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!
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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."

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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!!!"

Change the World

Hungarian Company Raising Money for LGBTQ+ Organization with a LEGO® Heart

Startup WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is helping combat misinformation and prejudice in Central and Eastern Europe

Guest Post from WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD

WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is an innovative startup venture that sells LEGO® parts and unique creations. The core values of our company include social equality regardless of gender identity or origin. As LEGO® is a variety of colors and shapes, so are the people.

We all know that LEGO® is a brand that nearly everyone knows and likes between the age of 3 and 99 so this gives a great opportunity to connect unique LEGO® creations and Pride. We started a fundraising campaign for a Hungarian LGBTQ+ organization who's aim is to bring people closer to the LGBTQ+ community, they help to combat misinformation and prejudice regarding LGBTQ+ issues in Central- Eastern Europe since 2000.

You might know that gender equality and the circumstances of LGBTQ+ people is not the easiest in the former communist Eastern European countries like Hungary so this program is in a real need for help. For example a couple of month ago a member of the government said that homosexual people are not equal part of our society.

The essence of the campaign is when one buys a Pride Heart, a custom creation made of brand new and genuine LEGO® bricks the organization gets $10.00 donation so they can continue their important work. This Pride Heart is a nice necklace, a decoration in your home, and a cool gift to the one you love.

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Entertainment

Single Gay Dad Featured on Season Three of GLOW

Actor Kevin Cahoon joins the Gorgeous Ladies of Wresting in Vegas as a single gay dad — and drag queen — on Season Three of the hit Netflix show

For a couple of years now, Hollywood has been obsessed with gay dad characters (and who can blame them?) But the latest show to get hip to a story line featuring gay man raising kids is Netflix's GLOW, which explores a female wresting troop in the late 1980s.

But GLOW is helping represent a gay character that rarely gets time in the limelight:the single gay dad. In Season three of the hit comedy — which stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron — actor Kevin Cahoon joins the case as Bobby Barnes, a single gay father who plays a female impersonator. (80s divas only, of course — Joan Collins and Babs among them)


"I've never done female impersonation," the openly gay actor told OutSmart Magazine, "so I tried to learn really quick. You will know them all; I was very familiar with all of them. There were plenty of talk shows and performances on YouTube to study. I learned that their breathing was very informative."

A single gay dad AND drag queen on television? It's about damn time if you ask us.

Read the full interview with Cahoon here.

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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Fatherhood, the gay way

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