Straight Talk with Gay-At-Home Dad
Let’s get something straight about @GayAtHomeDad. He takes parenting seriously. Himself? Not so much.
“The minute you have a child, you’re placed under a microscope and expected to be this perfect gay citizen,” chuckles Frank Lowe. And what a microscope he’s under: Frank is the man behind a Twitter handle with nearly 70,000 followers. Through his popular account @GayAtHomeDad, he pseudo-documents his experiences raising his four-year old son, Briggs. But it’s not all PTA meetings and Martha Stewart-inspired arts & crafts projects. Frank entertains his audience with uproarious musings and sarcastic commentary about everything from baby talk to Beyoncé. (“Disney World is the best form of birth control,” he tweeted during a recent vacation.) These sweet yet sassy glimpses into a gay dad’s everyday life have rapidly turned Frank into a social media sensation, and he’s already parlaying that into other opportunities; in February he became a new parenting columnist for The Advocate, and he recently launched a weekly YouTube series, “Driving Mr. Briggs,” that features adorably candid conversations between father and son as they motor around town.
Frank may have earned much of his following by dropping hilarious quips. (Another bon mot: “I’m not teaching my kid how to share, I’m teaching him how to Cher.”) But don’t take them at face value. Frank admits his daily updates are a mix of fact and fiction, and that he’s embodying a persona designed to amuse – and to some degree, educate – his audience. In fact, he launched @GayAtHomeDad partly to caricature the stereotypes that some people might have about gay fathers.
“The whole mood in America was a little different,” explains Frank, thinking back to when he and his husband Jeremy were planning to start their family. Tweets boasting queer dad humor became a subtle bit of subversion. (One more classic: “As IF I’m going to ruin his hair using shitty tears-free shampoo. He can cry.”)
“There was this feeling of conservatism in the country,” says Frank. “I thought it would be great to give it to those people: Make them question whether I was being honest.”
Obviously his sense of humor hit a sweet spot. And so have the subsequently sincere glimpses into his life as a stay- or rather, gay-at-home dad. Fans and followers get to peek in on his daily adventures with Briggs; they can follow his live-tweets from that Disney World vacation, and then catch the full recap and insights at TheAdvocate.com. Plus, as a funny, photogenic thirty-something, Frank’s pop culture savvy and social media charm make him feel accessible to younger generations of gay men who might one day decide to be dads too. “I’ve had a lot of gay youth reach out to me, and thank me for making them feel comfortable with wanting to be a parent one day,” says Frank, who didn’t grow up with the same assuredness that being a gay dad was a goal within reach.
“The idea was always in the back of my head, but it sort of felt impossible,” says Frank, who was raised mainly by his father and stepmom in a St. Louis, Missouri suburb. (His father and biological mother divorced when he was 10.) He had a relatively easy coming-out, thanks in part to running with an inclusive ‘90s rave crowd. Frank met Jeremy when he was 21, and they discussed the possibility of kids within the early weeks of dating. But it wasn’t until he turned 30 that he really “got the itch” to be a dad. Soon they welcomed Briggs into the world and into their lives through an open adoption. Today Jeremy works as an attorney while Frank, who previously worked in luxury sales for Gucci and Louis Vuitton, runs their household in Connecticut. He’s enjoying offering a window into gay fatherhood via cyberspace – and the encouraging feedback he’s received from future dads has been the most gratifying part of that experience. “That’s what made me realize I was really reaching people,” says Frank.
But sometimes Frank’s loose-lipped, irreverent online humor — say, a video of he and Briggs twerking to “The Harlem Shake” — earns backlash from other, particularly older, gay men. Frank represents a generation of parents, gay and straight, who believe that you can be a great role model without sacrificing a personal identity (or outside interests) in the process; but in a media landscape with limited representation of gay dads, everyone’s expected to seem squeaky-clean. “A lot of older gay men in their forties and fifties like to blast me,” says Frank of his humor’s most common critics. “I’m like, ‘You’re not getting the joke!’”
“I think the most pressure we feel comes from within the gay community itself,” says Frank about the elevated expectations placed upon gay dads. “There’s this meme that goes around a lot online. It’s of two photos. On the left there’s a photo of a circuit party, and it says, ‘You can have this.’ On the right there’s a photo of two dads with their kid, and it says, ‘But I want this.’”
“That’s so stupid!” he continues. “If you wanted to get a babysitter and go to a party, why shouldn’t you be able to? I’m not saying, ‘Go do drugs all night.’ That’s not good, period. But there’s this disconnect where suddenly you have to be that perfect gay citizen. That’s just not how things work.”
“Now I have the responsibility of a child. But I’m still the same person that I was before. And part of what I do online is to break apart these expectations that are placed on us by other gay people.”
+ Photo credit: Heather Golde Photography