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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Become a Gay Dad

Curious About Covid 19's Impact on Foster Care and Adoption?

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the adoption and foster care processes.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the fields of adoption and foster care to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on adoption or foster care that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Top 5 Questions About Covid-19's Impact On Surrogacy

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the surrogacy process.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the field of surrogacy to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on surrogacy that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.


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Transracial Families Series

How These Dads Address White Privilege within Their Transracial Family

The "white savior" complex is real, said Andrew and Don, who are raising two Black children.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at dads@gayswithkids.com

Andrew Kohn, 40, and his husband Donald (Don) Jones, 47, together 13 years, are two white dads raising two Black children in Columbus, Ohio. Do they stick out? Sure. Have they encountered racism? They say they haven't. "I keep waiting for the moment so that I can become my best Julia Sugarbaker," said Andrew. "I think because we're a gay couple with Black kids, we're the other-other and people don't really say things to us. We have never had people touch our kids hair or do something that was inappropriate."

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Children's Books

New LGBTQ-Inclusive Children's Book Asks: What Makes a Family?

A new children's book by Seamus Kirst follows a young girl's journey of emotional discovery after she is asked which of her two dads is her "real dad."

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Seamus Kirst, author of the new LGBTQ-inclusive children's book "Papa, Daddy, Riley."

Throughout my life, I have discovered that reading provides an almost miraculous way of changing the way I think.

There is no medium that better offers insight into the perceptions, feelings and humanity of someone who is different from us. Through reading we become empathetic. Through reading we evolve. I have often emerged from reading a book, and felt like I was changed. In that, even in this digital age, I know I am not alone.

As children, reading shapes how we see the world. The characters, places, and stories we come to love in our books inform us as to what life might offer us as we grow up, and our world begins to expand beyond our own backyards.

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Gay Dad Photo Essays

Interested in Foster Care? These Amazing Dads Have Some Advice

As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, we rounded up some amazing examples of gay men serving as foster care dads, helping provide kids with a bright future.

Every May in the United States, we celebrate National Foster Care Month. With over 437,000 children and youth in foster care, it's our honor to take a look at some of the awesome dads in our community who are opening their hearts and their homes, and providing these kids with a bright future.

Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Check out these resources here, and visit AdoptUSKids.

Meet the Foster Dads!

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Transracial Families Series

This Transracial Family Relies on a 'Support Group' of African American Women

Puerto Rican dads Ferdinand and Manuel are raising a daughter of Jamaican descent — and love to find ways to celebrate their family's diversity

Our second feature in our transracial family series. Read the first one here.

Ferdinand Ortiz, 39, and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, 38, have been together for 7 years. In 2017, they became foster dads when they brought their daughter, Mia Valentina, home from the hospital. She was just three days old at the time. On December 13, 2018, her adoption was finalized.

Mia is of Jamaican and African American heritage, and her dads are both Puerto Rican. When Manuel and Ferdinand began their parenting journey through the foster care system, they received specific training on how to be the parents of a child whose race and culture was different from their own. "We learned that it's important to celebrate our child's culture and surround ourselves with people who can help her be proud of her culture." However, as helpful as this training was, the dads agreed that it would've been beneficial to hear from other transracial families and the type of challenges that they faced.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

How the Shut Down Opened Me Up to Being a Better Dad

David Blacker's dad used to tell him to 'stop and smell the roses' — the shut down has led him to finally take the advice

"Stop and smell the roses." It was the thing my dad always said to me when I was growing up. But like many know-it-all kids, I didn't listen. I was determined to keep my eye on the prize. Whether it was getting good grades in school, getting my work published, scoring the next big promotion, buying a house or starting a family. For me, there was no such thing as resting on my laurels. It has always been about what's next and mapping out the exact course of action to get me there.

Then Covid.

Ten weeks ago, I — along with the rest of the world — was ordered to shelter-in-place... to stop thinking about what's next, and instead, focus on the here and the now. In many ways, the shut down made me shut off everything I thought I knew about being content and living a productive life. And so, for the first time in my 41 years, I have literally been forced to stop and smell the roses. The question is, would I like the way they smell?

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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