There's no wrong way to make a family. This clothing line gets that.

Scott Culley and Joshua Haynes are two dads who grew tired of the clothing options available for their 3-year-old daughter.

"We went clothes shopping, and everything in the store was geared toward moms and dads," Culley explained to Upworthy.

There wasn't anything inherently wrong with that, he explained, but the couple didn't really see their own family reflected in the options available.


Photo courtesy of Scott Culley, used with permission.

When it came to the styles that were more inclusive? Let's just say ... Culley wasn't a fan.

"Things for [kids of] gay couples were covered in rainbows, they were poorly designed, and they were stupid,” he said with a laugh.

About a year ago, the couple decided to do something about it — because if no one else was making the types of clothing they wanted to see on their daughter, why shouldn't they be the ones to make it happen?

With that in mind, Culley launched Gayby, an apparel brand that specializes in clothes for kids from LGBT families.

The brand — aimed at families with children "adopted by, born to, or raised by one or more [LGBT] persons" — is cute, clever, and designed with diversity in mind.

The line, for instance, puts its own twist on catchy phrases.

"KEEP CALM: They are both my moms." Photo courtesy of Red Turtle Photography, used with permission.

Gayby offers clothes that make it known that lesbian aunts are, of course, the best aunts.

"I <3 my lesbiaunt." Photo courtesy of Red Turtle Photography, used with permission.

And clothes that send love to all the birth moms out there who deserve a shout-out.

"I <3 my birth mother." Photo courtesy of Red Turtle Photography, used with permission.

Creating an array of everyday clothing kids could wear was key, according to Culley, because — although rainbows are great — LGBT families deserve more options than that.

"They’re not shirts to only wear during [LGBT] Pride," he said.

Gayby isn't meant to be cute for the sake of being cute — it's helping represent families that often feel excluded.

"Being out there and being visible is so important to reaching equality," Culley said. "This is just a way of subtly putting it out there — just making [LGBT families] part of the everyday."

On some of the products, the design's queerness is a bit more subtle — like this gay penguins onesie, for instance.

Photo courtesy of Gayby, used with permission.

On others, the messaging makes light of the several hoops many LGBT families have to jump through in order to have children of their own.

Photo courtesy of Gayby, used with permission.

But the underlying message of every Gayby product is clear: There's no wrong way to create a family.

Photo courtesy of Gayby, used with permission.

Fortunately, it's a message that's catching on across the U.S.

In recent years, the LGBT rights movement has produced a wave of progress on issues like marriage equality and gay adoption (although recent anti-LGBT laws in places like Mississippi and North Carolina serve as reminders the work's far from over).

Gayby isn't meant to be political, Culley noted, but the brand is "adding to the movement" toward equality in a positive way.

Gayby is just getting off the ground, but the response has been terrific thus far.

"There’s always going to be a few naysayers," Culley said of the values behind the Gayby brand, which officially launched this week. But nearly everybody's "had really good things to say, which is fantastic, and gives us the encouragement to keep on going."

Every family should be able to find clothes that reflect their unique love, and Gayby's doing just that — one adorable onesie at a time.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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