Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Gay Dad Gets Real About Parenting Challenges in Anonymous Essay

A gay dad gets real about his struggles with depression, parenting as an introvert, and more in this anonymous essay.

Full disclosure, this post is being written anonymously. I've written several blog posts about my family that aren't too deep or confessional but for a long time now I've been wanting to touch on some topics that are more personally revealing and not so sunny. And that's where being someone who is typically an open book bumps up against needing to consider the privacy of his loved ones, and so this is being shared anonymously.

What is it I've been wanting to get off my chest? My daughter is often my worst parenting nightmare.


Parenting as an Introvert

Ok, yes, that's an exaggeration of course. But when thinking about my three biggest trepidations while planning to be a parent, she's come to embody them all. It's like she was created by someone using a checklist.

The introvert and the extrovert:

When my husband first suggested having kids one of my main concerns was that I'm an introvert. There's no way I could parent 24/7, to be constantly 'on' for my kids with little to no alone time to re-charge. Most people think being introverted just means being shy and withdrawn. It's doesn't. Without going into too much detail, introverts just process external stimulation differently than extroverts. That difference requires ample quiet time that doesn't involve interacting with others. So being around kids who are a constant source of stimulation is not a healthy situation. Unfortunately, society frowns upon the idea of a parent not wanting to be with their children at all times, which is why I feel the need to not be too open about this issue. Introverts as parents specifically, and the concept of parents needing time away from their kids in general, are aspects of parenthood that seem to get very little coverage.

We managed to come up with a way to mitigate my introversion as an issue which has proven quite successful. And it's a good thing too, because our older daughter is an extrovert with a capital E who craves near-constant interaction. I won't lie, without the arrangements we'd made in advance, being a parent would suck for me more often than not. Which no one should interpret as meaning I would love my kids less. It has nothing to do with them and everything to do with my biological make-up.

And speaking of biology, that leads into…

Challenges of Being the Bio-Dad

Bio Dad and Non-Bio Dad:

It was my husband's idea to have kids in the first place and the original plan was that he'd father them. And then we learned he couldn't have kids biologically so I provided the genetics for both. So what happens? Our older daughter ends up being someone fascinated with her family history and in general shows a stronger affinity for her biological heritage. And that was always a concern of mine, that the kids would favor me over my husband based on that genetic connection (our younger child is indifferent on this matter). I also sometimes feel a twinge of guilt because she and I do seem to share some kind of deeper connection, an understanding of each other that's hard to put into words. The guilt comes from feeling that it's not something that's been earned, the way my husband has earned, IMO, being the better parent through actual deeds and effort. He's proof that biology isn't what makes someone a great dad.

When we first started planning for kids, one of the things that excited me was the thought of little offshoots of my husband running around. I never had any desire to pass on my genetics. That was mostly just because it wasn't an urge, but it was also out of concern that I'd pass on my family's penchant for being depressive.

Which leads to the next item on the parenting-fear checklist…

Depression

I've closely watched my kids for any signs that they might have inherited this annoying genetic glitch. Ever since she was old enough to speak my daughter has said things that have been red flags. She's described thoughts and exhibited traits that have reminded me a lot of my own at her age.

She's now a tween and during a recent conversation I casually mentioned my depression. She hadn't known about it before and was immediately curious. Not long after that she slipped me a note asking me about the symptoms and listed a few things about herself that she was concerned about. We did some quick google self-diagnosis and she said that most of what was on a long list of signs of depression applied to her. They're all things I've witnessed in her and many are how depression manifests in myself.

I'm careful to not dwell on it too much so she doesn't become overly concerned, while also being sure she knows the topic is not taboo and should not be repressed. We're now searching for a therapist to not only provide a definitive diagnosis one way or the other, but to also provide general support and guidance with all the typical social and biological changes that girls her age need to navigate.

The Benefits and Dangers of Social Media

All of the above are things I would be more than willing to share openly and would be even more detailed about. I'm a proponent of the power of sharing one's personal issues so that others know they're not the only ones facing a particular challenge. I've personally benefited due to the candor of others, and I credit being able to open up about anything with almost anyone with how I've personally worked through issues of my own. It's something I get from my mom and that I'm trying to teach my kids.

But being honest about things that carry a lot of social stigma such as depression or admitting to feeling anything less than 24/7 joy about being a parent opens one up for a lot of negative feedback. If I only had myself to think about with such online confessions, bring it. But my daughter and her friends are hitting that age when more and more of them are starting to enter the world of social media. And anything on the internet could find its way onto anyone's smart phone or laptop, so I can't open the kids up to one of today's biggest challenges – social media backlash that can be potentially life ruining.

For most of my life being open and honest has been one of my coping mechanisms. I hate using a pseudonym; it feels like lying or hiding. But I have to dial back much of my trademark candor for the sake of the kids while doing my best to teach them how to stand strong against unrealistic social stigmas. Hopefully they will grow into a world where their family's history of depression and the relatively mild imperfections of their family – such as a father who openly admits to needing time apart and that his world doesn't revolve around his kids 24/7 – won't be grounds for their peers to potentially mock them or shun them. Have I not mentioned that this is another fear of mine?


Show Comments ()
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

An All-Boys School: One Gay Dad's  Short-Lived Experience in the Traditional Environment

"The most dangerous phrase in the language is 'we have always done it this way.'" —Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

The process of entrance to Manhattan's elite private schools can be similar or even more rigorous than college admissions. And you can take that and multiply it tenfold when you're dealing with an all-boys environment. I know this from experience, as my partner Andy and I have spent the last year and a half dealing with one such establishment, that has been in existence for "136 years," and touts the cliché slogan of "educating boys to become scholars and gentlemen."

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

This Guy's "Annoying Phase" Is All Of Us the Day We Become Dads

With little to do but wait once their surrogate's water broke, Grant entered what his husband lovingly refers to as his "annoying phase."

It was 3:09am on February 7th when my phone rang. This, in and of itself, was strange as my phone is always on silent. But, for some reason, earlier that night I decided that I needed to change my phone settings to make sure the phone rang just in case our surrogate called. It was a week before our scheduled C-section and our doctor gave us no reason to think we would be welcoming our baby any earlier than the previously scheduled date.

"I think my water broke. No wait, it definitely broke," our surrogate tells me.

"Your water broke?" I replied helpfully. "Should we head to the hospital?"

"Um, yeah. Get in the car and drive. I'll meet you at the hospital."

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

After He Put Down His Cigarettes and Picked Up a Bike, This Gay Dad Charted a New Course in Life

Erik Alexander celebrates on his 10 year anniversary of going smoke-free, and some of the twists and turns that got him to where he is now.

Photo Credit: BSA photography

You can always count on January to be full of New Year's resolution clichés that make you want to just slam your face in a door.

Well, I hate to add to the torture, but you know I have to chime right on in!

This January marked my 10th year of kicking the nasty habit of smoking cigarettes. It was the second hardest thing I have ever done. Last year I wrote about my personal coming of age story about the wild and crazy life I led when I worked in nightlife on Bourbon Street. It definitely wasn't for the faint of heart. (Check it out if you haven't already.) Ultimately, I would leave that life behind. Unfortunately, my love of cigarettes survived. To allow you to really understand where I am coming from, I will just pick up where the last piece left off.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Inside the Weird World of Expectations for Gay Dads

At social gatherings with other parents, Grant Minkhorst finds he's often the only father in the room

In my two months as a parent, I've had the pleasure of meeting a lot of new parents. As a gay dad, I am the one signing up for little activity groups and social gatherings with other new parents. I am often the only father in the room. I find myself trying to "fit in" by discussing all of the things that new moms talk about: nap schedules, feeding, baby gear and "that the sidewalks are too narrow!" But there are some topics of conversation to which I cannot contribute (e.g., breast feeding). As a social person, this can leave me feeling a little isolated, almost as if I exist just outside the real parenting bubble. Because being a mom is different.

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

Three Eagles, Two Male one Female, Form Nontraditional Family

Three bald eagles in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge are sharing a nest and incubating eggs together

According to the Advocate, three bald eagles — two male and one female — are sharing a nest and incubating eggs together.

"Families come in all shapes and sizes, and that's true for wildlife too!" wrote the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on Facebook. "Meet Valor I, Valor II and Starr, a breeding trio of bald eagles that live along the Mississippi River in Illinois. For several years, fans from all over the world have been watching this nontraditional family through a webcam as the eagles deal with the trials and tribulations of parenting."

The thruple came to be in unique way. "The nest was originally inhabited by Valor I and another female eagle named Hope," wrote the Advocate. "Initially, Valor I had poor parenting skills — he didn't hunt or guard the nest while Hope was away. Valor II entered the nest in 2013 to pick up the slack — and taught Valor I some parenting skills in the process. Hope left the nest in March 2017 after she was injured by other birds. But instead of going off to find new mates, the male eagles decided to stick together until Starr joined their nest in September 2017."

Though rare, this isn't the first time that a trio of eagles have come to share nests in this way. According to USA Today, other trruples were have been spotted in Alaska in 1977, in Minnesota in 1983 and in California in 1992.

Check out this family below!


Trio Eagle Cam Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge Live Stream www.youtube.com

Gay Dad Life

In the U.K.? Join These Dads at Events Supporting LGBTQ Parents!

The dads behind the blog TwoDads.U.K are ramping up their support of other LGBTQ parents. Check out these events they're a part of!

What a couple of years it's been for us! When our daughter Talulah was born via UK surrogacy back in October 2016, we decided to take to Instagram and Facebook to document the parental highs and lows. Little did we expect for it to be where it is now. We always had the ambition to help other intended fathers understand more about surrogacy, and we also had the added driver to do our best to influence others – help open some of the closed minds with regards to same-sex parenting.

Here we are now, pregnant again with our son which we revealed Live on Facebook! We're due in August, we're now writing several blogs, social media influencers and launching a new business focusing on our main mission to support others and being advocates for UK surrogacy. It's no wonder we're shattered!

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

These Guys Are Proof: Bisexual Dads Exist!

Far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "B" category than any other. Here are three of their inspiring stories.

A couple months ago, Gays With Kids received the following message via one of our social media channels:

"Hey guys, love what you do. But where are your stories about bi men who are dads? Do they not exist? I get the sense from your page that most queer dads identify as gay. I identify as bi (or pansexual) and want to become a dad one day, but just never see my story represented. Are they just not out there?"We can say with resounding certainly that YES bisexual dads absolutely exist. In fact, of all the letters in our acronym, far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "b" category than any other.

But our reader is certainly right in one respect--we don't hear the stories of bisexual/pansexual dads told nearly often enough. While we occasionally find stories to tell about bi dads, like this great one from earlier this year from a dad who just came out, we otherwise aren't often finding stories of bi dads nearly as easy as we do gay dads. We're sure this is due to any number of reasons--societal pressure to stay closeted from both the straight and LGBTQ communities along with erasure of bisexuality both come to mind.

But it's also because we haven't done the best job reaching out specifically to the bi dad community! We hope to start changing that, starting by bringing you the stories of three bid dads in our community.

(Are you a bi dad? Click here so we can help tell your story and increase exposure for the bi dad community, or drop us a line at dads@gayswithkids.com!)

James Shoemaker, bisexual dad of three, in Alton Illinois

James Shoemaker, who is 65-years-old and lives in Alton, Illinois, says he's known he was bisexual since the age of five. Still he lived what he called a "happily socially heterosexual" life throughout his adolescence, until he had his first same-sex experience in college at the age of 18-years-old.

In his 20s, he began his first same-sex relationship with a man, which lasted about five years. But soon the conversation turned towards children. James wanted his own biological children, something that would have been difficult, particularly at the time, to achieve. He and his boyfriends split, and soon after James met the woman who would become his wife. Since he had previously been in a relationship with a man, and his friends and family were aware of his sexuality, there was no hiding his bisexuality from his wife. There was no hiding my bisexuality from her

"We were both in our 30's, and both wanted kids," James said. "Wo were both kind of desperate to find a partner and she expressed that."

He and his wife proceeded to have three daughters together and lived what he called a fairly "conventional" life. "There was so much societal support [for raising a family] within conventional marriage," he said. "This was new to me, since I came out at age 17, and was used to being "different".

Being in a relationship with a woman, James said, alienated him from much of the LGBTQ activism that began to take hold in the 1980s and 1990s. "I felt I could not act as a representative for gay rights while married to a woman and raising kids with her," he said.

When his youngest daughter turned 18, he and his wife split and, and James began, once again, to date other men. Eventually, he met Paul Mutphy, who he has been dating for four years. Since reentering the world dating another man, he's had to confront, at times, people's misconceptions about his bisexuality. "It's not just gay guys looking for more social acceptance," James said, noting that "Bi rights" has not really caught the public's attention in the same way as "gay rights".

Maxwell Hosford, bi trans dad of one, in Yakima Washington


Maxwell Hosford, who lives in Yakima, Washington, came out as bisexual when he was 13-years-old. "I was still questioning myself," he said "and the term bisexual seemed to fit me."

A year later, when he was 14, Maxwell also came out as trans. "I had heard about Chaz Bono on the radio one morning before school and it got me thinking," he said. "I realized that I wasn't the only one who felt that way and that there was a term for how I've felt."

Though people often conflate sexual orientation and gender identity, Maxwell stressed that he sees his identity as trans and bisexual as perfectly natural. "I see them interacting in a way of fluidity," he said. "Not straight but not gay. Just a feeling of love."

Maxwell described his path to parenthood as a bit of an accident. "I was on testosterone for two years but had a four-week break because i was switching doctors," he said. During that break, Maxwell ended up getting pregnant, and wasn't aware of the pregnancy for several months after. "I just thought my body was just being weird from starting T again," he said. Once he took the test and saw the two pink lines, though he knew his life was about to change forever. He went to Planned Parenthood the very next day.

Being pregnant while trans, Maxwell said, was an incredible experience. "I was comfortable enough with my gender identity that I didn't have very much dysphoria," he said, though he noted he did face a lot of misgendering from strangers. "But I understood that because I did have a big ole pregnant belly," he said. He was grateful for his medical team who all referred to him according to the correct pronouns.

Soon after, his son Harrison was born. As soon as he held him in his arms, Maxwell said the entire process was worth it. "All the misgendering, all the questions and people misunderstanding doesn't matter once you have that baby in your arms nothing matters but that little bundle of joy."

Three years ago, Maxwell met his current fiancé, Chase Heiserman, via a gay dating app, and the three now live together as a family. He says he couldn't be happier, but he does face some difficulty as a bi trans man within his broader community. "In some peoples eyes my fiancé and I are a straight couple because I'm trans and he's cisgender," he said. Some of the difficulty has even stemmed from other trans men. "I've had some bad comments from other transmen regarding my pregnancy and how it doesn't make me trans," he said, noting he continues to fight the perception that he is not "trans enough" because he chose to carry his own baby.

Through it all, though, Maxwell says becoming a father has been the biggest blessing in his life. "Being able to carry my baby and bond through those nine months was amazing," he said. "I'm breastfeeding, which is hard as I'm trans, and so I'm self conscious of my large breasts now but it's such a bonding experience that it doesn't matter when I see the look of love and the comfort he gets from it."

For other gay, bi and trans men considering fatherhood, Maxwell has this simple piece of advice: "Go for it."

Michael MacDonald, bi dad of two, in Monterery California 

Michael MacDonald, who is 28-years-old and living in Monterey California, says he came out as bisexual over two years ago. He has two daughters, who are four and two-and-a-half years old, that were born while he was married to his ex-wife. "My children are amazing," he said. "They have been so incredibly strong and brave having mom in one house and dad in another."

Both children were fairly young when Michael and his ex separated, so "they didn't really break a deeply ingrained idea of what a family unit is like. They have always just sort of known that mom and dad don't live together."

Co-parenting isn't always easy, Michael said, noting it's "one of the hardest things in the world." He and his ex overcome any potential difficulty, though, by always putting the children first. "As long as they are happy, healthy and loved, that is all that matters," he said. "I'm so fortunate to have such an incredible/pain in the butt partner to help me raise these amazing little girls."

Though the separation was hard on all of them, Michael said it's also been an amazing experience watching his children's resiliency. "I am so proud of the beautiful little people they are," he said. "Their adaptability, courage and love is something really spectacular."

Since the separation, Michael hasn't been in a serious relationship, but he has dated both men and women, something he says has been "absolutely challenging. Not only does he need to overcome all the typical challenges of a newly divorced parent ("Do they like kids? Would they be a good stepparent?") but also the added stresses of being bisexual. "It can sometimes just be a bit too much for some women to handle," he said.

He has been intentional about making sure his children have known, from a young age, that "daddy likes girls and boys," he said. "They have grown up seeing me interact with people I've dated in a romantic way, like hand holding, abd expressing affection, so I think as they get older it's not something that will ever really seem foreign or different to them to see me with a man or woman," he said.

In his dates with other men, Michael says most guys tend to be surprised to learn that he has biological children. "But once I explain that I am bisexual, it's usually much more easily understood," he said. He is more irritated, though, when people question or outright refuse to recognize his bisexuality. "While I understand and have witnessed many guys who use bisexuality as a "stepping stone" of sorts when coming out," he said, it does not mean that "bisexuality is not real or valid."

As a bisexual dad, he also says he can feel isolated at times within the broader parenting community. "It can be a little intimidating feeling like you don't really belong to one side or another," he said. "There's this huge network of gay parents, and, of course straight parents. Being sort of in the middle can sometimes create a feeling of isolation"

The biggest misconception about bisexual dads who have split with their wives, he said, is that sexual orientation isn't always the reason for the separation. "When my ex wife and I separated, while my bisexuality did play a small part in it, it was not the reason we separated," he said. He added that while life might not be perfect, it's good. "My children are happy, healthy, and loved," he said. "That's really what matters the most."

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse