I’ve never been what you’d call a kid person. Even as a child I preferred the company of adults to people my own age. As an adult myself, I always relished my role as the favorite uncle – the guy who lived in a funky apartment in the big city, sent souvenirs from exotic vacations spots, and gave the coolest presents at Christmas. But I never wanted anything with more responsibility. My partner Kelly and I used to refer to children as little life suckers.
So imagine my surprise when after over a dozen years together, Kelly sat me down and came out to me as a gay man, who wanted to be a father. Unbeknownst to me, his biological clock had been ticking pretty loudly, and for quite a while he’d been going online to do research about adoption. And here I thought all that time he was spending on the computer he was looking at porn like any other normal gay man!
But he isn’t a typical gay man, and turns out neither am I. We both wanted to be parents.
However, this next stage in my life wasn’t something I was comfortable sharing with the world. Instead I chose a handful of very close friends in whom I guardedly confided. I deluded myself by saying I was simply managing expectations. What if Alameda County never placed a child with us? Why should my family have to experience the disappointment and heartbreak?
For his part, Kelly took the complete opposite approach, stopping just short of taking out an ad in USA Today. I lived in fear that someone from his family would run into my parents and ask, “So what do you think about the guys trying to adopt?”
This secrecy conflicted with how I lived every other aspect of my life. I had come out relatively early and continued to come out whenever I needed. My family knew (even my family in Europe). My friends knew. My colleagues, neighbors and clients all knew. I wasn’t ashamed to be a gay man, but I guess the same couldn’t be said about potentially being a gay dad.
For two years following our training and certification it was all a moot point. There had been a couple of false starts but nothing promising. Discouraged, we agreed to wait it out through the end of 2003 and then return to our lives as “normal” gay men. But in October, our caseworker called asking if we wanted to be considered for a healthy baby boy. With our cynicism toward the county system well rooted, we knew he’d be placed with a perfect straight family.
But that’s not what happened. A few days later, the caseworker called to say we’d been matched with the baby. We were going to be dads.
There was a laundry list of things to accomplish immediately before his arrival in our home: we needed a crib, changing table, diapers and formula. Oh, and I needed to come out as a gay dad.
During the phone call with my parents, they raised very valid concerns about a child: the lack of medical history, the financial strain, the dramatic lifestyle changes. But not once did they say gay men shouldn’t be parents. They made it clear that it was not a decision they would make for us, but they fully supported us.
I followed this conversation with a very detailed letter to my entire family announcing our son’s arrival. The response was amazingly positive. I had underestimated my family’s unconditional love and acceptance of me.
Three and half years later, when we learned our son’s mother had given birth to another baby, I didn’t hesitate to tell the world that we were going to be fathers again.
Being gay dads in California wasn’t all that challenging. For example, we learned after the fact that our oldest son’s preschool had read And Tango Makes Three, the true story of two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo, who hatched an egg and raised a chick together. When the teacher finished, one of the kids said, “Hey! Tango has two dads just like Gus, cool!”
Needless to say, we were somewhat apprehensive about moving back to Salt Lake. So far it’s been a positive step. My sons reinforce most people’s already existing assumption that I’m straight. But the reality of every day life requires me to come out to entire groups of people I would never need to if it weren’t for the boys. Every day my kids provide me with opportunities to change people’s opinions and preconceptions about gay men in a positive way.
It’s just one of the many benefits of being their dad.