A decade ago children were rarely seen at Gay Days. It was a time of circuit parties and meat-market pool bashes that were decidedly not kid-friendly.
There were always the days at Disney World, and later outings to Universal Studios and SeaWorld. But that usually wasn't enough to tempt gay couples to bring the kids.
But Gay Days has been working on that. This year's new niche? Gay families. For the first time, family-friendly events are on the agenda.
Gay Day Family — which features a luau and a SeaWorld family picnic, a Disney character breakfast, a Medieval Times dinner tournament and evening child-care so gay or lesbian couples can spend nights out on the town — was conceived after an increasing number of parents, particularly single moms, inquired about bringing youngsters to events designed for the 18-and-over set.
Yesi Leon, producer of Gay Day Family (www.gaydayfamily.com), says she didn't want gay families to stay home because they felt excluded, something she was concerned about while organizing women's events last year.
"There were women who needed something a little different because they had kids and families," Leon says. "They didn't want that party atmosphere."
So far, an eclectic set of families plan to make the trip to Gay Days, Leon says, including a gay grandfather who is bringing his nephew, a recently married lesbian couple and a married couple attending the event with gay friends. Leon hopes to draw 50 families to this year's party.
"The point is to get the families and kids hanging out together so they can see other families like their families," she says. "We're creating a weekend that feels safe and welcoming for everyone."
No one has tracked how many kids attend Gay Days events, though organizers want to tabulate that this year. Anecdotal evidence suggests there is an increasing number of tykes spotted at Gay Days.
"Now it's so much more of a family event, with lots of people coming with kids," says Jim Sherlock, executive director of Orlando's Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Community Center. "It's now strongly family-promoted; it's gone from being a fringe event for oddballs to being more mainstream, so they're going to be getting more families."[email protected]