When people think of gay dads, they often picture a handsome couple in a photo, smart suits, sunlit backgrounds, and a couple of adorable kids in front. While those dads are common, some gay dads are single, with no other man in the photo. Whether because of having children from divorce (from a woman or a man), or a break-up from a partner, or some other reason, lots of guys raising kids are single, and lots of those guys are dating. We spoke with three single gay dads, to ask them what it’s like to date in 2014, kids in tow.
Michael, 52, lives in Long Island, New York, and came out as gay 12 years ago. He was married to a woman at the time, with three kids. Divorce followed, and his two daughters didn’t speak to him for eight years. The youngest kid, a boy, never had a problem with his dad’s homosexuality.
“I don’t know if you can call it dating,” says Michael, laughing, and adding that, at the time, he needed to be discreet. “I was tricking and [messing] around at first, meeting men online in chat rooms.” Michael met someone shortly afterward and it was serious.
“He thought it was hot; he thought it was a challenge,” says Michael on his boyfriend’s reaction to his children. “I was a dad; it was a masculine notch in my belt.”
That relationship ended a few years ago, and Michael still says the dad issue doesn’t keep the guys away. “I tell people right away when I meet them,” he says. “I haven’t had anyone run away, but I also haven’t dated anyone who wanted kids himself.”
Michael’s children are adults now, and he’s on great terms with them. Still, he says, dates are not something that’s the subject of dinner conversation. “I don’t have guys come over when my kids are around, because I don’t have a steady person in my life. I will avoid a meeting unless it’s a long-term thing. I don’t want them to think I’m [messing] around with many different people.”
Michael is not on Facebook, either, as he wants to shield his children from any potential gossip or unintentional posts about his love life.
For Michael, finding dates is much more difficult than talking about children, because, he says, laughing, “I live on Long Island. It’s not conducive to meeting men.” Michael’s tried online dating sites, but says he has more luck with casual dating sites like Manhunt, Adam4Adam, and Scruff.
“I’m not looking for hook-ups, and I say that upfront. We usually meet for a drink or maybe dinner.” While his kids aren’t updated on these dates, he says they’d be glad if he met someone important. “They don’t strive for that, but they’d be happy for me.”
So what does Michael say to his daughters if a cute guy’s in a movie they’re watching together? “My daughter loves Justin Timberlake. I’ll say, “Yeah, he’s cute.” But I won’t say something like, “Oh, I want to [mess around with] him.’” After all, he is still a dad.
For Louis, 49, dating is more of a time struggle than anything else. A Los Angeles resident for the past 20 years, Louis and his former partner adopted a boy, now 15, when they first moved in together. The relationship ended three years ago and they share joint custody of their son.
“I would love to find a man again,” says Louis. “I’ve moved into a new house, I have a successful business, and I want someone to share my life with.” While that might sound like part of a profile on OKCupid, a dating site, it’s often not a man-match.
“I don’t do online dating, I just don’t like the impersonal aspect of it, and most men I meet at bars and such aren’t serious and tend to be much younger than I am.” Louis is a self-employed home decorator, which would seem to be a gay-guy magnet. He laughs at that suggestion.
“I do have lots of gay male clients, but they are usually couples already married and moving into new homes,” he says. “Most gay couples I know with kids tend to socialize with other married guys.”
Louis also admits to having insecurities in the dating department. “I was with the same guy for 20 years. Before him I hit the gym every day. Now I’m a middle-aged man with a belly and a kid who lives with me every other week. Every month I say I’m going to start a new gym routine, then there are problems with the new house, or with my son’s school, or with work—I never find the time. The last guy I dated was a lot younger and in terrific shape; we met at a bar. He liked my son but my schedule was too hectic for him to deal with. He always wanted me to drop everything and hit a bar or go to the beach. I can’t do that like I used to. He got impatient and it didn’t work.”
“I don’t like to drink too much, and I can’t now that I have a son. When I first came out, it was so easy to go to the bar or a club, drink, find a cute guy and go home with him. Those days are over, and while I love my life I wish there was a way to put a guy into the new equation.”
There’s a pause in our conversation before Louis says, or asks, “Is there a site for gay dads looking to meet other gay dads? ‘Cause that is something I would join.”
Brian, 46, in Dallas, seems to have the best of all worlds. Divorced from a woman with two teenage sons, he’s on great speaking terms with his ex, who has custody, and he sees his children all the time. “We all live near each other; there are no debates or arguments about spending time together.”
As for dating, he and his ex-wife try to set each other up, and his sons are old enough to give him suggestions too.
“Yes, when we’re all out together my wife or my sons tell me when a cute guy’s looking at me. Mostly it’s in jest, but I’m glad it’s out in the open.”
Brian is on OKCupid and uses the casual dating apps Grindr and Scruff a lot. “For me, the dating apps are fine, but I actually meet lots of men in Dallas. It’s a small town and the bar scene is hopping. I have lots of gay friends here, many of whom are single, and they set me up too. As for the kids, it used to freak me out and I did go through that phase when I thought I would never date again. But it’s so common now for men to have kids or to want kids or to have experience dating men with kids that it’s not much of a problem. I haven’t met a serious boyfriend in a while but I’ve probably dated five men in the past year.”
His one insecurity? “Every day I look in the mirror and think I’m getting too fat. But then I go eat. I just can’t play that game anymore. Also, I work so much and my budget is much tighter than it used to be. But dating isn’t everything. And if you have kids you know that they’re the best solution for a lonely Friday night. You don’t need a hook-up site.”