Meet Matthew Ramsey with Family Equality Council and First-time R Family Guest!
At our LGBT friends and family resort vacation this year, we were so excited to have Matthew Ramsey, Chief Development Officer with one of our favorite organizations, Family Equality Council! During the week, he was able to experience the Olivia and R Family vacation with eyes as a parent a involved member of the LGBT community. He also led the incredible teen panel which is the highlight of the week for many as we hear from teens talking about their background and life experiences. Take a look at his background and experiences during that week:
Q: Tell us about your family.
When my husband and I first started dating, we talked about forming a family one day. Living in Ohio at the time, we were wary of how we’d get that process started. In 2011 we moved to Seattle, one of the reasons being that we knew it would be a more open place to try to start a family. Almost immediately we began the process to become licensed foster parents. Nearly three years later in May 2014 (we were slow!), we were placed with two adorable, high-energy, exhausting (!) 3 and 4-year-old boys, Malaki and Makai. We fostered the boys for about 17 months before we were fortunate enough to adopt them in October 2015. We are now a forever family and it’s the most rewarding, wonderful, exhausting (!), and meaningful experience of my life. Q: Before arriving on your first Olivia/R Family Vacation at Sandpiper, what were you thinking going into the trip?
My first thought was something along the lines of, “how in the world am I going to lead a teen panel??” Haha! I honestly didn’t know exactly what to expect about the trip. I was curious to finally get to meet Gregg and Kelli and so many of Family Equality Council’s fantastic supporters, and I was also excited to see ClubMed for the first time. I was a little apprehensive to go into a situation where I had never officially met anyone, but I had a sense that I wouldn’t feel lonely. I was looking forward to an adventure and a wonderful adventure is what I got!
Q: What was your first impression upon arriving on the trip and meeting other families?
My apprehensiveness about walking into a situation where I knew no one almost instantly evaporated. Everyone was so warm and welcoming. Everyone was excited to meet me, hear about my family (sadly, my husband and boys could not join me for this particular trip), and learn more about the current work of Family Equality Council. I right away felt like I was part of a giant family. I loved meeting families from around the country, hearing their incredible stories, and getting to know them on a personal level. It meant so much to me to be enveloped by this group and treated like I’d been attending for many years. I really, truly loved that week.
Q: As a part of the week, you coordinated a Teen Panel discussion, can you tell us a little more about this?
I absolutely loved being a part of such a special moment during the week. Children with LGBTQ parents – or “queerspawn” as some people like to be called – are currently not widespread in our society. As more and more LGBTQ families are formed, this will become more commonplace. I learned that being a child of LGBTQ parents can be a very different experience from being LGBTQ yourself. They deal with all the pressures and discrimination that the LGBTQ community faces, but they personally may not identify as LGBTQ themselves. That’s a lot of weight to carry around. And as a parent, it can be easy to forget how much pressure our kids have to face every day. Giving our kids the opportunity to share their experiences, open up about their unique challenges and difficulties, and helping to remind them about the great love they have in their families is incredibly valuable to all of us. The teens on the panel were incredibly thoughtful and open about what they encounter on a daily basis, and it was very moving to be a part of it.
Q: What was your takeaway from this teen panel compared to others you have done? So far, this is the only teen panel I’ve led, so I can’t compare it to any others just yet. But what I will say is how earnest this group was and how much I also appreciated the parents in the room who were eager to hear from their children. I think it’s critically important for LGBTQ parents to allow their children the opportunity to have this space to support each other, hold each other up, and face the world together as youth who come from similar situations. No one can know what it’s like to be the child of an LGBTQ parent, except for that small population. The more we allow them to thrive in support of each other, the better off we’ll all be.
Q: What are the most important things to your family when thinking about traveling for fun?
Obviously, we want to go places that are fun for all of us, whether it’s a beach, has touristy or educational activities, or is simply time with family. But the number one factor on our list is going to a place where we’ll be accepted and treated with dignity and respect during our travels. We are a family and no one can take that away from us, but we don’t want to have to face microaggressions or discrimination when we’re expecting to get away and relax. It’s one thing to deal with that type of behavior as an adult; I want to do everything in my power to protect our children from that type of incivility and I won’t tolerate it. So we’re careful to ensure that we travel to places that are actively open and welcoming towards LGBTQ families.
Q: What advice do you have for families thinking about doing an Olivia/R Family vacation?
First of all, do it! It’s such a blast, it’s so open and welcoming, and it gives everyone in the family the opportunity to let loose and relax! In addition, get ready to be welcomed by a whole new family of friends…framily! You will have instant friends, potentially for life! And throw yourself into the activities. I was blown away by the talent of the performers during the Broadway performance. I was enraptured by the chat with Dawn Lafreeda and Sharon Gless. And I absolutely loved game show night, Julie Goldman, and so much more. Engage, have fun with it, and join the framily!
Q: Why do you think vacations like R Family Vacations and Provincetown Family Week are important for the kids with LGBT parents?
The one highlight from the R Family Vacations trip that sticks out to me more than any other is probably the game show night. I was laugh/crying pretty much the whole time. It was silly fun, but it was also so incredibly moving to see how well the kids knew their parents, to see those tight bonds, and to reflect on that experience as we showcase that LGBTQ families are just as strong, loving, and close as any other family out there. Gender identity and sexual orientation don’t matter at all when it comes to families. The shape, size, ethnicity, or any other factor aren’t what’s important. Love is the key. And seeing the love on display during the week in Florida, and during Family Week in Provincetown, is the most important component to those weeks. Demonstrating that love for all kids with LGBTQ parents is at the heart of these weeks, and that will stick with our kids forever.
Experience it for yourself!
Join us next summer on our LGBT friends and family group cruise onboard the sensational Harmony of the Seas! Join 500 of your closest LGBT family & friends (everyone can join us—kids are welcome but not required) as we sail round-trip out of Orlando/Port Canaveral, FL with stops in CocoCay (RCCL’s own private island), St. Thomas/St. John, St. Maarten and three thrilling days at sea. Grab your #adventuresquad and try the Waterslides, Flowrider or Zip Line across the ship—these are just a few of the highlights. Take in the full-scale Broadway musical Grease, an ice-skating or high diving water show; dine in a different restaurant each day—there are over a dozen on board; participate in exclusive excursions and enjoy our own entertainment! The choices are endless!
Orlando/Port Canaveral, FL
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
Philispburg, St. Maarten
Accommodations for 8 days/7 nights on board Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas
All meals, including room service (specialty restaurants have a nominal charge)
Exclusive entertainment shows, dance parties, and events on board for our group
Reserved area on the private island, CocoCay
Reserved section for dinners in the Main Dining Room
Olivia & R Family Vacations signature entertainment and programming & TEAM assistance
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org