Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Speaks Out Against Trump's Attempts to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Adoptive Parents

Any business that accepts federal funding must NOT DISCRIMINATE says adoptive dad Erik Alexander.

Four years ago we received the phone call that changed our lives forever. We were told that in our own city of New Orleans, there was a newborn baby that needed a forever home. What we were told by the agency would likely take five or more years took mere weeks. We frantically started putting together her nursery and planning for her arrival. She was born 10 weeks early and needed to stay in the NICU to grow and gain her strength and weight before she was released. She was so tiny and delicate. We were almost afraid to hold her in the beginning because of how fragile she was.

Finally, the day arrived that we were able to bring her home and we were thrust into overdrive. We prepared by reading all the baby books and watching the videos, but all that goes out the window when you have a baby in your arms. Our little baby had trouble digesting her formula due to her prematurity. The look in her eyes due to the pain she felt broke our hearts. We felt helpless! All we could do was just try to make sure to do everything on our end to help alleviate any pain she may encounter while feeding her. It was terrible. We would hold her for hours trying to console our hurting baby girl. I remember thinking to myself while she was crying that I would do anything to make her feel better.


BSA Photography

Months passed and she grew stronger. The tough times we all experienced in the beginning bonded us closer together. Although she won't remember those times, my husband and I do. We know in our hearts that she developed trust and security for us both especially because of those difficult first months.

She knows that we would and will do anything on Earth for her.

A year and a half later we welcomed our second baby into our lives. Our story seemed to be writing itself. Our oldest was able to fall in love with her baby sister just as her Daddy and Papa were. It seemed like life's cobble stone pathway started to form right in front of us. We hopped onto each one as it appeared below us. One year turned into two that then faded into three. Now we are at year four and something has seemed to happen. Our pathway that formed so naturally for us seemed to be getting more difficult for others to find. Life's pathway should be accessible to anyone.

There are many people in our country that feel LGBTQ+ Americans shouldn't have the same rights as our straight counterparts. The Trump administration is trying to allow adoption agencies that RECEIVE FEDERAL TAX DOLLARS to discriminate against LGBTQ+ families. This proposal is fully supported and praised by several people in highest of leadership positions in our country. There are currently protections in place that deny federal funding to adoption agencies that discriminate against same-sex adoptive families. Keeping these protections in place encourages more agencies to open their doors to same-sex couples. This administration is trying to do away with these protections.

I understand that some (not all) faith-based adoption agencies choose to turn away hopeful same-sex couples. While I in no way agree with this personally, I do respect the concept of freedom of religion. However, they don't have any business being given federal funds if the funds are being used to support discriminatory practices. Any business that accepts federal funding must NOT DISCRIMINATE. Period.

When I read about this proposition I became enraged. I was literally shaking with anger. Separation of church and state is in our constitution for an important reason! How can I just sit back and personally allow this to happen? My mind suddenly became a jumbled thought machine. What can I personally do?

My first thought was write. But I was so hurt and angry! How can I write and effectively allow my anger to subside? That seemed impossible. So I kept thinking. Well, what if protested? I have never done that. Where do I even begin? Do I need a permit? Will I be arrested? After doing my research, in LOUISIANA, a permit is only needed if you march. To stand and have a peaceful demonstration requires NO PERMIT and it is absolutely free! When I read this my heart started pounding with excited anxiety. Once I felt like I was on to something, I created a slogan.

Before I knew it there was a Facebook event. I chose a place in New Orleans that I thought would be a popular spot for tourists but I also wanted a sentimental spot for us to be at. Jackson Square seemed like the perfect spot because that is where we were married, plus it's always packed with people. The night before our demonstration my husband and I made our posters to hold. Afterwards, I emailed local news outlets and any person in the public eye that may be interested. One news station ran a story about it the morning of the protest. I reached out to our beloved church family and parish priest. Father Terry is a very outspoken and admired member of our community. I was honored when he joined us for the demonstration.

Once we arrived, we were met with an overall positive atmosphere. About 12 of us participated in the demonstration. The crowd not only was accepting of our message but they also were very curious and had many questions.

If you do choose to hold a demonstration, be sure to think about your responses when people ask your thoughts on the issue at hand. This being my first protest, I was caught off guard a few times. I wasn't expecting to answer so many questions. When you do arrive at a demonstration, be ready to answer any question thrown at you. Practice at home. That will help.

Although crowds and speaking publicly are not my strong suit, I promised my girls in the beginning of their lives that Papa & Daddy would do anything for them. That includes holding signs and picketing in front of absolute strangers. My family deserves to be treated like any other family. Just because my husband and I may interfere with someone's deeply held religious beliefs does not give our government the right to alienate us and treat us any different. The tax dollars we pay should not be given to any business that deems our existence unworthy of the service they offer. PERIOD. End of discussion.

Being part of a marginalized group of society, it is easy to sense prejudices, bigotry and inequities that chisel away at our community. Something ominous is happening in our country today. The atmosphere is much different than a few years ago. When Trump was elected to office I was scared that his reputation of bullying would extend much further than the Oval Office. Unfortunately, I see evidence of that everyday.

Since 2017 I have published a post on my Nolapapa Facebook page. This post has over 11,000 likes and I stand behind the message. About three times a year I boost the post to share my message. Two days ago, I ran it again. Within the last 48 hours I have had to ban over 50 people from my page because of hateful and vile remarks. They not only were commenting on my post but they were aggressively and hatefully coming for my audience. A few hours ago I had to suspend the campaign because of the enormous amount of hatred coming in. Something is happening. Why are people suddenly acting so hatefully? My gut is telling me that the hateful people have always been there. They are just more audacious and brazen today. These people are not only hateful trolls and bullies, but they are menace to society. They are mimicking the President's actions. If the leader of the free world is allowed to say mean and hateful things, then why can't they?

They can. But it is up to each and everyone of us to stand up and speak out when we see this happen. Our future is up to us alone. If we allow to be steamrolled, then we will be. We must unite together and not allow this unfortunate time in our history to determine our beautiful future. Our lives, our babies' lives are worth it.

Video: Angry Gay Dad Vents About Anti-LGBTQ Adoptions

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News

Gay Dads Told One Must Identify as 'Mother' to Enroll in Daycare

The Israeli gay dads told one must identify as mother — like a "normal couple" — in order to receive financial assistance for daycare.

Israeli dads Guy Sadak Shoham and Chai Aviv Shoham were trying to enroll their two-year-old twins in daycare when they were told by a government official that one would need to identify as the "mother" in order to be cleared.

According to Out Magazine, the couple was attempting to apply for financial aid to help pay for the costs of preschool when a government bureaucrat called them to discuss their eligibility.

"I understand that you are both fathers and understand that you both run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more the mother," the government said, according to an interview on the Israel site Ynet (translated by Out Magazine). "I am just asking for a written statement in your hand which of you is the mother. From the point of view of the work, which works less than the father. Like a normal couple."

The official, apparently, said she was beholden to rules set for in the Ministry of Economy.

"It is mostly sad and a little disturbing," one of the dads told Ynet. "These are concepts that we consider the past. We do not necessarily come up with allegations against this representative, she is ultimately subject to the guidelines and as she said, they are the state. It is also sad that the state's definition of a mother is someone who works less and is at home with the children, and that we must choose which of us meets that definition."

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, fortunately, issued an apology following the incident, and promised to update its protocols. "We will emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all," the ministry wrote in a statement, an apology that was called "insufficient" by Ohad Hizki, the director-general of the National LGBT Task Force.

"The Ministry of Labor and Welfare must sharpen its procedures immediately to prevent recurrence of cases of this kind, as other public organizations have been able to do," he said.

Read more about this story on Out Magazine.

Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Entertainment

Amazon's New "Modern Love" Series Includes Episode on Open Adoption

The episode is loosely based on the New York Times "Modern Love" essay written by sex columnist and activist Dan Savage.

In 2005, Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, contributed one of the most talked about essays for the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Better known for his acerbic wit and cutting political commentary, Savage exposed a more vulnerable side in this piece, sharing the highs, lows and everything in between that comes from the experience of pursuing an open adoption.

His son DJ's birth mother was experiencing what Savage called a "slo-mo suicide": homeless by choice, in and out of prison, and surrounded by drugs. Though Savage has chosen an open adoption so that DJ's birth mother would be a presence in his son's life, she often disappeared for months and sometimes years at a time without contacting the family, leaving their young son with lots of questions and no satisfying answers.

The piece ends on a heartbreaking note, with Savage simply seeking some sort of resolution. "I'm starting to get anxious for this slo-mo suicide to end, whatever that end looks like," he wrote. "I'd prefer that it end with DJ's mother off the streets in an apartment somewhere, pulling her life together. But as she gets older that resolution is getting harder to picture."

At the time, many interpreted Savage's story as a cautionary tale for those considering open adoptions. But in 2016, on the Modern Love Podcast, he asserted that was not his intention: "DJ's mom is alive and well," Savage said. "She's on her feet. She's housed. We talk on the phone occasionally. She and DJ speak on Mother's Day and on DJ's birthday." He added that he "would hate to have anyone listen to that essay or to read it — which was written at a moment of such kind of confusion and despair — and conclude that they shouldn't do the kind of adoption that we did," Savage said. "I think that open adoption is really in the best interest of the child, even if … it presents more challenges for the parents. So I encourage everyone who's thinking about adoption to seriously consider open adoption and not to be dissuaded by my essay."

Now, Savage's piece is getting the small screen treatment as one of 9 episodes included in Amazon Prime's adaption of the column. The episode inspired by Savage's essay, "Hers Was a World of One," contains some departures from Savage's original story — Savage's character, played by Fleabag's Andrew Scott, adopts a daughter rather than a son, for example, and the episode concludes closer to the upbeat note struck in the Podcast version of hist story than in the column.

Either way, we welcome any and all attention to the complexities of open adoption. Check out the episode (which also randomly includes Ed Sheeran in a couple scenes) and tell us what you think!

Gay Dad Family Stories

These Gay Dads Lost Everything After Hurricane Dorian — Except Hope

The couple, who live in "Hope Town" in the Bahamas, lost everything after suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian this past summer.

Max Bethel-Jones, 52, had traveled to more than 120 countries over the last 30 years working with the United Nations, but had never been to the Bahamas — in 2015, he decided to apply for a private teaching job as a special needs teacher in Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama.

Just weeks after his arrival, he'd get a whole lot more than another pin in his map of visited countries when he attended a social event at Freeport Rugby. "My object was to ogle the local male talent but several women had other ideas," he said. One woman was particularly insistent, he said, but after a couple of drinks she got the hint that he batted for the other rugby team. "She promptly told me there was someone I should meet."

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News

World's First Sperm Bank Opens for HIV Positive Donors

Sperm Positive, started by three non-profits in New Zealand, hopes to end stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood

"Our donors have so much to give," say the promotional materials of a new sperm bank. "But they can't give you HIV."

The new sperm bank, Sperm Positive, launched on World Aids Day this year by three non-profits as a way to fight stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood. For years, scientists have known that those living with an undetectable level of HIV in their blood thanks to antiretroviral treatments can't transmit the virus through sex or childbirth. Yet discrimination and stigma persists.

The sperm bank exists online only, but will connect donors and those seeking donations with fertility banks once a connection is made on their site. Sperm Positive was started by three New Zealand non-profits — Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc. — who hope the project will help disseminate science-backed education and information about HIV and parenthood.

Already, three HIV positive men have signed up to serve as donors, including Damien Rule-Neal who spoke to the NZ Herald about his reasons for getting involved in the project. "I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," he told the Herald. "I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus."

We applaud the effort all around! To read more about our own efforts to end the stigma surround HIV and parenthood, check out our recent round-up of family profiles, resources, and expert advice that celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV here.

Gay Dad Life

Top 10 Reasons You Should Date a Gay Dad

Jay Turner lays out the top 10 reasons you should consider dating a single gay dad

We're gay dads. Many of us were married to women, and for various reasons we eventually found ourselves single and looking for companionship from another man. Life is a little more complicated for us because we have kids. But that shouldn't deter you from seeking a relationship with a gay dad. In fact, there are many reasons why we make better partners than men without children. We are generally more mature, responsible, and emotionally available. We are also better communicators.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should date a gay dad:

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Change the World

9 Stories That Celebrate the Experience of Gay Fathers Living with HIV

This World AIDS Day, we dug into our archives to find 9 stories that bring awareness to and celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV

December 1st is World AIDS Day — a day to unite in our collective fight to end the epidemic, remember those we've lost, and bring much needed attention and money to support those who continue to live with HIV and AIDS. For us at Gays With Kids, it's also a time to lift up and celebrate the experiences of fathers, so many of who never thought they'd see the day where they would be able to start families.

Towards that end, we've rounded up nine stories, family features and articles from our archives that celebrate the experience of gay fathers living with HIV — the struggles, triumphs and everything in between.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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