An Ode To The 'Dad Bod' -- From A Gay Father's Perspective

This is it: the official close of summer! Here’s a tribute to all of us parents who never quite got our bodies into bathing suit shape in time for summer. This Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild.US “Let Love Define Family®” series installment by contributing writer Jared Gee celebrates LGBTQ parenthood and “dad bods.”

Earlier this summer, "dad bod" made quite the splash when Chris Pratt’s photos of his pre-Jurassic World body went viral. The pictures caused an outpouring of support for non-ripped bodies, for the hotness of a man who prioritizes his kids and family responsibilities over the cost of twice-a-day workouts and shredded abs. As the photos gained attention it immediately felt as if a shift in the discussion of male bodies and body image was taking place -- six packs and bulging biceps were trumped by care and support for one’s children and family. For us gay and queer dads, such validation is rarely found in the LGBTQ community, and the dad bod allows us to celebrate our parenthood and the hard work that goes into it.

An important interjection may be necessary here, considering males already get the ultimate societal pass when it comes to aging and body image. Let us be clear in acknowledging that it is women who carry babies for nine months and feel pressured to be thin four weeks later. It is women who are bombarded with perceptions of being old when grey hairs show. They are the ones most inundated with unrealistic body image and beauty expectations. In light of any discussions about the dad bod it is important not to forget women’s struggles.

With same-sex marriage legalized across the country, more and more LGBTQ families will appear in media images every day. We should take this moment to think about how our image of a loving and caring father -- without six-pack abs -- can be hot. Let this be an opportunity to reassess our self-image and our social representation, to embrace our own softening.

To personalize this a bit, I became a father when I met my partner just over eight years ago. He had just finalized the adoption of two kids aged 4 and 5 and, as our relationship became serious, my role as a father did too. When we met I was 29, wrapped up in gay bars, the occasional online get-together and, of course, going to the gym five days a week. Although I always knew, or at least suspected, that I wanted to be a father, my preparation to nurture, develop and care for two kids from a tough early childhood was lacking. I did have a B.A. in psychology and my own challenging personal family history that I had addressed, but nothing prepares you for this kind of transition.

Of all the expectations I had about loving a new partner and raising two children, I hardly suspected I would lose my six-pack in the process. Naivete works in surprising ways. Over time, a combination of being busy with work, enjoying a solid relationship, taking the kids to therapy appointments, parenting stress, general parenting tasks and the pleasure of eating those leftover bites of mac n cheese off of the kids’ plates, going to the gym became both out of the question and lackluster. What little time was left I chose to spend hanging with the family watching television while eating popcorn and drinking a beer, or having a glass of wine and cuddling up with my partner after the kids fell asleep, or hanging with the kids chatting about whatever was on their mind. Almost nine years later, the desire for a regimented gym schedule is long gone. Simply put, I softened up, both emotionally and physically.

So what was it about Chris Pratt’s dad bod that resonated so strongly across the Internet? Well, maybe it is about celebrating love and care first, about privileging family over self, about celebrating how hot it can be to be a loving, caring father. What went viral was the desire for men to soften up, and for male gender expectations, emotional softness is often a challenge to integrate regardless of sexual identity. Chris Pratt’s dad bod sparked a celebration because it is a symbol of his personal and emotional life as a nurturing family man, and his wife, as well as countless other women and men around the world thought it was hot.  

RaiseAChild.US is the nationwide leader in the recruitment and support of LGBT and all prospective parents interested in building families through fostering and adoption to meet the needs of the 400,000 children in the foster care system. RaiseAChild.US recruits, educates, and nurtures supportive relationships equally with all prospective foster and adoptive parents while partnering with agencies to improve the process of advancing foster children to safe, loving and permanent homes. For information about how you can become a foster or adoptive parent, please visit www.RaiseAChild.US.