, Executive Director
I write to you today with a humble and grateful heart to let you know that I will be resigning my post as Executive Director for COLAGE at the end of 2011. As you may have heard me say before, it has been a tremendous honor, privilege and pleasure to help lead this organization and community in such a capacity.Since first learning about this spectacular youth-driven national network of peers eighteen years ago and since filling the E.D. position eight years ago, it has been my passion, purpose and mission to be of service to COLAGE: people with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) parents.
While I formally step out of my current role on December 31, 2011, I will always support COLAGE and remain dedicated to our mission and vision of empowering and uniting people with LGBTQ parents to become strong advocates for ourselves and our families in order to gain the rights, recognition and respect that ALL families deserve. I will also continue to be one of COLAGE’s most ardent fans and enthusiastic donors. This winter and spring, I will remain available as needed to overlap with, advise or consult with an Interim Executive Director. While this is a major turning point in my life and a significant milestone for the organization, my dedication to COLAGE is steadfast.
When I reflect on how different the U.S. social, political and legal landscape for LGBTQ families is now as compared to when I first became involved, I am filled with immense pride and gratitude.In 1993, the US military instituted the Don’t Ask Don’t policy which forced many of our families into hiding, but in 2011 it’s been repealed and LGBTQ military families don’t have to hide anymore. In 1993 social conservatives had just begun to use the phrase “Family Values” and raise the spectre of our families to win political campaigns. In 2003, when I became the Executive Director, no U.S. state permitted same sex marriages. In 2011 COLAGE and our young leaders are playing pivotal roles in winning legal recognition for all marginalized families. In 1993, it was common for someone to say, when learning I have a lesbian mom, “Wait – gay people can have kids?!?” – today ‘modern families’ on television include out and proud gay families.
I’m proud of the public role COLAGE has played in these social changes and in shaping debates about our families. By training youth with LGBTQ parents to speak out and by pushing the media to include our voices, LGBTQ families are more visible and powerful than ever before. For instance, in January 2011 a viral Youtube video of COLAGEr Zach Wahls, testifying to Iowa’s legislature about his experience being raised by his lesbian moms, introduced his point of view to over a million viewers.
While we’ve consulted with researchers, movie and tv producers and journalists to help them get it right about us, I may be even more proud of the behind-the-scenes work we have done, like making recommendations to the Institute of Medicine on health care goals for people with LGBTQ families, and encouraging a multitude of organizational partners to ensure anti-bullying and school non-discrimination measures promoted at the state and federal level include protections for students with LGBTQ parents without utilizing punitive measures which disproportionately harm students of color. Forthcoming next month is a very important report and recommendations we contributed to which lays a blueprint for policymakers and leaders of community institutions to address the discrimination and stigma faced by children of LGBTQ families. I am also proud of the efforts COLAGE has made over the past several years to recognize and nurture the leadership of COLAGErs of color and to make our organization and movement more reflective of and responsive to our incredibly diverse constituency so that we can be and express our full selves.
While the policy, advocacy, and activism COLAGE does is exciting and vital, it’s the conversations between peers — adults with adults, adults with youth, youth with other youth — that have deeply moved and inspired me for the past 18 years. Seeing a teen at a COLAGE workshop talk to another teen who is feeling suicidal, looking for an effective response to bullies, or coming to terms with having been adopted by parents of a different racial/ethnic background is powerful, and can be lifesaving. One incident like these can be monumental, and I have been privileged to be present for or part of many such moments.
While we are still light years away from being a society that sensitively cares for, educates, houses, feeds, and shares power and resources among all children and families equitably, I am so grateful for the work we’ve done together helping to forge this path. I’ve learned and gained more than I can recount or words can express.
I will forever be grateful for the courage and vision of COLAGE’s six founders, early steering committee members, and in particular my dear predecessors Stefan Lynch and Felicia Park-Rogers. I will forever be humbled by the wisdom and dedication of COLAGE’s national board of directors, staff (including interns and fellows), chapter leaders, workshop facilitators, advisers, and consultants, both past and present. I will be forever honored by the generosity of COLAGE’s donors, funders, organizational partners and allies. Last but not least, I will forever be indebted to the thousands of youth and LGBTQ parents – especially my own, thanks mom – for sharing your life’s trials, joys, hopes and dreams with me.
Even though I continue to be passionate about COLAGE, I want to assure you: The timing for this leadership transition is right for both COLAGE and for me. Organizationally, we are nearing the end of our 2008-2012 strategic plan–much of which has been accomplished. Many COLAGErs who are my peers in age are gaining influence in their fields of work, play and activism and at the same time a younger generation of leaders has grown up in COLAGE and is already taking charge. I am confident the current leaders are more than ready to set and carry out the direction and course for COLAGE’s next stage of growth. Personally, I’m ready for something different in how I spend my day-to-day life. What that may be, I do not as yet know but I look forward to having some time off to reflect, rejoice and explore my options.
A succession committee is in place, with key board, staff and stakeholders. A seasoned organizational development consultant is supporting the committee and in particular the board chair, Aaron Sachs. Our plan is to bring on an interim Executive Director to help shepherd the organization through the next year of transition, including a new strategic planning process, and then to hire new permanent leadership. There is strong commitment by current organizational leaders to hold and fulfill organizational goals and priorities during this tender period of transition.
While it’s true that a small and committed group of people can make large change, COLAGE needs you! In order to bring about full equity and justice for our youth and families, your moral and financial support, partnership and leadership is needed. To thrive, COLAGE needs you to continue to participate, speak up/speakOUT, share your wisdom and resources with each other and with COLAGE, now and into the future.
As always, I am happy to answer any questions. Aaron Sachs, COLAGE Board Chair, welcomes your input as well. You may contact me at email@example.com through December 31, 2011 and Aaron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Humbly and gratefully yours, in service and solidarity,