Medium: Can you share a little bit about your family?
Jean Azar-Tanguay: I have two gay dads, and a little brother, who is 15, and we live right in Boston. My brother and I have the same biological mother and father. Our biological father is one of our dads, and our biological mother is the other dad’s sister. So we are related to both of them, which is pretty cool. My parents used a surrogate for me, and my aunt actually carried my brother.
What was it like when you were kids kind of wrapping your heads around that?
My parents were really good about never letting anything be a secret. Any question my brother and I had, they would answer. So it kind of just was.
You’re involved in a youth group for LGBTQ parents and their kids. What’s that like?
COLAGE and another organization called Family Equality Council run this week every year on Cape Cod called Family Week. I’ve been going to Family Week since I was two months old. In 2012, the director said they wanted to create a youth action board to get youth input. I marched right up and signed up. We release statements and tell stories that go to Supreme Court cases sometimes. Having that COLAGEer-only space is something that I treasure, because it’s a place where no one asks you, “Which dad?” when you say, “My dad did this today.” They just don’t.
You must get a lot of questions.
Sure. I’m very open about my family, very open about how I came into this world, mainly because I was born through in vitro fertilization—IVF—and I think it’s just really cool that I was conceived in a glass dish. So I’m really open to answering questions.
Is your school supportive?
It’s easier in high school, because people understand science and homosexuality, things like that. I’ve definitely had some classmates who have made remarks about my family, in front of me, that I just have learned to brush off. I’m also a Girl Scout. I’m working on a project with where I’m going to make a curriculum for administrators and faculty at high schools about how to be more accepting of those kind of family structures.
Is it correct to assume you’ll exercise your right to vote?
Oh, yeah. I’m already registered. I’ll be voting on social issues. I’m less worried about the economic side, just because I don’t have an income myself yet and don’t have to worry about taxes. I’m also very passionate about things like gun control and environmental protection.
Has the gun control conversation infiltrated your high school? Are you doing drills?
Yeah. We’ve always had lockdown drills. I’ve always had a little bit of an issue with any sort of drill. For as long as I can remember, going as far back as second grade, even a fire alarm would give me an anxiety attack of sorts. It happens to this day, where if I think there’s going to be a fire drill, I freak out and need to go to my guidance counselor.
Do you feel safe, generally speaking?
In a way. There’s always just this thing in the back of my mind to be more vigilant. I’ve gone to a lot of concerts recently, and I’ve always just been a little bit more vigilant, especially if I’m in a general admission, standing-room-only kind of situation. But I try to not let it take over my life, because if you spend your whole time worrying about something happening, then you’re never going to enjoy the concert or the movie or learn in school.
What are you plans after high school?
My top four [colleges] right now are probably Smith, Brown, Northwestern, and University of Richmond. I definitely want to leave Boston. That’s something. I’m not applying to any schools in Boston. And it’s likely that I’ll leave Massachusetts, unless I go to Smith.
What do you think the future holds for you beyond college?
I’m thinking now of pursuing a career in medicine or research in some STEM field, because I really like that kind of stuff. I’m also bilingual in English and Spanish and trying to learn other languages. I’m half Lebanese, and I’m trying to learn Arabic. I might want to pursue a career in translation, or just be able to travel and use the medical skills I learn in college to impact other parts of the world.
Who has been your biggest inspiration in life?
Either my dads, or my aunt and her wife. I guess all of them as one entity, because they helped raise us. My aunts have given a lot to help not only take care of me and my brother, but they also helped care for my grandfather when he was really sick. He lived with them and couldn’t use half his body, so they had to really do everything for him. They basically put their lives on hold to take care of him.
You said you’re excited to leave Boston, but it sounds like you’re going to miss your family.
I’m a little worried about it, but I know my aunt will probably show up unannounced. I know my parents will let me come home when I want to. And my brother is convinced he’s going to be elated and turn my bedroom into a basketball court. But I think it’s going to be hard to be away from him.