Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Adoption Is a Rollercoaster, but it's Worth the Ride

Erik Alexander (aka Nola Papa) opens up about his whirlwind 3.5-week adoption process.

Adoption is an emotional journey for anyone. Depending on how long you have to wait, that anxiety can be amplified dramatically. In the beginning, we were told our wait could be anywhere from 5-7 years. Just imagine our excitement when we found it could be shrunken down to less than a month!

However, it didn't come without heartbreak. It is crucially important to know that each journey is completely different. Sure, there are happy and excited emotions. But there is also fear, tears and heartbreak. Some adoptions end in failure, without any explanation. But at the end of this journey, when you are holding your new baby, there isn't an emotion I can articulate to convey how complete you feel.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Growing a Thicker Skin

Experiencing hateful and hurtful comments, Erik Alexander had to learn an important lesson: how to ignore the trolls.

Photo credit: BSA Photography

Twenty years ago when I came out, it was unbearably hard. As I have written before, I am from the Deep South. Anyone who dared to deviate from social norms was sure to be ostracized. It's not that these people were born hateful or mean; rather, it probably had more to do with them not being subjected to other lifestyles. Anything different from their own experiences sparked fear and confusion. Homosexuality, interracial relationships, religious differences – these were all unfamiliar territories to the average person I grew up around. Thus, growing up was particularly difficult.

I remember lying in bed at night when I was a little boy. I would pray and beg God to not let me be gay. Every single night I would end my prayers with "... and God, please don't let me have nightmares and please don't let me be gay." I remember crying myself to sleep many nights. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I wanted God to cure me.

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When Seattle husbands Rich and Brian found out they were going to be dads, their initial reaction was panic. "It was so early in the adoption process, we weren't really ready for anything," remembered Brian. "We hadn't read any books, we didn't have a crib, we had nothing... we were going to be dads and the baby was going to be here in a week!"

"I didn't really think about being a parent," added Rich, "and more what do we needed to do logistically, and how we were going to make it all work."

The dads adopted Emerson from birth and raising a girl has taught the dads a lot; they are her biggest advocates. The dads are making sure that they're "raising a girl who feels empowered and able to speak up, play sports, just as anyone else does."

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Gay Dad Life

'NolaPapa' Launches YouTube Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

Check out Erik Alexander's new YouTune Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

When we first found out that our second daughter was African American I froze. Not because of her race, but because I knew NOTHING about African American hair. So I frantically tried to learn as much as I could while she was a newborn so I was ready to style it when she was a little older.

I decided to launch our YouTube channel Nolapapa: Story of a Gay Dad to focus on this very topic! Episodes 1-5 will solely be dedicated to learning how to wash, care for and styling African American hair. Afterwards, the content will shift towards personal & family situations, adoption, gay parenting questions and other great content! I'd love your support and become part of our little village as we launch this new project!

Sending Nola love to each of ya!

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

'Shook to the Core': a Gay Dad Remembers Katrina on the Hurricane's 14th Anniversary

On the 14th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a Erik Alexander remembers the event that shook the South

August 29th will always be associated with a series of devastating events brought on by what is often considered the worst in US history- Hurricane Katrina. If you had've told me then that in less than a year's time I'd find the love of my life and legally married husband, I would have laughed at you. But if you said that in just 10 years time that I would be a dad, I would have broke down and sobbed-uncontrollably. Life has a funny way of working out, even in its darkest time. This is my Katrina experience. This is my account - a refugee's story.

It's been 14 years and it still feels as if it happened a couple of years ago. Hurricane Katrina shook the entire South to its core. It single-handedly uprooted thousands of people, many of which never returned home, and affected the lives of everyone here in some way. The livelihoods of countless people were ripped away and tossed into the flooded streets glistening with oil sheen under the hot August sun.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Hurricanes are a way of life down here, right? I mean, we deal with storms every year. So how in the hell could this happen? How could we let our guard down? Both are very good questions. It still makes me wonder because power outages, minor street flooding and evacuations are second nature to most New Orleanians. But Katrina was different. She was a monster.

The day before mandatory evacuations, I remember waking up after a long night of partying and seeing that my mom had tried calling me multiple times. I called her back and, through my hangover, I could tell that she was completely stricken with panic. "Come home now!" she screamed into the phone. "The storm has turned and it is heading right for New Orleans!" Through the night, the storm had shifted from a northwesterly path to due north--straight for New Orleans.

I had lived in New Orleans for about 4 years at that point. My family still lived in Oak Grove, a suburb of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Like I said before, we deal with this sort of thing all the time during hurricane season. But unlike all the other times, this particular instance was like a series of unfortunate events that enabled this storm to be catastrophic. The water temperature in the Gulf and the jet stream were two of the main culprits. Usually, it seems like storms shift away from us, not toward us. And as the events unfolded, it was like the whole city of New Orleans held its breath. You could hear a pin drop. Then, once we all realized this was really happening, everyone scattered.

The silence gave way to the sounds of construction as homeowners and business owners nailed up plywood to protect their property. The people that stayed rushed to the grocery stores and the people that left sped to the gas stations. I will never forget how long the lines were. Waiting to fill my car up with gas is one mistake that I will never make again. Little did I know that waiting an hour for gasoline was a cakewalk compared to what would be in store 2 days later.It was really tough leaving home. This was different that any other time I had evacuated. It may have been because of the ominous path the storm was on. Whatever reason it was, it was very emotional for me. I remember making sure that my house was nice and tidy as I picked up the living room, Weather Channel blaring in the background. My mom had always instilled in me that when I came home from evacuations, it would be nicer to walk into a clean house rather than having to clean when I got home. Little did I know, I wouldn't be coming home for a long, long time. I packed my little car with a couple of duffel bags, secured my garden and lawn furniture, and off I went. It took about 4 hours to get to my mom's house, a trip that usually took 2 hours. Given the amount of cars on the road, that seemed like a success to me.

New Orleans, LA--Aerial views of damage caused from Hurricane Katrina the day after the hurricane hit August 30, 2005. Photo by Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

As the next day approached, it was pretty evident that Katrina was going to hit New Orleans. However, we didn't have any idea that there was a warm pocket of water in the Gulf she was about to churn over that would spike her windspeeds even higher. All of us were frozen. As the winds became stronger, she began to shift east. Wait, what? East? Now, she was predicted to make landfall in south Mississippi. So I left my entire life behind, and for what? To go to ground zero.

We all know how it played out. Katrina was a direct hit for south Mississippi. It literally annihilated the Gulf Coast. We were about an hour inland, but that didn't stop the massive winds. Pine trees snapped and crashed down all around us blocking everyone in our neighborhood. I had never seen trees bend like that. It was horrifying. The rain blew sideways for days it seemed. The wind howled like rabid wolves in the night. Then, the lights went out. And they stayed out for 2 weeks.

Luckily, we had a generator to at least run the refrigerator and the a/c for a few hours. We had to really watch our generator because there were thieves that were stealing them and replacing them with lawn mowers because the motors sounded so similar. Days after the storm it seemed apocalyptic. No power, no gas to run generators, no water. There were reports of people killing their own family members over ice, food, and gas. It was 100 degrees outside and we had no electricity, no water. Seriously, what do you do?

To our amazement, it was like a guardian angel guided them to us. My parents' friends owned a furniture store in town. They called us to see if we needed somewhere safe to stay. We were so excited! This place had electricity! It had running water! We walked in and got to pick out our sleeping spot in one of the 2 different show rooms. Each show room had about 10 different room displays. I can still remember how comfortable I was with the cool air blowing on me as I lay on a big sofa. I was able to charge my cellphone and turn it on. When I did, I was flooded with voicemails. Earlier that day, the levees broke in New Orleans. Water inundated the city. Parts of the city were on fire. People were drowning. It seemed like New Orleans had fallen.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia


After a few days of sweating it out with my family, I was elated to find out that some friends of mine came up from New Orleans heading towards Memphis. They stopped by my house to see if I wanted to follow along. As I quickly as I could, I threw my bags in my car and away we went.

A close friend of mine lived in Memphis and I was able to stay with him and his family for a while. They took me in as their own and, to this day, I am eternally grateful. All of a sudden I went from being a guest in from out of town to a New Orleans refugee. Memphis picked me up and give me the tightest hug. Everywhere I went, people hugged me. I couldn't help but to cry- all of the time. All of the stores had signs in their windows reading "refugee discounts." Every time I took my license out to show them, they hugged me. Some cried. Some would put their hand on my face and tell me that it was going to be okay. Memphis will ALWAYS be my second home. The compassion, empathy, and love that radiated from everyone there still shines in my heart to this day.

One week led to a month, then to two months. Then there was talk of New Orleans allowing residents back home. They implemented the return for residents by zip code only. I waited anxiously for them to call my zip code. The city officials stressed that the city was still uninhabitable. This was just to allow residents to assess damages and grab their belongings until New Orleans was operational again. Finally, they announced my zip code and away I went.

There were many detours because of roads and bridges not existing anymore. Finally, I got to New Orleans. It was like it was Armageddon. I could not believe my eyes. Floodwaters, broken trees, debris, caskets. It was overwhelming. There were military check points every half mile. One happened to be right beside my house on Saint Charles Avenue. They walked around in their military garb wielding assault riffles. It was literally like a war scene from a movie. When I finally made it to my house I had to wind my way through broken branches and slate roofing tiles.

I was frantically trying to load my life up for the next few months. As twilight fell, everything was silent. The wind had stopped. No sounds of birds, insects, people. It was incredibly eerie. There was a sunset curfew and I had to be out of the city before the sun went down. Well, needless to say, I was running a little bit late. I jumped in my car and hauled ass toward the interstate. There was another military checkpoint before I could leave. He flagged me down and I stopped. He said I was past curfew and I had to turn around and go back to my house--my dark and scary house. At that moment I lost it. All I could do was cry. Actually, I balled. I was terrified. I couldn't even talk without hyperventilating. Thankfully, he felt sorry for me and let me pass. I felt like I was transported to Iraq. It was so surreal and overwhelming.

I went back to Memphis as quickly as I could that evening. I had nightmares for years after that. Many, many other people do too. Some, much, much worse. So many people died. Entire families drowned in their attics with no way to escape. Katrina left holes in people's lives that will never ever be filled. The images of the rushing water flooding my city will always be burned into my memory.

Every single year, as each new storm develops, we all have flashbacks of what our lives were like after the storm. If it is one thing I learned, it's that one event can change everyone's way of life- in one fail swoop. Don't take anything for granted because it can all be gone tomorrow. Every single year, hurricane season is a daunting and sinking feeling that doesn't go away until November. The longer we go with not having a major storm, the easier it is to to go on with our daily lives. But the events of what happened 14 years ago will never ever leave me. With every hurricane season that comes, and every storm that forms, Katrina will always be in the back of my mind.

That which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger right? That couldn't have been more true as we all began to rebuild our lives in New Orleans and all across the South. You can't really and truly understand the beauty of life until it's ripped away from you. It's when you have stared at what is heinously terrifying about life - and then overcame it. It's in those very moments there. That is your silver lining. It's a single seed of hope that sprouts. It's watered by faith, and grown by love, to become the blossoms of our lives.

***

I would love for you to follow our family's journey!

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Sick of the News? Turn Off the T.V. and Take Action, Says This Gay Dad

Erik Alexander, a resident of Hurricane-prone New Orleans, is used to media spin. But he's getting tired of protecting his kids from it.

BSA Photography

"They grow up so fast!" I often heard that cliché when I was growing up. It was like a knee-jerk response to people's comments about us, and my mom said it all the time. But, as it turns out, that cliché is soooo true. So savor every single — good or bad — and enjoy this precious time together. Be happy and make them laugh. Guard them. Shelter them. Protect them from the difficult realities of the outside world while you can. And in this day and age, keep yourself together. Don't let the stresses of everyday life get you down, especially in front of them. I say all of this so maybe I can do a better job of applying these things to my own life.

It is so easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of the world's social and political drama. We want to protect our babies from everything. So does that mean we have to be glued to Rachel Maddow & Anderson Cooper every night? The thing is, our news media is not what it used to be. Back in the day, our news was held to much higher standards. There were more facts and less spin. Another striking difference is that news outlets weren't constantly seeking to sensationalize the stories they were covering.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

5 Reasons Why We Love Gays With Kids!

Our longtime blogger Erik Alexander breaks down five reasons he loves Gays With Kids to celebrate our 5th birthday!

Photo Credit: BSA Photography

In the divisive and polarizing environment that gay dads live in today, what would we do without Gays With Kids? Honestly.
Just think about it. GWK gives the gay dads of America and across the world an outlet to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion that, for many, is difficult to find. Furthermore, GWK is primarily about us—gay dads.

With that being said, this is GWK's 5th anniversary! So how better to show my appreciation than to list My 5 reasons Why: We Love Gays With Kids!

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Gay Dads Left "Speechless" by Daughter's Reaction to Learning Her Birthmother's Identity

"It felt like a bag of bricks lifted off of us," Erik Alexander wrote of revealing the identity of their daughter's birthmother

I can't believe it's been over two years since I wrote about our 'Open Adoption' for Gays With Kids. In that article I covered the series of long discussions that my husband Douglas and I had that led to our decision to pursue an open adoption. There are several reasons that this was the right choice for our family.

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Gay Dad Life

One Gay Dad's Arduous Ascent Atop Potty Mountain

Potty training can feel like climbing a mountain with many peaks and valleys. Here are some words of wisdom from one gay dad who made the ascent and lived to tell the tale.

BSA Photography

Anyone with kids can probably attest that potty training is literally one of the hardest things you've encountered as a parent so far. I know I sure as heck can. It really felt like we were climbing a mountain... in flip-flops! There were highs that were full of celebrations with potty treats and dancing while we cheered our girl on. But then, just as things were looking good, it takes a sharp turn for the worse. Get ready, because there are just as many lows. I am talking full of sheer and utter dread. There were days that I felt so defeated.

Just when it seemed like we had started hiking up that mountain again, we'd fall almost right back to the bottom.

But I am here to tell you, there is hope!

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