Growing up can be a difficult thing. While struggling with your own identity, you also must define yourself based on your family structure. Ry Russo-Young of New York and Ryan Espece of Arkansas have used the experiences of growing up with lesbian mothers to strengthen their family ties. CE: Tell us about your family. Ry Russo-Young, 18: I have two mothers. They're lesbians. And they've been together 21 years. I have a sister as well, who's a year-and-a-half older than me. Ryan Espece, 16: I have two mothers, and they've been together for almost 10 years. And I have two older brothers, who are 25 and 24. CE: When did you find out that your parents were in a same-sex relationship? Ryan: I pretty much always knew, but it hit me when I was about 9 or 10. And I really didn't know what to think of it, but it wasn't shocking. Ry: I never "found out" that my parents were gay. It was never that kind of thing. CE: Do you think that other kids are missing out by having two "normal parents"? Ryan: At times, I really wanted a regular normal family. And I knew that I wasn't ever gonna get one. Now, I think, "Why did I want that?" CE: How do other kids react when they find out about your parents' sexuality? Ry: I grew up in the West Village. So, the school I went to was really liberal. I didn't face a lot of, should I say, discrimination. It was more of the matter of explaining it to people. Ryan: I didn't have a hard time until around fifth grade. I told my friends and they, you know, they were like, "Eeew." They were disgusted by it. They told other people, and that got to the parents. It seemed like the parents were in a little clan saying, "Get away from her, she's a germ. We don't want her." And then in sixth grade, I switched schools and thought, "This will be a whole new beginning for me." It wasn't. Someone from my old school was there, and she told everyone. They really wanted to get me out of their school. I started losing concentration on the academics, and it just started going downhill. In junior high, it was really bad. And then my mom took me out. I think that was the best thing to do, but also I've lost a lot of social skills along with that. CE: When you hear homophobic comments, does it bother you or are you beyond that? Ryan: It does bother me. Sometimes I'll hear things when I'm walking down the street, "Oh look, there's those two lesbians, eeeww ewww." I want to go over there and slap 'em silly because I get so mad. Then I think, wait a minute, I do that myself but, you know, with different people, like I'll say, "God, look at that dress on her. She is so ugly." It's just criticism on both parts. Ry: I always sort of feel like "Oh, God, here we go again." Aren't we passed this by now? Aren't we beyond calling each other faggot? I don't have the energy to get angry every time. It hurts too much. CE: What do you think about gay relationships not being recognized by the law? Ry: I think that gay marriage should be legal, of course. But I don't spend my time fighting the legal system. It's not what I'm into. I don't live my life according to my parents' influence. Their battle is not my battle. CE: How have your experiences with your parents affected your outlook on the world in general? Ry: I'm very in touch with gay people. I was just talking to my mother last night actually about how I feel so gay-identified, and it's strange for me almost to like boys and to be interested in boys but at the same time feel like a gay person. CE: Do you wish people would just stop asking about this? Do you wish it wasn't an issue? Ryan: No, I wish that everyone would ask, I really do. I wish that more people would ask. Ry: In some way I feel like, hey, you know, I'm the first generation of lesbian parents. In some way, it would be wrong to not have other people know and not educate other people about it. And I think it's important to do that. But at the same time I do feel like I'm just a human being. I want to live my life; I want to make films; I don't want to spend my entire life explaining to people something that they don't understand.
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