There was a time when “checking on the boys” meant cruising the younger men at the beach. In today’s ever-changing gay world, the phrase is often literal, along with “checking on the girls” or a combination of both. Gay men are in long-term relationships with gay men with children, whether from a straight or gay divorce, or some other sort of dissolution. Here, three men talk about their relationships with a man and his kids. We've come a long way from “The Brady Bunch,” baby.
David, 54, a realtor in Seattle, met his partner five years ago, on Facebook of all places. David is from North Carolina. After a year of phone conversations they met; they met again, they vacationed, they moved in together. Along with the new man and new life across country, David’s partner had two boys whom he’d adopted with his ex-partner.
“It was a big quest for me because I’d always wanted kids but I’d never had the opportunity to do it,” says David. “I had kind of come to terms that I was never going to do it alone; I had been in a fifteen-year relationship where I knew it was never going to happen. It was a right-time, right-place sort of thing.”
David loves being a dad, says the boys call him David-Dad or Dad or David, and is in a unique relationship in that his partner’s ex-partner has a new partner, and all four men share in the decision-making of the kids—the two fathers have joint custody and the two families live in the same neighborhood.
“All four of us have equal say; what school, what summer camp. I was asked to take on that role,” says David, adding that “so much of the time is for enjoyment. It’s not a task, it’s not ‘Oh, I gotta do this’; I love it; I love being in the school things. I also get a week of me-time, our time. So we have balance.”
“It took a lot of adjustment,” says David, on when he first started his new chapter. “I had to be selfless to a point that I never had before. My schedule had always been my schedule. Even in my past relationships I made most of the decisions.”
And the best part of his new role? “It keeps you challenged and youthful and connected to the innocence of day-to-day adventure.”
Sam, 56, an architect in Miami, is an only child who came out late to his mother, who didn't take the news well and hardly spoke to him for 10 years afterward. When he met Oliver, who’s one year younger, a couple of years back, the biggest challenge was Oliver’s son, a 27-year-old gay man.
Says Sam: “I’m an only child, I came out in my late twenties, and I’m now living with a man who’s son is out to all his friends, his parents, and who dates men and goes to the same bars that I still sometimes hit. And, weird as it sounds, were I still single I might be dating a guy that age; I've always attracted young men; apparently, I’m a Daddy. Oliver and I have had a few good laughs about how odd it all is.”
Sam says that he never thought about kids growing up, or marriage, because the times were different and just being gay was considered taboo in his family and among his friends.
“I can’t honestly say that I embraced the idea of Oliver’s son as part of the picture because it’s all so new to me,” he says, adding, “and he’s a great man. I get confused a lot because I forget when I talk to him how much homosexuality has gained acceptance. And, you’ll laugh, but I forget he’s a man, not a boy. If he stays out late I worry and want to yell at him and warn him about drugs and everything else that can hurt you in this city.”
The trio gets along great, says Sam, and they even double date. “The four of us sometimes go to a gay bar together and all I can think of is what my mom would say,” says Sam, laughing, adding that he does get along with his mother now. “Forget Mom: What would I be saying thirty years ago if I knew I’d be doing this twenty-five years in the future? It’s all new.”
For John, a doctor in Fort Lauderdale, living with a gay father is not an easy task. “My husband is very religious, still, and his son doesn't care for either one of us. They both have strong Catholic backgrounds and I've spent a good fifteen years helping my husband escape that trap. I can’t do the same with his child.”
John, 51, is a doctor who has been out since college and who abandoned his Jewish faith years ago. “My husband’s son is fifteen now, and his mother has custody. She hates gay people, and I have no idea what she tells her son. When the three of us are together, which is about once a month, we go to the beach or a restaurant, and it’s very uncomfortable. His son talks about girlfriends and school and how much he hates the President, and I just smile. I don’t know if it’s rebellion or a more permanent problem.”
In John’s case, it’s his husband who he worries about. “I married my husband, not his child. That might sound harsh, but it’s my job to love him and to support him in this difficult situation. I can’t change his son’s views about us, I can’t make him approve, but after a particularly hard meeting, I can give him a big kiss and let him know he is loved.”