Change the World

How Do Gay Dads Celebrate Black History Month?

We asked 12 gay dads to tell us what Black History Month means to them and how they celebrate in their households.

February is Black History Month in America. And although celebrating Black history, culture and people shouldn't be confined to just one month, it does ensure an opportunity to commemorate the heroic figures of Black men and women, and also increase visibility of Black life and history; two of Carter G. Woodson's goals when he created the concept in 1926.


As time has gone on, it has evolved from the initial one week celebration in accordance with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, to a month-long celebration. And it continues to go further.

"It's about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America," said President Obama in during the 2016 Black History Month reception. "It's about taking an unvarnished look at the past so we can create a better future. It's a reminder of where we as a country have been so that we know where we need to go."

We spoke with 12 families on how they choose to celebrate Black History Month in their household. Here are there responses:

Dads Clayton and Andy with daughter Lyla, New Orleans, Louisiana

From left to right: Clayton, Lyla and Andy; dads though adoption

"The older I get ... the more I am filled with pride about being Black and celebrating the work that my ancestors have done to allow me the life I have now."

Clayton on one of his Black role models: "My mother will always be my Black role model. When I think of the generations of Black women who endured pain, heartache and made countless sacrifices, I put my mother in that number. She raised six kids, all while working and making sure that we all were educated and had the essentials. She created a happy home for us with so little and I keep this in mind anytime I think about parenting. I celebrate her all year long!"

Clayton on his favorite thing about Black History Month: "The older I get, the more in tune and understanding I have with my Blackness, and the more I am filled with pride about being Black and celebrating the work that my ancestors have done to allow me the life I have now. I am excited to teach my daughter that with having a Black daddy and a White daddy, she gets to experience two different cultures while growing up and celebrating her own Blackness. I want her to embrace her version of being a Black girl in America while always knowing the story of Blacks in this country."

***

Dads Jeff and Brian with their son Carter, Hamden, Connecticut

From left to right: Jeff, Carter and Brian; dads through adoption

"No matter the color of your skin, a culture can be appreciated by anyone."

Jeff sharing a significant moment encountering Black history: "One of our first trip with Carter was an impromptu trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. After that we went for a late lunch and then a walk downtown and stumbled on to The President's House, and we learned about some of the slaves owned by George Washington. One in particular that stuck with me was a man named Hercules. It was a powerful moment in time for us that we still talk about."

Jeff on what Black History Month: "Definitely no matter the color of your skin, a culture can be appreciated by anyone."

***

Dads Chris and Nick with Ari and Baby K, Chicago, Illinois

From left to right: Nick, Ari, Chris and Baby K; dads through adoption and foster-adopt

"We want to raise our kids with a strong racial and positive cultural identity and for us that goes beyond buying books/toys where our kids can see themselves represented in diverse and positive ways"

How Nick and Chris celebrate Black History Month: "As White adoptive parents, we feel the spirit of Black History Month is something we need to strive for all year round, but during February we want to create extra space to celebrate Black art, history, and support Black owned businesses. This year we have planned to go to a special kid's story time reading of "My Hair is a Garden" by the author Cozbi A. Cabrera at a local bookstore. We want to raise our kids with a strong racial and positive cultural identity and for us that goes beyond buying books/toys where our kids can see themselves represented in diverse and positive ways, but making it a priority to ensure Black culture is reflected in the neighborhood we live in, schools they attend, and community we build for our family."

One their family's favorite quotes by a Black icon: "Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations." —Dr. Mae Jemison

***

Dads Antwon and Nate with Daughter K, Portland, Oregon

Antwon and daughter K; dads through foster care

"I hope she and I are a family long enough to travel to the Natural Portrait Gallery and look at the paintings of Michelle and Barack Obama. I'd give anything to watch her smile as she realizes that she truly can accomplish anything."

Antwon on his family plans to celebrate Black History Month: "This month, my foster daughter and I will be learning about how powerful our skin is, and how powerful it has been throughout history. I replay in my mind the poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou, where she says 'I am the dream and the hope of the slave.' That phrase is so powerful! I don't know how many Black History Month's K and I will have together, so I have to use this time to remind her that she's beautiful, that she's brilliant, and she has history to make. She naturally gravitates to historical figures that look like her, so we'll read stories and look at pictures of brave, talented, brilliant black women. I hope she and I are a family long enough to travel to the Natural Portrait Gallery and look at the paintings of Michelle and Barack Obama. I'd give anything to watch her smile as she realizes that she truly can accomplish anything."

Nate and daughter K

***

Dads Trey and Phil with Michael*, Seattle, Washington

From left to right: Phil, Michael* and Trey; dads through foster care

"We love Michelle and Barack in our house! We talk about them all the time, and they are an inspiration in terms of showing the world that Black families who are committed, stable, and loving exist and are thriving with amazing children."

Trey on his favorite Black History museum: "I recently was able to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. for the first time, and I can't wait to take Michael* there when he's older. They did such a great job painting an honest picture of our history; both the good and the bad. I also love that they included representation of Black gay men! I bought Michael* a Tuskegee Air Man doll and an MLK Jr. book that we'll read to him."

Trey on Black role models their family celebrates: "We love Michelle and Barack in our house! We talk about them all the time, and they are an inspiration in terms of showing the world that Black families who are committed, stable, and loving exist and are thriving with amazing children. I also love the greater exposure of Black gay dads in the media and seeing other families of color shining and unapologetically being themselves in their parenting life."

***

Dads DaRel and Charles with Braeden, Mitchellville, Maryland

From left to right: DaRel, Braeden and Charles; dads through adoption

"We plan to make sure that Braeden is continually exposed to lessons about his history and culture all year long."

DaRel and Charles' favorite children's book celebrating Black culture: "'Please, Baby, Please' by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. Braeden has always loved this book, and often requests that we read it several times in a row. We love the fact that both the authors and illustrator are Black, and that the characters allow our child to see himself represented on the page."

One of DaRel and Charles' favorite quotes from a Black icon: "You never know how or when you'll have an impact or how important your example can be to someone else." - Denzel Washington

***

Dads Terrell and Jarius with Ashton and Aria

From left to right: Ashton, Terrell, Jarius and Aria; dads through surrogacy

Photo credit: @amanda.marie.photo

"While we feel that Black History and culture should be celebrated and embraced year round, we love the knowledge and wisdom shared during this amazing time."

How Terrell and Jarius celebrate Black History Month: "Our family celebrates Black History Month by researching and learning of a different pioneer in African American culture at the end of each week. We hope to continue this tradition as our kids get older so that they are knowledgeable on Black History as well and understand the impact they can have on the world one day."

What is their family's favorite thing about Black History Month: "To see so many people embrace the culture is just amazing."

***

Dads Tarik and Jeff with Avery, New Rochelle, New York

From left to right: Jeff, Avery and Tarik; dads through adoption

"We want her to understand the history of African Americans in this country. And we want her to understand what being African American in this country means today."

Tarik on how their family celebrates Black History Month: "Avery is a little too young to understand what Black History Month is, but as she continues to grow and learn, we want her to understand the contributions African Americans have made to society. We want her to understand the history of African Americans in this country. And we want her to understand what being African American in this country means today."

Tarik on what Black History Month means to his family: "Avery is being raised in an interracial household, in a diverse area, around many different types of friends. Because of that, we're excited that she is going to learn about a range of cultures and types of people. As an African American girl with darker skin, she has to be raised to understand that she's important, that she matters, and that she can be whatever she wants to be. We are sure to take the time during Black History Month, and all year long, to reinforce that and show her as many great examples as we can."

***

Dads Jason and Patrick with Marian and Betty, Charlottesville, Virginia

From left to right: Marian, Patrick, Betty and Jason; dads through foster-adopt and adoption.

"For us, the Obama family is the ultimate example for all Americans about humility, responsibility and family values. The grace that they display and the honesty about their challenges as a family and a married couple are deeply inspiring."

Why Jason believes celebrating Black History Month is important? "It gives a formal structure for us to learn more about Black Americans who are and were instrumental to the making of this country. It's incredible how little attention is paid to the individuals of African descent throughout the year. This month, however short, is an opportunity to expand the conversation."

One of the ways that Jason and Patrick celebrate Black History Month: "My husband & I own two bakeries in Charlottesville and he is always creating stencils to put on the breads and cakes. This February, to celebrate Black History Month, our bread will feature a stencil of a different person from past or present who has shaped our country. Some will be well known, others a little more obscure to most Americans. Throughout this month we hope to showcase the indelible influence Black Americans have had at shaping the United States."

***

Kenneth and J.Maurice with Eli and Juan, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From left to right: J.Maurice, Eli, Juan and Kenneth; dads through foster-adopt

"We celebrate Black History Month by incorporating books about the lives of black historical figures into our daily reading."

One of the dads' favorite quotes by a Black icon: "Learn to deal with the valleys and the hills will take care of themselves." - Count Basie

J.Maurice and Kenneth on one of their Black role models: "Bill Cosby; despite his recent transgressions, in our household, Dr. Cosby single-handedly displayed to the world the complexities of African American culture and livelihood. As a child, "The Cosby Show" was the only true representation of my parental family unit on television. My husband and I have incorporated some of the traditions from the show within the makeup of our household (wearing college sweaters, exposure to Black art and frequent visits to our alma mater - Howard University)."

***

Dads Joe and Francois with Daphné and Axel, living in Larmor Plage, France

From left to right: Joe, Axel, Daphné and Francois; dads through surrogacy

"One place I'd love to visit with the kids, is the the national museum of African American history and culture. Since we moved overseas when the kids were 2 1/2 months, the African American side of their culture hasn't been as pronounced, so I am dying to get back and experience it for them and for myself, as well."

Joe on a Black icon who has impacted his life: "One person who I look to, as a father and as a human being, is Oprah. She is someone who walks the walk and talks the talk, and she firmly believes that you need to take care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually, to be able to take care of others. I wholeheartedly agree with that, and because of her, I've actually become more nurturing to my spiritual needs, and I've seen such change in how I'm present for my kids and husband."

One of the dads' favorite quotes by a Black icon: "'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.' - Maya Angelou. I try to remember this, especially when I'm stressed or frustrated, whether it be business, or bath time. I don't always succeed, but I think it's important to remember that sometimes it's better to be kind than to be right."

***

Dads Weston and Brandon with Xander and Zoe, Salt Lake City, Utah

From left to right: Xander, Brandon, Zoe and Weston; dads through adoption

"Black role models in our family are any Black person who is willing to share their experience with our family. Finding cultural mirrors for our children is not easy in Utah but the community here is robust and welcoming. To be honest, my biggest hero right now is the woman who does my daughters hair and makes her look like the natural princess she is."

Why this family believes Black History Month is important: "It reminds us to honor the cultural and historical path of our children's ancestry. But more importantly, Black History Month is important to us because it offers a chance for the rest of the country - particularly those privileged enough to not have just one month dedicated to their culture - to take a moment and reflect on the contributions that Black Americans have made to all our lives - and to all our collective culture - and to our nation's history. Black History Month is really for White people to work on humanizing the Black experience. Humanizing will absolutely result in happier humans, stronger communities, and saved lives. We celebrate Black History Month by doing what we can to spread the celebration beyond our family, after all, as parents of Black children we should be honoring our children's culture every single day. This year we encouraged our predominately White elementary school's student council to decorate the entry way with Black history, quotes, and inspiration. They are encouraging teachers to do something in their class to honor the month as well."

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News

World's First Sperm Bank Opens for HIV Positive Donors

Sperm Positive, started by three non-profits in New Zealand, hopes to end stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood

"Our donors have so much to give," say the promotional materials of a new sperm bank. "But they can't give you HIV."

The new sperm bank, Sperm Positive, launched on World Aids Day this year by three non-profits as a way to fight stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood. For years, scientists have known that those living with an undetectable level of HIV in their blood thanks to antiretroviral treatments can't transmit the virus through sex or childbirth. Yet discrimination and stigma persists.

The sperm bank exists online only, but will connect donors and those seeking donations with fertility banks once a connection is made on their site. Sperm Positive was started by three New Zealand non-profits — Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc. — who hope the project will help disseminate science-backed education and information about HIV and parenthood.

Already, three HIV positive men have signed up to serve as donors, including Damien Rule-Neal who spoke to the NZ Herald about his reasons for getting involved in the project. "I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," he told the Herald. "I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus."

We applaud the effort all around! To read more about our own efforts to end the stigma surround HIV and parenthood, check out our recent round-up of family profiles, resources, and expert advice that celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV here.

Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Navigating Race, Class and Sexuality as an Interracial Family

John Hart, a white gay man, writes about navigating race, class, and sexuality while raising his black 10-year-old son.

"Am I the only black person here?" my son leaned over to ask me quietly. We looked around the hockey arena which was filled mostly with men and boys. And indeed it was pretty white. And I didn't get a single ping off my gaydar.

"Am I the only gay person here?" I asked back.

It was a bonding moment for us, a little inside joke, and we smiled in amusement.

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Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Newly Out Gay Dad Feels 'Demoted' After Divorce

Cameron Call showed up to his first family Thanksgiving since coming out and getting a divorce — and struggles to find himself "stuck with the singles."

Cameron Call, who came out in summer 2019, has generously agreed to chronicle his coming out journey for Gays With Kids over the next several months — the highs, lows and everything in between. Read his first article here.

Denial is an interesting thing. It's easy to think you're potentially above it, avoiding it, assume it doesn't apply to you because you'd NEVER do that, or maybe you're just simply avoiding it altogether. After finally coming out, I liked to think that I was done denying anything from now on. But unfortunately that's not the case.

And this fact became very clear to me over Thanksgiving.

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Resources

New Report Details the 'Price of Parenthood' for LGBTQ People

A new report by the Family Equality Council takes a deep dive into the current state of cost for becoming a parent as an LGBTQ person

Parenthood is expensive. But parenthood while queer is still prohibitively costly for so many segments of the LGBTQ community interested in pursuing a family, according to a new repot by the Family Equality Council, titled, "Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood."

Among the more interesting findings was this one: the cost of family planning is relatively similar for all LGBTQ people, regardless of income level. This shows "that the desire to have children exists regardless of financial security," the report's authors conclude.

Research for the report was conducted through an online survey of 500 LGBTQ adults over the age of 18, and was conducted between July 11-18, 2018. For comparison, the survey also included 1,004 adults who did not identify as LGBTQ.

Other interesting findings of the report include:

  • 29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, and error associated with question-wording and response options.29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Regardless of annual household income, 45-53% of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family. Those making less than $25,000 a year are considering becoming parents at very similar rates as those making over $100,000.
  • Data from the Family Building Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ households making over $100,000 annually are considering the full range of paths to parenthood, from surrogacy and private adoption to foster care and IVF. The most popular options under consideration in this income bracket are private adoption (74% are considering), foster care (42%), and IVF or reciprocal IVF (21%). At the other end of the economic spectrum, for LGBTQ+ individuals in households making less than $25,000 annually, the most commonly considered paths to parenthood are intercourse (35% are considering), foster care (30%), and adoption (23%).

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

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Gay Dad Life

Broadway Performer's Surrogacy Journey Briefly Sidetracked — for One Very 'Wicked' Reason

"Broadway Husbands" Stephen and Bret explain the exciting reasons they had to hit pause on their surrogacy journey — but don't worry, they're back on track!

In the latest video of the Broadway Husbands sharing their path to fatherhood, Stephen and Bret explain their hiatus for the past 4 months. The couple have big news to share including a relocation, a job announcement, and the fact that they're getting ready to restart their journey (which they had to take a brief pause from since September).

Watch their video to find out their latest news.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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