Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Navigating Race, Class and Sexuality as an Interracial Family

John Hart, a white gay man, writes about navigating race, class, and sexuality while raising his black 10-year-old son.

"Am I the only black person here?" my son leaned over to ask me quietly. We looked around the hockey arena which was filled mostly with men and boys. And indeed it was pretty white. And I didn't get a single ping off my gaydar.

"Am I the only gay person here?" I asked back.

It was a bonding moment for us, a little inside joke, and we smiled in amusement.


We were in a local hockey arena for a championship celebration. After the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, right winger Tom Wilson brought the trophy to his childhood arena where my son was slated to start playing in the fall. I knew my son, a hockey nut, would want to see the Cup and meet a real NHL player, so I took him along. Everyone there – mostly fathers and sons, and sometimes a mother too – were excited and friendly. Although we didn't feel unwelcome in any way, my son and I were both conscious of our differences in such a homogenous crowd.

Last weekend I again felt like an outsider when I took my son to get his hair cut. My partner and I had taken him to places closer to home but the stylists treated his mixed-race hair like a perm and he always ended up with old lady haircuts. We were overdue to search out a black barbershop that would know his hair better and found one not too far. When we entered, we saw two black barbers and a line-up of black men waiting. We sat and waited for my son's turn. I watched as new customers came in, as they greeted the barbers and other customers with ritual handshakes and shared idioms. I didn't know any of the codes.

I was keenly aware that my differences set me apart – my race was obvious, my class I'm sure was apparent, and my sexuality was fairly obvious too, I bet. I wasn't made to feel unwelcome in any way but I recognized that the space wasn't meant for me. It was a space for my son, however shy he felt going in, to feel included and recognized. And his hair was cut into an awesome fade.

As a gay man, I am constantly aware of my surroundings – am I in a positive space, am I in a safe space? – and how I negotiate the space. I seek out spaces that are predominantly gay or gay friendly when I need that kind of environment. I am also able to negotiate around more neutral spaces and I understand that my race gives me privilege to do so. I try to avoid spaces and situations where I might feel unwelcome or threatened.

The past school year was an occasion when we assumed the space would be positive but the reality proved much more complicated. My partner and I were initially happy that my son's class was made up only of black boys and therefore our son would be with peers. But the school year proved to be worse than terrible. The teacher (a straight, white female) told us our son was struggling with his identity so she was taking it upon herself to "introduce" him to black culture.

It took more than a year after we left the school to find out even more of what was going on as our son has slowly opened up to us. The other boys teased him daily for having two dads, called him a faggot and threatened violence against him and us. Our son was torn everyday – in order to fit in with his peers he had to reject his parents; to stand up for his parents meant he'd risk bullying, violence and being ostracized from his peers. No wonder he was confused about his identity! He was anxious for his safety and ours throughout the school day which affected his behavior and performance. But he wanted to protect us from the homophobia so he didn't tell us any of this until only recently. Ultimately in this instance, his differences set him apart and made him a target. He was made to feel excluded and an outsider when we hoped for the opposite.

Our son feels different in so many ways, including his race, his adoption and his two dads. He longs to fit in — so much so that he wanted to make both his peers and parents happy. Instead he struggled and no one quite knew how to help. And no wonder – with all the complications of intersectional discrimination, how could a 10-year-old boy stand a chance?

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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.

Only so much growth and learning can occur when we limit ourselves to our fears. If people never did anything they were afraid to do, life would be incredibly boring and far too predictable. At some point we must face the things we fear and just go for it not knowing what will happen next.

After finally coming out to my ex-wife after ten years of marriage (see previous articles for that story), and eventually telling my family I knew there was one more step I needed to make.

I am a business owner. I am a structural chiropractor and am highly specialized in my field. Nearly four years ago I opened my own clinic, Horizon Chiropractic Center, in Phoenix, Arizona. I poured my whole heart, body, and soul into the creation of my practice and its growth. Opening a business fresh out of school is no simple task and I worked hard to build my practice with close relationships and word of mouth referrals. I established myself as an expert and built a strong reputation as a family man, and my ex-wife and kids were the face of my practice.

I loved and do love every person who has ever come into my office and treat them like family. We laugh together during visits, celebrate wins, cry together, often hug, and cheer each other on regarding various things in our life. That's also a large part of who I am: a people person. I enjoy spending quality time with those I am privileged to help. No one comes in my office and only sees me for 2-5 minutes.

Even though there was so much good that I had built into my brand and reputation fear eventually found its way into my business too. I was afraid of what would happen if people found out the truth. Would they be okay with having a gay chiropractor? Would they still trust me to be able to help them? Of course, the story in my head I was telling myself was much bigger and badder than it needed to be.

When we decided to get a divorce, I felt strongly that I needed to face these fears and begin telling a number of patients the truth of what was happening in my life. I know in reality it is no one's business but my own. However, I felt like I needed to let my patients who had become like family to me truly see me for who I am, and who I always was. And so slowly, case by case, I began to tell a select number of people.

I'll never forget the first patient I told. She had been coming in for years and was bringing her son in to see me who is on the autism spectrum. It was the day after my ex-wife and I decided to get a divorce and she could tell something heavy was on my mind. I eventually came out to her. The first words out of her mouth were "I am so proud of you!" We cried and hugged and it was the complete opposite of what I ever expected. And it was perfect. I felt loved. I felt accepted. I felt seen.

As time went on it got easier. And overall the responses were all completely positive and supportive. Out of all the patients I told and those who found out from other circles, only three stopped coming in to see me. Since coming out, my office has grown tremendously. My reputation hasn't changed. If anything, it's solidified. I can't help but think that part of that is due to finally embracing all of me and allowing others the same opportunity.

I read somewhere once that you never really stop coming out of the closet. And I've noticed that too. Sure, not everyone needs to know; it isn't everyone's business. And I hope that one day we live in a time period where fear doesn't prevent anyone from being seen. I want to contribute to the upward trajectory I think our society is headed of understanding, acceptance, support, and equality.

I would love to be able to say that after coming out publicly I no longer feel fear; but I do. And I think in some ways I always will no matter what. But that's part of life, right? Recognizing fear when we have it but then choosing to move forward out of love – love for others, but maybe more importantly love for ourselves.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

This Dad Went 'Numb' After a Painful Failed Adoption, But Learned to Love Again

After a painful failed adoption that brought these gay dads to the brink of realizing their dream of fatherhood, Paul "went numb" for several months before trying, and succeeding, again

In the fall of 2010, what was suppose to be a non-committal daytime date in Seattle, ended up being 3 days of sharing life experiences, unpacking emotional luggage and the moment I realized I had met my future husband. Just under four years later, we were saying "I Do", and became Paul and Jamie Trudel-Payne.

Jamie, a devilishly handsome All-American freelance writer, came from a tightly woven, kind and virtuous household. While I, Paul, a cute (ish) bi-racial (Mexican/Caucasian) small business owner, came from a somewhat intrusive, rambunctious and very large Hispanic family. The desire and support received from both families was immense and just six months after being married, we began the adoption process.

Wearing rose-colored glasses we quickly learned that our adoption journey was going to be anything but rosy.

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Change the World

How Do Gay Dads Celebrate Black History Month?

We asked 12 gay dads to tell us what Black History Month means to them and how they celebrate in their households.

February is Black History Month in America. And although celebrating Black history, culture and people shouldn't be confined to just one month, it does ensure an opportunity to commemorate the heroic figures of Black men and women, and also increase visibility of Black life and history; two of Carter G. Woodson's goals when he created the concept in 1926.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Interested in Surrogacy? Check Out These Bay Area Events This Weekend

If you're in the Bay Area this weekend, two major events are happening that will be of interest for dads-to-be and surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF)

If you're in San Francisco or the surrounding area, clear your calendar this weekend. Two events are happening simultaneously that are significant for dads-to-be AND surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF). For an outlines of both events, check out below.

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News

Gay Dads Show Up at Boston Event to Drown Out Anti-Trans Protesters

When Trystan Reese found out protesters were planning to show up to an event in Boston he was presenting at, he put out a call to his community for help — and gay dads showed up.

A couple months ago, Trystan Reese, a gay, trans dad based in Portland, Oregon, took to Instagram to share a moving, if incredibly concerning, experience. Reese, who works with Family Equality Council, was speaking at an event in Boston, and learned before his appearance that a group of protesters were planning to attend.

"As a trans person, I was terrified to be targeted by anti-LGBTQ people and experienced genuine fear for my own safety," Trystan wrote. In response, he did what many LGBTQ people would do in a similar situation — reach out to his community in Boston, and ask for their support. "And they came," he wrote. But it wasn't just anyone within the LGBTQ community that came to his defense, he emphasized — "you know who came? Gay men. Gay dads, to be exact. They came, ready to block people from coming in, ready to call building security, ready to protect me so I could lead my event. They did it without question and without reward. They did it because it was the right thing to do."

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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