Change the World

Thoughts From a White Gay Dad Raising Brown & Black Kids

I was putting on sunscreen the other morning while my daughter finished her breakfast. My son came into the kitchen and said, "it smells like sunscreen." Matter-of-factly my daughter told him, "daddy's putting it on because white people burn."


My son identifies as black and my daughter as brown. My son, when he was seven, was thinking aloud about his biological brother who was adopted into another family: "we have the same hair, the same nose, the same lips, the same skin colour, but we live in different houses."

My six year old daughter is perceptive – "just because we're born in the same country doesn't mean we're the same colour" – but also questioning, "why am I the only brown girl in my ballet class?" When she asked that, I launched into a discussion about the intersectionalities of race, class and gender, but I soon realized I had to bring it down a few levels for now.

My partner and I are both white – he of Dutch heritage and me of English and Scottish descent. I have doubts about whether we're raising our kids as best as we can. What can we teach our kids when we're not a visible minority ourselves? We don't know what it's like to be perceived negatively because of our skin colour. We have privilege as white, middle class men. And we were raised in the 70s to believe that everyone is the same, rainbows are beautiful, and we're all free to be you and me.

And yet as gay men we have our own history of feeling different, of being made to feel "other" or "less than," of experiencing homophobia both personally and systemically. I feel we're able to approach our parenting with experience of questioning norms, recognizing injustice, speaking out, building community and finding strength and resilience, all tools we can instill in or teach our children.

Every day I think about what we can and need to do:

When we adopted each child, we sought out books, tv shows, movies and other media that include diverse characters – characters of colour, two dads, strong female role models. It's important for our kids to see themselves represented and reflected back to them. I grew up only with Three's Company as a window into what it means to be gay when I was searching for identity, affirmation and connection. We've moved a bit further than those days, but only a bit if you don't specifically search it out.

We've sought out books and resources about their cultural heritage and history. In addition to helping them learn, we make sure we're educating ourselves too.

We work on building a community of family, friends, neighbours and resource people who nurture us and support us as a family.

We enrolled our children in a school that is diverse. Our daughter is far from the only brown girl in class; in fact, white kids are the minority. 85% of the school is Muslim, and the student body is made up mostly of immigrant families. They don't simply learn about diversity, they experience it every day.

We're fortunate to live in a large city with a diverse population. In fact, Toronto may be the most multicultural city in the world. We visit various neighbourhoods home to different nationalities and take them to annual summer festivals – our Caribbean, African Festivals, Pride festivals – to show them celebrations of diversity.

At home we talk about race, racism, discrimination, prejudice, justice and rights with our children. It can sometimes be difficult, like talking about slavery, the impact of Black Lives Matter, or the recent events in Charlottesville, but there's no use being shy about it. On the contrary, we'd do them a disservice if we didn't have these ongoing conversations.

We lead by example by living our lives openly, confidently and proudly.

All of this is a constant process, of course, as we learn and grow. The world around us is still learning and growing, sometimes painfully and fitfully. It is our responsibility, I feel, to educate and empower our children for the world we live in, not just the ideal world we wish to live in. We will stand with them, march with them, or take a knee or link arms, whatever it takes.

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Change the World

"Dadvocates" Gather in D.C. to Demand Paid Family Leave for ALL Parents

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On Tuesday October 22, Dove Men+Care and PL+US (Paid Leave for the United States) led the Dads' Day of Action on Capitol Hill. A group of over 40 dads and "dadvocates" from across the states lobbied key member of Congress on the issue of paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads. They shared stories of their struggles to take time off when welcoming new family members and the challenges dads face with no paid paternity leave.

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Dr. Leondires goes on to say his reasons for opening up about his parenting journey is to offer some perspective LGBTQ people who are considering parenthood. "Once you have a family you will have this common bond with the vast majority of our population and something they can relate to — having children," he wrote. "You are no longer someone living this "special" lifestyle, you are a parent on a shared journey."

Being a parent is the "one and only job" held by the majority of the population, he continued. "It is also the only job you can't be fired from."

Understanding this commonality helped Dr. Leondires in his coming out process, he said. "I had to be proud of my family because I want them to be proud of our family," he wrote. "It wasn't about me anymore. The reality is that 5-7% of patients identify as LGBTQ+, and there may be a greater likelihood that your child might be LGBTQ+ because you are. Therefore, you need to be proud of who you are and who your family is, establish and maintain this foundation unconditionally."

Read Dr. Leondires entire essay here.

Change the World

Is This the First Photo to Show a Positive Image of Gay Dads in the Media?

This photo from 1983 originally ran in a Life Magazine piece called "the Double Closet"

Last month was LGBTQ History Month! And to celebrate, the online magazine LGBTQ Nation ran tidbits of history all month long. For one post, they dug up the above image — which they claim is the first, published in a mainstream media outlet, to show gay parents depicted in a positive light.

The image was part of a Life Magazine article called "the Double Closet." The photograph was taken by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, J. Ross Baughman. Whether this was truly the first image of its kind or not, it's a heartwarming photo nonetheless that helps show gay dads have been forming loving families for decades. And we couldn't be more thrilled that in recent years, his images is standing in some pretty good company! Each and every day, we help add to the archives of images showing positive depictions of gay dads — 2,824 images, and counting — on our Instagram page.

Check out the rest of the History Month series on LGBTQ Nation!

Gay Dad Family Stories

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"I think I was pretty naïve, I guess," chuckled Gene, one of the first single gay dads to work with Circle Surrogacy over 19 years ago. "I just had made a decision and went out and did it, and wasn't really thinking about how difficult it might be or what other people thought, being first at doing something."

So how did Gene hear about surrogacy as an option for single gay men? Well, it began with Gene flipping through a bar magazine. He recalls seeing an ad about a woman providing a service to connect gay men with lesbians in platonic co-parenting relationships. While he started down that path, working with the founder, Jennifer, he remembers thinking, "What if I meet someone? What if I want to move? It would create all these complications."

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The 'Queer Eye' star and his son named the story on a family mantra: You are Perfectly Designed

When his sons, Jason and Chris, were young, "Queer Eye" Star Karamo Brown repeated the same saying to them: "You are perfectly designed."

That mantra is now a Children's Book, cowritten by Karamo and his 22-year-old son, Jason, who used to come how and "say things like, 'I don't want to be me, I wish I was someone else, I wish I had a different life." As a parent, that "broke my heart," Karamo told Yahoo! Lifestyle. "I would say to him, 'You are blessed and you are perfect just the way you are,' as a reminder that you have been given so much and you should be appreciative and know that you're enough — I know that the world will try to tear you down, but if you can say to yourself, 'I am perfectly designed,' maybe it can quiet out some of those negative messages."

The illustrations, by Anoosha Syed, also make a point of displaying families of a variety of races and sexual orientations throughout the book.

Read more about Karamo's fascinating path to becoming a gay dad here, and then check out the video below that delves deeper into the inspiration behind "You Are Perfectly Designed," available on Amazon.



Gay Dad Photo Essays

Falling for Fall: 33 Photos of Gay Dads and Kids at the Pumpkin Patch

Oh my gourd, it's fall! To celebrate, we rounded up 33 pics (and whole lot of pun-kins) in our annual fall photo essay!

Don your checked shirt, grab them apples, and shine those smiles while perched on pumpkins — it's the annual fall family photo op! A trip to the pumpkin patch and / or apple orchard is a staple family fall outing, and we're here for it. 🎃🍎🍂👨👨👧👦

Thanks to these dads who shared their pics with us! Share your own to dads@gayswithkids.com and we'll add them to this post!

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Gay Dad Family Stories

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David and Ben, who became fathers with the help of Northwest Surrogacy Center, live in Melbourne with their daughter, Maia.

In 2003, while both studying at Reading University in the UK, Ben Suter and David Cocks met after locking eyes on the dance floor and then being introduced by a mutual friend. Ben, a meteorologist and Operations Manager, and David, an Assistant Principal, have been together ever since. They moved to Australia together in 2010, seeking a different life, and an overall better work-life balance. The chose Cairns in Queensland as their new home, between the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforest, "taking life a bit easier," said David. The couple were also married in June 2016, back home in England.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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