Personal Essays by Gay Dads

This Gay Dad is Proof: Your Past Doesn't Have to Prevent You From Having Kids

There's plenty in Erik's past he says he's not proud of--drug use and a brief stint in local jail among them. Now married with two daughters, though, his life is proof that your past does not dictate your future.

I am sure that, at some point, everyone has looked back at their past and wished they could change a few things that they are not proud of. From time to time I feel like that, too. As I have written before, I moved to New Orleans when I was a kid- just out of high school. Owning this newfound life was incredibly liberating, but it did not come without consequences.


I was definitely not popular in my south Mississippi high school. I was in the school choir. And I loved (and I mean LOVED) *NSYNC. I thought it was so cool that one of *NSYNC's members, Lance Bass, was from south Mississippi. We even shared the same last name, as my surname before I married Douglas was Bass. Imagine my jubilation when my father told me that we were related to them! That just fueled my love and admiration for Lance and the music group. This might sound ridiculous, but something clicked and I wanted to be just like them. Around the same time, I fell in love with a show called Real World- New Orleans and with Danny Roberts, one of its stars. Honestly, I have to give Danny Roberts all the credit for helping me find myself and having the courage to become who I wanted to be.

I wanted to leave the small-minded Mississippi town behind and start my own journey to stardom. So, I did what any other closeted, starry eyed boy with big dreams would do--I moved away. Some dreamers move to L.A. and some to New York. I moved to New Orleans. Sure, it's not really the scene for pop music. HOWEVER, the gay scene is ON POINT. *lip smack*

I remember the anxiety I had walking down Bourbon Street when I first arrived from Mississippi. I also remember how the apprehension melted away as I walked into Oz, New Orleans' premiere gay nightclub, for the first time. This was my opportunity to recreate my own identity! My new self. So when I walked inside Oz, the shy and intimidated Erik faded away, and Maxx was born.

Erik and Tommy Elias, Oz's former owner and general manager.

As time went on, my confidence grew. I had never had so many friends! And they were all so interesting! For the first time, I felt popular and accepted for who I truly was. About 6 months after moving to New Orleans, I landed a job at Oz as a daiquiri bartender. I quickly took to one of the club's owners, Tommy Elias. Tommy was also from south Mississippi--just a few minutes from where I was from. He had been in a band for decades and loved to perform. His voice was electric and and his smile lit up the room. I immediately respected him and wanted to learn everything I could about the music business. Over the years, he and I become close friends. I called him my 'gay dad' because I didn't have a relationship with my own dad. A couple of years later, Tommy gave me my own weekly Tuesday night show- a dance and variety show called "The Maxx Doubt Experiment," my quest to find New Orleans' best hip-hop dancer. This was my first taste of fame. Well, small town fame, but fame nonetheless.

On Monday nights there was a talent contest called 'The Gong Show' hosted by none other than Bianca Del Rio. It was huge! The dance floor was transformed into a sea of candle lit tables complete with linens that were all reserved for the who's who of gay nightlife.

Bianca and Erik co-hosting The Ozzie Awards, an Academy Award Party.

I only did drag a handful of times, but I was lucky enough to have Bianca make me over each time. Unlike her onstage persona, she was so sweet and compassionate offstage. And she ALWAYS had the best advice. I was a kid, facing problems of my own and she always had the right words to say, "Grin and bear it," she'd say, "until you can't."

She had such a star quality to her back then too. When she walked in the room, everyone knew it. You could tell she was nearby by the scent of Dolce & Gabbana perfume whisking through the air. She had a way of making offensive jokes funny but not hurtful. Well, usually not too hurtful... sometimes tourists would get mouthy and that would just add fuel to her fire. God, it was hilarious. She had nicknames for the regulars that would come to watch her shows... a sweet middle aged lady named "Honey Bee," a pretentious ogre looking man called "Quasimodo," and then there was me, "Maxxi." To this day, some people still call me that. As I look back, I am so thankful that she allowed me to come into her world and get a glimpse of what her life was like. Now she's a superstar and I am so honored to know her and call her my friend.

Taking a quick selfie recently when Erik was the general manager of a gay owned and operated restaurant called, Eat New Orleans

She may be hateful on stage, but trust me- she is the sweetest person in the world you'll ever meet. Love you, Roy! (My next piece will be a one on one conversation with Bianca Del Rio reliving our past, telling stories and answering questions about her life back then and what it is like now. Please be sure to check it out!)

The longer I submerged myself in the nightly gay scene, the further I distanced myself from my morals. You see, people go to the French Quarter to party and act out. As such, the majority of my social exposure was comprised of people who were actively partying 24/7. As time sped by, alcohol and drugs began to take control of my life, and I slowly turned into a person I did not want to be. I became cocky, entitled, and reckless.

I was due for a fall from grace, and this particular fall would be one of the hardest and most important lessons that I have ever learned. I found out who my true friends were. I also had to learn to be at peace with letting the fake and spiteful ones go. People make mistakes in life, especially when you're just a 'punk kid'. Tommy would call me that when I wore my hat backwards. True friends allow you the leeway to learn and grow without judgement. Fake ones will watch you fall and talk about you as you do. In the end, I became more judicious regarding who I allowed in my inner circle.

So I left Oz and got a new job across the street at another gay club called The Bourbon Pub. I was able to shake a good bit of the social toxicity from my life and gain control of what was important. At the time, I was still brokenhearted from my little brother's untimely death. It was a rainy day and I felt depressed, alone, and hopeless. I was approached by my friend Aunt Vickie Vines who saw my sadness. "What's wrong with you Maxxie?" he asked. I told him I was lonely and I didn't want to be sad anymore. To which he replied, "I can fix that. Just give me some of your hair." So, he snipped off a lock of my hair, folded it up in a bandanna, and put it into his pocket. Then he said, "In two weeks, you will meet the love of your life. And when you do, you will know it from your head to your feet." But then came a warning, "But you must be a good person and do the right thing or you will be cursed 3x over." I asked what he was doing with my hair. "Just some New Orleans voodoo, baby." He winked and walked away.

It was almost two weeks to the day when I was working my night shift at the Bourbon Pub. I stepped into the back to grab a clip board and that's when our eyes met. He sat at a desk filling out a new hire work form. It was like time stopped. It was like the beating of the bass from the music on the dance floor silenced, and all I could hear was my own heartbeat. I still remember what the room smelled like, I even remember what we were wearing. I couldn't look away, as if I was frozen. I knew I was in the very moment I had prayed for. This was him. I knew it, and felt it, from my head to my feet. Aunt Vicky Vines said I would, and indeed I did. My knight had come on the night that I needed him. This was Douglas, my future husband.

One of the first pictures of Douglas and Erik, 2006

Douglas and I became inseparable. He had just moved to town from Arizona and was staying at a local hostel. All I could think of was the horror movie 'Hostel." He had to get out of there! And that's exactly what he did (he came to stay with me!). As much as I hate to admit, I began partying just as much if not more than I did when I worked at Oz. The only difference is I had a boyfriend. Spending so many nights in the club meant we also saw so many sunrises. Once the sun came up, we would dart out of the bar and cover ourselves like an Ann Rice character from 'Interview with the Vampire.' We would run to his old Volvo wagon and quickly drive out of the French Quarter.

He was so spontaneous and I loved that. Some mornings we'd walk to Audubon Park and climb trees. My favorite mornings were spent on the levee of the Mississippi river flying kites. Afterwards, he'd take me down to the railroad tracks by the riverbend and smash coins under the train wheels. After the train would pass he would pull out 'The Little Prince', one his personal favorite books. Douglas read, "There may be millions of roses in the world, but your my only one, unique rose." As he continued, all I could do was melt into the grass. As he looked down reading, I couldn't help but cry a little. I knew even more in this moment that this was the boy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

I wish it ended there with a happy ending, but we still had some major growing pains to endure. To say that the partying intensified was an understatement. Aunt Vicky told me if I didn't do the right thing, the spell would curse me 3 times over. As wild as this sounds, she was right. Both of us acted so irresponsibly. I was so careless and it all finally caught up with me. I didn't drink and drive, but that didn't excuse the other things I did. As a result, I was arrested 3 times in a 3 week period by getting pulled over. The last arrest was the day before Good Friday and I was in jail for close to 4 nights.

Once I got out, I made sure to clean up my act. I knew that Aunt Vicky Vines meant business, so my turnaround was pretty easy. I was okay, and now it was Douglas' turn. With a newly cleared head, I was able to see the danger he was in. Ultimately, Douglas got clean, too. And not only did he get clean, but he also decided that he wanted to pursue a career that would allow him to help people who have a history of substance abuse. He went to college and also started a fundraiser to bring scientific instruments to local classrooms across New Orleans by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. At first, all of the local universities rejected his application. The community college accepted him, but pressured him to enroll in an air-conditioner repair program, saying the medical school was too lofty of a goal for someone like him. He pushed forward anyway, and ended up getting a full scholarship to Loyola University, after which he graduated from LSU New Orleans School of Medicine. He asked me to marry him and on August 1st we will celebrate our 12th year together and our 3rd wedding anniversary. We now have two beautiful girls that own our hearts. He is now a doctor and is starting a 4 year residency program in psychiatry which will allow him to practice a mind-and-body approach to substance abuse.

Douglas and Erik with their two daughters

I write all of this to say that--in spite of your past--if you dream it, you can be it. Your past does not dictate your future. If there is something you want in life, go for it! If you are anything like me and have the desire and ambition to become a father, you can. And you can do this no matter what people say, no matter if you aren't completely proud of your past, no matter what your sexual orientation.

Just always remember to be a good person, to be honest, and to do the right thing. If you do these things, you will undoubtedly see wonderful opportunities coming your way. And just remember what an old friend used to tell me... "Just grin and bear it..."

This piece is dedicated to my 'gay-dad', Tommy Elias. You were a light of hope to so many. You are & always will be an inspiration to me. I love you, & you'll be forever in my dreams.

***

I would love for you to follow our family's journey!

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Change the World

Bill Allowing Discrimination Against LGBTQ Adoptive Parents Advances in Tennessee

Tennessee's anti-LGBTQ adoption bill still needs to be passed by the State Senate and signed by the Governor before becoming law.

Just this past week, we received the good news that Michigan will no longer permit state welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBQT parents in adoption proceedings, bringing the total number of states with so-called "religious freedom" exemption down to 9.

However, anti-LGBTQ advocates in two states, Tennessee and Arkansas, are both attempting to pass similar statewide "religious freedom" bills. The effort in Tennessee just received a major boost after passing the state's House of Representatives on Monday. The bill still needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, both of which are currently controlled by Republicans.

Chris Sanders, the executive director of Tennessee Equality Project, put out a statement saying, "If this bill becomes law, same-sex couples, people of various religious beliefs, and people with no religious beliefs now face the prospect of being turned away from adoption agencies that they helped fund because they are labeled morally or religiously objectionable, which leaves children and youth with longer wait times for permanent homes."

Will be sure to keep readers posted as the story unfolds in both Tennessee and Arkansas.


Gay Dad Family Stories

Fatherhood Came Without Warning for These Two Young Gay Dads

Johnny and Adam were in their early 20s and had just started dating when a family friend asked if they could take a four-year-old boy into their home

When Johnny Guzman Tarango and Adam Tarango met in 2012, introduced by a mutual friend, they were both seeing other people at the time. What began as friendship quickly became passionate after breaking with their respective boyfriends to be with each other. Johnny was 20 years old and Adam was 21. The couple called Phoenix, Arizona home. Both were young, carefree, and very much in love.

Although Adam wanted to be a dad someday, Johnny was undecided. In January 2014, the couple were confronted with one of the biggest decisions of their lives: fatherhood.

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Change the World

Michigan Will No Longer Permit Discrimination Against LGBTQ Adoptive Parents

Michigan just rescinded its "religious freedom" law that allowed child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

According to LGBTQ Nation, Michigan will no longer allow faith-based adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples. The decision is thanks in part to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state's goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child-placing agency enters into with the state," said Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Nessel, who is raising two kids with her wife, Alanna Maguire, is the first LGBTQ person to ever be elected statewide in Michigan.

As LGBTQ Nation reports, LGBTQ advocates widely applauded the decision:

"Our children need every family that is willing and able to provide them with a loving home," said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, in a press release. "When agencies choose to accept taxpayer dollars to provide public child welfare services, they must put the needs of the children first."

"Attorney General Nessel makes clear Michigan's commitment to uphold existing nondiscrimination protections," said Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer at Family Equality Council, in a statement. "Furthermore, Nessel's statement demonstrates that she understands that while religious freedom is a core American value, religious beliefs should never be used as an excuse to harm others, or in this case, to reduce the number of loving homes available to children in the Michigan child welfare system."

Michigan's decision brings the total number of states with so-called "religious freedom" laws that permit discrimination against LGBTQ would-be parents down to nine: Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. Two other states, Arkansas and Tennessee, are attempting to pass "religious freedom" bills this year:

Read more here.

Gay Dad Life

Inside the Weird World of Expectations for Gay Dads

At social gatherings with other parents, Grant Minkhorst finds he's often the only father in the room

In my two months as a parent, I've had the pleasure of meeting a lot of new parents. As a gay dad, I am the one signing up for little activity groups and social gatherings with other new parents. I am often the only father in the room. I find myself trying to "fit in" by discussing all of the things that new moms talk about: nap schedules, feeding, baby gear and "that the sidewalks are too narrow!" But there are some topics of conversation to which I cannot contribute (e.g., breast feeding). As a social person, this can leave me feeling a little isolated, almost as if I exist just outside the real parenting bubble. Because being a mom is different.

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Change the World

Three Eagles, Two Male one Female, Form Nontraditional Family

Three bald eagles in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge are sharing a nest and incubating eggs together

According to the Advocate, three bald eagles — two male and one female — are sharing a nest and incubating eggs together.

"Families come in all shapes and sizes, and that's true for wildlife too!" wrote the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on Facebook. "Meet Valor I, Valor II and Starr, a breeding trio of bald eagles that live along the Mississippi River in Illinois. For several years, fans from all over the world have been watching this nontraditional family through a webcam as the eagles deal with the trials and tribulations of parenting."

The thruple came to be in unique way. "The nest was originally inhabited by Valor I and another female eagle named Hope," wrote the Advocate. "Initially, Valor I had poor parenting skills — he didn't hunt or guard the nest while Hope was away. Valor II entered the nest in 2013 to pick up the slack — and taught Valor I some parenting skills in the process. Hope left the nest in March 2017 after she was injured by other birds. But instead of going off to find new mates, the male eagles decided to stick together until Starr joined their nest in September 2017."

Though rare, this isn't the first time that a trio of eagles have come to share nests in this way. According to USA Today, other trruples were have been spotted in Alaska in 1977, in Minnesota in 1983 and in California in 1992.

Check out this family below!


Trio Eagle Cam Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge Live Stream www.youtube.com

Gay Dad Life

In the U.K.? Join These Dads at Events Supporting LGBTQ Parents!

The dads behind the blog TwoDads.U.K are ramping up their support of other LGBTQ parents. Check out these events they're a part of!

What a couple of years it's been for us! When our daughter Talulah was born via UK surrogacy back in October 2016, we decided to take to Instagram and Facebook to document the parental highs and lows. Little did we expect for it to be where it is now. We always had the ambition to help other intended fathers understand more about surrogacy, and we also had the added driver to do our best to influence others – help open some of the closed minds with regards to same-sex parenting.

Here we are now, pregnant again with our son which we revealed Live on Facebook! We're due in August, we're now writing several blogs, social media influencers and launching a new business focusing on our main mission to support others and being advocates for UK surrogacy. It's no wonder we're shattered!

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Change the World

These Guys Are Proof: Bisexual Dads Exist!

Far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "B" category than any other. Here are three of their inspiring stories.

A couple months ago, Gays With Kids received the following message via one of our social media channels:

"Hey guys, love what you do. But where are your stories about bi men who are dads? Do they not exist? I get the sense from your page that most queer dads identify as gay. I identify as bi (or pansexual) and want to become a dad one day, but just never see my story represented. Are they just not out there?"We can say with resounding certainly that YES bisexual dads absolutely exist. In fact, of all the letters in our acronym, far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "b" category than any other.

But our reader is certainly right in one respect--we don't hear the stories of bisexual/pansexual dads told nearly often enough. While we occasionally find stories to tell about bi dads, like this great one from earlier this year from a dad who just came out, we otherwise aren't often finding stories of bi dads nearly as easy as we do gay dads. We're sure this is due to any number of reasons--societal pressure to stay closeted from both the straight and LGBTQ communities along with erasure of bisexuality both come to mind.

But it's also because we haven't done the best job reaching out specifically to the bi dad community! We hope to start changing that, starting by bringing you the stories of three bid dads in our community.

(Are you a bi dad? Click here so we can help tell your story and increase exposure for the bi dad community, or drop us a line at dads@gayswithkids.com!)

James Shoemaker, bisexual dad of three, in Alton Illinois

James Shoemaker, who is 65-years-old and lives in Alton, Illinois, says he's known he was bisexual since the age of five. Still he lived what he called a "happily socially heterosexual" life throughout his adolescence, until he had his first same-sex experience in college at the age of 18-years-old.

In his 20s, he began his first same-sex relationship with a man, which lasted about five years. But soon the conversation turned towards children. James wanted his own biological children, something that would have been difficult, particularly at the time, to achieve. He and his boyfriends split, and soon after James met the woman who would become his wife. Since he had previously been in a relationship with a man, and his friends and family were aware of his sexuality, there was no hiding his bisexuality from his wife. There was no hiding my bisexuality from her

"We were both in our 30's, and both wanted kids," James said. "Wo were both kind of desperate to find a partner and she expressed that."

He and his wife proceeded to have three daughters together and lived what he called a fairly "conventional" life. "There was so much societal support [for raising a family] within conventional marriage," he said. "This was new to me, since I came out at age 17, and was used to being "different".

Being in a relationship with a woman, James said, alienated him from much of the LGBTQ activism that began to take hold in the 1980s and 1990s. "I felt I could not act as a representative for gay rights while married to a woman and raising kids with her," he said.

When his youngest daughter turned 18, he and his wife split and, and James began, once again, to date other men. Eventually, he met Paul Mutphy, who he has been dating for four years. Since reentering the world dating another man, he's had to confront, at times, people's misconceptions about his bisexuality. "It's not just gay guys looking for more social acceptance," James said, noting that "Bi rights" has not really caught the public's attention in the same way as "gay rights".

Maxwell Hosford, bi trans dad of one, in Yakima Washington


Maxwell Hosford, who lives in Yakima, Washington, came out as bisexual when he was 13-years-old. "I was still questioning myself," he said "and the term bisexual seemed to fit me."

A year later, when he was 14, Maxwell also came out as trans. "I had heard about Chaz Bono on the radio one morning before school and it got me thinking," he said. "I realized that I wasn't the only one who felt that way and that there was a term for how I've felt."

Though people often conflate sexual orientation and gender identity, Maxwell stressed that he sees his identity as trans and bisexual as perfectly natural. "I see them interacting in a way of fluidity," he said. "Not straight but not gay. Just a feeling of love."

Maxwell described his path to parenthood as a bit of an accident. "I was on testosterone for two years but had a four-week break because i was switching doctors," he said. During that break, Maxwell ended up getting pregnant, and wasn't aware of the pregnancy for several months after. "I just thought my body was just being weird from starting T again," he said. Once he took the test and saw the two pink lines, though he knew his life was about to change forever. He went to Planned Parenthood the very next day.

Being pregnant while trans, Maxwell said, was an incredible experience. "I was comfortable enough with my gender identity that I didn't have very much dysphoria," he said, though he noted he did face a lot of misgendering from strangers. "But I understood that because I did have a big ole pregnant belly," he said. He was grateful for his medical team who all referred to him according to the correct pronouns.

Soon after, his son Harrison was born. As soon as he held him in his arms, Maxwell said the entire process was worth it. "All the misgendering, all the questions and people misunderstanding doesn't matter once you have that baby in your arms nothing matters but that little bundle of joy."

Three years ago, Maxwell met his current fiancé, Chase Heiserman, via a gay dating app, and the three now live together as a family. He says he couldn't be happier, but he does face some difficulty as a bi trans man within his broader community. "In some peoples eyes my fiancé and I are a straight couple because I'm trans and he's cisgender," he said. Some of the difficulty has even stemmed from other trans men. "I've had some bad comments from other transmen regarding my pregnancy and how it doesn't make me trans," he said, noting he continues to fight the perception that he is not "trans enough" because he chose to carry his own baby.

Through it all, though, Maxwell says becoming a father has been the biggest blessing in his life. "Being able to carry my baby and bond through those nine months was amazing," he said. "I'm breastfeeding, which is hard as I'm trans, and so I'm self conscious of my large breasts now but it's such a bonding experience that it doesn't matter when I see the look of love and the comfort he gets from it."

For other gay, bi and trans men considering fatherhood, Maxwell has this simple piece of advice: "Go for it."

Michael MacDonald, bi dad of two, in Monterery California 

Michael MacDonald, who is 28-years-old and living in Monterey California, says he came out as bisexual over two years ago. He has two daughters, who are four and two-and-a-half years old, that were born while he was married to his ex-wife. "My children are amazing," he said. "They have been so incredibly strong and brave having mom in one house and dad in another."

Both children were fairly young when Michael and his ex separated, so "they didn't really break a deeply ingrained idea of what a family unit is like. They have always just sort of known that mom and dad don't live together."

Co-parenting isn't always easy, Michael said, noting it's "one of the hardest things in the world." He and his ex overcome any potential difficulty, though, by always putting the children first. "As long as they are happy, healthy and loved, that is all that matters," he said. "I'm so fortunate to have such an incredible/pain in the butt partner to help me raise these amazing little girls."

Though the separation was hard on all of them, Michael said it's also been an amazing experience watching his children's resiliency. "I am so proud of the beautiful little people they are," he said. "Their adaptability, courage and love is something really spectacular."

Since the separation, Michael hasn't been in a serious relationship, but he has dated both men and women, something he says has been "absolutely challenging. Not only does he need to overcome all the typical challenges of a newly divorced parent ("Do they like kids? Would they be a good stepparent?") but also the added stresses of being bisexual. "It can sometimes just be a bit too much for some women to handle," he said.

He has been intentional about making sure his children have known, from a young age, that "daddy likes girls and boys," he said. "They have grown up seeing me interact with people I've dated in a romantic way, like hand holding, abd expressing affection, so I think as they get older it's not something that will ever really seem foreign or different to them to see me with a man or woman," he said.

In his dates with other men, Michael says most guys tend to be surprised to learn that he has biological children. "But once I explain that I am bisexual, it's usually much more easily understood," he said. He is more irritated, though, when people question or outright refuse to recognize his bisexuality. "While I understand and have witnessed many guys who use bisexuality as a "stepping stone" of sorts when coming out," he said, it does not mean that "bisexuality is not real or valid."

As a bisexual dad, he also says he can feel isolated at times within the broader parenting community. "It can be a little intimidating feeling like you don't really belong to one side or another," he said. "There's this huge network of gay parents, and, of course straight parents. Being sort of in the middle can sometimes create a feeling of isolation"

The biggest misconception about bisexual dads who have split with their wives, he said, is that sexual orientation isn't always the reason for the separation. "When my ex wife and I separated, while my bisexuality did play a small part in it, it was not the reason we separated," he said. He added that while life might not be perfect, it's good. "My children are happy, healthy, and loved," he said. "That's really what matters the most."

Fatherhood, the gay way

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