Gay Dad Life

Navigating Loss and Love

Birdie has a Daddy, a Papa, a Noni, two Grammies, a live-in Uncle, three great-grandmothers, two great-grandfathers, many aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as a large extended network of chosen family and community. She has many people to love and support her as she grows, and for that I am so grateful. I love to see the way she connects with and is building relationships with the people in our lives. But, someone is missing.

When I was 16, a junior in high school, my father died of cancer. It was painful and traumatic in all the ways losing a parent is hard, especially so young. That was 18 years ago. Since then my grief for the loss has ebbed and flowed, but for the most part his death is something that, in time, integrated itself as part of my life. You can only be present in the particular kind of sadness that follows death for so long, or it will ruin you. It feels harder certain times of the year; Father's day, his birthday, Christmas, the anniversary of his death, and sometimes for no special reason at all. Those are the times that I allow myself the space and time to yield to all the feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, hurt and longing. At some point though, for your own survival, you have to put those big, messy feelings up on a shelf, aware of them, but not immersed in it.

My relationship to my father was complicated, especially during my teen years. By the time he got sick we weren't close at all, we didn't understand each other and we disagreed on some pretty fundamental points. I don't regret where I stood firm with him in my convictions, in fact I think it was an early lesson in standing up for what you know is right regardless of what anyone else thinks of you and your choices. Nor do I regret that when his cancer really took hold, I let go of our differences and allowed myself to be present with my father during the last months we had together. He died at home, I was there to hold his hand and comfort him on his last day, and I have no doubt that in his final hours he knew how much I loved him.

I didn't come out until I was 18, I didn't start my medical transition until I was 21. My father only ever knew me as his daughter. I often wonder what our relationship would be like now, what it would have taken for us to see eye to eye, if, like the rest of my family, he eventually would have learned to accept me for who I am. He isn't here so I can only speculate what things would be like. In some ways [though I hate to say it] I feel closer to him now. Growing up I spent a lot of time praying to God, but as I moved through my grief I began talking to my dad instead. The conversations were pretty one sided, though when I really needed him I could feel his presence. I didn't fear judgement or rejection from him and I was able to be open in honest with him in a way I never could when he was alive. Though it was bittersweet, it helped me to learn to live without him, move forward, and still feel connected to him.

But life is never stagnant and just as soon as something becomes comfortable and somewhat predictable, something else happens and you have to start all over again. For me, that something was Birdie.

Not long after I found out Birdie was on the way my heart began to ache with the thought that my dad didn't get to live long enough to be a Grandpa. Throughout my pregnancy  my grief got to be so big again that I was afraid to reach out to my father at all, it hurt to even think of him. I needed him but I didn't know where to find him anymore. Here I was on the cusp of fatherhood, without a father of my own and I was angry and sad and lost.

I don't know what changed but at some point I realized that the only way Birdie could ever have a relationship with my dad, her Grandpa Bill, was if I gave it to her. And so I started talking to him again, and I started by asking him to watch over her for me. The night I knew she was going to be born I had a long talk with him, I thanked him for keeping and eye on her and I asked him to be present with me through labor, and to guide Birdie into this world safely for me. After Birdie was born she laid on my chest for a long time while they took care of me and she adjusted to being earthside for the first time. Josh and I stared at her, smiling and crying while I held her in my arms. Eventually it was time for her to be weighed and measured so I handed her to Josh and as he walked across the room to the scale with her, for one brief moment I saw my father standing next to my bed, smiling at me. Then he was gone.

There have been so many times during her first year when this loss felt too big to contain. I would hide behind a closed door, lay down and sob until I felt hollow. "It's not fair, it's not fair, it's not fucking fair," would circle round and round my head. Becoming a parent changed the way I feel things, it has completely broken me open to allow in these new and all consuming feelings for my child. And while my heart learned to love in ways I hadn't known possible, it also learned to grieve harder than when I was sixteen and my father was dying in the room on the other side of my bedroom wall. If I thought I had dipped down to the very bottom of the well of loss before, I was wrong, these new feelings ran deeper, cut harder, and I was so ill prepared to take them on.

But just like before, I couldn't live in my grief forever. Nor did I want my daughter to have a relationship with her Grandpa that was built on such sadness and loss, that is not the legacy I want to pass on. I still don't know quite how to build a bridge between my father and Birdie, but I am trying. We keep a photo of him in her bedroom, sometimes she will pick it up and bring it to me and I will tell her stories of him. As she grows I will share with her the things he shared with me, that I cherish the most- camping in Vermont, an early morning fishing on a quiet lake, listening to a Red Sox game on the radio, staying up too late watching TV together when everyone else is asleep.

When we visit my hometown we stop at his grave and she finds little treasures to leave on the stone. Last time we were there she sat very quietly, picking at the grass and drawing in the dirt with her fingers. I couldn't stop myself from crying. She looked at me and I picked her up and explained that I missed her Grandpa Bill very much but that even though he isn't here with us, we carry him in our hearts. Then I put my hand on her heart and I said, "he's right there." And then she reached out and put her little hand on my heart and I said, "yes, he's right there too."

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

Broadway Performer's Surrogacy Journey Briefly Sidetracked — for One Very 'Wicked' Reason

"Broadway Husbands" Stephen and Bret explain the exciting reasons they had to hit pause on their surrogacy journey — but don't worry, they're back on track!

In the latest video of the Broadway Husbands sharing their path to fatherhood, Stephen and Bret explain their hiatus for the past 4 months. The couple have big news to share including a relocation, a job announcement, and the fact that they're getting ready to restart their journey (which they had to take a brief pause from since September).

Watch their video to find out their latest news.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Top 10 Reasons You Should Date a Gay Dad

Jay Turner lays out the top 10 reasons you should consider dating a single gay dad

We're gay dads. Many of us were married to women, and for various reasons we eventually found ourselves single and looking for companionship from another man. Life is a little more complicated for us because we have kids. But that shouldn't deter you from seeking a relationship with a gay dad. In fact, there are many reasons why we make better partners than men without children. We are generally more mature, responsible, and emotionally available. We are also better communicators.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should date a gay dad:

Keep reading... Show less
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.

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Family Stories

These Gay Dads Lost Everything After Hurricane Dorian — Except Hope

The couple, who live in "Hope Town" in the Bahamas, lost everything after suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian this past summer.

Max Bethel-Jones, 52, had traveled to more than 120 countries over the last 30 years working with the United Nations, but had never been to the Bahamas — in 2015, he decided to apply for a private teaching job as a special needs teacher in Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama.

Just weeks after his arrival, he'd get a whole lot more than another pin in his map of visited countries when he attended a social event at Freeport Rugby. "My object was to ogle the local male talent but several women had other ideas," he said. One woman was particularly insistent, he said, but after a couple of drinks she got the hint that he batted for the other rugby team. "She promptly told me there was someone I should meet."

Keep reading... Show less

Gay Dads Told One Must Identify as 'Mother' to Enroll in Daycare

The Israeli gay dads told one must identify as mother — like a "normal couple" — in order to receive financial assistance for daycare.

Israeli dads Guy Sadak Shoham and Chai Aviv Shoham were trying to enroll their two-year-old twins in daycare when they were told by a government official that one would need to identify as the "mother" in order to be cleared.

According to Out Magazine, the couple was attempting to apply for financial aid to help pay for the costs of preschool when a government bureaucrat called them to discuss their eligibility.

"I understand that you are both fathers and understand that you both run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more the mother," the government said, according to an interview on the Israel site Ynet (translated by Out Magazine). "I am just asking for a written statement in your hand which of you is the mother. From the point of view of the work, which works less than the father. Like a normal couple."

The official, apparently, said she was beholden to rules set for in the Ministry of Economy.

"It is mostly sad and a little disturbing," one of the dads told Ynet. "These are concepts that we consider the past. We do not necessarily come up with allegations against this representative, she is ultimately subject to the guidelines and as she said, they are the state. It is also sad that the state's definition of a mother is someone who works less and is at home with the children, and that we must choose which of us meets that definition."

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, fortunately, issued an apology following the incident, and promised to update its protocols. "We will emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all," the ministry wrote in a statement, an apology that was called "insufficient" by Ohad Hizki, the director-general of the National LGBT Task Force.

"The Ministry of Labor and Welfare must sharpen its procedures immediately to prevent recurrence of cases of this kind, as other public organizations have been able to do," he said.

Read more about this story on Out Magazine.


World's First Sperm Bank Opens for HIV Positive Donors

Sperm Positive, started by three non-profits in New Zealand, hopes to end stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood

"Our donors have so much to give," say the promotional materials of a new sperm bank. "But they can't give you HIV."

The new sperm bank, Sperm Positive, launched on World Aids Day this year by three non-profits as a way to fight stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood. For years, scientists have known that those living with an undetectable level of HIV in their blood thanks to antiretroviral treatments can't transmit the virus through sex or childbirth. Yet discrimination and stigma persists.

The sperm bank exists online only, but will connect donors and those seeking donations with fertility banks once a connection is made on their site. Sperm Positive was started by three New Zealand non-profits — Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc. — who hope the project will help disseminate science-backed education and information about HIV and parenthood.

Already, three HIV positive men have signed up to serve as donors, including Damien Rule-Neal who spoke to the NZ Herald about his reasons for getting involved in the project. "I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," he told the Herald. "I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus."

We applaud the effort all around! To read more about our own efforts to end the stigma surround HIV and parenthood, check out our recent round-up of family profiles, resources, and expert advice that celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse