The Parents Project is an online resource for parents of LGBTQ kids. It’s loaded with videos, advice and other bits of helpful stuff, like info on what did or didn’t turn your child gay, things not to say to your kid when they come out to you, and bunches of other stuff related to self-esteem, gender roles, sexuality, etc. The site was started by Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo, who also co-founded the award winning youth organization Everyone Is Gay. These ladies are all the awesome. The Parents Project recently reached out to me to be a contributor to their site, and you can betcha I said yes.
My first assignment was to answer this question sent in by a grandmother-to-be, concerned about the potential lack of female presence in her gay son’s life.
“My son and his husband have been married for just over a year. They’ve recently brought up the idea of adopting a child. I’ve been supportive of my son and his partner, but as a mother I can’t help but wonder how the lack of a mother figure in the household could negatively affect the child’s upbringing. Any advice?”
Read my response and learn more about The Parents Project by clicking the bright orange link.
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I always imagined myself as a father, but I never imagined being asked questions quite like these.
Perhaps you’re wondering why I went with queerest questions — other than the obvious alliteration and overall cleverness, that is. Because while some of the questions are offensive, some are annoying, and some are downright stupid, they’re not all offensive, annoying or stupid. But they are all queer — as in odd, strange, bizarre. Much like the entire experience of parenting.
Now, if we’re done questioning the queerness of my headline… on with the questions!
We were winding down from a particularly drama-filled play date. There had been sharing-related skirmishes; LEGO lay strewn about the playroom like carcasses on a battlefield; there had been tears. And after much cajoling and promises of future bounty, there had been an “I’m sowwy” from my little force of nature to his playmate and host. Jon can sometimes be like a giddy locomotive off its tracks. Full steam ahead, tooting its merry horn, nary a thought for the fact that it’s derailed and tearing through the countryside, mowing over everything and everyone in its path.
Yet while he may be full of drive and boundless energy, he’s always been very affectionate. Which, for me — his somewhat introverted and decidedly less adventurous Dad — makes it all manageable.
After we’d made our apologies and gathered our things to go, Jon approached his friend — 6 years old to Jon’s 4 and-a-half — to tell him thank you. He followed with one of his epic hugs — both arms flung out fully extended, not closing them until he’d fully enveloped the huggee. His friend seemed a little overwhelmed, but hugged back; then my son tilted his head, stretched up on his toes, and moved in to give his pal a smooch on the cheek.
The friend jerked his head away, reacting with an annoyed “WHAT THE…?!?” Jon just kind of shrugged and let go. But my heart broke a little.
Due to popular demand (the original post was one of the most-viewed ever on this site), as well as an over-abundance of photos from awesome gay fathers, I had to do a sequel — which I’m hoping is as good as (or better) than the original. Think Empire Strikes Back, not Teen Wolf Too.
So as we wrap up Pride month, I wanted to share 25 more reasons having gay dads is uniquely, similarly, lovingly AWESOME!
1. You’re always surrounded by love
Especially when you’re smooshed into a photo booth. [Photo courtesy of Andy Miller & Brian Stephens]
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As we approach Father’s Day, there have been some pretty cool lists about dads floating around the Internet. So of course I had to make a list of my own, ensuring families with double daddies (or one great gay dad) are represented.
I originally intended to intro my list with lots of statistics showing how more and more Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage and adoption. Or how same-sex couples will be counted as families by the U.S. Census for the first time. Or that gay dads have turned up in all manner of commercials and top-ranked TV shows. Or how I belong to a Facebook group of over 3,000 gay fathers.*
But instead let’s just celebrate what makes gay dads unique, as well as what makes them as equally awesome as all the other active, engaged and loving fathers out there.
1. You’re raised to be caring & compassionate
And you learn how to put your compassion into action… and be all cute and matchy-matchy while doing it. [Photo courtesy of Andy Miller]
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Gay men have always had complicated relationships with women. Whether it’s the first girl’s heart we break, the best friend’s boyfriend we steal, or the mothers we disappoint — even without the complexities of a physical relationship (although those do happen from time-to-time), our interaction with the fairer sex can be rather difficult to navigate.
This is particularly true when it comes to gay dads on Mother’s Day.
As one of two fathers of an adopted son, my thoughts about Mother’s Day — and my son’s lack of Mom — have ranged over the years from gut wrenching to indifferent and everything in between. When our infant would make the sound “mama,” we would quickly and (half) jokingly correct him, “No… it’s ‘O-bama!’” Wasn’t there a way we could keep him from ever learning “the M word?”
He came to us through an open adoption, which meant our son would be raised knowing who his birthmother was. It also meant it fell to his Papa and I to communicate with the birthmom several times a year, and even plan annual family visits.
The first couple of visits were some of the most difficult days of my life. Every bit of my insecurity was on the surface, watching and waiting for this woman to do or say something I would take as a sign she hadn’t let go. Or worse yet, that she was somehow planting seeds that would someday cause my son to want her back.
By loving my son and simply being his Dad on a daily/weekly/yearly basis, those fears have dissipated. And while I’m sure there are challenges ahead (my son’s not yet 5), I now stand secure in the fact that I am his parent and nothing can change that. This confidence and security has allowed me to help him know of and celebrate his birthmother in new and ever-evolving ways.
So while she is certainly his biological mother — and we are eternally grateful to her for choosing us as his parents — she is not our son’s “Mother.”
So do we celebrate Mother’s Day? Do any gay fathers celebrate Mother’s Day?
I still remember the first time I got flowers. It was my first serious relationship, and they were delivered to the graphic design studio where I was working—my first job in DC. It was an open air setup (with glass walls, cubicles and such) so everyone could see when they arrived. It was Valentine’s Day, and my boyfriend had sent me a huge arrangement in a vase, which sat on the shelf in my cube for about a week, attracting non-stop Oohs and Awws from my female co-workers and comments like “You must have really put out” from the men. I was a wee bit embarrassed for being on the spot, but mostly loved the attention, and especially the thoughtfulness of my guy.
Just after this past Valentine’s Day, I asked a bunch of guys if they’d ever received flowers—if they liked it or not, if it made them feel embarrassed or emasculated, etc. Here are some of my favorite answers—which of course all support my philosophy that Real Men Stop and Smell the Roses.
“Good flowers, the ones that live longer than a mayfly, are great to give and greater to get. The closest thing I have to a spouse right now is John, who sent me a vaseful when I was in the hospital last fall. It was perfect.”
Doug, former WWE wrestler, stunt double for John Cena*
It’s late February, and once again there’s ice and snow on the ground. And once again I’m hauling my kid to the mall to burn off energy (and preserve my sanity) in that germ-infested swarm known as the Play Area. As soon as we step off the bottom step to the mall’s lower level, JJ immediately charges in the direction of the indoor plastic playground. Out of instinct—and fear of him running headfirst into an adult crotch—I start the awkward walk-jog of an exhausted, out-of-shape dad in hopes of snatching him from the jaws of danger or a lawsuit. I haven’t shaved or bathed (it’s Sunday – when cleanliness is far from godliness), and I’m wearing a slight variation of the clothes I’d worn the previous day. I’m blending in quite nicely with the other beleaguered parents, walk-jogging through the mall like suburban zombies.
I’m ending my long weekend the way I began it — hanging out in an airport for 4+ hours. Different airports — Baltimore on Thursday, New Orleans on Sunday — but they both have the same unsettling mixture of being simultaneously busy, anxious and lonely. Or maybe that was just me. I’ll spare you the details of my traveling travails, but between the Polar Vortex and my own absentmindedness, it was a wonder I got anywhere I was trying to. And I’m not even on my plane home yet.
I had considered waiting until I’d had a chance to “decompress,” catch up on work, and generally give myself a chance to create something more brilliant and insightful. But I’m taking this time in limbo to journal my impressions of Dad 2.0 Summit while they’re still fresh.
As my arrival in New Orleans was 6 hours later than planned, I missed the conference’s opening party. I had to force myself not to imagine all the hugging and backslapping and toasting going on as my network of dad blogging pals reconnected or (as in many cases) met in person for the first time. My tireless and generous friend Don left said party to pick me up from the airport (it was his fourth trip of the day) and as I trudged wearily into the lobby of the hotel, several of the men I’d become closest to came bounding out of the bar to greet me with all that hugging and backslapping I’d not been dwelling on. As I made my way through the lobby and up to my room, I was met with cheers of “Brent!” from even more of my until-then virtual friends. I felt like a rock star. Or at least Norm. It was already shaping up to be a pretty stupendous time.
After a very late dinner of bourbon and beer (and more meeting and backslapping and hugging), I called it an early night.
Recently I found myself, yet again, frantically trailing after my son as he ran on ahead of me, weaving in and out and through the crowd like a pint-sized quarterback. This time we were at his preschool, attending a Halloween-themed fair, where each classroom offered a different adventure in which JJ would embark and then move on to the next as quick as he’d gotten the requisite prize. His little black cape swooped around with an extra amount of drama — the Velcro closure was itchy around his neck, so he wore his cowl unfastened and scooted up on top of his head so he could plow ahead, unencumbered.
He — being 4 years old and nimble, and me— about a parent-and-a-half in size, made this chase an exercise in futility. So I followed close enough to appear somewhat in control to concerned onlookers, and where he could hear my voice without me having to shout. But I allowed a bit of distance because otherwise we’d be butting heads all night, or I’d be plowing half the hallway down. Or both.
I perpetually cringed as he barely missed bumping into a child in a wheelchair or tripping the teacher carrying a large box of cupcakes, bobbing and weaving with such disregard and joyous abandon. The only way I was able to keep up at all was because every few seconds he would stop, plant himself in front of someone and declare,“I’m Batman!” Then off he dashed to vanquish the next foe and add another trinket or treat to his plastic pumpkin.
And I found myself, yet again, thinking “Is this normal? Is he okay? Am I being too uptight? Am I doing this right? Will he ever slow down?”
You see, I’m an introvert raising an extroverted child, and I’m way out of my depth.