Kara Desiderio and her partner Kristina Wertz’s 13-month-old daughter loves Hello magazine for toddlers. The problem: The publication, which is owned by Highlights for Children, has yet to depict same-sex couples anywhere in its pages. So on Friday, October 14, Wertz took to the Highlights for Children Facebook page to express her concern.
“One of the reasons we appreciate Hello is the diversity represented — families of all races, interracial families and grandparents,” Wertz wrote. “We are consistently disappointed, however, in the complete lack of same-sex parents in Hello magazine. I think a lot about the things that create culture — the subtle and not so subtle messages that our kids get about how the world works. Since becoming a parent, I feel keenly aware of the messages kids’ books send to tiny minds.”
Wertz continued: “There is a deep need for books that positively reflect back the diversity of the world around us and I hope that Highlights embraces that diversity because we would like to keep it in our little one’s life as she grows.”
The Hudson, New York–based mom didn’t get the response she was hoping for. “We understand your wish to see your family’s situation represented in Highlights Hello,” wrote a Highlights for Children editor. “For much of our readership, the topic of same-sex families is still new, and parents are still learning how to approach the subject with their children, even the very little ones. We believe that parents know best when their family is ready top open conversation around the topic of same-sex families.” The staffer added: “We will continue to think deeply about inclusion — specifically, how to address it in developmentally appropriate ways for our broad audience.”
Highlights quickly came under fire on social media. “This is disappointing. My family doesn’t have a ‘situation,’ we simply have a family,” wrote one person on Facebook, while another commented, “This is the most conservative and inappropriate response. Parents know best when to raise the concept that there are lots of types of families?! We aren’t an illegal drug. Queer families are families.”
The publication released a second statement on Monday, October 17, apologizing for their initial response. “We want to reiterate that we believe all families matter. We know that there are many ways to build a family, and that love is the essential ‘ingredient,’” read the statement. “This conversation has helped us see that we can be more reflective of all kinds of families in our publications, We are committed to doing so as we plan future issues.”
Wertz and Desiderio were not moved. “[They’re] stopping short of a clear commitment to include LGBTQ families in the pages of their magazine,” Desiderio tells Us Weekly. “It is conservative, lacking in sincerity and fails to provide a clear path forward.”
But Desiderio hopes they will come around. “I want our daughter to grow up seeing her own two-mom family as nothing out of the ordinary,” the school nurse tells Us. “Not only do I want children’s literature to help my daughter feel ‘normal,’ I want it to help her feel proud. I want her to know how lucky is to be in a family with two moms.