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Gay Dad Opens Up About His Experiences With Conversion Therapy

The California-based gay dad was one of 8 people to be interviewed about his experiences with the disproven practice of conversion therapy for The Cut.

Conversion therapy, the disproven practice of attempting to change an individual's sexual orientation through psychological interventions, has been in the news a lot lately. This past May, Maryland became the 11th state to completely ban the damaging therapy for minors. Some states are even considering bills to further prohibit the practice for adults.

Hollywood is paying attention to the trend, with two major movies, Boy Erased and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, to be released before the end of the year.


So to gain some insight into the practice, reporters for The Cut interviewed 8 individuals who had undergone conversion therapy, one of which was a 57-year-old gay man from California, who was the father of two kids. His story, like many of the others, was heartbreaking, and helped to highlight some of the disastrous consequences of this outdated and dangerous practice.

"I was active with a few guys in college," Jon said. "Then I kind of put all of that away and went into a marriage with a woman and was married for about 15 years and had two sons. And of course that marriage got dicey — I ended up in ex-gay therapy at the referral of a pastor at about the age of 37, 38. I did therapy for about seven and a half, eight years, off and on."

Jon says in the piece, having grown up in a conservative, fundamentalist family himself, that he also raised his sons to be very religious. When he came out to them, they were 15 and 19, respectively. Neither of them responded well.

"By then I had stopped seeing myself as 'unwanted same-sex attracted," he said,"and started seeing myself as more of what I would call 'gay side B,' chaste and celibate. I went through a really messy divorce and spent years in family law court fighting for custody of my kids. It's really awful."

Jon is much more comfortable with his sexuality today, and has even started dating men. But his kids, who are 26 and 21 now, remain estranged from him.

"I do regret raising my sons so religious," Jon says. "I wish that weren't so. The hardest thing for me has been my son, my older son, I believe he's gay. A few years ago he met a girl in February, got engaged to her in April, they got married in August, split up in October and were divorced by the end of the year. It was like a horror story for me, a train wreck to watch. I still wish I would've been a dad, but I would've done that with a male partner and adopted and, you know, raised kids that way."

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Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

Coming Out to My Kids Was the Most Raw and Tender Moment

Cameron Call, a newly out gay dad, wonders how to come out to young kids who can only understand so much.

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 previous articles here.

I always wanted to be a father. I am so glad that as messy as my journey might have been it got me three beautiful kids. I can't imagine my life without them. No matter how dark some days are as I navigate coming out and getting divorced I can always remind myself that my journey got me my kids. And I am so grateful for that.

When their mom and I decided to get a divorce I still hadn't told our kids that I'm gay. But once it was decided the best decision for us was to end our marriage, I knew it was time to tell them the biggest reason why. And I was terrified. Even though my twin boys are only seven and their sister is five I was scared to death to be so honest with them.

Some could argue that my kids didn't need to know but I feel strongly that they deserved to. They deserve to know their dad fully. And they deserve to know one of the reasons their parents decided to get a divorce.

Without much preparation or planning, we sat down on our couch as a family one Sunday afternoon and their mom let me speak. I trembled as I attempted to formulate words into sentences. How do you come out to young kids who can only understand so much? I stumbled for several minutes as we discussed the previous year. I asked the kids about their thoughts and feelings as they had witnessed countless arguments between me and their mom, heard several doors slam, and seen a lot of tears. They each expressed how scared and sad seeing their mom and I fighting so frequently had made them.

I explained that after a lot of conversation and prayer we decided we weren't going to be married anymore. But that wasn't enough. I could tell they were still confused and I felt uneasy. And then it hit me. I knew what more I had to say.

I looked at my oldest son and said "You know how God made you with handsome bright blue eyes?" Then I looked at his twin brother and asked "And how He made you with a cute face full of freckles?" Then I looked at my daughter and said "And you know how God made you with the most contagious belly laugh that fills the room?"

They all nodded and in their own way replied, "Yeah."

"Well," I said. "God made me to like boys more than girls. And that is part of the reason why your mom and I aren't going to be married anymore."

And I left it at that. They asked a few questions and I attempted to explain to them that their mom deserved to be with a man who loved her in a way I couldn't. And I told them that I wanted to love a man in a way I couldn't love their mom. I said again, "We aren't going to be married anymore." And that's when reality started to sink in a little bit.

My two boys immediately started crying. They both just wanted to be held. I was squeezed so hard as I hugged my son while he cried in my shoulder for several minutes. I couldn't hold back tears either. It was one of the most raw and tender moments I've ever experienced as a dad. It was a new type of pain I had never felt before. But it was also very healing. My daughter was kind of clueless as to what was going on and she didn't understand. As a five-year-old there's only so much she can grasp. She didn't even cry or ask a single question that day. But I knew we were laying the foundation for the growth that was to come as we navigated this new journey. And we've come a long way.

After holding our sons for a few minutes the conversation continued and I knew I had done right when my son said "A happy mom and dad is better than a sad mom and dad." I was blown away at his wisdom and understanding at such a young age.

As hard as coming out to my kids was, I am so glad that wasn't the end of the conversation. We continue on almost a daily or weekly basis to circle back to their thoughts and questions surrounding having a gay dad. And there continues to be highs and lows. But I'm grateful we are talking about it. I'm grateful they aren't afraid to share their feelings, fears, and thoughts.

While I cannot control or protect my kids from everything, I can control what I say and teach them, especially in regards to the gay experience. And I hope that I am up for the challenge.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Dating a Single Gay Dad Is a 'Package Deal'

When you date a man with kids, you get the "whole package," says Kyle Ashworth

I am a package deal.

That is a phrase I have continued to tell myself since entering the dating scene. I say it because it's true. You see, I was previously married to a woman for ten years. From that relationship came four wonderful children who are the lights and loves of our lives. Seven years into our marriage I made some hard decisions. The most monumental of them all was coming out to my wife. Everything about being gay and living a life of authenticity felt like a fantasy to me. I didn't know what to expect, what to believe, or where to begin. I just knew I wasn't straight and living in that closeted space was destroying my life.

People often ask me what the hardest part of the journey out of the closet has been. That is a difficult question to answer. Coming out was hard because you'll never get a chance to go back in the closet—once you are out, you're out. Divorcing my wife was hard, because it meant that everything comfortable and "normal" in our lives would be disrupted. Losing friends and family members to bigotry and ignorance was difficult.

So why do we come out? What compels us to turn our whole world upside down?

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Gay Dad Family Stories

It's 'Full Speed Ahead' for These Newly Engaged Race Track Owners

It was 'love at first sight' for track owners Brandon and Jamie — who are engaged to be married this coming year

"I grew up very much in the closet and always knew I wanted kids," began 34-year-old professional go-kart driver and track owner, Brandon Adkins. "I met my ex-wife through some mutual friends and I thought this was exactly what I wanted." And that feeling lasted for Brandon until after they had their second child.

Brandon had been closeted and scared of his sexuality for some time, avoiding his feelings and not confronting his authentic self. When he met his ex-wife through mutual friends, he genuinely thought it was what he wanted: someone he loved, with whom he could have a family. "I had always looked at other parents and felt jealous knowing they had something I wanted."

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Interested in Surrogacy? Check Out These Bay Area Events This Weekend

If you're in the Bay Area this weekend, two major events are happening that will be of interest for dads-to-be and surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF)

If you're in San Francisco or the surrounding area, clear your calendar this weekend. Two events are happening simultaneously that are significant for dads-to-be AND surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF). For an outlines of both events, check out below.

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News

Gay Dads Show Up at Boston Event to Drown Out Anti-Trans Protesters

When Trystan Reese found out protesters were planning to show up to an event in Boston he was presenting at, he put out a call to his community for help — and gay dads showed up.

A couple months ago, Trystan Reese, a gay, trans dad based in Portland, Oregon, took to Instagram to share a moving, if incredibly concerning, experience. Reese, who works with Family Equality Council, was speaking at an event in Boston, and learned before his appearance that a group of protesters were planning to attend.

"As a trans person, I was terrified to be targeted by anti-LGBTQ people and experienced genuine fear for my own safety," Trystan wrote. In response, he did what many LGBTQ people would do in a similar situation — reach out to his community in Boston, and ask for their support. "And they came," he wrote. But it wasn't just anyone within the LGBTQ community that came to his defense, he emphasized — "you know who came? Gay men. Gay dads, to be exact. They came, ready to block people from coming in, ready to call building security, ready to protect me so I could lead my event. They did it without question and without reward. They did it because it was the right thing to do."

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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