Zach Wahls is a 20-year-old Civil Engineering student at Iowa State University. He’s an Eagle Scout and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. He’s a state champion debater, and a beloved son and brother. And quite suddenly, he’s a guest on nighttime talk shows, a speaker on college campuses and other venues and an author of a book about growing up with two mothers. My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family, co-written by local author Bruce Littlefield, is Wahls’s very clear, poignant and often-humorous account of his family life in Iowa City, where his mothers are employed by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Wahls will be in High Falls this Saturday, May 12 for a 2 p.m. book-signing at Spruce Design & Décor.
Structured in chapters with headings that reflect his committed involvement with the Boy Scouts of America – “Be Prepared,” “Obedient,” “Trustworthy” and so on – the story begins before his own in-vitro conception (IVC) to a single working mother, Terry Wahls. He describes her challenges and successes (one of which was another IVC to produce Zach’s sister Zebby), and her meeting with the woman who would become her spouse, Jackie Reger. In a relationship well-grounded by honesty and integrity, the lesbian couple has done everything right by anyone’s account, parenting their two children to become wholesome, happy individuals.
Wahls’s sudden burst onto the world stage came when he spoke before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in January 2011. His testimony to the very normalcy of his family and the evident successful co-parenthood of his mothers was pointed at lawmakers who were considering a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Iowa. The heartfelt speech was videotaped (unbeknownst to Wahls) and appeared the next day on YouTube, and the rest, as they say, is history – both recent and viral, having now reached well over 18 million viewers. To watch this clip or to see Wahls on The David Letterman Show is to witness an eloquent expression of selfhood that would make any parent proud.
Citing the tenets of his religious conviction, Wahls epitomizes the Golden Rule as he writes about coming to terms with relatives whose beliefs speak clearly and vehemently against homosexuality. When the going gets tough and his family members lean heavily on their faith, he realizes how important religious beliefs are for everyone – and he simply forgives people for what otherwise might be considered their narrow-mindedness. His mothers trained him early on in ways to deflect bullying. It would seem that practicing those techniques also gave Wahls the ability to perceive the humanity in people who would bully or condemn or restrict the human rights of one and all.
For the past year, Wahls has immersed himself in advocacy for LGBT parenting and was recently named as co-leader (with Ella Robinson, daughter of gay bishop Gene Robinson) for the Outspoken Generation, an organization that gives children of gay parents the opportunity to participate in advocacy work through conferences, workshops, media events, speaking engagements and legislation. He also created “Out to Dinner,” a one-off event to be held in June, to spark activism in answer to the straight community’s question, “What can I do?” Out to Dinner is a project aiming to build relationships between straight and gay couples by having people sit down over a meal and simply get to know each other. The hopeful outcome is that we all realize that we’re more alike than different. See www.noh8campaign.com/article/out-to-dinner-with-zach-wahls for more information.
Slated to meet with Capitol Hill lawmakers May 17 through 19, Wahls will continue to fight for LGBT parenting rights. Still, when asked what he anticipates his role to be in the future, he says, “My hope is that relatively soon this ceases to be an issue: The idea that you’d want to read a book by a kid with two mothers would be…‘Duh’.” Translation: a moot point. “When this is all said and done, I’d like to go to work on renewable energy.”
Wahls and Littlefield will both be on hand at 10 a.m. that same day, May 12, when an elegant Spring Brunch is held next door at the historic DePuy Canal House at 1315 Route 213 in High Falls. A special menu will be offered, with Bellini cocktails and paired wines available for an extra charge. Tickets are $35 per person, and reservations are required. Call (845) 687-7700 or e-mail email@example.com. A percentage of proceeds from the brunch will support the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center’s programs for youth and families.
Twenty percent of all sales at Spruce Design during the event will also benefit the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center. No RSVP is needed for the free book-signing event, and all are welcome. Call Spruce Design & Decor at (845) 687-4481 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.