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August 2, 2001
 
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Tinker/Graham Family
Bonnie Tinker (center) and Sara Graham (right) with their children (from far left to right): daughter Connie; sons Alex and Josh; and Josh's daughter, Cierra. (ABCNEWS.com)
Young Men With Gay Moms
Brothers Josh Graham and Alex Tinker Tell Their Story

By Alice Irene Pifer
ABCNEWS.com

Josh Graham and Alex Tinker are not biologically related, but they consider themselves brothers who have something distinctive in common — they are sons of a lesbian couple.
Bonnie Tinker, mother of 17-year-old Alex, and Sara Graham, Josh's mom, have been together for 23 years. Their family is a statement about defying conventions and reaching across boundaries.

Josh, now 33, began his life as a child who represented the blending of two worlds. His mother, Sara, is white, and his father, John, was black. When Josh was 5 years old, his father died. A few years later, the widowed Sara fell in love with a woman, Bonnie Tinker.

For Josh, Sara and Bonnie's relationship was at first perplexing. "It was just total confusion for me," he says.

In 1977, Bonnie and her daughter Connie moved in with Sara and Josh, who was only 10. Adjusting to the new family was a painful challenge. The idea of homosexual parenting was not widely accepted, and Josh says he felt embarrassed by his lesbian mom and her partner.

Because he feared being ridiculed, he brought home only his closest friends and told others Bonnie was his aunt. "I didn't want to have to deal with explaining who she was," he says. In fact, Josh says having a lesbian mother was harder for him than growing up a biracial child.

In 1983, when Josh was in high school, Bonnie became pregnant through artificial insemination, and Alex was born.

Alex's childhood was different from Josh's because, from the time he was born, his parents were "out" as lesbians. But things were difficult nonetheless. When he was 5, Alex's was barred from seeing his best friend when the little girl's parents decided they didn't want their daughter exposed to his lesbian parents.

Agony of Adolescence

The toughest years for Alex were middle school, when adolescent teasing can be particularly cruel. Alex says he faced a lot of mudslinging of all sorts: "Fairy. Sissy boy. You're mom's a lezzie. She's a fag. She's a dyke. You must be gay, too. Your family's weird."

The ridicule made Alex long for conventional parents. "I spent a lot of time wishing that I could just have a normal family," he says.

Though both Alex and Josh are straight, they say that as a teens they felt anxiety about their sexuality. "I felt like I had to prove my masculinity and that I was straight," Josh says. Alex too says he feels pressure to let people know that he is heterosexual.

Alex says his most significant male role model was his older brother Josh.

"I never felt like there was anything lacking. I mean, by the time I was old enough to need any kind of male influence, Josh was a young man," he says. Alex also occasionally sees his biological father, who is a friend of the family.

Josh, too, says that having lesbian parents did not deny him the benefit of male role models. He spent a lot of time with his uncle. "He was there whenever I needed to talk," Josh says.

Coming to Terms

While Josh and Alex have both gone through some of the painful struggles children of gays often face, they both seem to have come to terms with it.

Josh says that as he matured into adulthood, he saw how deep the prejudice against homosexuals can be. Ironically, witnessing that prejudice taught him a lot. "Other people's ignorance has given me a sense of enlightenment," he says.

Josh now does volunteer work for an organization started by Bonnie called Love Makes a Family, which offers support to families with sexual minorities.

Alex says he, too, has slowly come to accept his lesbian parents. For one thing, now that he is a senior in high school, his classmates are more mature and the teasing has ceased. But he says he too has matured and has changed the way he views his mom and Sara.

"You know, eventually I just kind of dealt with it and said, you know, it's not like they're doing anything wrong . It's the world that needs to be changed," he says. "I feel blessed to have had two parents who have been there 100 percent for me my whole life."

Josh agrees. "There's so much love in our family. The experience was hard but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Just the experience of living in a different family teaches you a lot of values."

 RELATED STORIES
20/20: Growing Up With Gay Parents
A Chat With Danielle and Susan Silber

 REFERENCE






 WEB LINK

colage.org

 WEB LINK

Love Makes a Family

 
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