The Unknowingly Perfect Family Photo Shoot

When I think about a family photo shoot I think about the perfect pose. The perfect smiles. The perfect lighting. The perfect everything. Yet, when it’s actually comes to scheduling and executing them, they’re rarely perfect. Add toddlers to the mix and all of a sudden you just don’t know what you’re going to get!

This last photo session, though, was special. We had scheduled it during Pride month, we had the cutest outfits planned, and then the weekend finally arrived and we were rained out…go figure. But no worries, we rescheduled for July.

Reflecting on that day we woke up on that hot, steamy July morning – and on time I might add. The kids were so cooperative when we got ready. They were so great about eating breakfast in the car (cause it was a 45 minute ride to the session site), and then we arrived…and that’s when it started.

“No, I do it.”

“No, Abba…”

“I go here…”

“Phoebe, come back…Xander, please come here…”

“Can you smile?”


“Xander, come back to Abba…”

“Phoebe, want to smell the flowers? NO!”

My anxiety went from normal levels to exponentially soring to an off-the-chart space…I was sweating, I was cringing, I was…I was…I was…doing everything our amazing photographer Maggie didn’t want me to do, which was relax and enjoy.

“What about it being perfect, though? Why can’t our kids just cooperate for a moment …? Ugh, I feel bad we scheduled this so early – I feel like we’re wasting your time!”

These were things I actually said.

Then Maggie said to me, “Jeffrey – you don’t see what I see behind the lens. The kids are doing an incredible job. Remember, it’s these moments right here where you can just let things happen. Watch – you’ll see…”

Then she came over to show me a picture from her camera she snapped, and it was in that moment I knew she was right…

And now, a few weeks later, here I am staring at the pictures that our family photographer Maggie captured, and all I can think is, “how absolutely perfect!” And it couldn’t be any truer. In fact, five things I can see in these pictures are:

1. Our family exudes love.

2. Our children are so inquisitive and love to explore.

3. Our children are the most quintessential toddlers.

4. Our family is beautiful.

5. Our family is perfect in every single way.

When I sit back and reflect on the session, a great sense of pride and joy overcomes my soul. I feel it in the depths of being how I have been changed by our children, how they’ve enriched our lives beyond measure and how fortunate we are as a two-dad family raising such amazing, beautiful, smart, crazy, rambunctious and loving little humans. I love that Maggie captured our family as it is – crazy, filled with love, and perfect ❤

What is “Straight Pride,” Anyway?

Nationwide June is synonymous with Pride month: the one month of the year where we, the LGBTQIA+ community get to celebrate their story. The month where we get to honor the trailblazers that were hung, humiliated, imprisoned and suffered great deals so that we can have the shred of equality that we do. It’s also the month where we get to reflect on how much more we still need to do, especially for those of us most marginalized. So why am I already seeing posts with cishet folks (mainly men) crying, “Where’s Straight Pride?” Being straight is a part of the everyday fabric that each of us has to navigate – it’s everywhere in society – some would say it’s pervasive, even. So let me offer up 20 reasons why “Straight Pride” is not a thing, won’t ever be a thing, and it utterly offensive to the existence of any marginalized community, but especially the LGBTQIA+ community.

  1. Never has it ever been illegal to be straight. Ever.
  2. Never has a person been murdered or beaten for being straight. Ever.
  3. Never has a straight person been imprisoned or not allowed to vacation in another country. Ever.
  4. Never has the straight community had to fight for equality under the law because they’re straight. Ever.
  5. Never has a straight person been denied the right to marry. Ever.
  6. Never has a religious text said, or been used to say, “being straight is an abomination.” Ever.
  7. Never has a straight person been denied the ability to serve their country because they’re straight. Ever.
  8. Never has a straight person’s sexuality been considered perverted or anything else but normal. Ever.
  9. Never has a straight person had to come out. Ever.
  10. Never has a straight person had to think twice about public displays of affection like holding hands with their spouse. Ever.
  11. Never has someone said, “That’s SOOOOOO straight” as an insult. Ever.
  12. Never has a straight person been told they’re “going through a phase,” because they’re straight. Ever.
  13. Never has a straight person been fired from their job because they’re straight. Ever.
  14. Never has a straight person been told they need “conversion therapy” to be cured of their “deviant sexual behaviors.” Ever.
  15. Never has a straight person been denied the ability to give blood because they’re straight. Ever.
  16. Never has a straight person had to search for movies or books that represent who they are, or have characters that represent them. Ever.
  17. Never has a straight person been denied access to public housing or services because they’re straight. Ever.
  18. Never has a straight person been afraid to be straight out in public. Ever.
  19. Never has a straight person had a disease named after them because they’re straight. Ever.
  20. Never has a straight person been denied their humanity because they’re straight. Ever.

So when someone posts about straight pride: be an ally and tell them why straight pride is not, nor will it ever be a thing. Ever. When you see this type of language and thoughts squash them. June may be Pride month, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think about Pride every single day of every single month of every single year. We’re LGBTQIA+ every day, all day long. All. The. Time. 

Gearing Up For Pride Month: Let’s [Actually] Be Inclusive

November 24, 1999, the day before Thanksgiving I came out to my mom. She was the very first person in my family that heard the words, “I am gay.” The second was my father, then my brother. The next day I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family, and that weekend I decided to tell my entire family. I took a trip to their homes and shared my news. Overall, it was well received except for a few people – but that is not why I am writing this, I am writing this for a different reason.

When I came out at 17 I was young, naïve and pretty blind – like most young people in their time. I was fortunate that I had an incredible network at college that supported me and educated me. In fact, I was blessed with a “gay mom” who really showed me the ropes…and by “ropes” don’t let your mind wander and think in the gutter: I’m talking about our herstory. The herstory of the LGBTQIA+ community, who they are, why we are who we are and how we use (or should use) our herstory to make advanced to the future. Oh, and how current issues often overlook actual herstory in a way to control what people actually remember. But some stories and people just cannot be erased.

As Pride month rapidly approaches it reminds me that our herstory is diverse. Our herstory is rich. Our herstory is more than just one group of us. Our herstory must pay tribute to, and honor all of the people that helped pave the way to today. Each year in June “the gays” (that’s community colloquialism purposely used) congregate all month and celebrate. Marches occur around the country (and globe) and people remember the plight of the community – but do they? They remember the tragedies that we’ve faced: from the uprising at Stonewall In, the AIDS crisis and the downright discriminating practices that are still seen in today’s America. But this year is something special: it’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the riots that sparked the modern LGBTQIA+ movements – or as some call it, “The Gay Rights/Liberation Movement.” But what does everyone know about those riots? Was this the first of it’s kind? Who was there? Was it just gay people? Who is remembered? Who actually rose up to help [continue to] pave the path that folks like me, a white cis-gay male, and others get to walk every single day? Let’s take a brief walk through herstory up until 1969: aka “the real herstory.”

1895: The Cercle Hermaphrodites came together in New York to unite the androgyne community.
1924: The Society for Human Rights was founded by Henry Gerber, a gay man, as a gay organization.
1950: Mattachine Society created for gay males.
1956: Daughters of Bilitis created for lesbians.
1963: Bayard Rustin organized a March on Washington, an openly gay man working alongside Dr. King.
1965: Dewey’s Lunch Counter Sit In that included lesbian, gay and trans people of color.
1966: Transgender Riots at Compton’s Cafeteria.
1969: The Stonewall Riots in New York City – but who was there?

Let’s take a closer look at some omitted facts about what actually happened in 1969 at The Stonewall Inn:

  • NYC Police often harassed patrons of bars like Stonewall due to laws that prohibited cross dressing and men dancing with other men. The police would often drag people to the bathrooms to inspect their genitalia and then report what they found in public spaces like newspapers to out individuals resulting in people losing their families, jobs and livelihoods.
  • Sylvia Rivera is notorious for having thrown a bottle that shattered a police car’s window after having been prodded by his nightstick – this act is notorious for having been the first. Rivera is known for said that, “That night, everything clicked. Great, now it’s my time. I’m out there being a revolutionary for everybody else, now it’s time to do my own thing for my own people.”
  • The crowed was enabled to act up as they watched an unnamed butch female wearing a man’s styled black leather jacket put up a hell-of-a fight while being forced to the police car.
  • Other Stonewallers (how veterans of the event refer to themselves) include Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, Daria Modon, China Fucito, Strome Delarverie, Leigh McManus, Danny Garvin, Virginia Apuzzo, Electra O’Mara, Terri Van Dyke and many, many more.
  • When more police arrived to “rescue” police that were trapped inside the bar, a chorus line of drag queens formed. They taunted the police by kicking up their heels and singing, “We are the Stonewall girls / We wear our hair in curls / We wear no underwear / We wear our dungarees / Above our nelly knees!”
  • On the first night police actually singled out transgender people, gender nonconforming (including effeminate men and butch women) and beat them.

If it weren’t for trans people, drag queens and gender nonconforming individuals that were there alongside the gay and lesbians, today would not be what it is…and while today is far from perfect, organizations like GLAAD, Lambda Legal Defense and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project would likely not exist. So why is this important in today’s LGBTQIA+ environment? Because of the following:

  • Queer herstory is often white washed – leaving out the most influential and notable contributors to the LGBTQIA+ movement. Don’t believe me? Watch the 2015 movie, “Stonewall.” Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major and other trans women and women were simply omitted.
  • Many queer spaces to this day remain transphobic and exclude transgender individuals. A particular subgroup of feminist women, known as TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist), have a complete lack of disregard to the fact that trans women are real women. Oh, and there was a movement just a few years ago to “drop the T,” from LGBTQIA+. Cause that’s really inclusive.
  • Many cisfolk are absolutely “ok” with gay, lesbian and bisexuality (at least at face value), but cringe and cower at discussions surrounding transgender, gender nonconforming, genderqueer or intersex individuals. It comes down to listening and expanding one’s brain to realize that not all experiences in this world align with one particular lens (in this case the cisheteronormative lens).
  • Effective as of April 2019, there is a transgender ban that disallows transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces.
  • As recently as May 22, 2019, just 9 days before Pride Month starts, the Trump Administration announced that they announced a plan to deny transgender people experiencing homelessness equal access to shelters.
  • People are so quick to push for laws about those not even born, but wont even come to the conversation for those that are already alive and actually being murdered for simply living and being themselves.

So this June, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots don’t forget all of the people who have affected queer herstory that’s led to this moment. Let’s honor them all, but most of all, let’s not forget those that are still, to this day, the most marginalized of our community. So long as their rights are being persecuted while also being dehumanized and murdered on the streets, we are not all equal. Floating in and out of privilege should not be an option. Our community is the way it is because of the most marginalized; forgetting them, who they are, forgetting their humanity and the monumental role they played in our herstory is nothing short of supporting those that seek to oppress. We are stronger together, our collective herstory shows that. Now let’s honor that and act on it.

Building Families with Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

Dear Everyone,

This is not an easy letter to write, so I will do my best to be concise and to the point. In an online parenting forum, a hypothetical question was posed by a female member in reference to her husband being approached  by a lesbian couple to donate his sperm so that they could build their family. She wanted to know how others would feel.

Can you imagine the responses?  If not, some went a bit like this:

          -“Hands off my husband!” 

-“If they can’t have a natural baby then they shouldn’t have one at all.” 

          -“Go to a sperm bank!” 

-“Another reason why being a f*g doesn’t work.” 

          -“It’s just sperm…totally different than me donating eggs.” 

-“There’s so much legally wrong here.” 

          -“Sure, as long as they don’t have sex with him.”

The question actually isn’t that difficult. In fact, it was pretty straight forward. An infertile couple asked a friend to donate genetic material so they could conceive a family. However, the unethical advice and judgmental comments were a bit much to handle, albeit expected. So let’s unpack a few major things.

To those that have never struggled with fertility issues please pay attention:

  1. Turning to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is a deeply personal, and often last resort for anyone. Nobody wants to hear that they’re infertile. Nobody wants to feel inadequate when it comes to procreating. And while you may want to offer an opinion on how YOU feel about it (based on what was asked), I advise you to step back and ask yourself, “What would I do in this situation?” And think (I mean really critically think) long and hard before you type.
  1. Telling someone how to go about building their families is one hundred percent wrong. Always. Nobody has the right to dictate how others build theirs. Period.
  1. Infertility is an issue that knows no boundary and can strike anyone, very much like cancer. The thing about infertility is that for many, being infertile (or being called infertile), can affect people deep to their core. The sad things is that there is so much shame around infertility that most people do not open up, rather, they suppress how they feel and bottle it up. When a couple, any couple, cannot procreate with a night of love, the heartache that this brings is incomprehensible. ART is available to all people, regardless of their gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. To tell someone that, “well, you chose to be in a same-sex relationship therefore you can’t have kids,” is literally the most ignorant thing to say on so many levels.
  1. Never tell someone that is looking into ART as a means to build a family that they’d be “better off adopting rather than creating designer babies.”

Did you not design your own baby:

  • By finding your spouse attractive?
  • Ensuring that they’re in good health?
  • Is someone who’s was smart and met your moral standards?
  • Maybe they graduated college which was important to you?
  • Seeking out someone that agreed with your personal ideals?
  • Maybe they had a passion for the outdoors that you shared?
  • Or they loved the same music or animals?

 My point is, sit down, be quiet and just think – we’re actually not that different.

You’ve no idea what you’re saying since you, too, planned a “designer baby” just like us. The only difference is we get to see things like health information up front while reviewing donor paperwork.

  1. When it comes to ART, the act of sex is always removed. Conceiving a child through sexual intercourse is the method most heterosexual couples are blessed to use as their primary reproductive option. However, when it comes to couples (heterosexual or otherwise) who cannot have a baby via sexual intercourse, their options are not to have sex with someone else. Take me, for example, as I was asked which one of us had sex with our surrogate:
  • First of all, gross. I’m gay;
  • Second of all, she’s a married woman – that’s asking someone to have an affair and is ethically wrong on many levels. That’s not how relationships work, nor is that how ART works. Ever.
  1. The legalities of ART, while evolving like any other area of law, are well known. Those that think this would cause a “legal” issue are sorely mistaken. If anything, a legal issue would arise if there was poor psychological vetting (yes, psychological evaluation is a part of any legal and reasonable ART process).

Folks without fertility issues (regardless of their sexual orientation) really should critically think about the Assisted Reproductive Process before arbitrarily commenting and offering advice on what to do and not to do. Until you as a person or couple are rendered unable to produce a child, (and I don’t care if you’re heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual, whatever) then you don’t know the hurt, the pain and the feeling of biological failure when all you want is to have a family and fulfill a life ‘s dream.


A Father Whose Family Was Built via ART

Happy New Year: Closing 2018 and Welcoming 2019

Dear Yeladim,

While it’s a little later than Abba is used to, happy 22 months and happy new year! It’s been 22 months since you’ve forever changed our lives and that we’re blessed to be your parents. As we enter into 2019 we’ll have the opportunity to write new chapters to our life’s adventures. We cannot wait to see what lies ahead, but for now, let’s recap 2018…

Yeladim – here are a list of your accomplishments in just this last calendar year:

  • You learned how to walk
  • You learned how to run (ish)
  • You learned how to understand and follow directions (when you want)
  • You learned how to eat solid food – and good golly do y’all eat…oh, and we don’t feed you anymore L
  • You learned how to identify geometrical objects
  • You learned an infinite amount of songs and even sing along to many of them
  • You learned how to say the names of dozens of animals, and even their sounds!
  • You learned how to drink from the 360 cups and a straw cups (after much trial and error
  • You gave up all bottles
  • You gave up using the paci (or wubbas, as you call them) except for when you sleep
  • You said goodbye to your last two feline siblings Cole & Toby
  • Your personalities continued to develop (more on that in your individual section)
  • You have a full mouth of teeth! Ouch!
  • You learned how to climb…on everything…
  • You visited the beach for the first time in Alabama with Aunt Ashly and Uncle Mac
  • You learned the joy, and we learned the terror (and phenomenon) that is Baby Shark
  • You graduated from taking laundry basket baths to using the tub like big kids.
  • We had our first family photo shoot
  • You visited your first aquarium and boardwalk
  • You gave up your sleep sacks and sleep in big kid pajamas
  • You enjoyed your many adventures at the Zoo
  • You enjoyed the myriad of park adventures
  • You developed a love for Sunday breakfasts at the diner with our amazing waitress Maria
  • You enjoyed swimming in many, many pools in many states
  • You graduated to your convertible car seats
  • You both grew infinitely cuter, as if that were even possible… ❤


You are a truly the brightest beacon of light in our lives – you are fiercely observant and deliciously curious about the world around you. You thrive in fine motor skills and language, and love to try and put together words to better communicate what you want about the world around you. You are opinionated and are not afraid to share that, and we will continue to encourage this. Your voice will always be heard, your thoughts will always be valued and your mind always nurtured. You are truly independent and love to share the world on your terms. Know that we’ll be here for you to guide and walk with you forever and always.

Your favorite food is: Peas

Your favorite song is: Baby Shark Dance Remix

Your favorite movie is: “Anna” aka Frozen

Your favorite book is: Marlon Bundo

Your favorite color is: Yellow

Your favorite parent is: Daddy

Your favorite animal is: Dogs/Puppy

Your favorite toy is: Animal Shape Sorter-Thingy (LOL)

Your favorite stuffed animal is: Pink Puppy


You are the sweetest, most gentle little boy to ever grace this Earth. You are so, so caring, tender and sweet (except when you’re fighting with Phoebe lol), and always filled with hugs and kisses for Abba and Daddy. You have a knack for empathy and feeling other people’s emotions; you really know how to read the space and people around you. Though you are usually very eager to give up a toy for your sister to enjoy, you do have a sneaky and cunning side to you that is devilishly cute. In the last month your voice has exploded with thoughts, words and communication. The exponential growth you’ve shown is epic! Your sweet and nourishing side will always be encouraged. May you continue to grow into a kind, empathetic and loving young man that will forever change the world with his love and kindness.

Your favorite food is: Pancakes

Your favorite song is: Baby Shark Dance Remix

Your favorite movie is: Finding Nemo

Your favorite book is: Marlon Bundo

Your favorite color is: Yellow

Your favorite parent is: Abba

Your favorite animal is: Duck

Your favorite toy is: Truck

Your favorite stuffed animal is: tie between Elmo & Cookie Monster

As you can see it’s been an eventful 2018 with so much having happened; and 2019 isn’t going to be any less dull, that’s for sure! We love you beyond measure and look forward to all that shall come to pass. Keep growing. Keep learning. Keep absorbing the world around you. Keep exploring. Keep exploring your independence. Keep testing your limits. Keep being the amazing people you are meant to be.

All our love,

Abba & Daddy

Becoming a Better Ally for our Transgender Family


I am not transgender, however, I am an ally and continually work to be a better ally. I am a gay cisgender male and am part of the LGBTQIA+ community. The “LGB” are the most familiar of the letters: Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual. Sadly, the latter half of our community is shunned, not supported and more often overlooked and forgotten – they are the TQIA+: Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and the “+” is for anyone on the spectrum of sex, gender or sexuality to which a specific term does not yet exist. These are sentient beings, these are people and they matter. Before I move through this piece there is background as to why I am writing this:

  • Currently the Trump administration is seeking to remove transgender as a protected class based on a series of executive orders issued during the Obama administration; and, they’re looking to assign anyone who is born with external genitalia as their given “sex,” regardless of whether it aligns with how they feel.
  • Oftentimes the LGB part of our community does not show the same level of fight, respect and demand for equality for our TQIA+ family.
  • Everyone can be a better ally, myself included. This starts with education and speaking with people within the community. As I am a cisgender male who has had great, in depth conversations with transgender individuals, I want to start by showing we do care. And by “we” I mean the LGB part of our community. We need to show up and fight for their support. They have every right to live as authentically as us – and when part of our community is not protected that means the whole community is not protected, and at risk.

Terminology to know:

Gender: is often defined with respect to one’s self as the state of being male, female, both, somewhere in between, neither or something different. When referring to gender with respect to society it is a system of classification that is deeply rooted in social ideas about what is masculinity and what is femininity.

Gender Expression: this is how one chooses to express themselves regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation or other identifying factors. For example, a cisgender gay man may be feminine or masculine in the way that they dress or carry themselves, but it doesn’t take away the fact that their gender identity is still male.

Gender Identity: this term relates to how someone feels on the inside, despite any external anatomy that may imply otherwise (i.e. if a person has a penis they are a male, when in fact they may identify as female).

Sex: either male or female (sometimes referred to as binary) based on their genitalia at birth, and typically based on “reproductive function.”

Genderqueer: Genderqueer, also known as non-binary, is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities which are outside the gender binary and cisnormativity. Genderqueer people may express a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither in their gender identity.

Cisgender: when one’s biological sex aligns with their gender identity. For example a person born with male external genitalia, male reproductive systems and expresses themselves as masculine, they’d be a cisgender male.

Cisnormative: what is considered “normal” for the majority of folks that identify as cisgender male or female.

Gender Dysphoria: the internal conflict one may experience when their biological sex does not align with their gender identity or expression.

Transgender: when one’s biological sex does not align with their gender identity. For example, when someone is born biologically “female” but feels as though they are a man, they are transgender.

Intersex: when a person is born with a discrepancy between the appearance of their external genitalia and the type of internal genitalia. Often parents of intersex children are forced as a result of cisnormative culture to assign a gender to their child that may ultimately not align with how their child actually feels later in life.

In terms of modern cultural awareness the topic of gender, gender identity and sex is confusing, at best, most especially to those that will only subscribe to the notions that both exist as a binary relationship (i.e. someone can only be male or female) – in other words the cisnormative lens. The reality is that gender and sex are both fluid and exist on a spectrum. This may be hard to grasp for cisgender folks since the way they were raised contradicts this very notion of sex and gender – I am not excluded from this as I am cisgender and was raised this way. I was brought up with you are either born male (i.e. a boy) or female (i.e. a girl); but, I promise that in time with some educational dialogue and reaching out to people that are transgender, genderqueer or gender non-conforming, you can come to an understanding, and learn to accept that things aren’t always neatly packed in boxes of black and white, but there is more than just being a boy or girl.

Sex vs. Gender

Let’s first talk about the differences between the terms sex and gender. Often they are used interchangeably, however this is incorrect. They are different entities and should never be used interchangeably. Generally speaking “sex” refers to the biological differences between females and males; take for example the differences in external and internal reproductive organs. The term gender is a bit more challenging to define, but to generalize it refers to the role of a male or female in society. Typically this is known as a “gender role,” but it can also be an individual’s view of themselves, or gender identity. When someone’s genetics doesn’t align with their gender identity, these individuals may refer to themselves as transgender, genderqueer/non-binary or gender non-conforming.

From a genetic perspective people can be born with an array of sex genes – as already mentioned it’s not wrapped up in a neat little box. I will make the assumption that everyone is familiar with the “X” and “Y” gene, and that the combination of “XY” is male and “XX” is female. It’s assumed that when you’re born with a penis you have “XY” and if you’re born with a vagina you have “XX.” This is not always the case. In fact there are many combinations and genetic variations that exist, and the folks born with these genetic variations are no less human. Here is a table to summarize some of the known variants (adapted from a paper at written by Claire Ainsworth; full article here). vaiations in biological sex

It may be hard to understand, but some “men” are born with two or three “X” chromosomes; some women can be born with “Y” chromosome. This grouping of genetic sex chromosome combinations is often referred to as intersex. Parents who give birth to a child that is intersex is often forced to choose which gender to assign their child. They often never inform this child of what happened, or why, and it can and usually arises later on in life with conflicting internal feelings, or gender dysphoria. To quote, “This pressure has meant that people born with clear DSDs [Disorder of Sex Development] often undergo surgery to ‘normalize’ their genitals. Such surgery is controversial because it is usually performed on babies, who are too young to consent, and risks assigning a sex at odds with the child’s ultimate gender identity — their sense of their own gender. Intersex advocacy groups have therefore argued that doctors and parents should at least wait until a child is old enough to communicate their gender identity, which typically manifests around the age of three, or old enough to decide whether they want surgery at all.”

Moving Forward and Becoming a Better Ally

By definition an ally is someone who “combines or unites forces/resources often to benefit the other party.” In other words, being an ally means you are accepting of, but also actively partaking in the defense and progress that another marginalized community may experience. Being an ally it not easy, it takes work. It takes empathy. It takes understanding, time and acceptance (not tolerance, here’s a piece I penned on the difference between acceptance and tolerance to review.

So how does one start?

Moving Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Seek out people who are not like you and have open dialogues. Be ready to have your views challenged and be open to learning new ways of thinking. Not everyone has the same lived experiences in our world as we all bring uniqueness. Being different is ok, despite what some may think. Be ready to be challenged in many ways, and accept the challenge as a way to broaden your mind.

Gender Neutral Language

Language matters to everyone whether we see it that way or not. When we say something like, “that’s a boy’s thing,” or “girls can’t speak like that,” it implies something much greater, and those with children know how language matters. They pick up on everything. However, in absolute language and reality nothing is a “boy thing,” just like nothing is a “girl thing.” Things are just things. Right? From a cisnormative viewpoint this many not be the case, but language like this alienates and indoctrinates young children to feel as though they “must” fit into the cisnormative binary. This forces them to choose as opposed to being free to feel as they may. Take the following examples:

  1. The boy who wants to wear nail polish. In our society only women are socially allowed to paint their nails. Why? It’s considered a feminine detail and if a boy has anything feminine it immediately emasculates him, makes him less of a boy/man. In reality this is not the case. Paint is paint and painting our names is a form of art and modification albeit temporary. How many of us, men included, modify our bodies in artistic forms: tattoos, ear piercings, dying our hair, wearing various color clothes etc.? Painting one’s nails does not determine how masculine or feminine they are, but rather, they just want their nails decorated. Period. End of story.
  2. The girl who wants to dress up as a teenage mutant ninja turtle, or the boy who is obsessed with Moana. Children are meant to learn by playing. We play and wear costumes all the damn time, and especially around Halloween. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a child wanting to dress up as someone they look up to. Hell, if my son wanted to dress up as Moana or any other strong, independent and brave woman he’ll be unconditionally supported. No questions asked. And not to be Abba-bear, but come at me. Watch what happens 😉
  3. “Boys will be boys.” This is a phrase that’s recently gotten a ton of social media attention and is often coupled with the idea of toxic masculinity – where inappropriate and lewd male behavior is excused simple by virtue that they are male, and have no control of it. Hogwash. Bullshit. Men have control, they just are never asked to own what they do and receive “get out of jail free” cards. But only if they’re white and male, but I won’t digress. Cases such as Brock Turner exemplify how toxic masculinity is a part of our culture, and it shouldn’t be accepted. Ever. Period. I’d bet he’s heard the phrase, “boys will be boys” more than once. If you do something wrong you pay the price. At the end of the day kids will be kids – boy, girl or otherwise. No child or person is exempt from misbehaving as a result of their gender or sex. All children or people can act inappropriately, poorly or just down-right illegal. It’s up to us as people to correct the behavior and teach what it means to be a good human being.

There is so much more to this, but adopting gender neutral language where we don’t engender all aspects of our daily lives is a huge step in the right direction. It will take time and practice, and those around us challenging us and moving towards this ideal. Personally, as a two-dad family I have adopted a greater appreciation for gender-neutral language. For example, the societal notion that parenting is an innately female thing. It’s not I can assure you. Being a father is as much being a parent as being a mother. Though this is a topic for another piece, using gender neutral language all parents, regardless of their gender identity, to feel accepted and part of the community.

Don’t Assume Anything

You cannot tell if someone is transgender, genderqueer or gender nonconforming simply by looking at them. Despite the stereotypes it’s just impossible. Just as you wouldn’t want someone making assumptions about your religion or political viewpoint, neither do they. They are real people with real feelings, just like you and me. Just assume that where ever you are there is likely someone who is transgender, and for goodness sake just act in a way that models decency and be a good human being.

Don’t assume someone’s sexual orientation if they are transgender. Just as sex and gender are different, sexuality is an entirely different things. Transgender people can be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or any of the spectrum of sexual orientations.

When you meet someone who is transgender be an active listener to how they refer to themselves (i.e. pronouns). Do they refer to themselves as he or she, they or them? Whatever someone refers to themselves as is how you should proceed to engage in conversation. Anything short of that is insulting to their existence. Oh, and don’t ask them what “their real name is,” implying that the name with which they introduced themselves as is less “real.” That’s downright insulting and frankly, none of our business. They are introducing themselves as who they are and how they identify, it’s none of our damn business what was before they came out as transgender, unless they choose to share their story.

As it is with being LGB be careful not to out someone, especially if they’ve confided in you about who they are. This take a great deal of care, diligence and respect. There’s a reason they’re confiding and sharing details with you; be respectful.

Understand that there is no right or wrong way to come out as transgender, and not everyone who is transgender comes out the same way. Some transgender people come out and are happy to transition by way of changing their clothing. Some transgender people come out and with doctors are medically prescribed hormones to develop the characteristic traits they desire. And some transgender people opt to transition via surgical procedures. There is no “right way” to be transgender. Just as there is no right way to be straight – some straight men are macho men and some are not, but they are all nonetheless straight men. To be an ally is just to support them for who they are and respect their decisions. End of story. We don’t get to anyone how to feel.

The next tip I am pasting directly from as it embodies so much truth to being an ally, and reinforces how language matters. “Avoid backhanded compliments and ‘helpful’ tips:”

  • “I would have never known you were transgender. You look so pretty.”
  • “You look just like a real woman.”
  • “She’s gorgeous, I would have never guessed she was transgender.”
  • “He’s so hot. I’d date him even though he’s transgender.”
  • “You’re so brave.”
  • “You’d pass so much better if you wore less/more make-up, had a better wig, etc.”

These comments degrade who someone is. It’s not up to us as cisgender people to determine what makes a woman a woman and a man a man. Gender identity is a spectrum, a personal choice and what makes someone feel more masculine or feminine is different for everyone.

When you hear anti-trans epithets or conversation: stop them. Be brave enough to stand up! Even in LGB spaces. Challenge these statements all the time, anywhere. It’s not ok to let hate and negative language pollute our culture, and demean any group of people who have every right to exist and be their authentic selves.

As allies, know our limits. Know when it’s time to shut up and listen.

Read about transgender history and engage in dialogues with transgender people.

Volunteer or donate to organizations that support transgender rights. Here’s a list:

  • National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)
  • Transgender Law Center (TLC)
  • Gender Proud
  • Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP)
  • Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)
  • Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC)
  • Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC)
  • Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC)
  • Black Trans Advocacy
  • Trans Latina Coalition
  • Gender Spectrum
  • Gender Diversity
  • Trans Youth Equality Federation
  • Trans Youth Family Allies (TYFA)
  • TransTech Social Enterprises
  • PART*A
  • Transgender American Veterans Association
  • TransLife Center at Chicago House

At the end of the day this is all still evolving. We are still understanding the spectrum of gender, gender identity and sexuality. It’s not a neat, clean topic that we can close in just one day. That’s just not how any of this works. Sure, some discussions may make you uncomfortable, make your skin crawl. That’s ok. Just because you’re uncomfortable discussing a topic does not give you the right to squash or eliminate one’s existence. Transgender folk are people, too. They are our siblings, they are someone’s children and they live, breathe and exist on the same planet that we do as human beings. All human beings deserve their humanity and dignity, and it’s up to us to act as true allies and help them, lift them up and be there for them.


I’d like to express my sincerest thanks to Dean Rasmussen, who writes and manages the blog: I became acquainted with Dean through LGBTQIA+ parenting blogs and other daddy-blog sites where we both participate and contribute pieces. Dean is an FTM living his life, engaged and has a beautiful family. I encourage anyone to read up on his blog and learn.

Happy 19 Months! (Oops, and 18 months, too!)

Dear Yeladim,

Happy 18 & now 19 months! Last month Abba forgot to write down our letter as we had so many things going on in our home. We’ll be using this letter to recap all that’s happened and what this next month will bring. But despite Abba forgetting, it’s been an incredibly 19 months that we’re both blessed to be your parents!

In your 18th month of life we took our first real family vacation! We took a plane from Philadelphia to Florida. We spent a few days relaxing, swimming and exploring with Grandma Diane and Grandpa Marc, and then we took our first ever road trip. It was 9 hours! We drove from the north east of Florida to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Why? To meet up with Aunt Ashly, Uncle Mac, Kaisen and Evie, of course! Not to mention your first trip to a beach! Your 18th months of life was filled with so much fun and excitement! You both had tremendous language and communication bursts as well as incredible gains in your gross and fine motor skills.

When we returned from vacation we immediately shifted gear into what Abba calls, “Medical Support Mode.” Daddy was getting ready for surgery, and all the while Daddy & Abba had to prepare for Xander’s corrective eye surgery. On August 28th Daddy went in for his surgery and on the same day Grandma Diane flew up from Florida to stay with us (after returning from her first ever trip to Europe!). While Daddy recovered Grandma Diane (and Grandma Rose) were there to help take care of you both while Abba helped Daddy to be as comfortable as possible while recovering. Then, 10 days after Daddy’s surgery Xander you were taken into surgery to have your strabismus correction surgery. To say that Daddy and Abba were anxious is an understatement. So let’s recap all that’s happened with you both.

Phoebe – your personality continues to shine through. You are opinionated and know what you want, and with each day you continue to express what you want not only with words but in showing Abba & Daddy. You have an obsession with taking your shoes & socks off and trying to redress yourself, and that’s now extended to your shirt coming off. You find joy in helping us buckle you in your high chair and car seat and are always there to lend your hands. You still love to analyze objects and your environment around you, but girl, you have absolutely no fear. You love to dive head first into danger and face it, well, head on! You’re strong, independent and sassy to no end. Your favorite words are, “no,” “shoes,” and “hello!” You are super sweet to your brother (when you want to be), and you love to give both Daddy and Abba “running hugs.” Oh, and your favorite books are, “The Little Engine That Could,” and “Marlon Bundo.” Both great books with great life lessons: 1) Never Give Up and 2) Love is Forever, Stinkbugs are Temporary.

Xander – you personality continues to blossom as you show your sweet and tender side. You love to snuggle, give hugs and kisses to Abba and Daddy. Your gross motor and language skills have really shaped up this last month, despite being a little rough since you had your surgery; you bounced back more quickly than lightening can strike the ground in a storm! You enjoy challenging Daddy and Abba with climbing on objects you know to be off-limits and even give this little sneer that we try not to giggle at (as it’s simply adorable). You have picked up several new words but are still a bit shy with using them…except for one: bye-bye (which sounds more like “buh-bye.”). Since your surgery your eyes have dramatically improved and you’ve even been doing well without your glasses! We’ll soon see if you’ll need them now that your surgery has been completed. You’re favorite books are, “Marlon Bundo,” and “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat.” You love to sit on our laps as we read, point at the objects and smile when you know you’re right. The book about Joseph also has great life-lessons. But more on that below.

The both of you have started to consistently use utensils when you eat, assert your opinions when you know what you want and express how you feel. You both can communicate when you want more to eat and when you’re done, and it’s simply amazing to watch the both of you develop into your own little people and personalities. It’s almost as if while we’re teaching you all about life and how to maneuver through the winding paths that you’ll face, you’re teaching us what life is all about.

Although Xander has a particular affinity towards, “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat,” you both enjoy sitting down to read it with Abba or Daddy (though Daddy detests the over-the-top Yiddish voice Abba uses to read). This book has a very valuable lesson that you’ll find you need throughout your life. This story is about a man, Joseph, who has an overcoat that he re-purposes as it becomes torn and tattered. And, when he finally loses the last re-purposed object, a button, Joseph memorializes his overcoat by writing a book to remember it. So what’s the lesson? You can always make something out of nothing. This lesson is important. We will often face times where we feel we have nothing or are empty; but this just isn’t true. It’s an illusion. Our lives are rich and filled, even when we feel the toys we have are old and boring. Sometimes we just need to look at them in a different way – call it, “stepping outside of the box.”

Yeladim – continue growing, continue learning, continue exploring and most of all continue being yourselves. Our love for you is unconditional and infinite. And as we round the corner of time’s journey to year two we are more-so shocked at the warp speed that’s been attained. You truly are our little miracles.

All our love,

Daddy & Abba

Happy 17 Months (Purposefully Belated)

Dear Yeladim,

Happy 17 months! Wait…did we just write 17 months? The time is flying by! That means that it has been 17 months that we’ve been blessed to be your parents. Simply amazing. You’ll notice that there’s a parenthetical in the title: (Purposefully Belated). And it’s (sorta) true…I swear. You see two years ago today was a very special day; a special day indeed.

On July 21, 2016 your Abba and Daddy woke up to the sounds of pitter patter of Aunt Ashly’s children. Cousin Evie was impatiently knocking on our bedroom door to get up so that she could play. And cousin Kaisen was right behind her, with the book Go Dog Go, demanding that it be read. We played after we brushed teeth and read for a few minutes. Then we went downstairs to say good morning to Aunt Ashly and Uncle Mac and of course little Millie. To our surprise Aunt Ashly was already dressed in green and had a bowl of pineapple ready to be consumed. Why? Because on very special days we have traditions. This is something you’ll learn with Abba and Daddy throughout your life. This very special day was what we call, “Transfer Day.” This is the day we placed two perfectly beautiful embryos into Aunt Ashly, both which grew and grew to become the both of you! Amazing!

Now, on to the other reason for this letter: Your 17th month birth celebration! img_3215

So much has exploded in the last month it’s not even funny. In fact, this last month may have been one of the most explosive, most especially in language and communication.

Phoebe: You’ve learned to climb. You’ve cut all four first year molars (ouch!). You’ve started to cut your canines (may the heaven’s bless Abba and Daddy with patience). You have more than 30 words that youimg_3244 can speak. When it comes to communication and following directions you understand so, so much. You no longer take fluid by bottles. You know many parts of your body and can point to them. And! You can quack like a duck when asked, “What does the Duck say?” Amazing! You love to use a fork when eating your food. Oh, and you absolutely love to test Abba and Daddy’s limits with what is and is not acceptable…only a fraction of the defiance that is to come, weimg_2327 are sure. 🙂

Xander: You’ve earned a new nickname Mr. Booogley, or as Abba says to shorten it: Boogs. You have also cut your first four molars and first four canines –  all within 3 week’s time…oh my! You’ve not only learned the art of back-arching tantrums, you’ve mastered it. You even became the exorcist in front of your PA grandparents. Thankfully, it’s not very often. You have about 20 words that you love to use…but by far your favorite two to say are ‘banana,’ and ‘daddy.’ It’s so freaking adorable! You have begun to climb on things…anything, really. You sometimes tantrum at dinner until you img_6089have your fork in hand…you love to crawl and walk in between Abba’s legs and play peak-a-boo. But most of all, you love to sit on Abba or Daddy’s lap with a book and listen to us read to you. Last thought: we have your surgery scheduled to correct your strabismus in September.

This last month also brought out new characteristic traits between the two of you. Some call it the “twin bond.” We call it the most absolutely amazingly adorable and special thing we’re beyond blessed to witness. Every morning whoever gets to the water sippies first makes sure that the other has theirs before they themselves start drinking. When one tantrums the other offers a toy or a consoling back rub. You love to give one another high-fives, hugs and kisses. You bring each other one another’s wubbas. Oh, and that img_3036time when Bubba threw his out of the crib and Pickle, you tried to pass one from your crib to him? Precious.

It’s a blessing to be parents. Through it all – from the darkest, scariest moments to the lightest, funniest and most special of moments. Selfishly, though, I say that having twins adds an element of sparkle to how special it is, as we get to witness one of the most special relationships grow from it’s very first day. This is something we’ll forever nurture, cherish and thank Aunt Ashly and her family, and the amazing team of scientists and doctors that paved the way for us to be parents. We’re forever grateful.

Continue to explore, yeladim. Continue to grow and learn. Continue to test us. Continue to bond with one another. Continue to teach us. Continue to humble us. Continue touching our hearts in ways we never knew existed.

All our love,

Daddy and Abba

Happy 16 months!

Dear Yeladim,

Happy 16 months! Holy crickies that means it’s 16 months that we’ve been blessed to be your fathers!

This letter is a bit more special as your 16 month celebration just happens to also be our second Father’s Day, all with amazing thanks to Aunt Ashly for helping bring you both to us. So while this letter will, as usual, focus on you, it will be through the lens of what the last year of being parents has taught us.

Lessons Learned

– all crazy is temporary, just hold on

– teething really is the devil

– your smiles are infectious beyond all imagination, as are your giggles

– the affection you both share and show us everyday is the best gift

– watching you grow, explore and develop is better than anything put on television

– watching your twin bond form is one of the most beautiful things to bear witness

– as boy/girl twins you most definitely don’t look alike 😂

– you are individual people through and through, and your personalities are amazing

– you’re both beautiful people

But perhaps the best blessing in the world is waking up every day and being your parents. Your fathers. Being the ones you snuggle when you fall, the ones you show off too when you’re excited, happy and proud and being the parents you know will be there for you no matter what.

Yeladim, we can’t express just how much we love you. Truly, a parents love for their child is immeasurable…but one thing we do know is that our love won’t ever end, it will only strengthen with time and will only grow to be more and more special.

To the two greatest humans ever: thank for giving us both a reason to celebrate Father’s Day.

All our love,

Daddy and Abba

A Glimmer of Hope

Often I find myself writing about the negative and more challenging interactions that happen as an LGBTQ father and family. The challenges of solo shopping with twins, the challenges of being a dad in a world where dad’s aren’t yet accepted as primary care takers and then there’s the challenges of being an out and open LGBTQ family; but not today. Today I have nothing to share that is negative. Today I walk with a bit more oomph in my step. Today I smile a little bit bigger. For today’s piece is about interactions that give me hope for tomorrow and restore some faith in humanity.

I remember writing in an earlier piece there is yet hope for a time when people won’t need to “come out.” A time when people can just be whomever they’re meant to be without any judgment, stereotypes or assumptions that compare them to some antiquated system defined in binaries or “norms. “Although that time exists in some future, this weekend my family experienced it first hand – and it was superbly glorious. So glorious that it’s inspired me to write about each of those interactions.

Saturday we decided to take the children to the park and play. It was early – around 8am. After breakfast we got ready and headed to the car; Bubba with me, and Pickle with Brian. We head over to the playground, park and unload. Turns out one other family had the same great idea for an early morning play session at the park – a young heterosexual couple and their nearly 3-year old son. While at the swings the dad noticed my deathly hollows tattoo and sparked up a conversation. When it came time for the “a-ha!” moment where they realized we were married and that they were our children – there wasn’t a single moment of awkward silence. Normally there is a production to explain our situation – a “coming out,” so-to-speak – but not that day. That day we were just another family at the park and it was refreshing. So refreshing that it left such a smile on our hearts.

Sunday the plan was the go to Old Navy and scope out some start of summer deals…I won’t share how much we spent, that fact is irrelevant (lol), but after that adventure we went to the mall. Our first plan was to get Brian a new pair of sunglasses (the clerk at the store LOVED the kids!), and then to grab lunch. We got to the restaurant and were seated in an uncomfortably close section of the restaurant…and both kids had to be opposite us, which made it a bit more challenging. I want to talk about each of the couples that flanked us while we were there, with the last of them the one that touched me the most:

First Family: was a family of three. The father at the table was using his napkin to engage phoebe in a game of peek-a-boo! Totally and utterly adorable. And the daughter at the table put it together that the kids were twins, and was constantly smiling and engaging them while they were there. Again, adorable. When they were done and the table cleaned up a mom of three kids arrived to take over the table.

Second Family: was a mom (married, had a ring on) with her three boys: 5, almost 3 and almost 12 month old. She got her kids settle, drinks ordered (including a beer for herself) and she was rocking it. We both bowed to her awesomeness, and sparked up conversation. Just parents talking ‘bout their craziness – and nobody bat an eyelash. Again: glorious.

Third Table: This table of two friends, both female, was next to us nearly the whole time we were there. Throughout the meal they engaged our children at various times (totally appropriate) and were super generous in helping pick up a random object that Xander felt needed a home on the floor. It wasn’t until they left that such an impact was made. One of the women, a preschool teacher, said, “It just warms my heart to see the two of you parent. Truly, it just warms my heart.” She smiled and carried on with her day.

The last interaction is what inspired me to write, although all of these interactions were just brilliant to be able to live. This woman, without batting an eyelash chose such perfect language; language that was inclusive, language that expressed acceptance and language that made us feel normal. Normal. A word that in and of itself is unusual to type. Perhaps a better word would be accepted. And it felt good. So good.

I wait patiently for the day when more and more people think and operate like all of these people. When people can be with the ones they love, raise a family and just be great members of society. Although these people will likely never come across this piece of writing I thank them. I thank them all for making us feel accepted, making us feel “normal” and lastly not treating us like the circus many think we are. Thank you for giving me a glimmer of hope. It feels so nice, most especially during Pride month!