Change the World

This Gay Dad is Fighting the Example Set by His Abusive Father with Compassion

Erik Alexander's father was abusive and held problematic views towards gay men and minorities. Still, Erik credits his difficult upbringing with encouraging him to be a more compassionate man, husband, and father.

The earliest memories I have are pivotal moments that pushed me into a certain trajectory. Most of these early childhood experiences involved my father. As much as I wished to forget him, sometimes random memories float up like air bubbles in a soda can and sit there in my head just waiting to be revisited.


Distinctive sounds and noises can trigger memories and quickly warp me back in time. For exanple, when I hear the sound of a vintage telephone fall to the ground I'm suddenly a 3-year-old boy holding a wooden pirate sword in my living room watching my mom and dad argue in the hall. The fighting escalates and things get violent. It quickly turns into more than an argument when he grabs her by her neck and slams her head into the wall. On that wall hung a vintage telephone. Ill never, EVER forget the sound the telephone made when my moms head slammed beside it. The years of physical abuse toward my mom lasted another 4 years until their divorce, but the psychological damages will last us a lifetime.

Coming from a tiny country town in south Mississippi, one quickly sees that some things don't usually change. Progressive movements in our country's society don't really adapt in tiny southern towns. When they finally seem like they have, it has taken decades and it's doesn't completely change. There are a couple of stigmata that have not seemed to disappear and will hopefully one day evolve. One of them being homophobia. Many families disown their children because of their extreme views against sexual minorities, and it breaks my heart.

I had always heard about my father's older brother, Thomas, but unfortunately I don't remember him. Today, I look up to him for multiple reasons. The way he left this small minded town behind to become who he truly was will always be inspirational to me. My mom told me that she took me to visit him a few times before he moved to Los Angeles. All I remember is my dad calling him a "faggot" and a "queer." He refused to let my uncle Thomas see me. When I was 8, my father said he needed to go see his brother in California because he was dying of "cancer." In fact, my uncle was dying of AIDS during the pandemic in 1989. My father was always so hateful to him throughout his life, but he was there when my uncle Thomas took his last breath. Sadly, his purpose for being there wasn't because of his death. It was because he didn't want my uncle's lover to have any of his belongings. After he died, my father loaded up Uncle Thomas' life and stole it away from his lover.

Even though my precious uncle left this life like he did, I hope and pray that he looks down on me and knows how much I love him. I hope he sees my happiness and the family I have been able to create. I wish with all of my heart he was here to play with my little girls. He is, and always will be, my role model.

Erik's Uncle Thomas back in the mid 80's

The other stigma that still plagues small rural communities is racism. It exists in large urban areas too, of course, but I was raised in the country so that's all I can speak on. In fact, Biloxi, MS, officially recognized Martin Luther King Day for the first time this year. I left rural Mississippi many years ago, and I pray that strides have been made to improve race relations there. That being said, I will never be able to forget the words my father told me and my brother when we were 8 and 3 years old. It was a hot summer day and we were about to go swimming in a creek when we drove up to a small house at the end of the dirt road. The little house was owned by a very sweet African American family that were supposedly friends of his. Before my father got out of the truck, he talked about what good people they were. He then went on to explain that they were good because they shared our last name. "We owned them during the slave times," he said. "Whenever you meet a black man with the same last name as you, always remember, we owned them." He was so matter of fact about it. Words like that never leave you.

As we grew older my father and I became more distant. My brother on the other hand admired him and wanted to be just like him. It got to the point where I didn't want to visit him anymore. My father would call me "sissy" and "mama's boy" for not coming, and I have to admit- it hurt. A LOT. I may have been a "mama's boy" but I remember thinking, "I'm not a sissy."

My brother, however, kept going. I believe that my father's influence messed up my brother. Shane would lash out, get into trouble, and be disrespectful towards family. When my mom would discipline him, Shane would just go to my father to get what he wanted. It got to the point that all the work my mom was doing raising him was getting undone by my father on the weekends. As Shane got into his teenage years he began drinking and smoking cigarettes and pot. At 15, he started getting into trouble with the police. At 16 he started taking pills. I have a vivid memory of driving down the road with him, with him in the backseat. I was looking at him in the rearview mirror and talking to him about his alcohol and drug use. He was a small kid, 95 pounds soaking wet. I told him to leave the pills alone because he was too small to handle them, especially when he drank.

He told me he would, and we left it at that.

Shane died of an overdose of liquid methadone on July 29, 2004. He was 17 years old. The story I was told by my father's family and the police was that Shane had found my father's "medicine" in the back of my father's truck and stole it. The last memory I have of my father is of him in a psychiatric hospital days after Shane passed. I could see him through the window as I walked down the hallway to visit him. He was crying and his hands were covering his face. He was wearing a white jumpsuit and sitting in a chair quickly rocking back and forth. I had never seen him like that. I sat down in a chair beside him but he barely seemed to notice me.. He kept rocking back and forth and repeatedly saying, "I put it in his hands. I put it in his hands. I put it in his hands." I didn't know what to say or do. I was frozen in shock. How could he have given his own teenage son a lethal dose of narcotics? My heart was beating out of my chest as I silently got up and left. That was the last time I ever saw my father.

Erik and his little brother, Shane (on top of Erik), back in 1987

I know this piece has been heavy. My hope for anyone reading this is to have faith in what tomorrow may bring. Take any hardships you may have been dealt and learn from them, as difficult as they may be. Remember them. And apply them. Let them motivate you to grow, both mentally and spiritually. It may be too hard to do today, and it may still be tomorrow, but when enough time has passed, hold your head up and dust yourself off. Rise up and become the person you were meant to be. You are worth it. And when you find that you are okay again, pay it forward.

Many things happen throughout one's life that changes its course. My father would be the first person to say that gays shouldn't be able to raise kids. The same man that said and did the most unspeakable things can so easily condemn and ridicule my way of life. It is so important for me to be able to look beyond that. Watching and listening to my father's ignorance and anger helped me learn about so many aspects of life. I learned how to appreciate and respect different races and ethnicities. It helped me accept and even realize my own homosexuality. To this day, each and every HIV+ person I meet reminds me of my late uncle Thomas and his own fight. My love flows from him and pours onto anyone I meet that has to fight that battle.

I can't think of a positive thing my father did for me except blindly grow me into the man I am today. My collective experiences with my father have made me a smarter, more compassionate and empathetic person. Unbeknownst to him, my father helped create the opposite of who he is: the loving husband and grateful father I am today.

This piece is dedicated to my little brother, Shane, whose 32nd birthday will be on April 2nd.

Shane (left) and Erik back in the late 80's

I would love for you to follow our family's journey!
Like us on Facebook/Nolapapa
Follow us on Instagram/nolapapa
And catch up on my blog at Nolapapa.com

Show Comments ()
Change the World

This Gay Dad's Life Changed "Unexpectedly" Thanks to His Son's Love of Sports

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund writes how trading "Broadway for baseball" helped him form straight male friendships in an essay for Shondaland

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund, a gay dad of a 7-year-old son with his husband Jack, recently contributed a thoughtful essay for Shondaland that explores the unintended, but positive, consequence of his son's love of sports: straight male friends.

He writes, "One night in late May, seven dads stood in a bar singing "Happy Birthday" to me. Each of them were straight. How did this happen?"

As gay dads, many of us who have spent a lifetime avoiding anything that even remotely looked like an athletic league thanks to our experiences with homophobia in the world of team sports growing up. As dads, though, we're often forced back into these spaces to be supportive of our kids. (We've brought you similar essays in the past, most notably John Hart's funny piece about his sudden turn into a hockey dad).

But while many of us find the world of children's sports much more tolerable today, given the (reasonably) secure adult men that we've grown into, Bradley seems to have done the unthinkable: make friends with other (straight) dads involved in his son's athletic leagues.

"With Lucas regularly playing soccer, basketball, and baseball, sports now make up a large part of my weekly routine," Bradley writes. "And as it's turned out, a host of heterosexual dad comrades have been with me every goal, basket, and home run of the way." One dad educates Bradley on the existence of something called "turf shoes." Another on whether his son was better suited to be a midfielder or defender.

"If I ever worried I'd be alienated in the world of sideline-dads," Bradley concludes, "those feelings have long lapsed."

Read the great essay in full here.




Change the World

Don't F*ck With This F*g

After a homophobic encounter on the subway, BJ questions what the right response is, in an era of increasing vocal rightwing activists

On February 1, 2019, Frank and I went out on a date night, something we haven't done in a while. Our son was sleeping over at his grandparents for the night and we made plans with our friends to meet them for dinner downtown. We decided to save some money and take the subway into town instead of taking a taxi.

We boarded the subway and sat down opposite a couple, a man and woman. I noticed they looked at us as we boarded the train and began whispering to each other. Frank and I were talking to each other when I heard the man uttering under his breath, "F*$%ing faggots."

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

Gay Dad's Family Car Vandalized with Homophobic Slur in Tennessee

"Sometimes people do things to try and make you sad," Michael told his sons following the incident. "But we have to be better than that."

Michael Quinton, a gay man living in Dandridge, Tennessee, had just arrived at home on July 6th when he noticed the damage done to his car. His tires were slashed, the car seats sliced up, and the radio rendered useless by a sharp object.

"My first reaction was a flood of every emotion," he said. "Angry, mad, sad, disheartened. As I took a look at the vehicle I saw more and more damage."

The physical vandalism, however, was nothing compared to the emotional damage inflicted by this next part of the crime: the word "fagot" had been etched into the side of his car.

Though Michael was clearly the intended target of the crime, he was particularly worried about how the incident might affect his two sons, Blake and Clayton, whom he had adopted with his ex-husband.

"I called my mom who lives a few minutes away to come sit with the boys as an officer was coming out," Michael told Gays With Kids. "At that moment I didn't want them to see the vehicle or the words carved into it.

Michael called the experience "eye-opening," adding, "Come what may I have to ensure [my sons] are taken care of. I have to show them that love wins and without a doubt there is nothing wrong with the way you love. One day they very well could help change the climate in this country."

As far as the perpetrator, Michael has his suspicions of who might behind the damage, and has shared them along with some potential evidence with the detective involved. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime. Michael has spent most of life in east Tennessee and says this was the first time he had ever experienced an act of hate. From sharing this horrible experience, a lot of people have reached out to Michael and his family to send words of support and kind messages. But Michael is still worried.

"In the end, the tone of this country has done a 180," he said. "I honestly feel worried that things will continue to happen to families like mine or anyone viewed different in others' eyes."

New data has shown that hate crimes have risen 12% in the past year, and that is only those that are reported. The African American community has been the most targeted, followed by LGBTQ people.

Michael with his kids

The damage to Michael's vehicle has also been a blow to family, symbolically, he says. Michael is recently divorced from the boys' second dad, and is now raising them full-time. The car, a bright blue Kia, came to represent so much more than a vehicle; it meant a new beginning for Michael and his boys after the separation.

"So many memories have been made in that vehicle over the last 18 months," shared Michael. His youngest son, Blake, "processes things a little different than your average 7 year old," Michael says. "You take away routine, structure, consistency, security and he doesn't do too well."

Since the incident, the family has been comforting each other by sleeping together on the couch every night. Michael has always kept an open conversation with his kids, whether it be about their adoption (Blake originally came to Michael through kinship guardianship, and Clayton is Blake's biological older brother whom Michael later adopted as well), divorce, and now this.

"I told them that sometimes people do things to try and make you sad," said Michael. "But we have to be better than that and know that we can't stop loving and that we have each other and I wouldn't allow them to be hurt. We also have to be able to forgive in order to find peace."

The car, sadly, is beyond repair. Fortunately, Michael has a vehicle supplied by work he can use for family drop offs, baseball practice and medical appointments. But eventually, he'll need to get his own car again. As a single-income father, Michael has set up a GoFundMe page to help with the insurance deductible and/or possible replacement of the car.

Despite the gravity of the situation, Michael didn't miss an opportunity to through some well-deserved shade back at the perpetrator of this heinous act. "Who spells faggot..... fagot?" he wrote on a post he published to Facebook shortly after the incident. "Doesn't most everyone have access to spell check with their phone? I mean come on!!!"

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."

Keep reading... Show less
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.



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.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Photo Essays

Falling for Fall: 33 Photos of Gay Dads and Kids at the Pumpkin Patch

Oh my gourd, it's fall! To celebrate, we rounded up 33 pics (and whole lot of pun-kins) in our annual fall photo essay!

Don your checked shirt, grab them apples, and shine those smiles while perched on pumpkins — it's the annual fall family photo op! A trip to the pumpkin patch and / or apple orchard is a staple family fall outing, and we're here for it. 🎃🍎🍂👨👨👧👦

Thanks to these dads who shared their pics with us! Share your own to dads@gayswithkids.com and we'll add them to this post!

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse