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.

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Race

How a White Gay Dad Discusses Racial Issues with his Black Sons

In light of the recent killing of George Floyd by the hands of police in Minneapolis, Joseph Sadusky shares two excerpts from his book that deal directly with issues around raising black sons.

Editor's Note: In light of George Floyd's death, this month, author Joseph Sadusky — who has been sharing excerpts from his book Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad each month —will share two posts that deal directly with issues around raising black sons. This is the first, titled "White," which looks at general questions that come up for a white dad raising black boys. Read previous installments here.

It may be presumptuous for a Caucasian gay man to claim to feel terrified and heartsick at the shooting of Trayvon Martin. But upon hearing the news that day in 2012, this is exactly how I felt.

The horrible truth is that there are many incidents of racial violence toward black males that I could use as starting points for this topic. But the specific case of Trayvon Martin—whose only crime was being a young black male wearing a hoodie, walking in a neighborhood where he had a home—has a particular resonance for me. Whatever the legalities of George Zimmerman using a gun to "stand his ground" if he felt his life was threatened, the simple truth is that he chose—against the direction of law enforcement, whom he contacted for support—to follow an African American male who had every right to be walking those neighborhood streets, however "thug" he might appear.

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Become a Gay Dad

Curious About Covid 19's Impact on Foster Care and Adoption?

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the adoption and foster care processes.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the fields of adoption and foster care to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on adoption or foster care that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.

Surrogacy for Gay Men

Top 5 Questions About Covid-19's Impact On Surrogacy

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the surrogacy process.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the field of surrogacy to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on surrogacy that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.

Here is a breakdown of the Top 5 Questions About Covid 19's Impact On Surrogacy. These are highlights taken from our live webinar series we held featuring: G...

Transracial Families Series

How These Dads Address White Privilege within Their Transracial Family

The "white savior" complex is real, said Andrew and Don, who are raising two Black children.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at dads@gayswithkids.com

Andrew Kohn, 40, and his husband Donald (Don) Jones, 47, together 13 years, are two white dads raising two Black children in Columbus, Ohio. Do they stick out? Sure. Have they encountered racism? They say they haven't. "I keep waiting for the moment so that I can become my best Julia Sugarbaker," said Andrew. "I think because we're a gay couple with Black kids, we're the other-other and people don't really say things to us. We have never had people touch our kids hair or do something that was inappropriate."

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Children's Books

New LGBTQ-Inclusive Children's Book Asks: What Makes a Family?

A new children's book by Seamus Kirst follows a young girl's journey of emotional discovery after she is asked which of her two dads is her "real dad."

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Seamus Kirst, author of the new LGBTQ-inclusive children's book "Papa, Daddy, Riley."

Throughout my life, I have discovered that reading provides an almost miraculous way of changing the way I think.

There is no medium that better offers insight into the perceptions, feelings and humanity of someone who is different from us. Through reading we become empathetic. Through reading we evolve. I have often emerged from reading a book, and felt like I was changed. In that, even in this digital age, I know I am not alone.

As children, reading shapes how we see the world. The characters, places, and stories we come to love in our books inform us as to what life might offer us as we grow up, and our world begins to expand beyond our own backyards.

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Gay Dad Photo Essays

Interested in Foster Care? These Amazing Dads Have Some Advice

As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, we rounded up some amazing examples of gay men serving as foster care dads, helping provide kids with a bright future.

Every May in the United States, we celebrate National Foster Care Month. With over 437,000 children and youth in foster care, it's our honor to take a look at some of the awesome dads in our community who are opening their hearts and their homes, and providing these kids with a bright future.

Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Check out these resources here, and visit AdoptUSKids.

Meet the Foster Dads!

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Transracial Families Series

This Transracial Family Relies on a 'Support Group' of African American Women

Puerto Rican dads Ferdinand and Manuel are raising a daughter of Jamaican descent — and love to find ways to celebrate their family's diversity

Our second feature in our transracial family series. Read the first one here.

Ferdinand Ortiz, 39, and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, 38, have been together for 7 years. In 2017, they became foster dads when they brought their daughter, Mia Valentina, home from the hospital. She was just three days old at the time. On December 13, 2018, her adoption was finalized.

Mia is of Jamaican and African American heritage, and her dads are both Puerto Rican. When Manuel and Ferdinand began their parenting journey through the foster care system, they received specific training on how to be the parents of a child whose race and culture was different from their own. "We learned that it's important to celebrate our child's culture and surround ourselves with people who can help her be proud of her culture." However, as helpful as this training was, the dads agreed that it would've been beneficial to hear from other transracial families and the type of challenges that they faced.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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