When it comes to starting a family, it’s a brave new world for gay fathers. Brian Stephens and Andy Miller had always dreamed of becoming dads. However, when the time came for them to start a family they realized they had little information on where or how to begin. After all, the birds do it. The bees do it. But what about the gay fathers? How do they do it? How do they start a family?
They found that resources lacking on the subject and there were few gay fathers they could turn for advice. “From our own vantage point becoming fathers was so overwhelming, it seemed so daunting, it seemed so mysterious, it was hard to get our arms around,” Stephens said in an interview with BookTrib.
Like most great ideas, it was the need for knowledge that inspired the founding of The Handsome Father. The Texas couple of 11 years wanted to create a built-in network of support for gay fathers and fathers-to-be. “There are still a lot of gay men who believe what I believed, that you have to make a choice, to be gay or to be a father.” Stephens said. “The first thing I tell them is you can absolutely be an out gay man and be a great father.” The Handsome Father organization does just that—it stands as a platform in which gay men can share their pathways to fatherhood as well as provide the resources needed to sift through parenting options.
In the case of the adoption of their son Clark, it was two families with gay fathers who led the way and became their sounding board in the adoption and parenting process. “Both of those families inspired us, they showed us that it was possible, they showed us what it required and that we could do it. The premise of what we built The Handsome Father on is, ‘if you don’t see it, you don’t know you can be it,’” Stephens said.
“You are not just going to move in next door to another gay couple, you’re likely not going to run into another couple at your child care center…so you sort of have to create a new network, a network you can lean into, that can support you and advise you and help you as you raise your children,” Stephens said.
In order to redefine and reestablish fatherhood, there have to be trailblazing fathers to stand as role models. “I think we all have to be willing to share our stories, to be visible in our community, to be present so that people see who we are and so that people see we have the same worries and concerns that they have.”
The Handsome Father is not alone among gay men reclaiming fatherhood. More and more men are beginning to share their deep hunger to become nurturers and care-takers and we are seeing this trend in the literary world.
In A Song for Lost Angels, Kevin Fisher-Paulson tells the fearless and true account of the medically fragile triplets he and his husband fostered and how they were lost to narrow-minded bureaucracy.
Actor Dan Bucatinsky recounts the tale of how he and husband Dan Roos became fathers in his memoir, Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? Confessions of a Gay Dad where he explores his evolution in becoming a father even as he lost his own father.
Throughout time, gay men have stood as brave challengers of gender and sexuality norms. Now we are seeing gay men redefining what it means to be a father, too. Van Kirby’s autobiography On the Table by the Window: The Journey of a Gay Dad in Indiana tells the spearheading story of a 1970’s gay father who won the right to raise four children in need, showcasing non-traditional fatherhood well before its time.
This shift in the definition of fatherhood transcends fathers; in fact, it even provides mothers with an opportunity to reinvent their roles. “We really see it affecting every single person in America, because if women are going to have every opportunity they deserve professionally and if women are able to be CEOs and lead organizations then the definition of fatherhood has to change,” Stephens said. In an egalitarian society men and women are equally responsible and capable as nurturers and care-givers.
And to all fathers, Stephens has one piece of advice: “The moment when you feel the most frustrated is typically the moment when your child is teaching you the most about yourself.” It’s wisdom all parents can take to heart.
Happy Father’s Day!