Coming Out

My Gay Shame Is Officially Cancelled

After years of feeling ashamed of being gay, David Blacker has finally overcome it. And his son had a lot to do with it.

Scrolling through my social media feeds, reading all the posts about National Coming Out Day reminds me just how valuable it is for us to share our stories and be as open, vulnerable and authentic as possible. Warning: this article is about to get real AF, so now might be a good time to switch back to the Face-Aging app that gives Russia all your personal data.

Oh good, you stayed. Don't say I didn't warn you.


Being a father to my son Maxwell has taught me how important it is to get rid of any residual shame I've carried with me over the years for being gay. Because harboring that shame sends the message that there's something wrong, negative or embarrassing about being gay — it took me many years to realize there's not — and it's especially important that the next generation of kids know this. This is the story of how I finally came to that realization.

Growing up in the eighties (I know what you're thinking, “But he looks so young!") even before I understood what being gay meant, I was convinced it was bad and not something I'd ever want to be. That message was reiterated in countless movies, talks shows, magazines, late-night jokes, gym classes, bus stops, political debates and even delivered at home by many of our family members. The intended message was received loud and clear — gay equals bad.

Problem was, I couldn't hide my gayness even if I tried.

See, I was the artsy kid. I was the kid with a lisp, one that years of speech therapy couldn't rein in. I was the kid obsessed with Whitney Houston, Vanessa Williams and Janet Jackson (yes, I have a type). I was the kid that opted to watch Golden Girls over GI Joe. Most boys traded baseball cards, and I was busy trading in my used argyle socks for new ones at Sears (long before I learned the trick is to keep the original tags). And while the other boys were at basketball practice, I was practicing the big "Dirty Dancing" finale choreography (that I had memorized after religiously watching the film on the floor in my parents' room while my brothers were downstairs hogging the big TV, watching the Phillies game).

I think you get it. It was obviously hard for me to blend into the crowd. So inevitably I would be accused of being gay by classmates. I wouldn't say I was bullied, as I never quite felt threatened, but when kids call you the one thing the world tells you is bad, it doesn't feel good and it makes you want to not be whatever that word means, even if at the time you're not old enough to understand what it means.

And as if being perceived as gross and abnormal wasn't bad enough, when the media did tell stories about LGBTQ people, the characters were always portrayed as victims who were miserable and, oftentimes, suicidal. (Remember "Doing Time on Maple Drive" starring Jim Carrey, "The Truth About Alex" starring Scott Baio or "Making Love" starring Harry Hamlin?) Gay people were the black sheep. The ones that embarrassed their families. The ones other kids didn't want to be seen with. The ones that were dying of AIDS.

Who would want to be associated with these people, much less be one of them?

And so even before I realized I was, in fact, one of these people, I did EVERYTHING to bury it, which meant playing down all the things that made me happy and all the things that made me, well, me.

I became the master of disguise. I watched my mannerisms, overly correcting the way I walked, stood and I never ever let my wrist go limp. I had to filter the way I smiled and laughed. I would even deepen my voice whenever I was around other boys. I only listened to Whitney in private and pretended to enjoy Metallica and Pearl Jam concerts with new friends I had nothing in common with. And when these so-called "friends" would invariably say homophobic things in front of me, I felt like an undercover spy infiltrating the hetero camp.

Doing all this taught me one thing: Being ashamed of yourself is exhausting.

I didn't feel like myself anymore. I didn't know this person I had become. And did I mention I had to listen to Metallica?

Around the time of high school, I knew deep down inside I was different from the other boys. But instead of embracing those differences, I repressed them and started dating lots of girls ... you know, to buy myself more time and throw the bullies off their game. I told myself I'd figure things out in college. Not knowing anyone else like me or seeing anyone like me out in the world left me super lonely. (Back then Richard Simmons, Boy George and Elton John were the only out gay role models.) So I turned to David Sedaris books ("Barrel Fever"), Cameron Crowe movies ("Reality Bites") and '90s R&B music to get me through these tough times … oh and let's not forget "Beverly Hills 90210.” (Back then I used to say "I wish I could be Brandon Walsh," but in hindsight, I think I actually wanted Brandon Walsh. I always had a thing for sideburns).

During these times, every year when I blew out my birthday candles, I wished for the same thing — to be normal. I wished so hard to just wake up and be like the other boys. I wanted to get butterflies in my stomach around girls. I wanted to want to watch the big game and know all the stats and scores. I wanted so badly to be accepted by the guys at school.

College was a new chapter for me. A clean slate for me to create my own narrative. While attending Penn State University, I made incredible new friends, and felt closer to myself than I had in a long time, but alas, four more years passed where I was still too ashamed to acknowledge, both to myself and to the world, that I was indeed gay.

Then soon after college, at my first advertising job, I became friendly with a very impressive guy who just happened to be gay. He seemed to have it all figured out. Getting to know this special, kind, successful, compassionate man — who cared about the same important things that I cared about — gave me hope. As I became friendlier with him and his then-partner, I realized that maybe being true to myself wouldn't turn out so bad. Maybe my happy ending was possible.

But I still needed to be a safe distance away from my Philadelphia identity in order to openly explore this long-hidden truth about myself. And so in 2002 I quit my job, packed up my SUV and drove cross country to Los Angeles to "find myself." I left with a bag of clothes, a box of CDs and a dream to find happiness, whatever and wherever that may be.

A few years later I met my husband Alex and felt truly validated for the first time in my life.

Embracing my authentic self wasn't just freeing, but it gave me the opportunity to become closer with my family, because I was no longer concealing this very important part of myself. It introduced me to a community of wonderful, creative, talented, kind, funny and passionate people that I am still inspired by every day. It also lead to the happiest ending of all — even happier than a Koreatown massage — the birth of our son Maxwell.

My coming out process was transformative, allowing me to let go of so much pain and internalized shame. My mannerisms changed, not because I changed them but because I was finally relaxed and calm — I was finally myself. I felt more comfortable speaking my mind without worrying about spilling dark secrets. I also got to stop obsessively deleting my browser history, fearing someone might find out that I was checking out a Whitney Houston fan forum. God forbid.

I learned that shame loses most of its power when you see it for what it is — a feeling. And feelings, like Trump's approval rating, can change by the day. That said, a lifetime of shame does not disappear overnight. I am still chipping away at my immense wall of shame. But I am no longer crippled by it.

Now that I am a father of an almost-9-year-old boy, we've instilled in him that being gay is 100 percent normal and perfectly natural, but we're also honest with him about how some people might not accept or support the fact that he has gay dads. If we only paint a picture of unicorns and rainbows, without expressing the current realities of gay perception in Trump's America, he'll be in for a rude awakening when he inevitably comes across those who judge on the playground. He gets it. And he gets how important it is to live honestly. And he especially gets that there's no shame for who his fathers are.

Here's what I know for sure: I'm proud of being gay. I have a beautiful family. It's no longer something I wish I wasn't. I no longer view it as a negative. I view it as an extraordinary gift. The gift of patience, compassion, forgiveness, honesty, creativity, bravery, determination and fulfillment.

So basically, what I'm saying is, if you're not gay, I'd strongly recommend it.

#KiddingNotKidding #GayShameCancelled

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Today is National Coming Out Day, and as we celebrate, we're sharing six coming out stories from dads in our community. Their personal stories are heartwarming, relatable, and empowering. Happy Coming Out Day, and remember, live your truth!

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Growing a Thicker Skin

Experiencing hateful and hurtful comments, Erik Alexander had to learn an important lesson: how to ignore the trolls.

Photo credit: BSA Photography

Twenty years ago when I came out, it was unbearably hard. As I have written before, I am from the Deep South. Anyone who dared to deviate from social norms was sure to be ostracized. It's not that these people were born hateful or mean; rather, it probably had more to do with them not being subjected to other lifestyles. Anything different from their own experiences sparked fear and confusion. Homosexuality, interracial relationships, religious differences – these were all unfamiliar territories to the average person I grew up around. Thus, growing up was particularly difficult.

I remember lying in bed at night when I was a little boy. I would pray and beg God to not let me be gay. Every single night I would end my prayers with "... and God, please don't let me have nightmares and please don't let me be gay." I remember crying myself to sleep many nights. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I wanted God to cure me.

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Coming Out

How Coming Out Helped This Gay Man Find the Strength to Be a Dad

Steven Kerr shares the moment he came out to his ex-girlfriend. "From that moment on," he writes, "my strength and purpose have grown."

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Popular

"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!

News

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.

Gay Dad Family Stories

One Single Gay Dad's Trailblazing Path to Parenthood Via Surrogacy

20 years ago, Gene became the first single gay man to work with Circle Surrogacy in order to become a dad — trailblazing a path for many others since.

This article is part of our family feature series with Circle Surrogacy, a surrogacy agency that has been helping LGBTQ+ singles and couples realize their dream of parenthood for the past 20 years.

"I think I was pretty naïve, I guess," chuckled Gene, one of the first single gay dads to work with Circle Surrogacy over 19 years ago. "I just had made a decision and went out and did it, and wasn't really thinking about how difficult it might be or what other people thought, being first at doing something."

So how did Gene hear about surrogacy as an option for single gay men? Well, it began with Gene flipping through a bar magazine. He recalls seeing an ad about a woman providing a service to connect gay men with lesbians in platonic co-parenting relationships. While he started down that path, working with the founder, Jennifer, he remembers thinking, "What if I meet someone? What if I want to move? It would create all these complications."

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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.



Fatherhood, the gay way

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