Gay Dad Life

How to Talk About Gender and Trans People With Your Kids

When I was pregnant with Birdie, people surprised me with their acceptance of our family. Some people took some time to come around, but for the most part, by the time Birdie was born our community of family and friends were excited for her arrival. But, everything wasn't all rainbows and sunshine either; I lost people very close to me because they couldn't/wouldn't/didn't know how to tell their kids, who I was very close with for a very long time, that I was pregnant.

The loss of those kids from my life is painful to talk about and I usually avoid writing about it, but there it is. These folks, who are part of the GLBTQ community themselves, just couldn't tell the kids I was having a baby. Now I have an almost 2-year-old daughter and she has never met the two young people who helped shape me into the parent I get to be today. They don't get to be a part of this, the best part of my life, and to be honest, it is heartbreaking.

It just doesn't seem like such a big deal to me to talk to kids about gender. But I am transgender myself so maybe I am biased because I have no choice but to have these conversations, especially with my child. So, I decided to ask other people in my life how they talked to their children about our family. The children ranged in age from 18 months to 18 years and while the range in reaction and content of the discussion varied, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Some kids had questions, some questions led to bigger conversations about gender and reproduction, some kids took it completely in stride, but all of them were excited that their uncle/godfather/nanny/friend/neighbor was going to have a baby. Because babies are generally something to celebrate and children tend to understand that.

Birdie reading, "A is For Activist by: Innosanto Nagara"

I nannied full time for a family of a 2-year-old during my pregnancy. As my pregnant belly grew and we told her, “Stephen is growing a baby in his belly and when the baby is born you will have a new friend," she was largely unfazed. When she snuggled up to me for a book or fell asleep on me at nap, Birdie would kick her through my belly. My goddaughter, who was 7 when we told her we were having a baby, had some questions about how it was biologically possible, which her moms answered in an age-appropriate way. They also extended the conversation to talk about "more of the nuance of gender and how that can be different from sex. How we need to respect people's choice of how they identify regardless of what they look like on the outside and how we never ask people about their genitals and we respect pronouns." My neighbor's son was 7 too when his mom told him that we were having a baby; he said, “How can he have a baby in his belly; can boys do that? (Poor guy, I think he got a little excited.) His mom told him, "Stephen was born a girl but knew he was a boy and so that's what he is now. But he still has the uterus inside him that can carry a baby." He smiled and said, “I'm really happy for Stephen."

I understand that it may seem daunting to talk to your child about transgender people, especially if you don't have any transgender people in your circle of friends, but you should talk about it anyway. And honestly, you can, at any age, shift the way you talk to a child about gender, you can examine your own internalized beliefs about sex and gender roles, you can embrace your own gender expression and encourage your child[ren] to do the same. I am by no means an expert on how to talk about gender with kids, but I am transgender, I am a parent, and I have been a nanny for 15 years, and my advice comes from these lived experiences.

Where to begin? You have a gender; you may identify as cisgender or transgender or gender-fluid or gender-variant or male or female or neither or both. You express your gender; you may have been assigned female at birth, feel solid in your gender identity as female and feel comfortable and powerful expressing your femininity. You may have been assigned male at birth and feel comfortable as a male but do not feel comfortable with the expectations put on you because you are a man. We all have a gender, we all express our genders differently, so we should all be talking about gender; not just as it pertains to the trans community. Your child has a gender too, one that is developing along with everything else as they grow, learn and change. If you believe that children should have the right to autonomy and self expression it would be wise to encourage them to express their gender however they see fit. Firefighting super princess? Sure. Boy children wearing baby dolls and hosting tea parties? Why not. You hoped to raise your child free of gender norms but you ended up with a daughter who loves all the things girls are expected to love? That's ok too. Some girls are just fancy; ask a femme about it.

Watch your gendered language. I find it surprising how often I hear other queer parents using heteronormative and unnecessarily gendered language. For example; your 2-year-old male child is not “all boy" because he likes trucks and dirt. Lots of toddlers like trucks and dirt and it has nothing to do with their gender expression. It's not cute to ask a 5-year-old girl if she has a boyfriend. Why would you assume she will grow up to like boys? Why are you asking a 5-year-old if she is dating; instead, ask her what books she likes to read. Don't dress your baby in sexist onesies that reinforce gender stereotypes. (Seriously, google “sexist onesies." There are some pretty terrible ones out there.) When you are reading your child a book, try replacing the pronouns with the singular pronoun “they." When you talk about someone you don't know, don't make assumptions about their gender; use gender-neutral terms instead, "Yes, that person is wearing a hat. That kid is riding a bike. The grownup is taking care of their baby." I am not advocating that you always and only use gender-neutral language, but I am advocating that you use it more often and especially when you don't know someone's gender. Words can have a lot of weight and changing your language is a very small thing to do.

Tell your children about trans people. You probably already have started talking about gender, like when little ones start to notice differences. Instead of saying, “Boys have these parts and girls have those parts," try, some/most/many girls have these parts or some/most/many boys have these parts. Tell them some people are born assigned male at birth but as they grow up to feel like a girl and visa versa. Tell them that some people don't feel like either boys or girls or a little of both. Tell them that gender really comes from within even though some people like to think gender is about playing with certain toys or wearing certain kinds of clothes. Tell them that you can be a boy who likes to wear dresses and still be a boy, or you can be a girl who wants to play football and still be a girl. Tell them gender expression is a choice, their choice, and then support their choices.

When you do talk to your kids about trans people, don't use your trans friends as an example unless you explicitly have their permission. I am comfortable with people talking to their kids about me and our family because I am open about my gender. Not all trans people are comfortable being out to everyone, or out at all. And even is someone is out to you that doesn't necessarily mean they want to be out to your children. Let's be honest, kids aren't known for being able to keep information private. If you want to give your child real-life examples of trans people in their life, talk to your trans friends first and don't get upset if they say no; it is your job as an ally to be respectful. There are books, websites, and celebrities out there about their trans identity now, so if you don't have someone in your life who wants to be out to your child, you can look elsewhere for examples.

Lighten up about gender. As a kid I ran around shirtless in the woods with a baby doll strapped to my back. I did things boys like to do and I did things girls like to do. I turned out to be transgender because that's who I am, not because I liked blue more than pink or trucks more than dolls. Recently I was shopping at a store and an employee came up to us to say hello to Birdie. As Birdie was sitting in the cart looking at some pants, the employee [who assumed Birdie was a boy because of the outfit she was wearing] informed Birdie, “Oh, those pants are for girls. Those are girl's pants. For girls!" As she walked away Birdie touched the pants and said, “Girls?" And I said, “Birdie, those are pants. And anyone of any gender can wear those pants as long as they feel good in them. There aren't really just boy and just girl clothes, it's just clothes and clothes are for anybody." She nodded, ate more crackers and then said, "Not girls! Not girls. Hahaha." Yes Birdie, not just for girls. In fact, the pants in question were some rainbow striped leggings and I know plenty of boys who could rock those pants. Sometimes pants are just pants and toys are just toys and we should just let kids be kids.

When we start to break it down, the easiest way to talk to your children about trans people is just to make space to talk about gender, early and often. The more we as a community normalize openness and honesty around gender and trans experience, the more space we make in the world for families like mine to feel safe, welcome, and celebrated.

Check out and purchase some of these children's books as a way to start gender conversations in your home:

To see more examples of S. Bear Bergman's books visit his website Flamingo Rampant here, and to read a Gays With Kids article on the author, click here.

Check out our list of children's books about surrogacy.

See our list of children's books about adoptive families.

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Gay Dad Life

Karamo Brown Co-Writes Children's Book with Son, Jason

The 'Queer Eye' star and his son named the story on a family mantra: You are Perfectly Designed

When his sons, Jason and Chris, were young, "Queer Eye" Star Karamo Brown repeated the same saying to them: "You are perfectly designed."

That mantra is now a Children's Book, cowritten by Karamo and his 22-year-old son, Jason, who used to come how and "say things like, 'I don't want to be me, I wish I was someone else, I wish I had a different life." As a parent, that "broke my heart," Karamo told Yahoo! Lifestyle. "I would say to him, 'You are blessed and you are perfect just the way you are,' as a reminder that you have been given so much and you should be appreciative and know that you're enough — I know that the world will try to tear you down, but if you can say to yourself, 'I am perfectly designed,' maybe it can quiet out some of those negative messages."

The illustrations, by Anoosha Syed, also make a point of displaying families of a variety of races and sexual orientations throughout the book.

Read more about Karamo's fascinating path to becoming a gay dad here, and then check out the video below that delves deeper into the inspiration behind "You Are Perfectly Designed," available on Amazon.

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 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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Raising Grounded Kids in Crazy Manhattan

When it comes to raising kids in Manhattan, Dr. Evan Goldstein lives by this lesson — less is more.

There are several lessons that we all learn as we continue to age on this wacky place called earth. But I learned one of life's most important nuggets my first year of medical school, and it has never left me. I remember this one night in particular—it was late, and I had been studying when I realized I forgot an important book in the stacks of the library. Thankfully, a janitor opened the locked door and allowed me to retrieve my belongings. I remember it took him a while to open the locked section that I needed to enter, as he had so many dangling keys on his keychain. He responded to me gazing at the lock by saying, "Son, I may only be a janitor without any education beyond high school, but I have seen medical student after student enter this school for the past 25 years. Can I give you some advice?" "Of course," I said. "Do you see all these keys on this keychain?" he said. "Every single one holds a new responsibility. Less keys, less responsibility. Less is more! Remember that my friend." And with that, he was gone.

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Change the World

11 Family Stories That Show the Depth of the Adoption Experience for Gay Men

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! To celebrate, we've curated some adoption stories that show the true depth and breath of the adoption experience for gay men.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! And few people are more aware of the importance of lifting up and celebrating adoption in this country than the LGBTQ community. According to the Williams Institute, 21% of same-sex couples are raising adopted children compared to just 3% of different-sex couples. Despite the fact that we are a crucial part of the support system for children needing loving homes, we are currently facing an administration that is trying to make it legal for foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against us on the basis of religion.

To help celebrate National Adoption Awareness Month, and demonstrate that religious beliefs should in never trump the ability for a loving LGBTQ family to welcome children into their home, we've rounded up several family stories that show the true depth and breath of the adoption experience — men who never planned to become dads, and woke up one day to find themselves responsible for little ones. Men who always wanted to become dads, and suffered through years of failed placements before finally making their dreams come true. Single men, who realized they were strong enough to adopt on their own. And men who adopted older children through the foster care system.

These are just a few of the inspiring stories of gay, bi and trans adoptive dads — we are literally sitting on a treasure trove of them. And, no doubt, there are countless more headed your way in the months to come.

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"We're Dads, the Greatest Thing We've Ever Been": Congrats to Gay Men Whose Families Recently Grew!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

Congrats to the dads whose families grew this month!

Congratulations to dads Ryan and Sebastian on the birth of their son, Máximo!!

Ryan and Sebastian's path to fatherhood was through surrogacy and their journey took nearly five years from start to finish. "There were many ups and downs and we almost gave up — but are so glad we didn't!"

"Holding Máximo for the first time was something we will never forget," shared Ryan. "He was looking up at us and we were just overcome with love and joy."

This new family of three live in Long Island City, New York.

Congratulations to dads Andy and Mike on their birth of their son Bennett!

In July this year, Andy and Mike became first time dads through surrogacy when they welcomed their son Bennett.

"We are absolutely in love with our baby Bennett! He's doing awesome and his Daddy and Papa have been rewarded with a lot of big smiles! He sleeps a lot and is generally relaxed as he learns about the world around him. He's made us happier than we knew possible and we feel incredibly blessed that he is the culmination of our wonderful surrogacy journey."

Even though their son is only 3 months old, they're already starting to think about and plan for his sibling! Congrats dads!

Congratulations to dads Bryan and Zachary on the birth of your son Spencer!

Three years ago, husbands Bryan and Zachary moved from New York City to Dallas, Texas to start a family.

"Like for most, our journey had many uncertainties with ups and downs along the way," said Bryan. "When you stop and really think about everything that goes into the process and has to take place, it's a true miracle and we feel blessed."

On August 26 this year, their son Spencer was born through surrogacy. "Patience, hope, support and remembering what's eventually to come helped my husband and I during the most stressful times. Now that Gates is here, it's hard to even look back."

"Holding Gates for the first was a true miracle - my husband and I finally took a breath. At that moment, the three of us created our new family and everything was exactly how it was supposed to be."

Congratulations to dads John and Ryan on finalizing the adoption of their son Connor!

When John and Ryan in 2004, they both knew they wanted to be parents. They were married in 2005 and started their journey as foster parents in 2009. They first became dads when their son Cody, then an infant, came to live with them. His adoption was finalized in 2013.

"After Cody's adoption, we 'closed' our home and actually moved a few times before joining the foster parent community again in 2018. When we decided to look to foster and adopt again, Cody was fully on board and that was a big part of our discussions about timing."

Their son Conner was placed with them as an infant in May 2018. Connor's adoption was finalized on October 16, and he was 19 months old at the time.

"Adoption day was a whirlwind," shared John. "We were first on the docket for the judge and he made quick work of finalizing his placement and formally making Connor a member of the family!"

The forever family of four live in San Antonio, Texas and would love to connect with other families like theirs.

Congratulations to dads Matt and Ian on the birth of their son Rocco!

Denver couple Matt and Ian had been dreaming of the day when they'd become dads. The husbands have been together going on 8 years, married for 5, and had picked out their son's name even before they were married.

"The journey to fatherhood has been a long and emotional one," shared Matt. "After our first fertility clinic placed roadblocks in front of us for almost two years, we changed to a new once and suddenly found ourselves on a pace far quicker towards fatherhood. We engaged a surrogacy agency to find our gestational carrier after two attempts to do it ourselves, and ended up with someone who was so far and beyond what we ever could have imagined, we cannot imagine the journey without her. We call her our angel not just because of her selfless act but for her guidance along the way as a mother herself."

From their first 13 embryos, one little one tried to hang on but didn't quite make it to the end. After several years of trying up, they decided to give it one more go and were able to produce 6 eggs, one of which resulted very quickly into a multiplying, healthy and genetically viable embryo - the last of 19 attempts. "The day we found out that our little bundle of cells had matured, we unexpectedly lost my Grandfather on the same day – a stark reminder of the cycle that is life. We gave our son the middle name of Keen as it was one of my late grandfather's signature words to use. 'Oh, that's so keen...' is a phrase I can still hear him saying to me as a child."

On July 26, the dads welcomed their son Rocco! "We are blessed now with a sleeping, funny, expressive and engaged little spirit in our lives. The process was tough, emotional and downright exhausting. The moment he showed up though, let out a scream then looked at his with his funny little furled brow, every single appointment, lost night's sleep, worry and tear was collectively worth it. We are Dads … and that is simply the greatest thing we have ever been."

Congratulations to Travis and Jay on finalizing the adoption of their son Kathan!

Travis and his husband Jay began their path to fatherhood a little over three years ago when they began the certification process to adoption through the foster care system. "After a little over a year and a half in the making we got the call on June 3rd 2018 at 11:30am. That day changed our lives in so many beautiful ways," said Travis.

At just 4 days old, the dads brought their son Kathan home, and 16 months later, they celebrated his adoption being finalized. "It felt like we had been set free as a family for the first time."

Kathan's adoption day was incredibly personal for the dads so they spent it with close family and took Kathan out for celebratory brunch.

Congrats to this Orange County forever family of three.

Congratulations to dad Derek and Zack on the birth of their daughter Georgia!

On October 18, 2019, dads Derek and Zack, and big brother Hank, welcomed Georgia to the family. The family is over the moon!

"Zack and I were lucky to be able to work with the same surrogate that helped us with our son Hank," said Derek. Their family journey experienced a significant setback when one of their fertility clinic's embryo storage tanks malfunctioned, and they lost all their genetic material - 11 fertilized embryos - that Derek's sister and Zack had donated to create their family. Luckily, Derek's sister was incredible and happily flew out to donate her beautiful genes again.

"Our family is truly the living embodiment of the love of our extended family and our carrier Raelene (and her family) have for us and our dream to meet our children. Meeting Georgia, for me, was the realization of all those feelings of love and hope we felt throughout our journey."

Congrats to this San Francisco family of four!

Congratulations to dads Rob and Scott on the birth of their daughter Sierra!

Rob and Scotty's journey to fatherhood started in December 2014, and they became first time dads eighteen months later when their son Ryder was born through surrogacy. In early October this year, they welcomed their daughter, Sierra, also through surrogacy.

"Holding her for the first time was amazing and warmed our hearts completely," shared Scotty. "Our son loves his baby sister and is very protective of her!!"

Huge congrats to this Sacramento family!

Congratulations to dads Brian and John on the birth of their son Weston!

Brian Wall and his fiancé John Agricola live in Toronto, Canada, and they recently welcomed their son Weston into the world on November 13.

"Our path to fatherhood was made a little simpler because my first cousin offered to be our surrogate," said Brian. "It took about a year total from picking an egg donor and our first successful embryo transfer on March 13."

When the dads first held their son they both agreed it was the most emotional experience they've ever had. "So grateful to our surrogate and he is a healthy boy!!"

Congrats to this new family of three, and can't wait to see wedding photos from your upcoming nuptials!

Congratulations to Ricky and Jeff on finalizing the adoption of their daughter Kylie!

Ricky and Jeff finalized the adoption of their youngest on November 8, the biological sister to their son Kadyn.

"Her birth mom knew that she couldn't take care of her and wanted us to have her," shared Ricky. "We went through the county again and we were able to adopt Kylie 6 months after her birth. The extra cool experience this time around was the fact that we were invited to be there to be part of the birth."

To be finalize Kylie's adoption was "amazing" said the dads. "It means that nothing and no one can do or say anything that would effect her being with us, which almost happened about a month before the adoption day."

Congratulations to this Californian forever family of four!


United Nations Calls on Cambodia to End Criminalization of Surrogates

Cambodia's 2016 law criminalizes surrogacy — and requires women who work as surrogate to raise the children they conceived for intended parents as their own.

Last Friday, the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reiterated its support to end the harassment and criminalization of surrogates in Cambodia, according to Voice of America.

The report issued by CEDAW recognized growing international criticism of the unregulated practice of surrogacy around the world, which often leads to the exploitation of women who work as surrogates. However, since surrogacy became illegal in Cambodia, over 60 women working as surrogates — the very people put in danger of exploitation — have been arrested and subjected to criminal proceedings. The women were only released according to VOA, under the condition of raising the surrogate children until they are 18.

"The Committee is particularly concerned that such an obligation creates an additional financial and emotional burden on women who are in precarious situations, which led them to act as surrogates in the first place," the report reads, "and that they face discrimination and stigma from their families and communities for having acted as surrogates."

CEDAW called on the Cambodian government to repeal the October 2016 law — particularly the requirement of raising the children they conceived for other intended parents as their own. This punishment is particularly onerous given that many of these women entered surrogacy arrangement against their will, said Chak Sopheap, Executive Director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, speaking to VOA.

"Surrogate women in Cambodia are likely to be at the sharp end of various economic and political hardships that caused them to make the decision to become a surrogate," she told VOA in an email. "We have seen, over the past year, women surrogates raided, charged with human trafficking, and detained, with no transparency from the authorities as to their wellbeing or that of the children they have given birth to."

Read more about this story here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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