Gay Dad Life

Expanding the Definition of Family in Portland, Maine

In the time between college and "real adulthood" I lived in a series of small studio and one-bedroom apartments. I had grown up sharing bedrooms with my siblings, one bathroom between our family of five, and college had me sharing a suite with 11 other students.

By the time I signed my name on a lease I was ready for a space of my own, free of roommates. I enjoyed living alone while it lasted, I liked having a space that was mine and I  didn't mind the peace and quiet that came with it.

Then I met Josh, who at the time was living in a collective house on the other side of town from me, sharing an apartment with five other housemates. I didn't want to spend much time at his place, as I struggle with social anxiety and I wasn't used to having so many people around. I was used to my quiet nights at home in my apartment that could comfortably fit no more than about three people.

But as our relationship grew from casual dating to talk of living together, I learned how important collective living was for Josh, and what living collectively meant to him. It wasn't just sharing an apartment for cheap rent's sake. (But the lower cost of living is a definite plus.)

In his own words, "Collective living with shared food, expenses, and responsibilities is in direct defiance of capitalism and competition for resources. Sharing is a radical act. Sharing community, thoughts, food, space, and resources is a vision of how I want the world to be and is an intentional action against capitalism, heteronormativity and the nuclear family in my everyday life."

When he put it that way, I saw he had a point. So we compromised.

The house Josh was living in was an old Victorian, just "off-peninsula" (meaning: not in the heart of Portland), the last house before the train tracks, with a large and scrappy backyard.

Historically, the two-unit home was a politically feminist, trans, queer and allied space. It was a house full of friends and community, who worked as both separate and collective entities. Josh had been living in the upstairs unit, which was two floors and housed more bedrooms. The downstairs apartment was a two bedroom well suited for Josh, me, our mutual friend (who would be our new roommate), and our dogs.

I eased myself into the realities of collective living, having a small space of our own while coexisting as part of the larger collective house.

Josh prepping the chicken run at our old house

There were many pros to our arrangement: When the winter arrived and brought several snowstorms with it, there were seven people shoveling the driveway and sidewalks together. When we forgot to restock our coffee, we could run upstairs at 7:00 am and grab a scoop from our housemates.

When our upstairs housemate got a puppy, we babysat him at night so he didn't have to be crated while she worked. When our chickens needed feeding and tending while we were on vacation, a few folks pitched in and took care of them of us.

We had beers around the campfire in the yard and house brunch on our porch in the spring. There was always someone to hang out with or talk to, and Josh and I weren't stuck in an insular bubble of couple-hood.

It wasn't always perfect; we also had to negotiate sharing one laundry and dryer for the whole house, noise was sometimes an issue, and the responsibilities didn't always feel equally shared. But when issues arose or big changes needed to take place, we called a meeting and the house got together and talked about it, made agreements, and found solutions that worked best for everyone involved.

After a year of cohabiting collectively, I wondered why I was so resistant to it in the beginning; the positive defiantly outweighed the negative.

When we found out we were pregnant with Birdie it was a difficult decision to have to move out of our home. In many ways it would have been a great place to raise a kid and sometimes I wish we could have stayed.

But our unit was only two bedrooms and while we liked our apartment, we liked our roommate more and no matter how we tried to negotiate it, the space it was just too small for three grown ups and one baby and a dog. So we called a house meeting, and broke the good news that we were going to be dads, and the sad news that we would be moving.

Keeping a sense of humor in the early days in our new home with Birdie

We temporarily gave up the model of a big collective house to settle into new parenthood in a smaller version of collective living, in a perfect-for-us new apartment that we moved into two months before Birdie was born, with our housemate, Uncle Osgood.

Osgood is much more than a roommate, they are family to us. They are one of our very best friends as well as a live-in uncle/buddy to Birdie. As a new parent I cannot stress enough how helpful it is to have another adult to live with besides your partner.

When Birdie was a newborn and we woke up bleary-eyed after an all-nighter of bottles and rocking, we found our housemate had done the dishes; I may have wept with gratitude.

When I was up doing a midnight feeding and Osgood was coming home from hanging out with friends, I got a grown-up to talk to and share a beer with while I fed and changed and bounced the baby back to sleep.

When school and work conflict with our schedules and we need someone to watch Birdie for an hour or so, Osgood is happy to hang out with Birdie if they can.

The benefits go both ways: Osgood works as the executive director of a nonprofit for queer and trans youth, often working long hours beyond what they get paid for, and several days a week they come home to find dinner on a plate in the fridge, fresh coffee waiting in the French press in the morning, or the trash taken out to the curb.

Uncle Osgood (aka "Abba") and Birdie

But beyond the logistics of it all, I really see now why living collectively was so important to Josh. Now that we have Birdie and I think of the things we want to teach her and pass on to her about what is important, what we value, I think of how it starts at home. In our home we are teaching her that it is our responsibility to take care of one another, to share resources and space, and that the definition of family can expand beyond who you are related to.

There is a tendency, I think, that when we grow up and move out on our own, partner and start families, to accidentally isolate ourselves. After a long day of work or school or taking care of kids more often than not it just feels like too much to socialize, to get out of the house, hell, even to get dinner on the table.

But when you are living with other people (if you pick the right people), there is always someone to talk to when you’ve had a bad day, someone to help pitch in with dinner or clean up, to hang out with the baby so you can go to the bathroom alone or take a shower, to share meals and conversations with, to keep us connected to the world outside of our nuclear little family of three.

We joke that our housemate will always live in our attic. It's probably not true but it’s actually really hard to think that they may not always live with us. As we talk about where will we live next, probably in a few years when we are ready for our own house and some land (we never talk about living alone), we imagine a space where we can live with other adults and families.

We imagine a space that is self-sustaining, where no one person has the weight of the mortgage on their back, where everyone's skills are valued and utilized, where there is more time and space because no one person has to work 50 hours a week to make ends meet because we are all in it together helping each other out.

Family hike: (clockwise from top) Uncle Osgood, Birdie, Stephen and Josh

* * *


To read about another family living collectively, visit this article about my childhood best friend and her collective home, currently in the midst of a legal battle over a zoning issue and their right to define themselves as a family and cohabitant in a single-family home.

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

Dads Tell Us Their 'Gayest Moment Ever' as Parents

We may be dads — but we're still gay, dammit! And these "gayest moments ever," sent to us from our Instagram community, prove it.

Did your child know all the lyrics to Madonna songs by age 3? Do your kids critique all the red carpet lewks from the Tony Awards? Do you often have baby food, diapers, sparkling white wine, gourmet appetizer, and fresh cut flowers in your shopping cart — all in one trip? If you answered 'yes' to any of the above, you just might be... a gay dad.

We asked the dads in our Instagram community to share their gayest moments as a dad, ever, and their responses were just as hilarious as they were relatable.

Here's a great way to start the week...

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Photo Essays

How Single Dads Are Celebrating Valentine's Day This Year

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers! We caught up with 8 single gay dads to see how they plan to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year.

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers; it's also a day to celebrate our loved ones. And that's exactly what these single dads are doing.

Within our community, GWK has a large group of admirable, active, and awesome (!) single dads and we want to honor them! On Valentine's Day, they and their kids celebrate their family unit in the sweetest possible ways. We asked the dads to share these moments with us, and, where possible, one of the most heartwarming things they've experienced with their kids on Valentine's Day to date.

Hear their stories below.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Photo Essays

11 Gay Couples Share Secrets to Their Long-Term Relationships This Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, we spoke with 11 gay dad couples who've been together for almost a decade or longer to learn what's made their relationships last

You're the peanut butter to my jelly, the gin to my tonic, the strawberries to my cream, the Mr. to my Mr.!

Happy Valentine's Day folks! We're excited to celebrate this day of lurrrrvvve by featuring a few dads in our community who've been together for almost a decade or more! And they're ready to share their secrets to a successful relationship and parenting partnership.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Family Stories

Gay Dads Forced to Flee Russia Find Refuge in Seattle

After fleeing Moscow last spring, this family of four has started new lives for themselves in Seattle.

For almost ten years, Andrei Yaganov, 45, and his husband Evgeny Erofeev, 32, managed to live a fairly ordinary life in Moscow, Russia. The two men both held down respectable office jobs. And their two sons — Denis and Yuri, now 14 and 12 respectively — went to daycare and school without issue. Despite being headed by a same-sex couple in a country with notoriously aggressive laws and attitudes towards the LGBTQ community, the foursome went about their lives just like any other family.

Adoption by LGBTQ couples, like same-sex marriage, is illegal in Russia. But the couple managed to circumvent the ban by having Andrei adopt as a single parent. Andrei became only the third single man in Moscow, he was told during his placement process, to do so.

Keep reading...
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

'A Gay Man's Wife': One Couple's Co-Parenting Journey

The podcast 'A Gay Man's Wife,' explores how one woman makes her marriage to a gay man work for her — and their family.

Guest post written by Michael and Tawyne, hosts of A Gay Man's Wife

Michael: Growing up, I always knew I was different. I knew that what my family perceived as normal wasn't who I was. Only when I hit a certain maturity in my teenage years did I understand that I was gay. Still, I didn't know what that meant for me at the time. When I was 16 I met Tawyne (15) and immediately felt something that I didn't quite understand. She was wild like a tornado and captivated me. Throughout the first year of our friendship we fell in love.

Keep reading...
Politics

Supreme Court to Hear Major Case Concerning LGBTQ Foster Care Parents

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether cities are allowed to exclude tax-funded adoption agencies from foster care systems if they refuse to work with gay couples.

In 2018, city officials in Philadelphia decided to exclude Catholic Social Services, which refuses to work with LGBTQ couples, from participating in its foster-care system. The agency sued, claiming religious discrimination, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously ruled against the agency, citing the need to comply with nondiscrimination policies.

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, follows a 2018 Supreme Court decision regarding a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In that case, the court narrowly ruled that the baker bad been discriminated against, on religious grounds, by the state's civil rights commission. It did not decide the broader issue: whether an entity can be exempt from local non-discrimination ordinances on the basis of religious freedom.

The court — whose ideological center has shifted to the right since the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in fall 2018 — may choose to do so now. Advocates quickly called on the court to consider the potential impact on the more than 400,000 children currently in the foster care system:

"We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children," said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. "Allowing foster care agencies to exclude qualified families based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child such as their sexual orientation or faith would make it even worse. We can't afford to have loving families turned away or deterred by the risk of discrimination."

"It is unconscionable to turn away prospective foster and adoptive families because they are LGBTQ, religious minorities, or for any other reason unrelated to their capacity to love and care for children," said HRC President Alphonso David. "We reject the suggestion that taxpayer-funded child welfare services should be allowed to put discrimination over a child's best interest. This case could also have implications for religious refusals that go far beyond child welfare. The Supreme Court must make it clear that freedom of religion does not include using taxpayer funds to further marginalize vulnerable communities."

The court may choose to override a 1990 decision, Employment Division v. Smith, which created the current standard for carving out religious exemptions. In that case, the court ruled that laws that target a specific faith, or express hostility towards certain beliefs, are unconstitutional — but this standard has long been abhorred by religious conservatives, who think it doesn't offer enough protections for religions. If the court does overrule Smith, it could have far-ranging consequences. " As noted on Slate, "it would allow anyone to demand a carve-out from laws that go against their religion, unless those laws are 'narrowly tailored' to serve a 'compelling government interest.'"

The four members of the court's conservative wing — Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh —have all signaled an openness to reconsider Smith. The ruling's fate, then, likely rests in the hands of the court's new swing vote, Chief Justice Roberts.

For more, read the full article on Slate.

News

What's it Like to Be a Child of the 'Gayby Boom'?

Tosca Langbert, who grew up with two dads, writes a piece for the Harvard Business Review about what it's like being among the first children of the "Gayby Boom" to come of age.

We've previously written about the pressure on LGBTQ parents to appear perfect, given that so many in the United States still feel out families shouldn't exist in the first place. And we know this pressure trickles down to our kids. But In an article for the Harvard Business Review titled 'The Gayby Boom Is Here to Stay," author Tosca Langbert eloquently writes, from her perspective, about the experience of beingone of the first children to come of age during an era when LGBTQ parenthood is far more commonplace. She and her two siblings, she notes, "were raised in a family that was an impossibility only decades ago."

In the article, Langbert said she knew from a young age that her family was different from those of most of her peers, who had one a father and a mother. But otherwise, she writes, she didn't feel like her family differed much. "Like any other parents, Dad sat in the carpool lane after school and taught us how to ride our bikes," she writes, "while Papa took us to the movies on the weekends and separated the whites from the colors."

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse