Gay Dad Life

Better Half the Movie

“Sorry, I should say right off the bat that I didn’t get a chance to finish it,” I told Michelle Clay, the writer, director and producer of “Better Half.  It had been an unusually busy week, I explained, embarrassed, like a kid claiming the dog ate his homework. So I was only able to get about half way through the film before the Skype interview I’d scheduled with Michelle and her two leading men, Jaimie Fauth and Grant Landry.


“But I’m dying to know,” I asked, suddenly feeling more like a groupie than a journalist. “Does it have a happy ending?”

“Well, we’ve had a lot of people say it’s not the ending they were expecting,” Michelle said. "Which for a filmmaker is always a great thing to hear. But I don’t want to ruin the ending for you. So let’s just say it’s bittersweet.”

“Better Half" follows the story of new gay dads, Leo (Jaimie Fauth) and Tony (Grant Landry), as they embark on their tumultuous path to fatherhood. Though I hadn’t yet watched a scene I’d describe as “bittersweet,” I’d seen enough to know that this was a film that not only gay dads would be able to relate to, but many first-time parents; the main tension in the movie centers on a question posed between would-be parents in bedrooms, fertility clinics, and couples therapy sessions all across the country, regardless of sexual orientation: what happens when one of you wants it less?

A Not-So-Gay “Gay” Movie

For a “gay” movie, the sexuality of the protagonists in “Better Half" is remarkably incidental, which is particularly refreshing in the current entertainment climate where Hollywood seems eager to tell any and every tearjerker LGBT story it can get its hands on, no matter how revisionist. (I'm looking at you, “Stonewall and “Dallas Buyers Club.”) 

I’m not complaining about the increased attention being paid to characters and events in LGBT history in recent years, but this uptick in exposure makes it all the more unusual to watch a movie about two gay parents (who, shockingly, are even played by two openly gay men) where the characters could almost as easily have been conceived as straight ones.

But it does beg the question: if sexuality is secondary to her story – one that is essentially about parenthood, and not same-sex parenthood – why did Michelle choose two gay men as her protagonists?

“Way back in 2007, I was finishing my first feature, and I didn’t know what I was going to do next,” Michelle explained. “I was talking with a friend who was complaining that there are no good gay roles out there; there are films about people coming out and about getting gay-bashed. But there is never a gay character in the center of a story, and the sexuality is secondary.”

This isn’t to say that the sexuality of her characters was completely trivial in her decision-making. “If I’d written the story with a straight couple, then it’s a story you’ve seen before,” Michelle said. “If it were a lesbian couple, then I’d have a conflicted audience that didn’t forgive one of the female characters for not wanting a kid. So a gay couple was perfect to tell this story.”

As a self-deemed “perpetually single girl,” Michelle also said she was interested in exploring themes of “couplehood,” particularly where one partner is unequal to the other in some way. “If one partner is weak and the other strong what happens when your partner asks you to do something that you’re weak at?” Michelle asked. “And how much do you regret doing that? I just wanted to show ‘couplehood.’ You know, the normal, healthy interaction between a couple.”

Could Michelle’s story have been told just as easily with straight parents as the leads? Probably. But with same-sex parents in T.V. and film in such short supply (poor Mitch and Cam have quite the burden to bear), gay dads, at least, will certainly appreciate Michelle’s decision to explore themes of parenthood and “couplehood” within the context of two men. (And there certainly won’t be any complaints over Michelle’s casting choices in the scenes where the “normal, healthy interaction” between her handsome leads turns physical.)

Since “couplehood” is such an essential refrain in "Better Half," Michelle wasn’t simply looking for two talented actors, but ones that felt like they were part of a believable partnership. “I wasn’t casting a “Tony” and a “Leo,” Michelle said of her process, “I was casting a couple.” To find the perfect couple, Michelle interviewed dozens of actors before finally settling on Grant Landry and Jaimie Fauth. “They were the only ones that felt like a couple. Grant was my first audition, Jaimie was the last.”

Grant and Jaimie are certainly believable as a couple in the film. But beyond their acting chops, this might have something to do with the fact that they’ve known each other for 10 years. “Like all good actors, we were also bartenders and waiters,” Jaimie joked. The pair worked together at the Abbey, a well-known gay bar in Los Angeles. Their pre-existing relationship helped. “We already had a fun bond, and a way we tease each other. It felt like maybe we were cheating,” he added with a laugh.

Art Imitates Life?

Every profession has one or two ignorant questions practitioners are sick of being asked by outsiders. For writers: “Cool, but what do you do for money?” I’m sure this was one of those questions for actors, but I had to ask anyway: How alike are Grant and Jaimie anyway to their characters?

Grant and Jaimie looked at each other quickly, and then started laughing. “Not at all,” Grant said.

A quick synopsis of the characters in “Better Half” – no spoilers, I promise – will help here: Grant’s character, Tony, is a social worker and all around do-gooder; in other words, the “better half.” But Tony’s devotion to his job and advocacy work sometimes comes in the way of his relationship with Jaimie’s character Leo, who, while not necessarily a bad guy, is less socially minded than his altruistic other half.

We could maybe sum up the main difference in their characters like this: While both Tony and Leo probably make generous donations to charity each year, Tony does so out of a sense of social responsibility whereas Leo’s mostly in it for the tax breaks.

The drama picks up when Tony makes a move to start their family; he has always wanted to be a father, but the demands of his job, and the reluctance of Leo, had thus far prevented him from doing so. But when a child is abandoned at the agency where Tony works, he sees it as a sign. Tony convinces Leo to adopt the child with him, but in return, he promises to quit his high-stress job in order to do the bulk of the work of caring for his new son, Dylan. Tony, unsurprisingly, takes naturally to fatherhood, while Leo flounders at first, particularly when he finds himself shouldering more of the burden of raising Dylan than he had originally hoped.

I’m not sure why it’s always so astounding to learn that actors are nothing like the characters they portray on film and TV. (You mean Hugh Jackman doesn’t have adamantium-laced claws and bones?!) But I was still more surprised than I should have been to learn that, unlike their characters, Jaimie has always wanted to be a father, while Grant, for now anyway, has no interest.

Jaimie, in fact, is close to becoming a first-time father; he and his husband are in the middle of the foster-to-adopt process. They recently finished all of the required certification classes and have moved on to the home studies, interviews and “mountains of paperwork,” as Jaimie said.

So the filming of “Better Half" came at an interesting moment for Jaimie. “I met my husband in the summer of 2011,” Jaimie explained, “and we started working together in the fall of 2011. As I started to fall in love, and my relationship was coming together, it gave me a lot to think about in doing the film.”

Like the stresses Jaimie’s character encounters in the film, for instance, there have been times in the foster-to-adopt process that have been challenging for him. “But then the fear subsides and you realize you’re up for the challenge,” Jaimie said. “The decision you’re making is whether or not you want your life to change dramatically. And I’m like, Yeah, I want a big change. My husband and I are both really passionate about this. We have a lot of friends, both straight and gay, who have adopted children with a lot of success. It’s a big change, but it’s exciting.”

Jaimie has always felt strongly about adoption being his preferred path to parenthood. “That’s not a judgment on anyone else,” he clarified. “Because you have to really want this. If you feel bad about the state of the foster care system, then just write a check. You have to really want to parent, and discipline, and make sandwiches, and wipe up throw-up. If there’s anything I can do, to help a child already on the planet whose path might be a little bit murkier … ” Jaimie trailed off. “It just pulls at my heartstrings.”

Not so unlike a plot point in “Better Half," Jaimie also knows that any child he adopts through the foster care system may come to him by way of a difficult set of circumstances. This, he notes, brings with it an added layer of parenting challenges, so the education he and his husband have received in undergoing the foster-to-adopt process has been vital. “I know that by their nature this kid will come to me and my husband because of a trauma,” he says. “It’s been important to learn about some of the challenges some kids in the foster system face, like children born addicted to certain drugs.”

Jaimie’s experience with the foster-to-adopt process so far has also given him high hopes for what “Better Half" can achieve in terms of increasing acceptance for LGBT foster and adoptive parents and their children. “There are so many kids in the foster care system who need fostering or full adoption, so I hope this film can help garner more attention for that cause,” he added, noting that laws on the books in many states still make the adoption and fostering process more difficult for LGBT parents. “That’s how I felt watching ‘Will and Grace’ 15 years ago. People were like, O.K., it’s on TV. They were exposed to it, and came around on gay people. Hopefully someone clicks on this movie in 2016, and they come around on adoption.”

Unlike his character in the film, who becomes responsible for a newborn, Jaimie hopes to adopt a slightly older child. “Everyone wants a baby,” Jaimie said. “And a lot of older kids need homes.” But, he admits, there might be just a touch of self-interest involved in his preference for adopting an older child. “Adopting a 6-year-old also makes me six years younger when the child was born,” he laughs. “I mean, seriously though, as I’ve gotten older, and the clock started ticking, the idea of adopting a kid who is maybe 5 or 6 started to become more appealing.”

Another motivating factor in Jaimie’s decision to adopt an older child? “I’m not a huge diaper person,” Jaimie said, adding that he at least shares that part of his character’s perspective on childrearing.

So was it difficult, otherwise, to play a character that is more detached and ambivalent about children than he is in real life?

“The baby we got to play the part was unbelievably cute,” Jaimie said. (“Even I thought so,” Grant agreed.) “So I had to work against being very cuddly. It was nice then for me when the story comes around and I get to embrace the notion of fatherhood a little more.”

And what about Grant? Did any part of playing the World’s Greatest Dad rub off on him?

“It didn’t change my mind,” Grant laughed. “I still don’t want kids.” And as an actor, his ambivalence towards children made him work a bit harder. “I had some stranger handing me their kid and I’m like, Oh my god. What am I supposed to do with this?

Grant quickly clarified that he was exaggerating. “I’m not petrified of children,” he said. “I actually used to work with kids, and I’m good with kids. I just don’t have any desire for personal fatherhood. It was good to explore it and try on those pants for a little bit, and to rise up to the challenge of playing the best dad in the world, basically.”

While Grant doesn’t see fatherhood happening for him anytime in the near future, he did come close to a fatherhood of sorts a couple of years back. “I had a friend who was having trouble getting pregnant,” he said. “And they were looking for a sperm donor, and they wanted that person to be involved. I had agreed to it and was ready to take that half step.”

In the end, Grant’s friend was able to get pregnant on her own. But what if it had gone the other way? What if he suddenly had a child that he helped bring into the world that he needed to worry about?

Grant’s response seemed to mirror the central parenting conflict explored in “Better Half": “If I were suddenly entrusted with a child, I’d like to think I’m the sort of person who would step up. When you’re given that responsibility and that gift, you have to think about more than just yourself. You need to step up and take care of this new life in your control.”

And even if Grant isn’t looking to become a father anytime soon, he, too, hopes the film can help change hearts and minds about gay adoption. “It’s great that gay marriage has passed,” he said, “but there’s still plenty of laws on the books where gay couples can’t adopt, and people can still be fired for being gay. Hopefully this film can help speak to that.”

The Little Gay Dad Film that Could

Impressively, the end result of “Better Half" doesn’t betray the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that went into the making of it.

“I did everything I was told to,” Michelle said, reflecting on the process. “You’re told to make a short or promo so funders see what kind of filmmaker you are. Then they give you money if they like it.” But this isn’t always how things went for “Better Half." “Finding funders was definitely the most difficult part.”

The completion of the film was never a sure bet; Michelle raised the money to make the film through crowdfunding companies like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Through these efforts, she’d raise enough money to work on the film in a piecemeal fashion, but when funds ran out, which they often did, she’d have to put production on hold while she continued fundraising.

Michelle started with a “humble Kickstarter,” and squeezed out five days of shooting from the money raised. “We shot a minimum of 3 scenes each day,” she added. “We were fast, light, and economical.” The end result would be enough material to use for more promotional material and to conduct another Kickstarter.

Over the course of the thirteen months it took to make the film, this is how things went. “We shot and raised money, shot again, raised more money.” In all, Michelle conducted five Kickstarters and three Indiegogos. Two of the Kickstarters failed, Michelle added, meaning she often paid for the movie’s production out of her own pocket.

Fortunately, through Michelle’s dogged determination, fundraising picked up eventually. “After a while, we got some true believers, maybe six or seven people who were giving us $1,000 at a time,” Michelle said. With production costs running about $1,000 per day, she added, these donors greatly helped support the effort.

“The film has over 30 speaking parts and a dozen locations,” Grant pointed out. “People often make a movie with four people and one location with the same amount of money. So props to Michelle for taking a micro budget and making a movie that would normally cost three times as much.”

In addition to her fundraising efforts, of course, Michelle also wrote and directed “Better Half." What was it like to make a feature length movie, basically on her own?

“Forget ‘basically,’” Grant said quickly, before Michelle could answer. “Entirely! Michelle was our writer, director, producer, editor, cheerleader, psychologist … ”

“Cafeteria lady,” Jaimie added.

“Yeah, exactly,” Grant laughed. “There are so many people in Los Angeles who talk a big talk. But this one woman put her money where her mouth was and endeavored to tell a story she wanted to tell, and made this beautiful film.” Grant added that he had been part of a previous effort to produce a film primarily through crowdfunded efforts that failed. So why did “Better Half" succeed where others did not?

“The movie got made because so many people believed in the story,” Grant said. “And because when you have someone as passionate as Michelle, presenting you with this amazing story, you say yes.”

Still, the on again, off again nature of making this film must have posed some challenges to the cast and crew, right?

“Yes, of course,” Michelle said. “But I warned the cast that we’ve got to do this piecemeal or I can’t make it happen at all. And to their credit, they stuck with me over a year,” which, she noted, is a particularly long time for actors to be committed to one project. “Actors have to be able to change their look,” she said.

“Yeah, over 13 months, I gained and lost 20 pounds,” Grant said. “There’s a couple times where we needed to reshoot things because I ballooned in between scenes. I also filmed a couple different projects, one which required me to grow a ridiculous Robin Hood mustache. So we couldn’t do much while that was happening.”

Apart from those challenges, "it’s also a bit hard to get back in the same headspace,” Grant said. “You need to try and remember what your performance was like from the scene prior that you could have shot weeks ago.”

Jaimie’s main frustrations were associated with the harsh realities of fundraising for a project in which he was a major believer. “I fell in love with the script, and always knew what the mission was,” he said. “I did have to turn down some auditions for this. But I knew there would be a conflict with shooting dates. So I don’t regret it. I’m proud of it.”

An Audience Favorite

So when can Gays with Kids readers, clearly a natural audience for this film, get the chance to see “Better Half"?

“Unfortunately, there isn’t a set date just yet for wider distribution,” Michelle said. But that doesn’t keep Michelle, Grant, and Jaimie from having high hopes for the film.

“You just need to keep your fingers crossed for us; the film circuit has not been kind to us,” she said. But, she added, it hasn’t been kind to a lot of people these days due to increased competition at many festivals. “I have been in the unique situation of having run a festival, and also being a filmmaker trying to get into one. The increase in submissions has been enormous. They’ve literally quadrupled in recent years.”

But support for the film is growing. After spending eight months submitting “Better Half" to various festivals, the film was accepted into festivals this year in North Carolina and Palm Springs. It racked up the Audience Award at the former and a Festival Favorite award in the latter. And in just a couple of days, “Better Half" will be shown as part of a festival in Cincinnati. (So go get your tickets now if you’re anywhere nearby!)

Apart from the excitement of gaining exposure for the film, the festivals are also providing Michelle and her leading men an opportunity to gauge the film’s impact on an audience. “When we screened it at North Carolina, it was the first time with a completely impartial audience,” Jaimie said. “So it was great to see, you know, when they laugh and when they cry, how they react. It was a really great to see audience reaction.”

And the reaction from audiences has been positive. “People love the relationship between the two characters,” Michelle said. “They’re relatable. I’ve heard so many people who comment on the film by saying  ‘I’m a Tony, he’s a Leo,’” Michelle said. “I think it’s exciting for people to see themselves reflected on screen.”

“As it gets more exposure from these festivals, hopefully it’ll get into even more festivals,” Grant said, “and then we can find a way to distribute it so that we can show the story to as many people as possible.”

“It would be great if this film ended up on something like Netflix,” Jaimie said, when I asked about his hopes for the film. “Then it’ll be available everywhere.” Living in the bubble that is Los Angeles, he added, he doesn’t encounter much resistance to being gay or adopting a child. “I have support from every single straight person I know. This film reaches out. I think it’s another drop in the bucket in terms of making people understand that this is good. Children need to be adopted.”

“I love the modern honesty of it,” Jaimie said. “It’s right now, it’s in the climate we live in. It’s a fight for my character, Leo, to overcome fear and to face challenges, to dig deeper. I hope that anyone watching will be like, O.K., this is one dude and his partner making their way through uncharted territory.”

***

“We tried very hard to make a film that creates a lot of avenues and points of entry for people to see themselves and to relate,” Michelle said, when I asked if she had anything left to add at the end of our interview. "And I think we succeeded. I think we have a really strong, bittersweet, emotional film that will surprise people.”

Uh oh, another “bittersweet” reference. So should I prepare for a dramatic ending?

“No, it’s not really a drama,” Michelle said. “It feels like a real story. Because it is a real story.”

After I ended our Skype call, I curled up on my couch to finish my homework, and watched the second half of “Better Half." And about two scenes in, I understood what she was talking about.  I’m not going to spoil the ending for you, so you better keep your fingers crossed the film comes to a theater near you soon. But I will leave you with the same cliffhanger that Michelle gave me at the start of our interview: “Better Half" is a beautiful, relatable story, and the ending is most certainly bittersweet.

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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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