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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Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

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Gay Dad Life

Need a Sitter for Your Kids? Gays With Kids Reviews UrbanSitter

Back-to-school is already here for some of us, and if you're looking for a sitter to help out with school runs, after-school pick-ups, and the occasional date night, check out our review of UrbanSitter.

Instagram @davidcblacker

We moved from New York to Boston the summer of 2017. Along with the Manhattan skyline, our beloved Broadway, and late-night cookie deliveries, we also left behind our sitters — two sisters who had become more like family.

After settling for several months into our new home and neighborhood, we realized we hadn't had a dads' night out since our move. Our kids were still too young to leave alone at night, so I began what I presumed would be the tedious task of finding a sitter.

The first thing I did was to leave a post on our local parents' Facebook group. The dad of one of our daughters' classmates told me about UrbanSitter, a website and mobile app that he'd had success using to find last-minute sitters a few times. He also mentioned that within the app, I could see see babysitters and nannies recommended by parents at our kids' school in addition to local parenting groups.

While I appreciated the tip, I let him know that I was really hoping for a direct referral. But when none others came from the — other than a couple of middle schoolers looking for their first sitting jobs — I decided to give it a try.

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Move over Modern Family, there are some new gay dads taking over the small screen! Big Bad Boo Studios is bringing their animated series The Bravest Knight to Hulu. The series is based upon a children's book called "The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived" by Daniel Errico, and it follows the life of Sir Cedric - now grown and married to Prince Andrew - as he regales their adopted daughter Nia with tales of his knighthood journey as she trains to become a knight herself.

"We are so excited about The Bravest Knight, its values and our partnership with Hulu," said Shabnam Rezaei, the director of the series and co-founder of Big Bad Boo Studios. "They understand how to push the envelope with authentic storytelling."

"I immediately fell in love with the idea of a girl wanting to work hard and make something of herself," Rezaei continued. "I also have a nephew who has two dads, so it's a very personal issue for me. I want him to have role models when he's watching TV. I want him to feel like having two dads is completely normal. That's what this show is going to do for him."

Errico's book was first realized as an animation when Hulu created a short film based upon his writing and were interested in exploring the concept of a full series. "I watched the eight minutes on Hulu and at the end the prince and the knight get married and I was in tears," says Rezaei. Rezaei then stepped in to create all new art work including new character design by Tim Linklater and backgrounds by Sarita Kolhatra. Together, they created a kickass bible and pitched the series to Hulu and were successful.

Diversity and inclusivity is celebrated throughout The Bravest Knight, reflected by its casting choices. Nia is played by Storm Reid, from "A Wrinkle in Time," and her dads Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew are voiced by T.R. Knight and Wilson Cruz respectively. The star studded cast also includes Wanda Sykes, Bobby Moynihan, RuPaul, Steven Weber, Teri Polo, AJ McLean, Jazz Jennings, Maz Jobrani and Christine Baranski as the formidable Red Dragon.

"With so many wonderful stories yet to be told, we hope that The Bravest Knight stands as an example of the undeniable strength in inclusivity, and the inherent joy in all forms of love and identity," said Errico, the author of the original book.

The first 5 episodes were released on June 21, and there are 8 more planned for release before the end of the year. Be sure to tune in!

This is the Main Title Song for Big Bad Boo's Hulu Original Series "The Bravest Knight". The song is performed by Justin Tranter and composed by Michael Plow...

Change the World

Hungarian Company Raising Money for LGBTQ+ Organization with a LEGO® Heart

Startup WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is helping combat misinformation and prejudice in Central and Eastern Europe

Guest Post from WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD

WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is an innovative startup venture that sells LEGO® parts and unique creations. The core values of our company include social equality regardless of gender identity or origin. As LEGO® is a variety of colors and shapes, so are the people.

We all know that LEGO® is a brand that nearly everyone knows and likes between the age of 3 and 99 so this gives a great opportunity to connect unique LEGO® creations and Pride. We started a fundraising campaign for a Hungarian LGBTQ+ organization who's aim is to bring people closer to the LGBTQ+ community, they help to combat misinformation and prejudice regarding LGBTQ+ issues in Central- Eastern Europe since 2000.

You might know that gender equality and the circumstances of LGBTQ+ people is not the easiest in the former communist Eastern European countries like Hungary so this program is in a real need for help. For example a couple of month ago a member of the government said that homosexual people are not equal part of our society.

The essence of the campaign is when one buys a Pride Heart, a custom creation made of brand new and genuine LEGO® bricks the organization gets $10.00 donation so they can continue their important work. This Pride Heart is a nice necklace, a decoration in your home, and a cool gift to the one you love.

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Entertainment

Single Gay Dad Featured on Season Three of GLOW

Actor Kevin Cahoon joins the Gorgeous Ladies of Wresting in Vegas as a single gay dad — and drag queen — on Season Three of the hit Netflix show

For a couple of years now, Hollywood has been obsessed with gay dad characters (and who can blame them?) But the latest show to get hip to a story line featuring gay man raising kids is Netflix's GLOW, which explores a female wresting troop in the late 1980s.

But GLOW is helping represent a gay character that rarely gets time in the limelight:the single gay dad. In Season three of the hit comedy — which stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron — actor Kevin Cahoon joins the case as Bobby Barnes, a single gay father who plays a female impersonator. (80s divas only, of course — Joan Collins and Babs among them)


"I've never done female impersonation," the openly gay actor told OutSmart Magazine, "so I tried to learn really quick. You will know them all; I was very familiar with all of them. There were plenty of talk shows and performances on YouTube to study. I learned that their breathing was very informative."

A single gay dad AND drag queen on television? It's about damn time if you ask us.

Read the full interview with Cahoon here.

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.

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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Fatherhood, the gay way

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