When I was raising my (now adult) children, there really were no other gay fathers around. Not visibly anyway. So I really had no one who I could relate to my specific situation. Being a divorced, gay, single dad with two young children was a bit of an anomaly back then. Somehow, I got through it and my two young adults are now pursuing their own paths in life. Happily. #Success.
Now years later from when I was in the thick of it, gay fathers are becoming more and more the norm, depending on where you live. I choose to live where it is more the norm, I can tell you that.
We’re not alone anymore.
So I thought it would be interesting to ask other gay fathers what makes them different now from their straight counterparts when it comes to parenting. I wanted to crowd source, if you will, how others feel since I never had the chance to ask anyone when I was younger.
The universal answer from the many I connected with was a bit surprising.
Oh, I got a lot of responses but they said that there’s really nothing to say. And that says a lot. I guess at the end of the day there’s really nothing different about being a gay dad from being a straight one.
We all share a love and dedication to our children and we all struggle to do what’s right for them.
Diapers. Feedings. Homework. School activities. Clothing. Vacations. Fatherhood is about just getting through the day and balancing work with the demands of the kids. We’re all either there right now or have been there as fathers, whether we are gay or straight.
It’s kinda all the same. Changing a nasty dirty diaper is the same experience, regardless. I get it.
While many said that they’d like to say there is something that makes them special, most said that there’s really nothing all that different. We all share a love and dedication to our children and we all struggle to do what’s right for them. We all work hard to care for their physical and emotional well being, just like other straight dads do as well.
I was a bit astounded to tell you the truth, although happy at the same time.
But I do beg to differ, so I challenged the lot on their answers. I bounced back on a few to probe further, because on the surface I would agree that there’s nothing different but I think reality goes deeper than that.
I do think there’s a difference, perhaps not in the gay dads themselves as dads, but in how they are perceived by others in the community, at work, and in society in general. Like I said, this of course depends on where and how you live, but I believe there’s a common thread of difference that must be acknowledged and many in my “crowd” agreed.
I felt like I had to be somehow better than the straight dads because I was gay. I had to make up for it. I had to address the “but” and I had to put on a “show” to be accepted.
I believe that, as gay fathers, we are held to a different standard. I’m not sure if it’s a higher standard, but it’s a different standard. We are scrutinized a bit more than our straight counterparts and I believe that more is expected from us.
That’s a difference.
Now admittedly this may be some baggage that I carry from back in my day, but many others confirmed it.
When my kids were young I would often hear people say, “but he’s such a great father.” It’s the “but” that always got to me. The other parents would often innocently tell us that their kids loved coming to our house because there was always so much delicious food and snacks and things to do. It was the “show” that we evidently created that always got to me.
We were different.
I felt like I had to be somehow better than the straight dads because I was gay. I had to make up for it. I had to address the “but” and I had to put on a “show” to be accepted. I had to excel above the other straight dads to be accepted as a gay father.
Many agreed that sometimes they feel that way today too.
This absolutely depends on where you live and how you live, so many would not agree. If you are only surrounded by other gay fathers and gay allies at home and at work, then perhaps this isn’t true anymore. But most of us don’t live in such an isolated world. For the most part, we’ve assimilated into our collective culture.
But the difference is still there. We have to out-perform to make up for the fact that we are gay and to make up for the fact that perhaps there isn’t a mom in the picture. We have to do even better than the straight guys who are co-parenting with a mom.
It still doesn’t change the fact that we are in full lock-down mode with our kids. Getting those school lunches ready every day is still a burden no matter what your flavor.
We just have to be even more excellent fathers to overcome being labeled as gay fathers.
But it’s certainly a lot better for all of us.
Here’s to happy and healthy kids!
Jim Joseph is the Global CEO at Citizen Relations, an integrated brand communications agency, the proud father of two children, and the author of Out & About Dad.
Previously published on STAND Magazine
Photo: Getty Images