Change the World

Directly Into the Face of Hatred

Gay dad Rob Watson on his message to the parents of an assaulted Georgia teen.


Over the last week, a video of gay teen Daniel Pierce’s experience with his intolerant family has gone viral. In it, the Georgia native defends himself from verbal and even physical assault in an “intervention” staged by his Bible-thumping parents and grandmother. The widely circulated clip sparked tears, outrage — and eventually donations. Friends set up a fundraiser for Daniel that garnered over $90,000 in just days; the now-disowned teen plans to donate much of it to an Atlanta-based organization that works with LGBTQ homeless youth.

The responses to the video have been overwhelming. But few have garnered the same attention as an open letter written by gay dad blogger Rob Watson. Posted on his website evoL = and directed to Daniel’s parents, the letter is an impassioned indictment of their treatment of their son. He refutes their arguments and turns ends by turning their predilection for fire and brimstone on its head: “You will not need to preach to us about hell, however. We will see it in your eyes.” The letter, like the video that inspired it, has gone viral. And it is the latest in a string of open letter-style posts that earned Rob a growing readership through his own site, Huffington Post, Gay Star News, and more. He is even a co-host of a Santa Cruz, California radio show.

“I’ve found that when certain things happen, there’s a reaction from a lot of LGBT people that they wish they could say something directly to the people involved,” explains Rob. “They want to say, “Stop. That’s not okay. We’re not going to stand for it anymore.’ We want that person called out directly to their face.”

As a result, the direct address has become one of the writer’s most predominant structures since he launched evoL = two years ago, alongside a few other gay dads and allies. (Today, Rob is the site’s primary author.) He has written to a Mormon grandmother who thought Disney’s “Frozen” was pimping a “gay agenda.” He has written to real fathers who left notes disowning their gay children. He has written to real bishops. He has written on many other topics, not all of them in this format. But it has become something of a signature, in part because it indulges the readers’ vicarious need to say something pointed and direct in the face of the hatred we hear about too often.

Rob admits that the video of Daniel’s altercation with his family moved him to write, in part, because he understands how painful the coming-out process can be. (Daniel’s video was initially widely reported as a coming-out, though the teen has since clarified that it was a “pray the gay away” intervention that his parents staged.) Rob has written about his own coming-out in a post titled, “The Nine Worst Things to Do When Coming Out of the Closet.”

“I didn’t handle it in the most graceful way,” says Rob, whose then-alcohol dependency became an unhealthy coping mechanism. (Today, he’s 30 years sober.) Drinking made him “sloppy, defensive and belligerent,” he says, which resulted in a coming-out conversation with his mother that was, “very unpleasant,” says Rob. “It didn’t rise to the level of what Daniel faced. There was no violence. But there were some contentious things said, a lot of elements were very similar to what Daniel went through.”

And though it’s easy to assume that today’s youth have it easier, Rob says that Daniel’s video has resonated because it underscores how much work there is left to do. He has seen that even in his own backyard of Santa Cruz, a city known for its social liberalism. He recalls a recent instance when one of his two sons, who had just entered middle school, seemed somber before bed. With a little digging, he discovered that a few kids were teasing his sons. “They were telling the other kids, ‘Stay away from the Watson boys. They’re gay,’” says Rob. It was their first experience with being treated as though their family was less than. A supportive school counselor nipped the issue in the bud, but it reminded Rob of what can exist in even the most progressive places.

Rob knows that the culture is changing, if slowly, just as people do. Today, he has a strong relationship with his parents, who are in their late 80s. Rob is their primary caregiver, and they dote on his sons. Though he hasn’t heard from Daniel or Daniel’s parents about the open letter that he wrote, he imagines the advice he would give if they read it, if it changed them, and if they wrote back asking: How can we make this better?

“I would direct them to PFLAG, and talk to other families who have been through this,” says Rob. “I would tell them to further their education about these issues in a way that is separate from the Bible, and to talk to other denominations that have different understandings and interpretations. I don’t want to disregard that people feel strongly about their religious beliefs. I come from that place myself,” says Rob, who identifies as a Methodist. But, he says, with a bit more thought and a lot more soul searching, reconciling faith and family can become a reality. He’s living proof.

Here’s hoping Daniel’s parents get the message. Sincerely.

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Change the World

4 Tips for Using Instagram to Connect with Gay Dads Offline

We asked gay dads who have successfully met up with other LGBTQ families offline for some of their tips

Last week, we ran a story about several gay dads who did the unthinkable: meet other gay dads IRL after connecting on Instagram! We get MANY questions from gay dads wondering how they can meet up with others in their area, so we decided to dig a bit deeper this week to get their advice. What can gay dads do to meet others off the 'gram?

1. Be kind — share others' excitement in parenting!


From @twinlifedads Ben and Andy:

"Be kind. That is absolutely it. Be kind to each other and don't be afraid to reach out. Respond to each other when you can. Share in excitement for each other. There is no reason to bring someone else down who might be excited about how they are parenting."

2. Drop a couple comments and likes before reaching out!

From @brisvegasdad Tim and Nic:

"I think drop comments now and then on their posts and instastories and see where things land. Chances are, if you're commenting on a post and it is a heartfelt response, they'll click through to your account, look at your photos and connect with you. And that's when the magic happens - you can introduce yourself, talk about your lives and how things are being a parent... and after a while, if you're in the same neighbourhood, you meet up and grow your friendship organically. That being said, I'm obsessed with Bobby Berk from Queer Eye and his husband Dewey Do - if they ever had kids, I'd probably be completely unsubtle and leave strange awkward comments on their instaposts saying, 'GAY DADS MEET UPSSSSS'."

3. Go in with no expectations

From @stevecsmith Steve and Ben:

"I always try to reach out without any expectations – mostly just to provide a positive comment. I like to leave it up to the other parents to comment or message back before suggesting meeting up or a playdate. Every family is different, so how each person is going to respond is different too."

4. Keep trying!

From @theconways13 Ricky and Jeff:

"Reach out to other families, start a light friendly conversation. Get to know each other and let conversations happen organically. If they lead to a play date great! Our first experience in meeting another lgbt family (not through ig/gwk) was very awkward cause there wasn't a whole lot of conversation happening before hand. The conversations leading up to the play date will help make the first play date with the family go a lot smoother and fun. Don't be afraid of not connecting with the other families. If it isn't successful the first time, continue reaching out to to other families- don't let it deter you from reaching out to others."

Change the World

How Gay Dads Are Using Instagram to Connect

Meet the gay dads from around the world who are using our Gays With Kids Instagram account to connect with other gay dad families!

It can be easy to dismiss Instagram as nothing more than a place for us to pretend our lives our perfect — smiling families, exotic vacations, maybe a FaceTuned pic or two — but for gay dads, it's more than that. Sure, we share our perfect family pics, too. But for LGBTQ families, who still face discrimination all across the country and world, sharing a picture of two gay dads, smiling happily and proudly with their kids, is also a political act. And it provides us an opportunity to lift up and support one another, wherever our families are, in cities and towns big and small.

And we're proud to provide an avenue for these families to meet and connect via our Instagram page (which just reached over 100,000 followers!!)

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Change the World

Judge's Decision in NY 'Compassionate Surrogacy' Case Involving Gay Dad Overturned

Though compensated surrogacy remains illegal in New York State, "compassionate surrogacy" arrangements are remain legal

Last week, an unanimous four-judge panel, part of the New York Appellate Division in Brooklyn, New York, revived a gay dad's petition to adopt his son born via surrogacy. The dad, identified as "Joseph P." in court documents, had earlier been denied his petition to adopt by a Queens County Family Court Judge, John M. Hunt. The Queens judge denied the petition because compensated surrogacy contracts are illegal in New York. However, the child born to Joseph was born via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning his gestational surrogate was not compensated.

The Appellate court's decision, written by Justice Alan D. Scheinkmanm called Hunt's decision "clearly erroneous," and held that a new Family Court judge should re-hear the case.

Judge Hunt's decision is all the more confusing since Joseph had actually already become a father via surrogacy in New York—three times over. In each instance, he used donor eggs and a friend serving, voluntarily, as the gestational surrogate. He had his first child in 2012, and then twins the following year. In all three instances, a Family Court judge granted Joseph's adoption petition, given that each child was conceived via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning no money changes hands in the course of a surrogacy journey between carrier an intended parent. This type of surrogacy arrangement is not illegal under to New York law. The social worker in Joseph's latest attempt to adopt, Gay City News noted, also gave him a favorable review, calling him "a mature, stable, and caring person who intentionally created a family of himself, the twins, and John."

Gay City News notes: "Justice Scheinkman provided a careful description of the laws governing surrogacy in New York. The Legislature provided that surrogacy contracts are unenforceable and treated as void. However, the only surrogacy contracts actually outlawed are those where the surrogate is compensated. It was clear to the Appellate Division that the Legislature did not mean to outlaw voluntary surrogacy arrangements, merely to make them unenforceable in the courts. Those who enter into a compensated surrogacy agreement face a small monetary fine and people who act as brokers to arrange such agreements are liable for a larger penalty. There is no penalty for voluntary, uncompensated surrogacy arrangements."

Read the full article here.

Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Working:​ One Father's Plea for Gun Reform

One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control

My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.

Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.

How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.

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Politics

Gay Russian Dads Forced to Flee Moscow

Fearing the Russian government might take their adopted kids into custody because of their sexual orientation, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev fled Moscow

A married couple in Russia, with two adopted children, were just forced the flee their home in Moscow for fear that the authorities would take their children away, according to German news site Deutsche Welle.

Trouble started last month after investigators in Russia opened a criminal inquiry into the proceedings that had allowed the gay couple, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, to legally adopt the two boys —adoption by LGBTQ people in Russia has typically not been recognized. The government became aware of the adoption proceedings after the gay couple brought their 12-year-old son to the hospital, who was complaining of a stomachache. The boy was fine, but after he mentioned offhand that he was adopted and lived with two fathers, the doctor called the police.

Andrei and Yevgeny granted an interview with Deutsche Welle after escaping Moscow, but on the advice of their lawyers have yet to disclose where they are currently located. Here is a quick recap of that conversation:

"In connection with the 'propaganda of non-traditional values,' the state representatives are accused of having neglected their duty of supervision," Andrei said, when asked to explain on what basis the Russian government might take his children into custody. "This means that lesbian couples could even have their biological children taken away because, through their lifestyle choices, they propagate "certain values."

Yevgeny also explained the events that led to the couple's harrowing escape "I was alone in Moscow at that time. A week after Andrei and the children had left the country, there was a knock on my door, but nobody called 'police, open up.' After half an hour the violent knocking stopped. My parents' home was searched. They were looking for the children and our Danish marriage certificate because we got married in Denmark in 2016. My friends then got me out of the country."

Read the full interview here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

This Couple is Using 'Wheel of Fortune' Winnings to Help Fund Their Adoption

Need to raise money for your adoption fund? Why not try your luck on Wheel of Fortune like these guys!

Doug and Nick Roberts connected three and a half years ago via a dating app, and on their first date, the two immediately felt a connection. Doug, a psychologist, and Nick, a neuroscientist, were married 18 months later. Today the couple live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and they're ready to start their next exciting adventure together: fatherhood.

The husbands would like to have children, and Nick has always wanted to adopt. "We considered surrogacy, and may consider it in the future as we expand our family," said Doug, "but right now, it is cost-prohibitive. Adoption was easily the right choice for us as we begin to grow our family.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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