Family is Everything: Stacey & Riley’s Story

At Family Equality, we know one simple truth: Family is everything. Family Equality’s CEO, Stacey Stevenson, knows this firsthand. 

Growing up in Robstown

There’s a twinkle in Stacey Stevenson’s eyes as they talk about their father, Riley. Growing up in Robstown, Texas, Riley was their hero. They explored everything together, from Alice Cooper and Jimi Hendrix records to Taekwondo.  

But all that changed when Stacey wrote a note to their girlfriend—it was the early 90s and they were in high school. Somewhere along the way, Stacey dropped the note, and one of the popular kids picked it up instead. 

Pulled out of the closet

“That next day, the entire school knew that we were the gay kids in school. They were pointing at us. They were calling us names. So, I picked up my books, and I left. And, I never returned.” 

Their classmates subjected Stacey to intense bullying, but they also experienced almost immediate isolation from their family, too. 

“I didn’t realize the damage I was doing,” says Riley. “I was a soldier to society’s ignorance.” 

It would take years for Stacey to persevere through that pain and begin to heal. At the time, living on their friend’s floor, Stacey decided to move to Dallas. There, they worked to rediscover their pride + joy, regardless of their parents’ acceptance.

Getting their hero back

Recognizing that he could lose his daughter if he didn’t change, Stacey recalls, “I think that was a shift.” Riley apologized—for the rejection, for the break, and for the hurt that he caused along the way—and he began to open up again. 

“I got my hero back,” Stacey recalls, tearfully. 

Now, Stacey is a proud wife and mother of twin boys who love their grandfather more than anything. They are also Family Equality’s CEO, and every day, they channel their experiences to create real, lasting change for LGBTQ+ families like theirs.

Family is Everything

“I always wanted to give a child what I didn’t have,” they say now. “So now that I have a wife and two beautiful boys, and we have this family structure that I never had growing up, it’s everything. And I protect it at all costs.” 

Stacey’s story isn’t singular. Too often, our families experience the same kind of hurt and isolation because of who they are, whom they love, and where they come from. But, it doesn’t have to be like this. 

We are committed to creating a world where everyone can experience the unconditional love, safety, and belonging of family. And, we invite you to accompany us on this journey.

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Dedicated to telling the stories of everyday LGBTQ families, the Ric Swezey Memorial Fund made this film possible. Make a donation to support our storytelling work here.

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