Attendees gather for a town hall meeting. Photo by Darren Vance
Rainbow Families has been hosting conferences for the LGBTQ+ family community for sixteen years, and not even COVID-19 can stop their pride.
Family is everything. Whether it comes in the form of supportive parents, siblings, extended relatives, neighbors, or new friends, family is an essential part of the LGBTQ+ community. Through the annual Rainbow Families conferences, the LGBTQ+ family community is able to gather information, collaborate, and make connections with existing families, prospective parents, and allies alike. This year’s conference, which will take place virtually on August 8 and 9, will look a bit different than past years but will still offer the same crucial information, resources, and connections.
“In 2004, Rainbow Families held our first ‘Family Conference & Gathering,’ offering workshops for LGBTQ+ parents. The goal was to provide information on legal roadblocks, pathways to parenthood, to identify safe/friendly schools and medical providers for our children, and more,” says Darren Vance, Rainbow Families executive director. “It was a joint effort with Washington D.C.’s Whitman Walker Clinic, and to the best of our knowledge, it was the first of its kind in the United States. Over the years, this grew in size and reputation, including opportunities to connect with LGBTQ+ businesses and service providers, a robust kids camp, and more.”
Sixteen years after the conferences first began, Vance says the need for them has remained unchanged.
“Our conference provides vital information on legal issues, race and culture, family building, educating and raising our families, celebrating our queer children, and being engaged allies. This aligns with the Rainbow Families mission; for thirty years, we have offered education courses, support groups, empowerment, and events for the community,” Vance says.
Each year, Rainbow Families works to provide timely, relevant programming, especially during its annual conference. This year, they are offering important new workshops including discussions on anti-racist advocacy, teaching kids to become good allies, to have a positive body image, find the best college culture for your teen, and—back by demand—the “Finding Intimacy After Parenthood” course.
“Of course, we have a few of our favorites each year, such as an introduction to adoption, assisted reproductive technology A to Z, parentage laws, and more,” Vance says. “This year, we are proud to honor Ellen Kahn, not only as a speaker but as a recipient of our second annual Hero of the Year award. Ellen was one of the founders of Rainbow Families and has dedicated her career to advancing LGBTQ+ families. She is one of those unsung heroes, doing tireless work in the background for our community nationwide.”
Another of this year’s speakers will be Mondaire Jones, a Black, gay activist, nonprofit leader, and attorney who has recently entered the political world. He will deliver messages of perseverance and hope. Race and diversity expert Beth Wheeler will also offer a powerful presentation on implicit bias, white privilege, and white identity.
“We’ll also be hearing from Minnesota Representative Angie Craig, who is a lesbian, married, and a mom,” Vance says.
With this year’s conference being interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, Vance says they have had to come up with an entirely new plan for the community event.
“Our 2020 conference had been scheduled for May, which naturally had to be postponed. For a moment, we considered canceling outright this year, but the community spoke up and told us that they very much wanted our conference this year,” Vance says. “We had a choice—retreat and hope things get better, or pivot… adjust… I feel we made the best choice for Rainbow Families and for our community.”
To protect community members and ensure safety for everyone who wants to participate in this year’s Rainbow Families conference, this year’s conference will be virtual, but the empowerment and education will be just as strong and vital as previous years.
“Certainly, we value personal connections. We need them. Especially because we’re not always welcome, much less celebrated in our everyday lives. Being realistic, however, a virtual conference offers convenience for attendees, allows people to join from anywhere in the country,” he says. “While there are several unknowns still, I envision this virtual format will continue as a national program, and we’ll work to offer our in-person events, groups, and networking opportunities in local communities.”
Due to the online nature of this year’s conference, the registration fee is significantly less than ever before, at a more than 50% discount. One registration fee includes one log-on, but you could have more than one person viewing from your screen, laptop or phone. No need to register or pay for two people.
If you miss a workshop on Saturday, or would just like to rewatch one, you can play the recording of any workshop for no additional charge all day Sunday. For more information or to register for the Rainbow Families conference, visit rainbowfamiliesconference.org.