Highlights Magazine Under Fire for Not Representing Same-Sex Families

Highlights Magazine Under Fire for Not Representing Same-Sex Families

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Highlights Hello Magazine
Highlights Hello

By Dana Rudolph, Mombian

Many of us, I imagine, remember Highlights magazine from our youth. The publication gave one queer mom a less than satisfactory answer about why they haven’t included LGBTQ families on their pages – and LGBTQ families are responding.

It started with a comment on the Highlights Facebook page, related to Highlights Hello, their magazine for toddlers:

My partner emailed you about the lack representation of LGBT families in Hello magazine last month and we have not received a response. Our one year old daughter loves Highlights! She carries her magazines all over the house and we read them countless times a day. One of the reasons we appreciate Hello is the diversity represented – families of all races, interracial families, and grandparents. 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. 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 love to keep it in our little one’s life as she grows.

Highlights responded:

Hi Kristina, thanks for your message!

We understand your wish to see your family’s situation represented in Highlights Hello. 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 to open conversation around the topic of same-sex families.

Please be assured that it is very important to us that every child see his or her “face” in the pages of our magazines at some point—that every child feels that Highlights is truly for them. We will continue to think deeply about inclusion —specifically, how to address it in developmentally appropriate ways for our broad audience. Your note is a good reminder of how important it is.

Best,
The Editors

This vague and dodgy answer went over as well as you might expect. Another Facebook commenter explained:

This is disappointing. My family doesn’t have a “situation,” we simply have a family.

If parents “know best” and seeing same sex families in Highlights would be traumatic, then those parents best stay out of our country’s malls, parks, restaurants, and movie theaters because we are everywhere.

I am now questioning whether I will renew my son’s Highlights subscription.

Cue hundreds of further comments on Highlights’ page urging representation of LGBTQ families. One person asked:

I am checking and double-checking to see same sex parents represented in your magazines. Can you help me find any?

To which Highlights said:

Thank you for your comment. Our mission is to help children become their best selves, and you’re right, a big part of that is showing them that families are families no matter what they look like. We couldn’t agree more that diversity should be celebrated, and we strive to do that. It has always been a discussion of “when”–not “if”–Highlights would feature a LGBTQ family in our magazines. We’ve listened to what you said and are thinking deeply thanks to your message.

Best,
The Editors

And finally, Highlights Editor-in-Chief Christine French Cully‎ posted on her personal Facebook page yesterday:

Highlights for Children has received many comments and questions over the past 24 hours about representing LGBTQ families in our magazines. As editor in chief, I’d like to express our regret that we hadn’t articulated our position well, and I want to take this opportunity to clarify it. Our mission has always been to teach children to be kind to all people and to embrace and celebrate diversity. Many of you here have said it very well: Love is what makes a family. We appreciate all your comments and will work to be more inclusive of all families in our future issues.

I have no reason to doubt her sincerity. Let’s hold the magazine to that, however. If they need help around issues of inclusion, I would recommend they check out:

  • Welcoming Schools, the HRC Foundation’s “comprehensive approach to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools with resources and professional development to embrace family diversity, create LGBTQ-inclusive schools, prevent bias-based bullying and gender stereotyping, and support transgender and gender-expansive students.”
  • The American Library Association’s annual Rainbow Book List of quality, librarian-recommended books with LGBTQ content.
  • Board books for toddlers that show same-sex parents and their kids:

While we’re on the topic of LGBTQ inclusion in children’s media, however, what about Sesame Street? They were a leader in representation for families of color and people with disabilities. Why have they still not shown any clearly LGBTQ characters (rumors of Ernie and Bert notwithstanding)? Let’s urge them to do so. The #HighlightLGBTFamilies hashtag is hopping.

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.

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