Early on in our friendship, Ryan told me, “I have two mommies.”
Sophomore Ryan Quakenbush grew up with a mom and a stepmom, but he’s no stranger to the concept of a nuclear family. His mom and dad were together until he was about five, when they amicably split. Soon after, Ryan’s mother brought home KK, his now-stepmom. He remembers KK bringing him to his first day of kindergarten.
“I felt like it was pretty normal when I was really little, just because I didn’t know anything different,” Ryan recalls, “But when I was in third grade, I learned that we were the minority family.”
Ryan maintains that he didn’t feel lesser than any of his friends who had “normal families,” but that he was nervous when his moms would come to school events together or hold hands. He outgrew this discomfort fairly quickly.
Now, Ryan, a sophomore here at Santa Clara, is openly gay. He is part of the LGBTQ alliance groups on campus and strives to educate people about different gender identities and sexual orientations Ryan initially joined the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), in high school to help LGBTQ youth and be part of a supportive community.
“My motivation for being a part of LGBTQ clubs is the way that I relate to my moms and how important my growth has been to them in the face of their own struggles. Ryan believes that SCU is fairly open-minded about LGBTQ people, but that the conversation isn’t over. He thinks a lot of the reason that people don’t talk about gender or sexual orientation is because it’s a very complicated topic, and there are so many “other letters” (besides LGBTQ) that people don’t understand or even know about. It’s also a potentially offensive topic, and curiosity can be seen as blatant ignorance. Ryan believes it’s healthy to be able to ask yourself questions about who you are and who you are comfortable being.
Ryan loves reflecting back on times with his mom and stepmom. This past summer, all three of them took a trip to New York City when an unexpected, fitting, and exciting event was taking place: the Pride Parade. They were pleasantly surprised and Ryan remembers all three of them screaming “Sparkles!” at the top of their lungs.
On a more serious note, Ryan looks back on something he just recently learned about his mother. When she first started her relationship with her wife, KK, her parents were not accepting and very against it. Ryan recalls not seeing his grandparents for years at a time, but he only recently realized this. “I guess my mom just sort of told her parents that until they were okay with who she was, she wouldn’t allow them to see me or my brother,” he remembers. “I’m glad I didn’t know this when I was young, I think it would have made me uneasy.” Now, he understands why his mom wanted to protect him from her parents’ negative views, and Ryan thinks it’s only helped his ability to grow.
“I love talking about my family and my moms and myself, I think it’s healthy. I really hope others can be comfortable doing the same.”
– Grace Gilman