Family Pride Week 'A Refuge From Life' For Kids Of Gays And Lesbians

08/14/2013 09:36 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
Courtesy of Steve Riley

For people in Provincetown, Mass., an iconic gay vacation spot on the toe of Cape Cod, July 13 through July 21 is "Bear Week," a "massive bear-fest that draws men from all over the world," according to Provincetown.org. July 23 to July 27 is "Girl Splash," for lesbians. And Aug. 3 to Aug. 10 is "Family Pride Week," a "chance for children to meet other children with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents, and for parents to meet with other parents and share experiences."

Sharing their experiences one recent August afternoon were two non-parents, Jesse Sgambati, 16, and Amanda Barry Moilanen, 17, who have been coming to Family Pride Week for a combined 23 years. They stood on a balcony overlooking the Provincetown High School auditorium, where a talent show was about to get underway.

"It's really nice to be able to go up to someone and say, 'So, moms or dads?'" said Amanda (moms).

"When I was in elementary school, I used to get bullied a ton, so being able to come here is a breath of fresh air," said Jesse (dads).

Less than two months after the Supreme Court ruled that that the U.S. government can't deny gay couples recognition of their marriages, life for kids with gay parents can still be stifling.

But Family Week is "a refuge from life," said Amanda, who lives in what she described as a conservative enclave in Massachusetts.

"There is something that exists called post-COLAGE depression," Amanda said, referring to an organization that sponsors a camp during Family Week. (COLAGE originally stood for Children Of Lesbians And Gays Everywhere, but the longer name was dropped so the organization could include children of transgender and queer families as well.) "I feel like every year it gets harder. Every year I'm more and more conscious of the friendships that I make and the difference that we can make in the world. That happens more and more every year after going back to school, it's like -- ugh."

This year, the events at COLAGE included workshops on anti-bullying, adoption and foster care, and an introduction to transgender issues, along with standard summer camp fare like swimming and kickball. The week culminated in the Friday afternoon talent show, where kids recited poems, acted skits, rapped, and –- like campers everywhere -- put on a drag show.

Some of the acts seemed to be inspired by the recent Supreme Court decision overturning California's ban on same-sex marriage and what has generally been a historic year for the gay-rights movement, like the sketch about two boys getting married, adopting a child, and playing NBA basketball.

"It is now the future and gay marriage is legal everywhere," announced Emily, the narrator, to loud applause and a scattered standing ovation.

Then were acts like the Testostertones, who danced to Grease Lightening, and a group of boys decked out in brightly colored wigs and rainbow boas.

Julie Kruger, 9, and Chris Kruger, 12, did not take part in the show. The morning before, when the other campers were preparing for the show, the Kruger kids weren't around. "We had more important things to do, like get married," said their father, Steve Riley.

Steve and his husband Matt Kruger are directly affected by the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act, even though they live in Texas, where same-sex marriage is still prohibited. Steve is an engineer for the federal government, and the Supreme Court decision has made it possible for him to put Matt on his health insurance plan. Getting married in Provincetown on Family Week was an obvious choice.

"We can be who we are without having to worry," Riley said the day of the talent show, walking down the town's main drag with a rainbow-colored umbrella.

Back in Texas, Riley said, he and his husband don't hold hands in public. "You never know what kind of wacko you're gonna run into," he said.

Later that day, Riley, Kruger and the kids sat in their little yellow beach cottage, waiting for the rain to let up and talking over the events of the week.

The wedding got high marks from both kids, who were adopted five years ago from the foster care system.

"It meant that I'm staying with them," said Chris.

"Forever," said Julie.

"And they're never going away," said Chris.

"Until they're dead," said Julie.

The dads laughed.

"I liked the kissing," Julie added.

Chris said he didn't like the kissing so much, but "the holding hands was nice."

For more information about Family Week, check out the Family Equality Council's website.

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