Gay Dad Life

Family Matters: The Accidental Gay Dads

How three unexpected adoptions changed the bonds of blood


Becoming a parent is one of life’s greatest joys. But let’s be honest: it’s one of life’s greatest stresses, too. Especially when you have nearly no time to prepare, and you’re adopting a child from a relative. Those are high-pressure circumstances, fraught with unique practical and emotional complexities that can strain already-fragile families further – or, in happier cases, bring them closer together.

“At one point, I just locked myself in the bathroom,” says Terry, a 27-year old gay dad from Arkansas. He’s recalling a moment where he was felt overwhelmed by the stress of early fatherhood – a role that he entered with little notice. Terry took his 4-year-old nephew Koby into his care during a difficult time for the boy: his mother was in and out of jail for DUI arrests, and his father, Terry’s older brother, was dealing with substance abuse. Another uncle briefly took the child in; he wound up with boils from dirty, unchanged diapers. The situation was serious.

So Terry and his 22-year-old live-in boyfriend, James, opened their arms to give Koby a safe and secure home. It was, they felt, the right thing to do. But Terry admits he felt ill prepared.

“It was a shock. At times, I thought, ‘I can’t do this,’” says Terry. Ironically, while he’d always been close to his other nieces and nephews, Koby was the kid with whom he’d had the least contact. And Koby had behavioral problems – this toddler could swear like a sailor – that weren’t surprising given his early experiences. But they were a lot for two new, young dads to handle so suddenly.

But with James’ support, Terry remained committed to caring for his nephew. What began as a temporary arrangement turned into an 18-month process of legally adopting Koby when it became apparent that his birth parents were not far enough along on the road to recovery. It hasn’t been easy; despite suddenly stepping in to provide for Koby, the couple has little familial support. In fact, the adoption has put new strain on relationships, with some family members feeling that the child would be better off with his unfit biological parents than exposed to the “lifestyle” of gay dads.

Oklahoma couple Jason and Zac had a very different experience with that aspect of their surprise adoption. The 28-year-old dads became emergency guardians of Zac’s nephew, Daniel, when child protective services intervened with the boy’s mother. (They’d rather not get into details.)

Stepping in so suddenly has been a daunting experience. The couple had discussed their mutual desire to become dads early on in their relationship, and had been in the early exploration of adoption methods. But becoming parents was at least five years off. “We still wanted to advance our jobs, build up a nice little nest egg,” says Jason. They were considering moving to another state for the process, too. They never imagined that the timeline for parenthood would be so accelerated.

Suddenly, “We had about 48 hours’ notice,” says Jason. “And it was almost like being in full blown hospital mode. There’s all this panic and anxiety – the child is coming!”

Now that they’ve had time to recalibrate their relationship and finances in the wake of the arrival, the couple says that, despite the obvious stress, they’re actually not ungrateful that fatherhood happened in such an unusually expedited way.

“My mother said, ‘You can plan ahead, but that’s never how it’s going to happen,’” says Zac. “If you wait until you’re one hundred percent certain you’re ready to have a child, you’ll never have a child.”

“Obviously, other arrangements give you time to get things in order,” he continues, and laughs. “But we were forced to try and do it in a weekend. At least we didn’t have nine months of anxiety.”

And in fact, the experience brought the couple closer to the rest of Zac’s religious family, who have become more accepting since watching the couple become a strong family unit.

“The longevity of our relationship, and the very evident fact that we’re taking care of our family has really helped,” explains Zac. “We lost common ground when, from their perspective, I left my religion. Now we have a new common ground as parents, and they’re starting to initiate conversation with advice.”

It’s never too late to see that kind of growth. Just ask Ken, 51, and Jim, 53, gay dads from Georgia. They adopted Jim’s biological nephew, Aaron, when he was only a few months old. At the time, Aaron was living with a foster mom because Jim’s sister had a history of drug issues. She had already allowed three earlier children to be adopted by grandparents. Now, number four needed a forever home, and a truly reliable one. Aaron was born with cocaine in his system; later, he would be identified as autistic.

When Ken told his father that they would be adopting, the older man “walked out of the room,” recalls Ken. “I thought, ‘Well, that didn’t go so well.’” But once Aaron arrived, he became a doting granddad. It was a side of Ken’s father that he rarely got to see.

“When I was a kid, he worked from 9 to 9, Mondays through Saturdays. On Sunday, he sat around and drank beer,” says Ken. “He didn’t play with us. But Aaron really helped our relationship, because I got to see that side of him. He may never have given it to me, but he gave it to my child.”

Stepping in to suddenly adopt a relative is a daunting prospect. In dire situations like these, there is little time to prepare – and the emotional complications with family members can be unpredictable. But even if it came upon them in expected ways, none of these dads would change a thing about their choice to become fathers. In fact, Ken and Jim have since adopted Aaron’s younger sister; they’re in the process of adopting a younger half-brother.

And after adopting Koby, Terry has gone on to foster two more boys. He has plans to permanently adopt again soon. He’ll never forget that moment in the bathroom, when he wondered whether he made the right decision. But he’ll always remember also the moment when he knew that he had.

“Koby used to call me Uncle Bo,” says Terry. “Then one day he called me dad."

"Well, it was Bo-dad,” he laughs. “But just hearing that word was the greatest feeling in the world.”

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Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

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Gay Dad Life

Need a Sitter for Your Kids? Gays With Kids Reviews UrbanSitter

Back-to-school is already here for some of us, and if you're looking for a sitter to help out with school runs, after-school pick-ups, and the occasional date night, check out our review of UrbanSitter.

Instagram @davidcblacker

We moved from New York to Boston the summer of 2017. Along with the Manhattan skyline, our beloved Broadway, and late-night cookie deliveries, we also left behind our sitters — two sisters who had become more like family.

After settling for several months into our new home and neighborhood, we realized we hadn't had a dads' night out since our move. Our kids were still too young to leave alone at night, so I began what I presumed would be the tedious task of finding a sitter.

The first thing I did was to leave a post on our local parents' Facebook group. The dad of one of our daughters' classmates told me about UrbanSitter, a website and mobile app that he'd had success using to find last-minute sitters a few times. He also mentioned that within the app, I could see see babysitters and nannies recommended by parents at our kids' school in addition to local parenting groups.

While I appreciated the tip, I let him know that I was really hoping for a direct referral. But when none others came from the — other than a couple of middle schoolers looking for their first sitting jobs — I decided to give it a try.

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Move over Modern Family, there are some new gay dads taking over the small screen! Big Bad Boo Studios is bringing their animated series The Bravest Knight to Hulu. The series is based upon a children's book called "The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived" by Daniel Errico, and it follows the life of Sir Cedric - now grown and married to Prince Andrew - as he regales their adopted daughter Nia with tales of his knighthood journey as she trains to become a knight herself.

"We are so excited about The Bravest Knight, its values and our partnership with Hulu," said Shabnam Rezaei, the director of the series and co-founder of Big Bad Boo Studios. "They understand how to push the envelope with authentic storytelling."

"I immediately fell in love with the idea of a girl wanting to work hard and make something of herself," Rezaei continued. "I also have a nephew who has two dads, so it's a very personal issue for me. I want him to have role models when he's watching TV. I want him to feel like having two dads is completely normal. That's what this show is going to do for him."

Errico's book was first realized as an animation when Hulu created a short film based upon his writing and were interested in exploring the concept of a full series. "I watched the eight minutes on Hulu and at the end the prince and the knight get married and I was in tears," says Rezaei. Rezaei then stepped in to create all new art work including new character design by Tim Linklater and backgrounds by Sarita Kolhatra. Together, they created a kickass bible and pitched the series to Hulu and were successful.

Diversity and inclusivity is celebrated throughout The Bravest Knight, reflected by its casting choices. Nia is played by Storm Reid, from "A Wrinkle in Time," and her dads Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew are voiced by T.R. Knight and Wilson Cruz respectively. The star studded cast also includes Wanda Sykes, Bobby Moynihan, RuPaul, Steven Weber, Teri Polo, AJ McLean, Jazz Jennings, Maz Jobrani and Christine Baranski as the formidable Red Dragon.

"With so many wonderful stories yet to be told, we hope that The Bravest Knight stands as an example of the undeniable strength in inclusivity, and the inherent joy in all forms of love and identity," said Errico, the author of the original book.

The first 5 episodes were released on June 21, and there are 8 more planned for release before the end of the year. Be sure to tune in!

This is the Main Title Song for Big Bad Boo's Hulu Original Series "The Bravest Knight". The song is performed by Justin Tranter and composed by Michael Plow...

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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