Gay Dad Life

Gay Dads Raising Competitive Athletes

Imagine that, out of nowhere, you learn that your son or daughter has the potential to be a competitive athlete. And then, imagine that your child loves it. He or she eagerly seeks out new challenges, time and again, constantly working to improve.


What would you do? How would you react?

Those are the questions that Jerry Windle and husband Andres Rodriguez have found themselves having to answer with their son, Jordan Windle. He’s 15 and a competitive diver, and considered a leading contender for the next Olympic games.

“It’s utterly unbelievable,” Jerry says today. He says that he and Andres sometimes sit up at night and can’t believe the course their lives have taken. “He inspires us every day.”

When Jordan was 7 years old and attending summer camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Jerry says, he did some diving just for fun. A coach saw him and was impressed, saying he was anatomically perfect for diving.

Jordan Windle in mid dive

Training is generally a lengthy process, but by the time Jordan was 9, he was in the finals of the junior national diving championships. The Disney channel did a spot about him, and he was taken under the wing of Olympic legend Greg Louganis.

“He’s been called ‘Little Louganis,’ ” Jerry says.

Both are left-handed, and both are adopted. In fact, Jerry adopted Jordan from a Cambodian orphanage when the boy was 2 years old. He weighed just 16 pounds.

The family ended up moving to Indianapolis, Ind., the headquarters of USA Diving, the American national diving program. Jordan qualified for the Olympic trials in 2012 when he was 12 and finished in 6th place. The national diving program then decentralized, and the family moved to Morrisville, N.C., where Jordan now trains at Duke University.

He’s kept piling up the awards, too. He won the U.S. men’s national championships; this winter he won the U.S. synchronized diving national championships. In June or July, he will be traveling to Russia as an ambassador for diving.

Through all of this, Jerry says, “We’re not there pushing him to compete.” The couple doesn’t want their son ever to think that he was forced to do anything he didn’t want to do.

“We think about what’s it going to be like when we’re having a conversation with him when he’s 25 or 30,” Jerry says.

Jordan sitting between his dads Andres Rodriguez and Jerry Windle at their wedding reception. Photo credit: Susanne Brady

There’s a bittersweet quality to Jordan’s success, too. Both of his parents come from working-class families and didn’t have the opportunity to pursue such competition. “I was a gymnast growing up,” Jerry says, but he wasn’t able to pursue it seriously.

It he had, he wonders now, “What course would my life have taken?”

As it stands now, though, Jordan is an avid competitor, putting in seven to eight hours a day in training. He’s enrolled in an online school program and spends some six hours of schoolwork a day. He loves the mental and physical challenge.

“It’s just something that he’s devoted to,” Jerry says, adding later that “he loves the fire of competing.”

There’s so much more to learn about Jordan and his dads. But for now, let’s leave them suspended in the air, like a diver just about to break the surface of the water. There will be time for splashing later.

Dancing Her Way To Fame

There are many ways to compete, of course, and not all of them involve sports.

Jay Garcia and Adam Vasquez live in Bakersfield, Calif., and their 11-year-old daughter Natalie is a competitive dancer, in both jazz and ballet styles. They travel around California with her, going to various showcases and events.

She started dancing when she was 7. For Jay, watching his daughter was a revelation.

“She’s a really shy girl,” he says. That is, she’s a really shy girl most of the time.

“She’s a completely different Natalie when she performs.”

Natalie is Jay’s biological daughter, born from a high school romance. He ended up raising her, along with his family’s help. Adam has been with them since she was 3.

Jay says he has always supported what his daughter wants to do. With dance, she found a calling. She practices from 4 to 8 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays and some on Sundays. The most hours she’ll put in during one day are five.

“I love the fact that she’s so passionate about this,” Jay says.

But he doesn’t want dance to become the sole interest in her life. “For now, this is a very serious thing,” he says. “She takes it a little too seriously sometimes.”

Natalie

Jay has something in common with Jerry Windle, too. He also had childhood interests that he wasn’t able to follow. He always loved dancing and the dance world, but he was never able to pursue it. Having a child interested in the field just worked out.

The highlight of her dancing career so far came when she competed in Miami, Fla., in July of last year, appearing on the Univision variety show Sábado Gigante. She competed with three other dancers and came in second based on audience applause.

“It was a crazy, amazing experience for her,” Jay says, his voice full of pride.

Natalie keeps on working and competing. She’s part of a dance team going to a national competition in Las Vegas. And she manages to find the time to play viola in school, as well.

“She’s a busy girl, but I think busy is good for young kids sometimes,” Jay says. ““It’s definitely like a part-time job.”

What about being a gay dad in the competitive dance world? Jay said that he and Adam are pretty private and keep to themselves. They weren’t necessarily the most obvious gay parents at dance events, and others eventually wondered where Natalie’s mom was.

But once Jay and Adam’s relationship was known, there were no problems with the other parents or dancers.

“I think it turned out good. Never did they make her feel uncomfortable,” Jay says.

As for Natalie, the confidence she’s gained, and the status of being a successful competitive dancer, have been incredible benefits. Jay still sounds a little amazed at how much his daughter has grown and thrived.

“Dance has opened doors,” he says.

Natalie with her dads Jay Garcia (l) and Adam Vasquez

Twins Take To The Field

For Brendan Barrett and husband, Vance Skinner, the competition is both outside and inside the home. The Waukesha, Wis., residents are raising twin daughters, 11-year-old Ashlyn and Bailie.

Each one of the girls plays soccer and basketball, and Bailie dances. Ashlyn plays in a competitive soccer team, while her sister is on a club team. Ashlyn’s team, Brendan says, is ranked No. 1 in the state.

“They basically do quite a bit,” he says. “They’re very competitive.”

The drive started early. The girls joined a parks and recreation soccer team when they were three, and took to it immediately. And while Bailie does well and enjoys the sport, it’s her sister who pushes the limits.

“Ashlyn has a drive in her that she wants to express,” Brendan says. “You could see that when she was 3 years old.”

Ashlyn in action on the basketball court

The family has been to Indiana and Illinois for games, and will be traveling to Schwan's USA Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament in Minneapolis, Minn., in July. Ashlyn is looking forward to cross-country and track next year, eager to try out something that only she does. She ultimately wants play basketball and soccer in college.

“She has that in her sights,” Brendan says.

Practice is twice a week for both sisters. Between perfecting their moves on the field and going to games, “it’s our family time,” he says. “We get together, it’s kind of what we do.”

Brendan played some sports while growing up, he says, but nothing on this level. And his husband, Vance, didn’t participate at all.

And while “we talk about burnout, and how much is too much,” he says, Ashlyn “would rather do sporting stuff with her friends than stay at home and do nothing.”

The girls aren’t necessarily competitive against each other on the playing field. They just love sports and the physical and mental effort involved. At this point, sports have simply become an important part of their identities.

Bailie (center) in action on the soccer field

“They’re pretty much the same kid,” he says. “Whatever the options are, they’re going to do it.”

As for being the gay dads of competitive kids, Brendan says, it’s turned out to be a nonissue. He and Vance have always lived their lives in an open way, not hiding who their family was. And the other families have embraced them.

With practices and games aplenty, they has spend serious time with the other parents. It’s been all positive.

“I couldn’t be more pleased,” he says. “We’re friends with all of them. … We’ve formed some really good friendships.”

The twins with their dads Vance Skinner (l) and Brendan Barrett

Brendan places special emphasis on sportsmanship. Learning how to be good sports following a loss is an important part of competition, after all. Crying if you’re hurt during a game is okay, but it’s an overreaction to falling short on the playing field.

Luckily, Brendan says, the twins have shown themselves to be good losers, as well as winners.

“They take it totally fine,” he says. “Our kids have never acted like that.”

Ultimately, Brendan and Vance simply want their daughters to succeed on their own terms. They give them as much support as they can, and Ashlyn and Bailie take it the rest of the way.

“You want them to do well if they want to do well,” he says.

Breaking the surface

Let’s return to Jerry Windle and Andres Rodriguez, and their diver son, Jordan. We left their story suspended in midair, just about the hit the water. But now that we’ve spent some time with the parents of other competitive kids, let’s make a splash.

Jerry is an executive consultant in the health-care industry, which has allowed the family flexibility as they’ve moved. But that’s not his only job. He and Andres have also started an online business called The Diver’s Club, which sells gifts for divers.

“We have become the diving family,” Jerry says.

Ultimately, though, “Our primary role right now is the role of parents. … I truly don’t care if he wins or he loses.”

And that kind of grounding is important, because Jordan is becoming a celebrity in the world of competitive diving. Parents come up to Jerry and Andres and tell them how nice their son was to their children, and that they saw his appearance on the Disney Channel.

“My biggest concern is that there’s probably an element of naïveté,” Jerry says. For all the popular acknowledgment Jordan receives (especially from girls these days), “He’s our kid.” He plays video games and takes out the trash, like anyone else’s son.

Jordan has become a celebrity in another way, though. This part of the story really started some four years ago, in 2011, with the suicides of some gay teenagers. Jordan told his dads that he wanted to film an “It Gets Better” video.

He made the video and encouraged those watching to hang in there, because there were lots of kids just like him, who would love to be raised by caring gay parents.

“He really has made a difference in perceptions of gay parents raising children,” Jerry says.

As for the Jerry and Andres, they’ve found acceptance and friendship in the diving community. Although, Jerry points out, Andres is Colombian and looks quite young, so sometimes people wonder if he and Jordan are brothers.

But the couple feel like Jordan’s overall attitude and positive spirit make the case for them. Other families have said as much.

“We don’t hide in the shadows,” Jerry says. “We’re not road warriors, but we don’t hide who we are, either.”

As people come to know them, he says, they realize that “you guys are more vanilla and normal than we are.”

More broadly, though, Jerry understands that things are changing in Jordan’s life. He’s aiming for the Olympics. He’s entering the middle of his teenage years. The little boy that Jerry and Andres knew is becoming a man.

“His time as a youngster is coming to an end,” Jerry says. “He’s growing up very, very quickly.”

Show Comments ()
News

National's Pitcher Cites Wife's Two Moms as Reason for Declining White House Invite

"I think that's an important part of allyship," Doolittle said of his wife's two moms.

Sean Doolittle, pitcher for the Washington Nationals, declined an invitation to the White House after his team won the World Series this year. In an interview with the Washington Post, he listed his numerous reasons for staying home — and a main consideration, he revealed, was his wife's two moms.

"I want to show support for them. I think that's an important part of allyship, and I don't want to turn my back on them," Doolittle said during the interview.

Trump's treatment of a minority groups, generally, factored into his decision as well. "I have a brother-in-law who has autism, and [Trump] is a guy that mocked a disabled reporter. How would I explain that to him that I hung out with somebody who mocked the way that he talked or the way that he moves his hands? I can't get past that stuff."

Doolitttle clarified that his decision had little to do with policy disagreements with the White House. "There's a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we've done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the 'shithole countries.'"

He concluded by saying he respected his teammates decision to attend the White house ceremony. "I want people to know that I put thought into this, and at the end of the day, I just can't go."

Read more of the Washington Post interview here.

Entertainment

How Fatherhood Has Impacted Tom Daley's Diving Career for the Better

British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Change the World

This Gay Dad's Life Changed "Unexpectedly" Thanks to His Son's Love of Sports

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund writes how trading "Broadway for baseball" helped him form straight male friendships in an essay for Shondaland

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund, a gay dad of a 7-year-old son with his husband Jack, recently contributed a thoughtful essay for Shondaland that explores the unintended, but positive, consequence of his son's love of sports: straight male friends.

He writes, "One night in late May, seven dads stood in a bar singing "Happy Birthday" to me. Each of them were straight. How did this happen?"

As gay dads, many of us who have spent a lifetime avoiding anything that even remotely looked like an athletic league thanks to our experiences with homophobia in the world of team sports growing up. As dads, though, we're often forced back into these spaces to be supportive of our kids. (We've brought you similar essays in the past, most notably John Hart's funny piece about his sudden turn into a hockey dad).

But while many of us find the world of children's sports much more tolerable today, given the (reasonably) secure adult men that we've grown into, Bradley seems to have done the unthinkable: make friends with other (straight) dads involved in his son's athletic leagues.

"With Lucas regularly playing soccer, basketball, and baseball, sports now make up a large part of my weekly routine," Bradley writes. "And as it's turned out, a host of heterosexual dad comrades have been with me every goal, basket, and home run of the way." One dad educates Bradley on the existence of something called "turf shoes." Another on whether his son was better suited to be a midfielder or defender.

"If I ever worried I'd be alienated in the world of sideline-dads," Bradley concludes, "those feelings have long lapsed."

Read the great essay in full here.




Change the World

"Dadvocates" Gather in D.C. to Demand Paid Family Leave for ALL Parents

"Dadvocate" and new gay dad Rudy Segovia joined others in D.C. recently to educate lawmakers on the need for paid family leave for ALL parents

On Tuesday October 22, Dove Men+Care and PL+US (Paid Leave for the United States) led the Dads' Day of Action on Capitol Hill. A group of over 40 dads and "dadvocates" from across the states lobbied key member of Congress on the issue of paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads. They shared stories of their struggles to take time off when welcoming new family members and the challenges dads face with no paid paternity leave.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Photo Essays

Falling for Fall: 33 Photos of Gay Dads and Kids at the Pumpkin Patch

Oh my gourd, it's fall! To celebrate, we rounded up 33 pics (and whole lot of pun-kins) in our annual fall photo essay!

Don your checked shirt, grab them apples, and shine those smiles while perched on pumpkins — it's the annual fall family photo op! A trip to the pumpkin patch and / or apple orchard is a staple family fall outing, and we're here for it. 🎃🍎🍂👨👨👧👦

Thanks to these dads who shared their pics with us! Share your own to dads@gayswithkids.com and we'll add them to this post!

It's pumpkin season!

"So. Many. Pumpkins."

“We had so much fun at @thedallasarboretum today. Preston loves spending time with his cousins. ❤️❤️❤️ these three are the best.”

"Great morning with friends at the pumpkin 🎃patch"

"Can we just keep visiting pumpkin patches every day this week? 🍂🍁"

“Our attempt to get a good family photo at the twins’ first trip to a pumpkin patch was a complete failure. Lesson learned: take photos first thing, and don't wait until the end when they're tired and cranky 😃”

“Pumpkins... Cornstalks... Apples... Hayrides.... Loads of fun for a these 2 DADS & these 3 KIDDOS!!!! 🎃🍁🍎🍂👻”

Gay Dad Family Stories

David and Ben Met on the Dance Floor — and Are Now Grooving Their Way Through Fatherhood

David and Ben, who became fathers with the help of Northwest Surrogacy Center, live in Melbourne with their daughter, Maia.

In 2003, while both studying at Reading University in the UK, Ben Suter and David Cocks met after locking eyes on the dance floor and then being introduced by a mutual friend. Ben, a meteorologist and Operations Manager, and David, an Assistant Principal, have been together ever since. They moved to Australia together in 2010, seeking a different life, and an overall better work-life balance. The chose Cairns in Queensland as their new home, between the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforest, "taking life a bit easier," said David. The couple were also married in June 2016, back home in England.

While David always wanted kids, Ben took a little convincing. So they started their parenting journey with a dog, Titan, who quickly became like their first born. From there, Ben came around rather quickly.

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Single Gay Dad and the City

When Kyle decided to take his four kids, ages 6-11, to New York City on vacation, his friends thought he was crazy.

"You're crazy, Kyle."

"You can't be serious? A single dad taking four kids to the Big Apple? Think again."

"That's bold. There's no way I'd do that."

Those were a few of the responses I heard from my friends as I told them I was thinking of booking a trip to New York City with four kids, ages 11-6. My children's fall vacation from school was approaching and I wanted to get out of the house and explore. Was the Big Apple too much of an adventure?

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse