Gay Dads: What to Expect and How to Prepare
This is in no way a research-informed list of what to expect as a new gay dad. Rather, it is a list of things we experienced that we thought might be helpful to share.
1. Expect a lot of questions.
The idea of a gay man becoming a parent can be difficult for some people to understand. Most are accepting… with the caveat that they will usually have questions. Whether starting a family through adoption, fostering or surrogacy, people can be curious creatures and they may want to suck every last bit of information out of you. My advice: be prepared with your responses to their question. Also, determine the questions you’re not comfortable answering. We started to make a list of the most commonly asked questions and then crafted responses with which we were comfortable sharing. In fact, it’s what led to the creation of this website in the first place. We think it’s perfectly fine to be firm and direct when answering questions. It’s not your responsibility to satisfy everyone’s curiosities. We had one experience when a flight attendant started to ask very personal questions about our surrogacy experience. We cut him off at the pass and explained why (respectfully). It is your story and you get to choose how, why, when and to whom you share it.
2. Prepare for a heteronormative parenting world.
You’ve likely already noticed this, but most things directed at parents (e.g., government programs, commercials, books, etc.) refer to families with a mother and a father. The world just hasn’t caught up to the 21st century yet. We believe that there are times to call it out (e.g., inequitable government programs, lack of changing tables in men’s restrooms) and times to let it go (e.g., watching TV commercials featuring MOM! MOM! MOM!). We have found it helpful to just substitute the word “Mom” for “Dad” when we are listening to, watching or reading any parent-related content. We have also sought out content that is designed for families like ours. Sometimes you have to look hard for it, but, more often than not, it’s out there (I have included a page of gay dad resources on the page for your reference). And, if all else fails, create the content yourself! We have started writing a children’s book that shows Jasper’s birth story; we hope that it will be an invaluable resource as he grows up and starts to have more questions about his family.
3. You are the best advocate for you and your family.
You will no doubt experience instances of indirect discrimination and inequality when it comes to your family. You have a voice, so use it! Oftentimes, individuals, corporations or government officials don’t even recognize that an issue exists. This happens likely due to the fact that gay dads are a relatively “new” concept for most. For example, you are meeting with a potential daycare provider and their required paperwork requests information about the child’s mother and father. Don’t be afraid to point it out. It may lead to an uncomfortable conversation, but we have found that most people will seek to correct the mistake. When dealing with a larger entity (e.g., government or corporation), you may need to enlist the help of others. Most large cities have local advocacy organizations which are there to lend a hand or point you in the right direction with regards to advocacy. There is also the opportunity to contact a local newspaper or other media to share your story. This is often how change happens. Keep at it. You may not win all of the battles, but your advocacy goes a long when fighting the war.
4. Consider enlisting a trusted therapist.
The road to parenthood (and parenting afterwards) is a long one. It can be frustrating and full of challenges. As your child gets older, there will be a lot of questions. Enlisting the support of an LGBTQ-friendly therapist can be an excellent resource. If you don’t have the means to hire a therapist yourself, consult LGBTQ organizations (e.g., EGALE, HRC, etc.) and see if there are any programs that provide funding related to wellness and/or mental health.
5. Seek out social media groups for gay dads.
One of our greatest discoveries was the many communities for gay dads that exist online. On Facebook alone, we found four fantastic groups just for gay dads. Some of these groups are worldwide, while others are local networks for LGBTQ+ parents. These groups can be an incredible resource for networking, asking difficult questions or just sharing photos of your awesome family. Whether you’re single, divorced, or co-parenting with a spouse from a previous marriage, your tribe is out there. And if there isn’t a group just for you, create it yourself and watch it grow!
6. Ask lots of questions, but keep your circle small.
When you become a parent, you will have an endless list of questions (e.g., which brand of diaper to buy, what kind of rash is this?). The internet can be a great resource, but it can also point you in the wrong direction. Other than your child’s doctor, assembling a close group of trusted family and friends can be a godsend. Choose wisely and accept advice gratefully. Having a child is a humbling experience and having a few people who know you well (and that you trust) will get you through even the toughest of days. We can’t tell you how many rash photos our little circle received in the first few weeks of parenthood. I don’t think I would have maintained my sanity without them. And remember, IT IS OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP!