Raising a gay stepfamily comes with its own obstacles. You're juggling a partner, children, an ex is likely in the mix, all while also trying to determine your own place within the complicated family dynamic. For Michael and Adam McAtee, it was no different. Except they had to go through this in their early twenties, when many of their peers were living a much more self indulgent lifestyle. Here's a look at how Michael and Adam have managed to raise a loving two-dad stepfamily, all the while trying to figure out where they fit into society today.
Michael (left) and Adam with their daughter
Michael and Adam McAtee quickly became fast friends while working at a gym together in southern California. Adam was married to a woman at the time and had a 1-year-old daughter. Through Michael's friendship and support, Adam gained the courage to come out to his family and wife. It was an excruciatingly difficult time for Adam as many of the supports he enjoyed as a "straight" man did not stick around for the newly revealed gay Adam. Tension was also high with his soon-to-be ex-wife.
Michael and Adam's wedding
After Adam came out, he and Michael began to see one another romantically. Michael knew that getting closer to him would inevitably mean assuming the role of stepparent to his 1-year-old daughter. Michael and Adam were 23 and 22 at the time, respectively. "Because we were so young, we shared a lot of similar feelings of confusion and frustration around being parents," said Michael. "We were still discovering ourselves and finding out who we wanted to be as adults." But the two had each other to lean on which helped get them through some tough moments. Seven years later, the dads feel as though they've learned a lot, and are grateful for the wonderful impact parenthood has had on their lives. For Michael, it also brought to the surface some unresolved issues from his own childhood. "For me the biggest challenge growing up as a gay boy was learning to love myself and believe in myself," he explained. Sure, there were times when Michael's resilience and commitment to the family waned because he didn't feel like he belonged, and the feelings of uncertainty, fear, and worry bubbled so close to the surface. But his love for Adam and his daughter, and his commitment to their family, helped him overcome his roadblocks and ultimately become a better person overall.
Adam and his daughter
"Seven years later, we are now married and much more secure in our relationship and in our ability to parent." But the family continues to face challenges, both from their respective families and society as a whole. For Adam and Michael, the lack of recognition from family and friends manifests in small but hurtful ways, such as forgetting birthdays or holidays such as Father's Day. Finding a place where they feel like they belong has been a struggle, even within the gay community.
Michael (left) and Adam at their wedding
"In the fight for marriage equality, the gay community concerned itself with 'selling sameness' to present a comforting image to straight society," said Michael. "My husband and I know that raising children as gay parents is not the same as raising children as straight parents. Gay dads have had to contend with unique challenges, including lack of resources and cultural invisibility both in and out of the gay community." Still, Adam and Michael realize how important it is to be a gay dad, especially today. "I believe gays have the opportunity to raise children in a revolutionary way by modeling how to construct a positive identity out of the experience of oppression," said Michael. And that's what the dads are doing: raising their daughter to be part of the next generation who are compassionate, accepting of diversity and self-exploration.
Adam and his daughter