How rais­ing kids changed my life

IN Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Ferd van Gameren

Rais­ing kids makes me the gayest I’ve ever been

I tend to look at my per­sonal his­tory in broad cat­e­gories: B.C.E. and C.E.

Be­fore the Chil­dren’s Era is that now-myth­i­cal time of life be­fore kids. I lived in the epi­cen­tre of Bos­ton’s gay life, the South End. I have mem­o­ries of a sum­mer spent serv­ing sex on the beach (that’s a drink) at über-gay Club Café. Sun­day brunch at Tre­mont Ice Cream and then Me­trop­o­lis. Rush­ing to get the steeply dis­counted $299 an­nual mem­ber­ship at Mike’s Gym, where I met my hus­band, Brian.

Mus­cle-shirted bar­tend­ing at Buzz on Satur­day nights. The hills were alive fre­quently at the Front Porch, the ven­er­a­ble pi­ano bar in Ogun­quit, Maine. We went to see Ryan Landry in P’town. Got bi-weekly hair­cuts. Fri­day night man­scap­ing. Glam­our shots in Mykonos.

Af­ter the in­evitable move to New York (ev­ery gay Bos­to­nian did it), we lived among fel­low gay boys in Chelsea for a few years, then de­camped to Hell’s Kitchen.

Our cal­en­dar was punc­tu­ated by over-the-top trips to South Beach, San Fran­cisco, Chicago, Mon­treal. Dance par­ties last­ing from dawn un­til dawn I-don’t-know-how-many-dayslater. Les­ley Man­del show­ing a po­ten­tial Fire Is­land sum­mer house. White Party. Black Party. Af­ter Party. Af­ter Af­ter Party. Bendix Diner. Mana­tus. The Dish. Food Bar. Elmo.

Lots of theatre: Broad­way Bares, Spring Awak­en­ing, Wicked, Al­tar Boyz, and any­thing with Au­dra McDon­ald.

Sip ’n’ Twirl. Pav­il­ion. In­va­sion. Ju­nior. Low tea. High Tea. Fol­som. Fol­som East. Twilo. Ale­gria. Beige. G.

Some­where along the road we be­came food­ies and wine lovers.

Five years ago the Chil­dren’s Era com­menced when our son Levi was born. A year and a half later, we had three.

When strolling with our three chil­dren, we of­ten caused small traf­fic jams from all the on­look­ers.

Last year I was the only male mem­ber of the par­ent coun­cil at my son’s school. I was sur­prised at how of­ten I brought up “my hus­band Brian” dur­ing meet­ings. (He’s got a fundrais­ing back­ground.)

Brian and I of­ten drop off or pick up our kids from camp, school or day­care to­gether. We talk with coun­sel­lors, teach­ers, prin­ci­pals and vol­un­teers. In the af­ter­noons, we watch the kids play­ing in the school­yard or play­ground while we talk with other par­ents, most of­ten moms.

We take our kids to birth­day par­ties, the farm, the zoo, the green­mar­ket and restau­rants. We host and travel to play dates. We ac­com­pany them to tae kwon do, bal­let, gym­nas­tics and swim­ming classes; we help keep them calm dur­ing doc­tor, den­tist, hy­gien­ist and hair­dresser ap­point­ments.

We ex­plain our fam­ily make-up to re­cep­tion- ists, as­sis­tants, sec­re­taries and store clerks. To neigh­bours, other chil­dren, in­struc­tors and passersby. To nurses, flight at­ten­dants, hosts and waiters. I came out in 1983, but since be­com­ing a father, I feel like I’m com­ing out again and again.

On week­end nights, we have din­ner with friends, some gay, mostly straight. A few nights ago we had neigh­bours over for din­ner in our back­yard, and they asked us why we had moved to Toronto in 2009. (We had to leave the U.S., be­cause for­eign part­ners of gay Amer­i­cans didn’t qual­ify for green cards.)

Be­fore the Chil­dren’s Era? Pretty gay. No, su­per gay.

And all the things done in the won­drous Chil­dren’s Era are com­pletely or­di­nary; some would say com­pletely straight. Now, wher­ever we go with the kids, what­ever we do as a fam­ily, we’re the gay dads. Pub­licly, un­apolo­get­i­cally, un­avoid­ably, in-your-face gay.

Rais­ing kids makes me the gayest I’ve ever been. But there’s noth­ing I’d rather be than a gay dad.

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