Bully Pulpit

March 3, 2012 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, LGBT STUFF

Following in the footsteps of the “It Gets Better” campaign is a new documentary called Bully. Though not due for release until March 30, it’s already garnered lots of press, due largely in part to the efforts of a bullied high school student.

The MPAA has given Bully an R rating for language. But the filmmakers (and a whole lot of other folks) are lobbying the ratings board to change it to PG-13. They fear the R rating will prevent the film from being played in schools or allowing kids to see it without adults, thus limiting its reach and effectiveness. Based on the trailer, Bully isn’t about a bunch of adults telling teens to stick it out till they graduate. It’s about kids helping kids, rallying together to make outsiders feel in, reaching their troubled peers where they are. The message being – while it does get better after high school, it should be better now.

Speaking of kids helping kids, high schooler Katy Butler (herself a victim of bullying) launched a petition for the PG-13 rating that has already garnered over 190,000 signatures in less than a week. While it’s often unclear how much difference petitions like these make, it’s clearly getting Katy, the film, and the subject of bullying extensive coverage — so it certainly couldn’t hurt.

I’d also like to echo Lee Hirsch, the director of Bully, who admonishes on the film’s web site: “Everyone has a story when it comes to bullying, what’s yours?”

My sophomore year of high school I was the target of several months of bullying by a guy named Ken, a senior on the football team. We lived and went to school on an Air Force base on the small island of Okinawa, Japan, so there was no escaping the torment. I was punched and pushed out of the way walking the halls at school; cornered and yelled at in the bowling alley; hit and called “faggot” when I went to the movies. He also came to my house a couple of times — one terrifying night when I was alone, but even scarier was the time he cursed out my Mom who had gone to the door to tell him to leave. I even skipped the cast party of a play I was in, on the off chance my tormenter might show up.

The most painful and isolating part was feeling like none of my friends really saw or understood what was going on. And I was ashamed to tell them how scared I was. Because Ken had come to my house, my parents knew — but like most teenagers, I was embarrassed and tried to keep them out of it as much as possible.

I became so lonely and frightened to go to school (or anywhere, really) that one night I searched the house for pills, thoughts of suicide floating around the back of my mind. Luckily my search proved fruitless, and I managed to brave another day.

I don’t remember exactly how the bullying ended, but Ken eventually moved on to other conflicts. Not long after, he got kicked off the football team for fighting. He then proceeded to get kicked off the basketball team, out of high school, and eventually off the island and back to the States. Later I heard he’d enlisted in the Air Force, but had then been discharged and ended up in jail. Clearly this was a troubled individual, and I’ve sometimes wondered how many other victims of his hostility there were along the way.

While the subject of bullying has obvious connections to my role as a father, you might be asking “What does this have to do with design?” Well, it has everything to do with everything. From my earliest memories I’ve been drawing and wanting to be an artist when I grew up. And by surviving those few months in high school, I got to grow up and live out my dream. As a bonus, I have gotten to work for many companies and organizations that help children. And I got to be a dad, and to teach my son all about color and drawing and super heroes and music and helping others. My hope is to also teach JJ to not only stand up for himself when he can, but to ask for help when he can’t.


In addition to signing the petition and supporting the film, I encourage you to share your story, whether it’s here, in the petition’s comments, or with family and friends.

The Kids Are All Right

February 2, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

If you’re in the DC area Saturday, February 18th, grab the whole family and go see “The Kids Are All Right” performed by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington! As a member of this chorus, I can tell you it’s not often the phrase “family-friendly” is used to describe one of our shows… but “Kids” will be a great evening of music with a message: Be who you were born to be!

The concert features songs and stories about growing up “different” — and not just surviving, but overcoming adversity to enjoy and embrace our individuality.

Two big highlights of the show will include a mini-musical based on the children’s book “Oliver Button Is A Sissy,” narrated by Candace Gingrich-Jones (half-sister of a certain soon-to-be former presidential candidate); as well as a performance by Dreams of Hope, a Pittsburgh performing arts group of LGBT youth and their allies. They will present a segment from their original show “Being In, Being Out” about the journey we all take to belong.

As part of the chorus’ GenOUT program, free tickets are available for high school students, their teachers and parents. Learn more about GMCW’s youth outreach program and request tickets at

And check out this fun little animation. Not my creation (although the logos are), but darned if that first photo that appears isn’t familiar…

Saturday, February 18, 2012
Lisner Auditorium

730 21st Street NW • Washington DC

Advent In An Hour: Dec 20

December 21, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Some things this son (and grandson) of a Baptist preacher man has learned about Hanukkah over the years:

1. How to spell it. Hanukkah or Chanukah.
2. The proper greeting is simply “Happy Hanukkah.” “Chappy Chanukah” is not an acceptable alternative.
3. It’s not Jewish Christmas. There’s no such thing as a Hanukkah bush to decorate or a Hanukkah Harry delivering gifts for eight nights.
4. Yom Kippur is the fasting holiday; Hanukkah (like all other holidays) you get to eat! But not matzo.
5. As far as Jewish holidays goes, it’s not that big of a deal. Certainly not one of the top three. Or even the top six.

But while it may not hold the same level of importance that Christmas does to Christians, I’m glad Hanukkah’s around, reminding us Gentiles that we’re not the only religion on the block. So I’m spending Hanukkah being thankful for all my friends who happen to be Jewish. Like with any other community, there are plenty of differences among them. But the one thing they have in common is they’ve brought joy, warmth and friendship to my life, and made me richer for it.

So HAPPY HANUKKAH to Ira, Polina & Gary, Gabby, Craig, Steve, Andrew, Victor, Bob, Dallas, Devra, Gregg, Julie, Ian & Pauline, Justin, Larry, Billy, Jon & Jessica, Sharyn, Mike & Hannah, Harrison, Jeff, Wynn and anyone I might have missed!

Advent In An Hour: Dec 10

December 10, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Today’s Advent drawing was inspired by two quite different (some would call disparate) sources — Hillary Clinton and the Bible.

“The … perhaps most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices toward women like honor killings, widow burning or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of our cultural tradition but violence towards women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.

In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities or explicitly accepting their killing.

Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings. It was not only those who justified slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish it. And let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source.

For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people. And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity. And caring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is because the human experience is universal that human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.”

Hillary Clinton, UN Human Rights Day speech

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

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Luke 2:14

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

Today is Human Rights Day. But as is often said of Christmas, every day should be.

Learn more about Human Rights Day. Read the full transcript or watch the video of Hillary’s speech.

Dadvertising 101

November 15, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, THINGS DAD DIGS

I’ve seen a couple of dad-centric ads lately that made me smile. Not just because they were funny, but because they depicted dads being good parents without a hint of irony. Okay, maybe there’s a hint of it — but they definitely aren’t depicted as not knowing their way around the kitchen, running screaming from a diaper, or some other modern father stereotype. Instead they show warmth, competence, and that these guys actually enjoy being dads.

The first is a Tide commercial I saw the other night, and just loved the interaction between the father and his little girl. Very matter-of-fact, no OMG-The-Dude-is-doing-a-girl’s-hair sound effects. Just father/daughter awesomeness.

A longer version takes a slightly different direction, using the phrase “Dad Mom.” (I guess Mr. Mom is trademarked?) I didn’t like it as much as the first one, as it veered closer into the “Why is a man doing a woman’s job?” territory. But still sweet overall in its tone.

And finally, I spotted this print ad in Entertainment Weekly, from the normally über-macho Chunky Soup folks. In the past Chunky has tiptoed to the sensitive side by showing NFL players with their moms in spots I found both goofy and unable to relate to. But this ad — while still quietly touting their NFL connection — shows a “real” man: playing with his kids, letting down his guard, being there for them.

Thanks Tide and Chunky, for busting out of the stereotypes — keep up the good work!

Happily Ever Adopted (The Tale of Two Fairy Dads)

October 28, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED, POP CULTURE

It’s coming up on JJ’s second birthday, and subsequently this blog’s first. My son (as well as my profession, but mainly my son) was the inspiration to start Designer Daddy. Yet due to JJ being adopted, I’ve been reluctant to share too much personal stuff — not only to protect our and the birthparents’ privacy, but also to protect JJ’s story. I want to be able to tell it to him first, when he’s ready to hear it, and in a manner his Papa and I think it should be told.

Because of this, I’ve not bared my soul as much as other parent bloggers. And I’m a little jealous of that. My best writing comes from my heart and my gut, not from my head (or my wit, or design sensibilities) so I feel like I’m not sharing the full story. Because I’m not.

But a couple of things pushed my buttons recently that I need to get off my chest.

The first was watching the pilot episode of ABC’s Once Upon A Time.
I’d seen mixed reviews, so my expectations were low and I didn’t get around to it until several days after it premiered. (DVR is one of Daddys’s favorite inventions) Overall it was a decent show, but my beef is with its not-so-happily ever after portrayal of adoption.

adopted - once upon a time


Scary for All the Wrong Reasons

September 5, 2011 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

Sadly, Labor Day weekend is now behind us, which means summer is over, both astronomically and emotionally. So now it’s time to pull out the Christmas decorations, buy eggnog in bulk, and start bargain hunting for Snuggies or whatever asinine infomercial piece of crap will be the go-to White Elephant gift this year.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating a teensy bit. But certainly Halloween is already being shoved down our throats. Candy corn has been on sale at CVS for a couple of weeks now, but I refuse to buy it until the month has a “-BER” at the end. My sweet tooth does have some standards.

Another sign that autumn is lurking around the corner is this frightening catalog we received in the mail recently. Not frightening in a Pinhead kind of way, but more of a Twilight meets Toddlers & Tiaras* kind of way.

Click to take a closer look at the dolled-up vampkids.


Pink toenails = fearlessness

April 18, 2011 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

Everybody and their dog blog has already covered this story. But as someone in the design/advertising field and one of 2 gay fathers of a little boy, I felt it was in too many of my wheelhouses not to toss in my 2 cents.

I assume you know the basics… J. Crew emailed an ad depicting their President/Creative Director playing with her 5 year-old son, who’s wearing neon pink polish on his toenails. Numerous talking heads have decried or defended this image (and PrezMom’s commentary) as either inappropriate or innocent, respectively. One Ablow blowhard even went so far as to suggest mommy save up for the kiddo’s therapy, as she had obviously scarred him (or at least his toes) for life.

I imagine PrezMom knew the ad would incite some discussion, but maybe not coverage from every network news show, comedy/news hybrids, more than a few politicians, and the entire blogosphere. In any case, I give her props for being secure in her son’s choice of nail polish color, especially when it clashes with his preppy J. Crew duds.

But this whole brouhaha brings up a couple of things for me personally. Namely my own childhood and that of my son’s.

I was once a little boy who liked to dress up. Sometimes in mom’s clothes, but more often as a super hero. In either case, some manner of flowing was required (hair, dress, cape). And yep, I turned out gay. But I know plenty of gay men—my husband among them—who never bent their gender, not even a bit. It’s kind of a non-issue for me, seeing as how I’m proud and happy of who I am, sexually and otherwise.

But now that I’m a dad, I think sometimes about the potential ways JJ could be ridiculed. He’s got 2 dads. He’s adopted. He’s got 2, possibly 3 cowlicks in his shaggy, little head. He’s just about to turn 18 months, so I know his teasing days are still a ways off, but I’m feeling like he’s gonna do okay. Because the boy is fearless. He’s already gotten his fair share of bruises and bumps, which never ceases to put knots in my stomach and a lump in my throat. But it’s a thrill for me, who spent most of his childhood inside drawing or watching Super Friends, to think of JJ being exponentially more adventurous than I was. Not to besmirch my boyhood, but I probably missed out on a lot of things due to my fears and insecurities.

So I revel in seeing JJ’s exuberance and never want to quell that, whether it manifests itself in sports, glee club, or toenail polish. I’m so honored to witness it all, hoping I can always allow his true self to shine, and that I can learn a thing or two from him about being fearless.

The Kids Are All Right… just not sure about the parents

February 26, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

The Oscars are upon us — so here’s my 2 cents on one of the Best Picture nominees…

I’m well aware that as a pop culture junkie and a gay man, I’m supposed to have fallen all over myself for “The Kids Are All Right.” The film has gotten pretty much across-the-board rave reviews (a whopping 94% from Rotten Tomatoes, which usually doesn’t happen for anything but sci-fi, anime or movies about Facebook).

I had every intention of loving it. I’m a longtime fan of both Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, and Mark Rufalo has been growing on me (although I’m still not sure he’s going to make a good Bruce Banner — isn’t Banner supposed to be a genius?) And it’s about a same-sex-parented family for pete’s sake, so what’s not to love?

While I did thoroughly enjoy Bening’s acting, as well as that of their kids, I took issue with two major plot points. SPOILERS AHEAD…


Real men don’t change diapers

November 8, 2010 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Real men don’t change diapers. Now that I have your attention, let me say that I am a strong proponent of every father being an equal partner in doody duty. Unfortunately, most societies have long given all the responsibility of child-rearing (and rear-cleaning) to moms. But modern man needs to step up.

As part of a two father family, men do ALL the dirty work in our house. But I’ve found that each time I change JJ, I’m being told that It’s Not My Job. Or that I Don’t Know What I’m Doing. Or that I’m Just Not Worthy. By the WIPES.

You see, we use Safeway’s store brand wipes. They’re great quality, inexpensive, and come unscented (a lot of name brand wipes are overly mediciney, IMHO). But the problem lies in the brand’s name: Mom to Mom. READ FULL ARTICLE >>

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