Over the past few days, as Stacey Stevenson and her family prepared to leave their home in Texas for Provincetown’s Family Week, her kids wouldn’t stop talking about it.
This is their second time attending the event. Stevenson, who uses both she and they pronouns, went to Family Week with her wife and kids for the first time last year. Stevenson had recently become the chief executive of Family Equality, the organization that cohosts the event, and she described the week as “life-changing.”
Stevenson’s twin 7-year olds “kept saying ‘Can we live here?’” she remembers. The twins fell in love with the town’s main hub, Commercial Street; “it became their favorite street,” Stevenson added.
Stevenson’s family isn’t the only one flying thousands of miles to Provincetown for this year’s Family Week, which takes place July 23-30.
For several decades, queer families from as far away as Berlin and Nova Scotia have traveled every summer to join what organizers believe is now the largest annual gathering of LGBTQ+ families in the world.
This year, Family Week’s organizers expect at least 1,600 attendees and have prepared a packed schedule of beachside parties, games, workshops, peer support groups, and a Family Pride Parade on July 30 to cap things off.
More than the makings of a fun-filled vacation, the week is also a vital “safe space,” said Stevenson.
It’s a place “where people don’t ask kids intrusive questions,” Stevenson said; where kids won’t get “made fun of for having two mothers.” Family Week’s other cohost, COLAGE, works specifically with children of LGBTQ+ parents and has prepared a wealth of kid-focused programming. Their workshops help children brainstorm things like how to tell peers they have two moms, or how to deal with homophobia from teachers or friends.
“It’s nice for our kids to bond with other kids who are maybe going through the same situations that ours are,” said Deanna McFerrin-Hogan, who is also from Texas and has been flying out to Family Week for 10 years with her wife, Laura.
“When we’re with other same-sex families, we don’t have to explain ourselves,” Laura added. “It was so nice not to hear things like ‘Who’s the real mom?’… It was a breath of fresh air.”
For New Jersey resident John Frenzer, who’s been coming to Family Week for more than 10 years, one of the event’s big draws is the opportunity to form friendships with other queer couples. Frenzer and his husband, Jeff, met Brian Soucek and Matt Lane at Family Week several years ago, and the couples have become close friends.
Frenzer remembers striking up a conversation with Lane and Soucek in an almost-empty Provincetown bar and thinking, “Wow, we have just met you, and you’re now going to be our family.”
If the couples had come during a different week — when Provincetown’s queer-friendly bars are often packed with people looking for “a different kind of relationship,” in Frenzer’s words, he wonders if they’d ever have become friends.
The week offers attendees the chance to explore whether they want to be a parent at all, and how it might work for them. Frenzer explained that some people come with questions about the complexities of interracial adoption or how surrogacy works, and Family Week hosts events that help participants get answers.
Along with all of the other couples interviewed for this article, Laura McFerrin-Hogan didn’t know any LGBTQ+ couples with kids when she was growing up. “I didn’t think of [parenthood] as an option,” she said. “It didn’t seem like it was possible, or was something I should want,” she added. “I thought people would think I was being selfish.”
Now, of course, Laura doesn’t see it that way. She said coming to Family Week every year has helped her see some of the things that make queer parents special. “Our kids grew up knowing they were worked for, and they were really wanted,” she explained. “We don’t judge, because we were always judged. We let them be themselves.”
That judgment-free mind-set has been particularly important to the McFerrin-Hogans’ child Grayson, 11, who came out as non-binary at a very early age.
Grayson has needed their parents’ support more than ever lately. Dealing with the “transphobic laws” implemented by Texas legislators has been tough, Grayson said. “There isn’t much that minors can do.”
Family Week connected Grayson to some of the friends that have kept them going. “I just stay in contact with friends — that really helps,” they said.
“When you go to Provincetown, you don’t feel like the only one — the isolation is eliminated,” they said. It was a vital opportunity for their family to “feel some sense of normalcy” and be reminded that “family” doesn’t have to be defined in one strict way.
“When the world is telling you something very different,” Stevenson said, that reminder is “so important.”
Registration is required to attend Family Week. Interested families can register on-site at the Provincetown Inn on Saturday, July 23, or Sunday, July 24. From July 25-29, partial-week and single-day registration will be available at Bas Relief Park (106 Bradford St.). Family Week uses a “pay what you are able” system.