Do gay dads of color need to be more visible? Is being a gay dad of color a “thing” that needs to be discussed on its own? This week we tackle – ok, perhaps “approach” is the better word - racial issues with two gay dads: actor Joe Aaron Reid and activist Greg Yorgey-Girdy. We talked prejudice and extra-levels of sensitivity and difficulty on one hand, and on the other, setting an example, drawing from diverse and rich cultures, and educating the straight, black community.
Gay dads of color draw special attention just by walking into a store with their kids—especially when their kid is not the same color. “People would think that I took [my daughter] from someone or I was, like, a housekeeper,” says Greg Yorgey-Girdy, a father of three kids through adoption.
“Except for one lady, she was an older black woman, I remember her coming to me and saying, ‘your daughter is absolutely beautiful.’ I think what she meant by that is ‘who’s that kid?’ – she allowed me to say ‘thank you’ or allowed me to say ‘no that’s not my kid.’”
Turns out that many in the black community see gay fatherhood as a ‘white’ thing - mainly because of a lack of visibility of gay dads of color. “It’s very easy for, let’s say, a black church to see a couple of gay white dads and say, ‘well that’s what they’re doing.’ But if they see a couple of gay black dads, or an interracial couple, something that’s a little bit closer to home, maybe there’s the kind of understanding of ‘oh, it’s not a them thing.’ There’s so much of ‘this is them and we’re us’ and I think that representation matters.”
According to Yorgey-Girdy, it was in his African-American family culture to hide the fact that he was gay and not discuss it, even after he got married. When the kids came along, it forced the family to normalize his relationship, and now they have different conversations.
For Joe, the path to fatherhood was via surrogacy. He and his husband, an interracial couple, ended up using a mixed, “half-black Half-white, donor,” he says.
“We thought we’d end up having some sort of shades of caramel, and it would look like what would happen if two men could have a baby. That’s not what happened at all – my daughter looks exactly like me and my son looks exactly like my husband.”
“So I’m out with my son, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white boy, and he has a tantrum in the middle of the store or whatever, screaming ‘no, no,no’ and theres a 6”2’ black man grabbing him. People are like ‘who are you to this child?’ and you have to deal with the tantrum and explain who you are at the same time.
“That boils down to a bigger conversation, like, the idea of racial constructs in our society and what does that mean,” Reid continues. “I think that gay dads of color should be out and vocal, because there are many gay dads who are white or white-appearing and I think that that’s predominantly the culture of gay parenting nowadays. Gay dads of color have so much to offer, their culture and upbringing, values and things that are specific to our culture, and I think that it’s important to pass that along.”
“Our job as gay dads is to educate, is to be open and vulnerable and put ourselves out there because how do we expect people to normalize something that we’re not willing to put out there as normal”
Gregory Yorgey-GirdyGregory maintains an active agenda of philanthropic undertakings, which include, his role as Co-Chair of Liberty City Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club, Committeeperson for Ward 48/Division, Treasurer and Board Member of Philadelphia Family Pride, President of the Philadelphia Texas Exes, and as an active member of the Philadelphia 1st Police District’s