Gay Dad Life

What I Learned About Fatherhood From My Dad

A birthday tribute to my dad, who taught me the most important life lessons about what it means to be a father. 


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My father grew up in a working class community outside of Boston, the son of a butcher and a homemaker. Like his dad before him, my father was tough, very tough, from an early age. He didn't take school all that seriously, but what he lacked in book smarts he more than made up for with street smarts. While still just a kid, he learned to depend on the potent combination of his wits and fists.

After high school he enlisted in the Navy, where he really grew up. Upon his return to civilian life he tried college, but didn't stay long enough to graduate. However, he found resounding success in the real world by relying on his great instincts, incredible work ethic and relentless drive to succeed. By the time I was in grade school, my dad was well on his way to building a very successful business, a conglomerate of automobile dealerships that would become one of the largest in New England. Along the way he proved to be a true humanitarian: Over the years his companies have supported countless worthy causes, and he personally has helped many hundreds (or maybe even thousands?) of people in need, with unfailing generosity.

While I'm immensely proud of all that he has accomplished, unfortunately I don't always get along so well with my dad. He has a very old-school way of looking at things, and we really do lead different lives. Until I became a parent almost eight years ago, I'm not sure he understood my life or was able to relate to it. Politically, we couldn’t be further apart. He views current events through the lens of Fox News; I put my trust in The New York Times. I supported Obama and Hillary; he voted for Trump. Our political discussions follow a predictable path: We just repeat our opinions, already set in stone. In the heat of these discussions, we sometimes inadvertently say hurtful things to each other. There are so many important areas of our lives in which we don't agree that, outside our family ties, I sometimes worry he and I don’t have much in common.

Yet my dad is one of the most important role models of my life. Time and again he's shown me through example what it really means to be a father. No matter how many disagreements we may have, I have always known that his love for me is unconditional and his pride in me is boundless. How? Because since I was a small child he has never been afraid to tell me and to show me through hugs, kisses and words of love and praise (often to my great embarrassment!).

Well, today is my dad's 80th birthday, and I want to celebrate the occasion by holding him up as an exemplar dad. I hope the anecdotes you're about to read below will provide some small level of comfort to those who have been shunned from their own families, and give us all a reminder about how to parent.

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The day I came out as HIV-positive, I was 25 and had already been living with HIV for a couple of years. I kept it hidden because I was fearful that the disclosure would force me to face the truth about who I really was and make me contend with the stigma associated with an HIV diagnosis in the 1990s. I also worried about the  considerable heartache and pain I would cause my family, especially my parents. How could they possibly bear to watch me succumb to one of the many AIDS-defining illnesses that ripped through previously healthy men in such horrific and terrifying ways.

The first people I did finally tell were my older brother and his wife, as I knew I could trust them. Together we agreed not to tell my parents or grandparents, at least not until the disease progressed to the point where I was no longer able to hide it. But once I spoke about HIV out loud to one member of my family, I found it became more real to me. And the more real it became, the more I longed to tell others, especially my parents. So eventually my brother accompanied me to my parents' house where I sat them down to tell them I had HIV. Tears streamed down my face, and my mother followed suit. I didn't know what to make of my dad's reaction, who stood up and asked me to join him privately in another room. But I barely had time to process any possible meaning for his behavior as he quickly grabbed me with both arms, pulled me tightly towards his body, and held me liked that for several minutes.

While locked in his unyielding grip, my father told me that he loved me, that he had always loved me, and that he would always love me.

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Although I had come out about living with HIV, I kept my true sexuality in the closet. The few times I was questioned about how I contracted HIV even though I was straight, I simply referred to Magic Johnson. Part of my reluctance had to do with my own internalized homophobia, but I was also struggling because I was in love with my girlfriend, whom I considered my soulmate, and I didn't want to hurt her. She knew about my HIV status, and was willing to stay with me anyway. And while I didn't want to break up with her, I also felt tremendous guilt about what she would have to give up to stay with me. My parents took notice of my stress and encouraged me to see a therapist.

Eventually, I found myself sitting on the couch of a gay therapist, and during my very first session I told him I was gay. It was the first time I had uttered these words out loud, and the first time I had acknowledged my truth. It took many months of counseling, but I eventually worked up the nerve to come out to my girlfriend. Soon after, I called my parents to tell them I had something important to discuss with them, and that I wanted to do so privately. With my girlfriend by my side, for the second time in my life I summoned the courage to share news with my parents that I knew would be difficult for them to hear, to process.

I had practiced coming out to my parents many times in therapy, and I was determined not to cry. I thought a stoic face would better demonstrate the normalcy of being gay. But as soon as I started talking, the tears started to flow. And so I came out to my parents, again with tears. I had barely muttered the words "I'm gay" before my dad reached out to me, looking me directly in the eye. He told me again that he loved me and then gave me another strong hug. When he finally let go, he insisted that I let him know if I had anything else to disclose. He asked me to let him share this latest news with the rest of the family, so I wouldn't have to go through the emotional stress again. And then he made me promise that I would never keep any other secrets between us because families are meant to help each other through the most difficult times. 

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Like many gay couples who got together before the time of commitment ceremonies and marriage equality, Ferd and I had to pick a day we used to commemorate as our anniversary. We chose June 20, 1993, the night of our first date, as we were inseparable from that night on.

Ferd is Dutch and, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (which ruled that marriage was only between one man and one woman), I was unable to sponsor him for permanent residency. When he first arrived in the U.S. about two years before we met, he did so as a doctoral student. Over the next couple of of years, he was granted a succession of temporary visas based on various temporary jobs he had. But during our time together, he was unable to find a job that would lead to the all-important green card. Soon after our son was born in May 2009, Ferd's visas had run out. He had to leave the country that had been his home for 18 years. We made the decision to move to Toronto, Canada, after getting working papers through my employer at the time. A couple of years later, my whole family was granted permanent residency in Canada!

On the evening of March 20, 2013, Ferd took me out for my birthday. When my birthday cake arrived at the end of the meal, I surprised Ferd with a marriage proposal. My one stipulation was that we continue to honor June 20 as our anniversary date. In other words, we had exactly three months to plan our wedding! Besides, that year was our 20th anniversary and I could think of no better way to celebrate than by getting married.

Until it made us leave the United States, many of my friends had not fully understood the negative consequences of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. For me, the trauma of having to leave my homeland because it didn't allow me to marry the person I loved, made my desire to get legally married in Canada even stronger. I wanted my family and friends to appreciate all they took for granted and what it was like for us to have our lives uprooted because of that horrible legislation.

Yet when I mentioned the date of our wedding to family and friends, some were skeptical about organizing a wedding in just three months, and others cautioned that a Thursday wedding could be difficult for those who had to travel far. At one point I found myself engaged in a heated discussion about why I would not yield on our wedding date. It coincided with a spectacular vacation that my parents had been planning for months. But my dad (whose personal views on marriage equality I did not know) settled the discussion about the scheduling conflicts once and for all when he said he didn't care about that vacation. He was not going to miss our wedding for anything. 

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As the dad to three young children, I know it's easy to show them my unconditional love. After all, what can they really do now to test that? But I imagine each father feels tested when his children as adults make different choices than he had hoped for.

My dad, with his wisdom, generosity, and infinite love during life's most challenging moments, is my hero. I hope my kids feel the same way about me some day.

Happy 80th Birthday, Dad.

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Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

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Gay Dad Life

Need a Sitter for Your Kids? Gays With Kids Reviews UrbanSitter

Back-to-school is already here for some of us, and if you're looking for a sitter to help out with school runs, after-school pick-ups, and the occasional date night, check out our review of UrbanSitter.

Instagram @davidcblacker

We moved from New York to Boston the summer of 2017. Along with the Manhattan skyline, our beloved Broadway, and late-night cookie deliveries, we also left behind our sitters — two sisters who had become more like family.

After settling for several months into our new home and neighborhood, we realized we hadn't had a dads' night out since our move. Our kids were still too young to leave alone at night, so I began what I presumed would be the tedious task of finding a sitter.

The first thing I did was to leave a post on our local parents' Facebook group. The dad of one of our daughters' classmates told me about UrbanSitter, a website and mobile app that he'd had success using to find last-minute sitters a few times. He also mentioned that within the app, I could see see babysitters and nannies recommended by parents at our kids' school in addition to local parenting groups.

While I appreciated the tip, I let him know that I was really hoping for a direct referral. But when none others came from the — other than a couple of middle schoolers looking for their first sitting jobs — I decided to give it a try.

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Move over Modern Family, there are some new gay dads taking over the small screen! Big Bad Boo Studios is bringing their animated series The Bravest Knight to Hulu. The series is based upon a children's book called "The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived" by Daniel Errico, and it follows the life of Sir Cedric - now grown and married to Prince Andrew - as he regales their adopted daughter Nia with tales of his knighthood journey as she trains to become a knight herself.

"We are so excited about The Bravest Knight, its values and our partnership with Hulu," said Shabnam Rezaei, the director of the series and co-founder of Big Bad Boo Studios. "They understand how to push the envelope with authentic storytelling."

"I immediately fell in love with the idea of a girl wanting to work hard and make something of herself," Rezaei continued. "I also have a nephew who has two dads, so it's a very personal issue for me. I want him to have role models when he's watching TV. I want him to feel like having two dads is completely normal. That's what this show is going to do for him."

Errico's book was first realized as an animation when Hulu created a short film based upon his writing and were interested in exploring the concept of a full series. "I watched the eight minutes on Hulu and at the end the prince and the knight get married and I was in tears," says Rezaei. Rezaei then stepped in to create all new art work including new character design by Tim Linklater and backgrounds by Sarita Kolhatra. Together, they created a kickass bible and pitched the series to Hulu and were successful.

Diversity and inclusivity is celebrated throughout The Bravest Knight, reflected by its casting choices. Nia is played by Storm Reid, from "A Wrinkle in Time," and her dads Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew are voiced by T.R. Knight and Wilson Cruz respectively. The star studded cast also includes Wanda Sykes, Bobby Moynihan, RuPaul, Steven Weber, Teri Polo, AJ McLean, Jazz Jennings, Maz Jobrani and Christine Baranski as the formidable Red Dragon.

"With so many wonderful stories yet to be told, we hope that The Bravest Knight stands as an example of the undeniable strength in inclusivity, and the inherent joy in all forms of love and identity," said Errico, the author of the original book.

The first 5 episodes were released on June 21, and there are 8 more planned for release before the end of the year. Be sure to tune in!

This is the Main Title Song for Big Bad Boo's Hulu Original Series "The Bravest Knight". The song is performed by Justin Tranter and composed by Michael Plow...

Popular

'Our Family is Complete': Congrats to Gay Dads on Their Recent Births and Adoptions!

Join us in congratulating all of the gay men in our community whose families grew recently!

Wishing all of these gay dads congratulations on their exciting news this month. From becoming first-time dads to finalizing adoptions, congrats to everyone in our community on their wonderful news!

Circle Surrogacy is the proud sponsor of this month's congrats post. They were founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. "For over 20 years we've helped LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!"

Congratulations to Andrew and Edward on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

For Andrew and Edward, their foster parent training plus home study took about a year. "We had a brief placement of twin girls that were four years old two months after we had been approved," said Andrew. "Then we took a break as it was a difficult process, the 'loss' aspect, when that placement ended."

Then on March 15, 2017, their case worker sent them information about two little babies - a boy and a girl - that were still in the NICU and only nine days old. "It was a foster case with an uncertain future, but we decided those little babies needed us!" They dads took a leap of faith and on July 10 this year, their twins' adoptions were finalized. Andrew and Edward have a wonderful bond with the paternal grandmother as well as a special relationship with the twins' father. "We all love these twins, and the more love they have the better their lives will be."

"Adoption is one of those experiences where one side experiences incredible joy while the other side experiences incredible loss," continued Andrew. "We are grateful to experience this joy knowing that biological family members are happy for us to experience that joy."

Congratulations to this Mt Airy, Philadelphia, forever family of four!

Congratulations to Sean and Thomas on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

Together 15 years, London couple Sean and Thomas recently finalized the adoption of their twins.

"About 3 years ago we started meeting adoption agencies and were approved as prospective adopters the following spring," shared Thomas. "We were anticipating a long wait, but quite quickly were matched with our twins. At the time they were nearly five."

After a fairly long transition period for everyone to get settled in, the adoption was formalized the day after Father's Day. "Two years after matching, at times it seems like the kids have been with us forever and other times a blink of an eye. But it is certainly the most life-changing, transformative experience and we cannot imagine life without them. It's wonderful that our family is now official!"

Congratulations to Phillip and Clinton on the birth of their daughter Madison!

Little Madison joined her dads on July 1, 2019, after coming into the world via surrogate.

"I caught Madison as she was born," said Phillip. "I have never felt such an exhilarating rush in my entire life! We were genuinely in love at first sight!"

Now that we Phillip and Clinton are dads, they say they feel a "sense of wholeness" in their lives! "We have a new motivation and purpose in life! It's truly the greatest blessing!"

These new dads and the apple of their eye live in Texas.

Congratulations to Michael and Tyler on the birth of their twins, Elliot and Oliver!

Herriman, Utah, couple Michael and Tyler have been together for 9 years, and married for 3. "In the beginning of our relationship we knew how important family was and how much we wanted to be dads," said Micheal. "After we got married we met with a couple surrogacy agencies and were advised to meet with an IVF clinic before proceeding. In doing so, we found that going through a surrogacy journey independently was very possible."

So the dads decided to shift gears and work in that direction, booking a follow up appointment with the clinic. "We met with their 3rd party coordinator over the surrogate process and she did not have any inquiries of any surrogates." Serendipitously, and unbeknownst to the husbands at the time, their future surrogate made an appointment to talk about being a gestational carrier for a same-sex couple. "The next day we got the unexpected call that someone was interested and open to meet. From there the rest was history as we continued with the surrogacy process."

Over a year later, the dads welcomed their two sons. "The first time we got to hold the boys, it felt so natural to us, as if nothing else in the world existed and time stood still as we got lost in the moment."

Congratulations to Adam and Josh on finalizing the adoption of their daughter!

Adam and Josh got engaged on Good Morning America on Valentines Day, and welcomed their Christmas miracle baby into their lives on December 26th. On July 12 this year, they celebrated becoming a forever family of three.

"For an event that always seemed like it would be the end of our adoption journey, Baby K's Finalization Day felt more like the beginning of a greater adventure," shared Adam. "Since day one, Baby K was always loved and 100% part of our family, but we are so filled with joy to see this day come and make it officially official. We cannot wait to spend the rest of our lives not only watching Baby K grow and develop, but also to see the two of us learn and grow in this new role as parents."

Congrats to these Dallas dads!

Congratulations to Dan and Martin on the birth of their son Herman! 

Copenhagen couple Dan and Martin welcomed their second child through surrogacy on July 11 this year in Florida, USA. Herman joins big sister Ellen, born March 1, 2015, in Vermont via surrogacy. Here's a little more.

"Two amazing American women and their families took us in as their own and we're forever bonded," said Dan about their path to fatherhood experience. "It has been an amazing journey with both of them, our family is complete."

Congrats to the Danish family!

This post is sponsored by Circle Surrogacy

Circle was founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. To this day, that belief is at the core of everything we do. For over 20 years we've helped straight and LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!

We're an agency comprised of social workers and lawyers, accountants and outreach associates, and program managers and coordinators; but, more importantly, we're an agency made up of parents, surrogates and egg donors, who are passionate about helping people build their families, and invested in each and every journey.

Circle is proud to have helped so many gay families achieve their dreams of becoming parents. Together, we make parenthood possible.®

News

Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals.

In a post on Facebook, Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, came out as gay. He also discussed his strained relationship with his Mormon faith, claiming he felt he didn't feel comfortable living as an openly gay man in a church with a difficult history with respect to its LGBTQ members. He and his wife, Lois, have filed for divorce.

"This is one of the hardest letters I have ever written," he began the letter. "Hard because I am finally acknowledging a part of me that I have struggled with most of my life and never wanted to accept, but I must be true and honest with myself." He went on to acknowledged a new set of challenges facing he and his family as they navigate a divorce and his coming out — in the public eye, no less — but concluded, ultimately, that it's a "huge relief" to be "honest and truthful about my orientation."

He went on to condemn The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. "I didn't want to face the feelings I fought so hard to suppress, and didn't want to reach out and tell those being ostracized that I too am numbered among them. But I cannot do that any longer."

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Ed Smart further discussed his reasons for coming out now, as a 64-year-old man.

"I mean, I knew that it would probably come out at some point, just because people can't leave things alone. I did anticipate that it would happen at some time, but my intention in writing it was to try to let my friends and family know, you know my extended family ... know where things were. So, you know, I was really concerned about how the rumor mill starts," he told the paper. "I knew that at some point in time, that would come out," he elaborated. "I didn't know when it would come out, and so I would rather have it come out the way that it did versus having some rumors going around, and you know the crazy way things can get twisted."

In 2002, Ed Smart's daughter Elizabeth was abducted at knife point by a married couple from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. She suffered physical and sexual abuse at the couple's hands, for nine months, until she was finally rescued by police. During the ordeal, papers — including the Salt Lake Tribute — speculated about Ed Smart's sexual orientation based on some fabricated information sold to the paper by tabloids like the National Enquirer. (The Enquirer retracted the story, and the reporters at the Tribute were ultimately fired.)

"I think that in April I started feeling like I needed to prepare something," Smart told the Tribute. "Because during Elizabeth's ordeal, there were things said, and it wasn't what I wanted to say, and I was not going to allow that to happen again."

As to how his family has taken the news, Smart said they've been "very kind" to him. "I think it was very difficult to have this kind of come out of the blue. I don't think any of them knew I was struggling with this, so it was something they were, if you want to call it, blindsided by. I totally get that. They've really been very wonderful."

Congrats to Ed Smart on making the difficult decision to live his truth. Read his full letter here and his interview with the Tribute here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

"Rollercoaster and Sons," Explores the Journey of One Single Gay Dad Through the Foster-Adopt System

When it comes to the foster-adopt system, "there is no roadmap," said single gay dad Chase Turner

Guest post written by Chase Turner

Many of us thought long and hard about what avenues were best to pursue being a dad. For me, fostering to adoption was the selected road. There is no roadmap here, many things that came my way were learned by doing. Along the way, I started wishing I had a better support group or people who could understand what it's like to be gay and attempting to adopt. Often we (people who are LGBT) feel scrutinized and judged for choices that the majority makes but for us there is pushback. Once my adoption was complete, I felt it was necessary that I put pen to paper and write this story, from a gay male perspective.

My goal was to provide a voice in the space of foster care and adoption where there is a void. Additionally, I wanted to provide an authentic look at all facets of the process, from the kids, to the obstacles and challenges that happened within my personal life. I do hope you enjoy and more importantly can relate or prepare yourself for a similar journey.

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Fun

Gay Dad Penguins Strike Again! This Time in Berlin Zoo

The latest male penguins to care for an egg together are Skipper and Ping in the Berlin Zoo.

First, there was Roy and Silo — the two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that served as inspiration for the famous children's book And Tango Makes Three. Then Magin Sphen got together in Sydney, where aquarium keepers gave the cocks (Calm down, that's what a male penguin is called!) a foster egg to care for.

And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

"They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

Read the whole article on DPA here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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