“America’s Changing Families” was the theme of a family research conference I attended in the late 90’s. Unlike most of the psychology conferences I used to attend, this particular group typically picked a swanky location, this time in an all inclusive resort located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It was a beautiful location but I must admit that I was uncomfortable with the level of luxury. I was 18 years old before I ever flew on an airplane and 19 years old before I ate at a restaurant with cloth napkins, for the first time. I may have a fancy degree but the fanciness ends there. Let’s just say that if I were one of the Spice Girls, instead of “Posh Spice”, I’d be “Look at this Outfit I got for 75% off Spice”.

I got the distinct impression that the White Mountains were not used to well educated bargain shoppers. I also got the distinct impression that the White Mountains were not used to well, people who weren’t white, unless they were a member of the service staff.

How did I get this impression? Well, you should have seen the looks on people’s faces when all of us conference attendees, about 90% of which were people of color, descended on their resort. “America’s Changing Families” referred to the demographic changes in the U.S. The name of the organization, Family Research Consortium, contains no reference to race or ethnicity. However, the Family Research Consortium was founded primarily by researchers of color, who conduct research on families of color.

In addition to stares, after the first day of the conference, our dining area was moved away from the rest of hotel guests. Wow, not subtle at all. A hotel guest approached me and asked, “Where are all of you from, do you work for the government?” (For those of you reading this from other parts of the world, our nation’s capitol has a very high African American population and since the government hires a lot of people, there are a high number of African Americans who work for the government.)

Imagine my joy in being able to blow this man’s mind with my reply, “We are people who do scientific research on families. About 80% of us are university professors from all over the U.S.” He walked away, mighty puzzled.

America’s families have change. One of the more significant indications of this actually refers to a family that didn’t change, our First Family, who will remain in the White House for four more years. My friend, Cheryl, grew up in DC as a daughter of immigrants from Trinidad. She thought the First Family’s house was referred to as “white” due to the race of the president. In fact, when her uncle ran for president in Trinidad, she reasoned that if he won, he would live in “the Black House”. Cheryl still lives in D.C. and I know that a highlight of her life so far has been being an attendee at the inauguration of a biracial president surrounded by his African American wife and children. I was pretty darned inspired, too!

There are other changes in the demographics of America’s families, namely families with two same-sex parents. Personally, I have acquaintances, former co-workers, etc who head families along with their same sex partner. Professionally, I’ve worked with some families with two moms and some families with two dads. All of the families had to go the extra mile to get kids either by artificial insemination or adoption. The parents I know work hard to shield their children from the potential impact of prejudice. They chose schools that contain other families with same-sex parents and they work hard to educate their children about fairness, acceptance, and equality. I remember thinking about one of “my” families (I call my patients, “my kids” and their families, “my families”) between sessions. I was thinking about the parents in terms of their parenting and their relationships with their children. I thought, “They are so wholesome.” Then I remembered that the parents are gay men and I thought, “That’s a word that families with gay parents don’t hear a lot. That’s too bad.”

As you may have heard, we had an election earlier this week. Today, the passage of Proposition 74, which gives same sex couples the right to marry, was confirmed. I am pretty darned inspired again and I hope you are as well.