Gay Dad Life

#GWKThenAndNow: Brian and Ferd

In 1993 Brian, then 28, and Ferd, 33, were both living in Boston. Ferd had arrived from the Netherlands to pursue his Ph.D. not even two years earlier and Brian had recently relocated back to his native Massachusetts after living in Florida for a couple of years.

As was common back then, the guys first noticed each other in the gym. (Mike’s Gym, for those familiar with the South End in the 90s.) While there certainly was a mutual attraction going on for several months, they didn’t really talk until one Friday afternoon, June 18, when they found themselves hanging out in the area along the Charles River known as the “gay beach.” They talked for hours and made plans for an official date.


Their date took place two days later on Father’s Day, following Brian’s visit with his parents in the ‘burbs earlier in the day. The two took in the movie “Jurassic Park” and followed it with huge slices of deep dish apple pie at what became their favorite gay restaurant in Boston, Geoffrey’s Cafe.

Later that night Ferd seduced Brian into coming back to his apartment with promises of Barbra Streisand CDs. As they were about to begin what would become their first big kiss, Brian disclosed his recent HIV diagnosis. (Turned out Ferd already knew; a mutual friend whom Brian had entrusted with the secret had already warned Ferd that Brian was “dangerous.”)

Ferd ignored the friend’s advice and, after that first night, the couple rarely spent a night apart. They made their relationship official by moving in together six months later in December.

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Brian and Ferd on Mykonos, Greece, 1995

Ferd started teaching Latin and Ancient Greek at independent schools in the Boston area; Brian began working at the Fenway Community Health Center as the coordinator for the Living Well series, focusing on HIV education and prevention among gay men.

In 1996, HIV treatment made enormous strides, with the introduction of protease inhibitors. Brian began taking this new class of medication in the beginning on 1996. Within weeks, his viral load had become undetectable. Within months, his disease changed from a death sentence to a chronic, manageable condition; his life expectancy changed from a few months to that of a healthy adult. The Boston Globe interviewed him in an article about the miraculous effect of these new medications. (The article was later reprinted in the Boston Phoenix.) But these advances in HIV treatment came too late for Danny, Leo and many other friends of Brian and Ferd’s.

After making frequent trips to New York City over the years, the guys decided to move tothe New York gay neighborhood, Chelsea, in 1999; a few years later they moved to Hell’s Kitchen. But not all was well: In 2004 they realized they needed to take a break from each other. Ferd moved out to Miami, and stayed there for almost two years. During this time, they kept in close touch and eventually managed to work things out and Ferd returned to New York City.

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Duke only a few months old

The guys got their first taste of ersatz-fatherhood by bringing a Chihuahua puppy, Duke, into their home. They quickly realized that life was more meaningful for them by having another living entity to love and to take care of. Little Duke became the catalyst for the most important decision the couple made, the decision to start a family. (Sadly, Duke passed away at 10 years of age in October 2015.)

Ferd and Brian in 2010

First they attempted adoption, but after a placement fell through they decided to change course and pursue surrogacy. And then many wonderful things happened in quick succession: In May 2009 they welcomed Levi, a 5-day-old boy into their lives, via adoption; in October 2010 Sadie and Ella, two girls born through surrogacy, joined the family. (Unable to obtain permanent residency in the United States, Ferd had left the United States in late 2009; Brian and Levi went with him to Toronto, Canada. The family would continue to live there until July 2015.)

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Fire Island, July 2009

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Ferd and Brian with Ella, Sadie and Levi in January 2011

Ferd became the stay-at-home dad; Brian was able to work from home. During their early years of fatherhood, Brian started thinking about what would later become Gays With Kids. But having very young kids forced him to put it off for a few years.

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Brian’s marriage proposal on March 20, 2013

On March 20, 2013, Ferd took Brian out to celebrate his birthday. But the big surprise of the evening was that Brian had enlisted the staff of the restaurant to help him propose to Ferd. Of course, Ferd said yes and they got married in front of their children, friends and family on June 20, 2013, which marked the 20th anniversary of their relationship. Here’s avideo of their wedding highlights.

Brian and Ferd on their wedding day, with Ella, Levi and Sadie (June 20, 2013)

A few days later, the United States Supreme Court struck down important parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, and from that moment on, Brian and Ferd began discussing a possible move back to New York. And in July 2015, they did. The whole family now lives just outside of Manhattan. The guys take their kids to Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, Broadway shows, the Bronx Zoo, museums and other New York City attractions for kids as often as they can!

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Thanksgiving 2015

They love connecting with other gay dad families and are thrilled with the response to Gays With Kids, which launched in June 2014.

If you’d like to share your #GWKThenAndNow story, please email dads@GaysWithKids.com

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Gay Dad Life

The Suburban Gay Dad

Are you intimidated by the suburbs? This gay dad was — but then he moved there.

In a recent article for Yahoo! Lifestyle, Steve Jacobs says the thought of living in the suburbs as a gay dad "intimidated" him. But when he started fantasizing about garages, he began to question that notion. Any apprehension he had soon evaporated, he said, one winter morning while trying to navigate the snowy streets of New York City with a stroller.

While "pushing the stroller through snow banks and pools of slush with snowflakes stinging our faces," he wrote, "a vision came to me: I pictured us walking into a garage, hopping into a car, and arriving at a diner with 10 times less drama. This image planted the seed of moving to the 'burbs that I couldn't shake."

Soon, the family of four found a house in a town a half hour outside the city. "It had grass and a beautiful yard for our spirited kiddos. The schools were good. There were even good restaurants. The only red flag: Census data estimated only 0.1 percent of the population was gay male."

There were some "growing pains" while trying to make friends in this environment. "When we attended our first dinner party, within minutes the hostess went to the kitchen and the other wives followed her, while the husbands settled into the living room. Ira and I froze, looking at each other. In the city, our straight friends hadn't separated out like this for the evening. Should we stay with the dudes, exert our masculinity, and blow off the mom we liked? Or does one of us go with the wives and accept the personal branding that comes with that? We did a quick rock paper scissors in the foyer. Ira went with the wives."

But ultimately, "being a parent defined me more than I ever imagined it would," he wrote, and he settled in nicely to his new suburban life.

Have you had a similar adjustment, from city life to the suburbs? Tell us about it at dads@gayswithkids.com for an upcoming piece!

Gay Dad Life

"Fridays with Fitz": A New Kid's Book Based Upon the Son of These Two Dads

Tracey Wimperly, author of the new children's book, said she hopes to give a more honest portrayal of the role grandparents play in the lives of children.

Guest post Tracey Wimperly

I've recently written a children's picture book (aimed at 2-4 year olds) called "Fridays with Fitz: Fitz Goes to the Pool." Every Friday - when his two dads go to work - Fitz and his grandparents (my husband, Steve and I) head off on an adventure. Through the eyes of a curious and energetic 3 year old, even ordinary adventures, like riding the bus or foraging for fungus in the forest can be fun and magical.

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Gay Dad Life

8 Ways for Dads to Find Work/Life Balance

Finding work/life balance is hard enough... but can be even harder for gay dads.

Having kids is an amazing part of life, and it should be fun. Life does tend to get in the way sometimes, and one huge aspect of that is work. Striking that balance between work and home life is tough. If you both work it's even harder.

And if you're a gay couple, it can have it's own set of problems above and beyond the standard work-life issues that people face. Recently, the Harvard Business Review conducted a study that focused specifically on the experiences of same-sex couples who wanted to make moves towards a work/life balance.

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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.

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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?

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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.

News

New York Will Fight 'Repugnant' Trump Rule on Adoption, Says Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York promises legal action of the Trump administration moves ahead with plans to allow discrimination against LGBTQ adoptive and foster parents

Last week, the Trump administration announced plans to allow adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective LGBTQ parents — but he may face a legal fight from (former) hometown. In a tweet, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said the proposed move "isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values,— it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home." If the proposal moves forward, he continued. "we'll take legal action to stop it.

Governor Cuomo's office followed up the tweet with a lengthier statement posted to their website:

Once again the Trump administration is attacking the hard-earned rights and protections of the LGBTQ community, this time proposing a new measure that would give foster care and adoption agencies license to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Trump's proposal isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values — it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home. If he moves forward with this rule, we'll take legal action to stop it.

No matter what happens in Washington, New York State is and will continue to be a beacon of equality in this country. Our Human Rights Law and adoption regulations expressly prohibit discrimination against the LGBTQ community, including when it comes to adoption. I encourage any LGBTQ New Yorker who feels they are a victim of this discrimination to contact the State Division of Human Rights for assistance.

Our message to the Trump administration is simple: there is no place for hate in New York or in our nation, and we will not allow this noxious proposal to stop LGBTQ New Yorkers from becoming parents or providing care to children in need.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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