Gay Dad Life

Philadelphia: Let Freedom Ring!

Just in time for the Fourth of July (and beyond), a Philly boy gives the lowdown on the very gay-friendly city where America began.

Walk through Independence Park, the symbolic heart of Philadelphia, and across from Independence Hall and within eyeshot of the Liberty Bell stands a lone historical marker dated 1965, a positively futuristic anachronism for a city whose chief claim to fame is 1776.

Turns out, four years before the Stonewall Riots gave LGBTQs a collective voice, a local restaurant refused service to patrons who the manager thought “looked gay.” KA-BOOM! Nothing like a little dumbassery to get the blood flowing. About 150 people staged a sit-in at the eatery and soon morphed into very public July picket lines demanding gay equality just a few yards from where American freedom was proclaimed. The association was unavoidable, particularly since what was to be called the “Annual Reminder” was held every Independence Day.

Marker of early gay rights demonstrations in Philadelphia

So, if a native Philly boy such as me may say it, no offense to New York or San Francisco, but you are Johnny-come-latelies to the party.

The City That Loves You Back

And the Annual Reminders are celebrated 50 years on, commemorated via a ceremonial picket line on July 4 and a massive block party in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood the following day. It is part of a trio of rainbow-themed events on the city calendar, sandwiched neatly between Philly Pride (June 12-14) and OutFest, the largest National Coming Out Day celebration in the world (October 12). FYI, the Annual Reminders are tailor-made to while away the daylight before the Fourth of July fireworks light up the sky at night.

Rev. Gordon Reid, rector emeritus at Saint Clement’s Church, blessing rosaries at OutFest

I chalk up the welcome transformation of the City of Brotherly Love into a gay destination to an acute sense of self-awareness. So identified with the American Revolution is Philadelphia that the city is perceived as being one-note; two-note if you throw in Rocky Balboa and his iconic run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (People still do it, complete with “Rocky dance” at the summit. Just sit back and wait.) Consequently, there has been a hard push to be something — anything! — other than a city whose golden age was 239 years ago or “ADRIAAAAAN!”

To a point, anyway; history is a big draw in Philadelphia. Fresh off a refurb, Independence Park is a veritable shrine to America (declared here), the Constitution (signed here), and aforementioned Liberty Bell (cracked here — oopsy). But the park is more than just a marginally kid-oriented expo for a time gone by, although the sparkling, white marble temple housing the Liberty Bell is quite the marginally kid-oriented expo.

Philadelphia Museum of Art - photo by Anthony Sinagoga for PHLCVB

Part of the renovation was the inclusion of the massive National Constitution Center, a walk-in laboratory of how the document defining American governance actually works in the here and now, and whose 17-minute “Freedom Rising" theatrical production former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor hailed as “the best civics lesson in the country.” Women’s rights, racial equality and gay liberation are all explored, and the potholes on the road to freedom get as much press as the flattop. No sugarcoating here.

Gotta See It To Believe It

But Philadelphia can educate the masses in more ways than just jurisprudential intricacies. Aside from the Museum of Art and its staircase calf workout, there is the Rodin Museum, whose collection is outdone only by its Parisian counterpart. Philly’s answer to the Frick and Getty, the Barnes Foundation is an American educational art and horticultural institution; its post-impressionist and early-modern art collections are among the best in the world: 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos, 16 Modigli­anis, and 7 Van Goghs!

There is also the Mütter Museum, where you can see Einstein’s brain chopped up into itty-bitty bite-sized pieces. Wait…what?

In 2011, Einstein’s sushi-ed noodle became the showstopper for a Philadelphia institution already known for stopping shows. The Mütter’s humble origins harken back to Dr. Thomas Mütter, a pre-Civil War teaching physician who relied on a well-pickled smorgasbord of…ah…“visual aids” to document various diseases and conditions. The museum today showcases everything that can possibly go awry with a human body. It is the absolute must for parents whose kids delight in the macabre. For boys, it’s pretty much from age 13 until death — I know; this is me to a T. A skeleton with one body and two heads? Check! A skeleton with two bodies and one head? Check-check! The body of a woman who turned to soap? Checkity-check-check! You can even have your wedding photos done at the Mütter, with the 139-strong Hyrtl skull collection as a backdrop. And I swear to God I am not making this up.

The Hyrtl skull collection at the Mütter Museum

But perhaps you want to save the traumatization of your children to some later date. A more controlled descent is the G-rated Please Touch Museum, from the first stone a 7-and-below haven where kids and parents engage each other through play slyly designed to introduce little minds to big concepts like architecture, ecosystems, and physics. Once the hungry-mind fire is lit, the Franklin Institute, a world-class science bonanza for tweens and adults, throws fuel on the cerebral flames with exhibits a little more advanced (building your own Mars rover), a little more “Mütter” (a two-story model of a neural network you can climb through) and waaaaaay more geeky (“The Art of the Brick”— the largest Lego display on Earth! Woot-woot!).

The Franklin Institute - photo by Paul Loftland for PHLCVB

Calendar Boys

But asking a Philadelphian when it’s the best time to visit the city is the best way to see a head explode. We’re a torn bunch: Some will say the Fourth of July; what better place to experience the holiday than in the city that created it? The panorama of a sky on fire over the Museum of Art is an Olympian experience, not least of which is because the museum is built as a fabulously ornate Greek temple.

Mummers Parade, 2013 – photo by Robert Moran

But then there are the Mummers. Every New Year’s Day the wide boulevard of Broad Street is washed over wholesale by wave after wave of sequins, ostrich plumes, and string bands: the Mummers Parade, a colorful and musical folk parade. Right along with cheesesteaks and hoagies (like a sub sandwich), the Mummers are unique to Philly and a source of immense pride and identity — and the one of the most family-friendly events the city’s cultural engine revs out. Clubs belong to five larger divisions, Comic, Fancy, Wench Brigade, String Band and Fancy Brigade, and are made up of ordinary citizens in a no-holds-barred show of one-upmanship to come up with the most creative costumes, dances routines, and tunes.

So may this piece represent a rebuttal to Charles Dickens, who infamously called Philadelphia “distractingly regular.” He obviously did not grab a margarita at Woody’s, which are about $5 cheaper than in New York. That alone should bring the crowds in running.


Cover photo credit (Liberty Bell): Andrea Golod for PHLCVB

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

8 Ways for Dads to Find Work/Life Balance

Finding work/life balance is hard enough... but can be even harder for gay dads.

Having kids is an amazing part of life, and it should be fun. Life does tend to get in the way sometimes, and one huge aspect of that is work. Striking that balance between work and home life is tough. If you both work it's even harder.

And if you're a gay couple, it can have it's own set of problems above and beyond the standard work-life issues that people face. Recently, the Harvard Business Review conducted a study that focused specifically on the experiences of same-sex couples who wanted to make moves towards a work/life balance.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

'NolaPapa' Launches YouTube Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

Check out Erik Alexander's new YouTune Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

When we first found out that our second daughter was African American I froze. Not because of her race, but because I knew NOTHING about African American hair. So I frantically tried to learn as much as I could while she was a newborn so I was ready to style it when she was a little older.

I decided to launch our YouTube channel Nolapapa: Story of a Gay Dad to focus on this very topic! Episodes 1-5 will solely be dedicated to learning how to wash, care for and styling African American hair. Afterwards, the content will shift towards personal & family situations, adoption, gay parenting questions and other great content! I'd love your support and become part of our little village as we launch this new project!

Sending Nola love to each of ya!

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Encouraged by His Son, Single Dad Richard Started Dating Again — and Just Got Married!

After his 14 year relationship ended, Richard got a gentle push into the dating pool from an unexpected source — his son!

In 2014, Richard Rothman's relationship of 15 years ended, leaving him understandably reluctant to jump back into the world of dating as a single gay dad. But after spending one too many Friday nights at home, he got a gentle nudge from somebody unexpected —his teenaged son, Jonathan.

"Dad," Jonathan said. "Would you just get out of the house and go on a date already?" (You may remember wise-beyond-his-years Jonathan from this post that went viral of a tattoo he got commemorating his adoption day.)

On his son's encouragement, Richard started dipping a tentative toe back into the dating pool. In 2015, he met Kevin thanks to mutual friends that introduced them via social media. It took four months before Richard introduced Kevin to his son, who was a Sophomore in high school at the time.

On New Year's Eve in 2017, Kevin proposed while the couple was vacationing in Palm Springs. The city has an outdoor festival every year, he explained, which the couple attended. The band Plain White T's happened to be performing their hit "Hey There Delilah" as Kevin got down on one knee and proposed. "Now whenever I hear that song it brings back memories of that night," Richard said.

Richard and Kevin married on March 30, 2019 back at the scene of the crime — in Palm Springs, at the Frederick Loewe Estate. Jonathan was Richard's best man, and also walked him down the aisle (awwww.....). Kevin's brother Bobby served as his best man.

"As so many wonderful moments continue to happen for us in Palm Springs, we now own a home there in addition to our primary residence in Bentonville, Arkansas," said Richard.

Check out video from the couple's special day below!

And Jonathan is now an E4 Master-at-Arms in the US Navy.

Surrogacy for Gay Men

A Dream Becomes Reality, After a Men Having Babies Conference

New Yorkers David and Brian said their dreams of fatherhood crystalized only after receiving a "ton of information" at a Men Having Babies conference.

New Yorkers David F.M. Vaughn 39, and Brian Becker, 37, are new dads. Over the past three months, the two most important things they've learned as fathers is "patience, and how to swaddle LIKE A CHAMP!" David and Brian chose surrogacy as their path to fatherhood, but making that decision was one of the more difficult parts of their journey. Brian's siblings are adopted, and while they still want to make adoption part of their family journey, certain opportunities arose that made their surrogacy decision easier. Brian's sister enthusiastically offered to be their gestational surrogate, and they discovered more about the process with the help of Men Having Babies (MHB).

But let's jump back to the beginning of their story.

Keep reading... Show less

Your Foster Adopt Questions Answered by a Foster Adopt Dad

We asked our Instagram community to send us their questions about being a foster dad — and an experienced foster dad responded.

Dad Joseph Bostick (read his story here) recently shared his experience as a foster and adoptive dad with our Instagram community via a question and answer session - did you feel nervous at the beginning? How did you start the process? Did you always know that you wanted to foster older kids?

Read Joseph's responses below.

Keep reading... Show less

Gay Surrogacy in the U.S. for International Dads

Kristin Marsoli of Circle Surrogacy breaks down the process of surrogacy for gay men outside of the United States

Written by Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation, who has been helping international gay men become dads for over two decades.

Becoming a gay dad through a surrogacy agency in the U.S. – when you live outside of the United States – can feel overwhelming. You may have questions such as: Why should I come all the way to the US for surrogacy? What do I need to know as an international intended parent? How do I get my baby home?

We spoke with Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation who has been working with international gay parents for over two decades. Circle Surrogacy was founded by a gay dad and lawyer, and is the most successful surrogacy agency with a full legal team on staff who are experts working with international parents.

Keep reading... Show less
Coming Out

My Gay Shame Is Officially Cancelled

After years of feeling ashamed of being gay, David Blacker has finally overcome it. And his son had a lot to do with it.

Scrolling through my social media feeds, reading all the posts about National Coming Out Day reminds me just how valuable it is for us to share our stories and be as open, vulnerable and authentic as possible. Warning: this article is about to get real AF, so now might be a good time to switch back to the Face-Aging app that gives Russia all your personal data.

Oh good, you stayed. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse