Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham
June is when Pride Month is celebrated. It’s also the month when Father’s Day is observed. For far too long, there’s been a myth that the two are mutually exclusive. As a Black gay man of a certain age (or SGL) who is also a father, I wish to share my own thoughts and experiences on this particular journey of a lifetime.
Back in the day, those of us who had boyfriends/partners resigned ourselves to the fact that we would never have children, relegated to “the gay uncle” status if we were out, “confirmed bachelor” if we weren’t. Then there were those of us who had children from an opposite-sex marriage or a girlfriend, but that came with the steep price of hiding who we were. Sadly, that legacy is still in part with us today.
Having come out at 18, it was a trip when, during a heart-to-heart shortly after graduation from college, my father talked to me about having grandchildren and the respectful way to treat women. I understood the first message: don’t make a baby you cannot raise. I never spoke my thoughts out loud, but my mind said, “Dad, didn’t you get the memo? I’m gay. Not happening.” I hadn’t counted on the fact that my Higher Power has a sense of humor, for at the age of 45 I sat down with Dad and said, “I’m ready to be a father.”
That moment was the start of a three-year journey to fatherhood. To Dad, it was the opening for “Son, welcome to my world.” We had many philosophical discussions and heart-to-hearts about what being a father meant. For me, this portion of the process better prepared me mentally. I also realized that many of the values I grew up with had rubbed off. One thing was certain—every step of the way, Dad had my back.
My commitment was firm: I was going to be a father whether or not I had a husband/partner. I became part of a new category—the one of families we create, via adoption or surrogacy. Trust and believe, these are the most planned-for children on the planet. Like Dad, I wanted to start from scratch in raising my child. If I were to have only one, I wanted a boy. It was a process I certainly had to be prayed-up for, for I encountered my share of detractors, some of whom were other gay men who considered what I was doing to be impossible.
My Higher Power, however, had other plans. Wherever I went, doors opened, and I am grateful to every person who was part of the journey. There were false starts as well. However, I went on making space and preparations for my child as though it was already a done deal. At one point, I was down on my knees praying, “Whether You give me this child or not, I will still praise You.” Two weeks later, I received a phone call at work. I was skeptical at first because of the previous false alarms, but they were serious. They had a baby boy for me—straight from the hospital!
When they brought him to me that evening, my first words were, “Oh, my God,” and fell in love on the spot. At the age of 47, I was now a father. Dad, of course, was over the moon when I called him with the news. My church family was also a strong support system for us. Now the work started; as I have since learned, being a parent is the toughest job on the planet, and it never stops.
Oddly enough, I experienced a certain form of sexism when my son was a baby. Since he went everywhere I went, there were people around who made comments like, “Oh, you must be babysitting.” When I revealed I was a full-time single father, I was asked, “Where’s his mother?” On occasions like that, knowing that people kept such comments to themselves when addressing a single mother, I put on my Resting Bitch Face and said, “You’re looking at her.” Unknowingly, I became a role model, for some of those very people, after watching my life, commended me for the way I raised my son. Thanks, Higher Power!
We went through the good times, we went through the rough times, we went through the make-us-pray times. When it came to parenting skills, in addition to my own, there’s a lot of Dad in me. It was imperative for me to be a positive example for my son, hence he knew I was gay early on. One day, at the age of eight, he endearingly told me, “Daddy, I’m going to find you a husband.” A year later, my little matchmaker played a role in my meeting my husband for the first time, in church. Result: the three of us became a modern family.
At 19, my son has grown into quite a young man. During this time, hearts, minds, and laws have evolved. He’s brought his friends home, plus a girlfriend or two in his high school years. It’s as though I blinked, and now he’s an adult, with dreams and ambitions of his own. When it comes to his family and friends, he’s loyal and protective. He owns up to his new responsibilities. The years of loving on him have reaped a son who says, “I love you” whenever he goes out, which touches my heart deeply. And I have a deeper appreciation for the plans my Higher Power has for me.
I saw a poster in my local community center that said, “Boys shack up; men get married. Boys make babies; men raise their own and someone else’s.” Black love. And to all the Black LGBT fathers out there, raising your children with love and living your truth: I wish you peace. I wish you power. I wish you strength. I wish you joy.
Believe in dreams and never give up.
© 2018 by W.D. Foster-Graham
All rights reserved.
W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness. He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.”
His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.
Current works in development are a continuation of his Christopher Family Novel series: Never Give Up, a blend of historical novel/family saga /whodunit, and two M/M romance novels, The Right to Be and To Thine Own Self.