'Do You Want to Be the Mother or the Father This Year?'

When a local health foundation's bi-monthly marketing newsletter arrives in my mailbox, I throw it in the recycle bin without a second glance, every time. But the issue that arrived yesterday stopped me in my tracks.

The cover features two handsome, fashionably dressed men smiling at a gleeful toddler learning to walk.

Is this what I think it is?

I searched the cover copy for an explanation. Are these two occupational therapists, helping a patient? Is this image related to an article about gay parenting?

No. It's simply the image that the marketing folks chose to accompany an article entitled "Taking Easy Steps: When it's time for Open Enrollment, you can count on us."

I snapped a picture of the magazine cover and posted it on Facebook.

Why, when gay families have made so many gains in media visibility, does a toss-away marketing piece become something I share on Facebook? Why, when the picture so obviously represents two dads, in their kitchen, celebrating their baby's early steps, did I question my interpretation of it?

While I have come to expect to see LGBT people represented in certain contexts -- sitcoms, movies, news articles, the cover of Time Magazine, beer and car advertisements -- I do not expect to see us represented in the ephemera of my everyday life.

For example, when I browse a photo website's samples of holiday cards, I never see a family that looks like mine. When I fill out my kids' school paperwork, I still have to ask their other mama, "Do you want to be the father or the mother this year?"

The messages that schools, businesses, and organizations send to LGBT people -- they can be subtle, often inadvertent. I don't suspect that my school district intends to say, through their antiquated forms, "We don't recognize families like yours." I don't expect that the photo website intends to say, "Your family is invisible to us." But I don't feel welcomed by them either.

However, when school intake forms allow parents or guardians to choose their own titles; when at least a few of a website's hundreds of sample photos represent family diversity; or when an organization includes a picture of a gay family on the cover of their top-dollar marketing magazine, their message of inclusion comes across loud and clear.

Every time I hear it, it's music to my ears.