Gay Dad Life

#GWKThenAndNow: Christopher and Patrick from Seattle

Christopher and Patrick, 48 and 49 respectively, have been together nearly 20 years. They live in Seattle, Washington, and they have two children together through foster-adopt. Their journey from coming out, to marriage, to kids has been filled with highs and lows, but through it all one thing has remained very clear: the importance of family. This is their #GWKThenAndNow.

How they met


Christopher and Patrick met in 1993 when they both auditioned for the same educational theater tour, a very intense production about the Holocaust. (Patrick got the role!) The next four years they both continued in the Seattle theater scene without really getting to know one another; their lives and relationships were parallel but for some reason never overlapped. That changed when Christopher and Patrick both ended up working for the Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1997, in their educational outreach department – and that’s when they started dating.

Patrick and Christopher’s first date took place on Father’s Day ’97. That holiday led them to talk about family matters. They both mentioned on that first date that they wanted kids.

"I think, looking back on it, it seems a lot more radical than it did at the time," explained Christopher. "I think it just spoke to what we both valued in life and what we ultimately knew we wanted."

Patrick (left) and Christopher at their commitment ceremony, 2001

Family relations

Family had always been very important to both men.

Christopher has one older brother and is part of a very close-knit family from Buffalo, New York. He didn't come out till 1993, when he was 25 years old, and he told his parents separately. Christopher remembers his mother's reaction to be one of disappointment, but only because she thought he would've made a wonderful dad. His dad took it a lot harder initially, but soon came around. Within six months Christopher’s parents were attending PFLAG meetings. They talked about it to their friends. His dad was standing up to colleagues who were making inappropriate jokes about gay people.

Patrick is the oldest of six blood siblings and two step-siblings. He grew up in Long Island and is from a very Catholic family. In 1987, while at college outside of New York City, Patrick was outed by a friend (a former girlfriend) who took it upon herself to tell his mother. Patrick received a call from his mom insisting he come home right away and "start praying." Needless to say, this wasn't how Patrick had wanted to tell his mother, but it ended up being his reality.

His family did not initially respond as well as Christopher's. They were very religious and it took many years for the family to fully embrace who Patrick was. Flash forward to the present, Patrick’s family has truly evolved: Patrick and Christopher attended his sister's wedding to her wife in May 2016.

Christopher met Patrick’s family in December 1997, and remembers everyone being very welcoming. He immediately became close friends with his sisters.

All of Christopher's family and nearly all of Patrick's attended their commitment ceremony in August 12, 2001. Two guests stayed away: One of Patrick's brothers and Patrick's stepfather, who decided not to come. While this was challenging at the time, over the years the relationships have improved. Fifteen years later, both men joyfully celebrated Patrick's sisters wedding to her wife.

Isabella with Patrick (left) and Christopher, 2004

 

“But, how can two gay men have kids?"

Patrick describes his large family as half Irish, half Sicilian and all Catholic. As far as anyone knew, nobody was gay; nobody was divorced. The biggest shock to happen to their family before Patrick announced his pending commitment to Christopher was his brother marrying a Jewish woman.

"She claims she opened the door for us!" chuckled Patrick.

Patrick and Christopher decided to create their family through the foster-care system in Washington. For both families, Christopher and Patrick’s decision to pursue fatherhood was quite unexpected.

Members of both families were perplexed. There were lots of questions and not a small amount of skepticism. There were lots of questions. “How are you going to become dads?” "What do you know about parenting?" "Can you do that in Washington?"

Patrick's family had no reference point for adoption. Christopher's family, however, had some experience with the adoption as his aunt (his mother's sister) had adopted his cousin in 1975. The idea was not so foreign to them, and although they were hesitant, they were considerably more open to the idea than Patrick’s.

But as soon as the two men became dads, everything changed: Children are the great equalizer. The kids were immediately accepted into both the families. The conversation with their families changed from “How can two men become dads?” to "Is that really the name you want to give her?"

Isabella came to them at Halloween 2003 when she was just 2½ months old. Jordan came to them at 16 months old in January 2007.

"They [Isabella and Jordan] are embraced like all the other grandchildren are," explained Patrick. "You have a common language; you have common experience. It brought my brothers and me closer together."

Patrick and Jordan, 2010

Open adoption

While adoption wasn't new to Christopher's family, open adoption was new to everyone.

Christopher and Patrick decided early on to try and nurture an open adoption relationship with both Isabella's and Jordan's birth parents. For Jordan, this has been easier: Jordan has been seeing his birth father three to four times a year since he came to his dads. The families even spend Christmas and Easter together. His birth mom is unfortunately not in the picture due to her personal decisions.

For Isabella, it hasn't been quite so simple. From a young age, she had always been curious about her birth mother, so Christopher and Patrick would look periodically. And a few years ago, they found her on Facebook! They proceeded cautiously, unsure what they would find. They reached out to Isabella's birth mom through an intermediary. It took some time, but soon enough they were exchanging letters and pictures. After a couple of years they met for the first time.

Christopher and Jordan, 2014

At first Patrick and Christopher were a little anxious but now that Isabella has connected with her birth mom, it's been great!

"It's been awesome, for both of them," said Patrick. "Answering some of those 'where-do-I-come-from' questions has made Isabella relax about that aspect to her life. It's been such a gift to Isabella to make that connection. Even if it had it gone badly it would've been better than if we'd not have known."

Both dads have become strong advocates of open adoption, having seen the positive effects it’s had on their children to know their birth parents.

From left to right: Christopher, Isabella, Patrick and Jordan, 2014

 

Adoption agency work and advice to future gay dads

Christopher does some consulting work  for the non-profit Amara, the same organization they used to create their family. Amara has a great reputation for accepting and embracing LGBT families, and is certified by the Human Rights Campaign as having achieved All Children - All Families Benchmarks of LGBTQ Cultural Competency Christopher works in training for foster parents-to-be.

Both Christopher and Patrick look at the foster-adopt process, their path to fatherhood, as the hardest thing they’ve ever done but also the most rewarding.

"There were so many unknowns, ups and downs working with the foster care system. While there is a great deal of training and scrutiny involved, it often felt like we were being judged," shared Christopher. Patrick added, "Even after we became a forever family their histories - health issues, school struggles, etc.- continue to unfold. In some ways it's like every other family... and in some ways it's really different."

Patrick with Jordan and Isabella, 2015

"We grew up with our incredible families that were with us for good or bad – that's how we did life," said Patrick. "Now we live 3000 miles away from that so we've had to create that family network. It's different of course, but it's really, really important to remember we're not doing this alone."

“One thing that we told our kids from very early on,” shared Christopher, "is that every family is very different. We have created this big messy wonderful family that has lots of people in it that love us and love them, and that's really wonderful."

Fatherhood had changed them profoundly, they say. "It has pushed me in ways that I never thought I'd be pushed," said Christopher. "It's made me a much better human being."

The family in New York City, 2016

 

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

Dads Tell Us Their 'Gayest Moment Ever' as Parents

We may be dads — but we're still gay, damnit! And these "gayest moments ever," sent to us from our Instagram community, prove it.

Did your child know all the lyrics to Madonna songs by age 3? Do your kids critique all the red carpet lewks from the Tony Awards? Do you often have baby food, diapers, sparkling white wine, gourmet appetizer, and fresh cut flowers in your shopping cart — all in one trip? If you answered 'yes' to any of the above, you just might be... a gay dad.

We asked the dads in our Instagram community to share their gayest moments as a dad, ever, and their responses were just as hilarious as they were relatable.

Here's a great way to start the week...

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Photo Essays

How Single Dads Are Celebrating Valentine's Day This Year

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers! We caught up with 8 single gay dads to see how they plan to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year.

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers; it's also a day to celebrate our loved ones. And that's exactly what these single dads are doing.

Within our community, GWK has a large group of admirable, active, and awesome (!) single dads and we want to honor them! On Valentine's Day, they and their kids celebrate their family unit in the sweetest possible ways. We asked the dads to share these moments with us, and, where possible, one of the most heartwarming things they've experienced with their kids on Valentine's Day to date.

Hear their stories below.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Photo Essays

11 Gay Couples Share Secrets to Their Long-Term Relationships This Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, we spoke with 11 gay dad couples who've been together for almost a decade or longer to learn what's made their relationships last

You're the peanut butter to my jelly, the gin to my tonic, the strawberries to my cream, the Mr. to my Mr.!

Happy Valentine's Day folks! We're excited to celebrate this day of lurrrrvvve by featuring a few dads in our community who've been together for almost a decade or more! And they're ready to share their secrets to a successful relationship and parenting partnership.

Keep reading...
Politics

Supreme Court to Hear Major Case Concerning LGBTQ Foster Care Parents

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether cities are allowed to exclude tax-funded adoption agencies from foster care systems if they refuse to work with gay couples.

In 2018, city officials in Philadelphia decided to exclude Catholic Social Services, which refuses to work with LGBTQ couples, from participating in its foster-care system. The agency sued, claiming religious discrimination, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously ruled against the agency, citing the need to comply with nondiscrimination policies.

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, follows a 2018 Supreme Court decision regarding a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In that case, the court narrowly ruled that the baker bad been discriminated against, on religious grounds, by the state's civil rights commission. It did not decide the broader issue: whether an entity can be exempt from local non-discrimination ordinances on the basis of religious freedom.

The court — whose ideological center has shifted to the right since the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in fall 2018 — may choose to do so now. Advocates quickly called on the court to consider the potential impact on the more than 400,000 children currently in the foster care system:

"We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children," said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. "Allowing foster care agencies to exclude qualified families based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child such as their sexual orientation or faith would make it even worse. We can't afford to have loving families turned away or deterred by the risk of discrimination."

"It is unconscionable to turn away prospective foster and adoptive families because they are LGBTQ, religious minorities, or for any other reason unrelated to their capacity to love and care for children," said HRC President Alphonso David. "We reject the suggestion that taxpayer-funded child welfare services should be allowed to put discrimination over a child's best interest. This case could also have implications for religious refusals that go far beyond child welfare. The Supreme Court must make it clear that freedom of religion does not include using taxpayer funds to further marginalize vulnerable communities."

The court may choose to override a 1990 decision, Employment Division v. Smith, which created the current standard for carving out religious exemptions. In that case, the court ruled that laws that target a specific faith, or express hostility towards certain beliefs, are unconstitutional — but this standard has long been abhorred by religious conservatives, who think it doesn't offer enough protections for religions. If the court does overrule Smith, it could have far-ranging consequences. " As noted on Slate, "it would allow anyone to demand a carve-out from laws that go against their religion, unless those laws are 'narrowly tailored' to serve a 'compelling government interest.'"

The four members of the court's conservative wing — Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh —have all signaled an openness to reconsider Smith. The ruling's fate, then, likely rests in the hands of the court's new swing vote, Chief Justice Roberts.

For more, read the full article on Slate.

News

What's it Like to Be a Child of the 'Gayby Boom'?

Tosca Langbert, who grew up with two dads, writes a piece for the Harvard Business Review about what it's like being among the first children of the "Gayby Boom" to come of age.

We've previously written about the pressure on LGBTQ parents to appear perfect, given that so many in the United States still feel out families shouldn't exist in the first place. And we know this pressure trickles down to our kids. But In an article for the Harvard Business Review titled 'The Gayby Boom Is Here to Stay," author Tosca Langbert eloquently writes, from her perspective, about the experience of beingone of the first children to come of age during an era when LGBTQ parenthood is far more commonplace. She and her two siblings, she notes, "were raised in a family that was an impossibility only decades ago."

In the article, Langbert said she knew from a young age that her family was different from those of most of her peers, who had one a father and a mother. But otherwise, she writes, she didn't feel like her family differed much. "Like any other parents, Dad sat in the carpool lane after school and taught us how to ride our bikes," she writes, "while Papa took us to the movies on the weekends and separated the whites from the colors."

Keep reading...
Politics

Utah Bill Would Allow Gay Men to Enter Surrogacy Contracts

Rep. Patrice Arent of Utah is sponsoring a bill that will remove a provision that currently prohibits gay men from entering into commercial surrogacy contracts in the state.

Though Utah is not one of the three states that currently prohibit commercial surrogacy contracts, the state's current policy does specifically exclude gay men from doing so. That may soon changed, however, thanks to a bill in the state's legislature that was unanimously voted out of a House Committee that would remove that restriction.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, a Democrat, was created in response to a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court this past August that found the ban on gay men unconstitutional.

Gay men have been excluded from legally entering surrogacy contracts due to a provision in the current law that requires medical evidence "that the intended mother is unable to bear a child or is unable to do so without unreasonable risk to her physical or mental health or to the unborn child," Rep. Arent told the Salt Lake Tribune — a requirement that clearly excludes gay male couples.

The state's original surrogacy law dates back to 2005, before same-sex marriage was legalized in the state, which accounts for the gendered language. Though the state's Supreme Court already ruled the provision unconstitutional, Rep Arent further told the Tribute that, "People do not look to Supreme Court opinions to figure out the law, they look to the code and the code should be constitutional."

Politics

Colorado Republicans Try and Fail to Outlaw LGBTQ Marriage and Adoption Rights

A bill introduced by four Republican state legislators in Colorado that would outlaw same-sex marriage and adoption rights was voted down.

The "Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act," which would have outlawed gay marriage and adoption in the state of Colorado, was voted down in the state legislature this week. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Humphrey and three of his conservative colleagues: Dave Williams, Shane Sandridge and Mark Baisley.

If enacted, the bill would have enforced "state law that marriage is between one man and one woman" and restrict "adoption of children by spouses in a marriage ... that consist of one man and one woman."

The bill, which had little chance of success, particularly in Colorado which has trended more progressive over the past several election cycles, was mostly symbolic, according to Sanridrge. "We all know this bill isn't gonna pass in this current left-wing environment," he told Colorado Public Radio. "It's to remind everyone, this is the ultimate way to conceive a child."

In a sign of how far we've come on the issue of LGBTQ marriage and parenting rights, most Republican legislators in the state did not endorse the bill.

Though the bill had little chance of passage, LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state are taking the threats seriously nonetheless. Daniel Ramos, director of the LGBTQ group One Colorado, told LGBTQ Nation that the bills were an attempt to return Colorado to its "hate status" of the 1990s, adding the aggressiveness of the measures were "a bit surprising."

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse