Change the World

How Gay Dads in Rural Wisconsin Celebrate Pride

Wilson Creek, a rural neighborhood just outside the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin, hosts the "biggest little gay pride parade in the world," says gay dad Matt Mason

Our farm is nestled in Wilson Creek, a small valley just outside of Spring Green, Wisconsin. Spring Green, despite being the home of Frank Lloyd Wright, The House on the Rock (a long-time midwestern vacation destination) and the American Players Theater, is a town of around 1,600 people. It's a special place in small-town America, to be certain. Though filled with more-than its share of artists and creative types, Spring Green is a typical middle-American town populated with farmers and factory workers — not exactly where you'd expect to find a Pride celebration. Which is one of many reasons that makes Wilson Creek Pride so special.

I moved me and my family of three kids to Spring Green three years ago for love. The transition to farm life in a rural community was not without challenges as a gay man who came out later in life, just a few short years before. I felt like I lost my gay community that I had waited so long to find. The nearest gay bar is an hour away from our farm. Minus my husband, I really didn't know many gay people in Wisconsin. Wilson Creek Pride has always served as a reminder for me, that despite not being surrounded by a large gay community, I'm surrounded by many wonderfully supportive allies and friends who celebrate me and my family for who we are.

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Coming Out

The One Thing This Gay Dad Would Do Differently if He Had to Come Out All Over Again

Matt Mason breaks down his strategy for telling the world of his impending divorce and identity as a gay man, and reveals the way he'd break the news to his son if he could come out all over again.

The match was lit. After a marriage, three children and 24 years of denial, I was finally ready to come out of the closet as a gay man. All that was left to ignite the fire that would blow up my life as I knew it was to drop said match.

But, where to begin?

I needed a strategy. It wasn't the kind of news that I could share via a Facebook post: "Hey! Big news! I'm getting a divorce because I'm fabulously gay!" No. My family's and my own privacy and reputation were at play. This had to be done delicately, thoughtfully and respectfully.

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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

Why I Came Out as a Gay Dad at 40

Matt Mason realized he was gay at 16 years old. But it would take another 24 years, a marriage and three children before he finally uttered the words "I'm gay" aloud

When I came out, I felt completely alone. Like I was the only person in the world -- a 40 year old, newly-single gay dad with twin toddlers and a teenage son -- going through the coming out process. Obviously I wasn't the first, or the last, but it certainly felt that way while I was in the thick of it.

Now that I'm on the other side of coming out, I want to share my experience. I don't pretend to have all of the answers. But, perhaps I can provide someone contemplating coming out later in life some comfort, if not courage. Some experience, if not guidance. Maybe those who have already come out will be able to relate to my story -- we are not alone in this.

When Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, officially came out as gay, he ended his letter by saying:

"When I arrive in my office each morning, I'm greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don't pretend that writing this puts me in their league. All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I'm doing my part, however small, to help others. We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick."

That paragraph has stuck with me since the day I read it. This is the first in a series of essays about my journey. This is my brick.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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