Gay/Bi/Queer (GBQ) fathers are under-represented in all forms of research. In 2004, the Father Involvement Research Alliance’s (FIRA) GBQ Fathers Cluster undertook a unique opportunity to explore father involvement and the experiences of three groupings of GBQ men.
Researcher Scott Duggan conducted interviews with GBQ identified men who had children in the context of heterosexual relationships, those who became fathers in the context of a GBQ identity, and those who were not yet fathers.
Key themes emerging from these interviews include:
The combination of lack of visibility and negative stereotypes has meant that many GBQ men give up the idea of bringing children into their lives. Many are unaware of the options available to them for becoming parents. As well, many men who have had children in heterosexual contexts experience high levels of fear about accessing legal systems to gain access to their children because of the perceived homophobia and heterosexism of these systems.
However, there was also a budding sense of possibility for Canadian GBQ fathers and those considering parenthood. The Father Visibility Project Web Stories address the need for visibility. The desire to celebrate GBQ fathers motivated various projects, including an annual celebration of fathers at The 519, and the Celebrating All Fabulous Fathers poster.
FIRA (Father Involvement Research Alliance)
FIRA was a pan-Canadian research group that was dedicated to the development and sharing of knowledge focusing on father involvement. FIRA conducted a community-university research alliance project between January 2004 and December 2009.
Please note that FIRA is no longer an active entity. FIRA was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Community University Research Alliance Program (CURA).
FIRA sponsored seven fatherhood research clusters which explore issues related to immigrant fathers, gay/bi/queer fathers, separated and divorced fathers, young fathers, indigenous fathers, new fathers, and fathers of children with special needs.
Gay/Bi/Queer Fathers Cluster:
Cluster Leader: Rachel Epstein
Community Partner: Chris Veldhoven
Researcher: Scott Duggan
Community members: Jack Harmer, Paul Carr and Tim Wilson
The Fabulous Fathers’ Day Picnic
The 2008 event also marked the launch of the Father Visibility Project’s Web Stories.
The Fabulous Fathers’ Day Picnic has been hosted every year since by The 519 on the second Sunday in June as part of the Daddy Papa & Me Family Resource Centre program. For upcoming dates, check our calendar.
The Father Visibility Working Group was created in 2006 to increase visibility, empowerment and the sense of entitlement to parent among GBQ fathers and prospective fathers. Six stories went online on June 14, 2008, the day of the first Fabulous Fathers’ Day Picnic.
“In an effort to convey my thoughts and deeply felt feelings regarding my role as a gay man, father of a gay son, as well as a straight son and more recently a grandfather, I must relate a little bit of history which brought me to this point in life.”
“I am 44 years old and after living for over 40 years in the closeted, closed-minded world of Newfoundland, events and life made it impossible for me to continue living a lie as to who I am. So I decided to be true to me. Little did I know the journey of awareness, pain, soul-searching, tears, laughter and openness that lay ahead.”
“As a gay man who married, fathered, and raised three children before coming out, I agonized over many issues related to my sexual orientation. In recent years, my children and their mother have made it clear that I had been a good father, but when I was coming to terms with my sexual orientation and considering changes to my life, doubts about many things surfaced, including my role as father.”
“I always knew I wanted to be a father – just like my dad. In the early 1980’s when I was coming out, this just wasn’t an option, so I got on with being ‘gay’. I’d moved to the ‘Big City’ and got to sample all it offered. I sampled a little much, and found out I was HIV positive in 1989. I expected to be joining the ranks of the mourned within a couple of years. A funny thing happened though – I didn’t die. At the same time, I was regularly walking past a building with a daycare, watching dads with their toddlers and pre-schoolers and feeling a tremendous envy and longing.”
“Entering my early forties and having been out to myself as gay since fourteen I have had plenty of opportunity to consider parenting. As a teenager, it was with deep regret that I contemplated life with no children of my own in it. As I grew older, I became somewhat more sophisticated and aware of diverse families. I hoped that after establishing a stable relationship – say five years – my partner and I could adopt. This was a good theory and I spent my twenties and thirties looking for that elusive partner. After several false starts (eighteen months seemed to be the hump I couldn’t quite get past) I resigned myself to a life where I would not get to be a Dad. I grieved this reality in private. Living in a community where “breeders” were openly derided, I did not experience a lot of support for my closeted desire. “
“We love children, and are fortunate enough to be able to surround ourselves (though not often enough) with 11 nieces and nephews between us, the youngest being my only brother’s son, Evan, one month old today. Canada may have brought us a lot of things we wanted, but being separated from family when all you want to do is fawn over a new baby is one of the more difficult realities of life in another country.”