This week in the Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild.US “Let Love Define Family” series, gay fathers from around the country tell us about their Father’s Day plans and memories, and what this special day means to them.
What does Father’s Day mean to you? Eric Van Herwaarden (Fraser, Colo.): It is everything to us. Being fathers is something no one can take away! It does not matter if you are a bio, step, adoptive, or foster dad because it is the love you have for the child that does matter. I never thought I could be a father because growing up I was told that being gay is a lonely life, but that is far from the truth. My partner, Philip, and I created a life that revolves around family values and Father’s Day is a wonderful time to reflect on that.
Dan Barcus (Antioch, Ill.): Before I became a foster/adoptive dad, Father’s Day was another unmet dream that seemed far away. Since my own father passed long ago, I had celebrated it with my amazing Gramps. Now, as a [single] dad whose kids all have important relationships with their bio dads and whom all call me Dan, I take great joy in the day, even though my kids will often forget my role in their lives, or don’t realize it is Father’s Day. I don’t care -- I relish the little joys I get every day that I couldn’t conceive of before adopting and now cannot imagine life without my kids.
Christopher Long (Long Island, NY): My partner, Paul, and I have been blessed with five extraordinary boys! Father’s Day has a whole new meaning as we have come to realize the importance of the partnership between father and son and the many critical roles we play that our children have come to rely upon: friend, advisor, teacher, hero, endless enthusiast and role model.
Brett Henry (New York, N.Y.): For decades the idea of a gay couple adopting seemed only like a pipe dream. Only in the past ten years had Phil and I even begun to believe this could be a reality for us. It was a reality that didn't come easy. We fought curve balls thrown at us from many sides in order to adopt. But any child adopted by an LGBT couple like ourselves has to know how doubly special they are that we not only chose them, but fought hard for them! Once all the hard work to adopt was finished, the real work of raising a child began. I think on Father's day we might just sleep!
Rob Watson (Santa Cruz, Calif.): As a gay man who thought that fatherhood would be forever denied me, Father’s Day now feels like a tour of a club in which I never thought I would be a member. I always wanted to become a dad, but because I knew I was gay I got the subtle and overt messages that it would never happen for me and I would need to make other life plans. Because of that, I have tended to use it as a day where I speak out, rather than take in, so that young gay men of today can know that if they want it, they too can be not only fathers, but great dads. Therefore, Father’s Day for me personally is a day in this time and place that means “Don’t let the societal limitations that you are told hold you back, stay true to who you are, and you can be all you dream of being.”
What will you be doing this Father’s Day? Eric Van Herwaarden (Fraser, Colo.): Camping! We are so busy during the week that we decided to get a camper and since we live in the Colorado Rockies we don’t have to go far to “get away” from it all.
David Taylor (Salt Lake City, Utah): Well, our daughter is only four, so Dave and I asked her what she would like to do for our big day! She told us that she wants to have a picnic in the park. When we asked her what food we were having she said, “Chicken crackers (Chicken in a Biscuit) and juice!” Yum! But regardless of the holiday, we always tell our daughter that she is our greatest gift, and that she is all that we’ll ever need.
Rob Watson (Santa Cruz, Calif.): We will be spending Fathers Day with my 89-year-old dad. I fear it may be his last, or potentially the last one where he may be mentally aware, which makes it both special and bittersweet. My greatest joy is that he has seen me walk in his legacy, that of being a dad myself, raising my two 11-year-old sons. That my great dad sees me also as a great dad has been one of my life’s great fulfillments.
Ricardo Ortiz-Barreto (Los Angeles, Calif.): Jesse and I will spend it at the RaiseAChild.US Father’s Day Brunch at The Abbey!
Jamison Hebert (Los Angeles, Calif.): This Father’s Day my husband Alec, our son Zion and I will be in Honolulu at the Rainbow Film Festival screening our newest project, the film "Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy." The film uses my husband Alec Mapa’s stand-up comedy as a platform to retell the story of how Zion came to be our adopted child through the foster care system. What better way to spend Father’s Day than in paradise celebrating a film that highlights our biggest gift of all, our son Zion?
Do you have a special Father’s Day tradition in your home? Eric Van Herwaarden (Fraser, Colo.): No, not yet but it is a very special day to us! I look forward to reading what traditions other gay dads have though.
Ricardo Ortiz-Barreto (Los Angeles, Calif.): When the boys were living at home, they would make us breakfast. So now that all four sons have moved out on their own, I guess Jesse and I will have to do “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to see who gets breakfast in bed from now on.
What was Father’s Day like before you became a foster/adoptive parent? Eric Van Herwaarden (Fraser, Colo.): They were uneventful for both Philip and me. We love our dads, but it was usually just a phone call to wish them a Happy Father’s Day. When I first came out to my dad the first thing he said was, “I thought you were smarter then that.” When your dad does not fully accept who you are it is hard to celebrate the day with them.
Noel Ampel (Los Angeles, Calif.): Prior to adopting my two boys, Father’s Day was a holiday that often evoked memories of my father’s traditions: a dozen of freshly baked, assorted donuts that had been acquired long before I woke to begin my day. As I gently eased into reality, motivated by the source of the sweet smell, I gave meaning to the day by the gift my father brought to me. The meaning has jettisoned into new traditions; homemade cards complimented by personal artwork, creations using Legos that baffle the imagination, and a family breakfast with culinary favorites such as smoked salmon, bagels, pastries and eggs. Adoption is defined in varied ways: adopting children to enhance and enrich our lives, adopting a new set of priorities, and the adoption of new sources of unconditional love. It is with great anticipation and excitement that I look forward to the annual special day, one in which I wear the title of father proudly.
What is one of your favorite Father’s Day memories? Eric Van Herwaarden (Fraser, Colo.): My first Father’s Day as a dad! All the hard work and emotional stress was worth it because we are now a family and I know I will always be there for my son.
Ricardo Ortiz-Barreto (Los Angeles, Calif.): Father’s Day is always a couple of days before or after my birthday on June 19, so the best memory was when our first two sons John and Richard arrived to live with us on June 10 and we took them camping to Lake Hemet for Father’s Day and my birthday.
Ron Guzman (Woodland Hills, Calif.): Our son made us a booklet of coupons -- for items such as a car wash, taking out the trash and washing the dogs -- as a gift when he was in the fifth grade. Each coupon had to be torn off and signed prior to redemption. It was such a special thought that Ken and I never redeemed any of them and we hold it as one of the best gifts he’s ever given us.
RaiseAChild.US is holding two special events on Father’s Day for parents and prospective parents! A free Father’s Day Concert for all parents and prospective parents will take place Father’s Day Concert from 1 to 3 pm at West Hollywood Park, 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard in West Hollywood. The event will have kid-friendly activities including balloons and face painting, and opportunities to meet RaiseAChild.US’s foster/adoptive partner agencies. The fourth annual Gay Father’s Day Brunch will be held from 11 am to 1 pm at The Abbey, 692 N. Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood. Cost: $19 for adults and $7 for children under 14 years of age. To RSVP, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corinne Lightweaver is the Communications Manager at RaiseAChild.US, a national organization headquartered in Hollywood, California that encourages the LGBT community to build families through fostering and adopting to serve the needs of the 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. RaiseAChild.US works with foster and adoption agencies that have received training in LGBT cultural competence through the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s “All Children-All Families” initiative. Since 2011, RaiseAChild.US has run media campaigns to educate prospective parents and the public, and has engaged more than 2,000 prospective parents. For information about how you can become a foster or fost/adopt parent, visit www.RaiseAChild.US and click on “Next Step to Parenthood.”