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 ()
Gay Dad Life

The Suburban Gay Dad

Are you intimidated by the suburbs? This gay dad was — but then he moved there.

In a recent article for Yahoo! Lifestyle, Steve Jacobs says the thought of living in the suburbs as a gay dad "intimidated" him. But when he started fantasizing about garages, he began to question that notion. Any apprehension he had soon evaporated, he said, one winter morning while trying to navigate the snowy streets of New York City with a stroller.

While "pushing the stroller through snow banks and pools of slush with snowflakes stinging our faces," he wrote, "a vision came to me: I pictured us walking into a garage, hopping into a car, and arriving at a diner with 10 times less drama. This image planted the seed of moving to the 'burbs that I couldn't shake."

Soon, the family of four found a house in a town a half hour outside the city. "It had grass and a beautiful yard for our spirited kiddos. The schools were good. There were even good restaurants. The only red flag: Census data estimated only 0.1 percent of the population was gay male."

There were some "growing pains" while trying to make friends in this environment. "When we attended our first dinner party, within minutes the hostess went to the kitchen and the other wives followed her, while the husbands settled into the living room. Ira and I froze, looking at each other. In the city, our straight friends hadn't separated out like this for the evening. Should we stay with the dudes, exert our masculinity, and blow off the mom we liked? Or does one of us go with the wives and accept the personal branding that comes with that? We did a quick rock paper scissors in the foyer. Ira went with the wives."

But ultimately, "being a parent defined me more than I ever imagined it would," he wrote, and he settled in nicely to his new suburban life.

Have you had a similar adjustment, from city life to the suburbs? Tell us about it at dads@gayswithkids.com for an upcoming piece!

Gay Dad Life

"Fridays with Fitz": A New Kid's Book Based Upon the Son of These Two Dads

Tracey Wimperly, author of the new children's book, said she hopes to give a more honest portrayal of the role grandparents play in the lives of children.

Guest post Tracey Wimperly

I've recently written a children's picture book (aimed at 2-4 year olds) called "Fridays with Fitz: Fitz Goes to the Pool." Every Friday - when his two dads go to work - Fitz and his grandparents (my husband, Steve and I) head off on an adventure. Through the eyes of a curious and energetic 3 year old, even ordinary adventures, like riding the bus or foraging for fungus in the forest can be fun and magical.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

8 Ways for Dads to Find Work/Life Balance

Finding work/life balance is hard enough... but can be even harder for gay dads.

Having kids is an amazing part of life, and it should be fun. Life does tend to get in the way sometimes, and one huge aspect of that is work. Striking that balance between work and home life is tough. If you both work it's even harder.

And if you're a gay couple, it can have it's own set of problems above and beyond the standard work-life issues that people face. Recently, the Harvard Business Review conducted a study that focused specifically on the experiences of same-sex couples who wanted to make moves towards a work/life balance.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Family Stories

David and Ben Met on the Dance Floor — and Are Now Grooving Their Way Through Fatherhood

David and Ben, who became fathers with the help of Northwest Surrogacy Center, live in Melbourne with their daughter, Maia.

In 2003, while both studying at Reading University in the UK, Ben Suter and David Cocks met after locking eyes on the dance floor and then being introduced by a mutual friend. Ben, a meteorologist and Operations Manager, and David, an Assistant Principal, have been together ever since. They moved to Australia together in 2010, seeking a different life, and an overall better work-life balance. The chose Cairns in Queensland as their new home, between the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforest, "taking life a bit easier," said David. The couple were also married in June 2016, back home in England.

While David always wanted kids, Ben took a little convincing. So they started their parenting journey with a dog, Titan, who quickly became like their first born. From there, Ben came around rather quickly.

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

Single Gay Dad and the City

When Kyle decided to take his four kids, ages 6-11, to New York City on vacation, his friends thought he was crazy.

"You're crazy, Kyle."

"You can't be serious? A single dad taking four kids to the Big Apple? Think again."

"That's bold. There's no way I'd do that."

Those were a few of the responses I heard from my friends as I told them I was thinking of booking a trip to New York City with four kids, ages 11-6. My children's fall vacation from school was approaching and I wanted to get out of the house and explore. Was the Big Apple too much of an adventure?

Keep reading... Show less
News

National's Pitcher Cites Wife's Two Moms as Reason for Declining White House Invite

"I think that's an important part of allyship," Doolittle said of his wife's two moms.

Sean Doolittle, pitcher for the Washington Nationals, declined an invitation to the White House after his team won the World Series this year. In an interview with the Washington Post, he listed his numerous reasons for staying home — and a main consideration, he revealed, was his wife's two moms.

"I want to show support for them. I think that's an important part of allyship, and I don't want to turn my back on them," Doolittle said during the interview.

Trump's treatment of a minority groups, generally, factored into his decision as well. "I have a brother-in-law who has autism, and [Trump] is a guy that mocked a disabled reporter. How would I explain that to him that I hung out with somebody who mocked the way that he talked or the way that he moves his hands? I can't get past that stuff."

Doolitttle clarified that his decision had little to do with policy disagreements with the White House. "There's a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we've done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the 'shithole countries.'"

He concluded by saying he respected his teammates decision to attend the White house ceremony. "I want people to know that I put thought into this, and at the end of the day, I just can't go."

Read more of the Washington Post interview here.

News

New York Will Fight 'Repugnant' Trump Rule on Adoption, Says Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York promises legal action of the Trump administration moves ahead with plans to allow discrimination against LGBTQ adoptive and foster parents

Last week, the Trump administration announced plans to allow adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective LGBTQ parents — but he may face a legal fight from (former) hometown. In a tweet, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said the proposed move "isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values,— it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home." If the proposal moves forward, he continued. "we'll take legal action to stop it.

Governor Cuomo's office followed up the tweet with a lengthier statement posted to their website:

Once again the Trump administration is attacking the hard-earned rights and protections of the LGBTQ community, this time proposing a new measure that would give foster care and adoption agencies license to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Trump's proposal isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values — it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home. If he moves forward with this rule, we'll take legal action to stop it.

No matter what happens in Washington, New York State is and will continue to be a beacon of equality in this country. Our Human Rights Law and adoption regulations expressly prohibit discrimination against the LGBTQ community, including when it comes to adoption. I encourage any LGBTQ New Yorker who feels they are a victim of this discrimination to contact the State Division of Human Rights for assistance.

Our message to the Trump administration is simple: there is no place for hate in New York or in our nation, and we will not allow this noxious proposal to stop LGBTQ New Yorkers from becoming parents or providing care to children in need.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse