Gay Dad Life

This Single Gay Man, Adopted Himself, Grew His Family Through a Special Needs Adoption Program

Joy Jerome Turtola is a single gay dad to two adopted sons. Joy is himself part of an adoptive family. Of his five siblings, three (including Joy) were adopted. It was his own family background that inspired him to become an adoptive dad.

"My parents modeled the same kind of unconditional love toward us three as toward our younger bio siblings," said Joy. "When I decided to become a parent, there was no question in my mind that I would adopt."

Joy began the paperwork to become a single dad in the state of Oregon in 2001. In 2003, when Joy was 42, Cody was placed in his care. Just shy of 9 years later, Joy adopted his second son, Andrew. Both children were adopted through the state's Special Needs Adoption program. An adoption is usually considered "special needs" if the child has a documented history of abuse or neglect, is part of a sibling group, has some physical, mental or emotional disabilities, and whose birth parents have had their rights terminated.

We spoke to Joy about single parenting, his adoption journey, and what he has learned from being a dad. Here's his story.

Tell us about any obstacles you faced on your path to fatherhood. When I was seeking to adopt through the state of Oregon's Special Needs Adoption program, there were very few gay men looking to become parents. The obstacles were invisible to me but I knew they existed: after my home study was approved, I waited 1 and a 1/2 years to be placed with a child. It was a long wait.

Adoption day, 2105

How has your life changed since you became a father? My life has changed immeasurable since becoming a parent. I went from being a single gay urban male to a single dad overnight. Everything was no longer about me. As if the universe wanted to underscore this, my son was diagnosed with leukemia six months after I adopted him. Then, after two years of leukemia treatment, he was diagnosed with a secondary cancer which required him to have a bone marrow transplant. So, for the first four to five years of being a new parent, my parenting experience all took place within the context of providing intense medical care to a child with a life threatening illness.

What helped you get through that very difficult time? I have a small group of friends, my "family by choice," that provided a lot of emotional (and some financial) support when Cody was going through his treatments. They showed up in ways that I am eternally grateful for. My spiritual community was a source of great strength and support as well. There was a web of people who have sent prayers our way over the years.

What have you learned from your child/children since you became a dad? It's not about me. The future is in the next generation. It's about giving back. I won't get it (parenting) perfectly, but I'll try my best. Kids see everything so don't try to hide anything. Humor is the glue that holds our family together.

How do you think being a single dad affects your parenting? Over the years I've realized that a single parent only has so much bandwidth, and there's no one who can pick up the slack when I need a break. So on some days I'm the best parent in the world, others maybe not so much. I try my best, and that's the most important thing. Being male affects my parenting style in that I'm very direct; there's not a lot of nuance in my communication. I am Italian American, so that influences my parenting style a LOT.

Was there ever a moment that you experienced any serious doubts about your path to fatherhood or fatherhood itself. And if so, what were they? How did you overcome them? In for an ounce, in for a pound. I have never had serious doubts. Years ago, months after I adopted Cody, a friend of mine (a woman who raised three kids on her own), said to me in the kindest voice possible, "Single parenting is the loneliest job there is." At the time I was taken aback by her words, but as the years flew by, I understood more and more what she was talking about.

How so? At the end of the day, it's all on me as the parent to ensure my kids are clothed, fed, educated, socialized, and hopefully, having a good life. Balancing their needs with maintaining a household, a career, my health - it's a lot of responsibility. When the kids are sound asleep, and I have cleaned up the kitchen and picked up the random sock thrown into a corner, it would be nice to snuggle with someone and talk about how my day has been.

Are you looking for a husband or partner, and if so, how do you juggle dating and parenthood? You know, I'm always looking, even when I say I'm not. Balancing dating and parenthood is not easy. I'm at the age in my life where I know exactly what my priorities are. I don't have time for shenanigans in dating, and there are a lot of shenanigans that take place in the dating world. My life is very full, but there's always room for the right person.

What would be some of the most important characteristics of a future partner or husband? A sense of humor, maturity, integrity and a willingness to help bring balance to a pretty busy family man's life.

Is your family treated differently than others on account of your sexual orientation? Sometimes. When I had only Cody and he was young, folks in stores would glare at me, as if I had either recently abducted him, or as if it was "wrong" to hold the hand of a four year old boy.

What words of advice do you have for other gay men considering pursuing your same path or parenthood? Only have kids if your heart really wants kids. It's a ton of work and a shit load of sacrifice. As a gay man who came of age in the era of AIDS, becoming a parent has always been a privilege, not a right. Quite often, straight people evaluate my parenting style, and provide feedback (often unsolicited) on "how well" I'm doing as a male parent. I perceive this as implicit hetero bias.

Where do you see your family 5-10 years in the future? My goal is to enroll Andrew (my youngest) into a middle school that will challenge him academically, and to find a school for Cody (my oldest) that will support his special learning needs. Ultimately I would like both my children to be living independently, realizing their full potential and contributing to the world in the ways they best can.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experiences creating or raising your family? Parenting is about a journey of the heart. I have learned that just when I think things are in a good place (in the family), another family challenge arises. Resilience and persistence keep me going. And the belief that the love we share is stronger than any type of wind that hits the sails of our family's boat.

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Gay Dad Life

The Suburban Gay Dad

Are you intimidated by the suburbs? This gay dad was — but then he moved there.

In a recent article for Yahoo! Lifestyle, Steve Jacobs says the thought of living in the suburbs as a gay dad "intimidated" him. But when he started fantasizing about garages, he began to question that notion. Any apprehension he had soon evaporated, he said, one winter morning while trying to navigate the snowy streets of New York City with a stroller.

While "pushing the stroller through snow banks and pools of slush with snowflakes stinging our faces," he wrote, "a vision came to me: I pictured us walking into a garage, hopping into a car, and arriving at a diner with 10 times less drama. This image planted the seed of moving to the 'burbs that I couldn't shake."

Soon, the family of four found a house in a town a half hour outside the city. "It had grass and a beautiful yard for our spirited kiddos. The schools were good. There were even good restaurants. The only red flag: Census data estimated only 0.1 percent of the population was gay male."

There were some "growing pains" while trying to make friends in this environment. "When we attended our first dinner party, within minutes the hostess went to the kitchen and the other wives followed her, while the husbands settled into the living room. Ira and I froze, looking at each other. In the city, our straight friends hadn't separated out like this for the evening. Should we stay with the dudes, exert our masculinity, and blow off the mom we liked? Or does one of us go with the wives and accept the personal branding that comes with that? We did a quick rock paper scissors in the foyer. Ira went with the wives."

But ultimately, "being a parent defined me more than I ever imagined it would," he wrote, and he settled in nicely to his new suburban life.

Have you had a similar adjustment, from city life to the suburbs? Tell us about it at for an upcoming piece!

Gay Dad Life

"Fridays with Fitz": A New Kid's Book Based Upon the Son of These Two Dads

Tracey Wimperly, author of the new children's book, said she hopes to give a more honest portrayal of the role grandparents play in the lives of children.

Guest post Tracey Wimperly

I've recently written a children's picture book (aimed at 2-4 year olds) called "Fridays with Fitz: Fitz Goes to the Pool." Every Friday - when his two dads go to work - Fitz and his grandparents (my husband, Steve and I) head off on an adventure. Through the eyes of a curious and energetic 3 year old, even ordinary adventures, like riding the bus or foraging for fungus in the forest can be fun and magical.

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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.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

David and Ben Met on the Dance Floor — and Are Now Grooving Their Way Through Fatherhood

David and Ben, who became fathers with the help of Northwest Surrogacy Center, live in Melbourne with their daughter, Maia.

In 2003, while both studying at Reading University in the UK, Ben Suter and David Cocks met after locking eyes on the dance floor and then being introduced by a mutual friend. Ben, a meteorologist and Operations Manager, and David, an Assistant Principal, have been together ever since. They moved to Australia together in 2010, seeking a different life, and an overall better work-life balance. The chose Cairns in Queensland as their new home, between the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforest, "taking life a bit easier," said David. The couple were also married in June 2016, back home in England.

While David always wanted kids, Ben took a little convincing. So they started their parenting journey with a dog, Titan, who quickly became like their first born. From there, Ben came around rather quickly.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Single Gay Dad and the City

When Kyle decided to take his four kids, ages 6-11, to New York City on vacation, his friends thought he was crazy.

"You're crazy, Kyle."

"You can't be serious? A single dad taking four kids to the Big Apple? Think again."

"That's bold. There's no way I'd do that."

Those were a few of the responses I heard from my friends as I told them I was thinking of booking a trip to New York City with four kids, ages 11-6. My children's fall vacation from school was approaching and I wanted to get out of the house and explore. Was the Big Apple too much of an adventure?

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National's Pitcher Cites Wife's Two Moms as Reason for Declining White House Invite

"I think that's an important part of allyship," Doolittle said of his wife's two moms.

Sean Doolittle, pitcher for the Washington Nationals, declined an invitation to the White House after his team won the World Series this year. In an interview with the Washington Post, he listed his numerous reasons for staying home — and a main consideration, he revealed, was his wife's two moms.

"I want to show support for them. I think that's an important part of allyship, and I don't want to turn my back on them," Doolittle said during the interview.

Trump's treatment of a minority groups, generally, factored into his decision as well. "I have a brother-in-law who has autism, and [Trump] is a guy that mocked a disabled reporter. How would I explain that to him that I hung out with somebody who mocked the way that he talked or the way that he moves his hands? I can't get past that stuff."

Doolitttle clarified that his decision had little to do with policy disagreements with the White House. "There's a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we've done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the 'shithole countries.'"

He concluded by saying he respected his teammates decision to attend the White house ceremony. "I want people to know that I put thought into this, and at the end of the day, I just can't go."

Read more of the Washington Post interview here.


New York Will Fight 'Repugnant' Trump Rule on Adoption, Says Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York promises legal action of the Trump administration moves ahead with plans to allow discrimination against LGBTQ adoptive and foster parents

Last week, the Trump administration announced plans to allow adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective LGBTQ parents — but he may face a legal fight from (former) hometown. In a tweet, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said the proposed move "isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values,— it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home." If the proposal moves forward, he continued. "we'll take legal action to stop it.

Governor Cuomo's office followed up the tweet with a lengthier statement posted to their website:

Once again the Trump administration is attacking the hard-earned rights and protections of the LGBTQ community, this time proposing a new measure that would give foster care and adoption agencies license to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Trump's proposal isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values — it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home. If he moves forward with this rule, we'll take legal action to stop it.

No matter what happens in Washington, New York State is and will continue to be a beacon of equality in this country. Our Human Rights Law and adoption regulations expressly prohibit discrimination against the LGBTQ community, including when it comes to adoption. I encourage any LGBTQ New Yorker who feels they are a victim of this discrimination to contact the State Division of Human Rights for assistance.

Our message to the Trump administration is simple: there is no place for hate in New York or in our nation, and we will not allow this noxious proposal to stop LGBTQ New Yorkers from becoming parents or providing care to children in need.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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