Gay Dad Life

Gays WITHOUT Kids (If Just For a Day...)

Andrew Kohn explains why he decided to leave his kids at home this Pride

I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Change the World

This Pride, Let's Get Political

With the current state of the world, pride is taking on new meaning for this gay dad

Pride couldn't have come any sooner this year. I'm tired. Even Andy Cooper's husky dog blue eyes don't have the hypnotizing powers they once did. Our world is tough. The daily, constant threat of societal collapse has seen my usually Punky Brewster outlook turn horribly Debbie Downer. But I cannot wallow in this dystopia – it's not fair to myself and my family. So I sip a little (more than usual) wine, put on my newest Stitch Fix shoes, and declare to the world – it's time to get political!

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My family attended our first drag brunch recently. It was a holiday affair, advertised as a family-friendly event where Santa Claus would make a very jolly and gay appearance. To be honest, it felt a little strange bringing my two and four-year old children into an environment that's usually reserved for cruising and after-midnight merriment. And yes, there was some side-eye from the elder gays, rallying for their noon meet-up after what was undoubtedly an evening of college boy cruising and dollar give-a-ways at the go-go bar.

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Gay Dad Life

Why I Took My Three Year Old to Pride

Andrew Kohn explains the importance of taking young children to pride events

My daughter experienced her first Pride parade this weekend. We marched with my co-workers and the dedicated volunteers of Planned Parenthood in Columbus. I am a married gay man with two adopted black children. My daughter, the oldest at three, joined me, and my community, on a hot Saturday morning. We took the obligatory Facebook photos with the caption, “Let the liberal indoctrination begin.” I could feel the eye rolls of some of my more conservative family members. But for me, this was an important moment, not only for myself, but for helping to shape my daughter’s sense of community.

We live in rural Ohio. Our school district is wonderful, but is 97% white. We attempt to give our children a diverse experience, but it can be difficult. Wherever we go, we are the "other." Among our straight friends, we’re the gay ones. Among our gay friends, we’re the ones with kids. Among our friends with kids, we’re the gay dads with black kids.

So many well-intentioned community members talk about how someday my children will be so popular in school. I smile and say thank you. Internally, though, I’m wondering if they’ll be popular because they’re supposed to be great at sports? Or will they be loved because they have gay dads? Everyone knows that’s cool! Will they be popular because they are so dramatically outnumbered racially that they’ll become the token friend? Black kids with gay parents in a predominately white community are the "other" of the "other." Does that give them the ultimate “in?”

So, to Pride we went. Because it’s important that my daughter starts to see there is a beautiful and diverse community where she can thrive if our small village life becomes daunting. Her world may or may not be defined by Lilly Pulitzer, lacrosse, and local country club swim races. As a financially stable white gay man, to be honest, that’s my comfort zone. I’ve lost touch with Pride and my LGBT community. As a family, we’re in our own little routine. But I recognize that routine will have to expand to include situations that might make me uncomfortable to increase my children’s opportunities. So, we’ll start on the kiddie coaster and attend a parade.

The sights and sounds were as refreshing as ever. More inclusive then I remember, and the richer for it. On our morning walk, we saw a collective strength that reinvigorated my energy to engage and fight back against an oppressive administration. Ohio can be a wonderful place to live, but for many, it is a state that continuously tries to keep you down, instead of lifting you up. If what we saw walking in the parade was any indication, however, our community is strong. And the resistance is real.

On a shady grass-covered lawn stood a legion of women blowing horns more popular at soccer matches across Europe. They hailed our arrival, in the spirit of noble Valkyries heralding our welcome to Valhalla. Only these noble sirens were drowning out the hateful rhetoric of anti-gay men with megaphones. Their voices may have not been heard that day, but like so many in our community, they created a profound moment of dissent that echoed off the walls of our downtown.

A line of gorgeous men in gold speedos crossed out path carrying sound equipment to some unknown location. A young man, in the croppiest of crop tops, tipped his sunglasses and said in an everyday, matter-of-fact voice, “carry that equipment boys.” He said it. We were all thinking it. Some things at Pride never change.

And we’re the better because of it.

Young trans women stood in the blazing heat, waiting for the parade to launch. Their meticulous makeup melting in the sun. Their smiles strong. Maybe it was their first Pride parade, their moment to declare and introduce an authentic self to strangers and friends alike. When you’re younger, Pride is much more about “you.” As you get older, and are married with children, it becomes more about the progress of a larger community and what you can do to help those, who like you once were, are engrossed in the glam of gorgeous men and women.

As we walked the parade route, we were greeted with inspiring applause. Inspiring because as an employee of Planned Parenthood, it’s reassuring to know that people appreciate the care we offer. As a parent walking with a child, it was wonderful to let her experience so many different people, from women on motorcycles to men riding unicorns, and to relish in that acceptance. And inspiring in our current political climate, that our community and its allies can come together and still throw one hell of a party.

My daughter waved most of the parade, lifting the back of her hand, making circular motions in the air, Buckingham Palace style. Where’d she learned that? It’s a gay mystery.

To close out the morning, we sat in the shade and ate water ice. To her, nothing extraordinary. No pointing at people, no awkward avoidance, and a simple yearning to collect as many balloons as possible. Just another ordinary 3-year-old day. And while I wish she would stay this way forever, I know she’ll grow up. And it’s comforting to know my LGBT community remains strong, vibrant, and ready to stand with her, no matter what.

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Today I end my tenure as a stay-at-home dad. During the past two years, nine months, and 18 days I have done it all. I’ve gained 20 pounds. I’ve changed enough diapers and mixed enough bottles that Olivia Walton and I could share of wink of personal understanding. I’ve cleaned up puke, stepped in puke, and probably have inadvertently eaten some puke. And I’m okay with that. It’s what a parent does. My trials and tribulations are no different than the family next door. (Although, that dad may be watching men’s Olympic diving for a whole other reason.) We are not the exception to “family” because we’re gay dads with two adopted black children. Or are we?

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Have you ever received a call late at night? It’s like that moment in Moonstruck when Cher and her father wake up Olympia Dukakis in the middle of the night and she says, calmly, “Who’s dead?” There was no death on the other end of the phone this time, just the voice of our social worker. “Are you guys ready for another baby?” Her tone seemed a little frantic. “I’ve got a 9-week-old boy and you can come pick him up right now.” That’s how baby A.J. (Ajax James) entered our lives. At 9:00 p.m. we were a family of three, and by 10:00 p.m., we were four.

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I recently saw a friend’s Facebook post asking for models for a photo-shoot; a paid gig for babies looking for that extra spending cash. Of course, we’re always looking to share our wonderful Harper’s beauty with any and all, so I replied, and a few days later we had our first paid modeling gig. We later found out the ad would be for the breastfeeding center at a local hospital. The very hospital, in fact, where our Harper was born.

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Over the Christmas holiday my partner, our daughter Harper, and I spent two weeks in a Michigan hotel room. We were there as we waited for the courts go-ahead to leave the state with of our new daughter, Violet. We had a few weeks notice before her birth that Violet would be coming to us; she is the biological sister of our 1-year-old, Harper. She was originally supposed to be born in Ohio, our home state, but decided to arrive early, so we quickly packed our things and drove to Michigan. We arrived at the hospital a couple of hours after her birth. The next day, she was discharged into our care.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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