Beyond Words: Lydia Gray-Holifield is a Voice for All Parents

Lydia Gray-Holifield, a Portland-based community advocate, ensures that Black and Brown LGBTQ+ parents in Portland, Oregon can access the tools and resources they need to thrive.

Creating a Loving Home

Lydia Gray-Holifield is a mom, a wife, and an outspoken changemaker for LGBTQ+ families.

Lydia’s family has taken many different paths, from adoption and foster care to pregnancy and caretaking. But one thing has always remained the same: “I love my family beyond words,” she says.

“Being a parent is one of the best jobs in the world and everyone should have that opportunity. Children that are in foster care, that need to be adopted, those babies are looking for someone to love them. And nobody loves people and families better than gay people. That’s just how I see it.”

But welcoming children into a home is only the first step on the path to parenthood—something Lydia knows well. When she moved to Portland as an adult with a three-year-old child in her care, it wasn’t easy.

Moving to Portland, Oregon

“I grew up in the south, where you got barbecue joints on every corner. You got your people that look like you in your neighborhood. Oregon is just different. It has a lot of beautiful trees and beautiful people — but it’s a lot of white people… I’m just gonna be honest. And for me, that was hard.” 

As a young parent in the nineties who could not afford preschool, Lydia has experienced what it’s like to confront institutional racism and navigate the everyday microaggressions that come from living as a Black LGBTQ+ parent in a predominantly white community.

Those experiences made her want to change things in Portland.

Leading Policy Changes

A pivotal interaction with a bus driver in those early days in Portland moved Lydia to create lasting change for youth and families like hers. Her career began as an early childhood educator and Community Education Worker. There, she created affordable preschool options for Black and Brown, Indigenous, and melanated parents in Multnomah county. Together with movement partners, Lydia led the implementation of policy changes. Beginning in the fall of 2022, the first set of 500 kids will be enrolled in “Preschool for All,” placing low-income children in accredited preschools, free of charge. 

Today, she works for local housing nonprofit Impact NW as DEI director, bringing equity to Portland’s housing affordability crisis.

Winning the Hostetter-Habib Family Award

Lydia’s work as a parent and a community advocate exemplifies so many of the core values that guide Family Equality: advocacy, equity, pride, and joy—just to name a few. So, on May 16, 2022 we were proud to honor her with the Hostetter-Habib Family Award at Night at the Pier in New York City. Flying from Portland to New York’s Chelsea Pier, Lydia and her family walked on stage to a standing ovation of more than 600 ardent supporters.

We could not be more excited to recognize Lydia’s effervescent spirit, determination, and passion for this work, and we are inspired to continue working alongside her and other community advocates in supporting all parents, youth, and families from historically oppressed communities, including those who are LGBTQ+.

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Dedicated to telling the stories of everyday LGBTQ families, the Ric Swezey Memorial Fund made this film possible. Make a donation to support our storytelling work here.

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