Over the last few decades, research has shown that Americans' attitudes on LGBTQIA rights have radically shifted. Same-sex marriage only became legal nationwide in 2015, and with that change has come even more support for queer couples to enjoy the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. The New York Times recently reported that support for gay couples to adopt children has grown more than five-fold in just over four decades.
Support for the existence of queer families requires a different kind of inclusion: one that acknowledges not only the need for traditionally adult queer gathering places such as bars and pride parades, but also for spaces that are family-friendly, too.
In that spirit, the Museum of Discovery and Science (MODS) will host its first-ever Family Pride Day in alignment with Pride Month on Saturday, June 22. The event grew out of the museum's LGBTQ+ Inclusivity Initiative, which MODS implemented last year.
Joe Cox, the president and CEO of MODS, jumped at the opportunity to submit a grant request when the Community Foundation of Broward sought involvement from institutions looking to expand their engagement with LGBTQ+ communities. As part of its initiative, MODS implemented internal training, re-branded marketing materials with inclusive language, and diversified its staff, Cox says. The museum also added an all-gender restroom for guests and their families — a first for the institution.
Cox says that making those changes has not only affected the guest experience at MODS, but it has also impacted how the museum's diverse staff interacts on a daily basis.
"Because our staff has really embraced these efforts, I've heard they're more comfortable with using pronouns that they may not have understood a year ago. We're having conversations that didn't exist at this level before," Cox says. "We've had people come out, we've had people identify as trans and hired them here. Even that in itself makes the museum feel more welcoming."
The museum's Family Pride Day is just the latest project to come out of the institution's drive toward more universal inclusivity. Activities throughout the day will include an IMAX showing of Families Like Yours, a documentary exploring the sacrifice and success of LGBTQ families in America. Additionally, Fort Lauderdale's openly gay mayor, Dean Trantalis, will make an appearance and the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida will perform. Families will also be able to attend a panel lead by LGBTQ+ scientists and there will be drag queen story time for young kids.
In keeping with the theme of making the museum accessible for all, MODS will offer free admission to Broward County residents and $5 entrance for all other guests. MODS also participates in the Museums for All program, which permits free or reduced admission to the museum to anyone receiving food assistance or SNAP benefits.
Cox says what he wants the most is for the South Florida community — LGBTQ or not — to attend and feel supported in a space that encourages learning and is family-focused.
"The museum believes in creating a culture of hospitality where diversity is celebrated each and every day," he says. "All families are welcome regardless of what their family looks like, and we're opening our doors to the entire community. We're open to everyone."
Family Pride Day at MODS. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at Museum of Science and Discovery, 401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-467-6637;mods.org. Admission costs $5. Free for Fort Lauderdale residents.