Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Why This Gay Dad Always Dreaded Parent-Teacher Conferences

With his kids well into their twenties, Jim Joseph gets nostalgic watching friends post back-to-school images of pics of their kids trick-or-treating. One thing he doesn't miss though? The dreaded parent-teacher conference.

I know that social media has gotten a lot of flak in the last couple of years, mostly because of its political tendencies and political, shall we say, drama. Sure, I'm acutely aware of that. But there's a part of social media that is still exceedingly fun and rewarding, and I've been enjoying it a lot lately.

It's been so much fun seeing all of my friends and colleagues with their families during this year's back-to-school and Halloween festivities. School uniforms, backpacks, bake sales, fundraisers, and, of course, Halloween costumes.

I'm getting the chance to relive the years when I did all of that when my kids were young (they are now well into their '20's now!). I miss it. A lot.


But I will say that there's one thing that I don't miss: Parent/Teacher Conferences. I've been seeing a lot of commentary about those too, and I have to be honest and say that those memories aren't nearly as pleasant.

At least not for me, not by a long shot.

You have to understand that I was a divorced, single, gay father back at a time when none of those things were acknowledged, accepted, or embraced. Today we have Facebook and Instagram to shine a festive light on all of our families during these universal moments, but back in my day I was completely in the dark. Not in the closet, but in the dark. All by myself. Cue the Celine Dion song.

So you can imagine, every new school year I would have to face a new teacher and, in some cases, a new batch of parents. I'd have to explain who I was and who we were, often multiple times with looks of disbelief all along the way.

I always made it a matter of course to let the teachers know the situation…I always assumed that if they "knew" me then they'd accept me, and they'd accept and protect my children. For the most part, I'm happy to say that it was true. It's harder to hate and ridicule someone when you really know them. I tried my best to make sure that the parents, administrators, and teachers "knew me." That way they'd accept and include my kids.

But I have to say it was hard. I'm not ashamed to say that it was hard. The hardest thing I've ever had to do…any day at work is a piece of cake compared to that. It's really hard when you're one of a kind, especially in that environment. Perhaps any environment, but when it's your kids' happiness (and emotional safety) at stake then the stakes get really high.

Every school year, without fail, the shocking truth would always come out at the dreaded Parent/Teacher Conference. Every single year. Ugh. That's when I'd have to address "it." Address me. Address our family. Yes, I'm divorced. Yes, I'm an active father. Yes, I'm gay. Yes, I know that's usual. Yes, all of the above. I get it. And every single year I still had to do it.

The kids were generally well-behaved and good students, so that wasn't a worry. Their social acceptance because of me was my worry. Imagine having to deal with that? I'm sure you can.

And many still do. Every single year, every single day. It hasn't ended, it's just that there are more of us around so that we don't quite feel in the dark so much anymore. We don't feel quite so alone anymore. And there are more of us around to share our stories and serve as role models. We can thank social media for that. We can thank Gays with Kids for that!

I wish I had that back in the day. I'm so glad that you all with small kids have that now. Good luck this school year!

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

Retired NFL Player Reveals He, His Husband and Ex-Wife Live and Raise Kids Together

Former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jeff Rohrer says "we get in fights" thanks to the unique co-parenting arrangement, but that they're "doing the best we can."

Former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jeff Rohrer, who played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1982 to 1989, came out as gay not long ago and became the first NFL player to marry another man, Joshua Ross. Jeff is a father of two teenage boys, who he had with his ex-wife, Heather Rohrer. In a recent interview with People, Jeff, Joshua and Heather discussed their unique co-parenting situation.

"It wasn't that Jeffrey came out to me, but once I figured it out, it was obvious he was gay," Heather said. "He thought it was wrong; he was so angry. He thought his children wouldn't love him, that he'd lose his job. I tried to help him. I kept trying to tell him it was okay, that it was no big deal. But it was to him."

Today, all three adults live together, along with their two children, Isabella, 16, and Dondillon, 15.

"We get in our fights, but we find a way to make up. We're just trying to do the best that we can," Joshua said.

"Jeff and Josh are my family, and we're a better team together than apart," Heather said for her part. "Being together for the kids is the important thing for us. It's been difficult to get to this place, but it's worth it."

Read the entire piece on People.

Gay Dad Life

Gay Muslim Single Dad Writes Op Ed on His Path to Self Acceptance

Maivon Wahid writes about the challenges of reconciling three separate, but equally important, identities in an opinion piece for Gay Star News

Maivon Wahid, a gay Muslim single dad living in Fiji, wrote an opinion piece for Gay Star News about the challenges he's faced on his road to self acceptance.

"I feel pressure on how I am supposed to behave and how I am perceived," he wrote oh how these competing identities play out for him, day to day.

Maivon described himself as an "odd" kid, who never quite fit in--something he still relates to today as an adult. "When I enter the masjid (mosque), I am always judged and questioned," he wrote. "Sometimes it's curiosity, but sometimes it's borderline bullying." He said he found a way to be both gay and Muslim, three years ago, when he met an openly gay Imam at a conference in Australia. "It was through him I was able to first appreciate who I was, then love who I had become and celebrate it."

Being gay in Fiji, he says also makes him feel the need to hide certain parts of himself. "In Fiji, I find the need to hide so many aspects of my authentic being," he wrote.

He also wrote of complications familiar to many single gay men who became dads from previous straight relationships. He writes: "As a single parent to the most beautiful son – I was married to my ex-wife for nine years – learning to become and celebrate the person you want to be is about more than just me; it's a legacy I want to leave for him and the next generation. Although it's hard to meet like-minded people (my dating life is non-existent!), in being myself, I believe I can show others it's OK to be you, and to love whoever you want to love."

Ultimately, despite the challenges he's faced, Maivon says he has found a way to reconcile these three identities into one. "Whether you're gay, Muslim or a single parent – or all three – there is a place and space for everyone," he wrote. "I have found my place in Islam, and am comfortable being the best version of gay I can be. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

Read the whole article here.


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

Do We Have a Biological Right to Fatherhood? Absolutely, Says This Gay Dad

Jay Bostick, a gay foster dad, responds to Kevin Saunders' controversial essay "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children"

Editor's Note: Below is an essay by Jay Bostick who eloquently lays out many of the reasons why he and many other readers were upset by a post we ran yesterday by Kevin Saunders titled, "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children." This post clearly touched a nerve! (Check out the ongoing discussion on our Facebook page.) While some of our readers appreciated Saunders' viewpoint, many others felt slighted by his reasoning for not having children, calling him everything from "self-involved," "selfish," and an "insufferable narcissist." Many other readers rightly questioned why Gays With Kids would even run an essay from a man who does not want children on (of all place) a parenting website.

The former point is a matter of opinion, but I'll offer some clarification on the latter. We agreed to run this post for two reasons. First, Saunders' perspective is unique among many adopted gay men. We have run countless essays on this site featuring adopted gay men who, inspired by their own upbringing, decided to give back by opening up their homes to children who need them. Saunders' experience, however, led him to conscience decision not to have children, a perspective worthy of discussion particularly by anyone who has been touched by adoption in some way. Secondly, as a 52-year-old gay man, Saunders is starting to find himself alienated from many in his LGBTQ peer group for his decision not to have kids. Again, we are so much more familiar with the opposite perspective on our page: when they become parents, many gay men find themselves ostracized from the broader, childless LGBTQ community. That the inverse is also starting to become true is a testament to the increase in LGBTQ parents in the United States, and an interesting dichotomy we believed warranted further exploration.

All that said, Saunders' essay is a matter of opinion, and one our readers (nor we) certainly don't have to agree with. This is why we were thrilled to receive this "counterpoint" to Saunders's essay from Bostick. We, at least, are enjoying the respectful exchange of ideas, and hope you are as well. Give Bostick's essay a read, as well as the original, and then let us know what you think in the comments or at dads@gayswithkids.com.

--David Dodge, Managing Editor

Keep reading... Show less
Adults

Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children

Do we have a biological right to parenthood? Kevin Saunders, a childless 52-year-old gay man, says no.

Guest post written by Kevin Saunders.

Two dear friends of mine, each partnered, capable gay men of relatively sound mind and body, have recently decided to become fathers, and I could not be more unnerved. The expense, the risk, the potential for disappointment, the logistical complexity that they must navigate leave me baffled and at times enraged with the lingering question that I have, out of respect, refrained from asking, "WHY, WHY, WHY do you want to do this?!" These feelings toward what most would consider a happy occasion beg a reciprocal enquiry: "Why do you care?" The answer is rooted in a disposition and a history that has left me skeptical of the innate right to biological parenthood that many, gay or straight, seem to feel entitled to.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Gays WITHOUT Kids (If Just For a Day...)

Andrew Kohn explains why he decided to leave his kids at home this Pride

I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Antwon and Nate became dads through the foster care system. Nine months after becoming licensed, they received a call on a Tuesday, and two days later, their daughter moved in. "It was very quick," said Nate. "Honestly, it was more just shock and nervousness for me."

As new parents, Nate took unpaid leave for two weeks, before going back to work part-time. Antwon didn't receive any leave.

"It's definitely important to have time off to bond, but it's also important to be financially stable when you do it," said Antwon. "I don't think you should have to choose between staying financially afloat or showing your kid love... and I don't think anyone should have to make that choice."

Only 15% of dads in the U.S. have access to paid paternity leave. We want to change this.

Watch Nate and Antwon's video to find out how:

Sign the pledge: www.dovemencare.com/pledge

Like Antwon and Nate, we're helping Dove Men+Care advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads! Over the next three months, we will be sharing stories of gay dad families and their paternity leave experience. Our goal is to get 100,000 folks to sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Dove Men+Care has collected over 30,000 signatures on the Pledge for Paternity Leave in three short months, in a mission to champion and support new legislation for federally mandated paid leave laws in the U.S. With the conversation growing on Capitol Hill, Dove Men+Care will target key legislators to drive urgency behind paid paternity leave policy and provide a social proof in the form of real dad testimonials, expert research and signature support from families across the country.

Our goal is to help Dove Men+Care bring 100,000 signatures to key policymakers in Washington, D.C. for their Day of Action on the Hill, and drive urgency behind this issue.

If you believe *ALL* dads should receive paid paternity leave, sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse