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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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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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A "Village of Women" Helped These Gay Men Become Dads

Elliot Dougherty's mother-in-law served as a gestational carrier, and his sister donated eggs, so that he and his husband could become dads

All good love stories start hot. Ours just so happened to, literally. The summer I turned 23, during the sweltering heat, I stood at an invisible crossroads. I felt a momentum pulling at me, but I couldn't tell from which direction. I had been putting myself out there as a hairstylist and building my portfolio by working with local photographers and designers. At the beginning of July, I received a Facebook message from a young man named Matthew Eledge. He sent me the script to a short film he was directing, hoping I might be interested. We met a few days later on a humid summer day at a quaint French cafe in the Old Market of downtown Omaha. Drinking wine, we discussed our inspirations for hours.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad's Letter to His Sons Before Their First Day of Summer Camp

A gay dad pens a heartfelt letter to his sons before their first day of sleep-away camp

My dearest Phoenix and Sebastian,

Whether I let you leave this year or next or hold you in our nest for the next ten years, at some point I actually have to face my own fears. The past seven years have been both the most rewarding and yet also the toughest I have lived. And as any good parent tells you, it gets tougher and tougher. But through this year, I have witnessed your growths, and more so your wants and needs. With that said, it's time for you to take independence head on. Yes, you will fall and yes, you will make mistakes, but that's normal for any human. It's what you do when this occurs that makes you a gentleman. Learn from your mistakes, don't repeat them. Own them and build on them to make you a better member of society.

Why I am writing this? Well, you guys are off to sleep away camp in four weeks and every day it gets closer and closer to me losing control. So much so that I won't have any control left. And that, kids, scares me. Yes, this is the camp I went to in my teens and yes, the staff and owners are friends from the past. But seven weeks is a long time and I am losing not only my two sons for this period, but also my friends. I am now forced to actually talk to Papa (partially kidding) or probably more likely live in a quieter-than-usual house. It's funny how you yearn for peace and quiet until you have it and then you realize how deafening it is.


Now, camp was such an instrumental part of my life, shaping everything I have accomplished to date and it's such a gift to be able to provide you both the same experience. We should all feel humbled and grateful. The emotions, the friendships, and the love of the fresh air will be unsurmountable. The key is to keep your head up and your eyes wide open. Listen to what people are asking of you. If you're unsure, use your voice. Be kind every step of the way. Take risks with caution. You both are so great with making friends, both young and old. But being in a community with many walks of life, 24 hours a day, is not easy—it can be quite challenging. So, what do you do? Turn this into a positive, allowing yourself to simply work on you being you. This "you" needs to be a productive citizen within this microcosm. Look for guidance. Find counselors and kids that not only challenge you, but also help you along the way. We all need assistance, every day of our lives, and it's imperative for you to be able to vocalize this in a manner that will provide the fruit you desire.

On the other hand, there are so many things that I can't teach you. These things you must learn on your own and I do believe this environment in which you will live in is the right place for you to experience all these things. Phoenix—make right choices. You are the sweetest and kindest person I know. Open your heart to everyone. You are so good at that. But also follow instructions. Not too aggressive, my young knight. Don't deviate too much from the path, my friend. And look out for your brother. Help him when he needs it. Sebastian—we worry about you. Make the right choices. And get dressed faster! You're too slow. Also, be flexible. Life is not a race and one has to be able to separate competition and sportsmanship. If you don't get your way, you will be fine. Sometimes that's how the cookie crumbles.

But just as you are working on what I mentioned above, I will be working on not only my own inner being, but also repairing and reinvigorating daddy and papa's relationship. Although you both have and will continue to be of utmost importance in our lives, our connection has taken a back seat to your progress. And selfishly, it is time for Andy and I to just be, as we started 13 years ago. Life is funny and it's only as you age that you develop some element of some wisdom to actually see some of it. But it's the foundations of situations, like sleep-away camp, that truly build the LEGO pieces to your future.

Now, over the last 30 days, I have asked you both random questions to truly understand if you are prepared to go to sleep-away camp this summer. And to my surprise, your answers do indeed show your readiness. Some examples that have made me smile are below. The last being my favorite.

  1. What happens when you wipe your tushy and there's poop on the toilet paper? Seb - put the dirty toilet paper in the toilet bowl.
  2. If you feel a bug on your face attempting to bite you, what would you do? Phx - quickly grab it, catch it in my hand, and gently place it back on the ground, alive.
  3. What happens if you don't know how to do something? Seb - ask a counselor. Seb then asks - what happens if the counselor doesn't know the answer? Can they ask Siri?

So, no, Siri won't be at camp, but the resources for you are abundant and I can't wait to see, to hear, and to watch your progresses, and more so see your independence that will shape the rest of your life. So, with that, yes, I will be crying when the bus departs, but just know it's out of happiness. I know it's the best for all of us and I wish you well, my boys. Enjoy the world. Life is too short not to. And please make sure you wipe your ass clean. Daddy's a well-known proctologist. 😂

Love,

Daddy

Fun

Gay Dad Penguins Strike Again! This Time in Berlin Zoo

The latest male penguins to care for an egg together are Skipper and Ping in the Berlin Zoo.

First, there was Roy and Silo — the two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that served as inspiration for the famous children's book And Tango Makes Three. Then Magin Sphen got together in Sydney, where aquarium keepers gave the cocks (Calm down, that's what a male penguin is called!) a foster egg to care for.

And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

"They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

Read the whole article on DPA here.

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.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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