Carrying on the trend of saying really obvious things in this section, here goes another one: Being a dad as a gay man is … well, it’s weird.
Weird, of course, in the sense that—you might want to sit down for this—most gay men do not have kids. And, conversely, most people who have kids are not gay. Of the gay men who do have kids, only a small percentage are single. So (although this is changing, slowly but steadily) within the world of gay, I’m something of a novelty.
Which is not to say that people haven’t been wonderful—they have been, and are. I’m a novelty more in the sense of a “wow, isn’t that amazing” piano prodigy than in the sense of an “oh, that’s weird” person with six toes.
Having said that, I do struggle with the fact that non-parental gay folks—especially the dudes—don’t really have a sense of what being a parent means. As in, “No, I can’t meet you for dinner in an hour on a school night.” Or, as I’ve mentioned in regard to dating: “Well, it’s fine that you are canceling at the last minute, but I will have to look at the family calendar before I can reschedule.” Or, on an even more trivial level: “Nope, haven’t seen [insert name of latest must-see TV show or movie here]. I’m kinda busy. But hey, throw a Pixar or Harry Potter movie at me, and there’s a good chance I’ve seen that one.”
Meanwhile, within the straight community, I experience my favorite thing about being a gay dad. I could bring a female friend to a little league game, or go out with one as a dinner companion—heck, I could say hello to a female cashier at the grocery store—and non-gay folk automatically assume that said female and I are a couple. It’s actually kind of charming. If my straight acquaintances had their way, I would have had at least 20 or so girlfriends/wives over the past 10 years. That’s an even worse track record than my actual history with guys. I guess “over there” it’s hard to imagine that a guy could or would choose to raise two kids by himself—or that said guy could be in proximity of a woman without the requisite romantic tie.
In contrast to all this, I have to give a major shout-out to the other kids in our lives. As is usually the case, compared to anyone over the age of 12 or so, they are so much more open-minded and flexible about what reality can look like. They neither make assumptions about our family one way or another, nor do they care when the “truth” is revealed. The best example was the time Daveon revealed to his second-grade class that over the summer we went to New York “to celebrate my dad’s boyfriend’s birthday.” The kids still let me come and help with reading. I’d say the most probing conversation I’ve ever heard from the under-18 set went something like this:
Kid (pointing to me): “Hey Mark, is that your dad?”
Mark (in his usual verbose, descriptive manner): “Yeah.”
Kid (waving): “Hi, Mark’s dad.”
If only everything about parenthood were that easy.