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Simon Dunn, On the Importance of Being a Gay Uncle

Sitting in the waiting room of the maternity ward in Wollongong Hospital, I remember almost crying at the sound of other expectant mothers as they gave birth. I knew that my sister was about to go through that exact same process not only once but twice. In that waiting room, my fear was mixed with excitement. At the young age of 16, I was about to become an uncle to twins—a boy and a girl! Kurt and Teileigha. Many hours past whilst I sat in the waiting room, but, before I knew it, two beautiful examples of perfection were rushed past the waiting room and into the neonatal unit. My love for my niece and nephew was instant.



Being six weeks premature, it would be some time before I got to hold them in my arms or give them a hug. For weeks, I watched their tiny, little bodies through a glass box, forever hoping they would be fine. My little angels were born into the world with an instant struggle for life. This was at a time when I – although having accepted my sexuality – was very much struggling. These two precious babies turned out to be the perfect distraction.

I was 16 and about to go into what North America refers to as "senior high." Also, my sister came to live with us again for a bit of extra support. My older sister and I have always been really close. So, naturally, I found myself waking up most nights to help with feeding and even the occasional diaper change. I soon learnt to always expect to be vomited on at any time, to always wipe to the back with girls, and that no matter what you do, sometimes babies just want to cry. To this day, I feel as though this is why my bond with my niece and nephew is so strong.

It was during one of these midnight feedings that I first came out to my niece. She was barely a few months old, and I whispered into her ear so my sister couldn't hear me. My sister was only a few feet away feeding my nephew. The importance and sentimental value of this moment during my coming out doesn't escape me because it ended up giving me the confidence to tell other people.

As the years passed, I spent most afternoons and weekends with the twins. I lost a lot of my friends when I came out, so being able to spend weekends with my sister and the babies helped me escape from the reality that I'd lost life-long friends for simply being honest about who I am. Although these are memories I still cherish to this day.

After I'd fully come out and completed high school, I wound up moving to Sydney. My adult life took precedent over family time because I was living in a different city, working full time, and I had an active social life that made it difficult for me to get home. Despite this, those years in Sydney, to this day, have proven to be the hardest for me emotionally. But, the twins and their cheeky smiles always kept me going through those tough times.

There was a time when I was in a long-term relationship with a dancer, so every Christmas, birthday, or even on my occasional visits, Teileigha would be learning to dance while Kurt and I were outside playing rugby or exploring. However, when it was time for me to leave, we would always have to pretend that I wasn't leaving, and I'd sneak out. On one visit Teileigha saw me and came running out to the car. She grabbed my hand and said to me, "Uncle, please don't go. I'll miss you." It was absolutely heartbreaking.

A few years later I got a call from my mother. "Brooke's pregnant again," she told me. Her obvious trepidation was overshadowed by my excitement. The baby would turn out to be a boy – my nephew Kyron. I regret not getting to spend as much time with Kyron in his early years, but with his natural affinity for sport our bond soon grew.

Kyron is a natural on the rugby league field, although he is a little too competitive. He's also the one I will go kick a rugby ball around with when I visit now. The twins, now in their early teens, prefer just to hang in their rooms. It's a sad day that I'm sure all parents, uncles, aunties, and grandparents can relate to when their babies start growing up.



The baby making journey for my sister didn't stop at three. One to always do things to the fullest, she fell pregnant again. This came at a time when we'd started to realize that my sexuality and inability to find a husband would mean I probably wasn't going to have children of my own. Brooke took me aside and said, "I'm having this one for you, just in case you never have your own". None of us realized that this one would in fact turn out to be twins, again. My sister gave birth to twin boys named Ryder and Saxyn.

Now that I was a little more mature, my family became a lot more important to me. I was about to move to Canada to pursue a career in bobsleigh, so I moved in with my sister for a few months before I left. Raising five kids isn't the easiest of tasks, and I have all the admiration in the world for my sister and her husband. During this time, I built an extremely close bond with both of the little twins, but most notably with Saxyn.

Unable to say the world uncle, I was referred to as "Bubble". Every morning, I'd hear Saxyn's little feet run towards my door to wake me up. He became my shadow, and my family referred to him as "Uncle's Little Man".

Ryder grew to be the most unique little boy I've ever met. He is not as boisterous as his brothers, or even his sister for that matter. He prefers hanging out with his mother and grandmother to spending time with males. He also prefers to wear dresses. He is so fortunate that his mother and father, just like myself, love him for who he is and love him for his uniqueness. I'm so excited to see his journey in life. I am confident that regardless of how things eventuate, I'll always have his back.

To be honest, I love how my sexuality has been fully accepted by them and has helped make them more accepting of other people. I often hear stories of them defending the LGBTQI community to their peers who may have never met anyone within my community. But, I'm also often asked when I'll finally find a boyfriend.


One of my greatest joys in life is being an uncle, notably a gay uncle. I feel, given the fact I may never have kids of my own, I place more emphasis on being there for my niece and nephews. I also strive to always be a strong role model for them. Sometimes, I feel like my heterosexual counterparts don't always place as much importance on being like this. Unfortunately, I know this is the case with my own uncles. Although my uncles were always important figures in my life, their relationship with me cannot be compared to the power and beauty of my relationship with my niece and nephews.

There's something amazing about looking back at your niece and nephews and seeing them look to you with awe and so much love in their eyes. Each of them has motivated me in my life to be the person they think I am, even when I stumble and fall along the way. Being away to pursue my bobsleigh career was always very difficult for me because I felt like I was missing out on so much of their lives. But, when I visit, I see that they're so proud of me and all that I have achieved. Their unyielding love for me shows me that I'm doing exactly what I'm meant to.

I can't wait until I'm back home in Australia, so I can teach him everything I've learnt from my sporting career. I look forward to being more of a presence in their lives and helping them grow to be the amazing young adults I'm certain they will be. Maybe one day I will even coach Kyron's rugby league team. And because of all the experiences I have had helping raise my niece and nephews, I'm confident that should I ever have a family of my own, I've got it covered!

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Gay Dad Family Stories

This Couple is Using 'Wheel of Fortune' Winnings to Help Fund Their Adoption

Need to raise money for your adoption fund? Why not try your luck on Wheel of Fortune like these guys!

Doug and Nick Roberts connected three and a half years ago via a dating app, and on their first date, the two immediately felt a connection. Doug, a psychologist, and Nick, a neuroscientist, were married 18 months later. Today the couple live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and they're ready to start their next exciting adventure together: fatherhood.

The husbands would like to have children, and Nick has always wanted to adopt. "We considered surrogacy, and may consider it in the future as we expand our family," said Doug, "but right now, it is cost-prohibitive. Adoption was easily the right choice for us as we begin to grow our family.

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Change the World

4 Tips for Using Instagram to Connect with Gay Dads Offline

We asked gay dads who have successfully met up with other LGBTQ families offline for some of their tips

Last week, we ran a story about several gay dads who did the unthinkable: meet other gay dads IRL after connecting on Instagram! We get MANY questions from gay dads wondering how they can meet up with others in their area, so we decided to dig a bit deeper this week to get their advice. What can gay dads do to meet others off the 'gram?

1. Be kind — share others' excitement in parenting!


From @twinlifedads Ben and Andy:

"Be kind. That is absolutely it. Be kind to each other and don't be afraid to reach out. Respond to each other when you can. Share in excitement for each other. There is no reason to bring someone else down who might be excited about how they are parenting."

2. Drop a couple comments and likes before reaching out!

From @brisvegasdad Tim and Nic:

"I think drop comments now and then on their posts and instastories and see where things land. Chances are, if you're commenting on a post and it is a heartfelt response, they'll click through to your account, look at your photos and connect with you. And that's when the magic happens - you can introduce yourself, talk about your lives and how things are being a parent... and after a while, if you're in the same neighbourhood, you meet up and grow your friendship organically. That being said, I'm obsessed with Bobby Berk from Queer Eye and his husband Dewey Do - if they ever had kids, I'd probably be completely unsubtle and leave strange awkward comments on their instaposts saying, 'GAY DADS MEET UPSSSSS'."

3. Go in with no expectations

From @stevecsmith Steve and Ben:

"I always try to reach out without any expectations – mostly just to provide a positive comment. I like to leave it up to the other parents to comment or message back before suggesting meeting up or a playdate. Every family is different, so how each person is going to respond is different too."

4. Keep trying!

From @theconways13 Ricky and Jeff:

"Reach out to other families, start a light friendly conversation. Get to know each other and let conversations happen organically. If they lead to a play date great! Our first experience in meeting another lgbt family (not through ig/gwk) was very awkward cause there wasn't a whole lot of conversation happening before hand. The conversations leading up to the play date will help make the first play date with the family go a lot smoother and fun. Don't be afraid of not connecting with the other families. If it isn't successful the first time, continue reaching out to to other families- don't let it deter you from reaching out to others."

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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Fun

Gay Dad Penguins Strike Again! This Time in Berlin Zoo

The latest male penguins to care for an egg together are Skipper and Ping in the Berlin Zoo.

First, there was Roy and Silo — the two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that served as inspiration for the famous children's book And Tango Makes Three. Then Magin Sphen got together in Sydney, where aquarium keepers gave the cocks (Calm down, that's what a male penguin is called!) a foster egg to care for.

And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

"They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

Read the whole article on DPA here.

Change the World

Hungarian Company Raising Money for LGBTQ+ Organization with a LEGO® Heart

Startup WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is helping combat misinformation and prejudice in Central and Eastern Europe

Guest Post from WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD

WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is an innovative startup venture that sells LEGO® parts and unique creations. The core values of our company include social equality regardless of gender identity or origin. As LEGO® is a variety of colors and shapes, so are the people.

We all know that LEGO® is a brand that nearly everyone knows and likes between the age of 3 and 99 so this gives a great opportunity to connect unique LEGO® creations and Pride. We started a fundraising campaign for a Hungarian LGBTQ+ organization who's aim is to bring people closer to the LGBTQ+ community, they help to combat misinformation and prejudice regarding LGBTQ+ issues in Central- Eastern Europe since 2000.

You might know that gender equality and the circumstances of LGBTQ+ people is not the easiest in the former communist Eastern European countries like Hungary so this program is in a real need for help. For example a couple of month ago a member of the government said that homosexual people are not equal part of our society.

The essence of the campaign is when one buys a Pride Heart, a custom creation made of brand new and genuine LEGO® bricks the organization gets $10.00 donation so they can continue their important work. This Pride Heart is a nice necklace, a decoration in your home, and a cool gift to the one you love.

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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.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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