By Valerie Luu
Campus News Reporter

Picture the carnival of everyone’s dreams: music, bounce houses, a dunk tank and a balloon artist for kids and adults alike. Imagine a vegan-friendly barbecue, complete with drinks, cookies and fruits, and a tent with snow cones, popcorn and cotton candy to satisfy one’s sweet tooth.

This was the Rainbow Families Fair, a carnival for UC Santa Cruz and city of Santa Cruz communities to celebrate queer and alternative families held last Saturday before Mother’s Day. In addition to being a place to enjoy free food and activities, the fair offered booths from different organizations with resources and education.

Deb Abbott, program coordinator of the Lionel Cantú GLBTI Center, which sponsored the event, was pleased by the turnout of about 200 people. Volunteers hailed from organizations such as the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, Family Student Housing, OPERS, the Cantú Center and Friends of the GLBT Center.

Abbott spoke of the queer-friendly event as a place where nontraditional families could feel supported.

“We wanted people to feel comfortable, no matter what their family looked like,” Abbott said. “The images the media portrays [of families]…queer families can’t look at those messages and relate.”

The event featured a tent where families could get their portrait taken by local photographer Kwai Lam. The images will be posted online at Lam’s website and eventually displayed at the Cantú Center.

“I’m here to do queer family portraits,” Lam said. “It’s a bit of an oxymoron — there’s really nothing queer about family. Family is about love, no matter what the configuration.”

Lam, who is a gay parent, adds that when he does these portraits he invites people to write their own captions.

“When I do this, the idea [is] that it changes from being an objectification of just an image to having a voice,” Lam said.

Tam Welch, program coordinator for the Cantú Center, said the idea for the Rainbow Families Fair came about when a student with two gay parents expressed concern about the lack of visible resources for gay families at UCSC.

“The first [objective was] to create some visibility for people who identify as queer — both those who have families and those who don’t,” Welch said.

Welch said she has had conversations with students who have not considered having families.

“Without role models, that option, that choice does not come,” Welch said.

Amanda Porter, a fourth-year student and member of Delta Lambda Psi, UCSC’s GLBTQIA co-ed “frarority,” said she hopes to have children one day, but notes the lack of examples of queer families.

“It is cool to be in an environment with non-drama, family-oriented energy,” Porter said. “It’s true [about] not having any role models. Even the ones on TV are over-dramatized and unstable.”

The Cantú Center reached out to the queer families and local community by advertising at all the local schools and day care centers around UCSC, as well as gay LISTSERVs and resource centers, said Julia Schwab, student program coordinator for the Cantú Center.

Paul Diehl and Eric Olson of Scotts Valley, who read about the fair in an online Yahoo group for gay parents, brought their two kids, T.J. and Tommy, to the event.

“It was nice to see other queer families, gay and lesbian families,” Diehl said. “It’s the right size, and it’s nice to bring the kids to something that has families of all kinds, rather than being highly dominated by straight families.”