If you’ve never checked out an intimate show at McCabe’s Guitar Shop, you are missing out on one of those special LA secrets. If you have gone you may have seen They Might Be Giants, Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams and more. Don’t miss Lisa Loeb in February. Buy tickets online, my guess is they will sell out.
Kids 2 and are under are Free.
TNF: Tell me about your family. How old are your kids? Did you get married/have a ceremony?
Garon: There are three dudes in our house. My husband Jamie, our little guy Matteo, and myself. Jamie and I got married in June 2012, first legally In front of the United States Capitol in DC. Then we jumped on a plane to Ft. Lauderdale, and that weekend our parents flew in and married us in a ceremony in front of 70 friends.
We never would have guessed that just a few months later we’d have our little man, but in November of 2012, Matteo was born in Howard County, Maryland. We worked with an agency, Adoption Makes Family, in Maryland and they market heavily toward jails and hospitals so that when a child is born, and a mother wants to place him or her for adoption, they are the first call. It seemed a long shot, but that’s exactly what happened just 5 months after our wedding.
We woke up one morning, Jamie was packing for a business trip to the UK later that day when the phone rang. “What are you guys up to?” said the adoption agency director. I looked at Jamie and in the worst makeshift hand signage possible I motioned to him, “do not say you are packing!”
“Your son was born this morning, “ he said. We were completely in shock. We had no idea he was coming that morning, or that we were the next family for placement.
TNF: How did you meet your husband?
Garon: Jamie and I met at the Washington Sports Club in Columbia Heights and it’s still the gym we go to today. We saw each other on the floor, in the locker room, our lockers were right next to each other but no one said anything. It wasn’t until we were walking out that I caught up to him and said, “hey, I’m Garon. What’s your name?”
TNF: Do you feel different from other families? If so, how so?
Garon: No, I don’t think we feel different at all. Family looks like so many different things in my opinion, and we’re one of those many variations. We clean up cheerios, change diapers, laugh, watch Lion King, and worry about our kid just like anyone else. However I will say that when we move through airports and board flights, it feels like absolutely everyone is staring. We either get the ‘that’s so awesome’ smile or the ‘disapproving glance’. Gate agents have asked us, “So whose the dad?” TSA always seems momentarily confused. Flight attendants love it.
TNF: Is it tough being a gay couple where you live? Do you feel accepted?
Garon: Washington, DC is a wonderful city to be gay in. I actually think it’s one of the most gay populous cities in the US. But you never know what might happen and we’re not taking any chances. We often take long multi-hour walks around the city with our son. When we do, there’s a baseball bat in the bottom of the stroller. Sometimes gangs come in from other cities to commit a crime as a challenge and then leave. I think two dads and a baby would seem a bragging rights target. We’re prepared to beat the shit out of anyone that tries. President Obama said, “No one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street, holding hands with the person they love.” I hope one day soon, that comes true.
TNF: Why did you decide to start GayDadSwag?
Garon: Right after we adopted Matteo, I started looking around for a site that connected gay dads. There was nothing. I thought there’s got to be a site that brings together gay dads from around the world, shares their stories, their pictures, and gives straight allies a place to voice their support.
So I created Gaydadswag. To me Swag is the way you carry yourself. It’s you being you, in whatever way that is. And we’re cool with that. Initially it started as a Tumblr. In the first two weeks it went around the world. So I spent a couple months building the dot com and creating a team. Now www.gaydadswag.com is the first of it’s kind in the world. I hope it changes minds and hearts and gives people a window into these beautiful lives. There’s people from all walks of life that write us and tell us they read it. Mom’s groups, straight dads, kids, and young people from all over the globe. Google analytics shows us that people in places (to name a few) like Saudi Arabia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Uganda, and Russia, are looking at it. We are so grateful to have that direct connection to them.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Garon: Honestly, it’s everything. I knew I wanted to be a young dad before I knew that I was gay. I knew I wanted to adopt before I knew I was gay (maybe because I’m adopted myself). So when I came out, I thought, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue this dream of having a family. Looking back, I wish I had a site like Gaydadswag to show me what that might have looked like.
I sort of went on blind faith. There’s this beautiful moment that happens once in awhile, when the three of us are lying in bed, or on an airplane, or reading together, and I stop and look at them and I think, there’s no where else I’d rather be than with these two. I think often about when I might die. Will I live well into old age or will I be killed in an accident of some kind? I tell myself, whenever that moment comes, I hope the last image I process, is of my husband holding our son. That’ll be enough for me.
Jamie is from Rotterdam, New York. Garon is adopted from Sri Lanka, his family is American. Matteo is half black, half white. They all dance to P!nk & Madonna on the regular, play soccer in the house, and travel a ton.
Thank you Garon and Jamie for bringing tears to my eyes with your beautiful story. Keep in touch with The Next Family.
The Next Family caught up with Gabriel Blau who is the Deputy Director of Strategic Advancement at Family Equality Council, a national organization advocating for and connecting LGBTQ families. He is married and has a son. I was able to chat with him about life as a dad, how he met his husband, and his job at Family Equality Council.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Gabriel: My husband and I have been together for over ten years. We had a big wedding with our family and friends in 2006 and then we were legally married in New York in 2011. We were one of the first gay couples to legally marry in New York City. In 2008 we were able to welcome a child into our family; our son is now 5 years old. We adopted domestically –a private adoption in the United States.
TNF: Did you have any challenges?
Gabriel: The greatest challenge was getting the information we needed to make the decision and to understand the process. But we were lucky to not face any serious challenges. We were fortunate enough to work with the right people -both at home and where our son was born- people who had experience working with an LGBT couple.
TNF: Was it was a tough decision?
Gabriel: It was as difficult and as easy as it is I think for most families. There’s a lot to consider. Certainly there’s access; we couldn’t leave it up to “chance”. We both wanted to have children. It happened a lot faster than we expected so when we began the process, we assumed it would take much longer. We knew a lot of people who had a great deal of difficulty adopting, or it took a long time so we were prepared for that timeline. But it happened a great deal faster than that. And it was the best decision we ever made.
TNF: How did you and your husband meet?
Gabriel: We met back in 2003 and it was through a series of coincidences that ultimately brought us to be with the same group of friends on the same night at a synagogue in New York. We’ve been together ever since.
TNF: Do you feel any different than other families?
Gabriel: That’s a complicated question. We’re very lucky to live in a community and in a neighborhood in New York where there is a lot of diversity. We deal with the same issues most families deal with: hectic schedules, school, playdates, balancing work and home life, the stresses of being responsible parents in general. There are times that we’re reminded that we’re “different”, whether it’s by gendered forms that ask for “mother and father”, by comments or questions from teachers or other parents, or by assumptions being made at the doctor’s office. But because we are personally very lucky we are able to see these moments as opportunities to learn and grow and to make our community and family beautiful. We are a fairly visible family, which can create other challenges, but I think that’s less on being LGBT. We’re very conscious of being LGBT. In other parts of the country we really do feel different but we’ve worked to build a community that is supportive where we have a diverse group of friends…I think that community aspect is really important. Most parents that I speak to really appreciate those opportunities no matter where they live. They realize when they are in a situation that they are with other LGBT families they really start to feel different, it’s important for their children to be in those environments and they feel secure…it’s a big part of the work that we do at Family Equality Council. We have over 150 parent groups we work with across the country; we have experiences like Family Week in Provincetown every summer -this past year we had over 1500 participants there. It’s an important part of the work of building community and building support systems.
TNF: You referenced schools, teachers, doctors, assumptions being made. Do you feel accepted generally?
Gabriel: In New York, generally we do, yes. There are moments when we have to explain things. But you explain and you move forward. That’s an experience that we don’t want everyone to go through, and so we hope by us going through it, we are helping those doctors, providers, teachers, etc. know how to speak to other parents, not just LGBTQ parents but all parents, to not make assumptions about family constellation and family creation. We don’t face it often but it happens. In our work we see LGBTQ people across the country, facing issues in more severe ways – like not being able to be out, like LGBTQ parents not being able to rely on a school to get the protection they need for their kids. It’s a very real issue. It’s something that is as important to correct as the legal issues we have to work on. Going through life always having to explain who you are, to be treated the way our families are being treated. It’s not the American dream, it’s not what we strive for in this country.
TNF: Are you seeing a change now that gay marriage is legal in 15 states? Are things getting better?
Gabriel: Things have been continually getting better. The movement has been working very hard to make these changes. Throughout the country our families are still facing the same issues they faced last week and the week before. Certainly the national conversation is turning in a direction that is more positive and we’re seeing more legal equality. But, we’re seeing it in marriage -we haven’t seen it in other areas. There are a lot of other areas that we have to deal with. Let’s not forget that, even with the momentum we’ve had, we have equality in 15 states, that leaves us still with 35 states –and that’s just the issue of marriage equality. Our LGBTQ families across the country are still not able to have legal relationships with their own children; they don’t have access to culturally compentent care; 42% of children report being harassed because of their family constellation. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has not passed yet. It was a great vote in the Senate but it is not yet the law of the land. These are the issues affecting our families everyday. LGBTQ families are more likely to live at or near the poverty line. They are hard working families trying to do well by their children. Second-parent adoption is not even available in certain parts of the country, so, assuming you can even do that, it’s a whole process you have to go through. It costs money, takes time, and, frankly, can feel very demeaning.
Every single parenting study comes to the conclusion that stability is a critical factor in successful parenting. How can we expect our families to do the job they are fighting to do if our country can’t provide them with basic stability –that they are not going to lose their jobs, that if they break up, one of the parents won’t lose his or her relationship with their child, that they won’t lose their housing, that their children will be protected in their schools?
TNF: If you could pick one goal that is close to your heart while you are at Family Equality, what would that be?
Gabriel: I’m going to give you two: the top goal is to achieve social and legal equality for our families throughout the country. And the specific issue that is always at the top of our priority list is family security, the parent/child relationship. There are a lot of components of that but we need to secure it; it’s absolutely critical. So that will always be at the top of our agenda. We are working now in 15 states, and we always hope to increase that. There are limited resources and it takes time. This work is not just about a single bill, it’s about creating a culture that puts family first.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Gabriel: It’s meant everything. It’s the greatest thing in the world. Our son is everything to us. He’s what drives our work..I’m the luckiest person alive…I can’t imagine being any happier.
For more information on Family Equality initiatives, check out their website and see all of the services that they provide for LGBTQ. Some of the outstanding programs they have include Family Week, Families in the Midwest, Outspoken Generation, and Pearls of Wisdom.
Thank you Gabriel for taking the time to speak with us. You have a beautiful family and we wish you much success.
By: Rob Watson
“Necessity is the mother of invention” goes the old saying. When there is a problem or an issue in play, a creative solution is often about to be realized. This point is nowhere more valid than in the area of LGBT couples having children and starting families.
According to a recent study by Cambridge University, the ease by which a couple can procreate seems to dictate the primary avenue by which they pursue the creation of family. Heterosexuals who often have to guard against unwanted pregnancy choose a wanted pregnancy as their primary route to familyhood. Lesbian couples do not have to fear unwanted pregnancies, but if they can solicit a sperm donor, an apparently readily achievable task in many cases, they too initiate pregnancy. Gay men have a tougher challenge, as a participating womb and body for nine months—to say nothing of labor and health risks—are far more difficult and costly resources than male reproductive material. Therefore, according to the study, they pick foster care or adoption as their likely method.
I am frequently called upon to recount the choices I made in creating my family. The last such conversation took place at a kids’ party attended by many of my son’s schoolmates. One of the fathers was chatting me up, knowing I was a gay dad, and his curiosity was apparently killing him. I graciously volunteered that the boys had been adopted through the local foster care program.
“Oh, cool,” he said. “I assume there was a screening process.”
“Oh, absolutely,” I responded. “They did a complete background check on me. It was very thorough.” A strange look crossed his face.
“No . . . I didn’t mean on you. I meant on the children. To make sure there were no mental issues or drug exposure.”
My eyebrow raised slightly, and even though I caught his drift, I proudly proclaimed, “No, they don’t screen out children . . . and my boys both had drug exposure. That was not a problem.” At that point, it became obvious that the man was interested only in the parenting of “perfect” children, and he did a quick mumble and moved on to the hors d’oeuvres table.
It left me wondering, who out there will step up for the “nonperfect” kids, kids already created and in need now? Who will be the parents of the kids who got dealt a raw deal at birth and are facing major challenges before their lives have even begun?
It has been suggested to me that LGBT parents would be the perfect class to do this. We, who get to really think out the process by which we are going to become parents, have the opportunity to step up. We can help not only ourselves, but these kids who are in need. We can influence the world, which is currently too eager to discard these kids and ultimately turn them in to serious drags on society as adults. Should this be a mandate for us?
Certainly, parents such as Clint and Bryan, who saved ten kids, are among the most moral on the planet. I dearly wish and pray that it was easy for us all to do what they have done. Unfortunately, it is not.
Like the deep longings that drive us to fall in love and partner, the longings to be a parent are equally complex. Those longings are not often driven by selfless altruistic motivations and energies. If they were, the people who would be loved, pursued, and married most would be the saintly, good, honest, and upstanding—regardless of their physical appearance. Gyms would not turn out the most likely to be sought after. Sadly, that is not the case, and the great love stories do not end with the hero taking up into his arms the person he most admires but to whom he does not feel physically attracted.
Parenting is similar. Some people need to see traces of their biological family in their children’s faces. Some need the comfort that a biologically made child cannot be taken away. Some do not have the stomach to navigate the foster care and adoption systems, neither of which was designed to be parent friendly.
Like romantic relationships, no matter what the motivation or catalyst that creates the bond, the real morality occurs in the development, and sustainability, of the relationship itself. Parenting is a tough gig. It is not easy to be ready and present for another human being’s needs day in and day out, for decades. It is about selflessness and the pursuit of unconditional love. The desire to be a good parent is in itself moral. Take the example of Markus K, who acted as a sperm donor for many lesbian families. He may not have done a thing to ease the pain and loneliness of the world’s orphans, and he added to the earth’s seven billion population with kids he will not be involved in raising. What he has done, however, is to forgo any intimate long-term relationship for himself in order to visit and be there for any of his progeny who may be interested in seeing him. Even through his brand of parenting, he has achieved selflessness.
So, if you want to have children and want to do it in the most moral way, find out which method is the one to which you can fully commit yourself. Find the one that inspires you to be the most diligent and dedicated parent possible. Find the one that makes you a better person. You will then have done the “moral” thing.
And if you want to be a real hero, go the extra mile. Help answer the question my friend at the party left me with: Who will adopt the millions of orphans worldwide who are already here, not perfect, and need us? Who will take that into account in their family planning? Who will make the process easier and readily available for LGBT families and inspire the foster care/adoption path? Who will make a real difference?
I hope it is me. I hope it is you, too.
We could be weeks or merely days away from making the trip from Johnson City, Tennessee to Abilene, Texas for the birth of Baby T-Rex. The distance between these two cities is 1,128 miles and when you are on “baby time”, there are no easy planning and travel solutions. Blogs, books, lists, parenting forums and workshops do not prepare you for getting a phone call saying the expecting mom is at the hospital with contractions, and you are over a thousand miles away.
Thursday afternoon, we received a phone call signaling labor could be imminent. It seemed as if clothes, baby clothes, diapers, cameras and cats were flying in every direction. The car was packed full with what felt like half our house and a car seat securely in place. Everything was happening extremely quickly. Anxiety and excitement was in complete control.
As we entered the last five weeks of pregnancy, Matthew and I had worked through options that were available that would allow us to get to the hospital as quick as possible. We had tentative travel plans that would put us into Abilene a week before the due date. If the baby decided to make an appearance sooner? There was an alternative plan in place for that. One of us would be on the first available flight, and the other would drive. A plan for the cats, mowing the lawn and anything else we could think of had been thought of. We would have everything packed and ready to go in a moments notice, well we would in mid-August. We were behind the curve.
This past Thursday, travel by air wasn’t an option, so we both buckled in and began the 17-hour drive to Texas. We received text updates throughout the evening. An extreme effort was being made to make it there as quick as possible. I would swear that the odometer was not working correctly. The miles were slowly ticking off. Our late night turned into the early morning. As we reached Memphis, Tennessee we decided to stop and get some needed sleep.
As the sun rose on a hot and humid Friday morning in west Tennessee, we all had experienced a false alarm. The expecting mom had what was referenced as a stalled labor and received medication designed to stop contractions. Everyone was grateful that she was resting comfortably and getting some much needed sleep. Matthew and I took a deep breath, smiled, and buckled in for our trip home.
After arriving back in Johnson City and unpacking the car, we began to make lists of things that we needed and created a staging area in our guest room for everything that will make the trip with us. Bags and containers were unpacked and repacked more efficiently. The false alarm was a little drill that we were able to learn from. Without question, it was an exhausting 24 hours, but we were able to make sure that we are better prepared for the next call. Matthew and I are ready to leave at any given moment.
34 weeks! Everyone says we are in the home stretch. Time seems to be disappearing fast as we get closer and closer to the due date. Preparations are definitely in full swing. Matthew and I are attempting to be prepared as possible. Is that even possible? We have found ourselves asking tons of questions to friends that are already parents. The three most common questions have been, what bottle, diaper and formula? Selecting the best is a high priority for the both of us. We found out extremely quickly that tommee tippee was the right bottle for us.
As we began to assemble the nursery and prepare our house and lives to welcome a newborn, we thoroughly reviewed every possible product. Whether it was through Consumer Reports or customer reviews on a particular store’s website, we wanted to make sure we were happy with the choices we made. While reviewing specific products to use as parents, we also looked at the company that makes the product as a whole. It is highly important to both of us to seek out companies that support our community as well as share in the joy of adoption and same-sex parenting. Mayborn Group, the parent company of tommee tippee, is one of those companies. I shared on our twitter feed that “we are a tommee tippee family.” We received a short letter and package from Mayborn and tommee tippee. It was short, sweet and left a strong impact on the both of us.
It is exciting that they are following our journey to parenthood!
While we are just over a month a way from hopefully becoming dads, we are clearly practicing (playing) with all of our tommee tippee products. It is possible that all of our bottles have been sterilized two or three times each. We both enjoy our Keurig that we received as a Christmas gift last year and while visiting a Babies-R-Us we were shocked there is a similar product for baby formula made by tommee tippee. The excitement was instant and became a must have. While we call it the baby Keurig, its official name is the tommee tippee closer to nature perfect bottle prep. I love it! I am without doubt acting like a kid in the candy store.
If you read our very first blog you know that we decided to start the adoption process while on an Ikea trip in Charlotte, North Carolina. Our journey will reach the one-year mark in just a few short weeks. At the start of the adoption journey, we were particularly worried as to what reaction we might receive from everyone. So often we had heard what a traditional family should “look” like. Looking back over the past year, we are humbled by the encouragement we have received from our family, friends and even our community. In the beginning, we were reluctant to share so much about ourselves in this process but the friendships that we have built since then and the words of support we have received were worth taking the leap.
The journey to parenthood is different for every person and every couple. Each adoption journey is unique in itself. We both try to educate family, friends and followers about open adoption. Our message is a positive one about becoming dads. Next week I am enrolled and excited to participate in a new parenting class. Diaper changing, burping, swaddling and bottle-feeding are just a few of the topics. I even can’t wait to tell them that we are a “tommee tippee family.” We are surely on the fast track to become The Next Family in September.
By – Trey Darnell
Eight weeks to go. Eight weeks still seems like an eternity and relatively quick at the same time. We are busy preparing in all ways possible. Most of the preparation legwork has been making sure that our home is prepared and stocked for the first months of parenthood. Working out the logistics for our next journey to Texas for the birth of Baby T-Rex and the return trip home. With the preparation for a new addition to the family, we are also working hard to spend quality time together and enjoy the foundation we have already built as a couple. Vacation time!
Matthew and I loaded up the car and drove to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with another couple to enjoy three days of fun and sun and celebrate pre-parenthood. Is pre-parenthood a word? The experience was as exhilarating as a childhood summer vacation. This mini-vacation was filled with roller coasters, water rides, go-karts, pancakes, laughing and ice cream. The trip even had educational value. We learned the difference between jam and jelly and how to cook fondue style. Matthew and I enjoyed that quality “couple” time and welcomed the excitement that continues to grow for parenthood.
Like most vacations, this trip lacked the dreaded sadness that usually comes with the end of a vacation. The typical feeling of “back to reality.” Why this time? Maybe because we were only 100 miles away from home or the trip was only three days. I believe that we both were excited of what was ahead. On our drive home, we knew that we were three days closer to becoming dads.
Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be marking off the remaining tasks and items that we need to finish prior to Baby T-Rex making her appearance. The list started out extremely long but now there are only a few things left to be completed. I am going to finish reading “On Becoming Baby Wise” as we are contemplating using this method or at least a hybrid version when it comes to feeding, sleeping and play time. Any time we go to the store, we purchase diapers. Between diapers and clothes, space in the nursery closet is dwindling.
Time to get back to the preparations. Thanks for letting us share our adoption story with you. Eight weeks to go! Here is a photo of Matthew from this past weekend. He just finished wakeboarding and made it look very easy. The photo is mere seconds before he said, “My cell phone was in my pocket.” Sigh!
By: Trey Darnell
On Wednesday morning (June 26, 2013) Matthew and I were in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee vacationing with my parents. It was a few minutes before 10 o’clock and everyone was just waking up. We knew that in just a few moments everything could change for us as a couple. Along with thousands of other LGBT individuals throughout the world, we had joined the live chat with SCOTUS Blog
10:02 AM. Everything changed!
The Supreme Court of the United States found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in the case United States v. Windsor. A huge win for marriage equality. The Supreme Court of the United States found that the petitioners of California’s Proposition 8 lacked standing to appeal and allowed the lower court’s ruling to stand. A huge win for marriage equality in California.
Wednesday was a great day for the movement toward marriage equality and a moment that allowed Matthew and I to think further into the future. Living in East Tennessee, we reside in a state that has a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The truth is, we are a long way from seeing marriage equality in the volunteer state.
With these outstanding and unprecedented victories, we have to keep moving forward. There is still a long way to go to reach the finish line. Momentum is on our side. We have to keep having the conversations and educating our families, friends and communities.
I encourage each and every one of you that are reading this blog to take a few moments and email your elected officials both in the Unites States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. Encourage their support for the Respect for Marriage Act. This particular legislation would repeal DOMA in its entirety and allow every marriage, no matter if it is a man and a woman, two women or two men to be seen equally both at a national level and a state level. The Respect of Marriage Act is a monumental piece of legislation. Help encourage its passage.
It is hard to believe the month of June has come to an end so quickly. It seems like yesterday I wrote about the excitement that laid ahead for June. I feel we both used the cases involving DOMA and Prop 8 to take our focus off of the wait for Baby T-Rex to arrive. It seems that we went from 20 weeks to 30 weeks so fast. It is hard to believe that parenthood is quickly approaching.
Paperblog voted Matt & Trey Adopt as one of the Top 10 Adoption Twitter Feeds to follow.
My “dad” instincts started when I was very young. My earliest memories are from age three. I believe a significant event kick-started the memory-recall part of my brain. It was the news that my mother was pregnant and I was going to become a big brother. I was going to have someone to care about—start my fatherly training, if you will—and I better remember it.
One of my earliest memories is of my mother was in the hospital awaiting delivery. My father had taken me to the gift shop to get a present for my new little sister. I remember the glass shelf it was on. It was an angel holding a red heart. I could think of nothing better to give this new little life than an angel who would watch over it, protect it, and love it.
That ceramic angel became cherished and has topped my sister’s birthday cakes for five decades now. I loved being her big brother,
When I was in college, something else started taking over my consciousness. I was coming to the realization that this “gay thing” within me was not going away. It was not a “phase,” as I had tried to tell myself hundreds of times. It was me. In my belief system, that meant I would never become what I wanted to be . . . a dad.
That thought took me to a dark place, and I considered ending it all right then and there. I prayed about it, and as I laid out my threat and my plan to God—fix me now, or I am going to do it for you—I was overwhelmed with a message and the sense that I was to carry on. I was not to limit who I was, and I was to find my destiny as the best gay person I could be. I put down the blades.
Years passed and the fathering instinct in me made me anxious to be more than someone’s big brother. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to be a dad. The drive to be my best kicked in. My then partner and I trained for foster care and a more advanced level of care which would enable us to care for drug-exposed newborns. It felt like my true north, on my way to being fully me.
We had a number of placements. These were infants whose mothers endangered them through short-term lapses in judgment. These women were offered reunification services that would train them on how to live and protect their children, and once they achieved the plan, their children were returned to them. It was good practice for us, and it was gratifying to help families work on problems and move toward healthy lives.
We knew at some point we would get a child whose birth parent was unwilling or unable to adapt to sobriety or a non-abusive life, and that child might become ours permanently.
One day, late July 2002, we got the call. A baby had been born. He was premature, six weeks early, and born after his birth mother ingested heroin. He weighed four pounds and had heroin in his system. Reunification services were going to be offered to his birth parents, a young married Catholic couple, but as they were both heroin addicts, it was likely that they would have trouble staying clean and taking responsibility for their child. As it was, their actions while he was still in the womb could have killed him. We would be his foster parents for now, and, potentially, his permanent adoptive parents.
I was told that I could meet my new son that evening. The birth parents would be told the time of our arrival so they could be out of the care unit and we would see him alone. As I drove to the hospital, I felt I was in a dream state. That morning I had been just a gay guy with a partner, and now, that evening, I was finally becoming a dad.
The birth parents were not much into the rules. In spite of the request to give us a private moment with the baby, they were there and met us at the door on our arrival. It was shocking to meet them, not only because they were the birth parents of the child we would be taking home the next day, but because they in no way looked like the people they had seemed to be on paper. I knew that the nineteen-year-old birth mom had been addicted to heroin since she was sixteen, and it was her now husband, two years older, who had enticed her into using the drug. They both had circulated on the street and with gangs.
The people we saw before us did not project that history. They looked like sweet-faced teens. She was in a fluffy pink bathrobe, her beautiful hair pulled back into a pony tail. He was kind and attentive.
They did not have my focus for long. My attention was on the baby who lay in the clear plastic incubator bed, with IVs in his tiny extremities. Despite all the medical apparatus, he was beautiful. He had gotten most of the heroin out of his system, and would only need painkillers for another day. I marveled at the being I saw before me. I wondered what natural survival mode could have propelled him to leave his mother’s body so early to be free of the foreign narcotics within him.
We chatted with his birth parents for a long while. They were amazingly traditional and “ordinary.” There were only a few telltale signs that they came from a different world from ours. One was their litany of friends who had lost their children into the protective care system. The couple quizzed us as to whether we knew this child or that. Quietly I shook my head and wondered what it was like to be in a social environment where those separations were commonplace.
The nurse brought my new son over in a blanket and I held him softly on my chest. I look into his eyes and we connected. He was home, I was home. This was right. Deep in my heart, I knew this child was, and would be, my son forever. He would be named Jason. Loving, protecting, and defending him would be my life’s calling. While I dutifully listened and took down instructions such as an evening babysitter might receive, I knew I was embarking on the love of my life. I knew that this was my first day of being who I was meant to be. I was a father. My son had fought his battle getting into this world, this far. It would be up to me to help him the rest of the way. He would never have to fight alone again.
As I have shared stories of my family since that time, some people have claimed that I have done my son a disservice by being his father and a gay dad. They have asserted that depriving him of his birth parents was an act of violence against him. I understand that the Million Moms are petitioning advertisers to get The Fosters, a program that depicts a family like mine, off the air. They think we are dangerous.
But the birth parents were given over a year of chances to get themselves together to be ready to raise a baby, particularly one with special needs. They never actually spent much of the time they were given with Jason to bond with him, and he never knew them as parents. The birth mother went on in the next few years to bear several more drug-exposed babies, each one more severely exposed than the last. The birth father ended up in prison. Neither kicked their heroin addiction, and there were numerous rumors around that both had died of overdose.
That night, after saying goodbye, my thoughts went to all the arrangements we had to make to prepare for Jason’s homecoming. He was going to need very specific care and handling. We were prepared and mobilized. I was about to embark on the most significant journey I could imagine. I was a dad. I was on the brink of my destiny. I stopped doubting why I was here. I had to get a move on.
When I hit the lobby, however, I paused. There was something I had to do first. I walked across the marble floor to the gift shop and scoured the glass shelves.
I needed to buy a ceramic angel.
Over the past couple of weeks, our focus along with many other LGBTQ individuals has been at the Supreme Court of the United States. As a collective group, we are awaiting decisions on two different cases. One case involves California’s Proposition 8 and the second involves the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act known as DOMA. These two cases are front and center in the movement for equality and the very apparent shift in public opinion.
Since the beginning of June, I have caught myself reading live updates via the SCOTUS Blog on each and every opinion day. If you aren’t familiar with the use of SCOTUS, it stands for Supreme Court of the United States. I consistently set a reminder on my phone to make the loudest possible noise to remind myself to join the 15,000+ other individuals that watch for instant updates. The SCOTUS Blog has a representative (Lyle) in the Supreme Court press-room providing information as it happens. Every time there is an update in the “chat window” you hear a specific sound. When I hear this sound, it seems as if I begin to hold my breath.
I am writing this blog on Monday June 17, 2013. Today is my birthday, my 34th birthday. For the first part of the year, I was telling everyone it would be my 33rd. It was either Matthew growing tired of telling everyone that I actually would be turning 34 or I finally accepted the fact and started welcoming the idea of 34. I think one thing that has made adding another year to my age easier is the quirky fact that my father was 34 when I entered the world and made him a father. That day was Father’s Day (June 17th) in 1979. Want another fun fact? Matthew is the same age as his father was when he was born. This September we will become fathers at the same age as our fathers became fathers for the first time. Can you say that three times fast?
This morning at 10:00, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hand down opinions on cases from this term. I am multitasking and trying not to miss any updates. It is currently 9:56 EDT and there are only a couple of minutes left before the information starts coming in from today’s proceedings. The landscape of marriage equality and the lives of so many could change within the next few moments. Just heard the sound of an update, and I immediately caught my breath. It’s Lyle from the SCOTUS Blog, and he is providing information on the first opinion. I am going to pause writing and take in the moment and watch and hope for what today might bring.
Today wasn’t the day. We now focus on the next scheduled decision day which is this Thursday. There isn’t any insight on when we might get a ruling. Most experts point to the end of the current term, which is the end of June. If it isn’t this Thursday, we will wait for Monday and possibly the following Thursday to find out the Supreme Court’s opinion(s) on Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop 8) and United States v Windsor (DOMA). We are so close.
June is National Pride Month and there are pride events going on every weekend throughout the United States. Seeing the news and images from these different events reminds me of my first pride experience. It was last October when we were beginning our adoption journey to become dads. Matthew and I had just travelled to Atlanta to meet with our adoption agency and had no clue that Atlanta Pride was happening the same weekend. You can click here to read about that journey. I am amazed how much progress Matthew and I have seen in just a few short months. This progress would not have been possible if it were not for the LGBTQ individuals that educated and pushed the need for equality in the past five decades.
When mentioning those that have paved the way, I have to mention one particular individual. Matthew’s Uncle Dan. He epitomizes all that one would desire or need in a role model. Dan has spent a majority of his life working towards equality in our community and does not shy away from an opportunity to educate about the lack of equality.
In 2008, I can honestly say I was clueless about the Stonewall Riots or the equality movement in general. I didn’t even know that some of it revolved around Judy Garland. Uncle Dan, as I now call him, eagerly and eloquently shared his story and the history I felt embarrassed not to know. During a longer than the usual car ride from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, he opened the door to things I hadn’t really thought of and things I hadn’t even noticed. It was obvious that this community has come a long way but still has a long way to go. Oh, I also got to see a burning RV.
Dan and his husband Josh were present and wed the first day California granted same-sex marriages. That was five years ago today, June 17, 2008 (my birthday by the way). They have travelled across the United States showing their support by getting married again and again in each of the states as they legalized same-sex marriage. Dan and Josh demonstrated by saying “I Do” over and over that we are getting closer and closer to being able to say “I Do” just once and it counts 50 times. Dan and Josh thank you for making this moment in history possible. As silly as it sounds, if it wasn’t for couples like you, I wouldn’t be getting excited to watch the SCOTUS Blog and patiently (not really) wait for decisions on marriage equality.