11 Reasons Why My Florida-Marriage-Equality Gay Marriage Was Better Than Your Marriage

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As many people know on January 6th of this year, Florida became the 36th state to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. My partner Franky and I were ready: In eight years, we bought a house together; we’ve let our finances become intertwined (*COU-hepaysforeverything-OUGH!* oh, ‘scuse me. I must have had someth… anyway); and we’ve been raising a child together for the last four years.

Now usually people dream of weddings with beautiful flowers, and well-thought-out ceremonies where people make toasts and walk in the room in the perfect way while the sun reflects off golden tan skin while the man person and the man woman other person gaze into each other’s eyes lovingly.

Our wedding was not this traditional kind. Ours was the marriage-equality-damn-we-can-get-married-fuck-everything-let’s-go kind… and it was so much BETTER than that other crap, and here’s why:

11. There was zero planning. Weddings typically take years of planning and organizing and scrutinizing over every last detail. What kind of glass wear will we use? Where will everybody sit? What gorgeously romantic exquisite elegant matrimonial ceremonial traditional spiritual location shall we chooseth?

Nope. Not us. Facebook invite: meet us at the courthouse in three days bitches! We’re getting hitched! Done and done. Even the father who married us just sort of appeared outside.

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10. We didn’t have to go it alone. Most marriages can be really frightening, stressful, and lonely when it’s just you and your significant other taking the plunge. There’s so much to think about, like what if we’re not ready? What if s/he’s not the one? This marriage is just the two of us. No one else.

Unless of course you’re getting married with every committed gay relationship in the entire state! If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you? Yes! Of course you would! Because, as I told my mom once, there’s probably a really good reason if everyone is doing it. Maybe the bridge is over a chocolate river? Maybe the bridge is only a foot high and on the way to somewhere important? The point is, it’s more reassuring when you are surrounded by so many damn people you’re required to take a number out of those number roll machines you see at the deli counter. Literally, we did. Ours was A26.

9. It was way more important than any ol’ traditional marriage. As a small child, I remember my mother always saying, “Now John, if you want your marriage to feel really special, have it one minute after it’s legal in your state.” I held on to that motherly wisdom and I’m glad I did. Yes, I could have gone traditional, worn the dress, done my hair up in a $2000.00 bun, but was that going to get me in gay magazines across the country? No. No it wasn’t. My mother knew that instinctively.

8. We could bring our kid. The thing that’s so messed up about traditional marriage is it’s so out of order. How are you supposed to have your kids at your wedding if you haven’t even had them yet? Thankfully, as a gay person, we were given the right to raise kids long before we were given the right to be an actual family in the eyes of the state. Thank goodness, because it wouldn’t have been the same without our little Zachary.

7. It was one-zillionth the cost. The dress, the dreamy location, the fancy hor dourves, and the man playing the piano, and the hand-made encrusted encrypted engraved metal napkin holders all add up. It takes loans and savings and in-laws and sometimes years and years to pay off this beautiful day.

Our Wedding? Rings, new outfit, bam, done.

6. The hot guys in cop uniforms were NOT strippers.

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They were actual cops … wait, none of them stripped, that’s totally a down-side. Never mind.

5. It was at midnight. Let’s face it, nobody would ever choose to get married at 12:01am on a frickin’ Tuesday. Gay people work too, y’know. But think about it, how rebelliously cool is THAT? Like, who gets married in the middle of the freakin’ NIGHT?

That’s right. We do. Maybe it’s the teenager in me, but having a Starbucks Grande dark roast coffee at 8pm without ANY guilt was a tiny private marriage in and of itself. Yeah, that’s right; I married that cup of coffee. Hmm, on second thought that’s probably not so much the teenager is it is the old lady in me.

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4. It was in a government office building. This might not seem like an advantage necessarily, but you have to think about things that are cool because of their juxtaposition. Like, when that town in Washington erected that noble monument of Kurt Cobain. Sure, towns erect monuments, and sure, Kurt Cobain was an important part of history for many people…but WHAAAT? It was cool like that.

We were escorted in the usual way. We went from the front door metal detectors, up to the third floor to fetch our numbers, then to this huge jury duty room with theater seating and huge TV’s and a podium. After announcements were made, numbers were then called (think bingo night) we were shuffled down the matrimonial stairwell to a room that I dubbed “Where the DMV and Gay Pride collide”. It was so exciting that 300 or so gay people, a zillion news reporters, and a handful of cheery lighthearted police officers and government workers had partied up this otherwise dark, closed-for-business building downtown. Even coffee, sparkling cider, and a bunch of beautiful wedding cakes were brought in by Stork’s Bakery, which is a local café in Fort Lauderdale. The whole thing was actually pretty organized too.

3. The County elected Clerk and County Sheriff were there. Were the County elected Clerk and County Sheriff at your traditional wedding? Nope? Nope. I didn’t think so. Awe, don’t cry about it, your mascara will run.

2. We’ll share our anniversary with our closest friends. And several thousand others in Florida. So basically, if you ever hear, say, a new coworker tell your office buddy that his wedding anniversary is January 6th, you can safely assume that he’s gay and from Florida. If YOUR wedding anniversary is January 6th, you are most likely gay and from Florida. If your parents were wed January 6th, they are now gay and from Florida.

In all seriousness, though, we did get to get married with two women that mean the world to my partner, my son and me. Lori and KJ, with whom we wed have been a vastly huge, stable, and shiny part of our lives for a good while. Our son knows and loves them about as much as he loves us. These girls know how to instill values, keep him safe, buy adorable toddler clothes, and just love like no other, and we are so lucky to have shared such a special day with them. Zachary will have a better grasp of the meaning of marriage with them having been with us.

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1. Love. We love each other. That doesn’t actually make our marriage better than anyone else’s, and the truth is that of course it’s not, but the number one reason it’s so great is not just the love we have for each other, but the love we receive from family and friends. That’s it.

See, neither of us really thought much about marriage, never dreamt it would happen.

As a gay person, you spend your childhood trying to hide inside yourself, and your young adulthood trying to find yourself again, and then explain yourself to everyone else. Marriage? Kids? That was backburner. Gay people have been ridiculed, mocked, beaten; their bodies left naked and dead tied to chain-linked fences because of who they were. Many, many, many gay people missed this opportunity, and many people still live in so much fear.

Not my family. Not anymore.

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Throughout Zachary’s life, he never knew that we were all supposed to have the same last name. His face lit up like I’d given him a giant jawbreaker when I told him his daddies would now have his last name. He couldn’t believe it.

The Duffy-Sweeney’s aren’t just equal; we are completely surrounded by gratitude, joy, inspiration, dreams, and love.

We got cards, gifts, a fruit basket not 24 hours after we mentioned it, calls and texts from family and friends, so much facebook activity from our pictures and posts that my eyes actually sting from reading so many comments. It’s insane. We go outside and people say “Congrats” and we say thank you, but that’s just a spec of the gratitude we feel. Really, ours was just another marriage in an ocean of marriages.

Yet it was so much more. People are much more grateful for the things they have to fight for. Maybe that’s why it feels so much more special? We had to fight for this marriage. Well, the fight’s over, bam, done and done.

Equality = Love.

And to anyone who reads this marriage lovey crap and wants to barf, grab a bag bitch; all that bitter is gonna sting coming up. Just kidding, I’ve been there. I’ll probably read this in a year and need to borrow your bag. Anyway, love. Love is the answer. </Barf>

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Photos by Peter Cross–Queerty.com

Related post: How to Talk To Your Children About Gay Parents

A Thank You To My Straight Village

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gay-momsImage via Shutterstock

Gay parenting is like any other kind of parenting… until laws written by straight politicians or closeted, self-hating homosexuals decide it’s not. And in that case, being a gay parent has its hurdles. As a gay parent, I sometimes feel isolated, like an island at sea, sticking out from the rest of my surroundings like, well, an island at sea. Unless they’re jerks, it’s pretty easy for gay parents to support other gay parents. We get it. And we preach the same sermon to the same gay choir.

But my two-mama, three-kid family needs a bigger village. Save the gay jokes and Village People references. I have a special place in my heart for the heteros, the village of straight men, women, parents, friends and strangers who help me raise my children. And I want to thank them.

I want to thank my opposite-sex loving friends who love me for me. They see my sexuality as a detail and not the whole picture. They are not blind to my gayness, but seem to not notice it. They were the biggest advocates and supporters during mine and my partner’s journey to parenthood.

I want to thank the straight, open-minded, supportive men and women I have never met who have stood up for equal rights and against hate. I don’t know their motivation for decency. It might be human kindness. It might be respect. Or it might be because they become as angry or sad as their gay or lesbian friends who feel isolated.

And I want to thank the straight parents everywhere who see me as a parent, first and foremost. Period. This parenting thing is hard. From my closest friends to moms and dads I have never met or only passed in a store or restaurant, I feel supported and respected. Having kids has a way of doing this. Sexuality be damned: toddlers are a fucking nightmare. I need my straight village to vent to, to lean against, and to carry the rainbow flag when I am too tired to preach my sermon.

Traveling with children is also a wonderful equalizer between us gays and straights, especially when sitting with a screaming toddler several thousand feet in the air on an airplane as hot as the sun—seriously what is up with the temperatures on airplanes?

My partner and I recently flew from our home in Vermont to Florida with our three kids, an almost four year old daughter and twin 18 month old sons. For weeks, the anticipation of the trip sent us into complete denial of the trip. We knew we would each be holding very active boys who hate constraint. We knew their nap would be thrown right out the window, along with our sanity. We worried less about our daughter. She had her own seat and a backpack full of snacks and Disney paraphernalia she rarely gets. She would be happy for days or in a sugar coma. Either way, she would be quiet.

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One of the flights was miserable. My partner and one of the boys were 10 rows from where I was sitting with my daughter and my other son, the screaming one. I was sweating, frustrated, and wanted a drink. I knew the guy next to me, trying to read his book, was annoyed. Trust me: I wanted the screaming to stop too. And I would give anything to be able to read a book that didn’t have pictures in it. I felt your pain, Sir.

But suddenly, another mother who was sitting nearby and dealing with her own unhappy toddler stopped to ask if I needed help. She wondered if I was alone. When I explained my family’s seating arrangement, she was empathetic. She told me her husband could manage their two kids for a few minutes if I needed anything. She understood. She was the few minutes of support I needed to reset.

That stranger allowed me to take a breath, remind myself that I was not alone, and that the plane would land and my vacation would start soon. She helped me be a better, more patient parent in that moment. She, like so many others, is a part of my village and who I needed in that moment to help raise my children.

I love my gay village members too, but the straight ones, the straight parents who have nothing to gain in my fight for equality are the ones who keep me fighting and moving forward on my parenting journey. Those known and unknown village members give me confidence that the world is changing.  My straight village gives me hope that someday our villages won’t be divided and we will all just be people trying to raise our children.

Related post: The 5 People You Meet as a Gay Dad

How to Talk To Your Children About Gay Parents

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Imagine you’re at the train station, taking your kids into the city to see the Lion King. A man steps off the 6:16 from Grand Central, and two toddlers run up to him shouting, “Daddy!  Daddy!”  He gives out two hugs and about a thousand kisses and tells them how much he missed them while he was at work. You’ve witnessed scenes like this many times, but as always, your heart melts. Then the dad stands up, walks a little further down the platform and kisses… another man.

Well, that’s different.

“How was your day?” the first guy asks, and the other one starts talking about who got time outs, why the kids have maple syrup in their hair and who flushed what down the toilet right before they left.

OK, back to normal.

You’ve probably done the math by now — Look!  Gay dads! — but there’s a decent chance you’ll feel a tug on your leg, and your kid will look up at you and ask, “Yo, what’s the deal there?”

This is the story of my life. I am a gay dad, and I confuse children.

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I’m sure it happens more than I realize – at the supermarket, at the park, at MyGym.  Just by acting like any other parents, my partner Drew and I are inadvertently sparking countless conversations that start with, “Where’s their Mommy?”

You’re free to handle that question however you want, of course.  But if you don’t know where to begin, allow me to help.

You see, when Drew and I decided to have kids, we knew that the gay dad job description would include explaining our family to the world for the rest of our lives. That’s one of the reasons I started my blog.

It’s also why I am kindly providing you, the sympathetic straight parent, with some guidelines. (Unsympathetic straight parents are free to ignore my suggestions, in which case, I’ll enjoy watching them squirm)  Obviously, what you say will depend on how old your kids are and how much exposure they’ve had to gay people previously, but in a broader sense, these suggestions should apply to anyone.

I’m not a child psychologist, just a gay dad who’s thought a lot about the issue and who has a big stake in it.  After all, I don’t want your kids coming up to my kids one day and telling them they’re weird for not having a mommy.

If you don’t want that either, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Use the word “gay.”

How to Talk To Your Children About Gay Parents

 

Everyone’s concentrating on taking the negative connotation away from the word “gay,” but at the same time, let’s not forget to encourage the positive.  We don’t want “gay” to be a curse, so go ahead and teach it to your kids. That’s how we’ll really take the sting out of the word.

“Oh, Uncle Doug and Uncle Max? They’re gay.”  “Aunt Vera and Aunt Debbie aren’t sisters, honey. They’re lesbians.”  “Well, statistics suggest at least 3 of the Smurfs must be gay.” Don’t make a big deal about it.  Just say it.  If your kids hear some jerk at school sneering, “That’s so gay!”, their response will be, “Yeah? So what? So are Uncle Max and, most likely, Brainy.”

You could also use the word “queer,” I guess, but then your kids and I will just think you’re a pretentious dweeb.

2. You don’t have to pretend half the world is gay. 

How to Talk To Your Children About Gay Parents

 

Don’t play down the fact that your kids may have witnessed something unfamiliar.  “Geez, Madison. They have two daddies, what’s the biggie?” It’s natural for poor little Madison to be confused, so give her a damn break.

Kids are probably going to assume all families have one mommy and one daddy, because that’s all most of them see.  Be honest, and use words like “most” and “some.”  “Most families have a mommy and a daddy… but some have two mommies or two daddies.” As long as you don’t attach a value judgment to that statement, it really is no biggie.

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Some kids might say something like, “That’s weird”, or they’ll think you’re playing a joke on them.  That should just be a reminder of why you’re having this conversation.  Get to your kid before ignorance does.  If you’re honest with them, they’ll get it.  Explain that gay families are less common than the usual mommy/daddy family, but they’re every bit as valid.  “It’s not weird, it’s just different than our family.”

3. Get your mind out of the gutter.

It seems silly that I even have to say this, but when some people think about homosexuality and kids, they imagine that you’re suggesting they graphically describe intercourse to kindergarteners. Um, no. All you should be doing is answering the questions they’re asking, and save the rest for junior high health class. If they wonder why Owen has two daddies, it’s because “His daddies are in love”… or because “Some men love other men.” Hopefully, you’ve taught your kids to understand what love is, so no further explanation should be required.

And do use the word “love.”  That’s what we’re talking about here.  You don’t need to say “attracted to” or “some boys like boys.”  “Like” is how they feel about each other. A kid might think, “Well, I like boys. I guess I’m gay.”  Compare it to your own relationship (assuming you have a good relationship). “You know the way Mommy and I love each other?  That’s how their daddies (or mommies) feel about each other.”  And if your kid says, “Yuck!” it’s probably because they feel the same way about you and your wife. That’s progress.

4. Don’t make it about your kid — yet.

Understanding gay parents is a big enough topic of discussion, and your kid probably won’t be prompted to wonder about their own sexuality at this point.  You don’t need to say, “You might marry a man someday yourself, Junior!”  While it’s great to plant the seeds of acceptance early, you’ll probably just end up confusing them more.  Your kids have plenty of time to figure their own feelings out, and when the time comes, make sure you let them know that you love them no matter what. But no, they can’t marry Brainy Smurf.

5. If your kid does ask you to speculate, you can tell them they’ll “probably” be straight.

Again, only if your kid expresses some curiosity should you even broach the subject. But if they’re wondering, “Who will I marry someday?”, feel free to tell them, “You’ll probably marry someone of the opposite sex, but I’ll accept you either way.” Of course, if you’re like the mom from the amazing blog Raising My Rainbow, your “probably” might lean the other way. Just take your cues from your kid.

6. Remember the magic phrase, “Everyone ends up with the right parents for them.” 

It’s possible your kids will ask something like, “But doesn’t everyone need a mommy?” Even kids who don’t know exactly where babies come from understand that women are the ones who get pregnant and give birth.  When that’s all you know, then two daddies just don’t add up.

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Again, don’t go into any more detail than you need to.  Remind your kid that while it’s a woman who gives birth to a baby, your Mommy(-ies) and/or Daddy(-ies) are the one(s) who raise you. If two men want to start a family together, then yes, they’ll need help from a woman. But that woman is not the mommy. It’s no different than how you’d explain adoption by a straight couple. “The Strattons flew to Beijing and brought little Daisy home. Now they’re her Mommy and Daddy.” Assure your children that the kids are in good hands, and that everyone ends up with the right parents for them.

7. Most importantly, just talk to your kids.

Your kids are bound to see a gay family sooner or later, even if it’s just Mitchell & Cameron on Modern Family.  So if they come to you with questions, it’s really important that you don’t get weird about it.  Don’t change the subject, don’t tell them they’re too young to understand and definitely don’t lie and say that the mommy is home doing dishes or off fighting in Afghanistan.  Otherwise the message you’re sending is that there’s a reason to be uncomfortable around gay families.  The same goes for all kinds of families, whether they have two moms, two dads, a single mom, a single dad, foster parents or if they’re being raised by wolves – just explain that that’s a different kind of family and gee, isn’t it nice that everyone’s a little different.

… which leads me to a big secret.

You see, there is a gay agenda.  It’s true.

What most people don’t realize is that the gay agenda isn’t “everybody should be gay.” It’s “everybody should be themselves.”

Be a nerd, be a Yanni fan, be a real housewife of your particular geographic region. Whatever. It’s all part of the same cause, and it’s a great message to teach your kids.

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I shouldn’t have to say this in 2012, but for anyone who’s still wondering, NO, I don’t want to make your kids gay.  I just want to live my life with a sense of mutual respect for everyone else on this planet.  If you want the same thing, then let your kids learn by your example.  Show them that nontraditional families are nothing to be afraid of.

Teaching your kids to be accepting of gay people and gay families is a great way to teach them acceptance in a broader sense – and to teach them the ultimate lesson: to be accepting of themselves.

I know some people think differently, but that’s what I call family values.

My Life Would Not Be Possible Without Feminism

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I recently got married. I have two children. I own a house, and I have a full-time job. At first glance, none of these circumstances may strike you as remarkable. In fact, maybe you share in many of them. But if I had been born even 50 years earlier, I wouldn’t have many of the rights that I have now to love whom I love, make choices about my body, and own property.

I don’t want to bore you with a long history of feminism – first and foremost, because I don’t know the long history of feminism – but I do know this: Without it, my life would not be possible. In the mid-1800s, women in the U.S. earned the right to own property. This might not seem like a big deal, but at the time women WERE property. That’s right. The husband or the father owned the wife, the land and the money. If the husband died, sometimes the wife was allowed to own his property, but she wasn’t allowed to do anything with it. It just had her name on it, which was actually his name. The whole point was to keep the property – the woman and the land and the money – in the family or owned by the brothers, the sons and the fathers. This had far-ranging implications.

It still forms the foundation of many of our current arguments about pro-choice and abortion. It still impacts the laws that we have about who can marry and why. It’s the reason that we objectify women’s bodies and have fathers hand off daughters, literally, to their husbands during wedding ceremonies. But here is how it affects me.

After I graduated from college, an idea that only made sense if I was going to contribute something to society besides children and clean laundry, I got a job. My job paid me money. I used that money to pay my rent, go out to eat a lot, and gain 25 pounds. I did what I wanted and got fatter. But it was my fat ass, built with my own labor. This is the first way that I enjoyed feminism. Feminists of yore thought it mattered that a woman could live without the sponsorship of a man. In other words, that we could go out on our own, feed, clothe and house ourselves without needing to have all of these things paid for by a father or a husband. Thank you.

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While eating more than my fair share of blue cheese and paying my actual fair share of rent using money from my new job, I met someone and fell in love. This person also happened to be a woman with her own paycheck, her own cheese, and a house that she had purchased by qualifying for a loan at a bank. After a little more than a year of dating, we decided that we wanted to be together forever, but we couldn’t get married because there was no history of laws describing how a woman could own another woman. In fact, the idea that two women would want to merge households was a concept that had been overlooked entirely. There was no law for it. And no law against it. Just blank space.

So, we did the next best thing: we bought property together. We also got a joint checking account. And for many people, including our employers but excluding our government, this demonstrated enough commitment to each other that we could get other benefits, like paying for each other’s health insurance and getting a couples discount at the gym. We still got asked if we wanted separate checks at restaurants, and when I bought a car, the dealer suggested that I talk to my husband before I made a final decision, so I went shopping elsewhere. We suffered these indignities with stoicism and sarcasm, and then 10 years and four dogs later, we decided that we wanted to have children.

This, again, is where property, in the form of cold, hard cash, came to bear. I bought blood tests and lab results, medical procedures and tissue donations in the form of human sperm. Most of this was not covered by our medical insurance, in spite of the fact that I had a very generous plan and a supportive employer. After three years of credit card loans and psychological torture, I gave birth to a baby girl. And almost two years after that, I had another one.

In the eyes of the law, I was the parent and my spouse was not, so she adopted our children. What does this mean? It means that we paid someone, social services, to evaluate our house, our relationship, and our circumstances to determine if she was worthy to be a parent. It means that I went to court and testified that, yes, the woman I would marry (if the law would allow such a thing) was the other parent to my children and she was not coercing me for the opportunity to live with them, wipe their noses, and badger them about picking up the pieces of their Barbie playhouse. She was, in fact, in love with them. She was there when they were born. She got up in the middle of the night to comfort them when they were sick and defended them with the ferocity of a wild animal when anyone, even I, was mean to them.

And then, one day, months after my oldest daughter had started kindergarten, and I was taking the youngest back to day care after a visit to the dentist, I got a call.

“The Attorney General is issuing marriage licenses,” my spouse said.

“He is? How ironic!” I said. “Do you want to get married again?”

“No, do you?”

“Not really. But if it’s important to you, I will.”

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The week before, we had flown to Chicago, without friends or family and without much warning, to tie the knot. We were waiting to see if a “gay marriage” law would pass in Colorado, but it was the end of September, and we were running out of time that year. So we bought plane tickets, made a beeline for the marriage license office, enjoyed a day in the city, said “I do,” and came home.

It’s been a tremendous amount of work exercising the rights I’ve been granted and being responsible for the property I own. We have bankrolled the entire thing with 76 cents on every dollar that a man would have had for the same job done. We have filled out forms and jumped through hoops to take what might have been granted easily or celebrated more if we were a man and a woman with jobs, a house, and children. But I’m still tremendously grateful for what I have. Many people have much, much less.

So when Nicki Minaj, Shailene Woodley and Carrie Underwood are not sure if they are so “extreme” as to be feminists, I would suggest that they have another look at the string of diamonds, the mansion, or the record contract that drives their privileged lifestyle and ask themselves if they would like to have all that freedom and independence transferred to their father or their brother because women shouldn’t own property – they should be property.

Your choice. And that alone – having the choice – is feminism.

Originally featured on BLUNTmoms. Read more: Leave Your Stupid Peanut Butter at Home

What to Expect When You’re (Gay and) Expecting

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So you’re going to be a gay parent? Congratulations! No doubt you’ve been through a lot to get to this point, whether you’ve traveled the path of adoption, IVF, artificial insemination, surrogacy, fostering or whatever. Now, you have a lot to do to get ready.

Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be one of those typical posts that tells you to stock up on diapers and learn CPR. Most gay parents are overachievers on that front, I’d guess, since we’ve been planning our families for so long. I know I couldn’t wait to sign up for baby classes.

I wanted to write this post specifically for you, though, the expectant gay parent, because there’s a whole lot of important parenting stuff they’re not going to cover in those baby classes that applies directly to you. There are some special things you’re going to experience because you have a non-traditional family, and I’ve encountered them, so I wanted to give you my tips on how to deal with them.

1. Your kids will need perspective. No matter where you live, it’s very likely that your kids will grow up feeling at least slightly out of the mainstream. They’ll see that most families have a mom and dad, and that their family is different.

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In my opinion, the best way to handle this is to embrace it. Celebrate who you are from day one. Always talk about what makes your family special, and make sure you do it in positive terms. There are some great kids’ books about LGBT-parented families. (I call the books about gay dads “Papa-ganda”.) We love to read “The Family Book” by Todd Parr, and when we get to the page that says “Some families have two moms or two dads,” I ask the kids. “Who has two dads?”, and they cheer, “Me!!!”

When they meet other kids, they probably feel that their friends are the ones who are missing out on something special by not having a family like ours. Yes, my kids are still young (3 1/2 as of right now), so they haven’t asked a ton of uncomfortable questions, and the Mommy issue hasn’t come up too much. But when that time comes (and I know it will), I’ll be able to talk about our family structure as something wonderful that makes us who we are, because that’s what I’ve been saying all along.

Moms are great, too, but if we had one of those, we wouldn’t have two dads, and we wouldn’t be us.

2. You’ll constantly be outing yourself. Unless you’re always walking around in your rainbow-striped Pride t-shirt (and good for you if you are), you’re probably passing for straight most of the time, whether you mean to or not. As a childless person, this is not a big deal. You’re going to the supermarket to pick up a loaf of bread, not to discuss your private life with strangers, right?

Well, once you have kids, people will be even more likely to assume you’re straight. A baby practically announces to the world, “I had intercourse with someone of the opposite sex!”

I can’t tell you how many times a stranger (usually a woman, presumably a mom herself) has seen me pushing my kids in the double stroller through the aisles of Target or changing a diaper in a family restroom and exclaimed, “Your wife sure is lucky!” (Side note: many straight women apparently have terrible husbands.)

Even when my whole family is out together — me, the kids and my very obviously male partner — people find ways to force us into their preconceived notions of family structure. Then, the typical comment we get is, “I guess it’s Mom’s day off!” The assumption here is that my boyfriend and I are platonic buddies whose wives are off on a spa date or something. Hey, I take the spa dates in my family, thank you very much.

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Your natural inclination in these situations might be to play along, not out of any kind of self-loathing but just for social expediency. From most people, these comments are the equivalent of, “Hey, nice weather we’re having!” All they’re looking for is for me to respond, “Yup!” Or “Hey, it’s only fair. Mom works hard, right?”

But whenever I’m tempted to do that, I’ll remember two very good reasons I can’t… my kids. They love their dads very much, and I’ve been telling them constantly what an amazing and incredibly special family we have. What message would I be sending to them if I suddenly pretended our family was just like everyone else’s? That we need to lie about who we are? That they should lie? That I’m ashamed of being gay? That the opinion of some stranger in a supermarket is more important than the respect of my own children?

So I say it. Regardless of what the situation seems to call for, I out us. “There is no mom. There are two dads in our family.” Or “I don’t have a wife. I have a partner. A man.”

Then I brace myself, because my real fear is that this person will turn out to be a member of the Westboro Baptist Church or the Boy Scouts senior leadership, and they’ll go all psycho fire and brimstone on me in front of the kids. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet. Sure, some people are taken aback, because like I said, all they wanted was polite chit-chat and now they feel forced to say… well, something. Usually, what they say is “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed,” because they’re embarrassed. In that case, I just smile, because that person is probably very nice and will never make that mistake again.

Remember, your kids come before strangers. Don’t worry about what some lady at the supermarket thinks. And if you’re in a hurry to get someone to the potty or to pick Other Daddy up at the train station, just correct the lady at the Stop-n-Shop and keep on moving. She’ll figure it out eventually.

3. You will now be an activist for non-traditional families. As a childless LGBT person, it’s entirely possible to live your life in a supportive bubble. Move to San Francisco or LA. Work for GLAAD. Join a gay softball league. Surround yourself with people who know you and accept you. I’d guess many of us spent the years after coming out doing just that. Well, if you’re going to have kids, you’re going to have to venture outside your gay-friendly bubble. Constantly.

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Your kids will be going to school and playing Little League primarily with kids from mom-and-dad-headed families, and you’ll be interacting with people who won’t always be 100% on board with the whole gay thing. Even going to IHOP on Family Night can feel like you’re Making a Statement, because some people will figure out immediately exactly what your family is all about.

Hi, welcome to the cause. What’s that? You’re not a political person? Well, good, because this isn’t about politics. It’s about your family, and being a good parent means doing what’s best for your kids. You want them to grow up in a better world than you did? Great, then get ready to fight for them.

The good news is that most of the time, you can do this by pushing back gently. When I filled out my kids’ preschool applications last year, the forms had spaces for “Mother’s Name” and “Father’s Name”. I could’ve just written our names in those spaces. I guess I also could’ve called up and complained or raised a stink. Instead, I simply crossed out “Mother” and wrote “Father #2″, then submitted the forms as normal. Why assume that the school was homophobic? It was far more likely that they just hadn’t had any gay parents there before (or any who cared about the forms), so the forms had never been an issue.

You know what? When I filled out their applications the next year, the forms had been updated. There were now two lines labeled “Parent Name”. A subtle change other parents are unlikely to notice, but that meant a lot to me. Best of all, I didn’t have to be someone’s pain in the neck to accomplish it.

4. People will generally be very nice to you (at least to your face, and that’s all that matters). Before I had kids, I assumed I’d meet a lot of resistance from the anti-gay crowd as a dad. I worried that preschools might turn us away, that other parents would refuse to set up playdates with my kids, that we’d get sneered at or harangued in public. What can I say? I was stung pretty hard when Prop 8 passed, and I took it very personally. I may even have had a tiny bit of a chip on my shoulder.

But here’s the good news. While I’m sure some of that ugly homophobia is out there, I have yet to face it head-on. I wrote a piece for this blog a while back called “The 5 People You Meet as a Gay Dad”, wherein I discussed the reactions I’ve received from people who’ve met my family. And I admitted at the end that the worst thing I’ve dealt with is polite discomfort. That piece generated a ton of comments, and almost all the other LGBT parents who wrote in had similar experiences. Even those who lived in much more conservative areas had been pleasantly surprised at the support they’d received.

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So you can feel good about your decision to have a family in this world at this time. I’m constantly touched and encouraged by how accepting and friendly most people are towards us. They want to learn our story, or to tell me about other gay parents they know. I constantly hear things like, “My sister and her wife are trying to have a baby. I’m so excited for them!” Sometimes they treat us like celebrities, like the nurse when my son was in the hospital. She told us she’d always wanted to meet gay dads, and she jogged around the kid’s hospital bed to give us hugs.

5. Be yourself and be proud. Assume the best of people, and very often, that’s what you’ll get. Now go read those other parenting books and learn about feeding, diapering, swaddling, bathing and all that. Being a parent, gay or straight, is the most amazing, rewarding and totally freaking difficult thing you’ll ever do.

You’ve got a lot to learn.