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R Family reunion: a straight mom tells us why she's setting her sights on another "Rosie" cruise.

I'll admit it--I harbored some trepidation about setting sail with my 7-year-old son, Rex, on summer 2004's maiden voyage of R Family Vacations cause for gay and lesbian families and their straight allies. Don't get me wrong: It had nothing to do with being straight. It was cruises that I had negative stereotypical ideas about. Call me cruisephobic, but I pictured cramped staterooms, lousy food, and cranky strangers swaying together on the high seas.

I needn't have worried. In spite of a tearful goodbye to my husband, Mark, and our baby boy, Teddy; Rex and I had sheer fun from the moment we boarded the Bahamas-bound Norwegian Dawn at our home port in New York City.

We began by racing up to the ship's highest deck, where, wind in our hair and disco in our ears, we were swept up in a mass spirit of celebration. As we waved goodbye to Manhattan and Lady Liberty, I thought about my preconceptions. Cramped staterooms? Ours was gracious and comfy. Cranky strangers? Everyone seemed incredibly friendly. I looked around at the joyous sea of parents and children who had come from near and far for this floating festival of family diversity and I knew I'd maintain one preconception: Gay or straight, no two families are alike--except insofar as we all love our kids.

This was in evidence all week long. It was there in the way we crowded the vast Spinnaker Lounge one afternoon to listen to a panel of poised, articulate teens talk about growing up with gay parents. It was there in the way morns and dads exhibited endless patience as their tots slid down the waterslides of the T-Rex Kids' Pool for the 87th time. And it was there in the quiet conversations between parents and children who were experiencing something new and powerful aboard the Norwegian Dawn.

Rex and I had our own talks. I asked him if he noticed that most of the kids had two moms or two dads. At first he said he didn't; then later that he did. He reminded me that he already, knew kids with two moms back home. He asked me if two men could get married. We talked, and I was pleased to note that my boy was both thoughtful and nonchalant--throughout the week, he didn't seem to have any issues.

As it turned out, though, I had one of my own: I felt oddly nervous about "coming out." It seemed everyone more or less assumed everyone else was gay, so I had to struggle--as I'm sure many gay and lesbian people do regularly--with when, exactly; to reveal my orientation. It seemed wrong to do so right off the bat, as in, "Hi, I'm Liza, and I'm not a lesbian." But if I waited too long, I felt like I was hiding something.

Once, Rex beat me to the punch. I was telling a group of women about a shop in Key West where I'd purchased all manner of goodies for my Key Lime Pie Club, a tight band of dinner party, buddies.

"I got a key lime product for each friend," I enthusiastically told the crowd.

"And one for her husband," Rex chimed in rather loudly.

"Yes, and key lime juice for Mark, who makes excellent pie," I added quickly, hoping that my late admission did not sound nearly as sheepish as it felt. Ultimately; this was a small amount of discomfort that could not begin to mar the experience. Indeed, I am a convert--I am no longer cruisephobic. I am certain, however, that what made this trip so special was not the swanky staterooms but the people. In fact, I found that I have a lot more in common with many of the gay families I met on board than I do with scads of straight families I've met on previous vacations.

I plan to be on R Family's encore voyage this summer--and this time I'm bringing my whole crew!
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Title Annotation:STRAIGHT OUTING; Rosie Family Vacation cruises; vacations for gay and lesbian families and their straight family and friends
Author:Schoenfein, Liza
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 26, 2005
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