Gay Dad Life

Fighting the Good Fight in Tupelo, Mississippi

Why I Wrote "Shaking the Sugar Tree"

Tupelo, Mississippi is famed for two very different things. On the one hand it’s the birthplace of Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n Roll. On the other, it’s the birthplace and home of the American Family Association, a Christian organization that’s so anti-gay it has earned itself a hate group designation by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

For the last three years, Tupelo has been my home and the setting for my recent romantic comedy, "Shaking the Sugar Tree," about a gay single father whose deaf son helps him find a boyfriend.

We are very proud of Elvis. Almost everyone in these parts has an Elvis story to tell you. Their great uncle swam with Elvis, only his mother wouldn’t allow him to go swimming so they had to keep it secret. Their great aunt went to church with the Presley family – and my, weren’t they nice! Their grandfather was a foreman at the garment factory where Gladys was working when she became pregnant with Elvis. Myself, I work right around the corner from the Tupelo Hardware Store, where Elvis bought his first guitar.  I was also one of the few people who knew that Priscilla Presley visited recently and had a private dinner at Park Heights – I work at a print shop and we printed the exclusive invites.

We’re not so proud of the American Family Association, although it is a large organization and its Christian radio programming is heard by millions. And we are certainly not very proud of Bryan Fischer, the AFA’s Hater in Chief.  And when I say “we,” I mean myself and all the people I’ve talked to about the AFA since I landed in these parts three years ago: I have not met a single soul who had anything but contempt for the AFA. Not one. The group must surely have supporters – it pulled in twenty million dollars in donations in 2013, according to a tax return it made public on its website. Someone, somewhere, is supporting this group. But for the life of me, I don’t know who. Certainly no one I know or have met. Their views are so extreme on some issues that many Mississippians find them hard to swallow. No small feat, I can assure you.

Fischer is famed for claiming that gay parenting is a “form of child abuse,” that homosexuality is a “form of domestic terrorism” and that “we can either have religious liberty or homosexuality, but we can’t have both” and other such sound bites.

Here are some of his more colourful assertions, and I've collected even more on my blog:

  • Said gay people must be criminalized and treated "like drug addicts."
  • "We should discriminate against unnatural and aberrant sexual behavior, whether pedophilia, bestiality, or homosexuality."
  • Said Boy Scouts would be better off "drowned in the sea" than to allow gay scouts.
  • "In the wake of what we've seen at Penn State, that alone ougho be enough to say that, look: we are not going to put children in same-sex households—we are not going to adopt them into same-sex households. … We cannot trust the sexual integrity and innocence and purity of those kids with those who have same-sex preferences. The risk is far, far too high."
  • "The homosexual agenda represents the single greatest modern threat to freedom of religion and conscience.”
  • "The real haters are homosexuals. The real venom is coming from those that support the homosexual agenda, either homosexual activists, homosexuals, or those that support the homosexual agenda. They are the real haters. There is a heterophobic hatred, there is a Christophobic hatred that is just seething, there's a dark, venomous, demonic hatred that is in the homosexual community."
  • "The homosexual agenda represents a clear and present danger to virtually every fundamental right given to us by our Creator and enshrined for us in our Constitution."
  • “[Gays] are Nazis… Do not be under any illusions about what homosexual activists will do with your freedoms and your religion if they have the opportunity. They’ll do the same thing to you that the Nazis did to their opponents in Nazi Germany.”
  • Fischer believes that an underground railroad should be built to spirit away the children of gay couples and get them to safety. I’m a father – and Fischer apparently believes that an orphanage would be better for my son than being raised by someone who loves him with all his heart and soul.

    The more I thought about this, the angrier I became. In fact, I got so angry that I sat down and started writing a novel about a single father raising a deaf child. I wanted to tell the Bryan Fischers of the world a thing or two about gay parents, about what it’s like to raise a child knowing members of your own family feel sorry for that child because his father is a homosexual.

    Yet a funny thing happened on the way to writing my angry gay novel – I found it impossible to write about a father and a son and not see the wonderful humor and joy involved in such a relationship. As I channeled my own experiences as a father and poured them into the character of Wiley, I was reminded of what a blessing it was to be a father – how much fun that great adventure was and still is, and how absurd people around us could be. I tried to focus on the humor and the very real human love these two people felt for each other.

    "Shaking the Sugar Tree" has become a bestseller and I am continually amazed at the heart-warming responses and reviews it has received. As a love story between a parent and a child, it’s universal. The gender and sexuality of a parent is of little interest to a child. What matters most is what has always mattered most: love.

    The best way to fight the Bryan Fischers of the world is for us to stand up and tell our stories. "Shaking the Sugar Tree" was my effort to do that.

    My son is now twenty-one and a junior in college. He’s a great son – I’ve told him quite frequently that he’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my whole life, and I mean it. He’s a very sensible, practical young man with a good, generous heart.

    He recently told me something that made me smile. We were at the end of one of his recent visits, sitting in the airport, waiting for his flight to be called. He looked at me and said, “Dad, you know what? I’ve always thought of you as both my mom and my dad. Isn’t that crazy?”

    I don’t remember what I said.

    I do remember sitting in the airport for a long time after he left, sobbing sad/happy tears, sad to see him go, yet happy to know he turned out all right, that I “did good,” as we say down here in the South. At the end of the day, it wasn’t my sexuality that mattered to him. It was love.

    It has always been love that matters, and always will be, no matter how our families are formed or lived or arranged. As long as the love is there, everything else falls into place – and life marches on.

    To buy Shaking the Sugar Tree click the image below.

    For more books by Nick Wilgus, check out the following titles:

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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.

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    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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    "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

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    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

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    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.

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    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

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    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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