Gay Dad Life

These Gay Dads, Both Disney Cast Members, Are Raising Their Son with the Magic Kingdom at Their Doorstep.

It wasn't *just* wishing upon a star that helped Ben and Steve become dads, but the magic world of Disney has certainly played a role in making their wildest dreams come true.

Ben and Steve have always been big Disney fans, so much so they've worked for the Magic Kingdom in multiple capacities over the years: at theme parks overseas, with the Disney Cruise Line, and now at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The husbands even met at a Disney audition in 2009. And today, they're proud dads to a 2-year-old son.

"It's such a full-circle moment for both of us that now we raise our child with Walt Disney World right at his doorstep," said Steve, now the manager of Disney Performing Arts at Walt Disney World. "Many of our childhood Disney toys have now been passed down for him to play with," added Ben, now the Entertainment Manager at the Magic Kingdom. For the dads, it wasn't just wishing upon a star that helped them become dads through adoption, but Disney has certainly played a role in making their dreams come true.


Steve Smith came to the U.S.A. to continue a career in the Art and Entertainment industries after working as a performer at Tokyo Disneyland. He and Ben Gaetanos met at an audition for Disney in New York in 2009, and then again a year later when they both booked the same contract with Disney Cruise Line. Ben, originally from Buffalo, NY, grew up a very enthusiastic Disney fan; Steve, who hails from Australia, didn't have quite the same exposure to the franchise but grew up enchanted with Mickey and friends. They were married in September 2013.

Soon after their marriage, they began to seriously look into their options to become dads, and adoption was the path they felt worked for them. Living in Florida presented some issues, as the federal marriage laws had not yet changed which allowed same-sex adoption, so they began their journey with LifeLong Adoptions. By October 2015, and following a lot of paperwork and getting things in order, they were licensed and approved for a placement. A little after Christmas of the same year, they received a call informing them that they had been chosen by a birth mother.

"Looking back now it all happened very quickly, but I can tell you that each and every day until Hudson arrived just seemed to go on forever," shared Steve. "It can definitely be an emotionally exhausting experience … we scrutinized each and every message, phone call or email we shared with our birth mother. We just wanted to prove to her that we were going to be the best parents possible for her son." The dads were there when Hudson came into the world, born July 2016. Steve and Ben both shared that Hudson's birth mother was wonderful throughout the experience, sharing scans and milestones with the intended parents. "We were so thankful to her for including us along the journey," said Ben.

The dads continue an open adoption relationship with Hudson's birth family. They began an Instagram account dedicated to sharing photos of the wee man so that any of his biological relatives can check-in and see how he's growing and what he's been up to with his two dads. "It's also been a great vehicle for us to capture special moments that can look back on for years to come," said Steve.

So you might be wondering, how having two parents who work for Disney has infiltrated (in the most wondrous way) this family's life? "One of the benefits is that we are able to take Hudson to play in the parks frequently," said Ben. "Our house is by no means a Disney museum, but there are subtle touches here and there, like Hudson's Neverland inspired nursery." For the first year of Hudson's life, the dads posted a Peter Pan / Neverland themed photo to map his growth milestone every month.

And does Hudson have a favorite Disney character? "You never know how your child will react to the characters in the parks, but ever since day one, Hudson has always thoroughly enjoyed meeting his favorite Disney characters, Mickey in particular!" shared Steve.

For Ben and Steve, becoming dads has made life a lot more "real," meaning that a lot of time is now spent caring for and looking after another tiny human. "There's a lot less free time, but a lot more opportunities for meaningful adventures as a family," explained Ben. And this is where Olaf said it best, "Love is putting someone else's needs before yours." And that's exactly what these Disney dads are doing.

Show Comments ()
Editorials

Disney's 'Mom Panel' Includes... Dads?

Why does Disney insist on the gendering of its parenting experts?

This week, Disney released the names of 14 lucky individuals, selected from over 10,000 applicants, to serve as members of the "Disney Parks Mom's Panel." The lucky winners will get the opportunity to serve as public facing "Disney experts" over the course of the next year.

At first glance, this seems an easy opportunity for dads to yet again cry foul — why must everything related to parenting be so gendered? Aren't dads just as capable of being Disney experts? Aren't we all trying to dismantle the patriarchy, and entice dads to be more involved in the rearing of children? Haven't we moved beyond the "kid tested, mother approved" advertising tropes of the pre-1990s?

Are only moms qualified for the sacred opportunity to ascend to a leadership position within the Happiest Place on Earth?

But, as it turns outs, three of panelists selected are in fact dads. So... why not rename the damn thing, Disney? Is calling the group something like a "Parents Panel" so far fetched? Not only would such a name stop reinforcing outdated gender norms as they relate to parenting — but the double "P" also gives the name a nice alliteration, no?

Yes, I'm picking on Disney a bit unnecessarily. So let me get one thing straight: we gays love Disney. And so do our kids. Over the years, we've brought you many pro-LGBTQ Disney stories that celebrates our love for one another, like this one featuring two gay dads, both employees of Disneyland, who are raising their kids with the magical kingdom at their doorstep. And this one, featuring a couple who became convinced to become dads after a visit to Disney World.

And Disney has in many ways been ahead of the curve when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Despite heavy pushback from conservative groups like One Million Moms, Disney decided to host its first official LGBTQ pride event this year — giving the mouse seal of approval to the unofficial "Gay Dads" event, which had been held annually since the early 1990s. The Disney organization has also offered health benefits to the partners of gay employees since 1995.

It's precisely because of the company's progressive stance towards the LGBTQ community that makes its continued emphasis on gendered parenting terms so confusing.

Dads can be Disney dorks too, dammit! Now it's your turn to try alliteration, Disney. Say it with me: "Parenting Panel"

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 Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

Only so much growth and learning can occur when we limit ourselves to our fears. If people never did anything they were afraid to do, life would be incredibly boring and far too predictable. At some point we must face the things we fear and just go for it not knowing what will happen next.

After finally coming out to my ex-wife after ten years of marriage (see previous articles for that story), and eventually telling my family I knew there was one more step I needed to make.

I am a business owner. I am a structural chiropractor and am highly specialized in my field. Nearly four years ago I opened my own clinic, Horizon Chiropractic Center, in Phoenix, Arizona. I poured my whole heart, body, and soul into the creation of my practice and its growth. Opening a business fresh out of school is no simple task and I worked hard to build my practice with close relationships and word of mouth referrals. I established myself as an expert and built a strong reputation as a family man, and my ex-wife and kids were the face of my practice.

I loved and do love every person who has ever come into my office and treat them like family. We laugh together during visits, celebrate wins, cry together, often hug, and cheer each other on regarding various things in our life. That's also a large part of who I am: a people person. I enjoy spending quality time with those I am privileged to help. No one comes in my office and only sees me for 2-5 minutes.

Even though there was so much good that I had built into my brand and reputation fear eventually found its way into my business too. I was afraid of what would happen if people found out the truth. Would they be okay with having a gay chiropractor? Would they still trust me to be able to help them? Of course, the story in my head I was telling myself was much bigger and badder than it needed to be.

When we decided to get a divorce, I felt strongly that I needed to face these fears and begin telling a number of patients the truth of what was happening in my life. I know in reality it is no one's business but my own. However, I felt like I needed to let my patients who had become like family to me truly see me for who I am, and who I always was. And so slowly, case by case, I began to tell a select number of people.

I'll never forget the first patient I told. She had been coming in for years and was bringing her son in to see me who is on the autism spectrum. It was the day after my ex-wife and I decided to get a divorce and she could tell something heavy was on my mind. I eventually came out to her. The first words out of her mouth were "I am so proud of you!" We cried and hugged and it was the complete opposite of what I ever expected. And it was perfect. I felt loved. I felt accepted. I felt seen.

As time went on it got easier. And overall the responses were all completely positive and supportive. Out of all the patients I told and those who found out from other circles, only three stopped coming in to see me. Since coming out, my office has grown tremendously. My reputation hasn't changed. If anything, it's solidified. I can't help but think that part of that is due to finally embracing all of me and allowing others the same opportunity.

I read somewhere once that you never really stop coming out of the closet. And I've noticed that too. Sure, not everyone needs to know; it isn't everyone's business. And I hope that one day we live in a time period where fear doesn't prevent anyone from being seen. I want to contribute to the upward trajectory I think our society is headed of understanding, acceptance, support, and equality.

I would love to be able to say that after coming out publicly I no longer feel fear; but I do. And I think in some ways I always will no matter what. But that's part of life, right? Recognizing fear when we have it but then choosing to move forward out of love – love for others, but maybe more importantly love for ourselves.

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.

Keep reading...
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."

Keep reading...
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.

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse