LGBT STUFF

LGBT rights, issues & culture, same-sex parenting

Remembering Prince and How His Music Helped Save My Life

April 30, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Remembering Prince & How He Helped Save My Life

In the summer of 1984 I turned 16. I had a year of high school behind me and was living on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific. My dad was a military chaplain, and we’d moved to Okinawa, Japan the previous summer. For several months we lived in a house in Okinawa City, and the top floor consisted only of my bedroom and a wraparound balcony with a view of the ocean. Aside from the occasional gecko scurrying across the ceiling, it was a sanctuary of solitude for this eldest of four boys.

I had a pretty good first year of high school, as years of high school go. My grades were good, I made the tennis team, and had a solid group of friends. I’d even been voted “Cutest Couple” with a girl who I happened to be dating when the votes were cast, though soon after reverting to friend status.

By the summer of this story, we’d moved onto Kadena Air Force Base. Military housing is typically bland, but here was accented with island flavor: a clay tile roof, palm trees growing from the patio, poinsettia bushes along the side of the house. I hadn’t yet attained high school party-attendee status, so weekend nights were spent walking to the movies or bowling alley, days at one of the beaches scattered around the island.

At the end of that June, I bought Purple Rain at the BX. Over the course of the summer and into my sophomore year, Prince’s magnum opus was the soundtrack of our collective youth. Blasting from cars and boom boxes, on every Walkman, every track (and some B-sides) played nonstop at school dances.

Like Thriller the year before, Purple Rain crossed lines of gender, race, and genre. But it went even further, delving into and mixing sex and spirituality. This was exemplified most in the album’s two biggest hits. “When Doves Cry” dripped with sensuality, while “Let’s Go Crazy” sang of the afterlife with raucous, unpious fervor. The latter was a revelation for this preacher’s kid struggling not only with faith, but also with my sexuality… and what that meant for my own afterlife.

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‘American Girl’ Amaya Receives Family Equality Council Impact Award

March 22, 2016 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF

The “fallout” from the boycott of American Girl just keeps getting sweeter. In November, right-wing fringe group One Million Moms called for a boycott against the American Girl company for featuring an 11-year-old girl with two fathers in their magazine. As Amaya and her dads are friends of our family, it frustrated and saddened me to see them attacked. However, the controversy gave the family an amazing platform to share their story and the amazing work they do through their charity, Comfort Cases. In an ironic twist, the flurry of media coverage resulted in a banner year for Comfort Cases, with a 65% increase in goods delivered to children in the foster care system, and a 300% increase in donations.

So how could it get any sweeter than that?

Dads Rob and Reece, Amaya, and her three brothers were recently honored at Family Equality Council’s 2016 Impact Awards! The family was flown cross country to LA, where they got to walk the red carpet, hob-knob with celebs, and be recognized for their advocacy, their generosity, and for being such an inspiration to us all.

For both Rob and Reece, the most memorable part of the evening were the two standing ovations the family received from the crowd of over 500 celebrities, corporate sponsors, and activist. They were the only ovations of the night!

Family Equality Council Impact Awards
(L) Amaya, Reece, Greyson, (R) Tristan, Makai, and Rob on the red carpet at the 2016 Impact Awards. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

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Reader Response: Growing up with Gay Dads

March 11, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

I wanted to share a particularly sweet note I received from a reader recently. I’ve only done this once or twice before, but this message made me feel extra warm and tingly, as it speaks to the “mission” of my blog, and my life as a dad in general.

It comes from a woman who was raised by two fathers in the 1980s — an extremely rare occurrence at that time. She lost one of her dads to AIDS when she was just a teenager, and sent this message (and awesome photo) to me on the 20th anniversary of his death.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Growing up with gay dads, 80s style

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“This is a picture of my dad (right) and his partner back in the 80’s (note the awesome handlebar mustache).

We lost Paul 20 years ago today due to an AIDS-related illness. I wanted to post here and say that growing up with gay dads was so amazing, but back then it wasn’t easy.

I wanted to thank you for your blog and for your openness in sharing your story. I wish that I had known even one other family with gay dads, because there were times I felt very alone. It’s amazing how far we’ve come but there’s still work to do.

And when people like you continue to normalize gay families, it goes a long way.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The next time someone asks me why it’s important if there’s a gay character in Star Wars, or why I need to label myself a “gay dad,” or whether advocating for more laws protecting LGBT parents and their families really matter, I’ll point them to this.

“Normalize” doesn’t mean trying to become “normal,” or trying to mimic or be accepted by the status quo. It means living our lives and sharing our story in whatever form that takes — whether it’s writing a blog, joining the PTA, or befriending a neighbor. It means being out and proud in the everyday, in the difficult and painful, as well as the bright and joyful. And it means doing all we can to ensure none of us ever feels alone.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

So if you send me a particularly sweet (or sassy) note, you may very well make my day…and I might publish it. You’ve been warned.

Be sure to visit and like Designer Daddy on Facebook.

An Adoptive Dad Reviews ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’

February 1, 2016 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Movie: Kung Fu Panda 3 (PG, 95 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (46), Papa (48), Jon (6)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★, Papa ★★★1/2, Jon ★★★★★
Family Favorites: Star Wars (episodes IV-VII), Big Hero 6, Ghostbusters
Daddy & Papa’s Favorites: The Matrix, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Plot Snapshot: Po is living large as the hero of his village, content to “fight monsters and get high-fives from bunnies.” Two challenges soon arise to rock Po’s world: the supernatural villain Kai, who is stealing the chi of China’s kung fu masters; and the appearance of Li Shan, his long-lost biological father.

Po and Li Shan travel to a hidden village where Po meets scores of other pandas, reconnecting with his inner dumpling-eating, hill-rolling, oversleeping self. But Kai is on the hunt for our hero, so Po must train his new panda posse into fierce warriors in order to battle the otherworldly foe.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

[The remainder of this review contains plot spoilers.]

As an adoptive parent, I’ve always been interested in how movies like the Kung Fu Panda series handle the topic of adoption. I was particularly curious about Kung Fu Panda 3, as it introduces Po’s birthfather into the story. This is something more and more adoptive families can relate to, as open adoption is increasingly the norm.

I went into the film with some concerns about how they would treat the dynamic between Mr. Ping (the goose who raised Po) and his biological father. I was half-expecting a bait-and-switch, perhaps revealing Li Shan was not in fact Po’s father; or maybe Po having to choose between one family or the other.

Yet the moviemakers did a good job of resolving the family-related conflicts — which were almost entirely between the two parents, not Po.

Adoptive dad Mr. Ping seemed to struggle more with this new family dynamic — his protectiveness, mistrust, and competitiveness on full display. While I appreciated the honesty with which they portrayed these understandable (and familiar) emotions, I was glad they didn’t roost there, which might have caused some adopted kids or their parents to feel uncomfortable. However, I thought that within the confines of a 90-minute kids’ movie, they evolved the characters quite nicely.

Kung Fu Panda 3

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Designer Daddy’s Top 15 Blog Posts of 2015

December 30, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

Designer Daddy Best of 2015

2015 was quite a year for me, for my family, and for several communities to which I belong. A flurry of sticky-note success; a milestone in equality; venturing into kindergarten; the return to a galaxy far, far away; the tragic loss of a friend — all of these contributed to one of the most eventful 12 months in my recent history. And it’s been exciting, fun, cathartic, intimidating, and inspiring for me to chronicle it all here (and a couple of other places) in word and doodle.

So if you’re a new reader curious to know what this site is all about, or a familiar friend sharing some moments of reflection, welcome. These are my 15 favorite blog posts of 2015.

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Our Holiday Newsletter: 12 Days of Christmas, Unfiltered

December 11, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

Our Holiday Newsletter: 12 Days of Christmas, Unfiltered

It’s been a banner year for same-sex parents. Marriage equality finally became the law of the land; and as marriages increased, so have the number of LGBT parents. Gay dads and lesbian moms appeared in national ads for soup, shampoo, pain reliever, and formula. And as is becoming a yearly occurrence, NPH and his family slayed with their Halloween costumes on social media.

Yet with all of this increased exposure and acceptance comes increased expectations; expectations to have THE MOST FABULOUS WEDDING, THE MOST PERFECT HOUSE, and of course THE MOST ADORABLE, WELL-BEHAVED CHILDREN. On top of that, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told how “lucky” or “blessed” our son is to have my husband and I as his dads. That’s nice and all, but that’s a lot of pressure. And I’m pretty sure he’d beg to differ sometimes. (See #2 below)

I’ve heard it said that parenting is the great equalizer. Stop by our house sometime, and we’ll be happy to demolish every stereotype you’ve ever heard about gay men being tidy… or put together… or having the energy to stay up past 9:00 pm.

So in lieu of THE MOST LEGENDARY HOLIDAY NEWSLETTER, I’m opting for something a little more honest. Unfiltered, even. Please enjoy a glimpse into our family’s 2015 — along with a few holiday “traditions” — in this (very loose) version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

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Photo Card Companies & LGBT Families: Happy Holidays or Bah Humbug?

November 30, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, LGBT STUFF

Where are LGBT families in Holiday photo card catalogs?

Two years ago I examined how major photo card companies failed to represent LGBT families even once in their holiday photo cards. I issued a challenge to the four companies profiled, pledging to employ the services of whichever company made the change first to be inclusive of same-sex couples/parents.

The companies I profiled were Tinyprints, Shutterfly, Minted, and Snapfish. I chose these four because they all sent me catalogs, and because they all ranked among the top photo card companies, according to Top Ten Reviews. In the two years since, I’ve received three and then two catalogs, respectively, and have indicated that in the data below. As in 2013, when reviewing each company’s online offerings, I looked at the first couple of pages of Holiday and/or Christmas cards. This generally included between 150-200 cards.

The results are a mixed bag of naughty and nice…

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Thousands of Foster Kids to Benefit From Boycott of American Girl

November 27, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF
American Girl boycott benefits foster kids

Amaya signs copies of American Girl magazine and meets new fans at Comfort Cases packing parties.

Earlier this month I shared the story of 11-year-old Amaya, featured in the most recent issue of American Girl magazine, chosen from among thousands of submissions because of her inspiring story. Part of her story is that she and her brothers were adopted from the foster care system by two loving parents, both of whom are men.

This ruffled the right-wing feathers of One Million Moms, who called for a boycott of American Girl Doll and parent company Mattel over this supposed furthering of the Gay Agenda. From One Million Moms’ web site:

“The magazine… could have chosen another child to write about and remained neutral in the culture war.”

Yet One Million Moms were fighting a one-sided war, as their boycott all but backfired. Due to the group’s homophobia, the story gained momentum and went viral. Amaya, her family, and American Girl were discussed, interviewed, and featured in an endless number of publications and news outlets, among them local Fox and NBC affiliates, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, ABC News, Good Housekeeping, Upworthy, Slate, Perez Hilton, and The View. Even Ellen DeGeneres posted in support of the family on her show’s Facebook page.

ELLENPHOTO

Ellen shows her support for Amaya and her family, temporarily crashing the Comfort Cases web site!

The other part of Amaya’s story is Comfort Cases — the charity co-founded by one of her dads — and its work supporting foster kids. As a result of the boycott and the related coverage, Comfort Cases is ending 2015 on a very, very good note.

THE BACKFIRED BOYCOTT, BY THE NUMBERS:

Comfort Cases held its annual Holiday Packing Party on November 21, assembling 500 more cases than the previous year, a 70% increase.

The total number of cases collected and distributed in 2015 topped 10,000 — 4,000 more than 2014, and an increase of 65%.

With contributions coming in from all over the world, monetary donations to Comfort Cases will triple what they were in 2014. That’s 300%, folks.

American Girl boycott benefits foster kids

Hundreds of cases filled with PJs, toiletries & personal items, ready for distribution to area foster kids.

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As National Adoption Month comes to a close and we enter the holiday season, please consider making a contribution to Comfort Cases or a similar organization in your area. Let’s keep showing those that boycott, fear or hate, that family, respect and love always win.

  Donate to Comfort Cases

Turning Hatred into Love: One American Girl & Her Forever Family

November 5, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

American Girl Amaya protested by One Million Moms

Five years ago today, a young girl named Amaya was legally adopted by her foster parents.

Two weeks ago, Amaya was featured in American Girl magazine. In her own words she shared the story of coming from the foster care system, becoming part of her permanent family, as well as the charity work she and her parents do in support of other foster kids.

Not long after the magazine was published, right-wing watchdogs One Million Moms called for a boycott of American Girl Doll and their magazine, warning parents against exposing their daughters to such a family.

And such a family it is.

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The Force Is Strong with These Gay Dads in Campbell’s Soup Commercial

October 8, 2015 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Gay Dads Featured in Star Wars Campbell's Soup Commercial

In the last couple of years — leading up to SCOTUS legalizing same-sex marriage — the appearance of gay dads and lesbian moms in national TV commercials and online ad campaigns has become more and more common. I’ve featured many of them on this site. And while I’ve always been excited to see families like mine celebrated this way (or exploited, depending on your level of cynicism), I’ll admit they no longer have the same impact on me as they once did. Until last night.

Take a look at this new Campbell’s Soup commercial I spotted (during Modern Family, natch), which stars real-life gay dads having a “Vader-Off” in an attempt to get their son to eat.

Actors David Monohan and Larry Sullivan — a married couple in real life — star alongside their young apprentice, Cooper, as part of Campbell’s Real, Real Life campaign, and to promote their line of Star Wars soups. The family also appears briefly at the end of a second ad in the series.

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