Interview with Krystal Dawn Peak, Communications & Outreach Specialist with Our Family Coalition, about supporting the full and expanding spectrum of LGBTQ+ families and children.
By Gina Gorman, Natural Resources Board Member
Welcome to the “Listen and Learn” Interview Series...part of our “It Takes a Village” Fundraising & Awareness Campaign!
We’re inspired when we see people and organizations powered by community, whose work is driven by a love of children and families, and whose vision is a just society where we all belong and thrive…
These values are at the heart of Our Family Coalition.
A beloved nonprofit in the Bay Area, Our Family Coalition is uniquely situated at the intersection of LGBTQ+ and family justice work. Through support, education, and advocacy, they are spearheading the way to advancing equity for the full and expanding spectrum of LGBTQ families and children.
Furthering this amazing work at Our Family Coalition is a dedicated team of staff members, interns, board members and community partners. We are delighted to introduce you to one of their invaluable team members, Krystal Dawn Peak, Communications & Outreach Specialist.
We are thrilled to hear more about how her depth of experience in journalism, marketing, public relations, communications, and event planning has helped foster community-building and resilience among San Francisco LGBTQ+ families. Let’s dive in!
In this episode, we discuss:
- Krystal’s background, work and passion for Our Family Coalition.
- Most common support needed by LGBTQ+ families.
- Supporting families through the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Krystal’s current work and the greatest need for advocacy.
- Three things new and expecting families should know.
- How to Access LGBTQ+ Resources from Our Family Coalition
Gina Gorman: All right. Welcome everybody to the Natural Resources' It Takes a Village interview series where we're speaking to contributing members of the parenting and birthing community here in the San Francisco bay area in support of Natural Resources during their fall fundraiser.
Thank you so much for being with us. Thank you so much for supporting Natural Resources as a community non-profit supporting new and expecting families.
I'm Gina Gorman. I am a board member at Natural Resources, and I'm here today to speak to Krystal Dawn Peak, who is the Communications and Outreach Specialist with Our Family Coalition. Krystal, thanks so much for being here.
Krystal Peak: I am so excited to chat with you.
Gina Gorman: Great. So why don't we just go ahead and get right into it?
Krystal’s Background, Work & Passion for Our Family Coalition
Gina Gorman: Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, about your background, what you're doing now at Our Family Coalition and why it's been inspiring to you?
Krystal Peak: Absolutely. So, yeah, I come from a background of journalism. I spent about 15 years working for various publications, telling their stories, mostly businesses here in the Bay Area. And then a few years ago, I decided to take that sort of storytelling fire within me and bring that into other businesses and now nonprofits.
So I've been with Our Family Coalition for just a few months now, but I have known about them for at least three years. Obviously living here in the Bay Area, kind of cursory seeing their names at Pride or at different events and functions I was going to, and three years ago, my wife and I started thinking about family planning about expanding our twosome.
And about two years ago, I went to an event that Our Family Coalition holds usually every year in the fall called Womb to Grow. And this is an amazing event where they bring together doulas and midwives and sperm bank representatives and medical professionals, and a bunch of LGBT families that have been built, conceived in a lot of different ways.
And it was a great conversation. You get to ask as many questions and as specific and nitty gritty of questions as you want about family planning, about how to find donor sperm, how to draw up legal documents, how to find an affirming reproductive health specialist. You name it.
And it was at that event that I really was like, this is such a valuable resource. This was a single evening event that answered 80% of the questions I had about queer family building. So a year later, my wife and I did end up conceiving and using a lot of those tools and went to a couple prenatal prep classes that Our Family Coalition had.
And that continued our interest in this is exactly what we needed. This is what we were looking for and fast forward to now. I have a 10 month old child and I started a few months ago working for Our Family Coalition!
It was just this amazing thing that happened where essentially I was looking for a job. Every job out there was so hard to balance with taking care of a new child. And when I chatted with Our Family Coalition on a lark, they mentioned that being an organization focused on family building and family planning and queer families in general, and just helping them thrive that they would be 100% interested in working with me with whatever schedule I needed, taking any time I needed off, and being able to essentially work my schedule into my child's nap schedule.
So I only work when my kid is napping or with my wife. They “practice what you preach.” It's amazing to find an organization that does that, and now I'm able to spread the good word and help more families find those resources that Our Family Coalition has been working on curating and sharing for the last 25 years.
Gina Gorman: That's amazing. And I know how important all of those resources are. As the parent of an under two year old myself — working around nap schedules is very important. Our Family Coalition sounds like a really amazing organization.
Most Common Support Needed by LGBTQ+ Families
Gina Gorman: What are the types of support that you commonly see families coming to you for and looking for?
Krystal Peak: Yes, I know. So Our Family Coalition, as I mentioned, has been around for about 25 years and there's three buckets of outreach that we do. The entire mission around Our Family Coalition is to help LGBTQ families thrive, get the support and advocacy that they need. So we've got advocacy, we've got support, and we've got education. And those span into a lot of different areas.
Support often is providing resources. Here's how you find medical providers that are inclusive. Here's how you find daycares that are affirming and inclusive. Here's your legal rights for paid time off or just workplace or school accommodations. That's a lot of the support.
And then you'd add into that bucket actual literal support groups. So having a trans parent group that meets regularly, or a like a BIPOC group that meets regularly, or even just a baby play date group that meets regularly.
So that's the support arm. And then we have advocacy. So literally working with legislators to make sure that laws being passed in California mostly, but also nationally, are LGBT inclusive, that when paid time off and family leave legislation comes up, that it is very clear and inclusive to LGBTQ families.
Also, fair education act bills, talking about making sure that the curriculum is LGBT inclusive, that teachers are given sensitivity and inclusion training. That kind of thing. And actually going in and teaching teachers how to teach LGBTQ curriculum. So that's the education portion.
Supporting Families Through the COVID-19 Pandemic
Gina Gorman: And then also, how did you continue supporting them throughout the pandemic? How did that change?
During the pandemic, things did definitely change. We all had to adjust from going to in-person events.
Our community was so deeply rooted in wanting to see people in person, wanting to be with their community, wanting their kids to play with each other, wanting their trans child to see a trans parent and see their future.
So making that transition was really tricky at Our Family Coalition. It involved some hybrid and some virtual meetups, but you can't really translate a baby play date to a Zoom meeting. It doesn't quite translate the same way. So a lot of what we've been doing during the pandemic has been listening and asking questions and really re-evaluating what are the resources that our community wants now?
We've been around for 25 years and legislation has changed and the social barometers have changed in the Bay Area, definitely, but all over the nation. So really we launched our first nationwide community needs assessment to ask people, what do you need from us?
What does your family need to thrive where you live? And we're hoping by the end of the year that we'll have the results from a couple hundred families sharing what they need, where they live, what has helped in the past so that we can redistribute some of our focus and figure out, okay, we need in-person events and community building in this area.
We need more education and teacher training in this area and hopefully get to some people that maybe wouldn't access our service because they see us as we are very Bay Area focused, very Bay Area centric. When really we're a national organization. But we’ve been able to rest on the bubble that is the Bay Area and having so many resources and having so many families that want to engage here and want to be very visible in public.
So the pandemic has given us a chance to almost reset, almost take a step back and reassess what's going on and say, what do you want now?
Gina Gorman: That's so great. And I think that really rings a bell with everything that Natural Resources does as well, because a lot of it is focused on when you're a new parent or you're planning for a family. That in-person connection with other people going through the same thing that you're going through can be so, so important.
And you're right in that similarly, while Natural Resources has always been a Bay Area focused organization, it has actually created an opportunity to serve even more people through some virtual classes and virtual events and things like that. Although it is tough. It's different. It's definitely different.
I know that we have in the past offered workshops and support groups in partnership with Our Family Coalition just as a space to meet up. And continuing to navigate that through the pandemic and beyond is a challenge, but also so important.
Krystal Peak: I know. Here's hoping that we can take up some of your space once again soon.
Gina Gorman: Right, right. And I guess on that same note, what else?
Krystal’s Current Work and the Greatest Need for Advocacy
Gina Gorman: You have this big survey going out. Are there any other projects you're working on now to serve families? Is there anything that you've seen as sort of an early indicator as to the need for families nationwide, or for just advocacy nationwide? Are there any issues that have really been popping up?
Krystal Peak: Absolutely. I think something that we see as an opportunity and frankly a weakness right now is that we have so much institutional knowledge of queer family building, but it's not easily digestible and transmittable. A lot of it lives in our staff's heads. A lot of it is maybe a little more Bay Area centric than we would like.
And so one of the things we want to be able to do is really find the easiest ways and the most digestible ways to get this institutional knowledge that we have out to more people. I am, and I'm sure like most parents or expecting parents, have fallen into this trap of joining a bunch of Facebook parenting groups. And I did. I joined a bunch and a bunch of them that are actually LGBT focused and led. And one of the things that surprised me was that the same dozen questions are being asked once a month.
And so people were coming into this fresh eyes, baby brain, baby fog, whatever it is being like, well, what do we do about second parent adoption? Has anyone done this in the state of California? You're like, yes. Thousands of people have done it. And there's a really easy way for us to get that information to you.
But if people are on Facebook groups, I'm not sure how many people go and read the files. That's one of those things that people are like, oh, it's in the files. And you're like, yeah, well. Am I going to go and read 50 pages of files when I'm in between pumping or a screaming baby is right next to me?
We've dispersed ourselves so much in this virtual world, in the social media world, how can we get these resources out to as many expecting parents and existing parents as possible? Answer the big FAQ's that people have.
I mean, people are still reaching out to us and saying, oh, my doctor said that they've never done donor sperm IUI in a same-sex couple ever. And that they don't know if it's ever been done before or if anyone in this medical practice has ever done it before. And what the legal ramifications are, or if there's anything that they need to do different with paperwork.
And I was like, oh my goodness, if we could help and be in every waiting room with a queer family, if we could be through every surrogacy meeting, every sit down to figure out who needs to adopt or draw a donor agreement, we would love to sit there and be there with you.
But the second best option is to figure out how to get these resources into a way that anyone in the US, at least, could access them and feel confident that they could at least navigate whatever system that they're in, in a reasonably low cumbersome way.
So that's something that we really have on our plate right now is how to get those resources out there. How to be that extra person, helping families navigate what is a pretty opaque system of family building. This is not what the majority of cis, hetero couples have to navigate.
Gina Gorman: Right, right. So it feels like there's really a need for that information gathering and sharing to be able to learn from everyone who's gone through it before.
Krystal Peak: Absolutely.
3 Things New and Expecting Queer Families Should Know
Gina Gorman: I think that leads me into actually one of my final questions for you, which is what are your top three things that you wish that you could tell new and expecting queer families based on everything that you have learned through your work?
Krystal Peak: Yeah. I would say whatever questions you're coming up against chances are somebody in our community has come up against them. You are not the first trans expecting parent that has a lot of questions about their medical rights. You're not the first same-sex couple that has to figure out legal documents.
You're not the first person trying to enroll your kid and advocate for your kid at PTA meetings that has to talk about inclusive language. And that has to talk about LGBT curriculum. So definitely number one is you are not alone. There are resources out there to help you.
Number two, I think advocate for yourself. It can be hard and it can be a little bit unknown, but advocate for yourself and be willing to look around for either a different provider, a different legal supporter, a different school, a different daycare, a different childcare person.
Essentially you have a lot more control than sometimes it feels like. Be your own advocate. And if that's not a comfortable role for you, then find someone who can be that advocate for you. Somebody who is affirming, someone that either does this professionally.
You can reach out to our organization to a lot of LGBTQ organizations and say, how can I find somebody who can advocate for me in a parental setting, in a reproductive rights setting, in a medical setting and we're out there.
And then I think my last one is even going beyond LGBTQ families, I think all expecting families. Act as if you are an LGBTQ family, you may not know, but your child could be part of the community at some point in their life. You yourself could be. Life is fluid, things change. And so whether your child comes out at five or 15 or 50, there's such an amazing aspect to that parental or familial leadership if you've always been an advocate, if you've always been thoughtful about inclusive language, been thoughtful about talking about different types of families, of standing up in the PTA meeting and advocating for allowing your school to have a pride flag, even though you don't think that you have a queer family. Act as if.
How to Access LGBTQ+ Resources from Our Family Coalition
Gina Gorman: That's great, great advice. So how can people find you and find the Our Family Coalition? Do you have a website? Are you're on social media? How can we find you?
It's also LGBTQ history month in October and so we are pushing out a project with our education team and with a group called ONE Archives that does specific LGBTQ history, archival information. And we're trying to get people to get curious and learn more about queer history, queer trailblazers.
So each day in the month of October, we'll be sharing at least one history maker and a full lesson plan that either a teacher or a homeschool parent or anybody could go through and really teach their kids or themselves about queer history and brush up on some topics that they may not be familiar with.
Gina Gorman: That sounds like an awesome resource. That's really cool.
Krystal Peak: Yeah.
Gina Gorman: Well, thank you, Krystal, so much for taking the time to speak with us today and thank you to everybody watching and listening for attending this installment of our It Takes a Village interview series because it really does take a village here at Natural Resources.
You'll be able to find this interview as well as other information on our website at naturalresources-sf.com. And we hope you'll check it out and learn more and support us and also support the Our Family Coalition. So thank you so much and have a great day.