Change the World

Coming Out as a Gay Dad Over and Over and Over Again

When I was 11 years old, I went to my first away camp with the Boy Scouts. It was a big deal; it cost, like, $125 for the week, and I got around $30 in spending money from my parents. Visions of candy and pocket knives danced in my head.


We arrived to a murky, muddy, and generally unpleasant camp site. I overheard one of the organizers saying that the site was meant to be closed this year, but they had so many troops coming that they had to use it anyway.

“Great,” I thought to myself, “this ought to go well.”

And did it ever. It stormed so hard that night that I fell asleep with my fingers in my ears watching a daddy long legs climb over the ceiling of our humble canvas tent. Fortunately, we had cots to keep us off the rapidly flooding ground.

When we woke up the camp site was like something out of “The NeverEnding Story,” and I fully expected to end up like the horse Artax by the end of the week. (Dead, that is.) The ground was mud, with intermittent lakes of rain water. I immediately resigned myself to having wet muddy socks all week.

 * * *

The air was quiet except for the pitter patter of trees shedding the night’s rain onto our dining fly, the canopies we cooked and ate under. It was my turn to cook – lucky me – so I was lazily moving some Canadian bacon around in a pan on our patrol’s propane stove while my patrol-mates milled about the campsite trying to find a dry path to the latrine.

Pitter patter.

Pitter patter.

“It seems louder this time” was the last thing I thought before I was slammed down onto the camp stove by a falling tree.

As with a car accident, I remember the impact. I can still feel it knocking the wind out of me like it was yesterday, but in that instant following the crash pure instinct took over. Like a frightened animal I compulsively pulled myself backwards as hard as I could, freeing my head from the burning camp stove, but my right hand was pinned. I remember struggling to free my hand, while my head spun as I gasped for air, trying to figure out what the hell just happened.

I twisted myself around, got my arm free, and immediately asked the gathered crowd of fellow Boy Scouts the only question that came to mind:

"My face, what happened to my face? Is it okay?”

 They assured me that I looked fine. I turned to show the other side of my face. There was a chorus of horrified gasps. My heart leapt into my throat and clung there for dear life.

“What about this side?”

I now had a scar running from my nose and upper lip to my right ear. And for the next few years every where I went I would be answering the same question, ad infinitum:

“What happened to your face?”

Even today – though I had the scar tissue excised when I was 14, there is still a faint line – I still get asked about it.

Little did I know this would just be the tip of the iceberg.

* * *

Years later coming out felt like this one-and-done momentous achievement, but it proved to be just the first step in a life-long broken record of coming out. And it’s especially arduous for gay dads, and it’s especially arduous for gay dads who were married to women before. People know it happens, but it’s not something they really expect to encounter.

“Oh, I thought you two were brothers …”

“Oh, I thought you were their uncle …”

“Oh, I thought they were adopted …”

Even people we meet, who know we’re gay, might not know the rest of our story, and everyone reacts a little bit differently to hearing that you were married before. And it’s like, “Let me sum up my first 28 years of life as quickly as possible so I can get this over with.” It can be exhausting.

It feels like this: I meet someone, and then I’m asked to strip naked and take them through a tour of every scar on my body. I want to be nice about it; I feel I have a duty to let people see, because that’s how I educate people about what it’s like being gay, how modern families are made. I don’t begrudge anyone their curiosity, it’s almost always polite, friendly or otherwise well intentioned.

But it never stops. I will be coming out for the rest of my life.

I have made my peace with this. I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone. By coming out over and over and over and over again we are telling the world repeatedly that we will not be quiet, that we are proud, that we accept ourselves, scars and all. And you will too.

It’s our story, it’s our kids’ story, so be ready to tell it any time, any place, because that’s what the world demands of us. And in doing so, we can change the world, one person at a time.

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News

World's First Sperm Bank Opens for HIV Positive Donors

Sperm Positive, started by three non-profits in New Zealand, hopes to end stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood

"Our donors have so much to give," say the promotional materials of a new sperm bank. "But they can't give you HIV."

The new sperm bank, Sperm Positive, launched on World Aids Day this year by three non-profits as a way to fight stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood. For years, scientists have known that those living with an undetectable level of HIV in their blood thanks to antiretroviral treatments can't transmit the virus through sex or childbirth. Yet discrimination and stigma persists.

The sperm bank exists online only, but will connect donors and those seeking donations with fertility banks once a connection is made on their site. Sperm Positive was started by three New Zealand non-profits — Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc. — who hope the project will help disseminate science-backed education and information about HIV and parenthood.

Already, three HIV positive men have signed up to serve as donors, including Damien Rule-Neal who spoke to the NZ Herald about his reasons for getting involved in the project. "I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," he told the Herald. "I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus."

We applaud the effort all around! To read more about our own efforts to end the stigma surround HIV and parenthood, check out our recent round-up of family profiles, resources, and expert advice that celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV here.

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.

Change the World

9 Stories That Celebrate the Experience of Gay Fathers Living with HIV

This World AIDS Day, we dug into our archives to find 9 stories that bring awareness to and celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV

December 1st is World AIDS Day — a day to unite in our collective fight to end the epidemic, remember those we've lost, and bring much needed attention and money to support those who continue to live with HIV and AIDS. For us at Gays With Kids, it's also a time to lift up and celebrate the experiences of fathers, so many of who never thought they'd see the day where they would be able to start families.

Towards that end, we've rounded up nine stories, family features and articles from our archives that celebrate the experience of gay fathers living with HIV — the struggles, triumphs and everything in between.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

These Gay Dads Lost Everything After Hurricane Dorian — Except Hope

The couple, who live in "Hope Town" in the Bahamas, lost everything after suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian this past summer.

Max Bethel-Jones, 52, had traveled to more than 120 countries over the last 30 years working with the United Nations, but had never been to the Bahamas — in 2015, he decided to apply for a private teaching job as a special needs teacher in Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama.

Just weeks after his arrival, he'd get a whole lot more than another pin in his map of visited countries when he attended a social event at Freeport Rugby. "My object was to ogle the local male talent but several women had other ideas," he said. One woman was particularly insistent, he said, but after a couple of drinks she got the hint that he batted for the other rugby team. "She promptly told me there was someone I should meet."

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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.

Gay Dad Life

Top 10 Reasons You Should Date a Gay Dad

Jay Turner lays out the top 10 reasons you should consider dating a single gay dad

We're gay dads. Many of us were married to women, and for various reasons we eventually found ourselves single and looking for companionship from another man. Life is a little more complicated for us because we have kids. But that shouldn't deter you from seeking a relationship with a gay dad. In fact, there are many reasons why we make better partners than men without children. We are generally more mature, responsible, and emotionally available. We are also better communicators.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should date a gay dad:

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Entertainment

First Gay Dads Via Surrogacy in the U.K. Separate as One Plans New Family with Daughter's Ex-Boyfriend

Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow first became known in the UK for being the first gay couple to become dads via surrogacy.

Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow first made headlines in 1999 when they became the first gay couple to become dads via surrogacy in the U.K. They did so again after they announced their separation — and when Barrie revealed he's dating his daughter's bisexual ex-boyfriend, the 25-year-old Scott Hutchinson.

And now the new couple are sending shockwaves through queer media by announcing the two hope to have twins via surrogacy in the near future.

According to Out Magazine, Scott not only dated Barrie's daughter, Saffron, but also worked as his assistant. Despite the age difference and potential for family drama, the pair fell in love. The couple still share a home with Barrie's ex, Tony — and their daughter Saffron.

Barrie told The Sun that the couple also hope to have twin daughters via surrogacy in the near future — and is revealing it now because he doesn't "want there to be any secrets and I want to get any negativity out of the way before our babies arrive." Barrie's ex, Tony, is reportedly onboard with this arrangement — he's even agreed to serve as the future twins' godfather.

Out Magazine further reported that Barrie and Scott each hope to fertilize an egg, and hope to conduct the insemination with their surrogate within the next three weeks. Of course, who are we to judge, assuming all adults involved are consenting and on board with this unconventional turn of events (though comment from the daughter Saffron is notably absent in the interviews). But that didn't stop Out Magazine from ending their reporting with just a wee touch of gay shade... If one of their future daughters "has a cute boyfriend one day," they write. "Who knows!"

Fatherhood, the gay way

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