Gays With Kids, a new website launched by two Toronto dads, aims
to help gay men navigate – and celebrate – the world of parenthood
Today their lives revolve around their young children, but at one time, Toronto’s Brian Rosenberg and Ferd van Gameren didn’t know how long they would have together.
In 1993, just before the couple started dating, Rosenberg shared his HIV-positive status with family and select friends.
And so during the early years of their relationship, the couple focused on “quality rather than quantity,” says van Gameren, 54.
But the mid-1990s brought about a turning point in the management of the virus, says Rosenberg, 49.
“It wasn’t until around 1996 when the so-called AIDS cocktail regimen…was introduced, that people began to view HIV as a long-term manageable disease.”
Rosenberg and van Gameren could finally begin thinking about their future.
van Gameren says they talked about children very early on, and as time passed, they felt they were missing something. Though they realized it wouldn’t be easy, they knew becoming dads would be fulfilling.
In 2009, through adoption, they welcomed their first child, Levi. And five years later, in June 2014, the couple launched gayswithkids.com, an online community that helps gay men navigate fatherhood.
Although becoming parents was a joyful experience, the couple sought support. They searched for online resources for gay dads, but found nothing. According to Rosenberg, there was “very little for dads, period.” But he knew there was a need.
In 2009, the couple moved from New York to Toronto because as a gay American, Rosenberg couldn’t sponsor van Gameren, who is Dutch.
In 2010, their twin daughters, Sadie and Ella, now 4, joined their family through surrogacy and in 2012, they became permanent Canadian residents.
On June 20, 2013, they celebrated their 20th anniversary by getting married. van Gameren says they wanted to marry when it meant full equality – meaning they would receive all the same local and national rights and privileges as heterosexual couples, including immigration.
Finally, Rosenberg could sponsor van Gameren for a green card, as any heterosexual husband or wife could do.
Now, Rosenberg and van Gameren work full-time on Gays with Kids.
Their mission is “to ensure that every gay dad – regardless of his path to fatherhood or where he lives – feels welcome, represented, and connected to a larger community of gay dads,” says Rosenberg.
Gays With Kids covers issues ranging from coming out, to marriage equality, to being an HIV-positive parent.
And Rosenberg says his status hasn’t impacted their parenting. The children know that he takes medications and he plans to give them more details when it’s appropriate. He says they have only ever known him as a healthy parent.
The couple was ecstatic when they realized that they could adopt or have children through surrogacy, despite Rosenberg’s status.
If anything, Rosenberg says it has made him more incredulous and excited about being a parent and reminds him to “live each day to the fullest.”
And in that spirit, Gayswithkids.com offers fun features like family albums, video interviews with celebrities, contests, and wedding and family creation stories, as well as more than 100 articles published by more than 20 bloggers, experts and seasoned journalists who contribute.
Ian Colvin is a blogger for the site, sharing stories about life with his husband Darryl Colvin, their son Ollie, 5, and daughter Beth, 2.
“What I love…is that it shows the diversity of family and diversity within the gay community,” says Colvin, 38.
“There are stories about couples, single dads, blended families, surrogacy, and adoption. It shows we live in the burbs, and the city and on farms.
“The stories show, more than anything, that we all love being dads. It’s a fantastic representation of our families.”
He adds, “It’s important to have role models, peer support and connections with other gay dads. Gays With Kids provides that.”
The audience isn’t limited to gay dads. Rosenberg says mothers of gay teens often contact them, grateful they can educate themselves and show their sons “this is what your life could look like.”
“Gays With Kids has the power to be a transformative and influential resource for today’s gay youth – as well as their parents,” says Colvin.
A big challenge he faced while growing up and coming to terms with his orientation was believing he wouldn’t have a family.
“Twenty years ago, same-sex couples weren’t allowed to adopt children, let alone get married,” he says.
“I had no access to role models or resources that showed me that I didn’t have to give up the dream of being a dad.”
Meanwhile, Rosenberg says the feedback they’ve received about the website is “overwhelmingly positive,” adding the important role of Gays With Kids is highlighted by the extent of their reach – people in countries where they are persecuted for being gay have expressed gratitude.
van Gameren agrees. “It’s very gratifying to be in the forefront of this.”
Photo: Rosenberg/van Gameren family