Gay Dad Life

Juan and Tom: Gay Dad Heroes in the Fight For Marriage Equality

Part II in our series of gay dads serving at the center of marriage equality lawsuits


It was clear from the beginning that Tom Gantt, 43, had an activist on his hands. On their very first date, Juan del Hierro, 36, excused himself for a moment – not to run to the bathroom to check his hair in the mirror or to sneak a breath mint like a regular gay – but to jump onto an organizing conference call.

This was 2008, and Florida was facing an anti-LGBT marriage amendment in the form of Amendment 2. And Juan was doing everything in his power to stop it. This included, Tom would soon learn, volunteering 40+ hours a week at SAVE, an LGBT rights organization based in Miami-Dade county, Fla., where I was also employed at the time as a field organizer.

I had the pleasure of getting to know Juan, and later Tom, over the many, many hours we collectively spent organizing against the marriage amendment in 2008. But with 62 percent of Floridians voting in favor of the marriage ban, we would unfortunately lose this battle. Though none of us could have predicted it at the time with their relationship still so new, Juan and Tom would help ensure, eight years later, that we wouldn’t lose the war.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself. Back in early 2008, Juan and Tom had just completed their first date, each excited by the relationship’s prospects. “The fact that Tom was patient and let me take a 15-minute break from our date for [an organizing call],” Juan said when we caught up by phone recently, “told me he was special.”

And Tom’s patience, garnered no doubt through more than a decade’s worth of teaching in Florida’s public schools, would certainly come in handy over the years; this was the first but definitely not the last romantic dinner that the couple would have interrupted by a call to activism.

Getting Their “Gill Baby”

“I always knew I wanted to be a daddy,” Juan explained, who works as a licensed Unity minster and as the director of minister empowerment at Unity on the Bay, a spiritual community based in Miami. He was so certain, in fact, that the desire to have children was a strict litmus test for would-be partners.

“I had a conversation with Tom about having kids when we first met,” Juan said. “Like not even two months in.”

“And I didn’t know at first,” Tom admitted. “I was teaching at that time and felt like I was already raising kids in some way.”

But for Juan, raising his own kids was something he’d always wanted for himself. “So I said, well, you can have a few weeks to think about it before we break it off,” Juan said. He paused a moment before adding, with a little laugh, “I was a little scary.”

Ultimately, Tom was not opposed to the idea of starting a family, and quickly got on board as the couple’s relationship progressed. But Juan and Tom would have to wait a while before they could become parents.

In 1977, the Florida legislature passed a law stating, “No person eligible to adopt may adopt if that person is a homosexual.” The law, the first of its kind in the country, was largely the brainchild of Anita Bryant. A one-time singer and winner of the Miss Oklahoma beauty pageant, Bryant is now best remembered as a fear-mongering blowhard who squandered her fame and fortune campaigning on behalf of anti-LGBT causes in Florida and elsewhere across the country. (It might not be put exactly like this in Bryant’s Wikipedia article, but it should.)

Incredibly, Bryant’s ban in Florida survived several decades’ worth of court challenges, meaning Juan and Tom had the misfortune of living in the state with the harshest anti-LGBT adoption laws in the country. Whereas states elsewhere in the country, such as Arkansas and Utah, targeted the LGBT community by prohibiting adoption by “unmarried couples,” Florida’s ban targeted LGBT individuals as well.

Florida’s ban was finally overturned in 2010 when a state appeals court, in a court case named in re: Gill, found it to be unconstitutional. The plaintiff in this case, Frank Martin Gill, had petitioned the court in 2007 to allow him and his partner to legally adopt two children they had been raising as foster parents.

Fortunately for Juan and Tom, and all of Florida’s LGBT community, the governor and attorney general decided not to appeal the decision, which had the effect of legalizing gay adoption statewide. (In a symbolic act, the Florida legislature recently passed, and Governor Rick Scott signed into law, a repeal of the adoption ban this past June 11, 2015.)

“It’s funny, because we had just started the adoption process when this decision came down,” Juan said, “so the ACLU refers to all the children that were adopted from 2011 to 2012 as ‘Gill babies,’” he said, in reference to the plaintiff in the case, with whom he and Tom are friendly.

And soon, Juan (photo above, left) and Tom (photo above, right) would welcome their own little Gill baby, Lucas, now 2½ years old, into their family. Juan and Tom couldn’t have been happier, but, as a same-sex couple living in a state that didn’t yet recognize same-sex marriage, they also knew they might faced their fair share of complications.

“All of the paper work we did was as if we were two single men living together,” Juan said, who was the one to “officially” adopt their son Lucas. Though Juan was able to sign over parental rights to Tom directly after, the two did not have equal rights under Florida law. “We receive a monthly stipend from the public adoption,” Juan explained. “If I were to die, the benefits would go away. They’re not transferable.” Other non-transferable benefits included college tuition and health care benefits for 18 years.

“It was quite a chunk of change,” Tom said of the benefits he and Lucas could be denied.

In 2014 the ACLU approached SAVE – where Juan was serving as a member of the board of directors – about finding plaintiffs to sue the state to bring about marriage equality. The couple jumped at the chance to help bring about change.

“It was just the right time,” Juan said, who added that, this time, they weren’t acting solely out of an inflamed sense of social justice. “All that denying us equal parenting rights meant that Lucas could be hurt. It was personal. That’s what this is all about.”

The Super Volunteer

On March 13, 2014, the ACLU officially announced a lawsuit, filed in federal court, on behalf of eight couples who had been legally married in other jurisdictions where same-sex marriage was already recognized. (Juan and Tom were legally married in Washington, D.C., in December 2010). Among the eight couples, Juan and Tom were one of two LGBT couples with a child, and the only gay male parents in the lawsuit. They were enlisted in part for this reason – to help demonstrate the deleterious impact of marriage discrimination on LGBT families in Florida.

Originally, Juan and Tom thought they might be more involved in the legal aspects of the case. “But we weren’t really involved; we never even went to court,” Juan said, with a hint of disappointment in his voice. The court proceedings, he elaborated, were held almost entirely over the phone, through conference calls.

The plaintiffs were not asked, or even encouraged, to be on these calls. But Juan is not the type to sit idly by while judges and lawyers debate the fate of his marriage and family. So, in his copious free time, he asked to be included. “I was the only plaintiff on [the calls]” he said, almost embarrassed. “But you know me, I have to be involved in everything.”

What the couple lacked in legal involvement, however, they certainly made up for in media.

“It was overwhelming,” Juan said with a sigh, “all the media stuff.”

Juan and Tom are no strangers to the spotlight, so hearing this, from Juan especially, surprised me. The couple was front and center during the fight against Amendment 2, the state’s anti-LGBT marriage amendment, and Juan has been part of the Spanish Speakers bureau at GLAAD, the LGBT media watchdog group, for many years. Had Mr. “Involved in Everything” finally reached the limits of his activism?

“No, not at all,” Tom said, laughing. “Let’s just say that Juan really wanted to be much more in the forefront.” There were times, Tom explained, when the couple would be out to dinner or at an event when they’d receive an interview request. Just like their first date, when he excused himself to jump on an organizing call, “Juan would always be ready to run back home to do the interview,” Tom said. “I always appreciated it once we were there, but then other times, I was like, why can’t we just say no?”

Was Tom saying he had regrets about joining the lawsuit?

“No, not at all. But I’m …” he continued, then pausing a moment to gather his thoughts. “I didn’t want to change our lives to make it fit the situation, does that make sense? It was frustrating for me at one point.”

Hearing this from Tom, I felt a sudden pang of guilt. Juan and Tom, together, were two of the most dedicated volunteers I worked with during my time organizing against Amendment 2. But Juan is was what we in the business like to call a “super volunteer,” which meant, basically, that he never says no. He worked just as hard, and probably harder, than those of us that were paid to be there. And at the drop of a hat, I could count on him to help lead a last minute phone bank session or canvass training, or even to lend an ear after a particularly hard day in the field. If he thought what was being asked of him would further the movement in any way, he would drop what he was doing, and he be there.

I’m embarrassed to admit this now, but amid our round-the-clock workweeks, I had never really stopped to think about the toll this type of commitment could take on a relationship or a family. I know I certainly wasn’t maintaining healthy relationships during that campaign; maybe there’s a reason why most of the community organizers I know are single?

“It created some tension sometimes,” Juan admitted. But from Juan’s perspective, he wasn’t only heading a do-gooders calling to serve his community. “I’ve always seen this all as something we were doing for our family.” But finding the right balance between family and community hasn’t always been easy.

“Sometimes [Tom and I] would have lots of, um …” Juan trailed off, choosing his words carefully, “let’s say ‘discussions,’” he said finally, making all three of us laugh. “We’d have to decide whether we should spend our evening having a family dinner, or if the priority was to do something for the community.”

Tom, too, felt this tension. “We needed to making sure we were out there enough to get the message across,” he said, “but then sometimes you need privacy in order to be the family you’re trying to be.”

Tom also worried at times about his family’s safety as a result of the intense media presence. “There’d be press outside our house at times,” he explained. “Our neighbors are cool, but you never know who isn’t. What if someone against us was like, hey, that’s where those guys live that overturned the marriage law. You need to think about security, especially with Lucas. We want to protect him from all that.”

Looking back, despite the occasional “discussion,” both are unequivocally happy with their involvement in the ACLU lawsuit.

“I was just amazed and surprised with how easy going Tom was with the whole process,” Juan said. “Except for a few things here and there,” he added, laughing.

“And I’m glad Juan was a little stubborn,” Tom said. “He would even let me say no to some things,” he joked. “Rarely,” he teased, “but sometimes.”

A Star Turn Abroad

The media surrounding Juan and Tom’s star turn as plaintiffs in Florida’s marriage equality case extended much further than local and state outlets. Juan, who is originally from Ecuador, also faced intense interest from international media as well. The most extensive foreign media story on the family came in the form of an hour-long news show in Ecuador that profiles different Ecuadorians with interesting stories living abroad. For several days, the family had camera crews and reporters following them around at work and home. The family discussed their adoption of Lucas at length in the segment, as well as their involvement in the ACLU lawsuit.

It was exciting for Juan and Tom to have the media interest in their family extend internationally. “As a biracial gay couple,” Juan said, “it was great to have so many Latino countries see us as a family. Lucas is the cutest kid in the world, and that world got to see him being happy and healthy, in a gay household. You can’t help but think differently about a gay family seeing that.”

But some members of Juan’s family weren’t as pleased with the media attention.

“It’s created tension in the family,” Juan admitted, “and if anyone has had to bear the brunt of this all, it’s been Grandma,” he continued, in reference to his mother. Juan’s mother, who is currently living with the couple, is no longer on speaking terms with one of her brothers as a result of their high profile in the ACLU lawsuit. She has also had other friends and family members speak negatively about her support for Juan and Tom’s family.

“They think that she, as a grandmother, shouldn’t be okay with it,” Juan explained. “We are too open and too proud for them. For me, I’m like, good riddance,” he continued, who isn’t necessarily close to his uncle, or others in Ecuador who have taken issue with his sexuality. “But seeing it affect my mother is so hard. She’s being ostracized and having relationships break, all as a result of us.”

* * *

On August 21, 2014, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle found Florida’s marriage ban unconstitutional in the case brought by the ACLU. A stay was put on that ruling, which expired on January 5, 2015, which meant, as of this date, marriage equality had officially come to Florida.

On May 9, 2014, Juan and Tom, along with the other seven plaintiffs in the case, were presented with a “Champion of Equality” award from SAVE, the LGBT rights organization where I had first met the couple while campaigning against Amendment 2.

I gave the couple a hardy “Congratulations!” on the phone when they told me this news.

“Well, it’s funny,” Juan said in response, “I remember thinking, all I did was sign on the dotted line, and I get an award? I didn’t do…”

“Whoa, wait a second,” I said, cutting him off. Juan’s trademark modesty was endearing, but I couldn’t let him get away with it this time. There were few other couples who had dedicated as much time and energy to making marriage equality a reality in Florida. As a couple, he and Tom had knocked on more doors than a missionary, made more phone calls than a telemarketer, and endured enough media attention to make them honorary members of the Kardashian family (except Juan and Tom’s was deserved).

“Well, okay, yes,” Juan said, a little uncomfortable with the praise. “But what I mean is that so many people worked so hard for this victory that never got recognized. You fought for this, too, and so, so many other people. It’s just interesting what becomes a part of history.”

This is as much as I got either Juan or Tom to claim credit for this victory. But, fortunately, the couple is far less modest when discussing Lucas’ role in helping bring about marriage equality in Florida. “We’ve kept a record of every mention of the lawsuit in the media. Every blog, video, news clip,” Tom said, proudly. “We’re keeping it all in one place for Lucas, so he can understand the role he played in helping make all this happen.”

Juan also pointed out that, since the Supreme Court stayed their lawsuit, it is now in the Library of Congress. “And I think it’s great that Lucas can go there when he’s older and see his name,” Juan said. “He’ll be able to know that he was a part of history; that all this took place because of him. He can always be proud of that, the love and power of who he was as a baby to change the situation for so many.”

And with Juan and Tom as parents, there’s no doubt in my mind that Lucas’ years of change-making will not be confined to his toddling years.

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Gay Dad Life

Gays WITHOUT Kids (If Just For a Day...)

Andrew Kohn explains why he decided to leave his kids at home this Pride

I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Gay Dad Life

Gays With Kids Turns Five!

Wow! Time certainly flies when you're busy becoming the world's biggest online resource and magazine for gay, bi and trans dads!

As if we don't have enough going on this June (Stonewall's 50th anniversary! Father's Day! Taylor Swift rounding up all the gays in West Hollywood for her latest music video!) we're also celebrating another milestone here at Gays With Kids: we're officially turning five this month. (And we don't look a day over two, right?!)

To celebrate, we took a look back at some of our most popular essays, photos, news stories and more. What do you want to see us cover in the NEXT five years? Let us know at dads@gayswithkids.com


#10. The Hardest Part of Foster Care? The Wait, Say These Dads-to-Be

Several years ago, we brought you this article: The Hardest Part of Foster Care? The Wait, Say These Dads-to-Be. The article included a video of Antwon and Nate, who were in the midst of their process to become foster dads, which quickly became one of our most popular posts of all time. In this video, they shared how difficult it was waiting for "the" call from the agency letting them know their lives would be forever changed once a child came to live with them.

Want to see how the dads are getting on several years later? Check out this updated video here!

#9. Famous Gay Dads and Their Kids!

Our article, Famous Gay Dads and Their Kids, featuring well-known gay dads from Neil Patrick Harris to Ryan Murphy, quickly became one of our most popular. In the years since, as the ranks of gay dads has continued to grow, we've brought you MANY more stories of gay men in the limelight who are venturing into fatherhood. Check them all out here!

#8. The Story Behind America's Youngest Gay Dad

The Story Behind America's Youngest Gay Dad, which ran back in 2015, is also one of our most popular posts of all time! The post explores the story of Brian Mariano, who became a father with an ex-girlfriend while still in high school. "Everybody in my life is really supportive of me," he said. "If it's someone new and a friend mentions I'm a dad, they will stop. 'Wait, what? How are you a dad? You're gay.' It's like that 'Mean Girls' quote sometimes. You know – 'if you're from Africa, why are you white?'"

#7. When His Son Got a Tattoo, He Freaked Out. Then He Saw What it Was

This article, When His Son Got a Tattoo, He Freaked Out, definitely plucked the heartstrings of our readers! Which is why it's one of the most popular articles on our site of all time.

"Guess what dad I'm getting a tattoo," Richard's son, Jonathan, texted him. "Don't you dare," was Richard's response. But Jonathan went ahead with it anyway. At first, his dad "fumed." But then he found out what the tattoo was.

"So I got my first tattoo!!" Jonathan wrote on Facebook, of his roman numeral tattoo on his side. "This date is the day that my life changed. This is the day my dads adopted me. The greatest day in my life knowing that for the rest of my life I would finally have a loving family that loved me for me!" (Another one of our most popular posts is this photo essay of gay dads who explain the meaning behind their tattoos.)

#6. 8 Black Dads Share What Black History Month Means to Their Families

Last year, during February's Black History Month, we ran an article titled 8 Black Dads Share What Black History Month Means to Their Families. To create the post, we asked our community a simple question: as a Black gay dad, what does this month mean to you, your family, and your community? The answers we got back were reflective, poignant and deeply moving, which is why this article became one of our most-viewed ever.

Check out the story here.

#5. 19 Photos of Matt Dallas & Blue Hamilton That Will Make You Green with Parenting Envy

Ok the popularity of this article, 19 Photos of Matt Dallas & Blue Hamilton That Will Make You Green with Parenting Envy, doesn't need that much explanation. Gorgeous, talented, successful and good dads? What's not to love! Also check out this more recent post, Things Husbands (and Gay Dads) Do According to Matt Dallas and Blue Hamilton, which is also quickly climbing the ranks of our most popular!

#4. A Gay Dad's Message From His Heart to his Facebook Friends

This article, A Gay Dad's Message From the Heart to his Facebook Friends, by gay dad Michael Anderson, ran in the troubling aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election, when so many LGBTQ people, our allies, and other vulnerable communities looked (and continue to look) towards an uncertain future.

"Suddenly I don't feel secure anymore," Michael wrote. "Vice president-elect Pence has an extensive anti-gay record from supporting gay conversion therapy on kids that literally includes trying to (but failing to) electro-shock the gay out, to signing legislation in his state in 2013 to jail any same-sex couple who attempted to get a marriage certificate. All of the progress that we have made that gives my family a sense of belonging and security is very likely to be erased."

For more of our ongoing political coverage, including the 2020 race, check out these articles as well.

#3. Helping Gay Men Afford Adoption Through Sizable Grants

Our third most popular article, Helping Gay Men Afford Adoption Through Sizable Grants, features our good friends Help Us Adopt, an amazing non-profit organization that helps adoptive parents offset the substantial costs associated with the process. They are also dedicated to inclusivity, and are one of the few financial resources available for gay adoptive parents. Check out this great profile of their work!

#2. 9 Times Gay Dads Crushed Their Pregnancy Announcement Pics

Gay dads love a good photo opportunity. So obviously this photo essay of gay dad pregnancy announcement pics is high up on our list as well. This photo essay, 9 Times Gay Men Crushed Their Pregnancy Announcement Pics, is our second most popular. Check out this most recent roundup of pregnancy announcement pics, which is also climbing the

And Our MOST Viewed Article of All Time Is... 

Gay dads do Halloween right! So it's no surprise that this article, 13 Dads Giving You Major Family Halloween Costume Goals, is our most viewed of all time! And though Halloween may still be months away, why not prepare early with a look at some of our other most popular Halloween articles!

Gay Dads Snap Pics at the Pumpkin Patch
Nobody Does Halloween Like Neil Patrick Harris and Fam
31 Gay Dads Serving Major Halloween Costume Inspo (and Where to Get The Looks!)
Get Your DIY Skills On for Halloween, Dads!







THANK YOU!

Lastly, a big thank you to all of our readers! It's thanks to you that we now can claim the biggest online community of gay, bi, and trans dads in the world (not to mention two GLAAD award nominations ;) We can't wait to see what the next five years bring!

Gay Dad Life

Most Fathers Experience "Dad Shaming," Says Study

52% of dads with kids ages 0-13 say they experience some form of criticism from their partners, family, friends and even complete strangers

Just in time for Father's Day, The T.C. Mott Children's Hospital in Michigan released a new national poll of 713 fathers that found a majority experience some form of criticisms as new parents. While we have long known new mothers are subjected to criticism, less studies have focused on the experiences of dads.

About half of fathers (52%) say they have been criticized about their parenting style or choices. The common source of criticism is the child's other parent (44%), though the report didn't explore if this finding was equally true for LGBTQ couples. Grandparents (24%) and the father's own friends (9%) were also common sources of criticism. Dads even reported receiving criticism about their parenting from strangers in public places or online (10%), as well as professionals like teachers or health care providers (5%).

Among some of the findings:

  • 67% of dads say they were criticized for how they discipline their child
  • 43% are criticized for their children's diet and nutrition
  • 32% are criticized for not paying attention to their children
  • 32% are criticized for being too rough with their kids

"Over one quarter of fathers in this Mott Poll noted that criticism made them feel less confident in their parenting, and 1 in 5 fathers said that criticism made them want to be less involved as a parent," the report says. "In short, too much disparagement can cause fathers to be demoralized about their parental role. This is unfortunate for both father and child, and those tempted to criticize fathers should be wary of this potential consequence."

Read the whole report here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Brief History of Gay Times

Ferd van Gameren, a co-founder of Gays With Kids, gives a personal history of gay pride celebrations over the years

In 1994, my then-boyfriend Brian and I drove to New York City for Gay Pride.

We had met the year before at Mike's Gym, an almost exclusively gay gym in Boston's South End. A friend of Brian's somehow knew I was from Holland; that's how I believe my nickname Tulip came about.

(Come to think of it: Brian used to say that he'd prefer tulips on his organ to a rose on his piano.)

A quick glance at me in the locker room taught him what religion I wasn't.

And a friend of mine had already divulged to me what Brian had told him in confidence: He was HIV-positive.

Anyway, we met. We really liked each other. Then, on the third date, Brian revealed to me in a shaky voice what I already knew. We had our first, very careful sex that night.

We fell in love. We had dates in the South End, then a largely gay neighborhood. We made friends that were mostly gay. (But not exclusively; we befriended some lesbians too.) We went to see "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss" and other little indie films that were, yes, gay, gay, gay.

With an AIDS diagnosis looming, we had no time to lose. Some of our new friends were getting sicker. Some died. Barely six months after the first kiss, we moved in together.

At that New York Pride, gay life was celebrated in the face of death. We saw men marching with dark Kaposi sarcoma lesions on their bared chests. We saw young men leaning on canes, too sick to walk, watching the parade from the sidelines. Men blind with cytomegalovirus loudly singing along to "Pride ­­– A Deeper Love" coming from the floats. We chanted and cried and watched a giant rainbow flag being carried along Fifth Avenue. And in our cut-off jeans and Timberland boots, we danced to Aretha and Whitney.

And then, thanks to enormous medical advances, the unthinkable happened for us: Brian stayed alive and healthy. As our horizon of life opened up, we learned to look ahead farther. We made plans for a future together that wasn't just measured in weeks or months.

We loved New York, and so we found jobs there and moved to Manhattan. Forced by my immigration issues we decamped temporarily to cold but wonderful Toronto, repatriated to New York five years later, and in 2017 returned to the Boston area.

We went from boyfriends to partners (for many years our term of choice), briefly to ex-partners, to partners again, and finally, in 2013, to husbands.

We got our first dog in 2005, a saucy Chihuahua named Duke, and showered him with love and attention. It awakened something in us that had long been dormant. But could we, at our age? Would Brian stay healthy?

Our answers were yes and yes. In 2009 we adopted a baby boy. Seventeen months later our two daughters were born.

In 2014 Brian began this website, Gays With Kids. So we're still gay, and our kids clearly have gay dads. They dance a mean Time Warp; instead of straight ahead they say gaily forward. They realize everyone is different, and they seem to like it that way.

But we live now in a predominantly straight suburb with an excellent school system. We socialize primarily with straight-but-not-narrow friends. Brian and I tell each other all the time we should really go back to the gym. We watch our little, almost exclusively gay indie films in bed on Netflix and Amazon Prime, after the kids have finally fallen asleep.

We're going to take our kids to New York Pride later this month. I envision something like this: Proudly holding their hands, we'll watch the floats in age-appropriate shorts and sensible footwear. We'll cheer on courageous Mormon or evangelical LGBT contingencies while the kids are busy licking lollipops. They will learn about Stonewall, AIDS and the road to marriage equality. Following the kids' lead, Brian and I will make some moves to "Old Town Road." With them, we'll belt out "Baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle?" And we will dance in the street to Madonna, Cher, Whitney and Gaga, the soundtrack of our lives for so many years.

Over the course of that weekend, in age-appropriate terms, we will tell our kids more about the lives of their daddy and papa.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Do We Have a Biological Right to Fatherhood? Absolutely, Says This Gay Dad

Jay Bostick, a gay foster dad, responds to Kevin Saunders' controversial essay "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children"

Editor's Note: Below is an essay by Jay Bostick who eloquently lays out many of the reasons why he and many other readers were upset by a post we ran yesterday by Kevin Saunders titled, "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children." This post clearly touched a nerve! (Check out the ongoing discussion on our Facebook page.) While some of our readers appreciated Saunders' viewpoint, many others felt slighted by his reasoning for not having children, calling him everything from "self-involved," "selfish," and an "insufferable narcissist." Many other readers rightly questioned why Gays With Kids would even run an essay from a man who does not want children on (of all place) a parenting website.

The former point is a matter of opinion, but I'll offer some clarification on the latter. We agreed to run this post for two reasons. First, Saunders' perspective is unique among many adopted gay men. We have run countless essays on this site featuring adopted gay men who, inspired by their own upbringing, decided to give back by opening up their homes to children who need them. Saunders' experience, however, led him to conscience decision not to have children, a perspective worthy of discussion particularly by anyone who has been touched by adoption in some way. Secondly, as a 52-year-old gay man, Saunders is starting to find himself alienated from many in his LGBTQ peer group for his decision not to have kids. Again, we are so much more familiar with the opposite perspective on our page: when they become parents, many gay men find themselves ostracized from the broader, childless LGBTQ community. That the inverse is also starting to become true is a testament to the increase in LGBTQ parents in the United States, and an interesting dichotomy we believed warranted further exploration.

All that said, Saunders' essay is a matter of opinion, and one our readers (nor we) certainly don't have to agree with. This is why we were thrilled to receive this "counterpoint" to Saunders's essay from Bostick. We, at least, are enjoying the respectful exchange of ideas, and hope you are as well. Give Bostick's essay a read, as well as the original, and then let us know what you think in the comments or at dads@gayswithkids.com.

--David Dodge, Managing Editor

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Adults

Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children

Do we have a biological right to parenthood? Kevin Saunders, a childless 52-year-old gay man, says no.

Guest post written by Kevin Saunders.

Two dear friends of mine, each partnered, capable gay men of relatively sound mind and body, have recently decided to become fathers, and I could not be more unnerved. The expense, the risk, the potential for disappointment, the logistical complexity that they must navigate leave me baffled and at times enraged with the lingering question that I have, out of respect, refrained from asking, "WHY, WHY, WHY do you want to do this?!" These feelings toward what most would consider a happy occasion beg a reciprocal enquiry: "Why do you care?" The answer is rooted in a disposition and a history that has left me skeptical of the innate right to biological parenthood that many, gay or straight, seem to feel entitled to.

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Antwon and Nate became dads through the foster care system. Nine months after becoming licensed, they received a call on a Tuesday, and two days later, their daughter moved in. "It was very quick," said Nate. "Honestly, it was more just shock and nervousness for me."

As new parents, Nate took unpaid leave for two weeks, before going back to work part-time. Antwon didn't receive any leave.

"It's definitely important to have time off to bond, but it's also important to be financially stable when you do it," said Antwon. "I don't think you should have to choose between staying financially afloat or showing your kid love... and I don't think anyone should have to make that choice."

Only 15% of dads in the U.S. have access to paid paternity leave. We want to change this.

Watch Nate and Antwon's video to find out how:

Sign the pledge: www.dovemencare.com/pledge

Like Antwon and Nate, we're helping Dove Men+Care advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads! Over the next three months, we will be sharing stories of gay dad families and their paternity leave experience. Our goal is to get 100,000 folks to sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Dove Men+Care has collected over 30,000 signatures on the Pledge for Paternity Leave in three short months, in a mission to champion and support new legislation for federally mandated paid leave laws in the U.S. With the conversation growing on Capitol Hill, Dove Men+Care will target key legislators to drive urgency behind paid paternity leave policy and provide a social proof in the form of real dad testimonials, expert research and signature support from families across the country.

Our goal is to help Dove Men+Care bring 100,000 signatures to key policymakers in Washington, D.C. for their Day of Action on the Hill, and drive urgency behind this issue.

If you believe *ALL* dads should receive paid paternity leave, sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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