As hundreds of families are gearing up and getting excited for Family Week, it’s important to take a step back and appreciate all that this week of celebration means.
Once a year LGBTQ families gather on the tip of Cape Cod for Family Week, a week of celebration, reflection, and just plain old vacation. Family Week means something different to each of the roughly 500 families who attend. As a newcomer to the week myself, I wanted to know what this event meant to families and why some people start countdowns months in advance, or make a car ride playlist weeks before they make the trek to Provincetown! I talked with three different people, from a newcomer to a long time veteran, about what exactly Family Week means to them.
Natalie Perry, a fellow newbie to Family Week, is coming as an adult ‘queerspawn’ (a term some people with LGBTQ parents and caregivers use for themselves) and volunteer with COLAGE. As someone who grew up in a closeted gay family and was never allowed to participate in events like Family Week, this week is important for Natalie so “kids can grow up with a sense of community and positive representations of our families.” Johnny Cole, who will be attending his 8th Family Week this year with his family, echoed this when he said that it is “really powerful for the young adult folks to see that family life can be totally normal for them, it never clicked to me in my early life that this could be normal for me.”
This sense of normalization is shared by many families. Tori Paulman, who will be attending Family Week for the third time, said that “Family Week for my daughter is just a vacation.” If you asked Tori’s daughter her favorite part of Family Week she would say ice cream or the Shell Shop. To Tori’s daughter this week is just a time to have fun, meet new friends, and connect with old ones. Johnny summed it up best when he said that, “…for one week out of the year my kids get to be in the majority.” He also said that it is important that the kids at Family Week don’t have to explain their whole life and that there are no assumptions being made about their family.
This feeling of being in the majority and around other families that understand some of the day to day challenges and beauty of being an LGBTQ family is what allows this week to truly be a vacation. Johnny talked about how Family Week is invigorating and that it gives him the stamina needed for the rest of the year. For one week families can breathe easy, because they are around people that get it. This is one of the reasons Tori’s family moved up the date of their move across the country from San Francisco, so that they could attend Family Week.
The sense of understanding is also what allows families to develop deep friendships. More than anything, what keeps Tori coming back are the incredible friendships with people Tori might not have otherwise met. Johnny also keeps coming back for the friends he’s made and the sense of comfort and camaraderie that is felt at Family Week.
Family Week is a chance for LGBTQ families to be in the majority, to connect with others who have similar experiences and struggles, and to kick back and enjoy a much deserved vacation. We can’t wait to celebrate together again this year at the 22nd anniversary of Family Week in Provincetown, July 29th to August 5th. More information at www.familyequality.org/familyweek.