Gay Dad Life

The Beautiful Story of a Gay Dad and his Transgender Daughter

As a young California teenager, Scott Dukes knew his purpose in life. “I always knew I'd be a dad, I've always wanted to be a dad, I've always loved kids." Little did Scott know the twists, turns, and life's extraordinary ups and downs that lay waiting for him.


Born in Santa Clara and growing up in the Bay Area, Scott didn't realize he was gay for quite some time. When he transferred to Hawaii to continue the pursuit of a career in secondary education, he started to realize that he might not fit into the typical mold of a straight man. In 1997, when marriage equality was but a speck on a distant horizon, he came out for the first time, and then told his family in January of 1998, the promise of a new year emboldening the conversation.

And so life continued, happily, until January of 2012, when a string of health problems appeared on the radar. Scott was concerned, feeling constant fatigue. After several appointments with doctors, the diagnosis came back.

Scott was HIV positive.

For Scott, in those moments after the diagnosis, reality seemed to stop. He was in disbelief, terrified. Family and friends who had wanted to keep abreast of his wellbeing prior to his diagnosis Scott kept in the dark; he wanted to insulate himself at all costs, and the judgment of friends and family would have crippled him. Subsequently, Scott has been selective about disclosing his status to friends and family. The story you are reading in this moment is, for many in Scott's life, the first time they'll learn of his HIV status. But in those moments, his only option was silence.

After taking some time to evaluate his situation, Scott returned to his life with a new purpose: to become the father he was meant to be.

With the full support of his friends and family, Scott embarked upon a frenzied journey of researching his options, from sperm washing to adoption to surrogacy. As with so many parents, Scott's choices were informed by cost. With existing relationships in the foster program, Scott decided that he should pursue foster care as a viable option to fatherhood.

Because of his friendship with a gentleman named Manny, who worked for the foster agency, Scott felt comfortable working through Sierra Forever Families. Scott's close friend Heather sealed the deal for him when she said simply, “Every day you spend thinking about whether or not to be a dad is another day your child sits there waiting for you."

Through these connections, Scott became licensed for adoption and foster care. In meetings with social workers, Scott would sort through binders and binders of available children; the agency expressed frustration that he couldn't choose a specific child.

And that's when he was asked a question that would change his life forever.

Erika and Scott's first photo taken together, 2012; celebrating New Year's, 2013

“If you came home from work, and your son said he wanted to go to the mall wearing high heels, what would you say?"

Scott paused to consider his answer. The answer he'd give now would be “Well sure, but you're not gonna complain about how much your feet hurt when we get home." But instead, he responded appropriately nonetheless, assuaging the agency's concerns about placement of a young boy into his care. He told the agency that he would be completely open to allowing a child to express him or herself in whatever way was most comfortable for the child. That's when Scott found out that this wasn't a hypothetical placement. This was a real life question, with a possible placement attached.

At that time in his region in California, Scott became the only gay single dad to have a child placed in his care, and only the third in California history. Scott agreed to the placement on 12/12/12.

Scott reflects on that day, “12/12/12 was a day when crazy people thought the world was going to end. And for me it did. The life of Scott who came before? It ended on that day, the day I became a dad."

Scott's child, born a boy, moved in on Christmas Eve. The child was the greatest gift Scott said he's ever received. Scott's child was fine to be called by his male name at first, but there appeared to be a fluidity between genders. Scott remembers the moment that changed.

“I saw a notebook with the name 'Erica' on it, and thought to myself, 'Boy, this school is cheap, to give you a used notebook,' until I asked my child about it."

“That's me, Dad. I'm Erica."

Scott supported his child's transition fully. When the adoption was finalized in April 2014, Scott's child took the name Erica, and it was official; father and daughter inseparably unified, a family born.

Scott and Erica at the Marriage Equality Rally in Sacramento, 2013; together at the Marina District in San Francisco, 2014

Erica does want to complete gender reassignment surgery, but Scott understands his role as a father. “I've got to pump the brakes a bit and make sure she's got all the information necessary. Erica appreciates and values truth, honesty, and candor. She's on hormone therapy now, and when she's able to make the decision for herself on having her surgery, I'll support her 150,000 percent."

Remembering and living all too vividly a world of stigma and rejection, Scott is surprised and overwhelmed by the level of support his daughter receives at school, where being transgender isn't seen as anything out of the ordinary. Kids think Erica is cool, and can't fathom an identity other than Erica's true self, that of a girl making her way through the world. Scott hopes that Erica's story will continue to inspire the acceptance and welcoming of transgender boys and girls everywhere.

Scott wants people to know, “I'm the guy next door. My life was completely uprooted and flipped around and it could happen to anyone at anytime, in one way or another, so it's important to do the things on your bucket list before you can't do them. It's important to keep your finger on the pulse of why you're here, and what you want to do before you leave this world. Our family believes in respect, and we believe in each other's dreams, whether you want to be an astronaut or a doctor, we'll be here for you when you fail and when you succeed. Sometimes you have to start at square one to move forward."

But in the same way that Erica is being supported in her growth, her journey through life, by her dad, so too is Scott growing and evolving, spurred on by his daughter. Erica is helping Scott's family realize that Scott is a good father, and can shoulder not just the responsibilities in his own life, but can successfully navigate the world of fatherhood, one day at a time. And while he'd love to expand their family again, Erica is happy not sharing her dad with anyone else for the time being.

And so it's through their family relationship – father and daughter – that not just a child but also a man are made better, more whole, through their union. In talking with Scott about his family, I was left speechless when I heard something that Scott tells Erica about his role as a dad. Not only is it an inspirational line for a father to say to his child, it's also the ultimate reflection of the ways in which fatherhood helps us all realize our own potential, to be our best selves, growing through giving.

“I want to help you become the person you are supposed to be."

I couldn't say it better myself, Scott

Adoption finalization at the Sacramento County Court in April 2014; Erica and Scott are surrounded by Erica's “posse," her incredibly dedicated group of adoption and foster care workers: Adele of Destination Family (DF) ; Sherrie, a Sacramento County CASA worker; Sara of DF; Erica and her dad Scott; Manny of DF; Bonnie of DF; Garrett of Sierra Forever Family; and Sandy of DF.

Cover photo credit (Erica and Scott on the beach): Rebecca Walker

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Foster/Foster-Adopt

This Gay Couple Was Inspired to Become Foster Dads Thanks to the Show "The Fosters"

Matthew and Brian say they used to feel like "unicorns" as gay foster dads. They're happy to see more LGBTQ couples take the plunge into the foster system.

Matthew Hamparian and his husband Brian Lawrence have been together for over 18 years and live in Columbus, Ohio. "We had talked about children for a long time," shared Matthew. They were inspired by the show "The Fosters," and watched it regularly as one of the staffers of the show was a friend of Brian's. In one of the episodes, Matthew remembers a conversation between a foster child and the biological child of his foster parents. The foster child asks if he was okay with the fact that he had to share his home with foster siblings. He responds that he is okay with it, because he and his family have enough of everything.

"It was very meaningful to us as we were both raised that when you got up the ladder, you threw the ladder back," explained Matthew.

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Gay Single Dads Defend Andy Cohen's Right to Be on Grindr

After the Internet rushed to judge Andy Cohen for signing onto Grindr a couple of weeks after welcoming his newborn son home, fellow single gay dads rushed to his defense.

Last week, we wrote a post about reports that "What What Happens Live" host Andy Cohen had been "spotted" on gay dating app Grindr several weeks after welcoming a newborn into his home. This has some of his followers on social media all worked up"

"Get off Grindr and start being a dad," said one follower who appeared to think single parents must take a vow of celibacy the minute they start changing diapers. "You're sad, that kid has no chance," said another.

Well, suffice it to say that this judgment from people who are presumably not single gay dads of Andy Cohen certainly struck a nerve with our gay dad audience! We received well over 100 comments on this post on Facebook, the vast majority of them coming to Cohen's defense. We caught up with two fellow single gay dads to find out why the story struck a nerve.

"We don't have to live like monks!"

One of the most liked comments on our piece came from Owen Lonzar, who wrote the following:

"I have always been a good single father to my biological son who came to live with me when he was 7 years old. He is now 25 years old and we are very close. I used Grindr and dated while he lived with me. I never had anyone sleep over and he certainly never saw some man he didn't know hanging around my home. Single parents have to date responsibly and with sensitivity to their child but that doesn't mean they have to live like monks!"

We asked Cohen to elaborate a bit more on why the backlash against Cohen bothered him. He had the sense, he said, that much of the criticism against LGBTQ parents comes from gay men without children. "Gay men without kids have a lot to say," he said. "And all of it is ignorant, because they have no idea what it means to actually be a father." He said he was particularly disappointed in gay critics, given our shared history of discrimination. "You would think with all the prejudice we have faced that gay men would be less judgmental themselves," he said.

"Are we supposed to be celibate?"

Another commenter, Josue Sebastian Dones-Figueroa, who is a divorced father of five, questioned what Cohen's critics would prefer him do. "So what, parents are supposed to become celibate because they have kids?" he asked.

We followed up with Josue to ask him to elaborate a bit more: "The idea that just because he is a dad that he would need to stop being a man," he said, questioning why Cohen should have to put his life hold and stop dating, or having sex, just because he's now a father. "If the child is cared for loved and not neglected what is the problem? Life goes on right?"


Gay Dad Life

Internet Conflicted About Advice Given to Closeted Gay Dad in the Guardian

Ok fellow gay dads: if you were the advice columnist at the Guardian, what would you have said?

Recently, in a post titled "I met my girlfriend's parents – and realized I once slept with her father," a man wrote into the advice column at the Guardian with the following predicament:

"Five years ago, I went through a bi phase and used to sleep around with pretty much everyone that came along, including other men. This changed when I fell in love with my new partner, who is everything to me. I recently met her parents and halfway through lunch realised that I had slept with her father. I was going to propose, but when my partner and her mother were away, he told me to end it with his daughter. I'm obviously in love – shall I just ignore him, or tell my partner?"

Pamela Stephenson, the Guardian's columnist, responded as follows:

"I am not sure you could ever have a comfortable future with your new partner. To tell the truth would be to court disaster: a probable break-up, plus the risk of a permanent rift between father and daughter and father and wife. Hiding the truth would lead to toxic secret-keeping that could be equally destructive in the long run. If this whole family was as open-minded and sexually open as you, it might be possible for you to become part of it. However, the father – your former lover – has made it clear that you will not be welcome. Walk away now, and avoid the massive pain that would otherwise be inflicted on your partner, her family and yourself."

Not all commenters agreed with Stephenson's advice.

"Assuming your girlfriend knows that you were bi until falling in love with her and that you slept with everybody in your path [which she deserved to know up front anyway] then you can give HER the option what to do with this bond, rather than leaving the choice to her dad," said one commenter.

Another said, "Walking away without explaining why would be callous and also allow the father to escape the possible consequences of his actions."

It's worth noting that none of these commenters, nor the columnist, are or will ever be gay dads, whose perspective on this bizarre situation may be uniquely valuable. Many gay dads have become fathers while still in the closet. And even those who became dads after coming out can still sympathize with the detrimental impacts of the closet on our lives and those of our families.

So what say you, gay dads, about this man's predicament?

Gay Dad Family Stories

Demolition Daddies: These Gay Dads Recently Appeared on House Hunters Renovation

The dads say their star turn on the popular HGTV show is all thanks to their two-year-old son, Theo, who charmed the producers

"I'm really not sure what our lives were like before having our son," pondered Matt. "I remember always doing stuff, but I have no idea how I wasted all that personal time that I find so precious now. I took so many showers without someone trying to pull all the towels down to make a bed on the bathroom floor. It must have been nice, but also wasn't as memorable."

Matt DeLeva and fiancé Joseph Littlefield met in 2014 at a Pride event at the San Diego Zoo, and have a 2-year-old son Theo through adoption. For this Los Angeles-based couple, and like many others, becoming dads was an emotional rollercoaster. Before being matched with Theo's birth family, they had two other connections with birth moms that didn't work out. "Each was upsetting," said Matt. "When you talk to birth mothers, you start to get excited and mentally plan your future. When it doesn't work out, it feels like a loss."

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Terrell and Jarius need your help. Earlier this week they were made aware of an act of discrimination against a male transgender student at Johnson High School in Gainesville, Georgia

"Dex Frier was elected by the student body to run for prom king but is now facing backlash from the school's administration," shared the dads via their Instagram. "The school's Superintendent is forcing Dex to either run as prom queen or not run at all. This is very unjust and does NOT reflect the opinion of the parents nor the students."

Watch their video below:

Dex, 17, who came out identifying as male in his sophomore year, spoke with Gainsville Times about being nominated by the student body. "Frier said he kept his emotions in check while at school, but 'the moment I got home, I immediately started crying. I've never been shown so much support before,' Frier added."

He was later informed by school officials that his name had been withdrawn and he could only run in the prom queen ballot.

Sadly, there have been rival petitions started in support of Dex's nomination being withdrawn, and he's received backlash from those who believe he shouldn't be able to run.

Although Terrell and Jarius do not know Dex personally, they were made aware of what was happening through Jarius co-worker who is a parent at the school. "He's such a brave kid and is standing firm in his beliefs, and we should support him," said Jarius.

These dads are asking all of us to take a minute and sign this petition and share with friends and family, or anyone you think could help.

Surrogacy for Gay Men

Learn How These Dads Used Social Media to Find Their Surrogate

In the latest "Broadway Husbands" vlog, Bret and Stephen discuss the rather unconventional way in which they found their surrogate: through a Facebook group.

In this, the Broadway Husbands' sixth video, Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna discuss the rather unprecedented process they went through to find their surrogate. The lucky couple also chat about winning an "Intended Parents" competition, which granted them the free services of a surrogacy agency who is now helping guide them (and their new surrogate!) on their journey.

In the first video below, get caught up to speed with the dads-to-be. Plus: there's bonus footage! Ever wondered about the financial side of their journey? In the second video, Bret and Stephen talk candidly about how they're managing to afford their dream of fatherhood.

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This Women's History Month, Gay Men Honor the Gals Who Help Make Them Dads

Each and every man becomes a dad with the help of a woman. We asked gay dads to honor one who helped them along in their path to parenthood to help us celebrate women's history month.

Each and every one of us became (or will become) a dad with the help of a woman--more often than not, with the help of multiple women. So this Women's History Month, we choose to celebrate these women by asking you to tell us a bit about them. Enjoy these inspiring stories below. Want to honor a woman in your life who has helped you become a dad? Tell us about her at dads@gayswithkids.com

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