America: meet our families!

We noticed something interesting about this year’s Family Week in
Provincetown. Many of the families that were in attendance didn’t
have queer parents. We weren’t the only ones to notice this trend.
The Cape Cod Times wrote
an article
titled P’town gathering brings straight, gay
families together:

For Darrell and Bernice, a straight couple, ages 43 and
37, respectively, the week is about spending time with their gay
friends and beginning to include Fiona in that circle. “We have
many, many lesbian couple friends,” Darrell Smith said. “We have
single lesbian friends, single gay male friends. We have friends
that are a gay couple and they have twin boys. We just think it’s
about getting together with people.”

About 85 percent of the parents who attend Family Week are gay,
Chrisler said, but that composition is slowly changing. “I think
gay families are more willing to bring their straight family
members along, whereas 10 years ago this is something they would
have kept to themselves,” Chrisler said.

That means there were a few hundred non-LGBTQ aunts, uncles,
grandparents, friends and neighbors in attendance. When these
individuals go to the voting booth in the next election cycle, how
do you think they’ll vote? When non-LGBTQ America attaches names,
faces and stories to our struggle, it can be a mind, heart and
life-changing experience.

A few years ago, Mike Conway, a straight father, penned this op-ed
for his local paper about his experience.

For my vacation this year I spent a week on Cape Cod, a
week that changed my life. I spent the week in Provincetown
volunteering at Family Week. As a straight 40-year-old father of
two, why was I spending my summer vacation volunteering at an event
celebrating and addressing the needs of families with gay and
lesbian parents? Three reasons: first my family has friends within
the sponsoring group, Family Pride Coalition, second I am currently
unemployed so I was available, and third a career counselor told me
I needed a volunteering item on my resume. But my experience during
Family Week turned out to be far more significant than the sum of
all of these.

While I have been a supporter of gay marriage and gay rights, it
had always been from an intellectual standpoint and from outside
the issue. I supported gay rights because equality seems only
logical. But during the course of my week in Provincetown,
surrounded by the reality of hundreds of gay families, I began to
emotionally understand and appreciate the struggles these parents
and children face every day: children ostracized and threatened at
school and on the playground for having two moms, parents in crises
denied access to civil and legal resources, and the stares and
antagonism that gay parents and their children constantly endure.
As a straight, white guy, I have never even been close to facing
these sorts of things. But to the parents and children
participating in Family Week these issues are all too real, they
cut to the heart and spirit of humanity.The issue for them is about
loving families, nothing more.

To see children aged four and five excited because they get to
march in a parade and carry home-made signs that read simply “I
Love My Dads” or “I Love My Lesbian Mom” struck an emotional
chord in me that I was not prepared for. As a parent, I know the
unconditional love that grows exponentially between parents and
children. I cried throughout the week. I cried a lot. I can only
imagine how difficult life would be for my family if our love was
constantly questioned by strangers, colleagues, teachers, doctors,
the courts and the country as a whole.

Growing up in the 70’s, I learned all the stereotypes, bigotry
and prejudices of my Northeast Philly roots. Smear the Queer was a
popular schoolyard game. As children, we had no idea what the name
of this game implied. I had to learn to question and examine the
assumptions, beliefs and values of my upbringing. I now consider
myself a relatively open-minded person. But Family Week was my
first experience at being an open-hearted person. Families,
whatever they look like, are about love and nothing else. Sexual
orientation, gender, race, none of these matter to a child. Every
family is different in thousands of ways, which makes every family
equal. Denying equal treatment to anyone, to any family or child is
just wrong. Just as denying civil and voting rights based on gender
or race was a stupid, small-minded thing to do, so is denying equal
rights based on sexual orientation. It’s simply a waste of energy
that could be devoted to addressing the myriad real problems, such
as poverty, that families and children throughout the world