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LGBTQ+ event on Long Island fosters sense of belonging

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Husbands Joseph Smith, 33, and Jose Cuevas, 34, already had four kids when they stumbled onto LGBT Families Day, hosted by the LGBT Network in Hauppauge Sunday.

Although they don’t plan to expand their family anytime soon, the couple said the event has provided a safe space where they and their four sons can befriend other LGBTQ+ families.

“I think it’s more of an element of having a sense of belonging, sharing a moment with different families that have shared similar experiences like ours,” said Cuevas, who lives with his family in Freeport.

It’s the fourth year the LGBT Network, a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ+ people and their families on Long Island and Queens, hosted the event, with family-planning workshops teaching skills such as how to navigate fostering and adoption, and crafting legal agreements with egg and sperm donors.

Robert Vitelli, CEO of the LGBT Network, said that while the event is held annually, he’s open to holding similar programming more often, especially with an anticipated increase in demand for family planning services from LGBTQ+ families.

Out of around 125 families registered for the event, more than half are first-time attendees, he said.

Across the country, 48% of LGBTQ+ people between 18 and 35 are actively planning to grow their families, as compared to 55% of straight people the same age — a gap that has narrowed from older generations, according to 2018 data collected by the nonprofit and LGBTQ+ advocacy group Family Equality.

“The number of LGBT people considering growing a family is kind of skyrocketing, and I think that goes hand in hand with the advent of marriage equality,” Vitelli said.

Besides family planning, events like LGBT Families Day offer a safe space for LGBTQ+ families to build community, he said.

“It’s really critical because … all the anti-LGBT rhetoric, the proposed legislation that continues to pop up; it takes a toll and I think for an LGBT parent, it becomes very scary to consider what the world is going to be like for their child,” he said.

Smith said events like LGBT Families Day have also been a way to show his children that they “are not the only kids with LGBT parents.”

“In any school district, we’re usually a minority in that sense, so it’s great for them to kind of have that pressure off of them,” he said.


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