Gay Dad Life

The Power of a Loving and Supportive Family

One marriage, two sons and more than three decades passed before Ken Brewer came out as gay. When he did, his entire family responded with love and support.

Ken Brewer feels complete when he’s with his family. “We are all whole,” he says. “We are all very well supported and very close together.”

Ken lives with husband, David, and his two sons — Ryan, 23, and Dylan, 19 — in Washington, D.C. While they married in 2013, the couple had been together for 11 years before their nuptials. “My sons just love my husband, especially his cooking.” Ken says, “David has become a wonderful father to them, too.”

Ken's sons Dylan and Ryan during their father's wedding in 2013 in Washington, D.C.

When Ken talks about his family, it’s always with a slight tone of surprise. After all, the maritime analyst spent most of his life in the closet — until 1998, the year he divorced his wife.

“I already knew that I was gay when I was 14 years old,” Ken says, “but I decided to keep it a secret for a long time.”

Ken discovered his sexuality during his time with the Boy Scouts. “When I was very young, I was much more open toward my friends in the Boy Scouts,” he says. “We supported each other — that’s what being a Boy Scot was about. I learned what it really meant to love someone else with my friends in the Boy Scouts.”

Despite his realization, Ken knew the risks of coming out. “I couldn’t forget it, but I kept what I felt a secret. The lifestyle was much different in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I really tried to avoid being bullied by other students.”

Only later did Ken learn that many of his friends felt similarly about their time in the scouts — including his husband David.

The pressure of coming out as a teenager wasn't his only obstacle. Ken is deaf, and he struggled at an early age to reconcile his sexuality with the deaf community.

“It’s a very small world in deaf culture,” he says. “So many deaf people know each other very well — it’s just not the same with hearing people. I was worried that my sexuality would come off in the wrong way because they might not understand about being gay. Today it's much better.”

He led a double life in the gay and deaf communities, staying in the closet for those friends and organizations who weren’t tied to that part of his life.

“I was a leader in several organizations at the Maryland School for the Deaf, Gallaudet University and Rochester Institute of Technology,” Ken says. “I was really passionate about being a leader, and I thought they could remove me from the groups if I came out. Looking back, I think I was mistaken. I needed to be stronger to show them who I really was.”

Ken Brewer, right, stands with older son, Ryan, ex-wife Paula Aryes, younger song, Dylan, and husband, David, at Ken and David's wedding in 2013

After school, Ken realized his dream of having a family by marrying Paula in 1991. Together, they had two sons, Ryan and Dylan. However, the pair divorced after seven years of marriage when Ken came out. Expecting to be excluded like he always feared, Ken actually found more support than he planned for.

“Paula is a very open-minded woman,” he says. “When I told my family I was gay, my parents — my whole family — was happy. I was so surprised to get my family’s full support. Paula and I agreed to keep a low profile for a while so the boys could focus on school. We simply agreed to get divorced, and I took care of the boys.”

Ken had taken the next step in his life as both a father and, now, an openly gay man. But there were still a few surprises waiting for the Brewer family.

“My oldest son, Ryan, admitted that he was gay when he was 14 years old,” Ken says. “I was surprised. My ex-wife, Paula, she told me that she knew Ryan was gay when she gave birth to him—but I didn’t believe her. I was surprised at first because I saw him going out with one of his very close girlfriends who ‘covered’ for him as his girlfriend. He was very careful about telling people.”

However, Ken could tell times had really changed seeing his son, Ryan, come out as a gay teenager.

“After Ryan came out, I could see how different our experiences were. He’s so much more open. He could see that he had a lot of support from family and friends from school. Society is so much different between my time and his.”

Ken and David share a kiss in front of the White House on the day of their wedding in 2013

His eldest son coming out wasn’t the only surprise that year — it was also when Ken met David.

“I tried to date guys, some hearing and some deaf. But no matter what, my real love was with my family,” Ken says. “I wanted to find the right man who could be a good other father to my children. I fell in love with David because of how respectful he was and responsible towards my two sons — no matter that he has never had his own children.”

In 2013 the two men took the next step in their relationship and got married. Paula, who had still lived with Ken to help raise their boys, decided the time had finally come to move out on her own, bringing her closer to her work in Virginia. Their eldest son Ryan stayed in D.C. to finish high school while Dylan accompanied his mother to Virginia. The younger brother would return to D.C. in 2015 four months after graduating from high school as he accepted a job offer near Ken and David’s home.

“David and I had been together for several years when I asked my parents how they felt about us getting married,” Ken says. “They were excited. But my dad had a stroke, so we decided to postpone.”

However, Ken once again witnessed how far his family was willing to go to support him. “Dad told me not to wait,” he says. “He loved David. He wanted us to go ahead with planning the wedding. He wanted to be there.”

Ken smiles over at David during their wedding ceremony, conducted in sign language

Sadly, Ken’s father passed away before the ceremony. Despite the loss, the family has grown stronger. Ryan postponed plans for college to take care of his deaf grandmother after his grandfather passed. Straight brother Dylan works for GameStop. The two young men are both exploring college, but whatever the future holds for them, they know they can count on the love and support of two proud dads and a mom.

“Through whatever changes we’ve experienced, one thing remains constant. The boys continue to be part of a close, happy and loving family,” Ken says.


Show Comments ()

Take a Virtual Tour of The Homes of These Famous Gay Dads

Many famous gay dads — including Neil Patrick Harris, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Ricky Martin — have opened up their homes to fans on the pages of Architectural Digest.

In each issue, Architectural Digest offers a peak into the homes of different celebrities. In recent years, they've featured the homes of several famous gay dads. Check out the videos and stories the magazine pulled together on the beautiful homes of Neil Patrick Harris, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Ricky Martin below!

Keep reading... Show less
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.

As children, reading shapes how we see the world. The characters, places, and stories we come to love in our books inform us as to what life might offer us as we grow up, and our world begins to expand beyond our own backyards.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Photo Essays

Interested in Foster Care? These Amazing Dads Have Some Advice

As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, we rounded up some amazing examples of gay men serving as foster care dads, helping provide kids with a bright future.

Every May in the United States, we celebrate National Foster Care Month. With over 437,000 children and youth in foster care, it's our honor to take a look at some of the awesome dads in our community who are opening their hearts and their homes, and providing these kids with a bright future.

Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Check out these resources here, and visit AdoptUSKids.

Meet the Foster Dads!

Keep reading... Show less
Transracial Families Series

This Transracial Family Relies on a 'Support Group' of African American Women

Puerto Rican dads Ferdinand and Manuel are raising a daughter of Jamaican descent — and love to find ways to celebrate their family's diversity

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.

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

How the Shut Down Opened Me Up to Being a Better Dad

David Blacker's dad used to tell him to 'stop and smell the roses' — the shut down has led him to finally take the advice

"Stop and smell the roses." It was the thing my dad always said to me when I was growing up. But like many know-it-all kids, I didn't listen. I was determined to keep my eye on the prize. Whether it was getting good grades in school, getting my work published, scoring the next big promotion, buying a house or starting a family. For me, there was no such thing as resting on my laurels. It has always been about what's next and mapping out the exact course of action to get me there.

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?

Keep reading... Show less
Transracial Families Series

How This Transracial Family Creates a 'Safe Space' to Talk About Their Differences

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."

With over one-fifth (21.4%) of same-sex couples raising adopted children in the United States today (compared to 3% of different-sex couples), it's highly likely, at the very least, that those families are transcultural. According to April Dinwoodie, Chief Executive of The Donaldson Adoption Institute, Inc., all adoptive families are transcultural. "All, in my opinion, adoptions are transcultural because there are no two families' culture that is exactly the same, even if you went as far as to get very specific about the family of origin and the family of experience and almost make it cookie-cutter … no two families operate the same."

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Movie Night: My Favorite Family Tradition

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.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse