Gay Dad Life

Love Conquers Everything: Bryon Adopts Jason

Bryon still remembers the date when he was granted full custody of his son. “My court hearing was December 21st," he said. “It was an eight-hour hearing." The length of the hearing was partly his own fault, however; he and his lawyer were leaving nothing to chance and had subpoenaed over 25 people, including doctors and nurses, who were able to vouch for Bryon's ability to care for Jason.

Nonetheless, the children's facility continued hinting that the relationship between Bryon and Jason might be improper. Tired of the innuendo, the judge finally confronted the issue head-on, to Bryon's great relief. “He said, 'Are you alleging there is sexual assault or abuse involved here? Because if you are, you need to bring evidence. If you don't have any, you need to stop talking about it. You're making assumptions.'" With nothing else standing in the way, Bryon was granted full custody rights of Jason, and the two became father and son, legally.

Bryon and Jason's family creation story, therefore, has a happy ending. And though Bryon was never directly compensated for the homophobic accusations his former employer baselessly lobbed against him, he did see some justice served. During Jason's custody battle, Bryon sent a letter to his former employer's corporate office on the advice of his lawyer. “We just hoped it might scare them away and get them to back off the custody battle," Bryon said. “But instead, they wrote back saying they terminated the administrator right away. They said, 'That's not how we operate.'"

***

From left to right: Byron, Jason and Jason ("Big Jason")

When he became a single father to a 14-year-old boy with special needs, Bryon had just turned 22, an age most young men reserve for acting impulsively and making poor life decisions. Bryon, however, was better prepared than most.

“I'm really familiar with adoption," Bryon said. “I have adopted siblings, and my mom is adopted. I have about 18 adopted cousins." Adoption was so familiar to him, in fact, that when he was a young boy, he proudly told his mother, “I'm going to adopt kids one day."

Bryon had also been caring for others for much of his young life. His father was diagnosed with hemochromatosis (abnormal accumulation of iron in organs, leading to organ toxicity) in high school, and later developed liver cancer as a result. His mother, meanwhile, was in an inpatient psychiatric facility for much of Bryon's high school years. “This meant I had to grow up really quick," he said, noting there was no one else but him to raise his younger siblings, and care for his father.

When Bryon adopted Jason, however, they saw an opportunity to return the favor; for the first six months after Jason came home, he had no permanent caregiver in place while Bryon worked. “So my mom and my dad and sisters and everybody would take turns staying at my house while I worked and cared for him."

At first, there was a bit of a learning curve. “My mom was concerned. She wasn't used to taking care of anybody with special needs, and this was her first grandchild. She was afraid she'd break him. My family had no foundation for caring for someone with special needs, but they learned and all pitched in."

Bryon is eternally grateful to his family for stepping up to the challenge. “It would have been nearly impossible to do without my family and a strong support network," he said, before removing the qualification: “Actually, totally impossible."

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Gay Dad Life

Gay Dads Featured on Cover of Parents Magazine for First Time

Fitness guru Shaun T. and his husband Scott Blokker are the first gay dads to be featured on the cover of Parents Magazine

I literally never thought I'd see the day. Literally.

Gay fathers on the cover of Parents Magazine! Gay fathers being celebrated in a "main stream" publication about being parents. Gay fathers!

I don't want to get overly dramatic here, but this is a milestone. A massive cultural milestone.

Sure, gay dads have come a long way in being accepted in our popular culture, but to my eye we've never been on the cover of a big popular parenting magazine celebrating our parenting skills. As if we are the norm.

We are now - thanks to Parents Magazine.

This is a particular milestone for me because I have a bit of a history with the magazine and with parenting publications in general. My first job out of grad school was in brand marketing at Johnson's Baby Products where I did indeed run advertising in this particular magazine. Back then though we only featured married, straight couples. There were no other kinds of parents to feature back in the day! And if I'm to be really honest, they were generally white, married, straight couples.

I distinctly remember one photo shoot where I forgot to put a wedding ring on the "husband's" finger and we had to reshoot it. No photoshop back then!

Now admittedly this was before I was a dad and before I was out, but as the years went by and I embraced my own journey as a gay dad, there were no role models or pop culture markers to say that I (and other gay dads) were accepted. There were no Andy Cohens publicly making baby announcements. We were alone on our parenting.

It was hard. There was a constant barrage of straight parenting norms that constantly reminded us that we were different.
Not any more! Being a gay dad, or any dad, is now simply being a parent. A good parent. A loving parent. And we have Parents Magazine to thank for the reminder and endorsement, with hopefully more to come.

And I can't help but think, and actually know, that this kind of normalization will inspire the next generation of gay dads who will simply accept, without hesitation, that fatherhood as a gay man is a real, accepted, and normal option.

Bravo!

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Riley Petersen is 9 (!) and already a Creative Director, with the help of her gay dads

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Guest post written by Dan Wellik

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Study Finds Two-Thirds of Gay Dads Experienced Stigma in Last Year

The study also found that over half of gay dads have avoided certain social situations in the last year for fear of experiencing stigma.

According to new research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the vast majority of gay men and their children experience some form of stigma. The findings are based on a survey of 732 gay father across 47 states in the United States.

More gay men are becoming fathers each year, and have more options for doing so than ever before: including adoption, foster care, and surrogacy. However as the study's authors write: "Despite legal, medical, and social advances, gay fathers and their children continue to experience stigma and avoid situations because of fear of stigma. Increasing evidence reveals that stigma is associated with reduced well-being of children and adults, including psychiatric symptoms and suicidality"

Almost two-thirds of respondents, or 63.5%, reported experiencing stigma based on being a gay father within the last year. Over half, or 51.2%, said they have avoided situations for fear of stigma, in the past year. Importantly, the study found that fathers living in states with more legal protections for LGBTQ people and families experienced fewer barriers and stigma. Most experiences of stigma (almost 35%) occurred, unsurprisingly, in a religious environment. But another quarter of gay dads said they experienced stigma from a wide variety of other sources, including: family members, neighbors, waiters, service providers, and salespeople

Surprisingly (or perhaps not?) another source of stigma cited by the study originates from other gay men. "Gay men report suspicion and criticism for their decision to be parents from gay friends who have not chosen parenthood." The study also says gay dads often feel "isolation in their parental role."

The study concludes, "Despite growing acceptance of parenting by same-gender adults, barriers and stigma persist. States' legal and social protections for lesbian and gay individuals and families appear to be effective in reducing experiences of stigma for gay fathers."

Read the whole study here.

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On January 1st, 2019 superstar Ricky Martin and his husband Jwan Yosef shared a post via Instagram announcing that they'd welcomed a baby girl named Lucia into their family.

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In their previous video, Broadway Husbands Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna shared that they found their egg donor. In this video, the dads-to-be discuss their embryo creation process. And - spoiler alert - there are now frozen Hanna-Shuford embryos, and the husbands are ready for their next step: finding a gestational carrier.

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Adoption for These Dads Was Like a "Rollercoaster" But Well Worth the Ride

After multiple scam attempts, bizarre leads, and a birth mom's change of heart, Jason and Alex finally became dads.

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Every gay man who pursues fatherhood fights for their right to become a dad. They've had to keep going even when at times it's seemed hopeless. Jason Hunt-Suarez and Alex Suarez's story is no different. They had their hearts set on adoption; overcame multiple scams, some very bizarre leads, a birth mother's change of heart at the 11th hour, their adoption agency going bankrupt, and tens of thousands of dollars lost along the way. But after a long, turbulent, and heart-wrenching three-year-long journey, it was all worth it.

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