Existing in the world as an LGBTQ individual can be an effort-filled and radical act. Added into these layers, becoming a parent can be even more of a challenging endeavor to navigate. Sara Benson, a parent of two, shares, “Being an LGBTQ family brings its own challenges—firstly how do you even go about becoming a parent? Then once you are a parent, how do you figure out the legal issues or best school choices for your family? My wife and I wanted resources and the ability to find affirming spaces where we could meet other parents, and where our kids could see families that reflect ones that look like their own.”
While many spaces are certainly becoming more inclusive, there is still a desire within Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia for areas dedicated to those with LGBTQ identities, including parenting or family support groups. One such organization that seeks to address this need is the non-profit Rainbow Families, which, as the name implies, connects LGBTQ families across the region to foster community. Benson says Rainbow Families has “lots of programming that helped us early on make some of these decisions as we built our family, and also has offered great opportunities for us to socialize and connect with other parents after becoming parents.”
Tony Bonetti and Beth Parker from Rainbow Families sat down with us to share their experience with the organization personally, as well as providing insight as board members.
Can you tell us a little bit about the organization and who it serves?
Rainbow Families has existed since the late 1990s as a social group for gay parents in Maryland. Since that time, it has evolved into a non-profit serving all LGBTQ parents, prospective parents, and allies in the Washington, D.C. area. Here’s an article about the history of the organization.
What types of events do you hold?
Rainbow Families offers a variety of social events, support groups, and educational programs. One example is our Maybe Baby Class for LGBTQ prospective parents. This multi-class series covers everything from adoption, donor eggs, donor sperm insemination, and surrogacy to finances and preparing to bring a child into your home.
We also hold a Family Conference, which is occurring next month on May 5. The conference brings experts, LGBTQ parents, and prospective parents together for workshops such as Paths to Parenthood, Legal Considerations for New and Expectant Parents, and Creating LGBTQ Inclusive Schools. We also offer a variety of parenting classes in collaboration with PEP (the Parent Encouragement Program). We are tremendously excited to have two amazing keynote speakers at the conference this year: Danica Roem and Rich Madaleno. For more info about our keynote speakers, you can visit our website.
The Family Conference also provides a unique gathering for children; there is a Kids’ Camp for younger kids, and a COLAGE gathering for teens during the conference. It’s extremely empowering for children in LGBTQ families to spend a day engaged in activities alongside other children in families like theirs.
Who can join Rainbow Families?
All LGBTQ families, prospective parents, allies and supporters are welcome to join the organization. We believe Rainbow Families should be a safe space for all LGBTQ families and strive to reflect the diversity of the people in the region it serves. It is important to us that our programming is open and welcoming to all families and prospective parents. We encourage our members to provide input and feedback to continuously enhance our programming and meet our community’s evolving needs.
Where do you see this organization headed in the next few years?
This is always a great question and something we talk about constantly! We would love to increase our outreach to engage with more LGBTQ people of color and other parents in our community who may have experienced marginalization or limited community, including transgender or non-binary parents/prospective parents, and families with diverse family structures. We also aim to extend our community to those residing outside the Beltway, as well as families with limited financial resources. We aim to make sure our programming is accessible to all, particularly those who would benefit most from that support and connection. If accessibility is ever an issue, please contact any of our board members and we will make whatever accommodations we can.
How can folks get involved?
Rainbow Families is a volunteer-led organization, and we are launching new volunteer opportunities all the time. You get to be in a fun, relaxed environment and meet other LGBTQ parents and allies by helping out at social events. Whenever you volunteer, you also get to attend that event for free. We encourage people who have special skills, such as support group facilitation to let us know, as we are often looking for people with professional skills to help support our programming. Or if you would like to organize a family outing or gathering for LGBTQ families in your local area, please reach out. We’ll handle the administrative piece if you are willing to identify a location and be present to welcome participants.
Please pass along any information to interested families and prospective parents, we want to widen our community! And if you are interested in signing up to volunteer at our Family Conference on May 5, please see our Sign-Up Genius page.