Change the World

Talking With the Gay Dads of the World-Famous Birth Pics

It was the baby photo seen round the world.

On June 27, dads BJ Barone and Frank Nelson welcomed their baby son Milo into the world. It was a magical moment they shared with an intimate few in a Kingston, Ontario hospital room: with surrogate mom Kathy, of course, with caregivers, and with birth photographer Lindsay Foster.

But it was a few days later, when Foster received permission from the dads to upload some of the photos to her Facebook account, when the real sharing began. Foster's post spread like wildfire across the social media website: nearly 10K shares of her original update alone, plus countless reposts branching off from that. It was picked up by web behemoth BuzzFeed, which offered the headline “These Photos of Two Dads Meeting Their New Baby Will Make You Cry Happy Tears." (About 1.9 million views so far.) Twitter was flooded with the images of Frank and BJ, their faces overcome with emotion as they embraced each other and Milo. Local news stations came calling to interview the dads. Their story had gone viral, giving millions of viewers a glimpse of raw, honest emotion that is not often show by mass media: two dads in love, and in love with their son.

Many millions, it seems, wanted to share in the joy of that moment. Which was, in a way, revolutionary.

“It's incredible that just sharing who we are as a family has resonated with so many people," says BJ. It's not lost on the couple that Milo's birth – and the resultant social media splash – coincided with World Pride 2014 in Toronto, where they both work as teachers. Pride's theme, poignantly enough, was “Rise Up": a call for LGBT visibility.

“That it coincided with World Pride is a special factor," says BJ. “We're standing up for ourselves and saying, 'This is normal.'" He recalls a special note that he and Frank shared with viewers on Foster's Facebook: “This picture represents everything Pride is about. Love has no colour nor gender nor sexual preference. Love is unconditional."

And they've certainly been feeling the love from strangers in cyber-space who have taken it upon themselves to comment on the photos or reach out directly. For the most part, the response has been hugely positive, says the couple – especially from younger generations, where same-sex headed families are increasingly seen as simply part of the cultural fabric. “I've received private messages from some of my students, and those have been the most special to me," says Frank. It is heartening, he says, to feel that tides of love and acceptance have turned so dramatically. “It makes me so hopeful that one day our son and others his age will look at this photo and wonder what all the hoopla was."

“I got one message from this guy in the States, saying, 'I'm a redneck opposed to same-sex marriage, but this really opened and changed my heart.' That one made me cry," adds BJ.

It's not only strangers who have reached out with more open arms. The photos have also opened doors to dialogue with some members of BJ's family in Italy, with whom his sexuality has been an issue. (Oh yeah, their story made the Italian newspapers too.) “My Italian family comes from a small town, and I've received messages from them before that what I do is wrong, that I should be ashamed of myself. Asking me how I could do this to my parents. But I just got a message from my cousin the other day; he wrote saying, 'Congratulations, the baby's beautiful. Hopefully you can come together to Italy.'"

“Sometimes people are just afraid of the unknown. They're afraid of how people will react," continues BJ. “Having this opportunity has allowed my family to see that we're in stable relationship and receiving love and support from around the world. It's opened their eyes: if so many strangers can accept this, why wouldn't they?"

The couple admits that there has been some backlash. There are still the few who choose to leave hurtful and ignorant comments on even the most joy-filled photos. But those have been in the minority, they say, and much of the negative reaction has focused on a specific element: that the dads are shirtless in the photos. “When the midwife told us we were going to be shirtless, I was like, 'What?'" laughs Frank. They were encouraged to doff their shirts to establish skin-to-skin contact with Milo; many baby experts recommend it to release oxytocin, often referred to as the “attachment chemical." Of course, if a mother had brought the child to her breast, it's hard to imagine there would be much outcry. That so many were fixated on the shirtless element shows that there's a long way to go to educating people about the experiences of dads, gay and straight, in the delivery room. “Once you explain it," says Frank, “it seems completely natural."

And now the dads are adjusting to the other natural new aspects of life: from feeding times to sleeping schedules. The media hubbub will soon die down, though they're considering starting a baby blog to update Milo's new worldwide fans. And maybe one day, they'll grow their family again; they have embryos frozen for five more years, and haven't ruled out returning to the delivery room.

But right now they're enjoying the bliss of life with baby. One they didn't always know they would have.

“When I came out to my dad, he said what upset him the most was that I would never get to enjoy being a father," recalls Frank. “Now, my parents have been so touched seeing the journey that we went through to get here."

“I knew I was gay ever since I was a little kid, and I never thought I would find love, be married, or have kids. I thought I'd be alone or unhappy for the rest of my life," remembers BJ. His voice breaks. “And now here I am. I have Frank. I'm a father."

And the whole world is watching, loving them, hitting the share button.

Show Comments ()
Change the World

After Suffering a Violent Homophobic Attack, This Gay Dad Turned to Advocacy

After Rene suffered a brutal homophobic attack that left him hospitalized, he and his family have turned to advocacy to heal

Guest post written by Rene and Nejc

We are Rene (35) and Nejc (29) and we come from Slovenia, Europe. I was an avid athlete, a Judoist, but now I am an LGBT activist and Nejc is a writer, who published a gay autobiography called Prepovedano. He was also a participant in a reality show in Slovenia (Bar) and he is an LGBT activist too. Nejc and I met by a mere coincidence on Facebook, and already after the first phone call we realized that we are made for each other. Nejc and I have been together as couple almost one year. We think we have been joined by some energy, as we have both experienced a lot of bad things with previous relationships and now we wish to create and shape our common path.

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

What Gay Dads Wish for Their Daughters on International Women's Day

We asked our dads of daughters what they most wished for their daughters as we all continue our work fighting against the inequality they will inevitably face

Today is International Women's Day. A day to celebrate and honor the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Much like LGBTQ+ equality, gender equality has come leaps and bounds over the past 100 years, but a perfect egalitarian society still does not exist. We asked our dads of daughters what they most wished for their daughters as we all continue our work fighting against the inequality they will inevitably face. Here's what they had to say:

Keep reading... Show less
Politics

Colorado Republicans Try and Fail to Outlaw LGBTQ Marriage and Adoption Rights

A bill introduced by four Republican state legislators in Colorado that would outlaw same-sex marriage and adoption rights was voted down.

The "Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act," which would have outlawed gay marriage and adoption in the state of Colorado, was voted down in the state legislature this week. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Humphrey and three of his conservative colleagues: Dave Williams, Shane Sandridge and Mark Baisley.

If enacted, the bill would have enforced "state law that marriage is between one man and one woman" and restrict "adoption of children by spouses in a marriage ... that consist of one man and one woman."

The bill, which had little chance of success, particularly in Colorado which has trended more progressive over the past several election cycles, was mostly symbolic, according to Sanridrge. "We all know this bill isn't gonna pass in this current left-wing environment," he told Colorado Public Radio. "It's to remind everyone, this is the ultimate way to conceive a child."

In a sign of how far we've come on the issue of LGBTQ marriage and parenting rights, most Republican legislators in the state did not endorse the bill.

Though the bill had little chance of passage, LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state are taking the threats seriously nonetheless. Daniel Ramos, director of the LGBTQ group One Colorado, told LGBTQ Nation that the bills were an attempt to return Colorado to its "hate status" of the 1990s, adding the aggressiveness of the measures were "a bit surprising."

Gay Dad Family Stories

These Dads Had 'Twins' — Just Four Months Apart

Angel and Dan's wanted twins, without the complications of a twin pregnancy — so they worked with two separate surrogates at once.

If you have ever been out late on a Saturday night, you may have high hopes of meeting a handsome stranger, but you probably wouldn't expect to meet your future husband. Angel Mario Martinez Garcia, 45, surely didn't when, five years ago on a very early Saturday morning in Barcelona, he casually approached Dan's Mouquet, 40, and asked him, over many gin and tonics, what he wanted out of life. The nightlife setting notwithstanding, Dan's told Angel he ultimately wanted a quiet life, with a partner and children.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics

Gestational Surrogacy Legalized in New York State

The Child-Parent Security Act, which legalizes commercial surrogacy in New York State, was included in the 2020 New York State Budget signed by Governor Cuomo

Yesterday, a years-long battle about the state of compensated gestational surrogacy came to an end in New York when the Governor signed into a law the Child-Parent Security Act in the 2020 as part of the state budget.

The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

"Millions of New Yorkers need assistance building their families — people struggling with infertility, cancer survivors impacted by treatment, and members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Family Equality Council said in a statement about the victory. "For many, surrogacy is a critically important option. For others, it is the only option. Passage of the Child-Parent Security Act is a massive step forward in providing paths to parenthood for New Yorkers who use reproductive technology, and creates a 'surrogate's bill of rights' that will set a new standard for protecting surrogates nationwide."

Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."


Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Just Like Dad: Ways My Kids and I Are Alike

Joseph Sadusky recounts the ways he and his adopted sons are cut from the same cloth.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about my life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

Keep reading... Show less
Expert Advice

4 Tips for Single Gay Dads Raising Daughters

Here are some ways to create a safe space for your daughter to discover who she is, with you by her side.

There's nothing quite like father-daughter relationships, and when it comes to single dads, your little girl likely holds a very special place in your heart. From the moment she's born, it's as if you can see every moment of her life in front of you, from her first steps to walking her down the aisle at her wedding. You'll be the first man she'll know and talk to, and you'll be her biggest example of what a loving man looks like. She'll come to you for advice on how to navigate challenges, be independent, treat others and grow into herself.

Your relationship with your daughter may be shaped by your personal history, whether you've been through a difficult divorce or breakup, you've transitioned out of a straight relationship, or you made the courageous decision to pursue surrogacy on your own. Whatever your situation is, studies have shown that children with involved fathers excel more in school and have fewer behavioral issues in adolescence.

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