Saturday, August 30, 2014

A gay dad shares his thoughts on love, life, food, friends and his new home, Durham NC.

By Henry Amador for DADsquared

This morning we awoke like we do most Saturday morning, at the crack of dawn.
Our nearly three year old son pops out of bed on drive and ready to go.

My husband and I have learned that we need to get up earlier than the crows in order to get at least one cup of coffee down before he shoots out of the gate.

This morning was incredibly mild and beautiful out side and we decided that a stroll through the Durham's Farmer's Market was in order.

I never really considered myself a city boy, although I was born in New York.
My Family moved to Florida in the early 70's when I was still a small child.
Growing up in that version of the South was soft and mellow and truly peaceful.
In retrospect, my childhood was blissful and safe.

My Mom had divorced before we moved to Florida
As a single parent she was fearful that my growing up in the city would be difficult, she was however hopeful that moving me somewhere greener and less populated with a nice sense of community would give me a better chance at the life.
A better chance at the life she wanted for me.
A life where kids could be kids, where they could run blindly and easily, be carefree and light, as light as a bubble floating on high.

Bubbles at the Durham Market

It's interesting that nearly 40 years after my mother decided to move me to greener pastures, I found myself having the same exact thoughts.
I found myself looking at our new born son and telling my husband that I did not want him growing up in South Florida.
So much had changed in my life time.
Florida was different and more difficult.
Life had become harder and busier.
I wanted our boy to have a chance at the life I wanted for him, I wanted him to grow up in a neighborhood like I did and like my husband did, with lots of kids running around and with a strong sense of community. 
A place where he could roam freely and safetly.
Somewhere where he could always stop and smell the roses.

Flowers at the Durham Market

Things change right?
Our communities change right?
The way we feel in our skins and on our streets and in our homes change right?
So sometimes those changes require a whole shift in spirit and in body.
My husband and I decided that a move to this old version of the South was exactly what we needed.
We chose Durham, North Carolina because it's truly a special and unique place.
Not only does our son have his extended family a stones throw away but in just one short year here we have built the most amazing group of friends.
Durhamites have big hearts and know what power lies in an embrace, in a garden, in the simple act of breaking bread, in feeding the body and the mind with the wonders of living off of this perfect place, this perfect land.

Feeding the Body at the Durham Market

Yes, the people we have met understand that life is meant to be lived.
That a mansion does not make a home.
That a million dollars does not make a man rich.
That a beautiful bench is only really beautiful when it is sat upon.
That a garden is a dream fulfilled.
That a gravel road was meant to lead the imagination and that skipping stones has been and will always be the easiest way to calm a heart.

At the Durham Market

Our new life understands the beauty of music.

And of appreciation.

Daddy, lets give him money for playing for us.

Our new life in Durham has set us all free.
It has not only given our son the space he needs to grow but most importantly it has given our family the space we need to love.

My husband and son

It has given us a place to call home, to be exactly who and what we are and the ability to create the Saturday mornings of our dreams.

My family

We invite you to explore Durham

Henry Amador is a husband, father, writer and life coach.
Henry Co-founded DADsquared with his husband Joel where they continue to provide love, support and resources to gay fathers and those on the road to fatherhood.
He lives in North Carolina with his happy tribe and hopes to grow old on the family farm with rolling hills, many children, grandchildren and a strong internet connection.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Was the gay community just collectively slapped by Brad and Angelina? Do we turn a cheek and forgive and forget?

I’m sorry, Brangelina, but real fighters for civil rights don’t buckle under pressure when it gets hard

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt got married last weekend at their magical fairy castle in France. Mazel tov! I would hate to deny anyone their happiness and tell them they can’t get married when they’re in love. Oh wait, except that is exactly what the federal government tells countless gay couples every day by refusing to recognize their rights to get married. Angie and Brad spoke out in support of gay marriage many times and even vowed they wouldn’t say their marriage vows until everyone could. Guess what, Mr. and Mrs. Pitt, not everyone can get married, so how good is your promise?

Back in a 2006 Esquire article, Brad said that he and Angie “will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.” I can’t tell you how much this meant to gays and lesbians all over the country. They were two of the first celebrities to draw attention to the fight for marriage equality and did it before marriage was legal in states like New York, Connecticut, Iowa, California and a growing number every year. This brought international attention to the cause and showed that they were principled people who were willing to put their beliefs before their convenience.

Now they got married in France and it just all seems like a ruse. Maybe they just meant that they would get married somewhere, like France, where marriage is legal for all couples and has been since 2013? It’s like their trans-Atlantic knot tying is some sort of logistical and semantic alley-oop around the vow that they already took to the gay community. “Oh, well, if we do it in France maybe the gays won’t notice.” Sadly, when it comes to same-sex marriage, what happens in France stays in France. In fact, if I went to France and married a Frenchman (let’s call him Pierre), it wouldn’t even be recognized in a majority of states in this great nation of ours. That shows you how good getting married in France is. (Remember when we were changing “French” to “freedom?” Not when it comes to same-sex marriage!)
Still it seems like what Brad and Angie said the first time around doesn’t matter to them at all. It’s as if they didn’t want to get married in 2006 and said, “What if we say it’s because gay people can’t get married? Then people will stop bothering us about getting hitched and we’ll look so noble.” Now that they’ve had their ceremony and the wedding cake is in the freezer, it looks like their declaration was mercenary rather than thoughtful. In 2012, shortly before their engagement became national news, Pitt told The Hollywood Reporter, “We made this declaration some time ago that we weren’t going to do it till everyone can. But I don’t think we’ll be able to hold out.” They even knew they were breaking their word but didn’t seem to care anymore.
I’m sorry, Brangelina, but real fighters for civil rights don’t buckle under pressure when it gets hard. The couple says that their legal union means a lot to the children and that’s why they did it. What about teaching their children about standing up for what you believe in, even when it’s tough and unpopular? What if one of their children grows up to be gay and still can’t get legally hitched? What about all the gay and lesbian couples out there they inspired? What about all the straight mothers and fathers and siblings they enlisted to fight for marriage equality with their once-selfless act? What about the other celebs like Charlize Theron and Kristen Bell who have taken a similar pledge? Well, they don’t have to stick by their word either anymore. In 2013, a year after Brad and Angelinaannounced their engagement, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard got hitched too. Now that the biggest celebrities in the Hollywood firmament aren’t keeping their pledge, looks like no one else has to either.
I’m sure their choice to walk down the aisle was a difficult decision that required plenty of discussion, but, to the masses not able to penetrate their very closed doors, it appears as though the couple suddenly thought, “Hey, what they heck, let’s get married.” Well, there are still millions of people who don’t even have that option. What are they supposed to do? Are their rights not worth fighting for anymore? Apparently not. Gay Americans won’t have full equality until we can get married on a whim too, like a drunk Britney Spears in Las Vegas.
Maybe they thought that we’ve come far enough in our fight for marriage equality that they don’t need to be spokespeople anymore. After all, gay marriage is legal in 19 states in the country and the constitutional bans on same-sex marriage have been struck down in Utah, Michigan, Arkansas, Wisconsin,and Indiana. Heck, the Supreme Court even said the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. It’s only a matter of time before Neil Patrick Harris and his partner will have the same status as Angelina and Brad from the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. And when that day comes, we’ll remember who stood with us not just when it was convenient or trendy, but for the entire fight to secure full marriage rights for all Americans.
Now, I recognize that with these two we’re talking about a couple of literal good-doers. Brangelina has always put their money where their beautiful mouths are, even donating $100,000 to fight Proposition 8, the California law that blocked gay marriage in the state. If they’re going to break their pledge and get married, the least they can do is make a sizable donation to the cause. What do you get the couple that literally has everything, including a chateau in France where they can get married anytime they feel like? Better yet, take the $529 million that the tabloids are sure to offer for exclusive wedding pictures and donate that to help fight for gay marriage. Leading by example is what gay and lesbian Americans really need, but since they’ve failed at that, we’ll at least take their money.
Story by Brian Moylan
Photo Vince Bucci

Saturday, August 9, 2014

This Fairy's Tale. By Henry Amador

There were many things in life I thought I would be..
As a young child the World seemed so BIG and possible.
There never appeared to be a limitation on what I could be, what I could do.

I don't really know when the dreams begin to drift away.
When did they go from filling my spirit with such intensity and joy to becoming distant memories that somehow started to feel so silly, so un-real?

When does the sense of endless possibility turn to the feeling that certain keys to certain doors are simply out of reach?

Ah...I wish I had that answer but I don't.

At this moment while I write these words I am far better served by pondering over the things in life I thought I would never be.

I never thought I would be an openly Gay Man.
I was born into an extremely conservative Roman Catholic Family, coming out was one of the most terrifying events of my life. I am so happy and grateful that for some, not for all, coming out in today's world can be a bit softer and more supporting.
Again I say not for all as there is still so much work that needs to be done to assure that all our young LGBTQ brothers and sisters find peace in their skins. Walking past my fears is still one of the most couragous things I have done and also one of the most important and truth affirming events in my life.

I never thought I would be an openly Married Gay Man.
I met my Husband in 2005, and we took our vows of marriage in October of 2009 in Boston surrounded by 30 of the most important people in our lives. We felt the warmth of grand-parents and mothers and uncles and brothers and best of friends.
We were pioneers, walking hand in hand into a brand new adventure. Choosing marriage was not exactly common at that time and even the Reverend that joined us stated that just because a law changes does not mean that hearts always follow.
If the World had stopped spinning, as I said my "I do," I could not have imagined feeling anymore complete and joy-ful as I did at that very moment. But, I was wrong, there was more joy, joy beyond belief still to come.

I never thought I would be an Openly Married Gay Father.
My Husband and I created a world in which all things felt possible. Marrigae naturally re-arranges your life, certain friends evaporate into the distance and new friends and opportunities find ways to replace them. We lived in a very red state that not only did not recognize our marriage but would certainly not make it easy for us to become parents. Yet fatherhood beckoned to us with an intensity that could not be denied.
Like any thing that we hold as true and real and unquestionable, the universe moves heavens and mountains to bring those things forth. We met a girl....She was pregnant...It was to be a boy....we hired an attorney....we prayed.

In October of 2011 our Son was born and my Husband and I became the first Same Sex Couple to JOINTLY adopt a child in Broward County, Florida. The Judge congratulated us on our courage and let us know that what we had accomplished that day had not only made the three of us a family, but it had also paved the way for others like us to make their dreams come true.
I never thought I would do that.

I never thought I would be an Openly Married Gay Dad, Activist for GLBT Rights and for Family Equality.
Shortly after my son's birth I founded DADsquared It began as a simple FB page to find other dads like us, and quickly grew into one of the largest online communities for gay fathers and fathers to be. We offer resources, advise and frienship for all who find themselves on the journey to Fatherhood.
The Website was recently launched and we have already helped many men and women hold their new sons and daughters in their arms for the first time. We have also introduced families that have connected and created relationships that not only nurture the parents but also show the children that they are not alone, that there are other families just like theirs.
I never thought I would do that.

As we continue to grow our community, It is my sincere belief that by
sharing our stories,
by sharing our experiences,
by extending our hands and welcoming all our brothers and sisters into the fold we will be forever changing the world we live in.
The very same world our children, and theirs to come, will happily, safetly and equally call home.

The DADsquared motto is that we are "Changing the World One Family at a Time," and I have no doubt that we are.
Now I really never thought I would do that.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Aspirations, by DADsquared's contributing writer Joey Spinelli

Many years ago, I met a young guy in his 30’s who seemed to be very nice, driven to make something of himself, and had a way with charming the people he would meet.  We became friends and have been friends every since.  He eventually opened up to me and his story was just amazing.  For argument sake, lets call this guy Ryan. 

Ryan, was a very handsome guy, blonde hair, blue eyes, athletic build and he looked like the All American Man.  The guy that lived next door.  The one that every dad wants his daughter to date and marry.  But, Ryan had a secret.  Well, maybe not a secret but at least a story to tell.  He was gay, but that wasn’t the story or at least it wasn’t a secret.  We were best friends so I already knew that.  No, the story was, that for 10 years, he was part of a group that I will refer to as “Aspire”.   Aspire is a group that “helps” gay men who don’t want to be gay anymore.  According to Ryan, this was a pretty large group of men for the chapter that he belonged to in his city.  Not only was he part of Aspire, he was a motivational speaker.  He would travel from city to city and stand at a podium with an auditorium full of people, mostly men, and start giving his “Inspirational Speeches”.  So, as he is telling me this stuff, I start imagining things in my head.  I mean, what do you say at a podium about yourself and your journey from a man with homosexual tendencies to the celibate man you are today?  How do you convince other men that this path is the right one?  Do you say “Bros, you too can masturbate your way to happiness with our support system and our guidance instead of fantasizing about that guy at your gym?”  It didn’t make any sense to me.  Ryan would get very upset when I say stuff like this because to him, it was very serious.  Even though he was past that in this point in his life, he still had vivid memories of doing this.  Ok. Lets just say, for arguments sake that you could get through to these men in the audience.  What would you say to them?  Well, Ryan told me what he would say.  It started out with him standing at the podium, holding his fist up and shouting out “Gentleman, Masculinity is under attack!!!”  Then he would go on to talk about the evils of homosexuality and how it preys on straight men.  He would then talk about how Aspire would help those men via scripture to uphold the biblical view of sexuality by preaching Christian Fellowship, disciplineship, counseling and offering support groups.  Then, at the end of the speech, men would come up and meet Ryan, shake his hand, ask how they could be part of Aspire and he would give them his card with his phone number on it and sign them up.  

I remember one time in particular when we had some beers and I asked him how they offered support to these men.  Here is what he told me.  And please, if you are drinking any type of beverage, put it down before you read this.  Ryan starts out by saying that many of the men had girlfriends and some were even married.  Presumably their wives/girlfriends knew they were all “recovering homosexuals”.  One of the things that his Aspire chapter would do as a group was to get all of the members together and do a retreat sort of thing, where they all would pack up their tents and hiking gear and head up into the mountains or the woods for however many days and disappear in order to be on a commune with god and nature.   Well, that sounds great, right?  People do this all the time.  Even if you are not a Christian, you are getting away with a group of people to be one with the planet, to be in tune with nature.  How can that be of any harm?  Well, here is the catch.  There were no women in the retreat, just the straight men that were all “recovering gays”. Oh Yeah, it gets better. 

So Ryan is explaining this to me and of course I refrain from judgment because you know me, I don’t jump to conclusions, right?  Ok, ok, this is too good to keep quiet about.  So Ryan talks about how they all get up into the woods and set up their tents, and break out their bibles and start bonding with each other.  There is food on the barbeque, a few beers, stories of their girlfriends and wives and kids.  It all goes well.   This is bro-mance at its best. Then, someone looks at their watch and says, “Well look at the time, lets hit the sleeping bags and get a good nights sleep.”  Ok, that’s how I imagined it but really, the night slowly starts winding down and everyone eventually finds themselves going back to their tents to get some sleep.  Now, if you were communing with nature and were a recovering homosexual, wouldn’t you make sure you had a tent all to yourself?  You would think so, right?  Wrong.  These were group tents that held 4 or more people.  As Ryan tells the story, and this is where you better put your drink down folks, he says “The guys would all turn in for the night and at some point, some of them would fall”.  So I say, “Wait, I don’t understand. They were unrolling their sleeping bags and they fell over some of the other guys?”  Ryan says, “No, no, they would fall, you know, from grace”.  I am still sitting there looking at him with a blank stare.  What the hell does that mean?  They fell from grace?  I thought there were no women there?  Ryan can tell I'm lost.  He says, “Bro, some of the guys slept with each other”.  Then it hits me.  I get it.  I let out this long gasp and I may have even reached for my pearls.  Then, I do the only thing I can do after a story like that, I fall to the floor, grab my gut because it hurts so much and I start laughing so hard, my beer comes out of my nose and I am choking. I may have even peed a little bit.  Ryan gets pissed and starts saying “Bro, BRO!! It’s not funny.  This is not a joke”.  OMG, it sooooo is funny. I started yelling, “This is one of the funniest things I have ever heard.  I mean think about all of this.  You have a group of “Ex Gay” men working together to be straight and not have those gay urges which are woven into their very fabric.  You go to their city, dress up in a suit with your all handsome, All American looks, stand in front of them at a podium and basically come out as gay and a gay sex addict.  They rush up to meet you, you give them your card with your phone number on it and then you take them all into the woods where nobody can get to them.  You set them all up in tents with other guys, in the very dark of night and then you expect them to go to sleep quietly and respectfully?  Really?  And then you are surprised because some of them “Fall”?  I continue yelling back at Ryan, “Of course they fell,….right on top of each other.  You have men in a tent in the woods with nothing but the darkness and you expect them not to have sex?  They are men, they can’t go to sleep without at least jerking off.  Men will screw sheep if nobody is around!  And, four horny gay guys all worked up at the same time is not a recipe for spiritual redemption.  Why would a group of recovering addicts put these poor guys in this situation to start with?  Would you invite a group of alcoholics on a retreat and surround them with alcohol bottles and glasses of ice next to their sleeping bags?  Of course they fell.  Aspire put them in a position where they had to fail.  Tents in the woods?  Holy Crap!  Was there a disco ball and Donna Summers music playing in Tent 5?  Was Saturday night Barbra Streisand Night on Lido Deck? “ And that was the end of my rant. 

Ryan was livid and yelling “Don’t make a joke about this, this isn’t funny”.  “No”, I said, “It is funny”.  But he was right.  The more I thought about it, the less funny it was.  Sure the idea of these guys doing this was funny, but this group that Ryan was a part of, and these retreats that Ryan put together to “Help” these guys were not helping them at all.  Imagine that you turned to this group for help, left your wife and kids for the weekend to try and get some penance for your guilty urges after being told they are sinful and you are going to hell, and then having sex with these other guys who are all in the same situation you are in.  By the time you got home and back to your family, would you feel better about yourself.  Hell no.  I was entertained at first, but then I became very, very upset. This group was not helping anyone, they were actually hurting these men.  And, they were using Christianity to lure these guys in.  While the men in this group were very serious about their spiritual believes, they were also a group of gay men.  It was part of who they were.  You cant “pray” it away.  You can’t masturbate yourself to heterosexuality.  And you certainly cant expect men like this who want to be like every other guy in their church to act like every other guy by having them share tents.  This is cruel and terrible treatment of these men.  They needed professional therapy from someone who could explain to them that this is who they are, its not going away and they could choose to be celibate if that’s what they want but they are never going to be straight men that desire women.  It’s not going to happen. 

That was many, many years ago.  Ryan and I are still very close.  When we talk about this now, he realizes how absurd that whole program was.  So, whatever happened to Aspire?  Well, they shut their doors and issued a wide-ranging apology to the gay community for "years of undue judgment by the organization”.  They never cured anyone they tried to “Help”.  All they did was make the guys that were in their group feel worse about themselves.

And what about those guys that were all part of Ryan’s Aspire chapter so many years ago?   Ryan will occasionally get a phone call from one of them that are in town on a business trip and they will ask him if he has time to meet them for a beer.  He usually says no.  He will sometimes look them up on Facebook to see how they are doing and of course they are pictured with their wife and kids but they would really like to meet with Ryan.  Personally, I say he should meet up with these guys when they call so he can share his own personal coming out and how well he has transformed into a strong, successful gay dad, But, I always tell him “If you do decide to meet up with one of these guys for a beer to catch up, do yourself a favor and leave your sleeping bag at home.”   

"Who am I? That’s simple. I am a gay parent that’s treated like a second class citizen and I am done taking it. 
Every day I am in the battlefields, in my kid’s school, PTA meetings, swim team, birthday parties with
other parents and I am forcing people to meet me.

Every day I stand right next to them and even if it’s just in my mind, I say “ Look at me will you! I am a gay man, right in front of you. 
I have a partner of 8 years and a 6r old boy. 
My kid is in your kid’s class and will be for the next 11 years. 

I am not going away so now would be as good a time as any to accept me and everything that comes with me."
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