PROVINCETOWN — When Stacey and Cheralyn Stevenson first visited Provincetown during last summer’s Family Week, their sons Duke and London, who were six, immediately noticed the pride flags, the Black Lives Matter signs, and families of varied configurations and colors.
“Walking down Commercial Street, I remember my boys saying, ‘Look, there are two dads over there!’ and ‘Look, there are two moms!’ and ‘There’s a white dad with a Black baby,’ ” says Stacey.
Provincetown felt like “a safe space,” she adds, “and my family felt that magic almost immediately.”
Last year, Stacey Stevenson had just become the chief executive officer of Family Equality, the New York City-based nonprofit that co-organizes Family Week with COLAGE, a Rhode Island-based organization that supports people with one or more LGBTQ caregivers.
Stevenson will be back again this year for Family Week, which starts July 23, along with her wife and their twin boys. They are all looking forward to returning to Provincetown after a year at home in Dallas. Although there was plenty going on during that first visit, what Stacey remembers best about it is “an immediate sense of calm.”
Scheduled events this year include outdoor movies, yoga classes, kickball, and drag queen storytimes. Stevenson says that Family Equality is expecting almost 400 families to be here; additional guests can register on-site at the Provincetown Inn on July 23 and 24.
Because “we know that LGBTQ families, LGBTQ people, and our youth are under attack,” Stevenson calls this year’s Family Week “a resilience builder,” a chance to encourage LGBTQ families in seemingly bleak times.
“We are in the fight of our lives right now,” she says. “Resilience is going to be more important than ever.”
About that fight, Stevenson says, it’s important to note the difference between “fighting against” and “fighting for.” Fighting against, she says, is the frustrated, desperate push to oppose hate and discrimination. Fighting for, on the other hand, means cultivating the experiences and ideas that the LGBTQ community values. At Family Week, “What we’re going to try to focus more on is fighting for — that’s fighting for families, fighting for our youth, fighting for queer parents’ rights.”
Stevenson was outed by peers in high school in Robstown, Texas, near Corpus Christi. It was not easy growing up in a Baptist family that did not at first accept her sexuality. Something like Provincetown’s Family Week would have been a life-altering experience, Stevenson says.
“There were so many times where I was not sure if I wanted to be on this Earth when I was very young,” says Stevenson. “When we expose our youth to events like Family Week, it demonstrates that we are just as normal as anyone else, we are just as capable of love, and that we deserve to be loved.”
The Stevenson family first got involved with Family Equality in 2019 when they were featured in Out in Texas, a docuseries about LGBTQ families following the fifth anniversary of nationwide marriage equality. They were one of two same-sex couples who spoke of their experiences for the program, which covered topics from marriage to advocacy to adoption.
After wrapping up filming, the Stevensons remained on the organization’s email list, which is how they heard about the vacant CEO position. Stacey had been working in corporate jobs for 25 years, most recently at Charles Schwab as senior managing director of client service and support.
Covid, she says, provided an opportunity to consider something different.
“If you had told me in 2019 that I would be the CEO of Family Equality in 2021, I would have told you that you were crazy,” says Stevenson. But the career change has meant a more fulfilling role as an advocate. Now, Stevenson says, “I tell people I’ve been preparing for this position my entire life.”
Family Week was started by two dads who brought their daughter to Provincetown 28 years ago. Upon meeting other LGBTQ parents and their children, the couple invited about 15 other families to their beach house here, Stevenson says. Family Equality’s website calls the week “the largest annual gathering of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified families in the world.”
This year’s theme is “Y’all Means All.” The point is to pay homage to LGBTQ people in Southern states where queer people are facing new laws restricting their rights. Family Night will include food, activities, and entertainment drawing inspiration from the South, including barbecued ribs and music by Doll Parts, a Dolly Parton cover band.
“Whether you’re in the Southern states or in Massachusetts, we’re all feeling the heaviness of what’s going on,” Stevenson says, adding, “We’re all going to breathe a sigh of relief when we get to Family Week.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article, published in print on July 21, incorrectly reported that Family Equality is based in Texas. It is based in New York.