Telling Our Stories: The Rainbow Letters Project

A guest post from Julia Winston, Co-Creator and Director of The Rainbow Letters project.

Julia WinstonMy name is Julia Winston and I’m a proud member of a queer, quirky, fabulous family.

When I was 7 years old, my parents got divorced because my dad was gay. I worried that we were defective. In reality, we were merely changing shape. Over the years we would grow and evolve in ways that would surprise and delight me. By the time I left for college, I felt proud of my unique family and incredibly grateful for the ways it had deepened my character and enriched my life.

Families come in different ways, shapes, and forms. This terrifies America, but it’s not something to be afraid or ashamed of. Family diversity is beautiful and fascinating and should be celebrated for the way it expands our perspectives, experiences, and capacities for empathy and love.

I entered adulthood with this understanding blossoming inside me and got excited every time I encountered someone with a queer bend to their family’s story. It felt like I was stumbling upon gold with every story I heard. I collected these stories in my heart and thought, “What a shame that others don’t have access to such treasures!” It seemed there was a gap to be filled in the societal narrative around the LGBTQ family experience, and I developed an urgent desire to demystify the stories of queer families, to elucidate their humanity. I yearned to grab a megaphone and beam the sweet music of our unsung rainbow voices into the world as part of a collective symphony.

During an impassioned conversation about this vision with my friend and the family equality activist Zach Wahls, the idea of The Rainbow Letters was born. The Rainbow Letters is a growing collection of open letters written to the world by people in the LGBTQ community to share the stories of their families. The intention of The Rainbow Letters is simple: to generate healing and empathy through the art of letter writing. By reading, writing, and spreading these letters, we can acknowledge our unique differences and celebrate our common humanity.

You may be wondering … why letters? Three reasons:

  1. Anyone can write a letter, which makes them accessible
  2. Letters feel personal and intimate because they’re addressed to someone specific
  3. Letters are most compelling in their raw, unedited forms, which invites authenticity

To sum it up, letters are inclusive and they seem to get to the heart of a person’s heart. Epistolography is the art of letter writing. It’s a lost art in this world of fleeting, transactional, 140-character, one dimensional digital messages. We want to bring epistolography back to life for the sake of this conversation because the topic of humanizing individuals who are too often labeled, feared, frowned upon and caricatured is too important to glaze over.

Initially, the project was born out of a desire to hear solely from our peers, the children of LGBTQ parents, because these voices are important yet conspicuously missing from the national dialogue. We’ve received many heartwarming notes from these pioneering letter writers expressing that writing Rainbow Letters has been a healing and empowering experience; several have even joined The Rainbow Letters team, which is a purely volunteer-based labor of love.

By partnering with Family Equality Council, COLAGE and Our Family Coalition, we have so far collected more than 60 letters from people with LGBTQ parents and are releasing them now as the #ARainbowLetterADay campaign, which is the official launch of The Rainbow Letters project.

Simultaneously, we are calling for more letters. This time all the rainbow voices — those who are LGBTQ or have LGBTQ siblings, children, relatives, friends – are invited to participate by writing and submitting letters. The political and emotional climate in our country and world today is disturbingly cold, tense and divided; the time has come to deepen the rainbow symphony for an even fuller, richer sound.

Now anyone who is LGBTQ or identifies with the family equality movement is invited and encouraged to write and submit Rainbow Letters. Simply click here to visit The Rainbow Letters website and get started.

I invite you to join us in reading, writing, and spreading Rainbow Letters. By sharing the stories we carry in our hearts, we provide a service to the world: we humanize ourselves.