If you’re gay, single, and raising children, how do you find dates? Not all gay families stay together, kind of like our heterosexual friends, and some gay dads never partnered to begin with. There’s a new generation of single gay dads looking for love.
I went straight to the source and got advice, and feedback, from guys who’ve been there, or who are there now. Here’s what they said.
Dating sites like OKCupid and Match.com are about as popular with gay dads as they are with childless gay men, and about as successful—meaning not very. What I mostly discovered from gay dads is the same problem I’ve discovered with all single gay men: online dating fatigue. It’s a big investment with a lot of disappointment attached. The difference is that, for gay dads, time plays a huge factor.
“It’s too much work,” says Greg, 49, father of a teenage son. “I used to get dates online, but now I can’t spend that much time out of my day to go through profiles and meet men, most of whom won’t be a match.” Ted, 51, father of two girls, says dating sites are flat-out wrong. “Dating sites only make you miserable and they don’t work. When you have children, forget it.” The only thumbs up for dating sites came from to Brian, 49, who uses a few, but has a very good sense of humor about the whole thing.
“Yes, I use them,” says the father of two teenage sons. “But it’s a lot of effort. In two years I think I’ve met one or two guys on dating sites. But I’m still there, because you never know.”
And What About Those Hook-Up Sites …
Admittedly, most single gay dads are on sites like Grindr and Scruff, and most of them expressed frustration. Here, a big problem is guilt: Many men feel that being a parent means you shouldn’t be posting photos on your phone or listing your sexual interests.
Greg, who will not use them, says it’s more about terror than anything else. “What if my ex found out I was on Grindr? We don’t get along as is, and that would give him ammunition to say I was an irresponsible dad. Nothing is private, so anyone could see my profile and pass it along to someone who wouldn’t approve.”
Ted says he finds them a bit irresponsible for a gay father. “I know you can temporarily delete your profile or whatever, but it’s not worth the risk of the wrong person finding you there. I’ve had enough bad experiences seeing ‘committed’ gay men on those sites, so I stopped using them. If you are a young gay dad, I think it’s only going to complicate your life further. And, I should add, they’re addictive. I don’t need any more distractions in my life.”
Phil, 43, father of a 10-year-old girl, understands why men would be hesitant to join a hook-up site, but thinks it’s worth it. “It’s quick, the men are in my neighborhood, it saves a lot of time,” he says. “That makes me sound like a perverted man, but if my ex-wife has our girl, why not? I do have my needs.”
Louis, who is on Grindr and Manhunt, says these sites are fine, and that you should simply write on your profile that you don’t want to hook up. “I live in a pretty straight area in Connecticut and it’s one of the few ways I can find gay men,” he says, adding that, in smaller cities there are probably more men seeking true relationships on hook-up sites.
“If you live in an area that does not have a large gay population or gay bars or whatever, you’ll find that this is a way gay men get to know other gay men. If I lived in New York I might have a different viewpoint. Also, my children are old enough that I couldn’t care less if someone said they saw me on Grindr. It would be different if they were infants.”
But Will You Find a Long-Term Relationship On Hook-Up Sites?
With the exception of Louis’s answer, this is pretty much a resounding no.
“It’s possible,” says Phil, “but unlikely. Men are horny, let's face it, and for the most part they’re not going to want to hang out with my child. If guys are using Scruff to find true love, I think they are probably misguided.”
“Oh please,” says Ted. “No one who’s sending a dick pic on Grindr is searching for a romantic dinner, one that might be interrupted because one of my children is having a hard day. Be real, men. If you do use these sites, know what they’re for.” Brian initially said that he thought hook-up sites worked as dating sites, but changed his opinion when I stressed “long-term relationship” as the criterion.
“I meet plenty of men on Grindr, but it’s usually sex-based. Yes, there is something about being a dad that turns men on, especially young men, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy that, but it’s not exactly a child-friendly site. If you’re new at dating, and have a young child, it’s probably not a great way to go.”
Speaking of Children, Is It Easier to Date Dads with Kids or Dads Without Kids?
All but one of the men I interviewed said they had no preference if a potential partner also had kids. “Doesn’t matter either way,” said Greg. “I’m fine with either,” added Ted. “Sure,” was Brian’s simple response.
(I should add that almost all of the men I spoke with told me they don’t meet men who have children, so their responses were about the possibility, not rooted in experience. The percentage of single gay dads is still a small one in comparison with other single gay men.)
The holdout was Steve, 46, who has a young daughter. He thinks dating a man with children is preferable. “Dating gay dads with kids is challenging because the kids don’t always get along. But this can be worked out. It is easiest for gay dads to date other gay dads. We all ‘get it’ and understand the challenges.”
On a related note, most of the men I spoke with said having a child or having children was not a huge deal breaker for the men they meet, provided the men are close to their own age and not under 30, and provided they are upfront about the information upon introduction.
Scott A Kramer, a psychotherapist in New York, does recommend, if you do meet a new man, to hold off on introducing him to your kids.
“It can take a while to get to know someone,” he says. When you introduce someone to the kids and then have the relationship not work out, the kids will experience a loss. "If the guy does become the special guy, you’ll have plenty of time to introduce him to the rest of the family.”
Where Do We Go from Here?
If it seems as if too much time has been spent discussing online dating options, it’s because, in this day and age, that’s where most gay men turn. While everyone I spoke with thinks that needs to change, they don’t know of alternatives. Every man I spoke with is either in a gay dad support group or used to be in one; not one of those men met a date there.
“Gay dad groups are great,” says Greg. “But it’s about diapers and coping and getting advice. And most of the other men are, obviously, in relationships. I would never advise anyone to join a support group to meet men. Friends, yes, but not dates.”
Single gay dads, for the most part, don’t hit clubs or bars because of their responsibility to their children, and don’t really know where else to turn.
“I wish I knew of a place where a guy with a kid could go to find a date,” says Greg, laughing. “But I don’t have a clue. My friends have set me up with people, but other than that, I don’t have an answer. The men at the gym are so pumped up and so busy staring at the other pumped-up younger men, I might as well be invisible. Right now I am happy being a single gay dad with a wonderful child. Until that changes, that is perfect enough.”