It was our first Father’s Day. We had been fathers for approximately eleven months, but this would be our first year officially celebrating the Hallmark holiday as dads. It seemed necessary to mark this momentous occasion with something more than cake…or rather, in addition to cake because every holiday demands cake. We spent the weeks before Father’s Day searching online for a family-friendly, father-centric activity. The local zoo was offering free admission for all dads with the paid admission of a child so we settled on the zoo…because we like the zoo and also because we’re cheap and there is nothing cheaper than free.
In the days leading up to our zoo trip my mind was preoccupied by a single thought. It was this same thought I was now obsessing over as we drove the ten minutes from our house to the zoo. What if two dads was one too many? I imagined the attendant refusing to allow both of my son’s fathers to enter the zoo for free. Managers would be called and scenes would be made. Our first Father’s Day would be in ruins as we slunk away on principle.
The parking lot was full. We eventually found a space and made our way to the end of the half-mile line that stretched into the distance. While my husband and son discussed which animals they were most excited to see that day, I silently stewed in the soup of my inevitable persecution. The closer we got to the ticket booth the more anxious I became. I had convinced myself that this was not going to go well. And if when that moment came that we were singled out for our sexuality how exactly would I handle it? Would I cause a scene and risk embarrassing my son just to prove a point? Or would I fork over the extra $15 and live to fight another day?
The line inched up and I pictured myself calling the local TV stations—the teaser on the six o’clock news: Gay Dads Day at the Zoo Goes Bottoms Up! The line continued to move. I envisioned our new six-bedroom house (with an indoor pool and elevator) that we would purchase with the profits from O’Donnell-Collar v. Pittsburgh Zoo. We were next in line. I saw myself becoming a self-righteous pundit on msnbc; I would be Rachel Maddow’s favorite guest and together we would sneer at those conservative dumbos over at Fox.
Have a good time. Oh, and Happy Father’s Day.
The voice of the attendant brought me back to reality. There was no scene. There were no questions. There was only, “Have a good time. Oh, and Happy Father’s Day.” As the three of us walked through the gates I realized that I was…disappointed. I was so ready for a fight, but the fight never came. There would be no profile on the six o’clock news. There would be no six bedroom house with an indoor pool and an elevator. There would be no Rachel Maddow.
My son had two dads and no one cared.
My disappointment quickly passed, giving way to something far worse: shame. I expected the worst and the worst turned out to be me. If we listen to the news and social media we become convinced that everyone is out to get us. We believe that every person we meet will judge us based on our race, our religion, our gender, our sexuality. Every day we show up for a fight that never comes.
Yes, there are bad people in the world. There are people who hate and oppress and discriminate and will hurt you just as soon as look at you, but they are not all people. Most people are kind and accepting and they don’t care if you have two dads or six heads.
I’m taking off the gloves. I’m going to turn down the noise from TV and social media. I’m going to anticipate the best and if the worst comes, at least it won’t be me bringing it.
Read more about my adventures as a gay adoptive father in my book Which One of You is the Mother?
Available for pre-order on Amazon now. Release date August 24, 2015.