For these two gay dads, becoming a family meant wrangling with the strict way family was defined when they were growing up. Today Calvin and Jeremy have got four wonderful children.
I am gay.
Why do those three words hold so much power?
Family for me was a question of how—not if—I wanted a family. I was raised Pentecostal in the Christian faith, but did not accept the belief that a family of my own was impossible. I toyed with the idea of a traditional family (being married to a women) but thankfully plans failed when I was outed.
My husband, on the other hand, had resigned himself to the life of a single. He wanted to have a family and knew he would be a good father, but could not shake the belief that he was unworthy because he was gay. He too came from a Christian background and still held to many traditional Christian values.
Most of our marital struggles in the early days stemmed from the topic of family. What was a family? What should a family look like? What was the right way to have a family? Could we have a family?
We have come a long way. When we moved to California my husband was reluctant to hold my hand in public although he was personally very affectionate. He didn’t want to be “a bad example” to anyone—especially to kids. The level of self-hatred he had ran deep. We had a long way to go. I had my own struggles, which weren’t so much about being gay but about my ability to be a good father. My father had abandoned me as a child and I questioned what kind of father I would be.
But our hang-ups about family were not entirely self-induced. Society said that two people of opposite sex with defined roles was the only way anyone could have a proper family. Both my husband and I didn’t fit that description. Thankfully we started to grow into our identity as a couple, and soon had the confidence to start creating our family. We weren’t sure exactly what we were going to create, but we knew that there was more to “family” than what society told us. We chose adoption through the county and all these years later have four wonderful boys ranging (at the time of this article) from ages 19 months to seven years old.
Our biggest family lessons have been about redefining stereotypical roles. We found that what our children simply wanted from us was nurturing, protection, security and love. Nothing else mattered. They didn’t care what gender we were. They cared about us showing up for them each day in a healthy way. They needed us—not what society said we were supposed to be.
We have a lot of funny stories about what it means to be a family. Many people support our family but still find it hard categorize us. For example, my husband never really paid attention to womens’ rights until he took on the role of a stay-at-home parent. Instantly he was the “woman” in our relationship and understood what it was to be objectified simply because you have the role of “Mom.” One Mother’s Day Sunday while in church, the traditional gifts and thanks were being passed out to the women of the congregation. A sweet, well-meaning woman who was sitting in front of us turned around and asked my husband if he was going to go get his gift. My husband kindly responded by saying “No, because I am not a Mother.”
The more experience we have as parents the more we understand that family is not what gender you are or what label you slap on. Family is about the commitment to care for and protect those around you. Every family is a little bit different and that’s okay. In fact, its more than okay—it’s perfect.
Editor’s Note: You can read a great excerpt of Calvin’s book, Parenting with Pieces, here.
This is #1000families post number 177. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.
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