Change the World

One Gay Dad's Fight Against Hate in Superior, Nebraska

Brian Splater is refusing to let homophobic and transphobic elected officials in his town go unchecked

Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.


Moving to a small, rural and red community my husband and I knew there could still be many barriers in our process of wanting to have kids someday. A community of 2,000 is always harder for gay people than a community of 200,000 people. I always have said it is because they lack the education and experiences surrounding the different types of people who exist in this world. Even with this it was not going to prevent us from adopting two beautiful kids.

After being together for five years we decided it was time to adopt a child of our own. Little did we know we would be chosen for an adoption and we would get to adopt two children instead of one. My great-niece and my great-nephew had been in and out of foster care and taken away from their biological parents from the time they were born. Once our children's biological parents had their rights taken away from the state, we knew we had to step in and stop this pattern in their lives.

There are many feelings and emotions that go into bringing in two children into your home. Besides the unknowns that exist, we weren't going to allow the cowardly acts and the homophobic people from preventing this from happening.

It is amazing how two kids can make a difference in your lives. They have taught us what is truly important, never to sweat the small stuff, and never worry about the negativity others wish to shine down on us. They keep us grounded in the present and they make us realize it isn't the monetary or material things that are important, those things will never provide for complete happiness in one's life as two children will. Most importantly, they made us realize we must never hide from who we are as humans.

Being gay dads is an opportunity to stand up to the bullies who believe being gay is unnatural. Or that gays should never be able to adopt. It's an opportunity to be role models for our youth. It's also an opportunity to raise our children against stigma, judgment and other negativity that still lives in our world just because of a person's sexual orientation.

Millie B. Photography

One of the most amazing things about being a gay dad is how it has helped us in being a real strength to our children because we show them how to overcome adversity. It's because people who are gay have experienced enough judgment, abuse and other negativity throughout their lives to know how to educate their children when they witness or come face to face with people being treated unfairly.

All of this is something we still face today. In Superior, a town of just 2,000 people, in south central Nebraska, we have our own mayor and council members who love to sit behind their phones and computer screens and bully other people just because of a person's sexual orientation.

I have always believed that if you don't like policy or if you want change, one should either run for public office or they should join organizations that lobby in their beliefs. I did just that. Back in early 2018 I decided and announced that I would run for Mayor. For months I had been testing these waters. After this I quietly started putting my grass roots campaign together.

Because it took me some time to really come to a final answer if I should run, I missed the deadline to get on the ballot. I registered as a write-in. Once our Mayor, and our council members knew of my candidacy and once they knew the threat I was, the combativeness, hate, lies and the threats began.

I would never have dreamed of the tactics that were bowed to as I ran for Mayor. I had the Mayor have our own police try and intimidate me and my family. She, and council members, had our Utilities Manager, City Planner and our Economic Development Director attack me (from behind the scenes) and spread their imaginative and corrupt images about myself and my family. They also cornered, harassed daily and pushed our Chamber Manager out because of her support for me. Since, they have kicked people off of varying boards who supported me for Mayor.

In the end, just living in Superior for five years, I almost beat an incumbent of 12 years. I almost beat someone who had the last name and the married last name (her husband had been our County Attorney). Add in that I was gay and that we adopted two children, my supporters truly believed we started something good in our City and in our entire area. I had 315 write-ins to her 385 being on the ballot. Out of three Wards, I won Ward I and she only barely won Ward II.

Fast forward and for the past several months we have had Councilmen Disney, Peterson and Flores (who was appointed by this Mayor) continue their attacks against the LGBTQ community. To have these people say the LGBTQ community has a mental illness, that transgender is a made up work, having gays adopt kids is pushing our gay agenda on them, that we should have our plumbing checked out, that it's only political correctness for our equality and so many more of their ignorant statements; none of it will stand in the way of how we live our lives and it won't stand in the way of how we educate our children.

Sadly, all three of these elected officials work for our only hospital in Superior, Brodstone Memorial Hospital. They continue to preach and disperse their hate of gays and the transgender community. They continue to do this because this hospital seems to turn a blind eye and rather not answer an email I sent to the administrator back in March 2019.

For our two beautiful children's sake we will not rest until action is taken against these elected officials, who some are even EMT's

Millie B. Photography

Hate is very real and it is corrosive. A person's ignorance and deep bitterness often turns their hate into a hate crime. Hate breeds and it turns into targeting and violence. It can also cause serious harm and even death to the LGBTQ community.

For us, disarming hate should be on every resident of Superior's mind, not allowing this vicious cycle to continue. Superior is filled with kindness and compassion. It is overwhelmingly filled with residents who are hardworking and who respect one another. Unfortunately, the few can cause so much embarrassment, distress and outright shame for the rest of Superior. And that is happening as we speak.

Superior is better than allowing the likes of Rick Disney (Ward III) and Peterson (Ward I) to corrupt it. Superior is better than allowing a Mayor, who protects these people, and openly says "we must stick together…against these people," in open meetings. Superior is BETTER when they DENY members of management in allowing these homophobic and haters to continue spewing their hate in the hallways of places where the LGBTQ community MUST go for healthcare services and emergencies.

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News

Gay Dads Told One Must Identify as 'Mother' to Enroll in Daycare

The Israeli gay dads told one must identify as mother — like a "normal couple" — in order to receive financial assistance for daycare.

Israeli dads Guy Sadak Shoham and Chai Aviv Shoham were trying to enroll their two-year-old twins in daycare when they were told by a government official that one would need to identify as the "mother" in order to be cleared.

According to Out Magazine, the couple was attempting to apply for financial aid to help pay for the costs of preschool when a government bureaucrat called them to discuss their eligibility.

"I understand that you are both fathers and understand that you both run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more the mother," the government said, according to an interview on the Israel site Ynet (translated by Out Magazine). "I am just asking for a written statement in your hand which of you is the mother. From the point of view of the work, which works less than the father. Like a normal couple."

The official, apparently, said she was beholden to rules set for in the Ministry of Economy.

"It is mostly sad and a little disturbing," one of the dads told Ynet. "These are concepts that we consider the past. We do not necessarily come up with allegations against this representative, she is ultimately subject to the guidelines and as she said, they are the state. It is also sad that the state's definition of a mother is someone who works less and is at home with the children, and that we must choose which of us meets that definition."

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, fortunately, issued an apology following the incident, and promised to update its protocols. "We will emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all," the ministry wrote in a statement, an apology that was called "insufficient" by Ohad Hizki, the director-general of the National LGBT Task Force.

"The Ministry of Labor and Welfare must sharpen its procedures immediately to prevent recurrence of cases of this kind, as other public organizations have been able to do," he said.

Read more about this story on Out Magazine.

Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Entertainment

Amazon's New "Modern Love" Series Includes Episode on Open Adoption

The episode is loosely based on the New York Times "Modern Love" essay written by sex columnist and activist Dan Savage.

In 2005, Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, contributed one of the most talked about essays for the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Better known for his acerbic wit and cutting political commentary, Savage exposed a more vulnerable side in this piece, sharing the highs, lows and everything in between that comes from the experience of pursuing an open adoption.

His son DJ's birth mother was experiencing what Savage called a "slo-mo suicide": homeless by choice, in and out of prison, and surrounded by drugs. Though Savage has chosen an open adoption so that DJ's birth mother would be a presence in his son's life, she often disappeared for months and sometimes years at a time without contacting the family, leaving their young son with lots of questions and no satisfying answers.

The piece ends on a heartbreaking note, with Savage simply seeking some sort of resolution. "I'm starting to get anxious for this slo-mo suicide to end, whatever that end looks like," he wrote. "I'd prefer that it end with DJ's mother off the streets in an apartment somewhere, pulling her life together. But as she gets older that resolution is getting harder to picture."

At the time, many interpreted Savage's story as a cautionary tale for those considering open adoptions. But in 2016, on the Modern Love Podcast, he asserted that was not his intention: "DJ's mom is alive and well," Savage said. "She's on her feet. She's housed. We talk on the phone occasionally. She and DJ speak on Mother's Day and on DJ's birthday." He added that he "would hate to have anyone listen to that essay or to read it — which was written at a moment of such kind of confusion and despair — and conclude that they shouldn't do the kind of adoption that we did," Savage said. "I think that open adoption is really in the best interest of the child, even if … it presents more challenges for the parents. So I encourage everyone who's thinking about adoption to seriously consider open adoption and not to be dissuaded by my essay."

Now, Savage's piece is getting the small screen treatment as one of 9 episodes included in Amazon Prime's adaption of the column. The episode inspired by Savage's essay, "Hers Was a World of One," contains some departures from Savage's original story — Savage's character, played by Fleabag's Andrew Scott, adopts a daughter rather than a son, for example, and the episode concludes closer to the upbeat note struck in the Podcast version of hist story than in the column.

Either way, we welcome any and all attention to the complexities of open adoption. Check out the episode (which also randomly includes Ed Sheeran in a couple scenes) and tell us what you think!

Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Newly Out Gay Dad Feels 'Demoted' After Divorce

Cameron Call showed up to his first family Thanksgiving since coming out and getting a divorce — and struggles to find himself "stuck with the singles."

Cameron Call, who came out in summer 2019, has generously agreed to chronicle his coming out journey for Gays With Kids over the next several months — the highs, lows and everything in between. Read his first article here.

Denial is an interesting thing. It's easy to think you're potentially above it, avoiding it, assume it doesn't apply to you because you'd NEVER do that, or maybe you're just simply avoiding it altogether. After finally coming out, I liked to think that I was done denying anything from now on. But unfortunately that's not the case.

And this fact became very clear to me over Thanksgiving.

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Resources

New Report Details the 'Price of Parenthood' for LGBTQ People

A new report by the Family Equality Council takes a deep dive into the current state of cost for becoming a parent as an LGBTQ person

Parenthood is expensive. But parenthood while queer is still prohibitively costly for so many segments of the LGBTQ community interested in pursuing a family, according to a new repot by the Family Equality Council, titled, "Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood."

Among the more interesting findings was this one: the cost of family planning is relatively similar for all LGBTQ people, regardless of income level. This shows "that the desire to have children exists regardless of financial security," the report's authors conclude.

Research for the report was conducted through an online survey of 500 LGBTQ adults over the age of 18, and was conducted between July 11-18, 2018. For comparison, the survey also included 1,004 adults who did not identify as LGBTQ.

Other interesting findings of the report include:

  • 29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, and error associated with question-wording and response options.29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Regardless of annual household income, 45-53% of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family. Those making less than $25,000 a year are considering becoming parents at very similar rates as those making over $100,000.
  • Data from the Family Building Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ households making over $100,000 annually are considering the full range of paths to parenthood, from surrogacy and private adoption to foster care and IVF. The most popular options under consideration in this income bracket are private adoption (74% are considering), foster care (42%), and IVF or reciprocal IVF (21%). At the other end of the economic spectrum, for LGBTQ+ individuals in households making less than $25,000 annually, the most commonly considered paths to parenthood are intercourse (35% are considering), foster care (30%), and adoption (23%).

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

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Gay Dad Life

Broadway Performer's Surrogacy Journey Briefly Sidetracked — for One Very 'Wicked' Reason

"Broadway Husbands" Stephen and Bret explain the exciting reasons they had to hit pause on their surrogacy journey — but don't worry, they're back on track!

In the latest video of the Broadway Husbands sharing their path to fatherhood, Stephen and Bret explain their hiatus for the past 4 months. The couple have big news to share including a relocation, a job announcement, and the fact that they're getting ready to restart their journey (which they had to take a brief pause from since September).

Watch their video to find out their latest news.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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