Even as a young child, I knew I wanted to be a father. But I also knew I was gay. So while fatherhood has always been a dream of mine, I lived with the fear that gay men just didn't have children, so I'd never be a dad.
I loved kids so much that I spent much of my time babysitting: my younger siblings, my cousins, the neighbourhood kids. Starting at the age of 15 and continuing through my 24th year, I spent each summer as a camp counselor, always working with the youngest kids. I hoped that somehow, one day, I would become a dad.
I came out to my mother when I was 19. (It wasn't on purpose, but that's the subject of a whole other blog post!) I waited five more years to tell my dad because I was scared of what he might say or do. When I finally did tell him, I was surprised by his reaction. Instead of disowning me, he told me, "I love you no matter what, but I am sad because you will never get to be a father."
This statement resonated with me for a very long time and made me see my dad differently. Times were different back then, the AIDS epidemic was going strong and it was still seen as a gay disease; gay issues and same-sex families were not as accepted in mainstream media or by society for that matter as they are now.
"Was he right?" I asked myself. "Because I am gay, would this dream of mine ever become a reality?"
(Photo: Linday Foster Photography)
The Gay Father in L.A.
Lucky for me, I did have one inspiration! I had befriended my father's first cousin, who lived in L.A. in the early eighties when I was just 13. We had never met before but I had heard the rumors that he was gay and he was a director in L.A. working on shows like Remington Steele and Knots Landing, so of course I wanted to meet him. After all, I was obsessed with Donna Mills and Nicollette Sheridan!
I first met him when I was 13 and on a bus trip that took me across the United States. It was the start of a lifelong friendship. When I was in my early 20s he had twin girls with the help of a surrogate. This was the early 90s and it was definitely not the norm yet. He was a huge role model to me, living my dream of creating a family, something I had always hoped for. He was gay, he was single, and he had two daughters! I knew then that if he could do it, so could I! The only thing standing in my way now was money.
Frankie, BJ and Milo fresh in the delivery room. (Photo: Frankie Nelson)
Becoming a Father Myself
Let's fast forward more than twenty years. Here I am married to BJ, the most wonderful, loving, supportive husband anyone could ask for. We started our surrogacy journey to have children and are now almost 4 months pregnant. We drive to Kingston, Ontario to attend the ultrasound appointment to find out the gender of our baby. The nurse announces, "I see something that looks like a penis!" We are so happy and excited that we are having a boy, but I start to question myself. Will I be a good father to my son? Will I be able to play sports with my son? Will I be the father that my son deserves?
BJ and I talked a lot about how our lives would be with a son or a daughter, or for that fact we could have had twins and one of each! BJ and I both grew up having better relationships with the women in our lives than with the men. I have to be honest, I was a bit scared to have a little boy.
Growing up I just didn't have as close of a relationship with my dad or brother as I would have liked. I was a sensitive kid, and I was not really into sports. On the other hand, my father and brother love sports. All sports! My father played on many sports teams: baseball, basketball and curling; he also coached soccer and baseball.
In fact, he was my coach for softball and soccer, which I played for only a year. (Most of the games I spent picking flowers in the soccer field and being afraid of the softball.) I don't ever remember my dad pushing me to play after I expressed a lack of interest. I remember him asking me, "What do you want to do?" He always supported my choice of hobbies growing up.
Ticket for Madonna's Re-Invention Tour. (Photo: Frankie Nelson)
Madonna: My Dallas Cowboys
Every year my dad goes with my brother to watch the Dallas Cowboys play. This has been my brother's favorite team since he was a child and this was something they did together. One year my dad accompanied me to the Madonna Re-Invention Tour concert. To me, Madonna is my Dallas Cowboys and her tour is my Superbowl! My dad was out of his element there, but he came with me because it was important to me. That was the kind of man he was, and that is the kind of man I want to be for my child.
Even though I might not have been as close to my dad growing up as I would have liked, he is always there for all of us now. He makes sure to take the time out of his day to spend with all his grandchildren, and gets down to play with them even when he is tired and in pain. He is a great role model to BJ and me. We hope to have as much energy as he has when we become grandparents one day!
Clockwise from top left: Baby Frankie, Frankie with his dad and younger brother, and Frankie skating. (Photo: Frankie Nelson)
Being a Father to a Son
Even before Milo was born, all my straight male friends and family started telling me all the things we had to do with our son to make sure he would fit in. First and foremost, they told me he needed to learn how to skate so he could play hockey, and this must start by age of 3. BJ and I were told on more than one occasion that he would hate us for life if we didn't teach him how to skate. "If he ever decides to play hockey, he will have the skills needed."
This all seemed a bit foreign to BJ and me, as neither of us knows how to skate or play hockey. We were thinking of putting him into dance, karate, swimming and gymnastics. Do all (Canadian) boys really play hockey? So many things to think about. We were already ruining his life and he wasn't even born!
I will say the moment I held Milo for the first time, in that picture that has been seen millions of times the world over, all my fears of having a little boy went out the window. I realized that my past relationships and my own insecurities will only make me a better dad. As I reflect on my past, I realize the things that held me back growing up and I am determined to not let those same things get in the way of my son's development.
Top Image: Milo watching the Toronto Blue Jays, Bottom Image: Frankie, BJ and Milo at the Jays game. (Photo: Frankie Nelson)
If Milo chooses to play hockey, or any sport for the matter, we will be at every game cheering him on, like my father did for my brother growing up. I could never understand why anyone wanted to sit through all those baseball, soccer and hockey games - yes, my brother played all of them -- but I am starting to see now that it is different when it is your kid out there playing.
I have watched my sister become a hockey mom to her boys over the past ten years, something she swore would never happen to her. Zaida (grandfather) still loves to go to the games as well; he rarely misses one of his grandchildren's games. I hope Milo will be lucky enough to have Zaida cheering him on one day soon. As much as BJ and I don't love sports, we love our son, and will be there by his side no matter what he chooses to do in his spare time.
(Photo: Frankie Nelson)
We have already introduced him to swimming, gymnastics and sportball and
soon he will tell us what he wants to do. He is a loving, smart and affectionate little boy. We couldn't have asked for more. We love him unconditionally and we are so happy to have been blessed with this little man.
Having Milo has given me a chance to look at my own life and reflect on my own relationships. Some relationships have definitely gotten stronger and others have not. I think having a child really opens your eyes and make you see the world differently. We will be his biggest supporters, and be there for him 100 percent of the way. We will try to be the best dads we can be.
(Photo: Frankie Nelson)
Originally published on Gays With Kids, January 31, 2017.
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