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 dads@gayswithkids.com

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."


While statistics are scarce around the percentage of same-sex couples creating transracial families through adoption and foster care, we do know that they occur more often than in heterosexual adoptive families, and even more so amongst interracial gay couples.

When we asked our community on Instagram if they were raising kids whose race was different from their own, 43% responded "yes." So we wanted to learn more about their experiences. Here's the first family's story in our series of gay dad transracial families.

One of Kevin Patterson's first worries about transracial adoption was when he thought about if his children would feel included by a family that looked different to them. Kevin, 36, and his husband David Patterson, 41, are two white dads to two daughters of Jamaican background through adoption. This forever family lives in Phoenix, Arizona. "We also had concerns regarding how they would be addressed in the school system knowing they were from a very diverse situation — multi-racial family, adopted, and having two dads."

Prior to becoming a parent, the dads attended mandatory training classes provided by their adoption agency to help prepare them for specific considerations for transracial families. "[The] training classes helped us work through common issues that could arise when placing kids in a new home." The also opened up a dialogue between Kevin and David regarding different situations they could encounter — and have — as a transracial family. "I do think it is important to talk about inclusiveness in these training classes. Diversity is critical, but inclusiveness is what supports the assimilation process as a family."

When it comes to the topic of race at home, the dads don't shy away from it. "We discuss it weekly, if not daily," says Kevin. "My daughters are constantly facing challenges growing up in a world that has not always been kind to people of color. They deal with hurtful comments that aren't always malicious, yet still bring up feelings of separateness. We work through those situations as a family, teaching our daughters how to stay empowered and how to educate those who don't understand.

As their daughters become older, the conversations at home have increased. "The older they get, the more conversations we have because their world views get more mature. We talk about about racism, micro-aggressions, equality and equity, and how to arm yourself with information that preserves your dignity and confidence."

Have the Patterson's encountered racism? "Yes, unfortunately, many times," shared Kevin. "We were in a supermarket, and a woman approached us and said in front of our kids, 'How dare you guys raise these kids in a family like that. Gay people are no place for kids to grow up.' She went on to use religion to shame us and accused us of 'turning our kids white' in order for them to fit in. She followed us to our car, shouting the whole time. We talked about it with the girls when we got home and explained how the fear of what we don't know or understand can cause someone to act inappropriate or mean-spirited, yet we reminded them they never have to accept that kind of verbal attack."

Some of the ways that this forever family celebrate their daughters' culture is by attending festivals, celebrating different cultures, visiting ethnic restaurants and seeking out diverse friends and families to share experiences. "It's important they know there are other kids in similar families out there."

Honoring their natural hair has been another. "Our journey with caring for their hair bonds us together because they know we went to great lengths to honor their natural hair. Even when we accidentally don't style it perfectly, they still know we care enough to help them keep it in a way they are proud to wear. We also just listen to their experiences and provide advice when they ask. I don't know what its like being a black, female teenager, adopted, and living with two dads. Therefore, I never assume I know how she internalizes it. I let her tell me by creating a safe space."

But what they feel is the most important is finding role models that look like them. "For us, it has been helping them find positive role models that look like they do and reflect back the possibilities they are hoping are available to them. We also intentionally reinforce the importance of staying authentic and true to oneself."

For dads considering a transracial adoption, Kevin and David has some words of wisdom. "Listen to [your kids]. Let them tell you what its like, how they're feeling, and what they need from you. Let them explore who they are and how they want identify with their culture. Finally, just love them through it. They will most likely always feel different or misunderstood, but they can learn to create a safe space with where they can just be."

"I've learned more about myself from them than I thought they would learn from me. They are my biggest mirrors."


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Race

How a White Gay Dad Discusses Racial Issues with his Black Sons

In light of the recent killing of George Floyd by the hands of police in Minneapolis, Joseph Sadusky shares two excerpts from his book that deal directly with issues around raising black sons.

Editor's Note: In light of George Floyd's death, this month, author Joseph Sadusky — who has been sharing excerpts from his book Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad each month —will share two posts that deal directly with issues around raising black sons. This is the first, titled "White," which looks at general questions that come up for a white dad raising black boys. Read previous installments here.

It may be presumptuous for a Caucasian gay man to claim to feel terrified and heartsick at the shooting of Trayvon Martin. But upon hearing the news that day in 2012, this is exactly how I felt.

The horrible truth is that there are many incidents of racial violence toward black males that I could use as starting points for this topic. But the specific case of Trayvon Martin—whose only crime was being a young black male wearing a hoodie, walking in a neighborhood where he had a home—has a particular resonance for me. Whatever the legalities of George Zimmerman using a gun to "stand his ground" if he felt his life was threatened, the simple truth is that he chose—against the direction of law enforcement, whom he contacted for support—to follow an African American male who had every right to be walking those neighborhood streets, however "thug" he might appear.

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Become a Gay Dad

Curious About Covid 19's Impact on Foster Care and Adoption?

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the adoption and foster care processes.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the fields of adoption and foster care to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on adoption or foster care that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.

Surrogacy for Gay Men

Top 5 Questions About Covid-19's Impact On Surrogacy

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the surrogacy process.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the field of surrogacy to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on surrogacy that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.

Here is a breakdown of the Top 5 Questions About Covid 19's Impact On Surrogacy. These are highlights taken from our live webinar series we held featuring: G...

Transracial Families Series

How These Dads Address White Privilege within Their Transracial Family

The "white savior" complex is real, said Andrew and Don, who are raising two Black children.

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 dads@gayswithkids.com

Andrew Kohn, 40, and his husband Donald (Don) Jones, 47, together 13 years, are two white dads raising two Black children in Columbus, Ohio. Do they stick out? Sure. Have they encountered racism? They say they haven't. "I keep waiting for the moment so that I can become my best Julia Sugarbaker," said Andrew. "I think because we're a gay couple with Black kids, we're the other-other and people don't really say things to us. We have never had people touch our kids hair or do something that was inappropriate."

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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.

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.

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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.

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Meet the Foster Dads!

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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.

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