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.

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Gay Dad Life

Karamo Brown Co-Writes Children's Book with Son, Jason

The 'Queer Eye' star and his son named the story on a family mantra: You are Perfectly Designed

When his sons, Jason and Chris, were young, "Queer Eye" Star Karamo Brown repeated the same saying to them: "You are perfectly designed."

That mantra is now a Children's Book, cowritten by Karamo and his 22-year-old son, Jason, who used to come how and "say things like, 'I don't want to be me, I wish I was someone else, I wish I had a different life." As a parent, that "broke my heart," Karamo told Yahoo! Lifestyle. "I would say to him, 'You are blessed and you are perfect just the way you are,' as a reminder that you have been given so much and you should be appreciative and know that you're enough — I know that the world will try to tear you down, but if you can say to yourself, 'I am perfectly designed,' maybe it can quiet out some of those negative messages."

The illustrations, by Anoosha Syed, also make a point of displaying families of a variety of races and sexual orientations throughout the book.

Read more about Karamo's fascinating path to becoming a gay dad here, and then check out the video below that delves deeper into the inspiration behind "You Are Perfectly Designed," available on Amazon.

Gay Dad Life

The Suburban Gay Dad

Are you intimidated by the suburbs? This gay dad was — but then he moved there.

In a recent article for Yahoo! Lifestyle, Steve Jacobs says the thought of living in the suburbs as a gay dad "intimidated" him. But when he started fantasizing about garages, he began to question that notion. Any apprehension he had soon evaporated, he said, one winter morning while trying to navigate the snowy streets of New York City with a stroller.

While "pushing the stroller through snow banks and pools of slush with snowflakes stinging our faces," he wrote, "a vision came to me: I pictured us walking into a garage, hopping into a car, and arriving at a diner with 10 times less drama. This image planted the seed of moving to the 'burbs that I couldn't shake."

Soon, the family of four found a house in a town a half hour outside the city. "It had grass and a beautiful yard for our spirited kiddos. The schools were good. There were even good restaurants. The only red flag: Census data estimated only 0.1 percent of the population was gay male."

There were some "growing pains" while trying to make friends in this environment. "When we attended our first dinner party, within minutes the hostess went to the kitchen and the other wives followed her, while the husbands settled into the living room. Ira and I froze, looking at each other. In the city, our straight friends hadn't separated out like this for the evening. Should we stay with the dudes, exert our masculinity, and blow off the mom we liked? Or does one of us go with the wives and accept the personal branding that comes with that? We did a quick rock paper scissors in the foyer. Ira went with the wives."

But ultimately, "being a parent defined me more than I ever imagined it would," he wrote, and he settled in nicely to his new suburban life.

Have you had a similar adjustment, from city life to the suburbs? Tell us about it at for an upcoming piece!

Gay Dad Life

"Fridays with Fitz": A New Kid's Book Based Upon the Son of These Two Dads

Tracey Wimperly, author of the new children's book, said she hopes to give a more honest portrayal of the role grandparents play in the lives of children.

Guest post Tracey Wimperly

I've recently written a children's picture book (aimed at 2-4 year olds) called "Fridays with Fitz: Fitz Goes to the Pool." Every Friday - when his two dads go to work - Fitz and his grandparents (my husband, Steve and I) head off on an adventure. Through the eyes of a curious and energetic 3 year old, even ordinary adventures, like riding the bus or foraging for fungus in the forest can be fun and magical.

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"We're Dads, the Greatest Thing We've Ever Been": Congrats to Gay Men Whose Families Recently Grew!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

Congrats to the dads whose families grew this month!

Congratulations to dads Ryan and Sebastian on the birth of their son, Máximo!!

Ryan and Sebastian's path to fatherhood was through surrogacy and their journey took nearly five years from start to finish. "There were many ups and downs and we almost gave up — but are so glad we didn't!"

"Holding Máximo for the first time was something we will never forget," shared Ryan. "He was looking up at us and we were just overcome with love and joy."

This new family of three live in Long Island City, New York.

Congratulations to dads Andy and Mike on their birth of their son Bennett!

In July this year, Andy and Mike became first time dads through surrogacy when they welcomed their son Bennett.

"We are absolutely in love with our baby Bennett! He's doing awesome and his Daddy and Papa have been rewarded with a lot of big smiles! He sleeps a lot and is generally relaxed as he learns about the world around him. He's made us happier than we knew possible and we feel incredibly blessed that he is the culmination of our wonderful surrogacy journey."

Even though their son is only 3 months old, they're already starting to think about and plan for his sibling! Congrats dads!

Congratulations to dads Bryan and Zachary on the birth of your son Spencer!

Three years ago, husbands Bryan and Zachary moved from New York City to Dallas, Texas to start a family.

"Like for most, our journey had many uncertainties with ups and downs along the way," said Bryan. "When you stop and really think about everything that goes into the process and has to take place, it's a true miracle and we feel blessed."

On August 26 this year, their son Spencer was born through surrogacy. "Patience, hope, support and remembering what's eventually to come helped my husband and I during the most stressful times. Now that Gates is here, it's hard to even look back."

"Holding Gates for the first was a true miracle - my husband and I finally took a breath. At that moment, the three of us created our new family and everything was exactly how it was supposed to be."

Congratulations to dads John and Ryan on finalizing the adoption of their son Connor!

When John and Ryan in 2004, they both knew they wanted to be parents. They were married in 2005 and started their journey as foster parents in 2009. They first became dads when their son Cody, then an infant, came to live with them. His adoption was finalized in 2013.

"After Cody's adoption, we 'closed' our home and actually moved a few times before joining the foster parent community again in 2018. When we decided to look to foster and adopt again, Cody was fully on board and that was a big part of our discussions about timing."

Their son Conner was placed with them as an infant in May 2018. Connor's adoption was finalized on October 16, and he was 19 months old at the time.

"Adoption day was a whirlwind," shared John. "We were first on the docket for the judge and he made quick work of finalizing his placement and formally making Connor a member of the family!"

The forever family of four live in San Antonio, Texas and would love to connect with other families like theirs.

Congratulations to dads Matt and Ian on the birth of their son Rocco!

Denver couple Matt and Ian had been dreaming of the day when they'd become dads. The husbands have been together going on 8 years, married for 5, and had picked out their son's name even before they were married.

"The journey to fatherhood has been a long and emotional one," shared Matt. "After our first fertility clinic placed roadblocks in front of us for almost two years, we changed to a new once and suddenly found ourselves on a pace far quicker towards fatherhood. We engaged a surrogacy agency to find our gestational carrier after two attempts to do it ourselves, and ended up with someone who was so far and beyond what we ever could have imagined, we cannot imagine the journey without her. We call her our angel not just because of her selfless act but for her guidance along the way as a mother herself."

From their first 13 embryos, one little one tried to hang on but didn't quite make it to the end. After several years of trying up, they decided to give it one more go and were able to produce 6 eggs, one of which resulted very quickly into a multiplying, healthy and genetically viable embryo - the last of 19 attempts. "The day we found out that our little bundle of cells had matured, we unexpectedly lost my Grandfather on the same day – a stark reminder of the cycle that is life. We gave our son the middle name of Keen as it was one of my late grandfather's signature words to use. 'Oh, that's so keen...' is a phrase I can still hear him saying to me as a child."

On July 26, the dads welcomed their son Rocco! "We are blessed now with a sleeping, funny, expressive and engaged little spirit in our lives. The process was tough, emotional and downright exhausting. The moment he showed up though, let out a scream then looked at his with his funny little furled brow, every single appointment, lost night's sleep, worry and tear was collectively worth it. We are Dads … and that is simply the greatest thing we have ever been."

Congratulations to Travis and Jay on finalizing the adoption of their son Kathan!

Travis and his husband Jay began their path to fatherhood a little over three years ago when they began the certification process to adoption through the foster care system. "After a little over a year and a half in the making we got the call on June 3rd 2018 at 11:30am. That day changed our lives in so many beautiful ways," said Travis.

At just 4 days old, the dads brought their son Kathan home, and 16 months later, they celebrated his adoption being finalized. "It felt like we had been set free as a family for the first time."

Kathan's adoption day was incredibly personal for the dads so they spent it with close family and took Kathan out for celebratory brunch.

Congrats to this Orange County forever family of three.

Congratulations to dad Derek and Zack on the birth of their daughter Georgia!

On October 18, 2019, dads Derek and Zack, and big brother Hank, welcomed Georgia to the family. The family is over the moon!

"Zack and I were lucky to be able to work with the same surrogate that helped us with our son Hank," said Derek. Their family journey experienced a significant setback when one of their fertility clinic's embryo storage tanks malfunctioned, and they lost all their genetic material - 11 fertilized embryos - that Derek's sister and Zack had donated to create their family. Luckily, Derek's sister was incredible and happily flew out to donate her beautiful genes again.

"Our family is truly the living embodiment of the love of our extended family and our carrier Raelene (and her family) have for us and our dream to meet our children. Meeting Georgia, for me, was the realization of all those feelings of love and hope we felt throughout our journey."

Congrats to this San Francisco family of four!

Congratulations to dads Rob and Scott on the birth of their daughter Sierra!

Rob and Scotty's journey to fatherhood started in December 2014, and they became first time dads eighteen months later when their son Ryder was born through surrogacy. In early October this year, they welcomed their daughter, Sierra, also through surrogacy.

"Holding her for the first time was amazing and warmed our hearts completely," shared Scotty. "Our son loves his baby sister and is very protective of her!!"

Huge congrats to this Sacramento family!

Congratulations to dads Brian and John on the birth of their son Weston!

Brian Wall and his fiancé John Agricola live in Toronto, Canada, and they recently welcomed their son Weston into the world on November 13.

"Our path to fatherhood was made a little simpler because my first cousin offered to be our surrogate," said Brian. "It took about a year total from picking an egg donor and our first successful embryo transfer on March 13."

When the dads first held their son they both agreed it was the most emotional experience they've ever had. "So grateful to our surrogate and he is a healthy boy!!"

Congrats to this new family of three, and can't wait to see wedding photos from your upcoming nuptials!

Congratulations to Ricky and Jeff on finalizing the adoption of their daughter Kylie!

Ricky and Jeff finalized the adoption of their youngest on November 8, the biological sister to their son Kadyn.

"Her birth mom knew that she couldn't take care of her and wanted us to have her," shared Ricky. "We went through the county again and we were able to adopt Kylie 6 months after her birth. The extra cool experience this time around was the fact that we were invited to be there to be part of the birth."

To be finalize Kylie's adoption was "amazing" said the dads. "It means that nothing and no one can do or say anything that would effect her being with us, which almost happened about a month before the adoption day."

Congratulations to this Californian forever family of four!


United Nations Calls on Cambodia to End Criminalization of Surrogates

Cambodia's 2016 law criminalizes surrogacy — and requires women who work as surrogate to raise the children they conceived for intended parents as their own.

Last Friday, the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reiterated its support to end the harassment and criminalization of surrogates in Cambodia, according to Voice of America.

The report issued by CEDAW recognized growing international criticism of the unregulated practice of surrogacy around the world, which often leads to the exploitation of women who work as surrogates. However, since surrogacy became illegal in Cambodia, over 60 women working as surrogates — the very people put in danger of exploitation — have been arrested and subjected to criminal proceedings. The women were only released according to VOA, under the condition of raising the surrogate children until they are 18.

"The Committee is particularly concerned that such an obligation creates an additional financial and emotional burden on women who are in precarious situations, which led them to act as surrogates in the first place," the report reads, "and that they face discrimination and stigma from their families and communities for having acted as surrogates."

CEDAW called on the Cambodian government to repeal the October 2016 law — particularly the requirement of raising the children they conceived for other intended parents as their own. This punishment is particularly onerous given that many of these women entered surrogacy arrangement against their will, said Chak Sopheap, Executive Director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, speaking to VOA.

"Surrogate women in Cambodia are likely to be at the sharp end of various economic and political hardships that caused them to make the decision to become a surrogate," she told VOA in an email. "We have seen, over the past year, women surrogates raided, charged with human trafficking, and detained, with no transparency from the authorities as to their wellbeing or that of the children they have given birth to."

Read more about this story here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

One Single Gay Dad's Trailblazing Path to Parenthood Via Surrogacy

20 years ago, Gene became the first single gay man to work with Circle Surrogacy in order to become a dad — trailblazing a path for many others since.

This article is part of our family feature series with Circle Surrogacy, a surrogacy agency that has been helping LGBTQ+ singles and couples realize their dream of parenthood for the past 20 years.

"I think I was pretty naïve, I guess," chuckled Gene, one of the first single gay dads to work with Circle Surrogacy over 19 years ago. "I just had made a decision and went out and did it, and wasn't really thinking about how difficult it might be or what other people thought, being first at doing something."

So how did Gene hear about surrogacy as an option for single gay men? Well, it began with Gene flipping through a bar magazine. He recalls seeing an ad about a woman providing a service to connect gay men with lesbians in platonic co-parenting relationships. While he started down that path, working with the founder, Jennifer, he remembers thinking, "What if I meet someone? What if I want to move? It would create all these complications."

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Change the World

"Dadvocates" Gather in D.C. to Demand Paid Family Leave for ALL Parents

"Dadvocate" and new gay dad Rudy Segovia joined others in D.C. recently to educate lawmakers on the need for paid family leave for ALL parents

On Tuesday October 22, Dove Men+Care and PL+US (Paid Leave for the United States) led the Dads' Day of Action on Capitol Hill. A group of over 40 dads and "dadvocates" from across the states lobbied key member of Congress on the issue of paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads. They shared stories of their struggles to take time off when welcoming new family members and the challenges dads face with no paid paternity leave.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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