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

How "Easy" Is It, Really, for Gay Men to Become Dads?

It's never been easier for gay men to become dads, but a recent Washington Post article, which includes interviews with four gay parents, gives voice to some of the challenges that persist.

In recent weeks, with reports like this one in eWire.News, and famous gay dads gracing the cover of Parents Magazine for the first time, a perception is growing that it's now "easy" for gay men to be dads now. To examine this idea, Washington Post recently interviewed four gay men who have become fathers at some point in the past 10 years to examine their experiences. What they found is that, yes, it's easier than ever before for gay men to become dads. But we still face many more barriers than our straight counterparts.

None of these barriers will be news to any gay man who has become a father. But it's helpful that major publications like the Washington Post are now starting to recognize and give voice to them.

The first "finding" from their conversations is that gay men need more "money in the bank" that straight people. With the exception of adoption through foster care, "the financial costs are often tantamount to buying a car or even a house outright," the author notes.

The article also notes that gay men--and fathers in general--are given less paternity leave in the United States on average than many other countries. One of the dads interviewed for the piece, who adopted his sone through foster care, said he could only afford to take two weeks of paternity leave, which was " too short," he said. His son "struggled to see me as the paternal figure — I was just the guy who went to work and came home from work later. That's a struggle for most dads whether gay or straight — but I wish I had gotten more time just to bond with him."

Gay dads also must do more "emotional heavy lifting," the author notes, noting that many attend therapy for many months before taking the plunge. "We don't come to parenting by accident," another dad interviewed in the piece said. "We come to it by way of a lot of money, and with great intentionality. That is the commonality among gay dads with children."

A final common experience to many of the gay dads interviewed in the piece were annoyances dealing with strangers. "The thing that has been the most difficult are strangers who don't understand," one of the dads said. "They see us out with our son and we don't fit into their little box of what a family looks like. I've been asked whether Jeffrey and I mixed our sperm together in a cup. And that's rude, but as our son gets older, he is being shaped by a certain narrative about who he is."

Read the whole article here.

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"A New Adventure": Congrats to Gay Dads Whose Families Grew in January!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

Congrats dads!

We are also excited to announce that this post is brought to you by Choice Network in Ohio. Choice Network is a national leader in LGBTQ adoption. They have a goal of 50% of their families being created with LGBTQ people. "It is our core value that love makes a family." We're thrilled to be partnering with Choice Network to offer our congrats to dads whose families grew this month!

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Gay Dad Family Stories

Adoption for These Dads Was Like a "Rollercoaster" But Well Worth the Ride

After multiple scam attempts, bizarre leads, and a birth mom's change of heart, Jason and Alex finally became dads.

Photo credit: Dale Stine

Every gay man who pursues fatherhood fights for their right to become a dad. They've had to keep going even when at times it's seemed hopeless. Jason Hunt-Suarez and Alex Suarez's story is no different. They had their hearts set on adoption; overcame multiple scams, some very bizarre leads, a birth mother's change of heart at the 11th hour, their adoption agency going bankrupt, and tens of thousands of dollars lost along the way. But after a long, turbulent, and heart-wrenching three-year-long journey, it was all worth it.

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Change the World

Breaking with Older Generations,  Most LGBTQ Millenials Say They Want Kids

According to new research by the Family Equality Council, the number of LGBTQ parents is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years

According to the LGBTQ Family Building Survey, recently released by the Family Equality Council, the majority of young LGBTQ say they are interested in becoming parent. This marks a dramatic shift when compared with the attitudes of older generations.

Among the survey's findings:

  • 63% of LGBTQ Millennials (aged 18-35) are considering expanding their families, either becoming parents for the first time, or by having more children
  • 48% of LGBTQ Millennials are actively planning to grow their families, compared to 55% of non-LGBTQ Millennials, a gap that has narrowed significantly in comparison to older generations
  • 63% of LGBTQ people planning families expect to use assisted reproductive technology, foster care, or adoption to become parents, a significant shift away from older generations of LGBTQ parents for whom the majority of children were conceived through intercourse.

Despite the expected increase in LGBTQ parents, most providers, they note, "do not typically receive training about the unique needs of the LGBTQ community; forms and computer systems are not developed with LGBTQ families in mind; insurance policies are rarely created to meet the needs of LGBTQ family building; and discrimination against LGBTQ prospective parents by agencies and providers remains widespread."

The Family Equality Council goes on to recommend that family building providers "from reproductive endocrinologists and obstetricians to neonatal social workers, family law practitioners, and child welfare workers" begin preparing now to welcome future LGBTQ parents.

Read the full report here.

Change the World

Gay Dads More 'Equitable' in Parenting Roles Than Straight Dads, Says New Study

Unmoored by gender roles, gay dads take equal parts in being "playmates, caregivers, protectors, role models, morality guides,

A new study conducted by Éric Feugé from the Université du Québec à Montréal observed 46 families, made up of 92 gay dads and their 46 children over a period of seven years.

The study, which Feugé says is the first of its kind, analyzed the roles gay dads take in raising their kids and found the way they parent is 'very equitable'.

'We learned that gay fathers' sharing of tasks is very equitable,' the researcher told the Montreal Gazette, who added there was a "high degree of engagement" by both gay dads in all types of parental roles. "What's really interesting is that they don't conform to roles of conventional fathers. They were able to redefine and propose new models of cultural notions of paternity and masculinity."

Unmoored by gender roles, gay dads take equal parts in being "playmates, caregivers, protectors, role models, morality guides,' the author said.

Read the full review of the research here.

Change the World

Don't F*ck With This F*g

After a homophobic encounter on the subway, BJ questions what the right response is, in an era of increasing vocal rightwing activists

On February 1, 2019, Frank and I went out on a date night, something we haven't done in a while. Our son was sleeping over at his grandparents for the night and we made plans with our friends to meet them for dinner downtown. We decided to save some money and take the subway into town instead of taking a taxi.

We boarded the subway and sat down opposite a couple, a man and woman. I noticed they looked at us as we boarded the train and began whispering to each other. Frank and I were talking to each other when I heard the man uttering under his breath, "F*$%ing faggots."

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Gay Dad Life

14 Gay Dad Families Show Their Love This Valentine's Day

These pics of gay dads smooching will warm the hearts of even the biggest V-Day skeptics

You might quietly (or loudly) oppose the commercialism and celebration of Valentine's Day, but let's just take a moment and rejoice in these beautiful signs of affection, shared between 14 awesome two-dad families. Cynicism gone? Good.

Happy Valentine's Day, dads! We hope you have a lovely day with your kids, your significant other, and / or friends. Because who doesn't love love!?!

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