Travel

Gay Dads Experiencing Southern Hospitality

When people ask us for our favorite places to return to, we’re pretty quick with our answers: Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, Disneyland, Georgia and Florida … Georgia and Florida? Like, the South? Yes, it’s true. On our own blog, we’ve written about how the South is changing and how it’s worth giving it a second chance, and we hold to that. What is it about family travel in the South that these gay dads keep going back for? We’ll tell you: history, warmth and exposure.


A little history – The South is some old country. We live on the West Coast of the USA, so don’t have many old buildings or cool, historical forts to visit. We get those things when we hit up the Southeast. 

And if you don’t know much about United States history, here’s a quick snippet about the area: from colonization until the Civil War in the 1860s there was slavery. It was intense, it was awful and it was everywhere, but mostly in the South in the Confederacy. Fast forward to the 50s and 60s when the Civil Rights Movement took hold and the world opened up for non-white folks all over. Things have gotten progressively better, but there are still loads of issues and tons of folks who still hold onto racial tensions strongly. 

Chris and their youngest son at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia

Story: We went to Stone Mountain Park outside of Atlanta. It was a beautiful day to snap some family travel photos at sunset looking out at the Atlanta skyline. It was also a great day for Confederate sympathizers to hold a protest against the placement of a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. monument on the mountain. While we only caught the end of the protest, it was a reminder of where we were and that this same group has strong animosity towards families like ours and that they’ve taken violent action in the past towards members of the LGBT community.

Do you know what else is in the South? A lot of churches. A lot. The nickname for the region is the Bible Belt. This is both good and bad. It’s wonderful because you have very strong communities who really make southern hospitality shine as bright as can be. It’s bad because many, many, many of these communities remain set in their exceptionally conservative ways. What does this mean for us as a gay family traveling through these communities? It actually doesn’t mean too much. I know, you were expecting something dramatic, but it’s not really. Sure, we definitely get the standard looks that any gay dads are (sadly) used to and we get the long pauses before people ask us questions or start to say something family-oriented, but we’ve not experienced much that’s outright awful.

Chris and his son running into the surf at Jacksonville Beach

Story: Chris was pushing our youngest in the stroller trying to get him to sleep while were having a day at Jacksonville Beach, Florida. There was a man holding a sign up to him telling him to repent of his sins. The end. Nothing more happened, but it was awkward and reminded us that even the beach is in the South. You’ll experience that odd interaction in any city no matter who you are. It wasn’t just because we were the only gays with kids at the beach, but it again reminded us that we were in the South.

Warm water … and people – We mentioned before that the strong sense of community in the South is behind the well known southern hospitality, but that hospitality goes beyond that. We’ve stayed in several hotels in the South. Recently we stayed at the Casa Marina Hotel in Jacksonville Beach and were welcomed without question. The staff in the hotel and the different restaurants we dined at were all super friendly and treated us like normal customers. It was great not to have awkward questions about “Where’s their mom?” or “So, who’s the father?” during dinner. Yeah, that sometimes happens at really inappropriate times from servers in restaurants … but not when we were in Florida!

Rob on Jacksonville Beach, Florida, with his eldest

Story: The one awkward moment of being gays with kids in a restaurant actually came from some other guests, and it wasn’t even to our face. Our oldest and I simply said hello as we passed a group of ladies and then sat back down at our table. Immediately I heard one say to another, “My sister is a lesbian now. I don’t know when that happened …” And then there was me SMH (“shakin’ my head”). I’m sure that’s the perception of many around the globe regarding the LGBT community, but when it’s said with a Southern accent, it’s, well, it is what it is.

Rob and his youngest son playing with Spanish moss at Fort Frederica National Monument, St. Simons Island, Georgia

We did have completely ideal interactions with every guest service, restaurant and tour employee when we went to St. Simons Island, Georgia on that same trip. And every single person we met, hotel guests or random strangers, was completely congenial and didn’t give us a second thought, and if they did, we didn’t catch it. We stayed at the King and Prince Hotel directly on the beach, watching all kinds of people playing in the surf daily and there didn’t seem to be any families like ours anywhere. Even though our perception was that we were a novelty among the rest of the Island’s population, we sure didn’t feel like it. 

Story: When we checked into our hotel and I said that my husband and kids were in the car I got the best reaction ever: “Okay, I’ll hurry so you guys can go relax …” There wasn’t a drop of a questioning tone or a second look. I was sure to refer to my “husband and kids” because as a travel writer, I am always looking for what could go wrong or could be wonderful. The King and Prince Hotel staff passed every test, thank goodness.

St. Simons Island Lighthouse, Georgia

Exposure - We’re not talking about spending too much time in the sun and getting burned to a crisp, but exposing the world around us to us, gays with kids. For our family, that’s a big motivator for traveling out: to show the world that we’re a fun, normal family just like anybody. Going places like the Southern USA, we’re an obvious minority and might be the only gay dads many people will see in who knows how long. In our blog, our tagline is “2 dads raising their 2 sons and traveling the globe, giving the kids a broad worldview.” It’s true that the kids are benefiting from our travels too. Yes, others get to meet us and see that we’re different from them, but the kids also are learning that the world beyond Seattle isn’t a liberal, welcoming, inclusive place. We don’t want our kids to fear the world, but we strive for them to understand the many views people they’ll meet will have. 

It’s true that traveling to a highly religious area may hold some surprises for kids. It’s also true that history can be tough to break from even when it’s morally bankrupt, but in either case it’s our job to prep the kids for their own adventures someday.

Taylor family at Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Overall, the South is a great family travel experience for these gay dads and their kids. We’ll keep going back and enjoying all that there is to do and see, all of the people who there are to meet, and all of the food that we don’t get at home (but that’s a whole other article to write). We want gay families to feel encouraged and empowered to venture someplace new, but proceed with your wits about you. Go show the world that LGBT families are a part of society and that we love to enjoy new places just as much as anybody else. And you know, the South is a great place to discover and enjoy.

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Travel

5 Fabulous Tips From Gay Dads for Vacationing with Kids

A family vacation with young kids is harder a vacation at all... unless you head this advice from our seasoned gay dads travelers!

It's the summer holidays, and that means family vacation! Now, vacations with kids under 8 might make you break out in a cold sweat, but we've got some tips for you from fellow gay dads to help make family trips easier. From road travel to flying, to helpful planning hints while away, these dads have got you covered.

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Travel

The Golden Age of Vacationing With Kids

WARNING: BUCKLE UP, YOU'RE ABOUT TO READ WAY TOO MANY GOLDEN GIRLS REFERENCES.

Ever feel like you need a vacation from your family vacation? For years, we did too. But I'm happy to report that we don't anymore. So what caused the big shift? I'll get to that. First, a little background.

For years, taking our son Max on road trips had its fair share of, shall I say, challenges. From New York City to London to San Francisco to Vegas… we traveled down the road and back again. And while we made wonderful memories along the way… these trips weren't entirely wonderful. Whether it was Max's inflexible sleep schedule, his limited food palate, potty training, his disinterest in walking or his inability to fully express himself, it never quite felt like a real vacation because we never got to actually relax. But now that Max is almost nine years old, we decided to give it another go… and so we booked a much-needed respite in Florida with one goal in mind — cheesecake — okay, two goals: we wanted to catch our breath!

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A Disney vacation is, for many, a once or twice in a lifetime experience. There's a gazillion articles full of Disneyland tips out there but our fresh take comes off of our first trip to Disneyland as a family of four. And gosh did we learn a lot.

Where to stay at Disneyland

The biggest cost for a family when visiting Disneyland what is of course either the transportation to Southern California or the actual Park tickets depending on how many days you are going. Lodging at Disneyland is also expensive, but there are ways to make sure that you are spending your money wisely.

I'm sure this is obvious to most people booking a Disneyland trip but staying in one of the three Disney properties is going to run you the highest hotel bill. There are lots of Good Neighbor Hotels very close to the park from which you can either walk or take the Anaheim Resort Transit. Book a good neighbor hotel and it doesn't even have to be one of the nicest ones, because seriously, how much time are you actually going to spend in your hotel? You are there to be either in Disneyland or California Adventure so just be sure that you pick a property that has great ratings for cleanliness and is close enough for how your family will spend their days.

When to go to Disneyland

One of the most common Disneyland tips we see is when to go to Anaheim with your family. There are a few different ways to determine what is going to be the right time when the parks aren't too crowded. Here are three tips to help you pick your dates for a Disneyland family trip.

Here in the United States we don't have a lot of holiday weeks. But we do have common periods when schools let out for mid-year breaks. This is the prime time for many families to make the journey to Disneyland. This is also when you will find the largest crowds and longest wait times for your favorite rides. If you're cool with pulling your kids out of school, pick a time when most schools, particularly in Southern California, hour in session. This might not coincide with your own kids' spring or winter break, but it'll be a great opportunity to have smaller crowds and win loads of awesome parent points for pulling your kids out of school.

Annual pass blackout days

If you are not familiar with Disneyland and its annual pass situations this might sound strange. There are different types of passes that Southern California residents and Beyond can purchase. Each pass has a different set of blackout dates during which they cannot use their passes for the parks. If you research the dates when the most number of passes are blacked out you may hit the jackpot for being at the park with a smaller crowd than usual.

True, blackout dates exist because that's when more people want to be at Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure, but keeping in mind vacationers philosophies about missing crowds and knowing it's busy paired with restrictions on passes and you will find the perfect balance of small crowds and swift lines.

Seasonal transitions

One of our favorite times to be in Disneyland is during holiday time. This is that special moment between Halloween and New Year's (or slightly after) that the park is decked out in lights, wreaths, and trees. Not only is it more festive than you can imagine but also plays off of the first tip we gave: a lot of kids are in school so not a lot of families traveling to Disneyland.

Saving money in the parks

You'd be surprised at all the different ways you'll spend money when you visit Disneyland. It's a lot more than just Park admission and accommodations. From dining in the Parks and random souvenirs, to necessities you didn't plan on that you have to purchase once inside, you can save.

Saving on dining

If you read a lot of family travel articles you'll find people praising and criticizing the families who always have their own snacks with them. Well, this is a necessary step to take both for saving money in Disneyland and for making sure the kids are happy. I don't know about you but our kids get hangry in a heartbeat. There's nothing quite like a hungry, angry child to ruin your magical memories. Be prepared with snacks in your pack at all times. It saves money and heartache.

For mealtime Disneyland tips, we'll tell you that the best options are the ones that are easy and a little out of the way. Does that not make sense? Basically, where the menus have simple options and ample seating you will find the swiftest and most cost-effective dining options. Example: The Hungry Bear Cafe in critter country keeps it simple with burgers or wraps. The menu is small and the cast members are efficient. There is a ton of seating and you can be in and out in a heartbeat for less than dining in one of the full service restaurants. Our favorite quick service dining option is Flo's V8 Cafe in Cars Land (Disney's California Adventure).

Saving on unplanned purchases

Does anybody ever plan to be stuck in Disneyland in the rain? No. But after one experience you'll know that you need to have an umbrella or a rain poncho at the ready. As silly as they are ponchos are the greatest invention ever for a rainy day in Disneyland. This is one of the Disneyland tips that we didn't listen to on our first trip there during a February long ago... and we were drenched.

Another way to save is by traveling with a backup battery/power bank to recharge your devices while you're in the Parks. Disneyland does have portable chargers that you can rent for a certain fee over the course of your visit, but do you want to spend $30 at a charging station when you could just bring your own power pack? No.

Souvenirs are their own thing. Of course there are loads of cute nick-nacks and t-shirts you could buy when you travel, to Disneyland or anywhere else, but do you need them? The best way to save money on souvenirs is to not go souvenir shopping. So simple. You could be doing many other fun things instead of browsing shelves of stuff. The exception to the souvenir thing is a good pair of Mickey Mouse ears. They're a must.

How to plan your days

Before we arrived in Disneyland with the kids we decided that there were a few key experiences we wanted them to have. We researched what times certain shows or parades were happening and then weighed that out against how much time we new they could last within the parks. For us the big-ticket experiences were:

Meeting certain characters

Download the Disneyland app to see where characters are in real time within the parks. There is also a paper guide that you can get when you enter either Park, but the app helped us land our two Disneyland unicorns: boom.

Experiencing Disney Entertainment

Again, the Disneyland app lets you know the times for everything as does the schedule. If you are going to be in the parks for several days don't stress about hitting three different parades in one day and also watching the fireworks. Plan on doing rides or dinner nearby a parade route so that when you are done with whatever you're doing you can just park yourself for a few minutes before the show starts.

Other experiences that might be high on your parent list of what you want your family to do in Disneyland could be different attractions or meeting every single character, so do what you have to do to make the experience as magical for everyone as possible. Don't add stress to it, use the tools that Disney has given you to make it easier.

Best way to capture memories

We wrote an article about tips for taking your best family travel photos, and I think the strongest suggestion we have from our list is to just be comfortable taking a family selfie. A family selfie means that everybody is in the photo so there's not one person missing from every single picture. A family selfie means that the kids will probably cooperate with you better than waiting for a stranger to take their picture. Family selfies bring you into the moment or into the action and you usually get some pretty hilarious faces.

Other ways to ensure you're getting great pictures in the Disney parks is to leverage character hosts (cast members who are hanging out with your favorite characters) and PhotoPass staff. The PhotoPass photographers that you find floating around the Disney parks won't just do their own pictures with the Disney cameras but they'll also help you with your own pics.

With a little planning and prep work, you'll no doubt have an awesome Disney vacation with your family. The biggest key to having fun once you're there is to keep a good attitude and don't get stressed. That's where the prep work comes in and believe me, keeping a relaxed state of mind throughout your whole Disney Experience is going to make it more fun and memorable for everybody.

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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.

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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Politics

Gay Russian Dads Forced to Flee Moscow

Fearing the Russian government might take their adopted kids into custody because of their sexual orientation, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev fled Moscow

A married couple in Russia, with two adopted children, were just forced the flee their home in Moscow for fear that the authorities would take their children away, according to German news site Deutsche Welle.

Trouble started last month after investigators in Russia opened a criminal inquiry into the proceedings that had allowed the gay couple, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, to legally adopt the two boys —adoption by LGBTQ people in Russia has typically not been recognized. The government became aware of the adoption proceedings after the gay couple brought their 12-year-old son to the hospital, who was complaining of a stomachache. The boy was fine, but after he mentioned offhand that he was adopted and lived with two fathers, the doctor called the police.

Andrei and Yevgeny granted an interview with Deutsche Welle after escaping Moscow, but on the advice of their lawyers have yet to disclose where they are currently located. Here is a quick recap of that conversation:

"In connection with the 'propaganda of non-traditional values,' the state representatives are accused of having neglected their duty of supervision," Andrei said, when asked to explain on what basis the Russian government might take his children into custody. "This means that lesbian couples could even have their biological children taken away because, through their lifestyle choices, they propagate "certain values."

Yevgeny also explained the events that led to the couple's harrowing escape "I was alone in Moscow at that time. A week after Andrei and the children had left the country, there was a knock on my door, but nobody called 'police, open up.' After half an hour the violent knocking stopped. My parents' home was searched. They were looking for the children and our Danish marriage certificate because we got married in Denmark in 2016. My friends then got me out of the country."

Read the full interview here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

This Couple is Using 'Wheel of Fortune' Winnings to Help Fund Their Adoption

Need to raise money for your adoption fund? Why not try your luck on Wheel of Fortune like these guys!

Doug and Nick Roberts connected three and a half years ago via a dating app, and on their first date, the two immediately felt a connection. Doug, a psychologist, and Nick, a neuroscientist, were married 18 months later. Today the couple live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and they're ready to start their next exciting adventure together: fatherhood.

The husbands would like to have children, and Nick has always wanted to adopt. "We considered surrogacy, and may consider it in the future as we expand our family," said Doug, "but right now, it is cost-prohibitive. Adoption was easily the right choice for us as we begin to grow our family.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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