By Megan Wadding, June 2016 Web Exclusive.

As part of the 53rd biennial National Association of the Deaf (NAD) conference, which will take place at the Phoenix Convention Center July 5-9, the nation's oldest civil rights organization will host its fourth annual LGBT Deaf Equality Luncheon July 6.

According to Alicia Lane-Outlaw, NAD board member, the luncheon is an opportunity for deaf LGBT leaders from all over the country to come together, meet each other and to spotlight various issues within the deaf LGBT community.

“The NAD conference [is] the one national conference where people from all corners of the deaf community come together to discuss important issues impacting our quality of life,” Lane-Outlaw said. “We exchange ideas, learn from each other and encourage each other. It's very exciting to see all the leadership talent we have across the country.”

The first luncheon was held during the 51st Biennial Conference in Louisville, Kentucky in 2012.

“The first luncheon was [a] result of a group of longtime NAD members from the LGBT community who felt strongly about political and civil rights advocacy by putting forth a motion during the 50th Biennial Conference in Philadelphia, which approved setting up a special interest section for LGBT members,” said Steve Lovi, NAD Board Member, Governance Chair, Board Liaison to the LGBT Members Section and luncheon co-host.

The conference will feature various luncheons throughout the week, each focusing on a different topic.

“This year's [LGBT Deaf Equality] luncheon focuses on the emerging trend of gay parenthood, with the explosion of babies being born into families with same-sex parents,” said Lane-Outlaw. “As communities encounter this new reality, LGBT families find themselves having to self-advocate, both inside and outside the community.”

As part of the luncheon, Sean Furman, Brian Berlinski and Glenna Cooper, luncheon emcee and lesbian parent, will share their unique parenting stories.

Furman, one of the event’s head volunteer coordinators and master scheduler, and his husband were the first deaf gay couple to have children in the state of Arizona (where he resided for 12 years before relocating to New York).

Brian Berlinski (right) with his husband and three adopted children. Berlinski will be presenting at the 2016 LGBT Deaf Equality Luncheon June 6. Courtesy photo.

“[I will be presenting on] the challenges of becoming parents, especially for those in the LGBT community and how it's rewarding in the end,” Furman said. “Also, the little things to know before beginning the journey into parenthood. It's worth mentioning as part of my presentation [that] my experience with my husband is an extraordinary one [because] as to our knowledge, there aren't any other deaf gay couples that have triplets here in the United States.

Berlinski lives in the Bay Area, California and is a father of three children.

“I will be speaking from my own personal [experience] becoming a foster father of three deaf children, and later adopting them,” Berlinski said. “I will touch on how important it was for me to have a robust support system that included the adoption social workers, the school community and my family and friends.”

According to Berlinksi, this luncheon provides an opportunity for deaf LGBT parents to rally together, locally and remotely, and to provide each other support.

“The expression, 'It takes a village to raise a child,' could include the deaf LGBT community, even those who are not parents,” he said. “The luncheon will also serve to help deaf LGBT attendees who are interested in becoming parents to feel more confident in their desire to start their own family.”

After the presentations, the floor will be open for questions from the audience.

“Our community is much smaller than the deaf community as a whole,” Furman added. “The deaf and hard of hearing LGBT community is a close-knit community.”

Editor's Note: The fourth annual LGBT Deaf Equality Luncheon has sold out. For more information, visit phoenix.nad.org/register.

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