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Ruby Swanson’s life changed when her sixteen-year-old son walked to her office, closed the door, and with his hand still on the doorknob said, “I’m gay.”  A Family Outing is the story of her experiences.

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Ruby Remenda Swanson


Ruby Remenda Swanson is the author of A Family Outing, a memoir about the experiences she's had as a result of having a gay son. Ruby was born and raised in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and was General Manager of the University of Alberta Botanic Garden. She's worked in public broadcasting at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and at the Children's Television Workshop in New York City. She has travelled frequently to Ukraine as part of a Canadian Foreign Affairs deployment to monitor elections and for almost a decade taught English to many new immigrants to Canada. Ruby was recognized by the University of Alberta Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights for her work to promote the rights of the LGBTQ community across campus.  Ruby lives in Edmonton with her husband.

The Toronto Star

"She hopes her book, filled with love, empathy and good storytelling, is one young gay men and women who are coming out will give their parents."

Tamara D. Gartner, RSW, M.A., Registered psychologist, co-director of Inclusive Counselling & Consulting Psychological Services

“A Family Outing is a genuine account of a parent’s experience. This book exemplifies the process of moving through the stages of confusion, to acceptance, to celebrating a child’s authentic identity. Moreover, it also outlines this parent’s endless devotion to a healthier LGBTQ community.”

Michael Phair, gay activist and former Edmonton city councillor

“Ruby’s account of her family’s journey with a gay son is a story of courage and love.”

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Liane Faulder - Edmonton Journal

It was as if he was prepared to run, the day Carl Swanson told his mother, Ruby Swanson, he was gay.

It was 2002; Carl was 16. He came to his mother’s office after phoning to say he needed to talk. Closing the office door once he arrived, Ruby expected Carl to sit down. But he stood by the door, hand on the knob and said, sadly, “I’m gay.”

Those two words sent the Edmonton mother on an intense journey that has culminated, 15 years later, in the release of a memoir, her first book, titled A Family Outing (Cormorant Books). Written under her maiden name combined with her married name, it is an honest exploration of Ruby’s own feelings. It’s also an historical read, a documentation of Alberta’s history of gay activism set in the context of the events that had gone before, including New York’s Stonewall riots in 1969,  and the 1981 bathhouse raids in Toronto.

A Family Outing is also a guide for other parents going through similar situations, and for friends and other family members wanting to know how to react, and how to best support, those exiting the closet. Because it’s not just a journey for the GBLT individual — it’s very much a family, and community, experience.

Ruby, who spent much of her career in university administration and is now general manager at the Devonian Botanic Garden, had never suspected her son was gay. But in retrospect, in the months leading up to his announcement (which Carl made first to his father Leonard), the young man suffered a series of night terrors. They left him screaming, flailing, desperate; clearly, something was up. He told his parents he had been dreaming about the whole family being attacked, and that he was trying to save them from bombs.

While the effect of Carl’s announcement on the family, which he made in stages to his dad, mom and brother Paul, was hardly incendiary, it was traumatic. The memoir is very much Ruby’s take on her journey from shock, disbelief and fear, toward acceptance and pride.

In the years after 2002, Carl and his parents became “vocal public advocates for equal treatment and basic human rights for the LGBT community,” as Ruby states in A Family Outing. Carl started the Gay Straight Alliance at Strathcona High School, and was a founder of Camp fYrefly, a summer leadership retreat for LGBT youth. Ruby and Leonard joined the Edmonton chapter of PFLAG, a national group that supports LBGT folks, their family and friends, and went on to demonstrate, lobby, educate and volunteer. 

At her book launch, Ruby was joined by The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, the 19th Prime Minister of Canada.



The Ukrainian language translation of A Family Outing (Сімейна цінність: Спогади мами ґея) came about because a group of young people, LGBT activists, and TERGO mothers (a support group for parents who have LGBT children) from Kyiv, Ternopil and Lviv urged me to find a way to tell my story in Ukraine.

In the spring of 2016 I stood bewildered staring at a Kyiv street address trying to find a building that did not appear to exist. I was invited to meet with the youth group at the Kyiv LGBT centre that night. We called our contact who told us to walk half a block to an abandoned lot where we were met by a staff member who led us to the back of a building, to an unmarked metal door that was below ground level at the bottom of a few steps. I read translated excerpts from my book and answered questions about my gay son’s life and our family’s experience in Canada. Everyone said they wanted to read my book.

After hearing each person’s story of despair, oppression and defeat it was up to me to get my book translated into Ukrainian. Сімейна цінність: Спогади мами ґея was launched in June 2019 at Kyiv Pride.

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University Presentation Snapshot

Several times a year I’m invited to speak to university students in human sexuality courses. Normally I do this in person. For those of you who are unable to see me live here’s an abridged version of the presentation I’ve done nearly 100 times over the last 15 years.


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