By Gabriel Blau
Originally published on Advocate.com July 28 2014 4:00 AM ET
Every day the staff and volunteer leaders at Family Equality Council wake up with pretty much one thing on our minds: working to make life better for millions of families with LGBTQ parents and guardians. Our emails, texts, and calls are flying at all hours. We share articles, notes we get from parents around the country, and ideas — lots of ideas.
But late last week I woke up with packing on my mind, and last minute things I needed to get done before my husband Dylan, our 6-year-old Elijah, and I headed out to Family Equality Council’s Family Week, taking place this week in Provincetown, Massachusetts. This marks the event’s 19th year and more families are attending than ever before.
But it seems that everywhere I go I hear people say that programs like Family Week aren’t needed, because, I’m told, we connect through Facebook and Twitter, and because we’re seeing more of our families on shows like The Fosters. Yet when we launched our 2014 National Family Equality Survey what people said they wanted most was to connect with other families like them. The real trend is we are recognizing that community helps us grow and helps us pursue lived and legal equality for us and our children.
I live in New York City. My family belongs to a synagogue in Washington Heights where there are lots of LGBTQ identified people, including families. Our neighborhood is full of people who are LGBTQ. And we enjoy almost total equality. But when we went to our first Family Week last year, Dylan and I looked at each other in astonishment. This was something different. This gathering of LGBTQ families and extended families was amazing.
Creating opportunities for families to connect, learn, share, and have fun together has become one of the most powerful things we can do to pursue lived and legal equality in a country where our families face significant barriers to creating legal relationships between children and their own parents in more than 30 states. The bottom line is, we’re stronger together.
Whether at Family Week or our other events like, Families in the Midwest, Family Camp, Family Outfest, and other family experience programs (watch for a new one in the south coming soon), these programs give families a chance to breathe. They give them a chance to be empowered and feel supported so they can go back home with an image of what the world could be like. And it motivates us all to share our community’s stories to open hearts and minds.
I think my colleague, Annie Van Avery, the executive director at COLAGE, our leading partner for Family Week, said it best:
“Family Week fosters lifelong friendships and provides a safe space to support empowerment, dialog, and connections for youth in LGBTQ families. Whether through discussions of relevant issues for teens, on the ball field, or through an art workshop, we have found over these many years providing youth programming at Family Week, that connecting with peers who share a deep understanding of your child’s experience as well as adult mentors who are also people with LGBTQ parents is a powerful and life changing opportunity.”
And it’s not just about parents and kids. Family Week will also be hosting its third annual Grandparents’ Gathering. This is a chance to honor and thank the supportive grandparents of our community and showcase one of Family Equality Council’s newest programs, Pearls of Wisdom. We connect them with one another and offer them opportunities to speak out about their experiences as LGBTQ grandparents or grandparents to children who have LGBTQ parents.
My family and so many others are incredibly grateful to the gay dads who had the inspiration to start this event all those years ago. Little did they know just how much joy and community building they would bring to the thousands of LGBTQ families who have attended and benefited from this extremely special week every summer.
GABRIEL BLAU is executive director of Family Equality Council, an organization that connects, supports, and represents the three million parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender in this country and their six million children of all ages. For more information about Family Week, visit the websites of Family Equality Council, and COLAGE.