Zach Wahls, an engineering student at the University of Iowa, spoke to an audience about his experience growing up with same-sex parents at Pennsylvania College of Technology on Tuesday night.
Wahls, who was raised by a lesbian couple, gained recognition after testifying at the Iowa House Judiciary Committee on why gay marriage should not be banned. He said after giving the speech on Jan. 31, the YouTube video of the speech had reached more than 1 million views by the end of the week.
The presentation began with Wahls stating that he would be "talking about gay marriage or, as I like to call it, marriage."
JOSEPH STENDER/ Sun-Gazette
Zach Wahls shared his story of growing up with same-sex parents on Tuesday night at Penn College. Wahls has appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” since giving a speech at the Iowa House Judiciary Committee on the subject of same-sex marriage.
Wahls said his biological mother Terry conceived him by artificial insemination by donor 1033, "a 6-foot-6 pianist." Though Wahls thinks it would be "cool" to meet his biological father, he says he has no interest in developing a relationship with him. He compared meeting his biological father to an adopted child meeting their biological parents - they didn't raise the child.
"I think dad is a title that is earned," Wahls said.
There weren't many differences between his homelife and those of other kids he knew, Wahls said. Growing up with his two mothers Terry and Jackie, and younger sister was the same as other families because his family was committed to each other, which, he said, is what made them a family.
The only two differences between himself and those raised in a straight-couple relationship is he is "really good at putting the seat down" and when lost he "isn't afraid to ask for directions."
He also said that though his mothers weren't able to teach him to shave, he still learned everything other children learned.
"It doesn't matter who teaches you to drive a stick shift. What matters is you learn how to drive stick shift," he said.
Traditional gender roles were something Wahls said he wasn't exposed to until later in life. He talked about how he enjoyed playing with an Easy-Bake oven but also liked playing with Hot Wheels cars.
Wahls' path to YouTube fame started when the Iowa Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. In 2011, an amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions was introduced, which prompted Wahls to speak at the public hearing.
After the video of his speech hit YouTube, Wahls appeared on CNN, MSNBC and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
Wahls has been touring the country, telling his story and hoping audiences will get a better understanding of same-sex marriages.
"What's important for a kid's parents is if they're willing to put in the work."