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Father's Day: Highlighting the Stories of Extraordinary Dads

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With Father’s Day just a few days away, it’s the perfect time to highlight the unique contributions that gay, bisexual, and transgender men have made as parents.

The stories of these fathers are importance because they face especially unique struggles and encounter negative stereotypes that inordinately question their parenting abilities and scrutinize their behavior around children. Even more unfortunately, coverage of gay, bisexual, and transgender fathers and/or the fathers of LGBT children tends to emphasize these hardships while ignoring the positive aspects of their stories.

In one article that celebrates a Father’s Day inclusive of all dads, David Valdes Greenwood hopes that media will reflect a more diverse and accurate representation of dads in the future. “It is true that limited, silly notions of how men parent are still pervasive,” he says, noting that negative gender stereotypes present challenges for heterosexual men as well. “But I have to believe this is going to change; bit by bit, the fathers in this generation are writing new definitions with their lives. … The world is chock full of exceptional dads.”

An inspiring article in the Arizona Republic in May profiled Steven and Roger Ham, a gay couple raising 12 children, who were all adopted from the foster care system. But Arizona does not have equal marriage rights for LGBT people, nor does it permit adoption by gay and lesbian couples, so Steven and Roger had to go through many legal hurdles in order to ensure their children’s safety. Legally, ten of the children belong to Steven, and two belong to Roger; but after legal name changes, medical releases, and other meticulous paperwork, Steven and Roger can finally ensure that in the case of something happening to either one of them, guardianship of the children would go to the other. “Our kids have two parents who love them,” Steven says. “Not all of their friends do ... I wouldn’t change it for anything. We knew the kids deserved a better life, and someone who would love them, no matter what. None of my kids will ever tell you, anytime in their lives, even years from now, that they didn’t feel loved.”

In the Washington Post, Janice D’Arcy celebrates polling data that indicates growing support for parenting by gay couples. Of the almost 800,000 gay and lesbian couples in America, about 20% are raising children. 48% of Americans believe that parenting by gay and lesbian couples is no different than that by heterosexual couples. D’Arcy also provides a brief profile of lawyer and gay father Marc Salans, his partner, and their 12-year-old twins. “The kids usually make us a card or cook us breakfast, but it’s all very low key. Oddly enough, we make a much bigger deal out of Mother’s Day,” he says, explaining that he doesn't want the kids to dread Mother's Day just because they don't have a mother. “And, guess what--it works! Our kids LOVE Mother's Day!”

Cara Cerise, 20, was recently awarded an award for her humanitarian work. She attributes her inspiration to her gay dad.

In addition to honoring dads who themselves identify with the LGBT community, it’s important to acknowledge fathers who have shown support to their LGBT children. In late April, Wayne Maines, the father of a 13-year-old transgender girl, gave a touching speech on behalf of his daughter during a Maine Judiciary Committee hearing on a bill that would have eliminated existing protections for transgender people. “I know that it is difficult for some of you to understand the needs of transgender children. You only need to spend some time with these kids to see that they are struggling and suffering beyond your imagination only because they are singled out and misunderstood. They are just like your children and grandchildren; they have the same hopes and the same dreams,” he spoke passionately. Lawmakers eventually rejected the bill and upheld equal protections for transgender people under the Maine Human Rights Act.

AfterElton is sharing the story of a young man whose father taught him to stand up for himself after he came out as gay. “One of the most important lists my father ever put his name to was the list of fathers who loved and embraced their sons unconditionally,” he wrote. “I miss him every day. But while I may not get to celebrate this Father’s Day with Dad, I will be thinking of him and thanking him, thanking him for his love and his guidance to a fantastic life.” Similarly, the Salt Lake Tribune profiled Cara Cerise, who was inspired by her own gay dad to help those who are not as fortunate as her. Cara’s dad raised both Cara and her younger sister after he and their mother divorced when Cara was only 4 years old. “From a really young age, I realized that my family is different and sometimes I get treated differently because of that. … My activism stems from not wanting anyone else to experience that,” she says. She has just been named the 2011 Utah Young Humanitarian, the largest service-based award in the state.

The love and commitment these diverse fathers have towards their families is moving, and often has a positive impact on readers who were previously unfamiliar with their stories. GLAAD encourages media to highlight similar stories year-round in order to emphasize the relevance of issues like marriage equality and adoption for gay and lesbian couples. The struggle for equality cannot be isolated from the personal stories of those who are affected by these politics. (For additional stories, be sure to read about some of the great dads GLAAD has worked with in the past.)

GLAAD wishes these and all dads a Happy Father’s Day!

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