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Opening hearts: Photo exhibit teaches that love makes a family

Jeff Kurtti and Ken Martinez enjoy a local playground with their boys, Brendan, 7, Joey, 5 and Mitchell, 4. - Sue Averett / The Enchanted Studio
Jeff Kurtti and Ken Martinez enjoy a local playground with their boys, Brendan, 7, Joey, 5 and Mitchell, 4.
— image credit: Sue Averett / The Enchanted Studio

Families come to be in a number of ways. “God’s love goes where it will go,” said Larry Fox, who was instrumental in coordinating support for the “Love Makes a Family” photo exhibit now on display through Nov. 4 at Langley United Methodist Church.

“No matter what the makeup, a family is held together by the power of that love,” Fox said.

“Love Makes a Family” is a museum-quality traveling exhibit including photographs and interviews with families that have lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) members. Through first-person accounts and positive images, this exhibit seeks to challenge and change myths and stereotypes about LGBT people and their families.

“Love Makes a Family,” one of six traveling photo-essay exhibits created by the award-winning Family Diversity Project of Amherst, Mass., has toured nationwide and internationally. According to the familydiv.org website, these exhibits, “recognize, support and celebrate the full range of diversity and are designed to help reduce prejudice, stereotyping and harassment of all people who are perceived to be ‘different’ from the ‘norm.’”

Several area churches, including St. Augustine’s Episcopal, Trinity Lutheran, Unity Of Whidbey, Unitarian Universalist Congregation and Whidbey Island Friends, pooled resources with the Langley United Methodist Church to bring the exhibit to Whidbey Island. Whidbey Giving Circle and Whidbey PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) are also co-sponsors.

“We had several good conversations with other churches and organizations before we decided to bring the exhibit to Langley,” Fox said. “Our collective hope is to dismantle the destructive power of prejudice and intolerance, making the world a safer place for all people.”

Langley United Methodist, as host, added a unique perspective to the exhibit by inviting local LGBT people to submit family pictures and text for the display.

Fox, as exhibit coordinator, explained adding locals to the exhibit.

“We understand that coming out in this way takes courage, because many LGBT people have been wounded by negative attitudes and outright discrimination,” Fox said. “We also know that LGBT people are our friends and neighbors here on the Island, and hearing the stories of how they built their families is important.”

Ken Martinez and his partner Jeff Kurtti have been together since 1996. When asked to participate as a local family in the photo exhibit, Martinez told Fox he’d be proud to share how their family, which includes three adopted sons, came into being.

Kurtti wrote the following for the exhibit:

“Together, this little household looks out into a world that sees them as unusual, perhaps peculiar, frequently unsettling. As a family unit, they challenge the norms and preconceptions of others. But it is their identity as a loving and mismatched unit that so frequently wins over detractors and draws others to them. Their bond is love: selfless, self-sacrificing, color-blind and gender-who-cares. It takes all kinds to make a world, and it takes five kinds to create this family.”

A quote from another exhibit participant, Perry Voscott, underscores the values that most parents share, gay or straight.

“Like most people raising an infant, we don’t have time to go to movies or to restaurants anymore. Whether you’re in a heterosexual relationship or a gay relationship, parenting is about showing up for it and giving it your all,” wrote Voscott.

“We hope people who see the exhibit will find that we are all more alike than not,” Fox said. “We know we can’t control an individual’s inner processes. We can only hope to encourage open minds and hearts.”

Sponsors hope the exhibit will be educational and helpful to people as our state deals with the issue of marriage equality in the upcoming election. Voters will be asked to approve or reject Referendum 74, which asks voters if they want the Marriage Equality Act as passed by the Washington State Legislature last winter to stand.

“If you come to Langley, stop by and spend some quiet time with this exhibit,” Fox said.

The free exhibit is located in the Fellowship Hall at Langley United Methodist Church at Third Street and Anthes Avenue. Open hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m., except for Thursday evening, and noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays through Nov. 4.

 

Love Makes a Family

Photo exhibit is on display through Nov. 4 at Langley United Methodist Church.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, except for Thursday evenings; 12 to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Admission is free.

 

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