You will often find me bustling around town with my kids. Be it the grocery store, the dojo, at the soccer pitch, the coffee shop, or at the playground… I actually like spending time with my boys (most of the time!). And since my latest hangouts are usually surrounded by other parent-and-child squads, there is often small talk among the baggy-eyed, caffeine hooked, gaggle of parents. Topics tend to orbit around the weather, the kids, food… and sometimes the innocent bystander will ask “So what does your wife do?”
More often than not, I just want to blend in with the rest of them, watch my kid play and sip my already cold coffee. It’s very tempting to just tell a white lie and keep the conversation light and flowing… but the educator and social justice fighter in me forces my brain to – once again – come out and say “There is no wife. I’m gay” While images of rainbow flags and pink triangles bombard my latest victim, it takes a few seconds for them to re-frame their mind. And just like that, the conversation quickly gets personal. Are your kids adopted? Do the kids keep in touch with the donor? Do they call her mom? Who’s sperm did you use? Are you guys married?
A while back, when Norm and I decided to kick start our family, I knew this was going to throw us into the lime light a bit. I mean, we are part of the pioneering gay men who decided to leave their glitter and leather behind for a “normal” public life of suburban homes, manicured lawns, and raising kids. Throw into the mix that we wanted to have genetically related children and suddenly we add modern science, surrogacy, and assisted reproduction to our story line. Add a dash of heartache, conflict, and touching baby births and you have your latest binge-watch-worthy Netflix drama series! Yes, it’s an interesting tale, but aside from the joy I get from telling our family origins story, I also see it as a bit of my responsibility to share it.
While I feel very fortunate to be living in a country that respects basic human rights, I am deeply saddened by the horror stories and struggles my fellow gay brethren face in this world. Men and women who are looking to have some of their most basic human needs met (shelter, employment, companionship, love, family) have to live in fear or in hiding for their own safety. It baffles me that in 2018, world leaders are sanctioning such ignorance and hate towards other people based on characteristics where choice does NOT play a factor.
People just like me are victims of physical and emotional pain on a regular basis… and here I am, free to walk my stroller in the park, carrying a healthy, happy, lab-made baby, who is genetically my son. It almost seems unfair.
So for reasons you can probably deduce by now, I feel pretty strongly that people who ask should know about us and that “coming out” is part of the telling of our family story. I see it as my responsibility to spread the word, inform, and educate others. Misinformation and ignorance breeds hateful words and misguided actions so if I can do my part in making it better, then I must. I also feel that the more exposure our kids get to different kinds of families, the more we normalize our differences and understand the true meaning of acceptance. People are surprised at how boring and normal we really are.
And finally, I feel pretty proud of the tough skin I’ve built over the last few decades. It’s taken this long to finally feel comfortable and confident in my own skin. So by standing tall and telling our story, I will instill that sense of pride and strength in my own kids.
Once our story comes out, I’ve seen some of the following pretty cool things happen:
A conversation starts between parent and child about the differences (and similarities) in families and how all families who love each other are pretty awesome!
I get connected with other gay men who need guidance on their own journey to becoming a family
Parents of kids who are beginning to identify as LGBTQ are asking me for advice on how to be a supportive parent and help guide them through uncharted parenting territories
Parenting gender roles fall apart “So who does all the ‘mom’ work?”
Our own families and friends have unintentionally become gay activists
Our surrogate started her own surrogacy agency and specializes in connecting women to future gay dads
When Dad Club London decided to participate in the London Pride parade, my heart just about burst. For me, DCL embodies true positivity in parenting and participating in the parade are the actions behind the words. This is what inclusivity and fulfilling your responsibility to make the world a better place looks like fellas!
DCL representing at London Pride 2017
So now it’s your turn. Yes, YOU! You are part of this change and this conversation. It’s time you did your part. You don’t have to wave a pride flag on your front lawn but if you want to make the world a little better for your kids, have these conversations with them. Teach them about how amazing our differences are, how to be proud of the person they are and the family they are a part of. Be more inclusive in the books you choose. Break down stereotypes as they happen (pink is not a girl colour!). Model the attitude and behaviour you want to see in your kids. Be more careful with your word choice around them. Get to know families that embody your beliefs. Or join DCL this summer as we march again in this year’s Pride Parade.
If nothing else, show your kids that the one true thing that makes all families is love.
Frank Emanuele, Gay Dad and DCL Director
Another good read: The Battle Cry of a Gay Father