As a kid, I feel like I was always pretty politically attuned. I would watch election night coverage for as late as my mom would let me, waiting to see who our next president would be, in a world where the only consequences were those wrought by my parents. I was a passenger in a car too big to understand, moving at a pace I couldn’t comprehend.
Things have changed. My mom isn’t here anymore to push me in one direction or another. I am married. I’m a father. I have bills and taxes to pay, and promises to keep. I’m a grown-up, and I have a little guy to worry about — Gabe’s hands pull the levers for me now. So tomorrow, on election day, the choice is the most important of my life, and could not be clearer.
But no man is an island. The priorities for our family might not be the same as those in our own backyard, our communities, our nation. I reached out to other gay dad families, to gauge how people are feeling about this moment in our shared history, to see if other dads felt the immensity of the orange monster on their chests as heavily as I did.
Jonathan and Thomas West have been together for over a decade and have two beautiful daughters. They are registered Vermont voters and a military family, sacrificing so that we all continue to enjoy the freedoms to which we’ve grown accustomed. Their perspective fascinates me, because it covers so many bases. They shared that they will be voting for Hillary tomorrow, and said, “Hillary represents someone for my daughters to look up to. She is a fighter. She has been swung at from every angle […] and had to fight twice as hard just to get where she is. After everything she has been through, she is still standing, she is still strong, and she will continue to fight.”
For Jonathan and Thomas, the Obama Era saw previously unimaginable progress made for the rights and benefits of families like theirs. Jonathan said, “We both feel that Hillary is the only viable candidate who will preserve the significant progress the LGBTQ community has made over the last eight years.”
I reached out to a single gay dad in California, Chris Harris, and his 14-year old daughter Maria. If there is someone who understands the value of hard work, it is Chris. He became a father after working through three separate adoption agencies in Nashville at the turn of the millennium, he fought hard to start his family, and it’s that same quality he respects in the candidate he’s chosen this election cycle. Chris said, “Secretary Clinton has worked for the benefit of children and families since early in her career as an attorney. As a pediatrician, I truly appreciate her effort on behalf of child health with moving the State Children’s Health Insurance Program forward.”
I asked what he would say to the other candidates on the ballot. Chris said, “I would love Mr. Trump, Governor Johnson, and Dr. Stein to know that families in America are much more diverse than they were decades ago. This increase in diversity is a strength for our nation and serves as a beacon for the rest of the world. If we, being very different, can get along, then the rest of the world can learn from our example.”
I turned next to Jim Joseph and his husband Christopher, registered New York voters, and dads to two adult children. Jim and Christopher have known each other for nearly 20 years, and celebrated their marriage last year after the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. Jim has supported Hillary since her days as a first lady, and the work she has done for families of all shapes and sizes has stuck with him. When I asked Jim about the consequences of this election on families like his, he said, “I don’t want to go backwards. I was raising my family during a time of great prejudice. We were forced to keep quiet for fear of retribution. We’ve finally received equality in society, and I don’t want to go backwards. I refuse to go backwards.”
This was a theme I heard frequently in my conversations. There is a sense of having been given a great gift in the last eight years, and it is difficult to explain to folks outside of that experience what it’s like, to be grateful to be given more than scraps from the table, but to be given a real seat at it.
David Blacker, gay dad, and registered California voter said, “We can’t move America backwards. We can’t undo all the progress we’ve made the past eight years. Think about the example we’re setting for the next generation. Vote wisely.”
Michael Sharp, his husband Khang, registered Maryland voters, and their son Lucas: “The Democratic Party is vocal, verbal, and visible about their support of the LGBTQ community.”
Brian and Daniel will be celebrating their second month of marriage on election night. Brian is a U.S. citizen and can vote. Daniel cannot. They want to become dads, and this election represents a stark choice for America and for families like theirs.
“My husband is Mexican-American, and we’re married under a law that was only passed in 2010. Our future family faces obstacles like any two people trying to bring children into the world, but we also face additional challenges — on our own, we cannot have children, and plan to adopt. Our children will be brought up in a bilingual and biracial home, and by two male parents.”
And then, this: “When it comes to building our family and raising children, the candidates are starkly different. We don’t support Hillary because she is not Trump, we support her because she is extremely qualified, prepared, and diligent, and we believe she has our nation’s best interests at heart. She believes that we need to lift up those who fall below us, and works hard to use evidence as her guide in decision-making. Love unites us and the hatred that Mr. Trump has incited and spewed is already having terrible consequences — we should be racing to the top, not racing to the bottom.”
Steve and Harold are registered to vote in North Carolina, and have known each other since I was born, in 1984. They legally married on their 29th anniversary, and their two children acted as their witnesses. Steve and Harold voted early in North Carolina, and their trans daughter voted for her very first time, met with cheers by the poll-workers there. Steve respects Hillary Clinton’s much-maligned evolution on marriage equality, and said, “Hillary has progressed through time, as did Obama, and Bill Clinton. She meets with people and listens to them. Neither candidate is perfect. However, Hillary has the country’s best interests in mind. She has the experience and ability to lead us into the future, not take us back in time.”
David Hu and his husband Josh are registered in the great state of Florida and are proud dads to two sets of twins, one set of twins having come to them via California surrogacy, the other set having been born via a surrogate in India. They are Hillary voters, and I asked them what they hoped their candidate would accomplish for their family. Their view was bigger than just their family though.
David said, “We would like a strong defense of marriage equality, against attempts by conservatives to overturn the recent SCOTUS ruling. Now that adoption by same-sex couples is legal in all 50 states, we would like for there to be an examination of the de facto discrimination that still takes place in some states where judges and state social services sometimes decide that it is in the best interest for foster kids and adoptees not to be placed with gay couples. These biased decisions are made despite the consensus of scientific evidence that kids do just fine with same-sex parents.”
He continued, “We want stronger enforcement against hate crimes. We want protections for our transgender brothers and sisters who are currently under attack from hateful laws like HB2 in North Carolina. If you know and love someone who is LGBT (and odds are you do), and you want them to be treated fairly and equally in society, the clear choice is Hillary Clinton.”
It is so difficult for families like ours, families like the ones spotlit above, to have fought so incredibly hard to build the things we’ve built, piece by piece. There are no moments taken for granted, no smiles wasted, no fears unimagined, I promise you. We rise with gratitude and rest with humility, knowing that there are those in the world who would fight equally as hard to strip us of the protections we have come to know.
Because there are people who do not understand. You will have family members, neighbors, strangers, putting up “Make America Great” signs on their lawns. It will hurt. And it will hurt deeply. But I would challenge you in this way. It is the responsibility of families like ours to try to help others understand, to compare the commonalities of human experience; the joy over first teeth and the sorrow of skinned knees, the smiles in Disney World, the bedtime stories of dragons and fairies and little boys and girls who can grow up to be whatever they are bold enough to dream, they are the same.
Our job is to be good dads to the babies we are blessed to call our own. Our job is to fight to protect our children. And tomorrow, there is only one candidate who can protect our children, fight for our families, and lead us into a better day than the one that came before.
We’re with her. We’re with Hillary Clinton.
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