Recent Comments

    Gay Dad Fights Challenges of Modern LGBT Fatherhood

    Actor Gavin Lodge has received praise in San Francisco for his performances in musicals such as Head Over Heels and television shows like The Blacklist, but his biography begins: “Gavin Lodge is a father.” Parenting means the world to him and to his partner Todd Ellison, who is a sought-after musical director and composer. Together, they are raising sons Ellison and Colton. The children’s happiness and sense of freedom are very evident, with Ellison joyfully dancing around without a care in a Sleeping Beauty dress and sparkling The Wizard of Oz ruby red shoes as curious Colton surveys the scene.

    Gavin and Todd work hard, though, to create such a safe, loving and non-judgmental environment for their sons. While national public opinion on LGBT marriage and families has shifted dramatically since the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision that made gay marriage a right across the U.S., numerous challenges still exist, and especially for LGBT fathers.

    First and foremost, many people have a hard time accepting that there is sometimes no mother in the family picture. After adoption or surrogacy (Gavin and Todd chose surrogacy) couples consisting of two dads often take on all of the necessary duties—diaper changes, potty training, school meetings and much more. Unless Mother’s Day celebrates a beloved female relative, the holiday for such couples is often a well-deserved celebration of surviving the bills, sleepless nights, worries and other typical challenges of parenthood, not to mention the added minefield of still-prevalent closedmindedness concerning families with two dads and no mom.

    Consider changing tables in bathrooms. In 2016, former President Obama signed into law the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act, aka the BABIES Act. The legislation requires that baby changing tables be in both men’s and women’s restrooms in publicly accessible federal buildings. This was followed by legislation in California, based on Assembly Bill No. 1127, requiring state or local agency-owned buildings to make similar changes. Such “potty parity” is still uncommon in commercial businesses nationwide, though.

    In 2011, Gavin also noted another disparity facing gay dads. As he and Todd were preparing for the birth of their first child, they created a registry listing necessities like crib sheets and baby bottles. They also scoured stores for other items, such as diaper bags. They were surprised to find that all of the bags had color schemes and patterns that manufacturers clearly tied to female stereotypes. This inspired Gavin to create a company called E.C. KNOX (“E” for “Ellison” and “C” for “Colton”) that makes baby gear for dads (https://www.ecknox.com/).

    “I founded my fashion start-up when I was frustrated with the lack of stylish, masculine diaper gear when my first son was born,” Gavin told the San Francisco Bay Times. “Though I had zero fashion or entrepreneurial experience—but was a fierce tap dancer!—I figured way dumber people than I have done this.”

    The resulting collection, available at Barneys (barneys.com), includes a navy-hued ballistic nylon Ellison diaper bag that is equipped with a fold-out changing flap and mat, bottle holders, and an easy-access pocket for wipes. A sophisticated style with black leather trim features, the Ellison diaper bag includes a padded laptop sleeve and multiple pockets, where this versatile style can also be worn as a messenger bag or backpack.

    Gavin says, “E.C. KNOX looks to tap into a market with a product that can transition from baby wear to everyday wear—a product that truly embraces masculine stylishness and a strong sense of daddy empowerment, while never compromising style, even after the young ones grow up.”

    A percentage of the profits will go to the It Gets Better Project (https://itgetsbetter.org/) and Live Out Loud (https://www.liveoutloud.info/). Both organizations work to uplift and empower LGBT youth so that they can live full, authentic lives and not feel isolated. Live Out Loud additionally connects queer youth with successful LGBT professionals in their communities.

    The effort goes well beyond the gay community. Many dutiful cisgender fathers can likely relate to Gavin when he says, “I love having parenting responsibilities and nurturing my children. I want to proudly don the identity of a stylish dad.”

    You might then ask: Why not just celebrate these dads on Father’s Day? Keep in mind that Mother’s Day is still a bigger deal all around the globe. Father’s Day is often unfortunately a literal and figurative afterthought. It was not until 1972—58 years after then President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official—that Father’s Day became a national U.S. holiday. When the date was finally established, it was placed right in the heart of hectic June Pride (which was set in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots at the end of June 1969). Studies show that Americans and Europeans spend 75% more on Mother’s Day than they do on Father’s Day.

    Hopefully that will change in future, and particularly with Gavin setting his sights on a new line of baby blankets, travel bags, swaddlers and even a dad-centric clothing line. The movement goes far beyond selling cool products, though. He hopes to change the view that men are not as capable as women when it comes to parenting. He says, “There is a ‘dumb dad’ stereotype.” Many LGBT fathers have to deal with low expectations, with even close friends and family members subtly, or sometimes not so subtly, expressing shock and dismay when the kids turn out great.

    On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we therefore choose to celebrate all loving families, and think of those who are in states like Oklahoma, Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Texas and South Dakota, where anti-LGBT adoption laws have recently been proposed. By practicing what they preach, rock star gay dads like Gavin and Todd are helping to erase stereotypes and to open minds, but they cannot do it alone. We look forward to seeing all of you LGBT fathers and mothers out on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and every day.