Gay Dad Life

Former ATP Tennis Pro's "Non-Traditional" Family Doing Just Fine

Not long ago, former ATP tennis professional Brian Vahaly met his match.

On October 16, 2015, Brian married Bill Jones in Atlanta, a few months after same-sex marriage became legal by the US Supreme Court. It was a momentous occasion made all the more memorable when the newlyweds found out, the same night, that they would also soon become fathers.

Today, Brian, who is now a venture capitalist, and Bill, a real estate agent, are busy raising their 1-year-old twins, Parker and Bennett, in Annapolis, Maryland. With Brian's high profile career as a professional athlete now behind him, he and Bill say they are leading a more normal, happy family life.

But his fellow former tennis star, Margaret Court, 74, apparently feels differently.


Brian and his husband Bill

Earlier this year, Margaret Court wrote a letter to a newspaper in which she described her stance against same-sex couples raising children, specifically naming Australian tennis player Casey Dellacqua and her female partner who have two children:

"Indeed, the lines are becoming increasingly blurred as the march towards such partnerships, even gay marriage, is fueled by minority voices rising in opposition to respected Christian beliefs which many cultures believe," Margaret said. "I simply want to champion the rights of the family over the rights of the individual to engineer social norms into their relationships. I really want to see a society where traditional family values are still celebrated and every child has the best possible start in life."

Court, whose name stands atop the Stadium at the Australian Arena in Melbourne, has also been vocal on her objection to marriage equality in Australia.

After learning of Court's interview, Brian, ever the competitor, issued a challenge of sorts to her fellow athlete in an interview with Huffington Post: try spending some time with his family.

Bill and Brian with their two sons

"I think if she met little Parker and Bennett and actually came into our home, she would understand why her words were so hurtful to so many people," Brian said in the interview. "Gay people do not just wake up with children," he continued. "It's a serious, intense, and exhausting experience that takes years and a lot money. Every child in the family of a gay couple is so incredibly loved and wanted."

Sadly, Brian's comments drew negative attention from opponents of LGBTQ equality, and he was bombarded with nasty emails from those who agreed with Margaret Court.

"We received thousands of hate email with references to studies that were done on how children of gay parents have a higher likelihood of suicide," Brian told Gays With Kids. "We were consistently told how selfish it was to deprive these kids the role of a mother in their lives."

Court, unfortunately, has not yet taken Brian up on his invitation to spend some time with his family. But we here at Gays With Kids wanted to provide an opportunity for people to get to know this young family a little bit better.

Brian with one of his sons

The day starts with Brian and Bill waking Parker and Bennett up at 6:30 a.m., feeding them breakfast, and then sending them on a stroll through the neighborhood. This is followed by playtime and a few activities in the hopes of teaching them a few things, with more naps breaking things up.

For Brian, there is nothing better than coming home from work to his family.

"They make this huge excited sound when the door opens, and they come running to us," said Brian. "You can't beat it."

Unsurprisingly, Brian's favorite activity with his two boys is "catch."

"I love to play 'catch' with them and roll the ball back and forth and watch them laugh," he said. "It's the best."

Parker and Bennett

For Brian, the moment he first felt like a dad was when he saw their heartbeats on the ultrasound.

"I got goose bumps and realized this was real. We had a responsibility to these two kids. There was no going back. I felt a tremendous sense of purpose and focus in that moment."

Like all dads, Brian and Bill have their strengths and weaknesses. They believe their strongest assets are discipline and encouragement.

"[We] run a tight schedule and make sure to be thoughtful about the time we spend with our boys."

Brian and Bill also believe in encouraging their boys on a daily basis so they continue to grow and express themselves.

Their weakness, however, is their inability to sit still for long periods of time. Becoming parents have made them shift their internal expectations of what it means to be productive at home.

"Sometimes you just have to sit back and just enjoy your time with the kids," shared Brian. "They need your time, love, and attention."

Brian and Bill at their wedding, 2015

Like all parents, Brian and Bill have aspirations for their kids, and like most parents, they're pretty simple.

"We intend to do everything in our power to have thoughtful, kind, polite, educated young men," they said. "[And] to provide [the] opportunities and structure to make that happen."

So to any future gay dads-to-be out there, the message from these dads is pretty simple:

"[It will be the] best decision of your life. It will require sacrifice - but all great things do."

And although their lives have changed dramatically from when they enjoyed things like long trips abroad and the occasional sleep-in, they wouldn't have it any other way.

***

After learning more about Brian and Bill's family, it's hard to see how they differ much from any other. Their home is one filled with love, support, and hope for the future. So if these are the ills that befall a non-traditional according to Court and her supporters, perhaps we need a bit more "engineering" of our social norms, not less. For more on the upcoming marriage equality vote in Australia, see our recent photo essay of local gay dads telling us what legalizing same-sex marriage would mean to them.

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Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

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Gay Dad Life

Need a Sitter for Your Kids? Gays With Kids Reviews UrbanSitter

Back-to-school is already here for some of us, and if you're looking for a sitter to help out with school runs, after-school pick-ups, and the occasional date night, check out our review of UrbanSitter.

Instagram @davidcblacker

We moved from New York to Boston the summer of 2017. Along with the Manhattan skyline, our beloved Broadway, and late-night cookie deliveries, we also left behind our sitters — two sisters who had become more like family.

After settling for several months into our new home and neighborhood, we realized we hadn't had a dads' night out since our move. Our kids were still too young to leave alone at night, so I began what I presumed would be the tedious task of finding a sitter.

The first thing I did was to leave a post on our local parents' Facebook group. The dad of one of our daughters' classmates told me about UrbanSitter, a website and mobile app that he'd had success using to find last-minute sitters a few times. He also mentioned that within the app, I could see see babysitters and nannies recommended by parents at our kids' school in addition to local parenting groups.

While I appreciated the tip, I let him know that I was really hoping for a direct referral. But when none others came from the — other than a couple of middle schoolers looking for their first sitting jobs — I decided to give it a try.

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Move over Modern Family, there are some new gay dads taking over the small screen! Big Bad Boo Studios is bringing their animated series The Bravest Knight to Hulu. The series is based upon a children's book called "The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived" by Daniel Errico, and it follows the life of Sir Cedric - now grown and married to Prince Andrew - as he regales their adopted daughter Nia with tales of his knighthood journey as she trains to become a knight herself.

"We are so excited about The Bravest Knight, its values and our partnership with Hulu," said Shabnam Rezaei, the director of the series and co-founder of Big Bad Boo Studios. "They understand how to push the envelope with authentic storytelling."

"I immediately fell in love with the idea of a girl wanting to work hard and make something of herself," Rezaei continued. "I also have a nephew who has two dads, so it's a very personal issue for me. I want him to have role models when he's watching TV. I want him to feel like having two dads is completely normal. That's what this show is going to do for him."

Errico's book was first realized as an animation when Hulu created a short film based upon his writing and were interested in exploring the concept of a full series. "I watched the eight minutes on Hulu and at the end the prince and the knight get married and I was in tears," says Rezaei. Rezaei then stepped in to create all new art work including new character design by Tim Linklater and backgrounds by Sarita Kolhatra. Together, they created a kickass bible and pitched the series to Hulu and were successful.

Diversity and inclusivity is celebrated throughout The Bravest Knight, reflected by its casting choices. Nia is played by Storm Reid, from "A Wrinkle in Time," and her dads Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew are voiced by T.R. Knight and Wilson Cruz respectively. The star studded cast also includes Wanda Sykes, Bobby Moynihan, RuPaul, Steven Weber, Teri Polo, AJ McLean, Jazz Jennings, Maz Jobrani and Christine Baranski as the formidable Red Dragon.

"With so many wonderful stories yet to be told, we hope that The Bravest Knight stands as an example of the undeniable strength in inclusivity, and the inherent joy in all forms of love and identity," said Errico, the author of the original book.

The first 5 episodes were released on June 21, and there are 8 more planned for release before the end of the year. Be sure to tune in!

This is the Main Title Song for Big Bad Boo's Hulu Original Series "The Bravest Knight". The song is performed by Justin Tranter and composed by Michael Plow...

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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Politics

Gay Russian Dads Forced to Flee Moscow

Fearing the Russian government might take their adopted kids into custody because of their sexual orientation, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev fled Moscow

A married couple in Russia, with two adopted children, were just forced the flee their home in Moscow for fear that the authorities would take their children away, according to German news site Deutsche Welle.

Trouble started last month after investigators in Russia opened a criminal inquiry into the proceedings that had allowed the gay couple, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, to legally adopt the two boys —adoption by LGBTQ people in Russia has typically not been recognized. The government became aware of the adoption proceedings after the gay couple brought their 12-year-old son to the hospital, who was complaining of a stomachache. The boy was fine, but after he mentioned offhand that he was adopted and lived with two fathers, the doctor called the police.

Andrei and Yevgeny granted an interview with Deutsche Welle after escaping Moscow, but on the advice of their lawyers have yet to disclose where they are currently located. Here is a quick recap of that conversation:

"In connection with the 'propaganda of non-traditional values,' the state representatives are accused of having neglected their duty of supervision," Andrei said, when asked to explain on what basis the Russian government might take his children into custody. "This means that lesbian couples could even have their biological children taken away because, through their lifestyle choices, they propagate "certain values."

Yevgeny also explained the events that led to the couple's harrowing escape "I was alone in Moscow at that time. A week after Andrei and the children had left the country, there was a knock on my door, but nobody called 'police, open up.' After half an hour the violent knocking stopped. My parents' home was searched. They were looking for the children and our Danish marriage certificate because we got married in Denmark in 2016. My friends then got me out of the country."

Read the full interview here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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