Becoming a gay dad, complete with husband, house, and a whole new life, is one of the more thrilling developments of modern life. Anyone who's walked through an even remotely gay area sees these modern families, a sign of our gay new times. But being a dad does change one's identity, especially as a huge percentage of gay dads grew up under the impression that they'd be single and childless forever.
I talked with three gay dads about keeping their identity while at the same time raising kids and sharing a life and all those other details that come with the job. The differences are a lot like the identities—highly unique.
Jeffrey, 44, has been married to his husband for four years. They have two adopted children, a boy and a girl, both infants, and share a home in Westchester, New York. Both dads are lawyers, and it does sound like the perfect family home—I should have asked if they have a white picket fence. For Jeffrey, it's a whole new world.
“Until ten years ago I was a huge drug addict," says Jeffrey. “I stopped before I met my future husband, but I lived a New York life of parties, men, parties, drugs. I have no idea how I worked, or even survived. At the time, I never saw anything in my future except more of the same."
Jeffrey hit rehab, and took stock of what he really wanted to do outside of office hours. “When I met my husband, who is not an addict, kids was one of the first things we talked about, and one of the first goals we made for ourselves after getting married. Since you're asking me about identity, obviously the first thing I want to say is that I don't want my last one, but I do need to step out of my safety zone sometimes and live a more social life."
A social life for Jeffrey means reconnecting with old friends—the sober ones—and making a point to have lunch and dinner with single gay friends. “We're just like straight parents," he says, on being a gay dad. “It's wonderful and it's a twenty-four hour job, and there comes a time when, between work and the kids, I need to take alone time, go to a movie, see old friends, have lunch with single gay friends and talk about Britney Spears or something. My husband takes time away from me too. I think that's important. Then, after a while, I miss my family so much I can barely stand it. That's the best feeling."
“The weirdest thing about identity for me is that my single friends assume I am not interested in doing anything but raise my daughter," says Aaron, 51, a Los Angeles actor. “She's seventeen now, and yes, I do all the Dad stuff with my partner. But I still enjoy going out for drinks with friends, hitting the gym or running or cycling, and I don't always want to do that alone."
Aaron's identity after all this time is as a dad, he says, and people in the gay community forget that dads are also guys. “My partner's more introverted; I've always been the first guy to have a party or find one," he laughs. “So, to answer your question, I really have to make my identity. I call friends, male and female, and ask them to go to sports events. I ask gym buddies to hike. I take Boot Camp class, where no one knows I'm a dad and most of the guys are a good ten years younger than I am. And we talk afterward and I hear about their boyfriend woes and dating woes, and I kind of laugh. No, I don't want that life, but it's important to remember that there is another world out there, one that doesn't just involve worrying about the boyfriend my daughter is going to bring home. I still remember what it was like to be her age. I want us both to have our own lives."
Ted, 45, a video game producer in Los Angeles, calls his new identity a transition. “It's happened step by step," he says. “When I met my husband-to-be, I lived in a one-bedroom condo in the heart of 'Boys Town,' West Hollywood. We moved in together and were talking about starting a family, so we moved out to the suburbs to a house with extra rooms, on a nice quiet cul-de-sac where kids ride their bikes. By then, I was already not invested in being the guy who knows which night is Latino night at Rage."
Ted and his husband have a five-year-old son, who, ironically, can keep Ted more social than back in his bachelor days.
“Certainly, when I was going out, thinking I might get laid, I was a different person than the one I am now," he says. “But in some ways, having a kid has forced me to be more social, because preschoolers will just start talking to folks and you're along for the ride."
He continues: “It's so much easier to hang out with people with kids about our son's age because they can go off and play with each other, and leave us to socialize like adults. Everyone's happy."
Besides, he adds, friends can change when you get married and have children. “I have friends, straight and gay, who don't want kids and who don't particularly like kids, and they don't get why I'd want to burden myself with one. They're great friends, and they're always sweet to us and our son, but we don't see as much of them as we used to. I guess the cliché is that we're in different places right now."
I think we all are. That's gay life, 21st Century-style.