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.


I was shellshocked when I first left my partying lifestyle. It was 2007 and Douglas and I were only in our first year together. We both had a lot of growing to do. Not only did I smoke cigarettes, but I also smoked pot. Not to justify my reasoning or excuse my actions, but to put it "bluntly," it helped with getting over my brother's death. He died in 2005 and, obviously, that experience lands the top spot for the hardest things I have ever had to do or get over.

I was seeing a therapist at the time and she told me to start working out. She said it helps tremendously with depression. So, I took her advice to heart and went out and bought a really cute bike. The next day I started biking to the gym... right after I watched The Price is Right. Hey, don't laugh. That's my program! Everyone has their morning routine and mine is espresso and The Price is Right. Those of you that know me personally are nodding your heads right now.

The live oak trees

After The Price is Right, I would hop on my bike and start the ride. On the way I would listen to the Forest Gump soundtrack station. Hey! Don't hate! It really is such relaxing and peaceful music. Check it out.I would bike under all the century-old live oaks in Uptown. The smells of the flowers, freshly cut grass, the views, the peace, the thoughts. I would get lost in my music and meditate. I would ponder life. I would think about where Douglas and I were at in our relationship. I would think about the future and where we were going. Where we'd be in 10 years. Would we make it? Would we ever get married? Would we own the house with a white picket fence? Would we have babies one day? I would lay out my dreams as I peddled my bike and try to connect the stars to make them align. How could we make our dreams happen? What could I do to be a better person? Then, I would get to the gym and have the most hardcore, adrenaline rushed workout ever (FYI I change the radio station at the gym, Forest Gump is only on the bike.)

The first year of my new workout routine was incredible! I was not only seeing results in my body, but I also stopped having nightmares about my brother. Things just started to feel right. However, I would run on the treadmill and have to stop and cough because of the smoking. My boss at the time was very outspoken about my smoking habit. He would tell me how gross it was and that I should quit. Hearing that from him and other people in the context of having to stop for coughing breaks during my workout prompted me to finally quit.

It took about a year of my new morning routine to really help prepare me for this new chapter. On New Year's Eve of 2008 at 11:58 pm, I had my very last cigarette. Honestly, I wish I could say that the gym was my only guiding light to quitting but I would be lying. Pot also helped. Yes, yes, I know. I was replacing one habit with another. But that worked for me. Sure, there are people that judged me. There were people that looked down on me. One year led to another and before long I was 5 years stronger without cigarettes and my body and self-confidence had completely transformed into something I had never had before.

By now it was 2012 and my fitness routine had become second nature. But I started noticing that when we would travel to see family across the country I would go through full on pot withdrawal. I mean, I wouldn't dare bring weed to the airport, right? So I would do without it for the duration of our trip. To put it mildly, it was torture. I've heard many people say that you don't go through withdrawals from marijuana. That is absurd. You absolutely go through withdrawals. I would literally break out into sweats at the sight or smell of food and I would randomly barf throughout the trip. It was a nightmare, and it happened every time I had to leave town without weed. So to make things better, I chose not to leave again! What an excellent idea, right? (palm to face)

From 2012 to 2014 I never went further than a car ride from New Orleans. I truly thought that was the remedy to make things better. Then, Douglas asked me to go to Europe. He planned a European vacation that sounded amazing! We were to fly into Ireland, then on to Paris, Switzerland, Venice, and Rome. I was elated but also terrified. How could I travel having pot!? Well, I knew there was no way in hell that I was going to spend 3 weeks in Europe feeling sick to my stomach. I knew that I would have to either stay home and be a prisoner of my bad habits or break the chains and become free to do what and when I wanted!

On March 4, 2014, I stopped smoking pot. That is the 3rd hardest thing I have ever done. This upcoming March 4th will be my 5th year clean. It literally felt like I broke the shackles off of my hands and feet and gained complete control of my life. I learned that the herb Valerian Root helps tremendously. To this day, I still take it every night.

Europe was breathtaking. Paris has always been my most favorite city in the world, and finally I was able to see why. Saying goodbye to cigarettes and pot was the best things I have ever done. Sure, there are times that I miss them both... but the moments pass and I am okay again.

Today I am thankful. So, so thankful. I had no idea what was waiting on us around the corner in 2015. That year really took us by surprise. We had the opportunity to become first time home owners! For that to happen, we'd move about 30 minutes away. That meant my morning routine would end. My daily bike ride to the gym unfortunately come to a close. Many people may say, so what! Buy the house! Well, we did.

I learned to adapt. I didn't bother to bike nor look for a gym. I did the next best thing. I went to Costco and bought a treadmill. Just like the Flock of Seagulls song, I ran. This routine wasn't the same, but I made it work. About 2 month after we moved into our new house, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage! So we jumped in the car and went downtown to get our marriage license!

On August 1st, on our 9th anniversary together, we were married in Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

Erik (right) and Douglas' wedding in Jackson Square

Photo credit: BSA Photography

Our honeymoon was in Disney World and it was perfect! I couldn't believe this was my life. And then, literally 3 months later, we got the call that shook us to our bones. We were going to be dads. We were in shock. We were told our wait would be 5 years for a baby- and that time shrank into being 3 and 1/2 weeks! Our baby girl was a preemie, so she needed to get stronger in the NICU. And on December 4th of 2015 we brought our itty bitty baby girl home.

The year 2015 was the year all the stars aligned for us. It still feels surreal to think about. Then in 2017 our second daughter was born. By then, I was lucky if I could get 30 minutes of running in. It took a while to learn my rhythm. One waist size grew into another and before long I felt like I was the Pillsbury Doughboy. However, something happened on Ella's first birthday. We found out that we were going to move back Uptown. Not only Uptown, but blocks from where we used to live! We were overjoyed. Douglas would be 4 minutes from the hospital where he works, and only 8 minutes away from the girls' nursery school.

The house was a dream, the location was perfect but for me the highlight was being able to get on my bike, put on my headphones... and yes- listen to the Forest Gump station while riding my same exact route to the gym I had gone for so many years before. I felt like I was channeling my inner Maxine Waters. I was "reclaiming my time."

The night the dads brought Alli Mae home

My bike ride under the live oaks.

This time, the ride was different. It was like I was transported back to 2008. Each familiar song that would play as I passed by the same houses on the same streets under the same trees-- it was like I could hear my thoughts from years ago still echoing in the live oaks. What would our lives be like in 10 years? Where will we be living? Would we have more babies? I had goosebumps. My life had came full circle. And it all started on this bike route. Wow, the universe is amazing.

Some people ask, "when is it my turn? What about my life?" Everyone's path is revealed for different reasons at different times. For me, it was when I put my own selfish desires away and focused on what was truly important. That is when my life began. That is when all my stars aligned.

***

I would love for you to follow our family's journey!

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"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.

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(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

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