Families in the Desert

Driving into Palm Desert is one of my favorite things to do. To a
life-long New England Yankee, the landscape is striking and the
wind farms are beautiful. More importantly, though, the drive into
Palm Springs marks the beginning of Families in the
—a community gathering for LGBT families hosted by
Family Equality Council. This past October I made this drive again
and participated in this wonderful family event for the third

The first day of Families in the Desert felt just like a family
reunion. Families arrived slowly at first, but soon they began to
pour in through the doors of the Embassy Suites. The lobby became a
meeting place for returning families seeking out friends from last
year, and new families being welcomed into the fold. However, it
wasn’t long before everyone headed to the pool to splash around
and soak up the last few hours of the desert sun.

Then it was time for Family Dinner. Though slightly chaotic with
90+ kids running around, dinner was a great time to sit with
someone new and strike up conversation. While laughing and
relaxing, parents were chatting about schools, teachers, homework,
naps, diapers, formula and all the other things parents always want
to know the most about. Meanwhile, the kids were occupied with
finding new friends to run around the hotel with. Looking around
the room at dinner time was a great visual representation of the
importance of bringing LGBT families together. A survey of all this
activity would have shown that at the same time everyone was having
fun, they were also forming connections and sharing information
that strengthens and energizes them as families and a community.
Most importantly, it was moving to see children notice other
families that looked like theirs and enjoy an evening free of
judgment and questioning.

On Saturday morning, following a dip in the pool, families made
their way to the morning programming. Parents dropped their kids
off with me, my colleagues, and a team of professional childcare
providers for a morning of kid’s activities. While their children
were engaged in activities that were both fun and focused on self
esteem building, parents were able to participate in our
educational workshops. A highlight for Saturday morning was
Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler’s “State of the
Movement” presentation. Over the course of an hour, Jenn was able
to give parents an inside glimpse of the work Family Equality Council and
our partners in the LGBT movement are engaging in to advance our
mission of equality. This year, she talked about our many
achievements including the introduction of a federal adoption bill
(Every Child Deserves a Family Act) that would provide incentives
for states to NOT discriminate in adoption and foster care and our
work with the Obama Administration to clarify Family Medical Leave
Act so that it includes LGBT families. (See more about our policy
work here)

After the workshops, the rest of Saturday afternoon was spent in
anticipation of our evening event. Everyone was looking forward to
the main event: the Sunset Safari & Movie Night. At 4pm,
families made their way over to the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
for a special evening at the zoo, which was kept open just for us.
Starting with a wildlife show and a tour of the zoo, the night
continued with a Family BBQ—complete with s’mores. Finally, we
wrapped the night up with a double feature. While little kids
watched the Lion King, the adults were treated to a special showing
of “Expecting Mary.”

And finally it was Sunday. After one last goodbye, it was time to
load up the car and head back to LAX for a red eye to Boston. The
drive out of Palm Desert was not as much fun as the drive in—next
year’s Families in the Desert seemed so far away. Then I
remembered, only nine months until
Family Week
in P’town!