Five years ago this month the internet lit up with the hashtag #GayUnclesDay, accompanied by countless adorable pictures of gay men beaming for the camera alongside their nieces and nephews. It started as a trickle of posts here and there — mostly just gay men joking that they deserve their very own holiday for doing the bare minimum as uncles in the lives of their nieces and nephews. But Gay Uncles Day quickly blew up thanks to Simon Dunn — an out gay athlete and former member of the Australian bobsled team — who decided to celebrate Gay Uncles Day by posting this thirst trap on the beach with his two nephews.
Yet another made-up holiday driven by celebrity culture? Sure. But the idea clearly resonated — Gay Uncles Day (or "Guncles Day") has been celebrated on social media the second Sunday in August every year since. (It even has its very own Wikipedia entry, which means you know it's official.) We love all the cute photos, sassy Twitter quips, and funny videos that accompany Gay Uncles Day. (My personal favorite contribution to the rich and ever-expanding canon of Guncle humor comes from comedian Rob Anderson via the video below.)
But beyond all the memes, photos and jokes, there's also something deeper at play behind all this online "gay uncle" energy. Take these guys, for example, who recently took to Twitter using the #guncle hashtag:
- "Just learned that my partner's nephews refer to me as Uncle Theo, even in front of their not-so-supportive grandparents."
- "I may never have the opportunity of having my own. But I promise to take care & treat my nieces/nephews as my own."
- “Adoption by gays was illegal for 90% of my adult life. Surrogacy and such was way outta my budget. And even now, being a gay foster parent in my state means you have to lie about being gay. I uncle as hard as I can, but Dad wasn't in the cards for me."
For many queer men, "Gay Uncles Day" is nothing more than an opportunity to post cute pics with their nieces and nephews. But for others, being a "guncle" is not without complication and nuance. It can be a painful reminder of the family members who continue to scorn us. Or it can reinforce the idea, entrenched in the minds of most queer people from a young age, of what parenthood is "supposed" to look like. And at the very least, watching our brothers and sisters have kids is often an example of just how much more easily parenthood comes to straight people.
To be sure, most gay men posting #guncle pics online are not getting all that deep about it. Sometimes, a cute pic is just that, nothing more. But for others — including our bobsledder friend, who started it all with that now famous beach pic — there's often more to the story.
In an essay Simon Dunn wrote for GWK several years ago, he explained his reasoning for trying to make Gay Uncles Day a thing. Like many gay men, Simon struggled to reconcile his sexuality with the idea of raising kids — and found it important to help normalize the idea of queer men in familial roles.
"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," he wrote. "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."
Let's enjoy Gay Uncles Day for what it's intended to be — a lighthearted social media holiday and an excuse to post adorable pictures of ourselves (thirst traps or no) with our nieces and nephews. But we at Gays With Kids also see it as more than just another silly internet trend.
Of course, Gay Uncles Day is supposed to be a celebration of guncles. And GWK does also know a thing or two about posting adorable photos of queer men with kids. (See: literally every post on our Instagram)
So we plan to get in on the fun, and hope you'll join us — borrow those nieces and nephews for a quick selfie (don't worry, you can give them right back if you want to.) Then send it to dad@gayswithkids with "Guncles Day" in the subject line to be featured on our Instagram. We'll also enter you for a chance to win some sweet new guncle gear from the GWK store— as well as a copy of "The Guncle," a new novel by Steven Rowley. Also, be sure to keep your eyes peeled to the Gays With Kids website and Instagram page — we'll be running family profiles and "live chats" with some of our favorite guncles all week long.