Gay Dad Life

A Visit to Disney World Convinced This Gay Couple to Become Dads

Michael and Matthew met 12 years ago in Warren, Ohio, the old fashioned way: in a bar. They were married June 17, 2015, and now live in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Initially, they did not want to become parents as they did not see a way for them both to be the dads legally in their state of Ohio, but a chance encounter at Disney World changed their minds. Here's what happened ...


Tell us about your path to parenthood. In January 2016 while in Disney World for a marathon weekend, we ran into a gay couple with a 4 month old daughter. It was the first time we had seen a gay couple with a child and it got us thinking. We ran into that couple another 6 or 7 times during that trip and we become good friends. Upon returning from Disney, we had some serious discussions and came to the conclusion that we both wanted to have a child. We contacted Adoption by Gentle Care and figured out next steps.

Elena with her Disney friends

Did you choose an open adoption with Elena? We have a semi-open adoption. We utilized Adoption by Gentlecare in Columbus Ohio for the adoption and they require that we write a letter to the birth mother with photos each month for the first year and then twice annually each year after. We have met Elena's mother, but we don't have a relationship with her at this point.

Matthew with Elena

Your family has an affinity for Disney! As a family, do you try to go to Disney World often? We love Disney and loved it prior to having Elena. We go three or four times per year. With Elena, it is seeing Disney through her eyes. Meeting characters, riding rides and just seeing the spectacles around Disney through her perspective is heartwarming. I will tell you, we went in July to meet up with Michael's mother just before we finalized and Elena has never slept better. That constant stimulation wore her out.

Matthew with Elena and Minnie Mouse

How have your lives changed since you've become dads? It has changed our lives completely. Before, we would get off of work and shop, watch tv, go out to eat and exercise. Now our lives consist of shopping for Elena and the things we need around the house, eating when we get an opportunity, watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and going running with Elena in the stroller. You become less selfish when you have a child and you don't feel angry about it.

Michael and Matthew holding Elena

You and Michael had been together for almost 11 years before you became Elena's dads. How did you adjust to life as a family of three? The changing from just Michael and I to a family of three was interesting. It took us about two or three weeks to get our groove but it was been wonderful. We found a great home daycare for when we are working and we have our evenings and weekends figured. We have been very fortunate that she is an easy baby above all.

What have you learned from your children since you became a dad? A tremendous amount of patience. You realize quickly that everything is on Elena's schedule.

Is your family treated differently than others on account of your sexual orientation? You just have to be prepared for the questions. You will realize that strangers have no qualms about asking you also sorts of inappropriate questions. Our job is to figure out how to respond in a way that validates us and our daughter.

Michael and Elena

What would you say was your "aha" moment when you first realized that you were a dad? That came on January 20th when she was placed with us. We had only waited two months on the adoption list, so we were already shocked that we had a baby that quick. But on January 20th, We had done all this prep and worrying within the 72-hour window, then we get home, we were exhausted, excited and confused. All that build up in the 72-hour window and it was what do we do next? It dawned on us that our next move and then every move thereafter was going to be to raise ElenaWhat obstacles did you face on your path to fatherhood? Upon getting on the list, Elena came two months later. To get on the list, it took a great deal of hoops to jump through to compile everything needed to qualify for adoption in Ohio.

Where do you see your family 5-10 years in the future? Watching our daughter develop and figure out what her dreams are.


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News

Indiana Court Says Couples Using Sperm Donors​ Can Both Be Listed on Birth Certificate — But Ruling Excludes Male Couples

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, a major victory for LGBTQ parents — but the Attorney General may appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, a US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from a lower court that said that both parents in a same-sex relationship are entitled to be listed on the birth certificate — previously, the state of Indiana had required the non-biological parent within a same-sex relationship using assisted reproductive technologies to adopt their child after the birth in order to get her or his name listed on the birth certificate, a lengthy and expensive process not required of straight couples in the same situation.

It's a double standard LGBTQ parents have long been subjected to in many states across the country. So this represent a major win. As reported by CNN, this ruling "takes a lot of weight off" the shoulders of LGBTQ parents, said Karen Celestino-Horseman, a lawyer representing one of the couples in the case. "They've been living as families and wondering if this was going to tear them apart."

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals deliberated the case, according to CNN, for more than two and a half years, which is one of the longest in the court's history.

However, because all the plaintiffs in the case involved female same-sex couples using sperm donors, the ruling left open the similar question of parenting rights with respect to male couples. Indiana's Attorney General, moreover, may also appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

We'll be following the case closely and be sure to keep you up to date. For more on this recent decision, read CNN's article here.

Editorials

Disney's 'Mom Panel' Includes... Dads?

Why does Disney insist on the gendering of its parenting experts?

This week, Disney released the names of 14 lucky individuals, selected from over 10,000 applicants, to serve as members of the "Disney Parks Mom's Panel." The lucky winners will get the opportunity to serve as public facing "Disney experts" over the course of the next year.

At first glance, this seems an easy opportunity for dads to yet again cry foul — why must everything related to parenting be so gendered? Aren't dads just as capable of being Disney experts? Aren't we all trying to dismantle the patriarchy, and entice dads to be more involved in the rearing of children? Haven't we moved beyond the "kid tested, mother approved" advertising tropes of the pre-1990s?

Are only moms qualified for the sacred opportunity to ascend to a leadership position within the Happiest Place on Earth?

But, as it turns outs, three of panelists selected are in fact dads. So... why not rename the damn thing, Disney? Is calling the group something like a "Parents Panel" so far fetched? Not only would such a name stop reinforcing outdated gender norms as they relate to parenting — but the double "P" also gives the name a nice alliteration, no?

Yes, I'm picking on Disney a bit unnecessarily. So let me get one thing straight: we gays love Disney. And so do our kids. Over the years, we've brought you many pro-LGBTQ Disney stories that celebrates our love for one another, like this one featuring two gay dads, both employees of Disneyland, who are raising their kids with the magical kingdom at their doorstep. And this one, featuring a couple who became convinced to become dads after a visit to Disney World.

And Disney has in many ways been ahead of the curve when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Despite heavy pushback from conservative groups like One Million Moms, Disney decided to host its first official LGBTQ pride event this year — giving the mouse seal of approval to the unofficial "Gay Dads" event, which had been held annually since the early 1990s. The Disney organization has also offered health benefits to the partners of gay employees since 1995.

It's precisely because of the company's progressive stance towards the LGBTQ community that makes its continued emphasis on gendered parenting terms so confusing.

Dads can be Disney dorks too, dammit! Now it's your turn to try alliteration, Disney. Say it with me: "Parenting Panel"

Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Change the World

Miami Tourism Board Releases Vacation Guide for LGBTQ Families

Miami isn't just about circuit parties! The LGBTQ Family-Friendly Miami Vacation Guide showcases many options for queer parents, too.

As gay people, it can be difficult to find vacation spots that are LGBTQ-friendly out of the normal travel "fruit loop" — New York, Mykonos, San Francisco; repeat. For those of us with kids, the Venn diagram of destinations that are both queer and kid friendly can seem practically non-existent.

Fortunately, that's starting to change as the tourism industry realizes that LGBTQ families are a growing segment of vacationers. One city to quickly pick up on this trend is Miami. While the gays have long flocked to Miami for party weekends, the city has also recently noticed an uptick in the number of LGBTQ visitors who are parents. In response, Miami's tourism board release a guide, LGBTQ Family-Friendly Miami Vacation Guide, that includes loads of options for queer parents and their kids. Amid Miami's legendary circuit parties, it turns out, are tons of family friendly things to do — like the Museum of Science, an eco-adventure theme park, and other kid-focused events all year long.

Who knew?

"When I came onboard as Director of LGBTQ Marketing a little over a year ago, I found that our LGBTQ messaging was centered around our annual events," said Dan Rios, who works with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. Massive parties like the White Party and Aqua Girl are a central part of the city's LGBTQ offerings, he said, but he was also worried the city was "developing a reputation solely as a party destination. "I want to diversify that message to highlight everything else that Greater Miami has to offer."

Hence the city's family-friendly guide that includes offerings within "art and culture, dining, beaches, fitness," Dan said. "We have unique and amazing family attractions that we had been promoting to our general audiences for decades. I saw this as an opportunity; an opportunity to introduce our attractions to LGBTQ families, and an opportunity to further promote our attractions -- it was a win-win."

Dan said the Bureau is also in the midst of a campaign that will prominently feature LGBTQ parents within different travel destinations throughout the city, which will be featured throughout both LGBTQ and mainstream websites, publications and advertising.

We applaud the effort to reach out to LGBTQ families, and hope more cities follow Miami's lead! Be sure to check out the guide here.

Gay Dad Life

Gong Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!

As we usher in the year of rat, we asked some of our dads how they honor this special time.

Today we're celebrating, alongside our families, the Chinese New Year! As we usher in the year of rat, we asked some of our dads how they honor this special time, what they do to celebrate, and how they're instilling these traditions in their kids. Here are some of their responses.

Keep reading...
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

As a Gay Dad, What's the Impact of Letting My Son Perform Drag?

Michael Duncan was excited when his 10-year-old son asked if he could perform in drag for charity — but he also felt fear and anxiety.

As LGBT parents, we have all lived through some sort of trauma in our lives. For many it is the rejection of our family, being bullied, or abuse. We learn to be vigilant of our surroundings and often are very cautious of who we trust. As adults, we start to become watchful of how much we share and we look for "red flags" around every corner.

So, what effect does this have on our children? Does it unintentionally cause us to be more jaded with our interactions involving others? For some the answer may be a resounding "no." But as we look deeper into the situation, we often find that through survival our interactions with others have changed and we may not even realize exactly how much we are projecting on those around us.

Keep reading...
Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

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