Personal Essays by Gay Dads

6 Tips for a Fun, Family-Friendly and Fabulous Pride Experience!

A gay dad shares some of his newfound appreciation for gay pride after attending his first ever pride event

A couple of weeks ago I did something that I never thought I'd do.

I watched “Fox & Friends."

Come on, you know me better than that.

I attended my very first Pride event.


We were invited to join a group of other LA-area gay dads to proudly represent Gays With Kids by riding through the Long Beach Pride Parade in beautiful GWK-branded convertibles.

When another gay dad reached out to me to ask if we'd be interested in joining, I was honored. I asked our son Max if that sounded like fun. I had him at convertible. Then, after I accepted, the panic set in. I had never been to a pride event before. So I didn't know what to expect. More importantly, I wasn't sure it would be an appropriate venue to take our seven-year-old son, Max.

I feared we might encounter hateful protestors. And if so, how would that affect Max?

I've always admired what Pride stood for — a safe place where men and women from all walks of life could stand united to show the power of their love. Despite centuries of suppression, Pride acts as an important reminder that we belong and that we don't have to be ashamed of who we are. On one level, I very much wanted to use Pride as a way to reassure Max once again that our family is just as special, important and celebrated as all the other types of families in the world, but on the other hand, I was terrified by my own preconceived notions of what happens at Gay Pride.

At the risk of sounding like Judge Judy – I have a slight bias against those who perform graphic, lewd acts in public. Showing a little skin? Go for it –– like Madonna said, express yourself. Having full-on sex on the sidewalk? That's a different story. That's not something I want my kid to see. Some of the uninhibited Pride images I've seen captured in broad daylight disturb me, let alone an impressionable seven-year-old. I feel like those images continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about our community. That said, I'm am by no means the morality police and I refuse to let a few vulgar people negate all the positivity that Pride brings. And so I decided it was finally time for me to stop judging a book by its cover and see for myself what Pride is really like.

What I discovered was an overwhelming sense of love, acceptance and belonging. I expected to feel supported. But the part I didn't expect — and what affected me the most — was having so many older gay men and women thanking me and my husband, Alex, for being gay dads and setting a great example for the next generation of LGBTQ individuals. I never thought doing something that seemed so regular to us would have such a profound impact on the very same people who've paved the way for us to be able to live our lives openly, freely and honestly. We are a family because of the earlier generation of gay men and women who refused to be silenced. And seeing so many of these people mouth the words “thank you" as we drove by gave me a profound sense of serenity and fulfillment.

Max took in the festivities with a huge glittering smile stamped across his face. Yes, there were a few R-Rated exhibitionists showing off a little too much bod, and yes there were a few scary protestors spouting highly inappropriate, hateful rhetoric from loudspeakers. But these are opportunities to teach Max. As much as we'd like to, we can't shelter our kids from everything we'd rather they don't see. It's up to us as parents to prepare Max for these very real, be it uncomfortable, parts of life when you grow up as a minority. When Max asked why those men were saying such horrible things, we explained that some people don't support families like ours. He, of course, was sad and confused. Then we told him to look out there at the thousands of people in the crowd who are proud of us, the ones celebrating our family, cheering us on and showering us with so much love and acceptance today. Those people far outnumber the bigots.

At the end of the day, I was reminded how necessary and crucial Gay Pride is for my family, and for countless others. At its core, Pride is about not being ashamed of who you are. And that is a powerful message to give my son –– and an important reminder for me. Pride welcomes and accepts to ALL gay people — and that includes me. So why should I have the right to pre-judge people that don't sit in judgment of me. I don't. And that's what attending Gay Pride for the first time taught me.

So whether you're a Pride-regular or a Pride-first-timer, here are some useful tips to help you and your family brave the exciting, unpredictable and unforgettable experience that is Pride.

1. GO IN WITH AN OPEN MIND

Pride is about freedom of expression. That means — spoiler alert — you're likely to see some scantily clad people shaking their moneymakers. Be the eyes and ears for your children. If there's something you don't want them to see, distract them. Have them look away for a moment — trust me, there's no shortage of other more entertaining things to look out.

2. COME PREPARED

Usually Pride parades take place in metropolitan areas where there are plenty of businesses and restaurants open to the public. But just to be safe, pack plenty of snacks, sunscreen and water. If you've got young children, consider bringing a stroller or wagon because carrying them or making them walk themselves might prove tiresome real quick. Also, if it's super sunny and hot, consider bringing an umbrella (a rainbow one, at that). Lastly, just so you don't lose your spot during bathroom breaks, set up camp near a restroom (but not too close… for obvious reasons).

3. TALK ABOUT THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRIDE

You know why Pride is important to you, but your children or your straight ally friends may not. Before you arrive, explain what Pride means to you and why it's important to celebrate the LGBTQ community. It'll give them a newfound appreciation for why you're there and give deeper meaning to what they're about to experience.

4. MAKE IT FUN FOR EVERYONE

Yes, there will be plenty of teaching moments, but this should be a fun day out for everyone. Stop at the dollar store on the way and stock up on colorful beaded necklaces, bandanas, funny hats, temporary tattoos and little gift bags so the young ones can collect stickers and other treasures they might find at Pride.

5. LEAVE THE CAR AT HOME

Parades in big cities can mean lots of traffic jams and minimal parking. So give yourself plenty of time to get there. And if you happen to live close enough to walk, or have easy access to public transportation, I say leave the car at home. Otherwise, it could be a very frustrating start to what should otherwise be a happy and carefree day.

6. TOO LOUD; NEVER TOO PROUD.

As fun as Pride parades can be, they can also be super loud! If you're bringing babies with you, consider bringing something to protect their little, sensitive ears, like comfy earmuffs or padded headphones. For everyone else, do your research ahead of time and figure out where the less crazy-busy areas will be (there are often designated quiet and alcohol-free zones for families).

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Brief History of Gay Times

Ferd van Gameren, a co-founder of Gays With Kids, gives a personal history of gay pride celebrations over the years

In 1994, my then-boyfriend Brian and I drove to New York City for Gay Pride.

We had met the year before at Mike's Gym, an almost exclusively gay gym in Boston's South End. A friend of Brian's somehow knew I was from Holland; that's how I believe my nickname Tulip came about.

(Come to think of it: Brian used to say that he'd prefer tulips on his organ to a rose on his piano.)

A quick glance at me in the locker room taught him what religion I wasn't.

And a friend of mine had already divulged to me what Brian had told him in confidence: He was HIV-positive.

Anyway, we met. We really liked each other. Then, on the third date, Brian revealed to me in a shaky voice what I already knew. We had our first, very careful sex that night.

We fell in love. We had dates in the South End, then a largely gay neighborhood. We made friends that were mostly gay. (But not exclusively; we befriended some lesbians too.) We went to see "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss" and other little indie films that were, yes, gay, gay, gay.

With an AIDS diagnosis looming, we had no time to lose. Some of our new friends were getting sicker. Some died. Barely six months after the first kiss, we moved in together.

At that New York Pride, gay life was celebrated in the face of death. We saw men marching with dark Kaposi sarcoma lesions on their bared chests. We saw young men leaning on canes, too sick to walk, watching the parade from the sidelines. Men blind with cytomegalovirus loudly singing along to "Pride ­­– A Deeper Love" coming from the floats. We chanted and cried and watched a giant rainbow flag being carried along Fifth Avenue. And in our cut-off jeans and Timberland boots, we danced to Aretha and Whitney.

And then, thanks to enormous medical advances, the unthinkable happened for us: Brian stayed alive and healthy. As our horizon of life opened up, we learned to look ahead farther. We made plans for a future together that wasn't just measured in weeks or months.

We loved New York, and so we found jobs there and moved to Manhattan. Forced by my immigration issues we decamped temporarily to cold but wonderful Toronto, repatriated to New York five years later, and in 2017 returned to the Boston area.

We went from boyfriends to partners (for many years our term of choice), briefly to ex-partners, to partners again, and finally, in 2013, to husbands.

We got our first dog in 2005, a saucy Chihuahua named Duke, and showered him with love and attention. It awakened something in us that had long been dormant. But could we, at our age? Would Brian stay healthy?

Our answers were yes and yes. In 2009 we adopted a baby boy. Seventeen months later our two daughters were born.

In 2014 Brian began this website, Gays With Kids. So we're still gay, and our kids clearly have gay dads. They dance a mean Time Warp; instead of straight ahead they say gaily forward. They realize everyone is different, and they seem to like it that way.

But we live now in a predominantly straight suburb with an excellent school system. We socialize primarily with straight-but-not-narrow friends. Brian and I tell each other all the time we should really go back to the gym. We watch our little, almost exclusively gay indie films in bed on Netflix and Amazon Prime, after the kids have finally fallen asleep.

We're going to take our kids to New York Pride later this month. I envision something like this: Proudly holding their hands, we'll watch the floats in age-appropriate shorts and sensible footwear. We'll cheer on courageous Mormon or evangelical LGBT contingencies while the kids are busy licking lollipops. They will learn about Stonewall, AIDS and the road to marriage equality. Following the kids' lead, Brian and I will make some moves to "Old Town Road." With them, we'll belt out "Baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle?" And we will dance in the street to Madonna, Cher, Whitney and Gaga, the soundtrack of our lives for so many years.

Over the course of that weekend, in age-appropriate terms, we will tell our kids more about the lives of their daddy and papa.

Gay Dad Life

Gays WITHOUT Kids (If Just For a Day...)

Andrew Kohn explains why he decided to leave his kids at home this Pride

I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Change the World

How to Deal with "Dad Shaming"

In the latest episode of Daddy Squared, we take a deep dive into the issue of "dad shaming" with guest Jeremy Hooper of GLAAD

Almost every dad has suffered some unwanted criticism either on social media or in real life, from people who 'know better' about parenting. Dad shaming is a thing, parents tend to judge other parents, and it manifests itself both on social media and in real life, making dads just feel awful about themselves. As a follow-up to our Pride episode, we talk about the opposite of pride – shame. We brought on Jeremy Hooper, a writer and consultant for GLAAD, who has been dad-shamed before he even left the hospital with his newborn, to discuss dealing with dad shaming, 'momsplaining,' and other forms of criticism.

On the eve of publishing this episode we received an email from a person who chose to remain anonymous but made sure he let us know that he had heard one of us asking our kids not to touch every single item on the Starbucks counter and the way we talked to them made him 'concerned that we are beating our children.' Less than a year ago we confronted a mom who literally told us we're bad fathers because we didn't handle a parenting situation like she would. Dad shaming is everywhere, and it happens to almost all of us, and it hurts. Even if we pretend that it doesn't.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Do We Have a Biological Right to Fatherhood? Absolutely, Says This Gay Dad

Jay Bostick, a gay foster dad, responds to Kevin Saunders' controversial essay "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children"

Editor's Note: Below is an essay by Jay Bostick who eloquently lays out many of the reasons why he and many other readers were upset by a post we ran yesterday by Kevin Saunders titled, "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children." This post clearly touched a nerve! (Check out the ongoing discussion on our Facebook page.) While some of our readers appreciated Saunders' viewpoint, many others felt slighted by his reasoning for not having children, calling him everything from "self-involved," "selfish," and an "insufferable narcissist." Many other readers rightly questioned why Gays With Kids would even run an essay from a man who does not want children on (of all place) a parenting website.

The former point is a matter of opinion, but I'll offer some clarification on the latter. We agreed to run this post for two reasons. First, Saunders' perspective is unique among many adopted gay men. We have run countless essays on this site featuring adopted gay men who, inspired by their own upbringing, decided to give back by opening up their homes to children who need them. Saunders' experience, however, led him to conscience decision not to have children, a perspective worthy of discussion particularly by anyone who has been touched by adoption in some way. Secondly, as a 52-year-old gay man, Saunders is starting to find himself alienated from many in his LGBTQ peer group for his decision not to have kids. Again, we are so much more familiar with the opposite perspective on our page: when they become parents, many gay men find themselves ostracized from the broader, childless LGBTQ community. That the inverse is also starting to become true is a testament to the increase in LGBTQ parents in the United States, and an interesting dichotomy we believed warranted further exploration.

All that said, Saunders' essay is a matter of opinion, and one our readers (nor we) certainly don't have to agree with. This is why we were thrilled to receive this "counterpoint" to Saunders's essay from Bostick. We, at least, are enjoying the respectful exchange of ideas, and hope you are as well. Give Bostick's essay a read, as well as the original, and then let us know what you think in the comments or at dads@gayswithkids.com.

--David Dodge, Managing Editor

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Adults

Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children

Do we have a biological right to parenthood? Kevin Saunders, a childless 52-year-old gay man, says no.

Guest post written by Kevin Saunders.

Two dear friends of mine, each partnered, capable gay men of relatively sound mind and body, have recently decided to become fathers, and I could not be more unnerved. The expense, the risk, the potential for disappointment, the logistical complexity that they must navigate leave me baffled and at times enraged with the lingering question that I have, out of respect, refrained from asking, "WHY, WHY, WHY do you want to do this?!" These feelings toward what most would consider a happy occasion beg a reciprocal enquiry: "Why do you care?" The answer is rooted in a disposition and a history that has left me skeptical of the innate right to biological parenthood that many, gay or straight, seem to feel entitled to.

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Antwon and Nate became dads through the foster care system. Nine months after becoming licensed, they received a call on a Tuesday, and two days later, their daughter moved in. "It was very quick," said Nate. "Honestly, it was more just shock and nervousness for me."

As new parents, Nate took unpaid leave for two weeks, before going back to work part-time. Antwon didn't receive any leave.

"It's definitely important to have time off to bond, but it's also important to be financially stable when you do it," said Antwon. "I don't think you should have to choose between staying financially afloat or showing your kid love... and I don't think anyone should have to make that choice."

Only 15% of dads in the U.S. have access to paid paternity leave. We want to change this.

Watch Nate and Antwon's video to find out how:

Sign the pledge: www.dovemencare.com/pledge

Like Antwon and Nate, we're helping Dove Men+Care advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads! Over the next three months, we will be sharing stories of gay dad families and their paternity leave experience. Our goal is to get 100,000 folks to sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Dove Men+Care has collected over 30,000 signatures on the Pledge for Paternity Leave in three short months, in a mission to champion and support new legislation for federally mandated paid leave laws in the U.S. With the conversation growing on Capitol Hill, Dove Men+Care will target key legislators to drive urgency behind paid paternity leave policy and provide a social proof in the form of real dad testimonials, expert research and signature support from families across the country.

Our goal is to help Dove Men+Care bring 100,000 signatures to key policymakers in Washington, D.C. for their Day of Action on the Hill, and drive urgency behind this issue.

If you believe *ALL* dads should receive paid paternity leave, sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Gay Dad Life

Gays With Kids Turns Five!

Wow! Time certainly flies when you're busy becoming the world's biggest online resource and magazine for gay, bi and trans dads!

As if we don't have enough going on this June (Stonewall's 50th anniversary! Father's Day! Taylor Swift rounding up all the gays in West Hollywood for her latest music video!) we're also celebrating another milestone here at Gays With Kids: we're officially turning five this month. (And we don't look a day over two, right?!)

To celebrate, we took a look back at some of our most popular essays, photos, news stories and more. What do you want to see us cover in the NEXT five years? Let us know at dads@gayswithkids.com


#10. The Hardest Part of Foster Care? The Wait, Say These Dads-to-Be

Several years ago, we brought you this article: The Hardest Part of Foster Care? The Wait, Say These Dads-to-Be. The article included a video of Antwon and Nate, who were in the midst of their process to become foster dads, which quickly became one of our most popular posts of all time. In this video, they shared how difficult it was waiting for "the" call from the agency letting them know their lives would be forever changed once a child came to live with them.

Want to see how the dads are getting on several years later? Check out this updated video here!

#9. Famous Gay Dads and Their Kids!

Our article, Famous Gay Dads and Their Kids, featuring well-known gay dads from Neil Patrick Harris to Ryan Murphy, quickly became one of our most popular. In the years since, as the ranks of gay dads has continued to grow, we've brought you MANY more stories of gay men in the limelight who are venturing into fatherhood. Check them all out here!

#8. The Story Behind America's Youngest Gay Dad

The Story Behind America's Youngest Gay Dad, which ran back in 2015, is also one of our most popular posts of all time! The post explores the story of Brian Mariano, who became a father with an ex-girlfriend while still in high school. "Everybody in my life is really supportive of me," he said. "If it's someone new and a friend mentions I'm a dad, they will stop. 'Wait, what? How are you a dad? You're gay.' It's like that 'Mean Girls' quote sometimes. You know – 'if you're from Africa, why are you white?'"

#7. When His Son Got a Tattoo, He Freaked Out. Then He Saw What it Was

This article, When His Son Got a Tattoo, He Freaked Out, definitely plucked the heartstrings of our readers! Which is why it's one of the most popular articles on our site of all time.

"Guess what dad I'm getting a tattoo," Richard's son, Jonathan, texted him. "Don't you dare," was Richard's response. But Jonathan went ahead with it anyway. At first, his dad "fumed." But then he found out what the tattoo was.

"So I got my first tattoo!!" Jonathan wrote on Facebook, of his roman numeral tattoo on his side. "This date is the day that my life changed. This is the day my dads adopted me. The greatest day in my life knowing that for the rest of my life I would finally have a loving family that loved me for me!" (Another one of our most popular posts is this photo essay of gay dads who explain the meaning behind their tattoos.)

#6. 8 Black Dads Share What Black History Month Means to Their Families

Last year, during February's Black History Month, we ran an article titled 8 Black Dads Share What Black History Month Means to Their Families. To create the post, we asked our community a simple question: as a Black gay dad, what does this month mean to you, your family, and your community? The answers we got back were reflective, poignant and deeply moving, which is why this article became one of our most-viewed ever.

Check out the story here.

#5. 19 Photos of Matt Dallas & Blue Hamilton That Will Make You Green with Parenting Envy

Ok the popularity of this article, 19 Photos of Matt Dallas & Blue Hamilton That Will Make You Green with Parenting Envy, doesn't need that much explanation. Gorgeous, talented, successful and good dads? What's not to love! Also check out this more recent post, Things Husbands (and Gay Dads) Do According to Matt Dallas and Blue Hamilton, which is also quickly climbing the ranks of our most popular!

#4. A Gay Dad's Message From His Heart to his Facebook Friends

This article, A Gay Dad's Message From the Heart to his Facebook Friends, by gay dad Michael Anderson, ran in the troubling aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election, when so many LGBTQ people, our allies, and other vulnerable communities looked (and continue to look) towards an uncertain future.

"Suddenly I don't feel secure anymore," Michael wrote. "Vice president-elect Pence has an extensive anti-gay record from supporting gay conversion therapy on kids that literally includes trying to (but failing to) electro-shock the gay out, to signing legislation in his state in 2013 to jail any same-sex couple who attempted to get a marriage certificate. All of the progress that we have made that gives my family a sense of belonging and security is very likely to be erased."

For more of our ongoing political coverage, including the 2020 race, check out these articles as well.

#3. Helping Gay Men Afford Adoption Through Sizable Grants

Our third most popular article, Helping Gay Men Afford Adoption Through Sizable Grants, features our good friends Help Us Adopt, an amazing non-profit organization that helps adoptive parents offset the substantial costs associated with the process. They are also dedicated to inclusivity, and are one of the few financial resources available for gay adoptive parents. Check out this great profile of their work!

#2. 9 Times Gay Dads Crushed Their Pregnancy Announcement Pics

Gay dads love a good photo opportunity. So obviously this photo essay of gay dad pregnancy announcement pics is high up on our list as well. This photo essay, 9 Times Gay Men Crushed Their Pregnancy Announcement Pics, is our second most popular. Check out this most recent roundup of pregnancy announcement pics, which is also climbing the

And Our MOST Viewed Article of All Time Is... 

Gay dads do Halloween right! So it's no surprise that this article, 13 Dads Giving You Major Family Halloween Costume Goals, is our most viewed of all time! And though Halloween may still be months away, why not prepare early with a look at some of our other most popular Halloween articles!

Gay Dads Snap Pics at the Pumpkin Patch
Nobody Does Halloween Like Neil Patrick Harris and Fam
31 Gay Dads Serving Major Halloween Costume Inspo (and Where to Get The Looks!)
Get Your DIY Skills On for Halloween, Dads!







THANK YOU!

Lastly, a big thank you to all of our readers! It's thanks to you that we now can claim the biggest online community of gay, bi, and trans dads in the world (not to mention two GLAAD award nominations ;) We can't wait to see what the next five years bring!

Fatherhood, the gay way

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