By Clare Mulroy
This article was first published May 17, 2021 in Tagg Magazine here.
Rainbow Families is embarking on their second year of online conferencing due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, Vice President of the board Liz Dean is confident that this year’s festivities will be a hit.
The Rainbow Families 18th Annual Family Conference will be held on May 22 and 23. The two-day event will feature Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-NY17) as keynote speaker and recipient of the Rainbow Families Hero of the Year 2021 award, as well as a performance from the Indigo Girls.
This conference has been a staple with the non-profit organization since 2003, where it began as a full day conference of workshops, educational speeches, and panels. When in person, the conference is typically held at a D.C.-based vendor and marketed to LGBTQ families in the DMV.
But when last year’s virtual conference skyrocketed attendance numbers with a more accessible platform, Rainbow Families transformed their marketing to reach families all over the country.
“We are lucky to be in Washington, D.C. because D.C.’s super gay, D.C. is super liberal, and D.C. has health resources and reproductive resources,” says Dean. She adds, “However, if you’re in a smaller city or in a state that’s anti-trans — there’s a lot with legislation that’s anti-trans especially for a trans youth — I think the need is definitely there, which has helped us to be able to meet this need and the kind of rise to the occasion.”
On the virtual platform Hopin, participants will be able to attend workshops and Expos via a virtual room where you can move your icon from booth to booth. Parents can attend parenting workshops, and prospective parents can learn about the fertility journey. There will also be a coffeehouse feature where attendees can chat with other attendees and meet new people. There will be two different programming paths for kids — stretching activities for 4-7 year olds and pilates for 7-12 year olds.
The theme of this years’ conference is “Forward, Together…” which emphasizes resiliency.
“The last four years were hard for people,” explains Dean. “And this theme just shows we’re here together, we’re moving forward together. We’re in this: you have a community, you have people you can talk to, you have other families you can learn from.”
The conference caters to all different kinds of LGBTQ families — it doesn’t matter what “makes you rainbow.” Many of the conversations will address diversity in the queer community.
“We don’t expect that everyone comes in [as] two moms and two dads and that’s their family,” she says. “We’re very open to and cater to families that are of all family structures.”
“It’s been a rough year,” says Dean. “And I think that [in terms of] mental health just in general in the queer community, it’s hard to find a good therapist, it’s hard to find competent care that’s inclusive, and that meets the needs of the queer population.”