Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Painful Christmas Taught This Dad the Meaning of Home

Erik Alexander spent Christmas 2005 in Los Angeles after being displaced from his New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina — it was a painful experience, but one that taught him the meaning of home.

Everything that happens in our lives is meant to teach us something. These experiences — good, the bad, and the ugly —accumulate to help us grow into the people we are. I see how true this is with each passing day.

In 2005, my life was turned upside down. Katrina blew everyone's life to hell and then we had to pick up what was left and learn to live again. After becoming a 'refugee' in Memphis, I decided to move out west because I had always wanted to live in LA. I had stars in my eyes and dreams of making it big. FEMA money in my pocket, I loaded up my little blue Mazda Protege and started my journey across the country to become a famous pop singer. It was just after Thanksgiving when I moved, and I was lucky enough to have a couple of sweet friends to meet up with when I arrived. Christmas time was quickly approaching, but I wasn't ready for it.

Y'all, I loooove the Holidays. I always have. There are so many things about this time of year that are special to me... the decorations, the cheerful people, and most of all my family. I didn't realize how big of a role family played until I moved. I had to relearn how to enjoy Christmas.

As the universe would have it, I met up with a friend of mine. He was the manager of the B-52's and lived in a gorgeous house off of Sunset Boulevard. I would sit on his door step and look over at the 'Laugh Factory,' a famous comedy club in LA. It was amazing. The walls of his home donned several platinum records from the B-52's. It was surreal. After some time there my friend had to leave to visit his family for Christmas. The day before he left, he called me into the living room. There were button down shirts hung from coat hangers all over the room; he wanted me to have them. At first I didn't understand why, but later on it hit me — I was from New Orleans and people viewed me as a refugee. This man was giving me his clothes. I still have a shirt in my closet from him. I stayed in his home a couple more days after he left. Some people would have loved it, but I remember crying and feeling so lonely. I spent Christmas Day of 2005 sitting on his front steps and staring at Sunset Boulevard but longing to be back home in New Orleans.

I remember talking on the phone to my best friend from back home that Christmas. Every year we would call and exchange stories about our Christmas and what we love about the holiday. But this time it felt different. It felt as if my friend was 1,670 miles away. While Christmas of 2005 was painful, it helped to allow me to see where I belonged. As much as I thought I wanted to be on the west coast, the place where I was supposed to be was New Orleans, my home.

It's hard for me to wrap my mind around that in just 10 years from that very moment of despair, my husband and I would be welcoming our newborn daughter home. With clammy palms, rapid heartbeats, and our stomachs in knots, we welcomed our tiny little daughter. At 4 lbs, she was smaller than a baby doll and more fragile and more beautiful than anything we had ever held. This was the moment our lives changed forever. It was as if life's fog lifted and everything around us became clear. Now, every choice we made would revolve around her. This was perhaps the most significant day in our lives--the day we became Daddy and Papa.

I remember laying on the couch and having this tiny baby lay on my chest. Listening to her breathe, watching her little hands move. Now THIS is surreal. Life has an amazing way of helping you grow up. When our daughter was born she only weighed 3.5 lbs. She decided to come into the world 10 weeks early so she had to stay in the NICU for a few weeks to gain her strength and put on some weight.

In the beginning we called her "werewolf baby" because he would literally try to eat us when she became hungry. She would be all snuggled in her cute swaddle then, like clockwork, about 20 minutes before it was time to have her bottle she'd start squirming and transform into a loud and angry baby worm. We had to be sure to not feed her too early because that would mess her feeding schedule up. So we had to do whatever we could to help her pass the time. We would usually cave in about 10min early out fear of being eaten alive by our beautiful werewolf baby. My husband thought to buy a Christmas ornament to remember those times. Every year we are taken back to those moments when we place it on our Christmas tree.

Feeding schedules weren't the only thing we had to learn. We also needed to know how to NOT overfeed her. Being premature, she had a terrible time digesting her formula. We had her on the most sensitive type they make and yet it still seemed like it was too potent. As hungry as she would become, we knew if she drank too much we would be in for it. I think the hardest thing we had to do was try to console her when her tummy was hurting. The pain on her face was awful, and the only thing that seemed to help was when she threw up... and threw up... and threw up. All the time, every time. No matter how many burps we were able to achieve, it would still involve projectile puke somehow. We wouldn't dare wear anything nice because it was sure to be barfed on. I lived in tank tops and sweat pants for months.

One time, we were in Jackson visiting my mother-in-law. Our baby girl was still having a tough time digesting. We were talking in the living room reminiscing about our newfound parenting lives. Someone said something hilarious that made each of us die out laughing. It was like she was waiting for the perfect moment. Douglas had Alli Mae facing him as he held her. And just as he opened his mouth to laugh, she unloaded a whole bottle's worth of baby puke directly into his mouth. IT WAS HILARIOUSLY DISGUSTING. His mom and I laugh about that to this day and I think we will until the end of time.

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It's amazing how much the direction of life can change. Christmas of 2005 felt so depressing. I felt so stuck and it seemed like every decision I made blew up in my face. But in hindsight, I was wrong. That Christmas wish I made sitting on those doorsteps looking onto Sunset Blvd. almost 15 years ago came true. I didn't realize I loved New Orleans like I did. I wouldn't have known that unless I moved away. And as soon as I moved back home, I met my husband, the Daddy of my babies. The way the universe works is so incredibly awe-inspiring. Just when you think you have it figured out- the universe gives you a wink and says, "not so fast."


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Christmas Movie Has Gay Dads In One Version — Straight Parents In Another

Two Christmas movies from 2004 are identical in every way — except one very queer one.

Tis the season for made-for-T.V. Christmas movies that you will likely never see — but some sleuths on Twitter found at least one good reason to pay attention to two of them: Too Cool For Christmas and A Very Cool Christmas, which both came out in 2004, are exactly the same in every way, except one version cast gay dads as the parents of a 16-year-old girl, while the other swaps out one of the husbands for a wife.

The gay version (Too Cool for Christmas) is available on Amazon Prime, while the straight one (A Very Cool Christmas) trades out one of the gay dads for a female actor and is on Hulu.

The plot of the movie is nothing spectacular. A teenaged girl wants to go on a ski trip with friends over the holidays rather than spend time with her family. (Will she learn a valuable lesson along the way? Watch to find out!)

Both films were directed by an out gay man, Sam Irvin, who spoke to Buzzfeed about the reasons behind filming two versions:

"Back in those days, there was a little bit less open-mindedness to having gay characters. [Filmmakers thought] they would have better chances of selling [the straight version] to those more lucrative markets, but also be able to do an alternate version."

Irving said at the time, during the late 1990s and early 2000s, he worked closely with Here TV, an American television network for LGBTQ audiences — but that it was difficult to get funding to finance entire movies on an LGBTQ platform. So they created two versions in order to make the project possible.

"The executives at these companies decided, if we could have some gay content in a movie that could run on Here TV that would satisfy our subscribers that are expecting gay content, but we could also repurpose it and do a quote-unquote straight version and try to sell that to Lifetime or those types of networks, that would be beneficial," Irving told Buzzfeed.

Twitter, of course, had a field day posting videos of the two versions running side-by-side with the Freaky Friday parent switch:

Others wondered what it would be like to have "choose your adventure" casting options for everything we watched:

Despite all the fun at the expense of these movies, we give major props to anyone willing to go to lengths such as these to increase positive representation of gay dads in the media — particularly back in 2004!

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Gestational Surrogacy Legalized in New York State

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Yesterday, a years-long battle about the state of compensated gestational surrogacy came to an end in New York when the Governor signed into a law the Child-Parent Security Act in the 2020 as part of the state budget.

The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

"Millions of New Yorkers need assistance building their families — people struggling with infertility, cancer survivors impacted by treatment, and members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Family Equality Council said in a statement about the victory. "For many, surrogacy is a critically important option. For others, it is the only option. Passage of the Child-Parent Security Act is a massive step forward in providing paths to parenthood for New Yorkers who use reproductive technology, and creates a 'surrogate's bill of rights' that will set a new standard for protecting surrogates nationwide."

Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."

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