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Queer parenting

The beauty of the sometimes less-visible modern family

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Mercedes Santos and Theresa Volpe with their children Jaidon (11), Lennox (five), and Ava (14) .  Santos and Volpe were one of the first legally wed gay couples in Illinois. - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Mercedes Santos and Theresa Volpe with their children Jaidon (11), Lennox (five), and Ava (14) . Santos and Volpe were one of the first legally wed gay couples in Illinois.

When queer people choose to start a family, major life decisions like where to live and attend school require extra consideration. Mercedes Santos and Theresa Volpe, one of the first legally wed gay couples in Illinois, are raising their three children in Evanston and enrolled them at Baker Demonstration School in Wilmette because of its progressive and inclusive community. “We had to consider how our children would be accepted in their school, as well as the neighborhood they grew up in, based on our family structure,” Volpe said. “Our children have thrived in their school because they had teachers who saw them for exactly who they are, embraced them, and created an environment where all differences are celebrated.”

Volpe and Santos posing for a photograph with their three children at an anti-racism demonstration at Dewey Elementary School in Evanston - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Volpe and Santos posing for a photograph with their three children at an anti-racism demonstration at Dewey Elementary School in Evanston
Jaidon (11),  Lennox (five), and Ava (14) on their porch in Evanston - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Jaidon (11), Lennox (five), and Ava (14) on their porch in Evanston

Acceptance and inclusivity within the family often requires a great deal of persistence and strength. Jamila Raegan gave birth to her son, Bashir Oliver, when she was 22. When her marriage ended two years later, Raegan had to navigate raising Oliver, who has autism, and cope with a family that didn’t fully embrace her queer identity. Now she and Oliver, who is 17, have a healthy nontraditional family structure. 

As a queer-identifying photographer, I’m often thinking about the representation and visibility of my community. After visiting the five families in these photographs, I’ve grown to have a deeper understanding of the complexities and planning that goes into the process of having kids for queer people. It takes time, money, sacrifice, and sometimes resistance. 
Wives Ayanah Moor (left) and Jamila Raegan (right) in their Pilsen home - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Wives Ayanah Moor (left) and Jamila Raegan (right) in their Pilsen home
Raegan shows a photo of her son, Bashir Oliver, 17, who lives in New Jersey - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Raegan shows a photo of her son, Bashir Oliver, 17, who lives in New Jersey
A photo of Oliver sleeping. Raegan visits him and his father at least once a month from Chicago while she attends school. - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • A photo of Oliver sleeping. Raegan visits him and his father at least once a month from Chicago while she attends school.

Husbands Ziwu Zhou (left) and Tyler Greene (right) are holding their ten-week-old son, Sam Anda Zhou-Greene. Sam was born via surrogacy, with Greene’s sister as the egg donor. - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Husbands Ziwu Zhou (left) and Tyler Greene (right) are holding their ten-week-old son, Sam Anda Zhou-Greene. Sam was born via surrogacy, with Greene’s sister as the egg donor.
Greene and Zhou playing with their son in his crib - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Greene and Zhou playing with their son in his crib
Greene and Zhou in their home - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Greene and Zhou in their home

Husbands Justin Colville (left) and Nate Tanner (right) with daughter Morgan Tanner in front of their Skokie home. The husbands adopted Morgan in an open arrangement through the Cradle in Evanston. - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Husbands Justin Colville (left) and Nate Tanner (right) with daughter Morgan Tanner in front of their Skokie home. The husbands adopted Morgan in an open arrangement through the Cradle in Evanston.
Colville and Tanner and their friends take photos of their children at Skokie Pride. - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Colville and Tanner and their friends take photos of their children at Skokie Pride.
Tanner (left) and Colville (right) hold hands with their daughter, Morgan Tanner, on their way to Skokie Pride - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Tanner (left) and Colville (right) hold hands with their daughter, Morgan Tanner, on their way to Skokie Pride
Raub Welch adopted Mya Welch-Taylor in an open arrangement and she was raised with her older sister, Savannah, along with her other father, Donald Taylor. - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Raub Welch adopted Mya Welch-Taylor in an open arrangement and she was raised with her older sister, Savannah, along with her other father, Donald Taylor.
Mya Welch-Taylor, 13, and her father Raub Welch set a table for guests in their Bronzeville garden. - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Mya Welch-Taylor, 13, and her father Raub Welch set a table for guests in their Bronzeville garden.
Welch and Mya Welch-Taylor laugh in their Bronzeville garden. - RYAN EDMUND
  • Ryan Edmund
  • Welch and Mya Welch-Taylor laugh in their Bronzeville garden.

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