Change the World

New Web Series Finds Humanity and Humor in the Foster Care System

Emmy-nominated director Nicole Opper has just released a new docuseries called The F Word that explores her efforts, along with her wife Kristan, to navigate the foster-adopt system in the Bay Area. The series provides an in-depth look into the foster-adopt process that is deeply personal, educational, and funny. We caught up with Opper to learn how she managed to strike this difficult balance with such a sensitive subject, how things are going in her foster-adopt journey, and her plans for Season 2. (Watch the first episode at the end of this article, and then contribute to Opper's crowdfunding campaign here if you want to see another Season of this important work!)


Gays With Kids: Tell us a bit more about The F Word. What can viewers expect?

Nicole Opper: The F Word is a short form docuseries that is incredibly personal and a little bit comedic. It follows the experience that my wife and I have had adopting a child from foster care. We started filming a year and a half ago and the entire process, from making a decision to form a family in this way up until a placement was made was about two years. We wanted to pull back the curtain a little bit about what adopting from foster care looks like. When we started the process we couldn't find a lot of resources that were really brutally honest about what this looks like, and what kids often go through before they come to your home. There were some good books and articles, but nothing in terms of a documentary that took a close look at the process.

GWK: Your series manages to do something incredible difficult while tackling such a sensitive subject: be funny. How did you strike that balance?

NO: From beginning we said, okay, this will be unwatchable if we only focus on the elements of foster care that the mainstream media focuses on, which is trauma. So wanted to get as far away from that as possible, while also taking care not to sugar coat anything or twist the story. But the humor also just cam every naturally. The foster care system is just such a bizarre, bureaucratic world. It made us laugh at every turn. You don't see this in the series, but in the beginning we had these required training courses every Saturday. You read from this binder, and it's this terrible route educational experience. It's pretty terrible. But there was this one woman in our class who fell asleep immediately each time class started. And she snored really loudly. No one woke her up or encouraged her to go take a walk or have a cup of coffee. It was just so emblematic of the strange bizarre world we were getting ourselves into. We also ended up hiring an animator right away who did all these funky homemade animations of us with bobbleheads to not only bring moments of levity, but also help bring us into certain situations that we couldn't film. Like when I go to a family fair, which are these odds schmooze-fests that are like speed dating with social workers where you go from table to table and talk about why they should pick you. I couldn't film there. But it was such a necessary part of the story in my mind. So we animated those parts.

GWK: How much did you know about the foster care system before you set out on this process?

NO: I wasn't eager to go in front of the camera, but when we started thinking about adopting from foster care and looking around for stories that reflected that experience, we couldn't find any. But we were obviously going to have complete access to our own process which I could document and share as a resource. I also did a lot of research. I knew that a lot of the kids came from trauma, and that you only wind up in the foster care system if you are a victim of abuse, neglect or abandonment. But I also learned about how racist and classist the system can be. For example, a lot of research suggests that it's not that there aren't plenty of people of color interested in adopting kids from foster care, it's just that they aren't really interested in working with a historically racist and classist system. So instead you see a lot of informal kinship adoption with communities of color. But the idea of being finger printed through the formal foster care system can be a red flag for a lot of black people dealing with racial profiling. These are some elements we're hoping to explore a lot more of in season 2.

GWK: What has the feedback been so far to the series?

NO: There are six episodes in the season, we're just now getting started on season two. The response has been surprisingly overwhelming. People feel so strong about this subject, and those familiar with it can see themselves in it. The goal for me as a documentary filmmaker is to make it relatable and accessible to an audience. And I've been blown away by the comments. People are just really eager to find out what happens next. And they're excited for us to get a kid. It's just really interesting for me since this was such a personal film.


GWK: How has your experience been as a same-sex couple within the foster care system. Do you think it differs from the experience of heterosexual couples?

NO: We live in the Bay Area bubble so we never experienced any overt discrimination for being gay. The social workers are pretty used to us by now. But there were a lot of little things, like being asked our coming out story during the home study process. I kept wondering, at what point do they ask straight people when they knew they were straight? It was bizarre that they cared. There were also some moments attending these family fairs in these small towns that are a little bit red. I got a lot of strange looks at those fairs, people would look at me like I was lost. It made a huge difference when my feminine-presenting wife showed up with me, and it suddenly clicked and they understood. There's a lot more to be said for LGBTQ people in other states. In Michigan, it's come out that LGBTQ people have been discriminated against for wanting to adopt from foster care. We have a bunch of states doing this right now—Alabama, Texas, North Dakota, Virginia, Mississippi. It's tempting to think that this would never touch the Bay Area or California. But then again... Prop 8. We forget our history quickly. Progress can reverse in the blink of an eye. We can't ever really stop fighting for these rights. So something we're doing is partnering with a lot of national organizations who are invested in improving the lives of children in foster care. Among these are the Human Rights Campaign, Raise a Child, which is based in LA, Together we Rise, and the Family Equality Council. We're partnering with all these wonderful organizations in order to create impact guides and resources. We also plan to do targeted outreach to communities where the series can have the greatest impact.

GWK: You've mentioned work has already begun on Season 2 of The F Word. What can viewers expect?

We will continuing to follow the developments with our son, whose adoption we finalized on oct 6th. We'll take you through the major milestones of that experience. But for Season 2 we're also trying to move away form our personal story and look more outward at the system, and who's trying to reform it. There's so much great work happening right now. We want to celebrate that while also critiquing a broken system. We'll ask, what are the solutions here? What can we all do to improve the situation for all of these kids? We're going to do a lot more talking to foster youth and former foster youth, judges, lawyers, social workers, getting a better sense of the big picture.

***

Check out episode 1 of The F Word below. You can see all 6 episodes here. I you'd like to contribute to making of Season 2, contribute to this crowdfunding campaign!

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Change the World

Hungarian Company Raising Money for LGBTQ+ Organization with a LEGO® Heart

Startup WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is helping combat misinformation and prejudice in Central and Eastern Europe

Guest Post from WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD

WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is an innovative startup venture that sells LEGO® parts and unique creations. The core values of our company include social equality regardless of gender identity or origin. As LEGO® is a variety of colors and shapes, so are the people.

We all know that LEGO® is a brand that nearly everyone knows and likes between the age of 3 and 99 so this gives a great opportunity to connect unique LEGO® creations and Pride. We started a fundraising campaign for a Hungarian LGBTQ+ organization who's aim is to bring people closer to the LGBTQ+ community, they help to combat misinformation and prejudice regarding LGBTQ+ issues in Central- Eastern Europe since 2000.

You might know that gender equality and the circumstances of LGBTQ+ people is not the easiest in the former communist Eastern European countries like Hungary so this program is in a real need for help. For example a couple of month ago a member of the government said that homosexual people are not equal part of our society.

The essence of the campaign is when one buys a Pride Heart, a custom creation made of brand new and genuine LEGO® bricks the organization gets $10.00 donation so they can continue their important work. This Pride Heart is a nice necklace, a decoration in your home, and a cool gift to the one you love.

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Change the World

4 Tips for Using Instagram to Connect with Gay Dads Offline

We asked gay dads who have successfully met up with other LGBTQ families offline for some of their tips

Last week, we ran a story about several gay dads who did the unthinkable: meet other gay dads IRL after connecting on Instagram! We get MANY questions from gay dads wondering how they can meet up with others in their area, so we decided to dig a bit deeper this week to get their advice. What can gay dads do to meet others off the 'gram?

1. Be kind — share others' excitement in parenting!


From @twinlifedads Ben and Andy:

"Be kind. That is absolutely it. Be kind to each other and don't be afraid to reach out. Respond to each other when you can. Share in excitement for each other. There is no reason to bring someone else down who might be excited about how they are parenting."

2. Drop a couple comments and likes before reaching out!

From @brisvegasdad Tim and Nic:

"I think drop comments now and then on their posts and instastories and see where things land. Chances are, if you're commenting on a post and it is a heartfelt response, they'll click through to your account, look at your photos and connect with you. And that's when the magic happens - you can introduce yourself, talk about your lives and how things are being a parent... and after a while, if you're in the same neighbourhood, you meet up and grow your friendship organically. That being said, I'm obsessed with Bobby Berk from Queer Eye and his husband Dewey Do - if they ever had kids, I'd probably be completely unsubtle and leave strange awkward comments on their instaposts saying, 'GAY DADS MEET UPSSSSS'."

3. Go in with no expectations

From @stevecsmith Steve and Ben:

"I always try to reach out without any expectations – mostly just to provide a positive comment. I like to leave it up to the other parents to comment or message back before suggesting meeting up or a playdate. Every family is different, so how each person is going to respond is different too."

4. Keep trying!

From @theconways13 Ricky and Jeff:

"Reach out to other families, start a light friendly conversation. Get to know each other and let conversations happen organically. If they lead to a play date great! Our first experience in meeting another lgbt family (not through ig/gwk) was very awkward cause there wasn't a whole lot of conversation happening before hand. The conversations leading up to the play date will help make the first play date with the family go a lot smoother and fun. Don't be afraid of not connecting with the other families. If it isn't successful the first time, continue reaching out to to other families- don't let it deter you from reaching out to others."

Change the World

How Gay Dads Are Using Instagram to Connect

Meet the gay dads from around the world who are using our Gays With Kids Instagram account to connect with other gay dad families!

It can be easy to dismiss Instagram as nothing more than a place for us to pretend our lives our perfect — smiling families, exotic vacations, maybe a FaceTuned pic or two — but for gay dads, it's more than that. Sure, we share our perfect family pics, too. But for LGBTQ families, who still face discrimination all across the country and world, sharing a picture of two gay dads, smiling happily and proudly with their kids, is also a political act. And it provides us an opportunity to lift up and support one another, wherever our families are, in cities and towns big and small.

And we're proud to provide an avenue for these families to meet and connect via our Instagram page (which just reached over 100,000 followers!!)

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Fun

Gay Dad Penguins Strike Again! This Time in Berlin Zoo

The latest male penguins to care for an egg together are Skipper and Ping in the Berlin Zoo.

First, there was Roy and Silo — the two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that served as inspiration for the famous children's book And Tango Makes Three. Then Magin Sphen got together in Sydney, where aquarium keepers gave the cocks (Calm down, that's what a male penguin is called!) a foster egg to care for.

And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

"They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

Read the whole article on DPA here.

Entertainment

Single Gay Dad Featured on Season Three of GLOW

Actor Kevin Cahoon joins the Gorgeous Ladies of Wresting in Vegas as a single gay dad — and drag queen — on Season Three of the hit Netflix show

For a couple of years now, Hollywood has been obsessed with gay dad characters (and who can blame them?) But the latest show to get hip to a story line featuring gay man raising kids is Netflix's GLOW, which explores a female wresting troop in the late 1980s.

But GLOW is helping represent a gay character that rarely gets time in the limelight:the single gay dad. In Season three of the hit comedy — which stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron — actor Kevin Cahoon joins the case as Bobby Barnes, a single gay father who plays a female impersonator. (80s divas only, of course — Joan Collins and Babs among them)


"I've never done female impersonation," the openly gay actor told OutSmart Magazine, "so I tried to learn really quick. You will know them all; I was very familiar with all of them. There were plenty of talk shows and performances on YouTube to study. I learned that their breathing was very informative."

A single gay dad AND drag queen on television? It's about damn time if you ask us.

Read the full interview with Cahoon here.

Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Working:​ One Father's Plea for Gun Reform

One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control

My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.

Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.

How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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