Gay Dad Life

Do Ask, Do Tell: An Interview With a Gay and Out Military Dad

It’s a scene that has played out so many times, it’s practically cliché: the surprise reunion of military parents and their children. Fresh from the plane, an Air Force dad surprises his daughter during her algebra class; an Army mom, dressed in fatigues, shows up unannounced to her son’s basketball game. Everyone cheers, choking back tears, as child and parent embrace for the first time in months.


Yes, it’s a tearjerker, but no matter your politics or stance on U.S. led wars, who doesn’t love to see parents safely reunited with their children? There is, however, one thing that bothers me about these reunions: I have never once seen this scene play out featuring an LGBTQ family as its stars.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the Clinton-era policy that banned gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military (and continues to do so for transgender service members), is no longer to blame; the discriminatory policy was repealed in 2010, allowing stories about gay and lesbian service members to be covered in the media like never before. Last month, for example, a Navy man and his boyfriend were prominently featured in the media for becoming the first gay couple to share the ceremonial post-deployment “first kiss.” And social media was set aflutter last year when news broke out that gay and lesbian service members were allowed to perform in drag for a fundraiser on Kadena Air Base in Japan.

But stories featuring LGBTQ military parents and their children still manage to evade the spotlight. Their touching reunions aren’t televised, nor are the particular set of challenges they face often talked about. It was with this awareness that I reached out to Captain Chris Armijo, a gay dad with 17 years of experience in the Army, to discuss what life is like for him and his family in the post-DADT world.

* * *

“So,” I asked Chris, when we spoke by phone several weeks ago, “you’ve just recently moved your family from San Francisco to San Antonio, yeah?”

“Yes, that is correct,” Chris responded formally, making me immediately self-conscious for the clumsy “yeah” that had just escaped my civilian lips. But I shook it off and pressed on with the interview since amid his work, classes at Baylor University — where the Army had recently enrolled him to obtain a master’s in health administration — and raising twin 5-year-old daughters as a single dad, it was something of a small miracle that I’d managed to get Chris on the phone at all.

“Let’s see, I drop the kids off at pre-K at 7:40 in the morning, but then I need to be at my post at 8,” Chris said, after I asked him to describe a typical day. “The kids get done at 2:40, but the earliest I get out of my class is 3.” In his copious free time, Chris also volunteers at several organizations focused on LGBTQ service members and their families and helps run a playgroup for LGBTQ parents in San Antonio.

Keeping busy, moreover, seems to run in the Armijo blood. “I want the girls to try different activities so they can see what they may or may not have an interest in,” he said of his daughters, Sophia (in photo above, left) and Ryan (in photo above, right). “They’re doing a hip hop dance class with tumbling right now, a ballet class once a week, and a wrestling class.” He’d managed to squeeze our interview into the brief window of time he had between picking his daughters up from school and dropping them off at jujitsu.

I was exhausted just listening to Chris list off all his family’s obligations. But he shrugged it off when I asked if it all ever got to be overwhelming. “Sure,” he said, “there are some challenges to being a single military dad. But it’s the life I chose, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Sophia, Chris and Ryan

Volunteering as  Tribute Gestational Carrier and Donor

“Anyway, I only have half an hour,” Chris said, getting down to business, “so where would you like to start?”

“Good question," I thought. Where to start interviewing a gay Army man and single dad of twin daughters who recently moved to Texas by way of San Francisco?

“Umm,” I began nervously, weary of time, “I guess here: When did you first think about becoming a father?”

Chris has always known he’d have a family one day, he told me. He was simply waiting until the time was right, a moment that came over six years ago. “I’d just gotten to where educationally, professionally, and financially, I was in a good place to start a family,” Chris explained. “I’d worked my way up a career ladder in the military, and was ready.” That he was single and serving under DADT did nothing to deter him.

“The time just felt right,” Chris said simply.

Once Chris decided he was ready, the universe conspired to make his path to fatherhood a fairly seamless one. He had just began researching various surrogacy agencies (adoption, he mentioned, was out of the question under DADT given the extensive home visits and background checks that take place) when two women in his life, independent from one another, offered to lend their help.

“These are women that decided to go through this journey with me,” Chris said. “One volunteered to serve as surrogate and the other stepped up to serve as egg donor. That doesn’t happen everyday!”

Maybe it’s just the military backdrop, or maybe I’ve just seen too many fantasy movies, but there was something very Katniss Everdeen about the way Chris described these women — brave heroines altruistically “stepping up” to help someone in need — but I kept my nerdy “Hunger Games" comparison to myself, and instead asked how he knew these women.

Jessica, Chris’ egg donor, is a military friend who he’s known since they went through training together in 1999. His gestational carrier, Emily, is a more recent acquaintance, someone who Chris had known for a year and a half or so. Both women continue to play important roles in the lives of Chris’ daughters.

“They are known as ‘Momma Jessica’ and ‘Momma Emily,’” Chris said, adding that both friends make an effort to see the girls as much as possible. “And from the get-go, everything has been on the table,” Chris said of his arrangement with his friends. “[My daughters] know that they came from Momma Jessica, but that Momma Emily grew them in her belly.”

Chris and “Momma Jessica,” his egg donor

Hear No Gay, Speak No Gay

“It’s okay, we’re skipping jujitsu,” Chris told me, when I started panicking that our allotted half hour had somehow already slipped by. “I’m too tired,” he added, laughing. “Well, thank God for that,” I thought, “he’s human!" And I still had an almanac’s worth of questions for him: we hadn’t even began to talk about what life was like for Chris serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“So, what was it like?” I asked gravely, bracing for what I was sure was going to be a difficult conversation.

“Oh, it was fine,” Chris said. I could almost hear him shrugging on the other end of the phone. “[DADT] didn’t really have much of an impact on me.”

Wait, what?

“I came out when I was 16 or 17 years old,” Chris explained, when I expressed my surprise. “I chose to be a soldier as a gay man. I joined knowing there was a policy in place that did not allow for me to be openly gay. That’s just what it was. It’s what I signed up for.”

Okay sure, Chris may have known what he was getting himself into. If you were going to join the military as a gay man under DADT, staying closeted was going to be a hazard of the trade. “But…” I said, my sense of social justice inflamed, “here you are gallantly serving your country but being forced to conceal part of your identity. Didn’t you feel discriminated against?”

“Not really,” Chris said, with another virtual shrug. “I may not have been able to talk about my plans for the weekend, or bring a date to a military function, but I still lived my life as a gay man under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.' We still went to gay clubs. I still dated.”

“But…” I pressed on, increasingly flummoxed, “weren’t you worried that you’d get caught and lose your job?”

“Oh, plenty of people knew,” Chris said. “They just never asked, and I never told. No one really cared. The people who knew didn’t care. Those who suspected didn’t care.”

“But…” I continued, finally at a loss, “wasn’t homophobia supposed to be just part of the military experience?” Weren’t anti-gay epithets just as integral to the armed forces as buzz cuts and barked commands to “drop and give me twenty?” Wasn’t any part of this difficult for Chris?

Here, finally, Chris took a moment before continuing: “What I can say is that I’ve heard just as much ignorance out of the military as I have in the military,” he said thoughtfully. “What I heard is nothing different than what I’d hear somewhere else. You hear the term ‘faggot’ in the mall or out on the street. I heard it in the military.”

I was stumped. This was so far out of the dominant narrative I was used to hearing about serving under DADT. I was used to stories told by people like Lieutenant Dan Choi, who was discharged under the policy for publicly coming out, on the Rachel Maddow Show, or retired Navy Captain Joan E. Darrah, who has written about the mental anguish caused by having to live two lives under the policy.

“You have to understand that my experiences are unique to me,” Chris said, explaining further. “My perspective comes from my own unique set of experiences, environment, and the people I worked with. My background was medical so I wasn’t in combat, arms or infantry. I know other people in the military have had very different experiences.”

While Chris may have been lucky in this regard, he also regrets that the public is less familiar with his type of story. “You never hear my perspective,” Chris said. “What you hear is the individuals who had negative experiences. That’s what people expect to hear.”

A More Visible Advocate

I had to admit it was actually quite nice to hear Chris’ version of what life was like serving under DADT. It was good to know that he, and hopefully others, were able to live their lives more or less openly, even under the discriminatory policy. But if DADT didn’t negatively affect Chris’ life much, was its repeal mostly a symbolic act for him? Did it have no practical import on his life?

“No it’s not just symbolic, that’s not at all what I’m saying,” Chris said. “[The repeal of DADT] has allowed me to become a vocal advocate for LGBT military families. I mean, you found me through a Google search, right?” Guilty as charged: I’d found Chris’ bio page on the website of the American Military Partners Association (AMPA), which advocates on behalf of LGBTQ military families. “I couldn’t have been that public about my work under DADT.”

Ryan and Sophia

Repeal of DADT has also had a profound impact on the lives of military partners and their families, Chris said. “A lot of gay individuals, their experience [under DADT] is where their partner has to be the ‘roommate,’ or the ‘nanny,’” Chris said. AMPA, he continued, was an important resource for these families, and was very active behind the scenes while DADT was still in effect. “These are individuals who had to carefully navigate the system,” Chris said of his work with the organization. “They had to live as second-class citizens in a system that did not recognize them.”

“How I got involved, I have no idea,” Chris said, laughing at the irony in his working for an organization that benefits military partners even though he is single. “I guess I take great selfies? I don’t know, but they let me into the club.” Chris was joking, however, because what he brings to the organization is clear. Chris’ primary role with the organization, for instance, is to help educate LGBTQ military couples interested in starting a family. As someone who has already navigated this process, he helps them do their research, and lay out their options.

Part of this work involves connecting service members with clinics that are not only LGBTQ-friendly, but welcoming of military personnel. “One of the things I’ve encountered [working with clinics] is that people’s conception of the armed forces is it being this draconic, homophobic, single group-think entity,” Chris said. “I try to break down those barriers, and link military personnel with military-friendly and understanding services.”

Though it came up almost as an afterthought, there is one other area where the repeal of DADT has had an impact on Chris’ life: It’s allowed him, for the first time, to consider having a long-term partner.

“Don’t get me wrong, I dated plenty,” Chris clarified. But the men Chris dated while DADT was still in effect “knew the deal,” he said. “They knew I was in the military, they knew it was ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,' they knew we wouldn’t be the happy gay couple with me in uniform holding hands.” Given these limitations, Chris prioritized his career and his family over a partner. A relationship, Chris said, just wasn’t in the cards for him. Now that DADT has been repealed, though, “it’s opened up the possibility of having a career that I love and a partner or a husband.”

“Well,” I thought, satisfied, "there’s certainly nothing symbolic about that."

“How Do I Clone Myself?”

As Chris listed off the various ways his life had changed as a result of DADT’s repeal, I was surprised to hear no mention of its impact on him as a gay father. Wasn’t it easier for him, as a gay dad, now that DADT has been repealed and he can live openly?

“I have to point this out all the time,” Chris said with a little laugh. “As a single guy, my sexual orientation had nothing to do with becoming a parent. People tend not to get this: had I been straight I would still have been single.”

Chris’ parenting challenges, he clarified, stemmed from being a single dad, not a gay military dad. “Ask any single parent,” Chris said, “we all struggle with the same thing: how do I clone myself? When my child is sick, what do I do? When I have to work late, who is going to pick up the kids? How do I buy my daughter a laptop computer to play on when I’m a single income parent?”

Far from being a source of his problems as a parent, in fact, the military has been a large part of his support system. “The leadership I’ve had since the girls were born has been phenomenal,” he said. “They accommodate whenever they can if I need time off, or if I need this or that.” The military has also worked to ensure that Chris, as a single parent, won’t have to uproot his family again anytime soon. After completing his Master’s degree at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, his career manager worked it out that Chris would stay in San Antonio, Texas for his residency and that he would do a follow-on assignment in San Antonio.

This isn’t to say that Chris has never faced challenges as a gay dad. These challenges just haven’t been as a result of the military. For example, when Chris first moved to San Antonio last summer, he enrolled his daughters in a daycare center. One day, his daughter Sophia came home crying. “Sophia had told her teacher that she had too mommies, Momma Jessica and Momma Emily,” Chris said of the incident. “But the teacher was like, ‘no we don’t have two mommies.’”

Chris, who had spent seven years in the Bay Area before moving to San Antonio, was taken aback. In San Francisco, “I was very much in a bubble,” he said. “It never dawned on me that I would need to have this conversation in a school setting. In San Francisco, so many of the families were gay or divorced or single parents. Our family structure was not unique. There were plenty of other families that looked like ours.”

To help make sure his daughters didn’t feel their family was different in San Antonio, Chris started a playgroup for LGBTQ families. “My thing is finding families that have structures similar to ours so when my daughters see two mommies or two daddies, it’s not out of the norm for them. It’s very important that my daughters don’t see our families out of the norm.”

Sophia and Ryan

“Dude, Seriously?”

As we finally ended our interview, I couldn’t thank Chris enough. Our call, scheduled for just 30 minutes, had stretched into over two hours. He had patiently and thoughtfully answered all of my questions about what life was like as a gay military dad, regardless of how intrusive, naïve, or civilian their nature.

Before we got off the phone, though, I had one last question: Are there any more kids in his future?

“Oh my God, dude, seriously? I’m so tired.” I laughed at this, a bit worried that I offended him, but mostly just happy that someone with 17 years of military experience felt comfortable enough by the end of our conversation to let a casual “dude” slip out.

And, as it turns out, my question wasn’t so far off base. “I am actually looking at the possibility of having a third child,” Chris said. “I am so exhausted most of the time. And I’ve accomplished a lot in my life that I’m proud of. But being a father, that’s my greatest accomplishment.” Also, he added, he may soon have more time to devote to parenthood. “I’m at that point where I’m looking forward to focusing on being a parent, not on a career. If I retire in four or five years, I’ll be able to go back to teaching part time if I want to. I won’t have to work a 40-hour work week.”

* * *

Before we ended our call, I asked Chris if there was anything else he wanted people to know about his life as a gay military dad. He left me with this.

“You talk about all the videos of returning soldiers walking into their kids’ kindergarten class to surprise them,” Chris said, bringing our conversation full circle, “and then you see an opposite-sex parent standing there crying. Do we have those? We do. Do you see them in the media? You don’t. But you need to remember that the military is an institution that just rewrote its history a couple years ago. We’ve always been there, but you’re just starting to see our families come out of the shadows. It’ll just take some time. Does that make sense?”

I was about to say, “Yeah, totally,” before I caught myself. “Yes,” I said instead. “That does seem correct.”

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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.

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!

Gay Dad Life

Most Fathers Experience "Dad Shaming," Says Study

52% of dads with kids ages 0-13 say they experience some form of criticism from their partners, family, friends and even complete strangers

Just in time for Father's Day, The T.C. Mott Children's Hospital in Michigan released a new national poll of 713 fathers that found a majority experience some form of criticisms as new parents. While we have long known new mothers are subjected to criticism, less studies have focused on the experiences of dads.

About half of fathers (52%) say they have been criticized about their parenting style or choices. The common source of criticism is the child's other parent (44%), though the report didn't explore if this finding was equally true for LGBTQ couples. Grandparents (24%) and the father's own friends (9%) were also common sources of criticism. Dads even reported receiving criticism about their parenting from strangers in public places or online (10%), as well as professionals like teachers or health care providers (5%).

Among some of the findings:

  • 67% of dads say they were criticized for how they discipline their child
  • 43% are criticized for their children's diet and nutrition
  • 32% are criticized for not paying attention to their children
  • 32% are criticized for being too rough with their kids

"Over one quarter of fathers in this Mott Poll noted that criticism made them feel less confident in their parenting, and 1 in 5 fathers said that criticism made them want to be less involved as a parent," the report says. "In short, too much disparagement can cause fathers to be demoralized about their parental role. This is unfortunate for both father and child, and those tempted to criticize fathers should be wary of this potential consequence."

Read the whole report here.

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.

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.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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