Personal Essays by Gay Dads

On Being a Gay Father in a World Full of Chaos

After attending a vigil for the Parkland students, this formerly chaos-loving gay man reflects on raising children in a turbulent world.

Since becoming a father, I've watched my entire life change. In an instant my world was flipped upside down and thrown into the washing machine. While at a vigil for the students of Parkland, I realized life could change in the blink of an eye, for better or worse, because the one constant we have is change. But our core, the authentic self, remains. Those feelings, fears and emotions genuine to our true self are steadfast in a constantly evolving life. Despite everything around me changing, I'm always stuck with me. Since becoming a father I've found a renewed thirst for self-improvement and spiritual growth, not only for my own wellbeing but also for my family. While on this journey to accept my truth, I'm faced with old ghosts ready to be embraced. Because in order to rise I must be willing to examine all aspects of me, and most importantly, be O.K. with all aspects of me.


My husband caught me pre-tears last night.

Lying on the couch, staring through a wall in search for the meaning of life.

Eyes entranced in one of those limp gazes where only the mightiest of efforts can pull you out. Like my eyeballs took a momentary repose while the rest of my body went into hibernation. It was nine-something at night, a dull incandescent glow in a relaxed home. The stretch of deep orange light matched my mood, my stale state of blah. Background music, don't ask what – a down-tempo alt rock Pandora station, probably Aquilo.

Chris busied himself accessorizing our new house. Unpacking boxes that have yet to see the light of day since the move back in August. I just got home from the Parkland vigil, a candlelight ceremony led by religious and spiritual figures of all faiths. Our twins were asleep in their crib, meditation music soothed them from dream to dream.

Me on the couch, lost in space, fixed gaze on nothing in particular. A feeling heavy as hell, a weight lodged upon my chest. My head spirals from the prayers at tonight's vigil, to the laughter of my children earlier in the day, to the ongoing list of things I keep putting off, to analyzing my marriage, to looking at our home and seeing new memories in the making.

I'm not sure what happened in that moment, but I began to dig myself into intoxicating depths of melancholy (an unintended but apropos Smashing Pumpkins reference).

Cue the first tear.

Mid vase alignment, Chris stopped to ask what I was doing – a question directed at my blank stare.

Cue the onset of tear two.

I couldn't answer him, transfixed on the wall ahead, overcome by the racing of my little brain.

I had no answer, really, just feelings. Like an uncomfortable itch in my chest, a heaviness, something like dread. Or ache, or worry, or –

I don't know.

It was silent for a moment until Chris asked again. I broke my stare and saw him for the first time. I told him I felt strange, told him I was upset but unsure why. He asked if it was from the vigil, to which I replied that was only part of the reason. Maybe it's what tipped the scale, but certainly not what started the fire.

And like a dartboard littered with a hundred reasons, you must first throw the dart then talk about the first thing it lands on. I closed my eyes and threw said metaphorical dart forward.

I told Chris about the religious leaders who brought comfort to the suffering, peace to those in need, courage where strength had dimmed. An interfaith blend of monks, rabbis, priests, ministers and spiritual figures who, in the wake of such tragedy, brought a message of unity and hope. But my feelings toward these beacons were met with equal parts admiration and anger. An indescribable weight, that of which I did not understand.

And as conversations like these inherently go, a flood dam was released.

I realized I've been overcome by fear. That slithering, insidious little monster so much a part of me as my very breath. I'm fueled by fear, someone who thrives in chaos but complains about the chaos in his life. Rarely at the time do I realize I'm the culprit, always the big fat spoon stirring the pot. My history of addiction and struggles with self-acceptance taught me I've got a tendency to destroy things when they go well.

But suddenly I'm a father.

Suddenly I'm a father and the idea of chaos concerns me. Just the fact that I said, "concerns me," concerns me. I was never one to be concerned, let alone talk about my concerns. Unless it was completely self-serving, in which case I more than happily shared those concerns with anyone who was willing to listen. Or unwilling. My mouth has a tendency to overwork when I become fixated on a subject.

I was the kid who got off on scary stuff, who knew heart-pounding fear better than anyone. I was petrified of the dark and slept on my parent's bedroom floor for years, while my favorite movies were The Shining, Dracula and Return to Oz. I loved the scary shit, but cried at lights out. I wanted the rush of fear but couldn't live with the consequence of fear. Fast forward and I'm still searching for a rush without consequence. I'm still the little boy who finally has a few good nights sleep then decides to watch The Shining again. Because when things get good I somehow forget the struggle to get there. Or think maybe this time it will be different. Maybe this time I'll change. Maybe this time I can get away with it. Maybe this time it will be better.

Now as a father I cringe when I see a horror movie. I immediately think, oh shit what if that was my kid? Maybe I'm getting soft, but becoming a dad has changed something. The discontent, rebellious kid has to learn a few things. I'm realizing how incredibly fortunate I am to have these two little humans. To have a husband who loves me, to feel more secure in my own skin than ever before, to have a life I never could've imagined. But there's still part of me that wants to turn on the horror movie, that can't help but release ye olde bull in China shop.

And there it is – the reason for my waterworks. The tears are coming because I'm petrified to loose this life.

Any of it.

All of it.

I'm so accustomed to chaos and fucking shit up that I wait for the other shoe to drop. Wait and let opportunities pass by, wait to be told I'm a neglectful parent, a crappy husband. Wait to loose our home, to let goals pass by, to unleash my inner addict. Because nothing can be this good, nothing is this easy. There's always something lurking around the corner, something hiding in the shadows ready pounce when least expected. That's just how shit works, right? I don't know anymore.

My feelings toward the religious figures at the vigil – those equal parts admiration and anger – are feelings of resentment. I want what they have because, for whatever reason, I'm unable to be comfortable in what I have. It's resentment because I see what I want for my life so clearly in front of me, the idealized man I'd love to be – the healer, the spiritualist, the teacher, the mentor, the inspiration – I see the reflection of my desire beaming from them in a moment of pure vulnerability and it cuts deep. Placed high on a pedestal, untouchable and draped by gilded spotlight, I look outward only to pale in comparison rather than go inward. Rather than looking exactly where my feet are planted to realize I've got everything I need right here.

In a time of great sorrow, immeasurable pain and suffering for lives lost, my heart is guided to those who shine light on tear stained faces. Guided as the freshly hatched turtle toward a night soaked ocean filled with dancing moonbeams.

It's human nature to want more, to seek betterment and progression. But there is a difference between wanting more and needing more, a fine line between healthy interest and unhealthy obsession. More often than not, my healthy interests creep into unhealthy obsession and before I know it I've crossed into something dangerously familiar. I had a genuine interest in exploring a more spiritual path, connecting with mentors and speaking to a rabbi about furthering my education – all things I felt would ultimately benefit my family. Until spiritual seeking became envy, became resentment. Became me feeling like I had to be at the pinnacle of spiritual enlightenment. I read one book and suddenly I had to be a master. So quickly I travel down a comfortable path of darkness, losing sight of why I started in the first place – to learn. Not to be an overnight Buddha.

This is me, broken. Me, not focused on what really matters. Me, blind to my gift of life. This is me, vulnerable. Me, a man, a dad, a soul kind of hoping to be better than before – honest about where shit is at. Because, no, I don't want to lose it all, don't want another shoe to fall. I want to sincerely appreciate the change, to be easier on myself and those around me, to be better than yesterday without the obsession of being the best today. I want to lead by honest example, not bullshit smoke and mirrors. I want my kids to learn from authenticity, from mistakes to triumphs, both the good days and the growth days.

Maybe I've gone off on a tangent, but somehow it's all relevant.

I unleashed these feelings on my husband who sat next to me. Maybe not in so many words, probably a fraction of what you're reading now. But the scab was picked, the blood fresh, tears no longer visible in my eye. Because it was released, the obsession a little less than before. But resentment has no power when lights are on, and there is no darkness in transparency.

There is no brokenness in truth.

And I guess the truth is I'm struggling to keep it together. Struggling to figure out what "together" really is, because I have no idea. Since becoming a father everything has changed but so much remains the same. Still the same man trying to mend a void with an insatiable thirst for greatness. Wanting, dissecting, riding an endless rollercoaster of 'now what' and 'what if'. Balancing new roles with old ones – the father and the son, the boy and the man, the husband and the free spirit, the provider and the taker. Like an artist who lacks technical skill, I see a beautiful Surrealist masterpiece inside me but can only paint stick figures. Constantly learning new tools for life while trying to master the previous ones. Trying to figure out who I am while opening myself to new ideas of who I want to be.

But these are good changes. Changes that bring awareness and hopefully a stronger connection to myself, to those around me, to something greater. Resentment, anger, those old stale feelings – the chaos once loved, now met with concern – it's movement. Albeit slow, sometimes uncomfortable movement, but movement nonetheless. A restless desire to face life rather than hide from it, a shift in hero.

I watch my children discover the world with eyes wide. My son looks at his hand as if it magically moves in midair, a smile creeps across his face when he understands it's connected to his body. He shakes his arm up and down, up and down, with a new sense of control and perspective. Apparently those revelations never change, we continuously discover new aspects of ourselves on many levels from physical to spiritual. Even at a vigil when overcome by emotion. With wide eyes and aging bodies, we are children always learning. And in turn, teachers to our children who will ultimately do the same for us.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Working:​ One Father's Plea for Gun Reform

One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control

My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.

Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.

How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A "Village of Women" Helped These Gay Men Become Dads

Elliot Dougherty's mother-in-law served as a gestational carrier, and his sister donated eggs, so that he and his husband could become dads

All good love stories start hot. Ours just so happened to, literally. The summer I turned 23, during the sweltering heat, I stood at an invisible crossroads. I felt a momentum pulling at me, but I couldn't tell from which direction. I had been putting myself out there as a hairstylist and building my portfolio by working with local photographers and designers. At the beginning of July, I received a Facebook message from a young man named Matthew Eledge. He sent me the script to a short film he was directing, hoping I might be interested. We met a few days later on a humid summer day at a quaint French cafe in the Old Market of downtown Omaha. Drinking wine, we discussed our inspirations for hours.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad's Letter to His Sons Before Their First Day of Summer Camp

A gay dad pens a heartfelt letter to his sons before their first day of sleep-away camp

My dearest Phoenix and Sebastian,

Whether I let you leave this year or next or hold you in our nest for the next ten years, at some point I actually have to face my own fears. The past seven years have been both the most rewarding and yet also the toughest I have lived. And as any good parent tells you, it gets tougher and tougher. But through this year, I have witnessed your growths, and more so your wants and needs. With that said, it's time for you to take independence head on. Yes, you will fall and yes, you will make mistakes, but that's normal for any human. It's what you do when this occurs that makes you a gentleman. Learn from your mistakes, don't repeat them. Own them and build on them to make you a better member of society.

Why I am writing this? Well, you guys are off to sleep away camp in four weeks and every day it gets closer and closer to me losing control. So much so that I won't have any control left. And that, kids, scares me. Yes, this is the camp I went to in my teens and yes, the staff and owners are friends from the past. But seven weeks is a long time and I am losing not only my two sons for this period, but also my friends. I am now forced to actually talk to Papa (partially kidding) or probably more likely live in a quieter-than-usual house. It's funny how you yearn for peace and quiet until you have it and then you realize how deafening it is.


Now, camp was such an instrumental part of my life, shaping everything I have accomplished to date and it's such a gift to be able to provide you both the same experience. We should all feel humbled and grateful. The emotions, the friendships, and the love of the fresh air will be unsurmountable. The key is to keep your head up and your eyes wide open. Listen to what people are asking of you. If you're unsure, use your voice. Be kind every step of the way. Take risks with caution. You both are so great with making friends, both young and old. But being in a community with many walks of life, 24 hours a day, is not easy—it can be quite challenging. So, what do you do? Turn this into a positive, allowing yourself to simply work on you being you. This "you" needs to be a productive citizen within this microcosm. Look for guidance. Find counselors and kids that not only challenge you, but also help you along the way. We all need assistance, every day of our lives, and it's imperative for you to be able to vocalize this in a manner that will provide the fruit you desire.

On the other hand, there are so many things that I can't teach you. These things you must learn on your own and I do believe this environment in which you will live in is the right place for you to experience all these things. Phoenix—make right choices. You are the sweetest and kindest person I know. Open your heart to everyone. You are so good at that. But also follow instructions. Not too aggressive, my young knight. Don't deviate too much from the path, my friend. And look out for your brother. Help him when he needs it. Sebastian—we worry about you. Make the right choices. And get dressed faster! You're too slow. Also, be flexible. Life is not a race and one has to be able to separate competition and sportsmanship. If you don't get your way, you will be fine. Sometimes that's how the cookie crumbles.

But just as you are working on what I mentioned above, I will be working on not only my own inner being, but also repairing and reinvigorating daddy and papa's relationship. Although you both have and will continue to be of utmost importance in our lives, our connection has taken a back seat to your progress. And selfishly, it is time for Andy and I to just be, as we started 13 years ago. Life is funny and it's only as you age that you develop some element of some wisdom to actually see some of it. But it's the foundations of situations, like sleep-away camp, that truly build the LEGO pieces to your future.

Now, over the last 30 days, I have asked you both random questions to truly understand if you are prepared to go to sleep-away camp this summer. And to my surprise, your answers do indeed show your readiness. Some examples that have made me smile are below. The last being my favorite.

  1. What happens when you wipe your tushy and there's poop on the toilet paper? Seb - put the dirty toilet paper in the toilet bowl.
  2. If you feel a bug on your face attempting to bite you, what would you do? Phx - quickly grab it, catch it in my hand, and gently place it back on the ground, alive.
  3. What happens if you don't know how to do something? Seb - ask a counselor. Seb then asks - what happens if the counselor doesn't know the answer? Can they ask Siri?

So, no, Siri won't be at camp, but the resources for you are abundant and I can't wait to see, to hear, and to watch your progresses, and more so see your independence that will shape the rest of your life. So, with that, yes, I will be crying when the bus departs, but just know it's out of happiness. I know it's the best for all of us and I wish you well, my boys. Enjoy the world. Life is too short not to. And please make sure you wipe your ass clean. Daddy's a well-known proctologist. 😂

Love,

Daddy

Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Politics

Gay Russian Dads Forced to Flee Moscow

Fearing the Russian government might take their adopted kids into custody because of their sexual orientation, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev fled Moscow

A married couple in Russia, with two adopted children, were just forced the flee their home in Moscow for fear that the authorities would take their children away, according to German news site Deutsche Welle.

Trouble started last month after investigators in Russia opened a criminal inquiry into the proceedings that had allowed the gay couple, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, to legally adopt the two boys —adoption by LGBTQ people in Russia has typically not been recognized. The government became aware of the adoption proceedings after the gay couple brought their 12-year-old son to the hospital, who was complaining of a stomachache. The boy was fine, but after he mentioned offhand that he was adopted and lived with two fathers, the doctor called the police.

Andrei and Yevgeny granted an interview with Deutsche Welle after escaping Moscow, but on the advice of their lawyers have yet to disclose where they are currently located. Here is a quick recap of that conversation:

"In connection with the 'propaganda of non-traditional values,' the state representatives are accused of having neglected their duty of supervision," Andrei said, when asked to explain on what basis the Russian government might take his children into custody. "This means that lesbian couples could even have their biological children taken away because, through their lifestyle choices, they propagate "certain values."

Yevgeny also explained the events that led to the couple's harrowing escape "I was alone in Moscow at that time. A week after Andrei and the children had left the country, there was a knock on my door, but nobody called 'police, open up.' After half an hour the violent knocking stopped. My parents' home was searched. They were looking for the children and our Danish marriage certificate because we got married in Denmark in 2016. My friends then got me out of the country."

Read the full interview here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

This Couple is Using 'Wheel of Fortune' Winnings to Help Fund Their Adoption

Need to raise money for your adoption fund? Why not try your luck on Wheel of Fortune like these guys!

Doug and Nick Roberts connected three and a half years ago via a dating app, and on their first date, the two immediately felt a connection. Doug, a psychologist, and Nick, a neuroscientist, were married 18 months later. Today the couple live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and they're ready to start their next exciting adventure together: fatherhood.

The husbands would like to have children, and Nick has always wanted to adopt. "We considered surrogacy, and may consider it in the future as we expand our family," said Doug, "but right now, it is cost-prohibitive. Adoption was easily the right choice for us as we begin to grow our family.

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Change the World

4 Tips for Using Instagram to Connect with Gay Dads Offline

We asked gay dads who have successfully met up with other LGBTQ families offline for some of their tips

Last week, we ran a story about several gay dads who did the unthinkable: meet other gay dads IRL after connecting on Instagram! We get MANY questions from gay dads wondering how they can meet up with others in their area, so we decided to dig a bit deeper this week to get their advice. What can gay dads do to meet others off the 'gram?

1. Be kind — share others' excitement in parenting!


From @twinlifedads Ben and Andy:

"Be kind. That is absolutely it. Be kind to each other and don't be afraid to reach out. Respond to each other when you can. Share in excitement for each other. There is no reason to bring someone else down who might be excited about how they are parenting."

2. Drop a couple comments and likes before reaching out!

From @brisvegasdad Tim and Nic:

"I think drop comments now and then on their posts and instastories and see where things land. Chances are, if you're commenting on a post and it is a heartfelt response, they'll click through to your account, look at your photos and connect with you. And that's when the magic happens - you can introduce yourself, talk about your lives and how things are being a parent... and after a while, if you're in the same neighbourhood, you meet up and grow your friendship organically. That being said, I'm obsessed with Bobby Berk from Queer Eye and his husband Dewey Do - if they ever had kids, I'd probably be completely unsubtle and leave strange awkward comments on their instaposts saying, 'GAY DADS MEET UPSSSSS'."

3. Go in with no expectations

From @stevecsmith Steve and Ben:

"I always try to reach out without any expectations – mostly just to provide a positive comment. I like to leave it up to the other parents to comment or message back before suggesting meeting up or a playdate. Every family is different, so how each person is going to respond is different too."

4. Keep trying!

From @theconways13 Ricky and Jeff:

"Reach out to other families, start a light friendly conversation. Get to know each other and let conversations happen organically. If they lead to a play date great! Our first experience in meeting another lgbt family (not through ig/gwk) was very awkward cause there wasn't a whole lot of conversation happening before hand. The conversations leading up to the play date will help make the first play date with the family go a lot smoother and fun. Don't be afraid of not connecting with the other families. If it isn't successful the first time, continue reaching out to to other families- don't let it deter you from reaching out to others."

Fatherhood, the gay way

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