Op-ed: We Don't Have to Turn in Our Gay Cards Just Because We're Dads
In my heart of hearts, I always wanted to be a father. What was less clear was the how and when it was going to happen. But when I found myself in a loving, stable relationship with a man who also wanted a child, I knew it was only a matter of time before we welcomed someone into our lives who would forever change the way we would know love and sacrifice. It’s hard to describe without sounding cliché exactly how much I love my son (“to the moon and back” seems for too short). Suffice it to say that I am prepared to sacrifice many things to ensure his happiness, heath, and well-being. And I truly expected there to be sacrifices. Sacrifices of my time, my other interests, my money, and at times, it seems, my patience and sanity. What I never expected to have to sacrifice though was my identity as a gay man and the support of the larger gay community.
I have to admit, I have felt frustrated, ostracized, and disappointed in the gay community since adopting my son. And I can get more than a little pissed about it. I feel I have done exactly what has been expected of me as a gay man. I have fought both internal and external demons to live my life openly and demanded that my rights (our rights) be not only respected but protected by law. But now that I have become who I have always wanted to be as a result of that fight — a father — I find my fellow gays no longer know who I am. Or, more accurately, I don’t think they know what to do with me, so they turn away and do nothing.
But our numbers are increasing. According to the Williams Institute, one in five gay men 50 or under in the U.S. are parenting a child under 18. And as more gay men avail themselves of marriage, the next question will no longer be if you will start a family, but when. I’m confident previously denied prospective grandparents will make sure of that!
I think we are on the cusp of a major evolutionary jump for gay men. It’s taken having children for us to realize the youth-centric culture we built around bars, drugs and alcohol, and sex is not sufficient to accommodate all that we want out of life. But before people freak out, I am not suggesting we install day care centers in gay bars. There is a time and a place for adult activities and entertainment. But our community needs to offer more. We have to look around and recognize many of us have children now. And while we are more than happy to make friends with straight parents, we also don’t want to turn in our “gay card” once we become dads. We want to find a community of support as fathers within the gay community too. Unfortunately, the numbers are not on our side right now to allow this to happen naturally. It’s one of the reasons we started the Handsome Father, to create a community of support to not only help gay men learn how they can become fathers but let gay dads know they are not alone, even if it feels like they are sometimes.
We want to talk with other gay fathers. Share our stories, our concerns, and talk about the things only another gay dad will understand or appreciate. Don’t get me wrong, we love our childless friends, gay and straight. Sometimes they are exactly whom we want to spend time with. But understand that the majority of our stress and anxiety these days is not wrapped up in our jobs, pets, or dating. For me, it’s whether I am a good enough father to not completely screw up my kid. And the only person who is going to truly appreciate that is another dad.
Andy Miller is the founder of the Handsome Father, a new community that aims to support gay fathers and fathers-to-be. He and others involved in the project are planning a new website to compliment their existing social media channels.