Many are questioning the Trump administration’s preparation (or lack thereof) for the venerable White House Easter Egg roll, a 139-year-old tradition—and one that has recently been a place of visibility for LGBTQ families, mine included.
The New York Times on Tuesday reported that Wells Wood Turning and Finishing, the company that makes the commemorative eggs for the event, resorted to tweeting the administration to remind them that the manufacturing deadline was near. Because of the late start in planning, and the lack of anyone named as director of the White House Visitors Office, who usually organizes the Egg Roll, the NYT suggests attendance could be lower than in previous years as well.
Clearly, one key missing component is the skill of Ellie Schafer, who was special assistant to President Obama and director of the White House Visitors Office, as well as an out lesbian. She was once called “The Most Powerful Person in Washington That You’ve Never Heard Of,” whose hands-on work improved the Egg Roll’s organization and entertainment.
But Schafer is not the only LGBTQ connection to the event. In 2006, Family Pride Coalition (now Family Equality Council) arranged for many LGBTQ families to attend the Egg Roll under President George W. Bush, as a way of showing that our families are a part of our country’s traditions as much as anyone. In 2009, President Barack Obama’s administration reached out to Family Equality directly to invite them to the event. LGBTQ families have been visibly attending ever since.
My family and I were invited in 2014 and had a great time.
Family Equality now tells us, however, “Unfortunately the White House has not reached out to us this year with an offer of tickets. Other groups invited in recent years, including local schools and organizations representing military families, also have not heard anything about this year’s event.”
And the Washington Blade reports that Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association (and a queer mom), said her organization has “had no communication with the Trump administration whatsoever about this year’s event,” even though they had been invited since 2012.
It seems that the lack of invitations may be widespread and not limited to LGBTQ families. Still, the break with eight years of tradition is worrisome if it does turn out to be a slight against our families, but also if it simply speaks to the lack of organization in the current administration.
Invitations or no, I have no doubt LGBTQ families will be in attendance. Even if the crowd is smaller than last year, it could still reach 20,000 people, so statistically, LGBTQ families are likely to be among them. Some of us may more than ever want to wear rainbow colors to remind the administration that we exist; some will just be easy to spot as LGBTQ families; others will not. Right now, it is important to be visible but also simply to give our children a sense of connection with our country’s traditions, to show that they transcend political vagaries, and that despite what feels like an uncertain time for our families, there is still something in our country worth believing in.
No matter what, we’ll roll on.
For more on the history of LGBTQ families and the event, see these two recent pieces:
- “How the Gays Stole Easter: Remembering the 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll,” by David Dodge at Gays with Kids
- “LGBTQ Families at the White House Easter Egg Roll: What Did It Mean to Me,” by Tommy Starling, at Family Equality’s website
and enjoy this video from last year about the history of the event, featuring Schafer along with volunteers David Eddy and Steve Richardson. Richardson speaks about the socioeconomic diversity of the families who attend and the importance of President Obama as a role model to show all children that they could be president one day. He also notes that as members of the LGBT community, he and David were aware of the inclusiveness represented by President Obama and the First Lady’s 2009 invitation that specifically reached out to LGBT families for the event.