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.
Elliot Dougherty's mother-in-law served as a gestational carrier, and his sister donated eggs, so that he and his husband could become dads
All good love stories start hot. Ours just so happened to, literally. The summer I turned 23, during the sweltering heat, I stood at an invisible crossroads. I felt a momentum pulling at me, but I couldn't tell from which direction. I had been putting myself out there as a hairstylist and building my portfolio by working with local photographers and designers. At the beginning of July, I received a Facebook message from a young man named Matthew Eledge. He sent me the script to a short film he was directing, hoping I might be interested. We met a few days later on a humid summer day at a quaint French cafe in the Old Market of downtown Omaha. Drinking wine, we discussed our inspirations for hours.
A gay dad pens a heartfelt letter to his sons before their first day of sleep-away camp
My dearest Phoenix and Sebastian,
Whether I let you leave this year or next or hold you in our nest for the next ten years, at some point I actually have to face my own fears. The past seven years have been both the most rewarding and yet also the toughest I have lived. And as any good parent tells you, it gets tougher and tougher. But through this year, I have witnessed your growths, and more so your wants and needs. With that said, it's time for you to take independence head on. Yes, you will fall and yes, you will make mistakes, but that's normal for any human. It's what you do when this occurs that makes you a gentleman. Learn from your mistakes, don't repeat them. Own them and build on them to make you a better member of society.
Why I am writing this? Well, you guys are off to sleep away camp in four weeks and every day it gets closer and closer to me losing control. So much so that I won't have any control left. And that, kids, scares me. Yes, this is the camp I went to in my teens and yes, the staff and owners are friends from the past. But seven weeks is a long time and I am losing not only my two sons for this period, but also my friends. I am now forced to actually talk to Papa (partially kidding) or probably more likely live in a quieter-than-usual house. It's funny how you yearn for peace and quiet until you have it and then you realize how deafening it is.
Now, camp was such an instrumental part of my life, shaping everything I have accomplished to date and it's such a gift to be able to provide you both the same experience. We should all feel humbled and grateful. The emotions, the friendships, and the love of the fresh air will be unsurmountable. The key is to keep your head up and your eyes wide open. Listen to what people are asking of you. If you're unsure, use your voice. Be kind every step of the way. Take risks with caution. You both are so great with making friends, both young and old. But being in a community with many walks of life, 24 hours a day, is not easy—it can be quite challenging. So, what do you do? Turn this into a positive, allowing yourself to simply work on you being you. This "you" needs to be a productive citizen within this microcosm. Look for guidance. Find counselors and kids that not only challenge you, but also help you along the way. We all need assistance, every day of our lives, and it's imperative for you to be able to vocalize this in a manner that will provide the fruit you desire.
On the other hand, there are so many things that I can't teach you. These things you must learn on your own and I do believe this environment in which you will live in is the right place for you to experience all these things. Phoenix—make right choices. You are the sweetest and kindest person I know. Open your heart to everyone. You are so good at that. But also follow instructions. Not too aggressive, my young knight. Don't deviate too much from the path, my friend. And look out for your brother. Help him when he needs it. Sebastian—we worry about you. Make the right choices. And get dressed faster! You're too slow. Also, be flexible. Life is not a race and one has to be able to separate competition and sportsmanship. If you don't get your way, you will be fine. Sometimes that's how the cookie crumbles.
But just as you are working on what I mentioned above, I will be working on not only my own inner being, but also repairing and reinvigorating daddy and papa's relationship. Although you both have and will continue to be of utmost importance in our lives, our connection has taken a back seat to your progress. And selfishly, it is time for Andy and I to just be, as we started 13 years ago. Life is funny and it's only as you age that you develop some element of some wisdom to actually see some of it. But it's the foundations of situations, like sleep-away camp, that truly build the LEGO pieces to your future.
Now, over the last 30 days, I have asked you both random questions to truly understand if you are prepared to go to sleep-away camp this summer. And to my surprise, your answers do indeed show your readiness. Some examples that have made me smile are below. The last being my favorite.
- What happens when you wipe your tushy and there's poop on the toilet paper? Seb - put the dirty toilet paper in the toilet bowl.
- If you feel a bug on your face attempting to bite you, what would you do? Phx - quickly grab it, catch it in my hand, and gently place it back on the ground, alive.
- What happens if you don't know how to do something? Seb - ask a counselor. Seb then asks - what happens if the counselor doesn't know the answer? Can they ask Siri?
So, no, Siri won't be at camp, but the resources for you are abundant and I can't wait to see, to hear, and to watch your progresses, and more so see your independence that will shape the rest of your life. So, with that, yes, I will be crying when the bus departs, but just know it's out of happiness. I know it's the best for all of us and I wish you well, my boys. Enjoy the world. Life is too short not to. And please make sure you wipe your ass clean. Daddy's a well-known proctologist. 😂
Our longtime blogger Erik Alexander breaks down five reasons he loves Gays With Kids to celebrate our 5th birthday!
In the divisive and polarizing environment that gay dads live in today, what would we do without Gays With Kids? Honestly.
Just think about it. GWK gives the gay dads of America and across the world an outlet to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion that, for many, is difficult to find. Furthermore, GWK is primarily about us—gay dads.
With that being said, this is GWK's 5th anniversary! So how better to show my appreciation than to list My 5 reasons Why: We Love Gays With Kids!
In 1994, my then-boyfriend Brian and I drove to New York City for Gay Pride.
We had met the year before at Mike's Gym, an almost exclusively gay gym in Boston's South End. A friend of Brian's somehow knew I was from Holland; that's how I believe my nickname Tulip came about.
(Come to think of it: Brian used to say that he'd prefer tulips on his organ to a rose on his piano.)
A quick glance at me in the locker room taught him what religion I wasn't.
And a friend of mine had already divulged to me what Brian had told him in confidence: He was HIV-positive.
Anyway, we met. We really liked each other. Then, on the third date, Brian revealed to me in a shaky voice what I already knew. We had our first, very careful sex that night.
We fell in love. We had dates in the South End, then a largely gay neighborhood. We made friends that were mostly gay. (But not exclusively; we befriended some lesbians too.) We went to see "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss" and other little indie films that were, yes, gay, gay, gay.
With an AIDS diagnosis looming, we had no time to lose. Some of our new friends were getting sicker. Some died. Barely six months after the first kiss, we moved in together.
At that New York Pride, gay life was celebrated in the face of death. We saw men marching with dark Kaposi sarcoma lesions on their bared chests. We saw young men leaning on canes, too sick to walk, watching the parade from the sidelines. Men blind with cytomegalovirus loudly singing along to "Pride – A Deeper Love" coming from the floats. We chanted and cried and watched a giant rainbow flag being carried along Fifth Avenue. And in our cut-off jeans and Timberland boots, we danced to Aretha and Whitney.
And then, thanks to enormous medical advances, the unthinkable happened for us: Brian stayed alive and healthy. As our horizon of life opened up, we learned to look ahead farther. We made plans for a future together that wasn't just measured in weeks or months.
We loved New York, and so we found jobs there and moved to Manhattan. Forced by my immigration issues we decamped temporarily to cold but wonderful Toronto, repatriated to New York five years later, and in 2017 returned to the Boston area.
We went from boyfriends to partners (for many years our term of choice), briefly to ex-partners, to partners again, and finally, in 2013, to husbands.
We got our first dog in 2005, a saucy Chihuahua named Duke, and showered him with love and attention. It awakened something in us that had long been dormant. But could we, at our age? Would Brian stay healthy?
Our answers were yes and yes. In 2009 we adopted a baby boy. Seventeen months later our two daughters were born.
In 2014 Brian began this website, Gays With Kids. So we're still gay, and our kids clearly have gay dads. They dance a mean Time Warp; instead of straight ahead they say gaily forward. They realize everyone is different, and they seem to like it that way.
But we live now in a predominantly straight suburb with an excellent school system. We socialize primarily with straight-but-not-narrow friends. Brian and I tell each other all the time we should really go back to the gym. We watch our little, almost exclusively gay indie films in bed on Netflix and Amazon Prime, after the kids have finally fallen asleep.
We're going to take our kids to New York Pride later this month. I envision something like this: Proudly holding their hands, we'll watch the floats in age-appropriate shorts and sensible footwear. We'll cheer on courageous Mormon or evangelical LGBT contingencies while the kids are busy licking lollipops. They will learn about Stonewall, AIDS and the road to marriage equality. Following the kids' lead, Brian and I will make some moves to "Old Town Road." With them, we'll belt out "Baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle?" And we will dance in the street to Madonna, Cher, Whitney and Gaga, the soundtrack of our lives for so many years.
Over the course of that weekend, in age-appropriate terms, we will tell our kids more about the lives of their daddy and papa.
Jay Bostick, a gay foster dad, responds to Kevin Saunders' controversial essay "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children"
Editor's Note: Below is an essay by Jay Bostick who eloquently lays out many of the reasons why he and many other readers were upset by a post we ran yesterday by Kevin Saunders titled, "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children." This post clearly touched a nerve! (Check out the ongoing discussion on our Facebook page.) While some of our readers appreciated Saunders' viewpoint, many others felt slighted by his reasoning for not having children, calling him everything from "self-involved," "selfish," and an "insufferable narcissist." Many other readers rightly questioned why Gays With Kids would even run an essay from a man who does not want children on (of all place) a parenting website.
The former point is a matter of opinion, but I'll offer some clarification on the latter. We agreed to run this post for two reasons. First, Saunders' perspective is unique among many adopted gay men. We have run countless essays on this site featuring adopted gay men who, inspired by their own upbringing, decided to give back by opening up their homes to children who need them. Saunders' experience, however, led him to conscience decision not to have children, a perspective worthy of discussion particularly by anyone who has been touched by adoption in some way. Secondly, as a 52-year-old gay man, Saunders is starting to find himself alienated from many in his LGBTQ peer group for his decision not to have kids. Again, we are so much more familiar with the opposite perspective on our page: when they become parents, many gay men find themselves ostracized from the broader, childless LGBTQ community. That the inverse is also starting to become true is a testament to the increase in LGBTQ parents in the United States, and an interesting dichotomy we believed warranted further exploration.
All that said, Saunders' essay is a matter of opinion, and one our readers (nor we) certainly don't have to agree with. This is why we were thrilled to receive this "counterpoint" to Saunders's essay from Bostick. We, at least, are enjoying the respectful exchange of ideas, and hope you are as well. Give Bostick's essay a read, as well as the original, and then let us know what you think in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--David Dodge, Managing Editor
This year will be John Hart's 10th year celebrating Father's Day as a dad. Here's 15 things he's learned in that decade.
I celebrated my first Father's Day as a new father a decade ago. And while some sleepless nights, whining phases or the Gangnam Style-era seemed endless at the time, the years have gone by quickly.
Here are some of the things that I've learned about since 2009:
#1. Learning is Constant
I have discovered so much more about hockey, hip hop and slime than I ever knew before. And just because I love musicals, singing and Tiana (my favourite Disney princess), doesn't mean my kids have to enjoy the same. Plus my kids tell me that just because I can do the Floss and Orange Justice, doesn't mean I should, especially in public.
#2. When it's quiet...
Just because it's quiet doesn't mean everything is ok. I've let the two kids play on when it was quiet, only to realize later they were playing with postage stamps as if they were stickers or were unrolling condoms onto their fingers ("these balloons are kinda slimy...."). On the other hand, just because it's quiet doesn't mean everything is wrong: I once checked on them in the other room to find them counting each others' toes and in the car I turned around to see them looking out their own windows but holding hands in the middle.
#3. Speak Out When Necessary
I have advocated – sometimes wisely, sometimes passionately (read angrily) for my kids while trying to navigate the education, health, social services and adoption systems. I am much more outspoken on their behalf than mine. I will go all daddy bear on you if I must.
#4. New Perspectives
I have looked at life anew through my children's eyes, especially Christmas, theme parks and board games. Also, however, sexism, racism and homophobia – while I want to protect their innocence and curiosity as much as possible, I need to prepare them for the real world. I feel they need to know what might happen, how to respond and how irrational it all will be.
#5. Old Perspectives
There are times when "when I was a kid..." stories are fascinating to the two kids – landlines? Antenna tv? VHS? And there are times when "when I was a kid..." is just not relevant to how they live their lives today.
The kids have questions – so many questions – but they're not looking for overly complicated answers, simply something they understand and hopefully an analogy to their own experience or to a character they know.
#7. An Extensive Family
We have grown our family by multitudes with our children, their blood siblings and their blood siblings' adoptive families. It is amazing to celebrate special bonds with them all and have so many people we now consider family.
#8. Love and Pain
I find ways to let my children know that they're wanted and loved every day, while also acknowledging the trauma of the separation from their birth families. Sometimes my love isn't enough because they have questions I can't always answer. We talk to them about their adoption stories, and to ensure their sense of permanency, I had tattoos of their initials inked onto my arms.
#9. Learning From Mistakes
I try every day to provide the structure, security and safety my kids need, but also room to grow and to express themselves. They need to discover who they are, explore the world and make their own mistakes.
#10. Learning From Mistakes (Daddy Edition)
I have found myself failing as a father, yet I have never given up completely. These kids are mine and I'm responsible. I need to learn from my mistakes and do better. I also need to admit my mistakes, apologize and show that we can persist, forgive and move forward.
#11. The Importance of Saying Less
There are times when "you're having a hard day, let me give you a hug" is all I need to say and all they want to hear.
#12. Creating Community
We have met and bonded with many gay dads, sharing similar experiences of adoption, confused or inquiring looks, and times we need to out ourselves yet again. We have also met and bonded with many parents of whatever sex and orientation as we share the same experiences of trying to do the best for our children (and retain some sense of sanity), trying to register for programs with waitlists and swap helpful hints of how to get the kids to sit down and eat their dinner.
#13. Sharing Our Story
I've spoken with dozens of gay men, both individually and while on panels, about becoming parents, offering advice, wisdom and encouragement. There are usually so many questions – How? How long? How did you...? When did you...? But also sharing our photos and stories that show the results and rewards of pursuing parenthood.
#14. An Online Community
I've written for Gays With Kids for five years, offering insights and a personal perspective. I enjoy hearing from other families too and seeing photos from around the world. It is so wonderful to find a small but growing international community to encourage, support and inspire each other.
#15. Pride for All
It is important for our family of four to attend Pride together. Sure they've seen some things that make them giggle or prompt conversation later, but they need to partake as well. They need to see others like them – and others not like them – and be seen; they need to feel that they belong; and that they are equally deserving to stand tall and proud too. They're part of the community too.
They say that when it comes to parenting, showing up is half the battle. But how can we show up and be present?
When I was in college, I remember watching an episode of Jerry Springer. The theme was deadbeat dads. And one of the baggy-pant-donning guests stood up and arrogantly shouted "I take care of my kids" to thunderous applause, all because he agreed to pay off his owed child support. I remember thinking to myself… um… isn't that, like, your job? I learned then and there that not all dads take their responsibility seriously. I also learned that the studio audience on Jerry Springer has the moral compass of, well, a studio audience on Jerry Springer.
Here's the thing: when it comes to parenting, they say that showing up is half the battle. I disagree. I show up. But I'm not always there… not always present. There, I said it. Now I can stop privately beating myself up over it and finally do something to fix it. That something had me asking lots of other parents for advice and reading lots of articles on ways Dads can be more present in their children's life. I've narrowed it down to ten tips that I've already begun to implement. Have I completely turned things around? In the words of Whitney: hell to the naw. But at least I've acknowledged that Houston, we have a problem. And that's always the first step.
I'll start with the most obvious problem — our devices (duh).