Leaving Home

You could say I came to LA to get away from my family.  I was 22 and wanted to assert my independence.  Plus, it seemed like a much cooler place to live than New Jersey, the filthy, strip-mall saturated suburbia where I spent my requisite miserable childhood.

LA was exciting – and it was mine.  My family thought I was crazy to come here, and that was the best part.  But in spite of myself, I continued to call New Jersey “home”, as in “I’m going home for Christmas” or “I miss everyone back home.”

Still, I didn’t have to get anyone’s permission – for anything.  It wouldn’t be overstating it to say I finally became myself in LA.  I came out, fell in love and had my kids here, something Drew and I couldn’t have done without California’s liberal surrogacy laws.

Sometime over the last 17 years, I started calling LA “home”.  The East Coast was just a place I visited now.  My family was made up of a tight circle of friends I’d formed here.  I got used to pumping my own gas and grabbing a quick meal at Baja Fresh.  When I’d drive through old neighborhoods in New Jersey, I’d see Verizon stores where Roy Rogers used to be.  It was a foreign land.

Then, a few weeks ago, we were presented a chance to move back.  Drew got a very tempting job offer with a New York-based company.  They wanted him to start right away.  They’d pick up all our moving costs.  We wouldn’t even have to pack.  All we’d have to do… was leave.

We took the offer.

22-year-old me would never have believed I’d cave and go back.  But it wasn’t that hard a decision after all.  I don’t want to leave here or to lose touch with any of the people I’ve come to care so much about in California.  But the forces pulling us to New York were ultimately stronger than the forces tying us here.  It wasn’t about the job or the money.  What made me want to go back to the East Coast was exactly what made me leave in the first place.  Family.

I want my kids to know their cousins, and I want them to get spoiled by their grandparents.  I want to be there for my brother-in-law’s wedding and to stay out all night celebrating.  I want free babysitting from my sister, and I want to know that in an emergency, a lifeline is just a phone call away.

We found a house to rent in Westchester County.  A house, with a real backyard, rather than a hallway that we call a backyard.  Still, it doesn’t feel real.  I suspect it’ll take a while before New York feels like home.

My kids aren’t quite two and a half yet.  Assuming the move sticks, New York will be the only home they’re likely to remember.  It makes me sad to think that they’ll forget all their friends – all our friends, that when we come back to visit, these people who are so dear to us will just be strangers to them.

But maybe someday, when they’re grown up, they’ll want to move far away from me.  Maybe after growing up in the New York suburbs, Los Angeles will seem new and exciting.  I kind of hope it does.  It’s not that I think they’ll be any happier here than anywhere else.  Or that I romanticize my own journey out here when I was younger.

It’s just nice to know there are a lot of people here who’ll watch over them for me.

First Concert

Before Yo Gabba Gabba Live:

“Daddy, we’re going to Yo Gabba Gabba Live!”

“That’s right.  Who are we going to see?”

“Foofa!  And Muno!”

“Brobee!”

“DJ Lance!”

YO GABBA GABBA LIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

 

During Yo Gabba Gabba Live:

After Yo Gabba Gabba Live:

“I wanna see Yo Gabba Gabba Live again!”

“Yeah!  YO GABBA GABBA LIVE!!!!!!!!”

The Babysitter’s Guide to My Kids, Part One

I had to go out of town for a few days, so my Mom is taking care of the kids while I’m gone.  I gave her a quick rundown of my daily responsibilities, but since I left I’ve been thinking of all the things I should’ve told her, the practical advice that would help any temporary caregiver survive a few hours or more in my shoes.

So I’ve decided to start a new blog feature, The Babysitter’s Guide to My Kids.  That way, I’ll have a handy guide for the next time I leave my kids in someone else’s care… and any of my regular readers will be qualified to step in at a moment’s notice.

First up, a guide to the main set for Why Jerry Why the sitcom, our condo building.

Amenities.  See that cement backlot covered in astroturf out our rear window?  That’s where the building’s Jacuzzi used to be before homeless people started using it as a bathtub.  Now, nobody uses it for anything.  If it’s nice out, the kids can play down there.  We’ve even set up a plastic slide and a big water toy that the kids love.  None of our neighbors has complained yet about us squatting in the common area this way.  If you are out there playing and one of them complains, just act like you don’t understand their thick Russian accent.  If they don’t have a thick Russian accent, then pretend like you have one and they’ll go away.

Elevator.  The kids love to push the elevator buttons, especially the “Emergency Only” button.  You will tell them not to do this, but sometimes they’ll get away with it anyway.  They may even team up.  One will distract you while the other pushes the button.  In this case, wait for the emergency operator to pick up, then let her know that Bennett or Sutton hit the button.  You can use their names.  I’m pretty sure they know our kids by now.

Our “backyard”.  On days when it’s too cold or rainy to go outside, we use the hallway like a backyard.  The kids can take their bikes, basketball hoop, shopping cart or whatever else they want and play there.  They love this.

While in the hall, Bennett may try to get you to play Hide and Seek.  There is only one hiding place in the hallway, the tiny alcove around the corner.  But they are still delighted to find you there and will act surprised every time.  Beware: if Bennett asks you to play Hide and Seek, it may be a trick.  If he doesn’t find you within 10 seconds, he’s probably inside jumping on the couch.  This means he never wanted to play Hide and Seek.  He wanted to jump on the couch.

Neighbors.  Our neighbors are all very friendly, and they love our kids.  They are mostly older people who enjoy the carefree sounds of youth.  In fact, when they hear the kids playing in the hall, they’ll often come out of their units to say hello.

The most enthusiastic is Auntie Ruthie.  She likes to poke her head out and feed the kids cookies.  I’m not crazy about them eating cookies between meals, but for Auntie Ruthie, I make an exception, because it makes her happy.  Sometimes the kids will knock on her door and ask for cookies.  If that happens, please make sure the kids stay and talk to Auntie Ruthie for a minute and not just run away once they score the goods.  If they’re going to eat junk food, they at least have to earn it by talking to a nice older lady for a few minutes.

I don’t recommend taking the kids in the hall until after the View is over.  That’s when Auntie Ruthie takes her morning shower.  Before then, you run the risk of seeing Auntie Ruthie in her house dress.

You may also run into Uncle Ivan.  Don’t let Uncle Ivan see the kids with cookies or he’ll get very judgmental about it.  He’ll sometimes give them weird fruits from the Russian market.

Last week, Uncle Ivan asked the kids if they knew their letters.  Again, I was feeling judged, but thankfully, they not only knew what the letters were but what sounds each one makes.  Sometimes, they could even name a word that started with the letter.

I thought Uncle Ivan would be impressed, but instead he shook his head and warned me that they were learning too fast.  He feared that when they got to school they would be bored and probably fail out.

Deliveries.  Approximately 2-14 times a day, we will get some kind of delivery.  Diapers, bulk boxes of baby food, video games from Amazon for Daddy.  To buzz someone in, pick up the phone and press 9.

Note that this system is also helpful if you happen to get locked out of the building.  Just use the intercom in the lobby to call a neighbor.  It doesn’t matter which one.  When they pick up, say the secret code: “UPS delivery!”.  They’ll buzz you in right away.  (Note: After 7PM, the secret code is “Chinese food!”)

Mini Mart.  If you run out of milk or something essential, you may be tempted to use the convenience store next door to our building.  I don’t recommend it.  We’re pretty sure it’s a front for drug dealers and/or the mob.  If you actually check the expiration dates in the store’s refrigerators, you’re likely to find milks from when Charmed was still on the air.

Don’t talk to anyone who’s idling in their car outside the mini mart or pacing back and forth nervously as if they’re waiting for someone to show up.  They’re probably just waiting for the next milk delivery.

Do not use the alley that separates the mini mart from our building and especially do not use the entrance to our building off that alley.  Those areas are frequented by homeless people and spiders, respectively.

We really do have a wonderful building, and the kids love living here.

Whenever possible, though, you’ll probably just want to stay inside.

Travel Tips for Families With Two Kids Or Less (Or More)

Nothing brings out the best in strangers like witnessing men try to take care of children.  They tend to think you need help – and even more, that you deserve it.  Like a dude with a baby is automatically in over his head and crying out for a lifeline.  You can take it as an insult, or, if you’re me, you can take the help, because hey, it’s free help, right?

Never does this mentality come in handy more than when you’re traveling.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire airport terminal to get that child to Grandma’s for the holidays.  Soak it up, fellow gay dads, because this is where the new BFFs come out of the woodwork to assist you.  Not that you need them, of course.

Drew and I have made the LA to New York journey with the kids four times now.  That may not qualify me as an expert, but we haven’t lost a kid yet, so I’d say I’m good enough.

With the holidays coming up, I thought I’d share a few of my secrets.

Make a packing list.  It’s easier than it sounds.  Just write down everything you use in a 24-hour period.  Burp cloths, bibs, formula, your “Daddy’s not messin’ around” voice.  Figure out how many of each you’ll need during your flight and how many you’ll use for the rest of the trip.  Use this as your checklist before you leave – and again before you return home.  Next time you travel, it gets easier, because you can use your previous list as a jumping off point.  As your kids get older, you’ll need less stuff with every vacation.  And if this sounds too anal for you, hold on, because it’s about to get way more anal.

Ship, borrow and sacrifice.  Getting your kids through an airport is tough enough.  Don’t take the entire haul from your baby shower with you.  Ship diapers and food to your destination.  Borrow a pack-n-play from a relative or neighbor wherever you’re headed.  Do without the bottle warmers while you’re gone.  Do everything possible to minimize your haul.

Number your key items.  A key item is anything that’s not attached to your body that needs to arrive safely at your destination.  Why do you need to number them?  Because you’d be surprised how fast they add up.  Here’s our key item list from our first trip with the kids:

Carry-on items:

1. Bennett

2. Sutton

3. Bennett’s car seat

4. Sutton’s car seat

5. Drew’s carry-on bag

6. My carry-on bag

7. Diaper bag

Gate checked item:

8. Snap-n-go stroller

Checked items:

9. Drew’s checked bag

10. My checked bag

11. Babies’ checked bag

12. Bennett’s car seat base

13. Sutton’s car seat base

Start with the items you’ll be carrying on the plane, then gate checked items, then checked items.  Any time you make a transition, do a count off to make sure you have everything you should.

From the condo to the car and the car to the airport, we counted up to 13.

From the check-in desk through security, to the waiting area, to the gate, we counted up to 8.

Once on the plane, we counted up to 7.

Keep a list of what the numbers correspond to in case you can’t locate something.  And if you lose track of #1 or #2, it’s time to get on the airport intercom.

Pack food you can serve easily.  You know how hard it is to do something as simple as crossing your legs in a cramped airplane seat?  Well, don’t even think about slicing up strawberries and swirling them into little Joey’s oatmeal.  Keep things as simple as possible.  Chewy cereal bars.  Snacks in no-spill cups.  Those wonderful little squeezey pouch fruit purees.

And splurge on the pre-made formula in cans.  It’s much easier than mixing your own from the powder.  Don’t worry.  The TSA won’t make you taste it.  Just tell them you’re carrying it, and they’ll run it through the X-ray machine.

Get a greeter if you can.  Did you know that, for a couple hundred dollars, you can hire someone to meet you at the airport and help you all the way from the curb until you get on the plane?  These wonderful human beings will deal with skycaps, whisk you to the front of the security line, gain you access to the first-class lounge and come get you when it’s time to board.  They’ll push your bags on a luggage cart, help you gate-check your stroller and even sweet talk the gate agents into letting you pre-board.  Yes, traveling with your kids is already costing you a fortune, but why not make this your Christmas present to yourself?  I assure you, it’s worth it.

Let the kid watch TV.  Your day-to-day job as a parent is to raise a healthy, well-adjusted, intellectually curious child.  For many of us, that means keeping SpongeBob to a minimum.  But when you’re on a plane, your job is to get to your destination without you or the kid melting down.  So go ahead and rot their brain if it helps.

For space reasons, try to avoid bringing a laptop or portable DVD player.  Instead, load your iPhone with Yo Gabba Gabbas and bring your power cord so you can keep it charged.

And finally, the most important rule of all…

Don’t feel guilty if your kid cries.  There’s a crying baby on every plane.  There’s also a jerk who glares at the kid’s parents or sighs audibly to register their annoyance.  Admit it: You’ve been the jerk plenty of times.  Now you get to be the parent.  It’s the circle of life.

But look around.  While your baby is crying, you’re also getting lots of supportive looks from parents like you who’ve been there.  And from this point on, that’s who you’ll be.  When you’re getting off the plane, strangers will approach you to tell you how good your baby was (even if he wasn’t), because that’s what parents do for each other.

It’s really a beautiful thing – sniff, sniff.

Have any secret tips of your own?  Help a Daddy out, and leave me a comment!

Before It Got Better

One of the reasons I love getting comments is that it helps me learn who my readers are, which helps me figure out what kinds of posts people might appreciate.  A few of the comments I got on my 5 People You Meet as a Gay Dad post were from younger gay men, maybe a couple even too young to be called “men” yet.  A few said they hoped to have kids someday and one teenager, who’s still in the closet, asked “how I came to be like this”.  If you mean “gay”, then I think I was born that way.  If you mean “a gay dad”, then the answer is much more complicated.  One of the reasons I’m writing a memoir is to detail how I went from a scared gay kid to a happy, fulfilled gay man who thinks all the struggle was worth it.

Here’s a piece I wrote before my kids were born.  I performed it at a reading series here in Los Angeles called Spark.  The theme of the evening was “Surprise”.  And yes, it’s all true.  I’ve never published this anywhere before now, but hopefully, for anyone curious, it gives some insight into how I came to be like this.

“I’m gay.” Two words I didn’t hear much growing up in the 80s.  “You’re gay.”  That, I heard a lot.  That was easy to say.  Everybody said it.  Because you didn’t have to mean it.  You didn’t have to think about what the word “gay” really meant, only that it was bad.  If you said “I’m gay,” you’d better mean it, because then, suddenly, everyone would be thinking about what “gay” really meant.

Being a gay teenager in the 80s meant being terrified, pretty much all the time.  Terrified of not being able to throw a football, of not producing ample quantities of drool over Samantha Fox or Kelly LeBroc, of not laughing hard enough when some kid got called a “faggot” – or worse, of being that kid.

I wanted an adolescence like the horny teenagers in “Porky’s” had, where all that mattered was getting laid.  Getting laid wasn’t even on my five-year plan.  I just wanted to feel human.

My best friend Greg wasn’t helping.  My other friends liked Greg because his dad gave him a Playboy, and when we went over to his house, he let them look at it.  I just wanted to get back to watching MTV’s world premiere of Janet Jackson’s “Pleasure Principle” video, an underrated gem.  I was terrified my friends would suspect something was wrong with me, and sometimes, I had hints that they did.

This being New Jersey, we were all in a bowling league together.  I assigned myself the job of leading a team cheer every week.  “2, 4, 6, 8 who do we appreciate?  You, you!  You’re team number 2!”  One week, this twelve-year-old twit from a rival team came up and asked, “So, are you guys gay or something?”  My friend Dave shook his head, then pointed to me and said, “No, just he is.”  I knew this was his idea of a joke and that he didn’t actually think I was gay, but still, a voice in my head warned, “He’s onto you!  Retreat!  Retreat!”  I eventually stopped the cheers.

One time, Greg and I were hanging out, playing “The Legend of Zelda”.  We’d just uncovered the entrance to the ninth dungeon at Spectacle Rock, when out of the blue, Greg said the most hurtful words anyone had ever said to me.  “I could never be friends with someone who was gay.”  I wasn’t sure what exactly about our quest to save Hyrule had provoked this, but clearly it had been on his mind.  So there it was: my greatest fear emphatically confirmed, underlined and bolded. If I ever told Greg I was gay, there’d be no more friendship.  I’d be sitting alone in the cafeteria, with no one to discuss ALF with and forced to save Hyrule on my own.

Of course, that was 17 years ago.  A lot had changed since then.  I knew Greg must’ve met some gay people in college, that he was probably on good terms with Ned from Accounting.  I was sure he’d seen “Ellen” and “Will & Grace” and Tom Hanks’ Oscar-winning performance in “Philadelphia”.  One thing that hadn’t changed in all that time was that Greg and I were still close.  I saw him every time I went back east, and we talked on the phone every few weeks.  But still, my love life was something we never discussed.  If Greg knew I was gay, and he was cool with it, he would’ve brought it up by now… wouldn’t he??

I couldn’t believe I was about to move in with my boyfriend, Drew, happier than I’d ever been, and I was still afraid of being rejected by somebody I considered my best friend.  I realized I hadn’t come as far as I’d thought, that on some level, I was still that scared teenager, full of shame.  And there was only one way to change that.

I mustered whatever courage I had, and I dialed Greg’s number.

Coming out of the closet is one thing at which practice never makes perfect.  Though I’d done it dozens of times by this point, I still made all the rookie mistakes.  Being nervous, assuming the reaction would be bad, and the worst, starting with the words, “I’m sorry…”.  In this case, it was, “I’m sorry to do this over the phone,” which, although true, was far too dramatic a setup.  As was what followed: “Greg, I have something very important to talk to you about, something I’ve needed to say for 17 years.” Then, I stopped.  How the hell do you go from there to “I’m gay!”?

Greg knew something was up.  He was totally silent. Too silent.  Too long.  Finally, I just said it.  “So… I’m gay!”  Still nothing. Absolutely nothing. I couldn’t bear the quiet, so I kept talking.  “It’s been a really long process, and I hope you’re not hurt that it took me so long to tell you, but that’s more a reflection on me than on you and, hey, have you seen Philadelphia?”

“It’s okay. You can stop,” he said.  He took a long pause. “It’s fine. I’m cool with it. I’ve… I’ve kind of been going through the same thing.”

WHAT?!?!?

“I’ve been… you know, questioning.”

Oh my God. He couldn’t even say it. Here I was apologizing for being so slow in coming out, and it turned out he was even further behind in the process. He hadn’t even accepted himself yet. His voice was shaking.  He was petrified.

It became clear that Greg had been questioning his sexuality for years – and that his question had pretty much been answered. But he hadn’t told anyone. Anyone.

I tried to be supportive, I tried to say all the right things. I told him about Drew, and about how happy I was, hoping he’d see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I reminded myself that when he answered his phone a few minutes earlier, he had no idea that his lifetime of hiding was about to end. We talked for half an hour, and it was easily the most open talk we’ve ever had, and then we said goodbye. I didn’t want to overwhelm him, and besides, I was still a little overwhelmed myself.

I had certainly considered the possibility that Greg might be gay. If there was one person I’d ever known who was even more secretive about his love life than I was, it was him. His dad’s Playboy aside, girls and sex were subjects the two of us never discussed, and I think that’s part of why we became such good friends, though I guess I always assumed he was doing me a favor.

But somewhere along the way, I dismissed my suspicions. I mean, come on, the guy was in his 30s now. He had to be straight. The only other possibility was that he was gay and even more in the closet than I was. What were the odds of that?

I thought back to what he’d said that day at Spectacle Rock. “I could never be friends with someone who was gay.” And then I remembered what he said next: “Could you?” Suddenly, I realized that his statement hadn’t been motivated by hatred, but by fear. It was a possibility I didn’t even consider at the time. Back then, I was crushed. And I had to respond. But how? I was caught off-guard. I was afraid. All I could say was, “I don’t know.”

“I don’t know.”

And what followed was seventeen years of “I don’t know”. It seems absurd now.  All that time we were both struggling in private, we could’ve been there for each other, had someone to talk to, someone to share with, someone to make us feel human.

Growing up gay was hell, and there’s nobody I would rather have gone through that with than him. If only we’d known. If only we hadn’t been so afraid.

In the weeks that followed, Greg and I talked a lot.  I felt like we got to know each other for the first time.  Not only was I seeing a new Greg, but Greg was becoming a new man, day by day.  Within a week, he’d come out to his whole family.  A few days later, it was his 31st birthday, and he gave himself the best present he could think of.  He took a dozen of his closest friends out to dinner, and he made a big announcement to the whole table.  In an instant, his hiding was over.

Greg didn’t have any bad experiences coming out.  No rejection, no hostility, no drama.  Just like with me, the fear was so much worse than the reality.

And during his whole coming out marathon, he had to make one really hard call, to his best friend from college.  When Greg shared his news, his friend got quiet at first, and Greg started to panic.

Then the friend cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and said, “It’s okay.  I’m cool with it.  Actually, I’ve kind of been going through the same thing.”

Me (l) and Greg (r) at the Simpsons ride, 2008

muppetlove-featured

Muppet Love

I don’t think I could’ve timed parenthood more perfectly than to have two-year-olds just as the Muppets are making a comeback.  I pity those children born during the late 90s and early 00s.  Muppet Treasure Island?  My sympathies, Millennials.  My sympathies.

My kids, on the other hand, know only the salad days of Kermit & Crew.  The Show.  The Movie.  The Merchandise.  Ah yes, the Merchandise.  Now, thanks to this new film, their favorite felt friends are everywhere.  Nothing gets them more excited than seeing a Muppet billboard.  Sutton seems to be particularly smitten.

“There’s Kermit the Frog!” she’ll shout.  Then, as if she’s just discovered the giant pink snout next to Kermit, she’ll squeal, “And there’s Miss Piggy!”

She knows all the words to “Movin’ Right Along”, and sometimes, out of the blue, she’ll treat us to an a capella version, taking her best stab at the words she’s unfamiliar with.  “A bear in his nashal hat-tat… a Stoo-baker.”

To be fair, she doesn’t like all of Jim Henson’s creations.  Animal freaks her out a little.

“He’s scary.”

And this guy frightens her… kind of.

“He’s scary… but he’s very nice.”

Ask her who her favorite is, though, and she won’t hesitate.  In fact, it’s a tie…

Yes, Statler and Waldorf.

No question about it, she gets most excited and she laughs the loudest when they’re on screen.  My sweet little girl loves those two obnoxious old coots who laugh at their own terrible jokes.

Drew and I couldn’t figure it out.  Was it because the other characters’ humor was too subtle for her?  But if that were the case, why not Fozzie?  He’s practically begging for the affection of the toddler crowd with his broad comic schtick.

Then, a couple of days ago, a new theory emerged.  Sutton was playing with her Statler and Waldorf dolls, when she decided to put them down for a nap.

In our bed.

Together.

She tucked them in, turned the lights out, then shushed me, because Statler and Waldorf were sleeping.

Whenever something ridiculously cute happens while Drew’s at work, I take pictures so I can send them to him.

But Drew read into it a little more than I expected.  He wrote back right away, concerned.

“Oh my God.  That’s how she sees us!”

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made.  Those two guys in the box seats have really good chemistry.  They crack each other up.  They sit very close together.

To this little girl, two obnoxious old coots who laugh at their own terrible jokes… are a lot like her daddies.

And to think, everyone was so sure Bert and Ernie were the gay ones.

The 250 Commenters You Meet as a Gay Dad

I’ve always intended to reply individually to everyone who comments on my blog.  I’m grateful anyone takes the time to read what I write, let alone offer their feedback.  And one of the best things about blogging is getting to interact with readers, whenever I’m lucky enough to have any.

And then… this happened.

I got Freshly Pressed by WordPress, linked on AfterElton  and Towleroad, promoted on Reddit, tweeted on Twitter and shared on Facebook, as well as a lot of people’s own blogs.  The last two days have been astounding, watching my hit count set new records, then break them over again, feeling my phone buzz every 30 seconds or so to alert me to a new email and reading so many wonderful, thoughtful and hilarious comments from people who connected to something I wrote.  It’s the kind of experience a blogger dreams of having.

… every time they post something.

So please keep coming back!

And now let’s go do this for the next lucky blogger.  It sure was fun.

I was still hoping to respond to everybody, but at this point, it would take me days, I would run out of interesting things to say and I would use up the time I would’ve been spending working on other posts.

So forgive me if I offer this blanket response instead.  If I didn’t address you directly, I apologize.  Once this craziness dies down, I hope to go back to my policy of replying to everyone.

Until then, I offer these blanket responses to the 8 kinds of people who commented on my post:

1.5ers.  Some supportive people very kindly asked whether there might be a category between #1 (New BFFs) and #2 (Jaded Allies), something more flattering perhaps?  Yes, of course there is, but let me also say there’s nothing wrong with being a #1 or a #2.  Until there are more gay dads in more parts of the world, lots of perfectly well-meaning people will remain self-conscious in their reactions, and that’s why they may act a little silly sometimes.  I’m grateful for any type of support, be it muted or overenthusiastic, so no matter where you fall on the spectrum, you’re cool with me.

Other gay dads.  I was very relieved that my peers, no matter where they lived, seemed to have similar experiences to mine.  A few have met the Moral Crusaders, unfortunately, but mostly, people feel supported even in the most politically conservative places.  I was really hoping this blog would introduce me to other gay dads, so I hope you’ll all come back and visit.

“I totally related to that, even though I’m not gay!” people.  I loved getting these comments, because I never expected my post would resonate so much with interracial couples, single moms, adoptive parents, co-parents, bisexuals, transsexuals, childless gays, wiccans, pagans or anyone who feels a little different.  It made me really happy to hear from all of you, and now that that’s out of the way, can I be your new BFF?

Other nice people.  Lots of people wrote just to say “great post” or to compliment my writing or tell me I made them laugh.  You guys are welcome back any time.  And to my self-described “stalker” who said she’s now following me in every way possible, I think you forgot to “like” me on Facebook.  Please get on it!

International readers.  I have international readers?!  COOOOL!  Thank you so much for sharing your perspectives.  I’m fascinated by how LGBT people are treated throughout the world, and I hope someday, everyone will feel as fulfilled and accepted as I have.

The overwhelming majority fell into those categories, but there were just a couple of others I’d like to address…

People who called me a hypocrite.  How dare I label people?, they demanded.  Aren’t I asking not to be labeled myself?  Um, no.  Not at all.  In fact, I do label myself, as a gay dad.  I did it in the subject line, before I labeled anyone else.  But wait!, someone said.  Is that all there is to me?  Am I just a gay dad?  Why am I “in your face” about that particular part of who I am, when surely there’s so much more to me?  Well, if you think I’m in your face, please back away from your computer.  No, I don’t think “gay dad” says all you need to know about me, or this site would consist only of those two words.  Instead, I have a blog where I write endlessly (and admittedly narcissistically) about myself.  If you want to know more about me than the fact that I’m a gay dad, I encourage you to read to your heart’s content.

“Love the sinners, hate the sin” people.  It’s fine to “love the sinner, hate the sin” if that’s really what you’re doing, but once you tell me that that’s what you’re doing, you’re not doing it anymore.  You’re judging me quite openly, and I find it rude.  If that’s how your god wants you to behave, then swell, you two can high-five each other over it someday.  “Hey, guy who comments on blogs!  Way to go with that gay dude!”  Until then, I’d prefer you do me the favor of becoming a Closet Homophobe.  If you can’t tell me you love me and respect me as a human being without also telling me in the same breath that I’m going to Hell, then please just smile and walk away, thanks.

And before anyone cries “persecution”, I never said or implied that all Christians were homophobic, confrontational or judgmental.  I know tons of wonderful, open-minded people of all faiths, many who’ve even been new BFFs.  If you feel persecuted, it’s not because you’re Christian.  It’s more likely because you’re an a**hole.

The person who considers surrogacy to be the moral equivalent of slavery.  Well, hi, I’m sorry you feel that way, but if you’re curious to know more about surrogacy, you’ve come to the right place.  If you’re interested, I’d recommend this post I wrote on the topic.  It sheds some light on why my partner and I chose that route.  But really, I think you’d be better off talking to our surrogate about her reasons for doing what she did.  Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll unchain her from my cotton gin so you two can hang.

Thanks for reading, everyone.  I’ll be back tomorrow with a regular post.

Thanks, Everyone!

Traffic in Oslo (E18 Bjørvika)

Image via Wikipedia

I know blog traffic is only interesting to the blogger, so I’ll make this quick.  Where Do Gaybies Come From had a huge day yesterday.  HUGE.  Over 11,000 hits.  And today looks to be another big day, thanks to Towleroad, AfterElton, Think Progress, Reddit and plenty of others.  So I want to thank everyone who linked to my 5 People You Meet as a Gay Dad post.

Even more amazing, I had over 1,000 hits from Facebook, which means a lot of you are sharing my blog with your friends.  I can’t tell you how much that means to me and how much that’s helped me find new readers. Thank you!

I want to welcome all the new people who subscribed, liked this blog on Facebook and added me to their readers.  I hope you’ll poke around a bit and find some stuff you enjoy here.

Thanks also to the commenters.  One of the reasons I started this blog was to connect with other gay dads, and it was amazing to hear some of their stories and responses to my piece.  I hope all of you will come back and keep me posted on your families – maybe even start blogs of your own.

A few people wrote to say they were offended by my caricature of the “Moral Crusader” in the post, so I want to apologize for that.  It was never my intention to generalize about Latinos, and I was surprised anyone saw it that way.  So I’m sorry to anyone who was offended.  I’ve taken that cartoon down.  For the record, Latinos have been as kind and accepting of my family as anyone else.

One final note.  I’m planning a title and design change of this blog in the next few weeks.  It may look a bit different, but I want to assure everyone that the content won’t change.  I still plan to focus on a funnyish look at my life as a gay dad of twins.  I’m glad this blog has connected with so many people, and I hope it will continue to in the future.  Thanks for reading!

Thanks, Towleroad!

I’m very grateful to one of my favorite blogs, Towleroad, for linking to my blog today.  It’s given me a huge boost in traffic and lots of new readers.  To anyone who found this page via Towleroad, welcome!  I hope you’ll stick around and read a few posts.  If you like what you see, please consider subscribing, liking me on Facebook and/or following me on Twitter.

And please leave a comment and say hello.  I’ve especially enjoyed hearing from other gay dads, but I’d love to hear from anyone who relates to or enjoys something I wrote.  (Which one of the 5 People are you?  C’mon, fess up!)

EPSON MFP image

The 5 People You Meet as a Gay Dad

The hardest part about being a gay dad has nothing to do with raising your children.  Sure, at two years old, my twins are already curious as to what a Mommy is and why we don’t have one.  But explaining it to them is easy.  My kids are smart, open-minded and I’m reasonably sure they’re not homophobic.  It’s explaining my family to other people that gets tricky.

There are a lot of questions that can lead there.  “Where’s your wife?”  “Where’s their mommy?”  “I wish my husband would take the kids to the park sometimes.”  Or, when I’m out with my partner, the one we get is, “Which one of you is the dad?”

We could lie, but what kind of message would that send to our kids?  That there’s something wrong with our family and we have to keep it secret?  A much better message for them to get is that strangers can be clueless sometimes, and that it’s our job to educate them.

“We’re both the dad,” we say.  And then… we wait.  The next move is theirs.

Before I became a gay dad, I worried a lot about where such a simple statement might lead.  But now that I’ve been at it for two years, I realize people are fairly predictable.  In all that time, I’ve only gotten a few different responses when I’ve outed our family.  Everyone we’ve met, without exception, has fallen into one of 5 categories.

These are the 5 people you meet as a gay dad…

1. Your New BFF

Reaction: Unbridled enthusiasm

Your New BFF

Within five seconds of knowing me and my partner, Drew, these people want to hug us, add us on Facebook, tweet @ us, invite us over for Thanksgiving dinner and beat the crap out of any homophobes who get in our way.  They think it’s SOOOOO cool and our kids are SOOOO lucky, and they want to point us out to their own children.  “Look, Caden!  This is their dad, and this is their other dad!  Isn’t that great?”

You can see their minds working.  “Oh my God, I saw that report on World News Tonight, but I didn’t think we’d ever meet one of these families ourselves.  We better hang on to these guys.  Who knows when the next ones will come along.”

Or more likely, they’re just assuming that we get discriminated against or judged constantly because of who we are, so they want to make up for it by being as over-the-top pleasant as possible.

I’ll take all the New BFFs I can get.  In most cases, we’re just as enthusiastic back to them.  We tell them our whole story.  We had a surrogate.  She’s like an aunt now.  Our egg donor is also an aunt, but then again, she would’ve been anyway because she’s Drew’s sister, Susie.  (And if they need it spelled out, yes, I donated the sperm.)

New BFFs are by far the most common people we meet, which is one of the reasons I’m glad I live in Los Angeles.

2. Jaded Allies

Reaction: Feigned indifference.

The Jaded Ally

These people are cool with us, too — just maybe a little too cool.  They’re very quick to let us know that they’re familiar with other gay dads – tons of them.  They’ll say something like, “Oh, right.  There’s this couple at our kids’ school with two dads.  Matthew and Alan.”  Or “Yeah, my daughter’s best friend has two moms.  They came to our house last month.”

Jaded Allies are less worried about making us feel comfortable with them and more concerned with how they come across to us.  They don’t want to be seen as square or even the tiniest bit surprised, so they treat us like we’re no big deal.

They’re thinking, “Yeah, I saw that report on World News Tonight.  These won’t be the last gay parents I meet.  Better play it cool.”

Maybe they really do know a thousand other gay dads, or maybe they just want us to think they do.  Sometimes we talk to these people longer and they show a genuine curiosity and kindness toward us.  Other times, we just move on.

Jaded Allies are allies, and that’s good enough for us.

3. Closet Homophobes

Reaction: Cordial avoidance.

The Closet Homophobe

These people are not OK with us, but at least they’re polite.  They’ll say something like, “Oh, how nice.  Well, I need to go over here now.”  Then they’ll quietly slip away to pray or throw up or something.

They, too, might want us to think they’re cool with who we are.  But in their case, we’re not buying it.  You can see the exasperated looks on their faces, the ones that say, “This is what I get for asking questions” or “Freakin’ Los Angeles!  I should’ve known!”

These are the people who fell for the argument that Prop 8 would require elementary schools to swap out math and social studies for courses on the logistics of sodomy.  “What they do in their bedroom is their business,” they’re thinking.  “But they better not start doing it in front of my kids here at Rite-Aid!”

The worst thing that can happen to a Closet Homophobe is for their kids to start asking questions.  “But where’s their Mommy, Mommy?”  They’ll stammer or ignore the kid, maybe outright lie.  “She’s not here right now.”  Anything to keep their kids from being exposed to the gays too young.  They may even plead with their eyes, begging us to play along, for the sake of the children.

But their kids aren’t stupid, and neither are mine.  So whenever the issue comes up, I’m very clear that there is no Mommy in our family, never has been and never will be.  I know that’s likely to stir up some more questions in your kids’ impressionable little minds, and frankly I don’t care how you choose to answer them once you’re out of our earshot.  But while you’re talking to me, you’re going to hear the pride I take in my family, and my kids are going to know that I’ve got their back.

4. The Head Scratchers.

Reaction: Utter confusion

The Head Scratcher

This is the most entertaining reaction, and probably the second most common one we get.  No matter how much we explain ourselves, some people are completely baffled by our family, like the Honda salesman we visited when we were shopping for a minivan.

“We’re having twins,” we explained.

“Well, your wife is going to love the Odyssey.”

“No, they’re his twins and my twins.”

“That’s great!  So who’s the minivan for?”

“Both of us.”

“Well, it’s the perfect car for you and your brother.  There’s plenty of room for you, your kids and your wives.”

I have no idea whether this guy was homophobic, or what he could possibly have been imagining went on in my house, but I know he desperately wanted to make that sale.

Then there was the guy at the Thai restaurant, who saw me and Drew each schlepping a newborn in a car seat to our table, while Drew’s sister strolled casually behind us.

“Are you the mom?” he asked her.

“No, they have two dads,” she answered.

“No two dads!” he insisted.

“Yes,” Drew said.  “I’m one dad, and he’s the other dad.”

“No two dads!”

“Yes, two dads.  We’re both listed on their birth certificates.”

“No two dads!  No two dads!  NO TWO DADS!”

I don’t know where that man is right now, but I’m pretty sure he’s still shaking his head adamantly and shouting, “No two dads!” at whoever will listen.

5. The Moral Crusaders

Reaction: Salvation mode

The Moral Crusader

These are the people we dread.  They’re not happy just to stay quiet.  They want you, their kids and anyone within shouting radius to know that Satan is in their midst.  They’re all too happy to point their fingers and condemn you as the reason for the breakdown of the American family, if not of society as a whole.

There’s no need to guess what’s going on in their heads, because they lay it all out.  They’ll spew those “men laying with men” Bible verses, they’ll tell you you shouldn’t be in the military, they’ll want to see whatever legal documents you can produce to prove your guardianship or threaten to call Child Protective Services and report you.

They’re every gay dad’s worst nightmare.  But here’s the good thing about the Moral Crusaders… they don’t exist.

At least, I haven’t run into any.  Not yet.

Maybe they’re out there somewhere.  Maybe gay dads in less progressive parts of America have to deal with them all the time.  But to me, they’re boogeymen, who might very well just be figments of my imagination.

Before my kids were born, I was convinced I would face them all the time.  But rather than let that scare me off from parenthood altogether, I did the alternative.  I prepared for the worst.

I’ve been working on some great little speeches to defend my family against the kooks out there.  Whenever I meet someone new, before I find out which of these 5 categories they’re going to fall into, I’ve always got my comebacks ready to go, just in case I’m about to be faced with my first Moral Crusader.  Who knows what they look like?  They can take many forms.

I don’t want to speak for all gay families, but if you see my partner and me out with our twins, by all means, come say hello.  We really do like meeting people and sharing our story, and it makes our kids think we’re celebrities.

As for which of the five categories you fall into, it really doesn’t matter to me.  Whatever your reaction is, I’ll be ready.