Gay Dad Life

How One Gay Couple Found Themselves Fathers in Their Early 20s

Though Michael and Adam said learning how to parent at a young age was difficult at moments, they had each other to lean on.

Raising a gay stepfamily comes with its own obstacles. You're juggling a partner, children, an ex is likely in the mix, all while also trying to determine your own place within the complicated family dynamic. For Michael and Adam McAtee, it was no different. Except they had to go through this in their early twenties, when many of their peers were living a much more self indulgent lifestyle. Here's a look at how Michael and Adam have managed to raise a loving two-dad stepfamily, all the while trying to figure out where they fit into society today.


Michael (left) and Adam with their daughter

Michael and Adam McAtee quickly became fast friends while working at a gym together in southern California. Adam was married to a woman at the time and had a 1-year-old daughter. Through Michael's friendship and support, Adam gained the courage to come out to his family and wife. It was an excruciatingly difficult time for Adam as many of the supports he enjoyed as a "straight" man did not stick around for the newly revealed gay Adam. Tension was also high with his soon-to-be ex-wife.

Michael and Adam's wedding

After Adam came out, he and Michael began to see one another romantically. Michael knew that getting closer to him would inevitably mean assuming the role of stepparent to his 1-year-old daughter. Michael and Adam were 23 and 22 at the time, respectively. "Because we were so young, we shared a lot of similar feelings of confusion and frustration around being parents," said Michael. "We were still discovering ourselves and finding out who we wanted to be as adults." But the two had each other to lean on which helped get them through some tough moments. Seven years later, the dads feel as though they've learned a lot, and are grateful for the wonderful impact parenthood has had on their lives. For Michael, it also brought to the surface some unresolved issues from his own childhood. "For me the biggest challenge growing up as a gay boy was learning to love myself and believe in myself," he explained. Sure, there were times when Michael's resilience and commitment to the family waned because he didn't feel like he belonged, and the feelings of uncertainty, fear, and worry bubbled so close to the surface. But his love for Adam and his daughter, and his commitment to their family, helped him overcome his roadblocks and ultimately become a better person overall.

Adam and his daughter

"Seven years later, we are now married and much more secure in our relationship and in our ability to parent." But the family continues to face challenges, both from their respective families and society as a whole. For Adam and Michael, the lack of recognition from family and friends manifests in small but hurtful ways, such as forgetting birthdays or holidays such as Father's Day. Finding a place where they feel like they belong has been a struggle, even within the gay community.

Michael (left) and Adam at their wedding


"In the fight for marriage equality, the gay community concerned itself with 'selling sameness' to present a comforting image to straight society," said Michael. "My husband and I know that raising children as gay parents is not the same as raising children as straight parents. Gay dads have had to contend with unique challenges, including lack of resources and cultural invisibility both in and out of the gay community." Still, Adam and Michael realize how important it is to be a gay dad, especially today. "I believe gays have the opportunity to raise children in a revolutionary way by modeling how to construct a positive identity out of the experience of oppression," said Michael. And that's what the dads are doing: raising their daughter to be part of the next generation who are compassionate, accepting of diversity and self-exploration.

Adam and his daughter

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News

Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals.

In a post on Facebook, Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, came out as gay. He also discussed his strained relationship with his Mormon faith, claiming he felt he didn't feel comfortable living as an openly gay man in a church with a difficult history with respect to its LGBTQ members. He and his wife, Lois, have filed for divorce.

"This is one of the hardest letters I have ever written," he began the letter. "Hard because I am finally acknowledging a part of me that I have struggled with most of my life and never wanted to accept, but I must be true and honest with myself." He went on to acknowledged a new set of challenges facing he and his family as they navigate a divorce and his coming out — in the public eye, no less — but concluded, ultimately, that it's a "huge relief" to be "honest and truthful about my orientation."

He went on to condemn The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. "I didn't want to face the feelings I fought so hard to suppress, and didn't want to reach out and tell those being ostracized that I too am numbered among them. But I cannot do that any longer."

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Ed Smart further discussed his reasons for coming out now, as a 64-year-old man.

"I mean, I knew that it would probably come out at some point, just because people can't leave things alone. I did anticipate that it would happen at some time, but my intention in writing it was to try to let my friends and family know, you know my extended family ... know where things were. So, you know, I was really concerned about how the rumor mill starts," he told the paper. "I knew that at some point in time, that would come out," he elaborated. "I didn't know when it would come out, and so I would rather have it come out the way that it did versus having some rumors going around, and you know the crazy way things can get twisted."

In 2002, Ed Smart's daughter Elizabeth was abducted at knife point by a married couple from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. She suffered physical and sexual abuse at the couple's hands, for nine months, until she was finally rescued by police. During the ordeal, papers — including the Salt Lake Tribute — speculated about Ed Smart's sexual orientation based on some fabricated information sold to the paper by tabloids like the National Enquirer. (The Enquirer retracted the story, and the reporters at the Tribute were ultimately fired.)

"I think that in April I started feeling like I needed to prepare something," Smart told the Tribute. "Because during Elizabeth's ordeal, there were things said, and it wasn't what I wanted to say, and I was not going to allow that to happen again."

As to how his family has taken the news, Smart said they've been "very kind" to him. "I think it was very difficult to have this kind of come out of the blue. I don't think any of them knew I was struggling with this, so it was something they were, if you want to call it, blindsided by. I totally get that. They've really been very wonderful."

Congrats to Ed Smart on making the difficult decision to live his truth. Read his full letter here and his interview with the Tribute here.

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