Gay Dad Life

The Game of the Name: How Gay Dads Are Changing Naming Traditions

In his July 5 piece “Re-Thinking the Gay Father Name Game,” our blogger Ian Colvin shared the story of how he and his husband arrived at their naming decision. Ian took his husband’s last name; in return, they agreed that the kids would call Ian “daddy.” (Rather than, say, papa.) Names have power. And for Ian, the desire to be called daddy was more powerful than the desire to retain his own last name.

Plenty of couples arrive at similar organic solutions. Their preferences are clear and happen to align. Maybe they agree that it feels more natural to choose one last name. Perhaps they like the symbolism that hyphenated surnames suggest two united halves. And they might see no need to decide on two different “dad” terms. (If we hear the word, we’ll both turn!)

In other cases, it’s not so easy. Our readers chimed in with social media comments on Ian’s story, sharing their own methods for making certain “name game” decisions. And some of their ideas were so clever and thoughtful that we simply had to share. Here are some of the best we received from readers – though we won’t name any names!

START FRESH. Rather than choose one or add a hyphen, some couples decided to create an entirely new last name to share. They combined elements of both last names to create a portmanteau, or picked something similarly meaningful. (Say, a name associated with a first date.) Others looked to their child for inspiration – literally. If adopting a child, the parents changed their name to match his or hers.

CONSIDER THE END POINT. No one likes to be last in line. (Just ask your kid.) If you have one or more heterosexual brothers, each has the potential to pass along the clan’s last name. But if your partner is an only child or has no straight bros – well, this might be the only chance he has to keep that family name alive. Consider giving that gift. If nothing else, you’ll earn some serious in-law points.

BE THE MIDDLEMAN. Not to sound superficial, but some first-last name combos just flow better together. If you can’t help admitting that your partner’s last name is a bit more ear pleasing, give your child your middle name. Don’t hyphenate, so your child has the option to take it out just when it seems to fit the occasion. You know, like your pair of skinny jeans.

LET YOUR CHILD CHOOSE. Father is a title. “Dad,” “daddy,” “pop” and the rest? They’re nicknames, really. And when you think about it, giving yourself a nickname is always mildly embarrassing. (Remember your college date with “Big Will”? Enough said.) Just call each other dad. It might get confusing at first, but your child will hear the other variations all around them – and eventually, they’ll organically assign you the terms of endearment you’ve earned.

LOOK TO DEAR OLD(ER) DAD. What do you call your father? (Occasional four-letter words aside.) Does your partner call his something different? If you use “dad” and he uses “pop,” have your kids follow suit with you two. Let’s face it: we all turn into our parents at some point, anyway. This can be an especially easy solution if one side of the family prefers more culturally aligned terms of endearment, like Spanish “papi” or Scandinavian “pappa.”

KEEP IT CLOSE. Last names don’t just help you fill out paperwork. They’re about forming bonds. Whose side of the family lives nearby? Which “last name” do you see more often? Sure, you love your last name – but if your kin lives across the country while your partner’s live down the street, with which crew is their greatest potential for your child to form a strong, inclusive bond? Exactly. Remember, this is about your child feeling part of a family – not you feeling like you won.

GO FIRST. Does one of you have a family name that can double as a first name? “Casey,” “Barry,” and “Bryant,” all sound just as well coming first as second. If your partner’s surname isn’t as, ahem, versatile, let it continue to play its position.

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Children's Books

New LGBTQ-Inclusive Children's Book Asks: What Makes a Family?

A new children's book by Seamus Kirst follows a young girl's journey of emotional discovery after she is asked which of her two dads is her "real dad."

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Seamus Kirst, author of the new LGBTQ-inclusive children's book "Papa, Daddy, Riley."

Throughout my life, I have discovered that reading provides an almost miraculous way of changing the way I think.

There is no medium that better offers insight into the perceptions, feelings and humanity of someone who is different from us. Through reading we become empathetic. Through reading we evolve. I have often emerged from reading a book, and felt like I was changed. In that, even in this digital age, I know I am not alone.

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Our second feature in our transracial family series. Read the first one here.

Ferdinand Ortiz, 39, and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, 38, have been together for 7 years. In 2017, they became foster dads when they brought their daughter, Mia Valentina, home from the hospital. She was just three days old at the time. On December 13, 2018, her adoption was finalized.

Mia is of Jamaican and African American heritage, and her dads are both Puerto Rican. When Manuel and Ferdinand began their parenting journey through the foster care system, they received specific training on how to be the parents of a child whose race and culture was different from their own. "We learned that it's important to celebrate our child's culture and surround ourselves with people who can help her be proud of her culture." However, as helpful as this training was, the dads agreed that it would've been beneficial to hear from other transracial families and the type of challenges that they faced.

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Then Covid.

Ten weeks ago, I — along with the rest of the world — was ordered to shelter-in-place... to stop thinking about what's next, and instead, focus on the here and the now. In many ways, the shut down made me shut off everything I thought I knew about being content and living a productive life. And so, for the first time in my 41 years, I have literally been forced to stop and smell the roses. The question is, would I like the way they smell?

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Kevin and David know they can never understand what it's like growing up as a young black girl — but they strive to create a 'safe space' for their daughters to talk about the experience

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at

Is adopting a child whose race and culture is different from your own something that us queer dads need to talk about? Share our experiences? Learn from others? We've been hearing from our community, and the answer has been a resounding, "yes."

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Gay Dad Life

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As his sons have gotten older, the movies have morphed away from cartoons and towards things blowing up — but movie night remains his favorite family tradition.

Editor's Note: This is the next in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about his life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

Of all of our traditions and rituals, probably the most consistent and longest-lasting one was movie night. Sure, we read the heck out of Harry Potter. But our capacity for watching Harry Potter? We're talking Quidditch World Cup here, folks.

In its early version, movie night looked like this: During the week, I would order a movie and a cartoon from Netflix—back when "Netflix" meant "mail." On Saturday night—and I mean, faithfully, every Saturday night—we would order a pepperoni pizza (which Mark faithfully took the meat off of—I'll get to food later) for delivery and then sit and watch our cartoon and movies while eating. The kids had a say in the movie, but I got to pick the cartoon. They watched enough of their own cartoons on the regular, and besides, this gave me a great opportunity to introduce them to the wonders of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Josie and the Pussycats.

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Gay Dad Life

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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