TOP - PERSONAL ESSAYS

Boys Don't Play With Dolls

We were at the public pool and this happened: Milo saw an Ariel (The Little Mermaid) doll at the side of the pool and said, "Whoa!" He grabbed it and started to play with it. Then the mother of the little girl whom the doll belonged to said to us, "Boys don't play with dolls!"


Frank and I both said in unison, "Of course boys can play with dolls!"

Her daughter (maybe 5 years old) said to her mom, "Boys play with trucks. Girls play with dolls."

The mother said quietly to her daughter, "I know." She then asked us to leave the doll at poolside when we were done playing with it and swam off.

As Frank and I looked at each other with bewilderment, another mother with her son swam up to us to say, "Just to let you know, my son plays with dolls. That was the stupidest thing she could say!"

As much as we were astonished that the first mother actually said this to us, we were not that surprised. Gender-based toys and colours still seems to be an ongoing topic nowadays.

Just last year Target stopped gender labelling their toys. That of course had all the naysayers weighing in and voicing their opinions just how ridiculous it was. But is it really? Religious groups were calling for a boycott, asking their followers not to shop there. Now THAT is ridiculous.

Why are toys marketed toward girls in pink and mostly princesses? If a boy wants a princess doll, why is he labelled a "girl" or "gay"? Why are superheroes marketed mainly towards boys? Why is pink for girls and blue for boys?

Last year we were in a restaurant in Miami, feeding Milo from a pink bottle. A woman in her early 60's was sitting next to us. She turned to us and said, "Oh I thought your baby was a girl because he has a pink bottle!" To which Frank replied, "We don't believe pink is just for girls!"

Then she rolled her eyes so hard we thought they would get stuck in the back of her head and she turned around. There is nothing I love more than getting judged by complete strangers. (That was sarcasm by the way!)

As long as I can remember, I played Barbie with my sisters, and I also played with my Hot Wheels and He-Man figures. Although Frank used to hide his play with his sister's Barbies, times were different back then. The "Free To Be...You And Me" album and song book by Marlo Thomas just came out, and that album helped open the minds of parents that it's perfectly normal for a boy to play with a doll. In the song adaptation of "William's Doll" with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, it explains:

"Explaining, William wants a doll

So when he has a baby someday

He'll know how to dress it, put diapers on double

And gently caress it to bring up a bubble

And care for his baby as every good father

Should learn to do

William has a doll, William has a doll

'cause someday he is gonna be a father, too"

I am not quite sure why some parents are so against their boys playing with dolls, or taking dance, or even wearing pink. Do they really think this will make their son gay?

In our house there are no girly things or boy things. There aren't even mommy jobs or daddy jobs. Is it because we are a gay dad family and so of course there are no specific gender roles? Regardless of gender, in any household, the laundry needs to get washed, the dishes need to get cleaned, diapers need to get changed, the lawn needs to get mowed. My favorite question is always, "So who does the mommy stuff?" which is immediately followed up by, "Oh, I didn't mean it like that, but you know what I mean!"

Frank and I both are Milo's father, mother, playmate, disciplinarian, and caregiver. But most important of all, we are his parents. Milo will continue to wear pink, play with dolls, vacuum and clean, be a ballerina if he chooses to. He will use his imagination with whatever toy he is playing with, because a toy is a toy. He loves his little baby just as much as he loves his trains. I think people need to stop over-reacting with the whole dolls are for girls and trucks are for boys thing. Just let your kids be who they are, play with what they want to play with. In the end, they will grow up to be the persons they are meant to be.

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TOP - PERSONAL ESSAYS

When Everybody Asks a Gay Dad, “So, You’re the Mom?”

"So, you're the mom?" That's a question I get asked a lot by fellow parents, friends, family and casual acquaintances.

“So, you're the mom?" That's a question I get asked a lot by fellow parents, friends, family and casual acquaintances. I used to laugh it off as something funny, but always felt it was brash and lacked tact, frankly. I am a gay male who is also a parent to two adorable boys with another man. Does that, then, make it so one of us has to be the mother? It made me think of a few more questions I will dare to answer in this blog. Am I female? Am I trying to take a woman's place or roles? Am I trying to portray the stereotypical attributes of a motherly figure? Does society always feel the need to label or categorize?
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I've been living with HIV for close to 30 years. I don't need to wait until World AIDS Day to reflect on the tremendous impact HIV and AIDS have had on my life.

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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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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.

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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