Starting a family is a major move and it requires a lot of courage. It can require even more when you’re doing it as gay dads in a world that is still evolving to understand same-sex partnerships. And what about young gay dads? There are many guys starting families at an age when members of an older generation were just starting to creep out of the closet. Doesn’t that take a special kind of bravery?
Maybe. Or maybe, as with everything, it all starts in the home.
“I have something to tell you,” is how Kyle D., 25, started the coming-out process to his mom. He didn’t have to finish it. “She interrupted me with, ‘You’re gay,’” he recalls, and chuckles. “I asked her how she knew.”
“She said, ‘a mom always knows.’”
Kyle D. says that his family has been enormously embracing of his sexuality. His 31-year old husband, Kyle R., had a similarly accepting experience. (Yes, they’re both named Kyle.) That’s not to say there haven’t been some bumps in the road – say, a particularly religious grandparent who took some time to warm up to the situation. But overall, their experiences are in line with a cultural shift that sees young people coming out earlier (both were teenagers at the time) and to more positive receptions, even in the more traditionally conservative American heartland. Though it’s worth noting that they were both raised and continue to reside in Iowa, the third state to legalize same-sex marriage, and one considered comparatively liberal among Midwestern states.
Today’s coming-out climate sets a different tone for young gay men than was the case for those who came of age in the 80s. Coupled with a media climate that offers broadened representation of LGBT families, it also allows for different expectations. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, about 78% of Americans ages 18-29 believe that same-sex marriage should be legal. With the overwhelming support of their peers on their side, it’s no wonder that building a marriage, and eventually raising kids, no longer feels like a pipe dream for many young gay men. It’s simply one more life goal among many.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to be father,” says Kyle R., who also works as an elementary school teacher. He knew being gay would require him to approach building a family in a particular way. But that he would have one was a given. “I wanted a huge family – big enough to be a baseball team! I knew that right off the bat.”
That’s not to say it didn’t take a little cajoling of his now-husband. Kyle D. says he was surprised when Kyle R. asked, fairly early on in their relationship, whether he “wanted kids.” “I said yes. I didn’t realize that he meant, like, now,” laughs Kyle D. “But I saw the sparkle in his eyes, and knew how much it meant to him.”
If starting a family took a little convincing, it had less to do with Kyle D.’s identity as a gay man, and more to do with reasonable hesitancy over age (he was 21 when they started dating): something that can cause anyone, gay or straight, a bit of nerves before taking the plunge.
Once they did, there was no looking back. In August 2013 they welcomed their first son to the world. Months earlier, a chance meeting had introduced them to his biological mother, who had intended to put her baby up for adoption; she felt the guys would be a great fit, and even allowed them to accompany her at doctor’s appointments throughout her pregnancy. When their son was born, Kyle R. and Kyle D. met him in the delivery room.
And earlier this year they grew their family again through foster care, adding 6- and 7-year old Nepal-born brothers to their happy brood. Young and gay, with three kids: Probably not what many older dads were considering at their age, right?
“He had his crazy days before we got together, but I had just turned 21 – so mine were just starting,” laughs Kyle D. “I enjoyed getting drinks with my coworkers before I came home. Now, I’m so exhausted that I don’t know if I have the energy to go out.” Among their gay friends, they’re the first to have kids – and yes, that comes with a cost to the social life. “They understand,” says Kyle D. “They know we can’t just drop everything to go out anymore.”
But, he adds, he has no regrets - because not only is parenthood a joy, but also is seeing a different side of his husband. Kyle D. has loved watching Kyle R. gain the assertiveness that comes with parenthood; Kyle R. loves seeing Kyle D.’s softer, nurturing side. Both feel that they’ve gained tremendous patience, and they credit their community with making their family feel a part of the fabric.
“We’re in a town of about 800 people, and we’ve never had a gay bashing,” says Kyle D. “It’s like a village. Everyone looks after each other’s kids.”
And it takes a village full of love to raise a child – especially one who will grow up to know, no matter what, it’s okay to be a dad.