LZ Granderson Talks Candidly About Being a Black, Queer Father

The journalist and podcast host shares his intimate journey by living life out loud.

LZ Granderson

ABC News/Kindred by Parents

LZ Granderson, decorated journalist and podcast host, grew up in one of many Black homes during the 70s and 80s that ran under the old adage, “What happens in this house, stays in this house." These homes ended up raising kids who now struggle to parent while navigating their own issues and trying to resolve their own childhood traumas. This is where Granderson meets his audience on season 3 of the award-winning podcast, Life Out Loud with LZ Granderson. The season is a deep dive into families that often feels like a master class in parenting through the "hard parts" of life.

In his newest season, Granderson is opening the shades and the doors, and shining a spotlight on the ins and outs of the families we choose, that we were born into, and those that we find along our journey through life. He wanted to get to the good parts while also giving equal care to the parts that were not so great.

Navigating Family Life Is Messy

"The most important thing that I want [the audience] to understand is that this is messy. You know, a lot of queer people, in particular, come from backgrounds where home is not a pleasant place. And sometimes, as we grow, and certainly as I did, you grow out of that and start to develop your own life. You're under the impression that once you get out of your folks' house, and start living your life, that these answers become clearer, and these decisions become easier. And the trials that you went through as a child won't reemerge as an adult," Granderson explains to Parents. 

However, Granderson wants his audience to see that families are still hard work and "messy." Granderson begins season 3 of his podcast, which is focused on family, his own son, LZed, as the first guest. The host uses himself to set the tone for the season. He says that as a world-renowned journalist, he still has to be vulnerable and open up to the hard work of living and parenting. "My mess is as messy as yours," he says.

The first episode, called “Love Is a Practice,” is one of the most candid conversations you'll hear between an adult child and a parent on a public platform. LZ and his son LZed both used the episode to trip through some very sensitive topics. From LZ's absence due to work to his son's feelings about his father's boyfriends, and even the son's rearing in his mother's church, which regularly shared homophobic teachings.

LZ answers all of his son's questions, comments, and quips with a calm and grace that offers a lesson for his audience.

LZ Granderson

There is no manual on how to raise a Black child in America, in general. And there certainly is no manual on how queer single fathers are to be raising a Black child. So, please extend grace.

— LZ Granderson

How Grace Is Key To Familial Harmony

Grace, according to Granderson, is the key to his family's harmony. “That's such an important word in our family. You know, having to explain to [LZed] at one point, that there is no real manual on how to raise a child in general. There is no manual on how to raise a Black child in America, in general. And there certainly is no manual on how queer single fathers are to be raising a Black child. So, please extend grace."

That request to his son is necessary in order to navigate the emotional minefield that is their history as father and son. Granderson explains, "I already know I've made a bunch of mistakes. I don't need you to tell me about the mistakes. What I need to know is how those mistakes impacted you [LZed] and what we can do to heal and keep our relationship strong and move forward."

LZ Granderson

Things that keep us apart are important, but why do we keep putting them ahead of the things that keep us together? Because those things are important, too.

— LZ Granderson

Candid Conversations and Boundaries Make Parenting Better

Such an open approach to candid conversations lead to establishing boundaries. LZ explained how they fell into place before, during, and after the episode with his son.

"Once we decided that we were going to do this, we decided on the 'route.'

So, our pre-production meeting, if you will, was, 'Okay, what do you feel comfortable talking about? What don't you want people to talk about? What do you want to keep between us? How can we be as honest as possible without cheating the process or cheating ourselves or the story?' And so we decided that the best route was just to lay it all out there, and then go back through the editing process and sort of decide from there, where comforts and discomforts lie."

These conversations are what parents of adults and teens aspire to. Openness, honesty, and candor, along with the ability to dive into the messy parts and come out with a relationship that is stronger are admirable traits between parent and child. In this way, Granderson's third season of Life Out Loud with LZ Granderson becomes a master class for creating an open and honest relationship between parents and older teen or adult children.

Focusing on the Commonalities of Love, Kids, and Families

Granderson points out that the shows coming up are not just for Black, queer dads raising kids on their own. The audience will get to see that when HGTV design host, Vern Yip, joins Granderson for the second episode of season 3.

He explains that his aim for the season is to focus on love, children, and families. "Children are born out of families. I wanted to find a way to get to love and I thought the best way to do that would be to focus on families. I didn't want to skip over all the hard parts about families, which is why I started with my own. You know, I didn't want to say, ' Yay, gay family, everything's great.' 

No, I put my business out in the streets, so to speak, because I'm not saying that it's easy. I'm just saying that it's worth it," says Granderson.

He goes on to say that Vern's story is similar in that he gets to the guts of being a gay Chinese American dad, and that story comes with a raw and honest discussion about surrogacy. 

"In talking with Vern, you know, Vern's not saying that it's easy, but when he breaks down the fears of surrogacy and all the laws he has to be cognizant of, that's not a queer story. Everyone, every single person who adopts a child or chooses to use surrogacy as a way of growing their family, they're concerned that the first mother may change their mind. Or, that a new law may change the [legal] relationship they have with their child. That's everyone's concern! And everyone instinctively knows how afraid you feel of the idea that someone may take your child away," says Granderson.

Commonalities are what the podcast host hopes to hit this season on the show—not only to give his audience a blueprint for having these discussions with their own families but also to show that parenting has hardships and rewards for every family that is bringing up a child. He reminds us that the relationship does not change as the child grows, it evolves.

"I wanted to tap into those commonalities as a way to point us back towards healing. And hopefully, by the end of an episode, the end of the season, people are encouraged and are reminded to be protective and loving of their families. But also remember the quote, [by] the great lyricist Sting: 'Russians love their children, too.' Things that keep us apart are important, but why do we keep putting them ahead of the things that keep us together? Because those things are important, too. And they deserve oxygen as well."

Catch new episodes of Life Out Loud with LZ Granderson on Thursdays on Apple podcasts. 

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