Gay Dad Life

When a Kid With Two Dads Is Made to Feel Different

Even in liberal Los Angeles, kids with two dads can be bullied on the playground. Here's how one dad handled it when it happened to his son.

I was waiting for it. And now it has finally happened. No, I didn't get a part in the sequel to Call Me By Your Name. No, I didn't get an invitation to Prince Harry's nuptials. And sadly no, I still don't fit into last year's skinny jeans. On the contrary, it wasn't something I hoped would happen, but more like something I dreaded.

It all went down last week. Max came home from school and said, "My friend (we'll call him MB, short for misinformed boy) MB said being gay is illegal." Max explained to his friend that his dads were gay and that it's totally normal and most definitely legal (yes, Max actually uses the phrase "most definitely," it's the cutest thing ever). His friend wasn't buying it and continued to speak with an all-knowing attitude. This really upset Max, and in turn, upset us. It's the first time he felt different. It's been something he's brought up a few times since. He even went as far as to ask me to "fix" this… as if I we're Ray Donovan. I mean, the nerve — I have way better skin.

For starters, let me just say how lucky we feel to have gone seven years without so much as an evil glance thrown our way. Living in Los Angeles definitely lends itself to a more diverse and accepting crowd. Max has been exposed to children and families from different backgrounds. Diversity is all he's ever known. He's a very well-adjusted little boy. So you can see how his being questioned came as quite a shock to him.

Anyway, we knew what we had to do. And after we got back from Dunkin Donuts, we were ready to have the talk. No, not the one about Adam and Steve. And no, not the religion one about the God we pray to (Whitney, obvs). No, we were going to have the bully talk. The one about how there will always be kids out there who will say disparaging things about you and try to hurt your feelings. And how there will always be people who judge and/or question you and your family. We explained everything in age-appropriate language. And in the end, we made sure Max knows that he can always talk to us about things like this. And we've found that staying super relaxed and calm is best — the less we make of it, the less he will think it's something to be upset about.

To be fair, I do not believe his friend MB was trying to be mean or hurt Max's feelings. I feel that he was simply misinformed and/or was echoing the feelings and/or teachings of his parents. After all, no one is born with prejudice. It's a learned behavior, kind of like getting your news from Fox.

The next thing we did was talk with Max's teacher. It's important for parents to work with teachers to promote greater acceptance of minority families. Teachers can and should play a critical role to helping stop this type of micro-aggression. And our instincts proved right, as his kind and compassionate teacher was equally disturbed by the boys' playground conversation. And what I really appreciated was her willingness to ask a few colleagues with more experience how best to handle this. She admitted it was the first time something like this had come up, and she wanted to make sure she handled it appropriately.

The next logical step was reaching out to MB's parents directly with an email. It turns out, wait for it… he also has two gay dads! Not really. But wouldn't that have been the ultimate twist?

What I want more than anything is for Max to stay proud of his family and not be brainwashed into thinking that different is bad. I don't want having two dads to be something he feels he needs to hide from his peers to avoid harsh judgment or ridicule. Maybe I'm living in a fantasy world, or maybe, just maybe, I have a little more faith in the human spirit. Nope. Scratch that. For a moment I forgot who America voted into office. We're fucked!

Just kidding.

Like all children, most children with LGBT parents will have both good and bad times at school. These types of issues will arise more frequently as the number of same-sex parents in schools across the United States continue rising. Fact is: we're not going away. So schools must keep working to serve the needs of all children and parents. We have to find a way to work together to ensure that school environments are safe, welcoming and free of judgment of all children and their families.

Let's end things on a positive note: at least we have a highly qualified, super intelligent and open-minded secretary of education fighting the good fight.


Okay. Now back to my Call Me By Your Name II audition tape…

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Gay Dad Life

Gay Dads Featured on Cover of Parents Magazine for First Time

Fitness guru Shaun T. and his husband Scott Blokker are the first gay dads to be featured on the cover of Parents Magazine

I literally never thought I'd see the day. Literally.

Gay fathers on the cover of Parents Magazine! Gay fathers being celebrated in a "main stream" publication about being parents. Gay fathers!

I don't want to get overly dramatic here, but this is a milestone. A massive cultural milestone.

Sure, gay dads have come a long way in being accepted in our popular culture, but to my eye we've never been on the cover of a big popular parenting magazine celebrating our parenting skills. As if we are the norm.

We are now - thanks to Parents Magazine.

This is a particular milestone for me because I have a bit of a history with the magazine and with parenting publications in general. My first job out of grad school was in brand marketing at Johnson's Baby Products where I did indeed run advertising in this particular magazine. Back then though we only featured married, straight couples. There were no other kinds of parents to feature back in the day! And if I'm to be really honest, they were generally white, married, straight couples.

I distinctly remember one photo shoot where I forgot to put a wedding ring on the "husband's" finger and we had to reshoot it. No photoshop back then!

Now admittedly this was before I was a dad and before I was out, but as the years went by and I embraced my own journey as a gay dad, there were no role models or pop culture markers to say that I (and other gay dads) were accepted. There were no Andy Cohens publicly making baby announcements. We were alone on our parenting.

It was hard. There was a constant barrage of straight parenting norms that constantly reminded us that we were different.
Not any more! Being a gay dad, or any dad, is now simply being a parent. A good parent. A loving parent. And we have Parents Magazine to thank for the reminder and endorsement, with hopefully more to come.

And I can't help but think, and actually know, that this kind of normalization will inspire the next generation of gay dads who will simply accept, without hesitation, that fatherhood as a gay man is a real, accepted, and normal option.


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Riley Petersen is 9 (!) and already a Creative Director, with the help of her gay dads

Riley Kinnane-Petersen is 9 years old, enjoys playing tennis, being with friends, has a pet cat, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her two dads, John Petersen and William Kinnane. She's also the official Creative Director of a successful jewelry line she founded with the help of her dads. Two years ago, John even quit his day job to assist in the day-to-day operations of the jewelry company.

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Study Finds Two-Thirds of Gay Dads Experienced Stigma in Last Year

The study also found that over half of gay dads have avoided certain social situations in the last year for fear of experiencing stigma.

According to new research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the vast majority of gay men and their children experience some form of stigma. The findings are based on a survey of 732 gay father across 47 states in the United States.

More gay men are becoming fathers each year, and have more options for doing so than ever before: including adoption, foster care, and surrogacy. However as the study's authors write: "Despite legal, medical, and social advances, gay fathers and their children continue to experience stigma and avoid situations because of fear of stigma. Increasing evidence reveals that stigma is associated with reduced well-being of children and adults, including psychiatric symptoms and suicidality"

Almost two-thirds of respondents, or 63.5%, reported experiencing stigma based on being a gay father within the last year. Over half, or 51.2%, said they have avoided situations for fear of stigma, in the past year. Importantly, the study found that fathers living in states with more legal protections for LGBTQ people and families experienced fewer barriers and stigma. Most experiences of stigma (almost 35%) occurred, unsurprisingly, in a religious environment. But another quarter of gay dads said they experienced stigma from a wide variety of other sources, including: family members, neighbors, waiters, service providers, and salespeople

Surprisingly (or perhaps not?) another source of stigma cited by the study originates from other gay men. "Gay men report suspicion and criticism for their decision to be parents from gay friends who have not chosen parenthood." The study also says gay dads often feel "isolation in their parental role."

The study concludes, "Despite growing acceptance of parenting by same-gender adults, barriers and stigma persist. States' legal and social protections for lesbian and gay individuals and families appear to be effective in reducing experiences of stigma for gay fathers."

Read the whole study here.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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