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."
His post includes an honest personal assessment, through his own lived experience, of his history with the broader LGBTQ community as a trans man. "Over the years I had made peace with the fact that most gay men just didn't care about trans folks," he wrote. "I stopped waiting for them to show up, and built power with and for other trans people. I built a hardness around that part of my heart— a hardness so strong it felt normal and I forgot about it."
We caught up with Trystan to learn more about this experience — and why he thought gay dads, in particular, were the ones to show up for him when he needed it most. "It's possible that other gay men might have come through for me, had I asked them, but I just happened to have connections with gay dads in Boston so that's who I asked," Trystan said. "My experiences with these gay dads, in particular, had always been super positive — I met them through Family Equality at Family Week in Provincetown. All of them know I'm a trans dad and have always been lovely towards me. So I was hopeful that they would come through when I asked."
Asked why gay dads, in particular, might be more open and accepting around trans issues, Trystan said his guess would be that "people who choose to become parents may be more invested in doing the right thing and supporting others — they are choosing to share their lives with children, so maybe that type of person is more likely to come running when help is needed." Or, he surmised further, perhaps it's the "very act of becoming a parent" that helps people care more deeply about those around them.
Josh Reed, one of the gay dads who showed up to support Trystan, backed up Trystan's theory with his own family creation story. "Since having children of our own, as a two-dad family, my husband and I both have worked locally in Boston to be a resource for to-be queer parents by answering questions and sharing our story," he said. "To us, it has been a small way to give back to the community and make friends with other families like ours, which is good for us dads and the kiddos to have close relationships with other families like theirs."
Being a gay dad, Josh said further, has motivated he and his husband Tim further into activism and community building. They've started a Boston area "Double Daddies" community group, for instance, and have tried to make themselves available as resources for anyone who approaches them. With a 10-year marriage and two children who joined their family through domestic private adoption, Josh said he and his husband jump at the opportunity to aid others. "Even simply as a person at the door to welcome participants," he said, "and keep eyes open for potential issues so presenters could focus on connecting with their audience was a great reward."