It was an absolute pleasure having Manni from Two Dads and a Kid, along with his husband Darren, join me live to discuss the challenges of gay parenting. While I am not gay myself I have a number of family members that are gay so this is a topic very close to my heart and something that I really feel needs to be addressed due to the stigma associated with gay parenting.
A Bit About Manni
Manni is from Swaziland and moved to South Africa a few years ago. He started his blog Two Dads and a Kid more to journal their journey into parenthood, the challenges that they encounter and what the experience has been like. He now also blogs to break down the stigma attached to gay parenting.
They are based in Johannesburg and have been married for a while and have an eight year old son.
Why I Wanted To Interview Manni from Two Dads and a Kid
The first time I stumbled across Manni’s instagram feed I fell in love with it, what speaks to me when I visit his page is the love and close bond between Manni and Darren and also between them and their son. I felt that they were the perfect people to contact to address this very important topic.
What Challenges Have You Faced As Gay Parents?
Finding The Right Adoption Agency
It was a challenge to find the right adoption agency that wanted to work with them in the adoption process. Manni says that talking to friends now it seems that the process seems to be a lot easier and there are a lot more agencies that are open to engaging with same sex couples to adopt.
Fortunately they did manage to find an agency that was happy to work with them and that did not discriminate.
Question About Whether Two Men Would Be Able To Raise A Child
There were a lot of questions from heterosexual people questioning their ability as men to raise a child, asking whether they know what to do. There were people that asked them a year into their parenting journey whether they were still ok and coping.
A lot of things were mundane things, such as changing a nappy or heating a bottle of milk. There has been a lot of assumptions that men are incapable of doing these sorts of things which is not true at all. These assumptions are based on ignorance.
Social Media Trolls
There have been a lot of trolls online making derogatory comments about Manni and Darren as well as their son.
The Stigma Attached To Gay Men
There seems to be such a stigma attached to gay men. A good example is where I shared about one of my high school teachers that was gay and parents constantly tried to get him out of the school because they were worried about their sons.
Being gay does not equal being a paedophile yet so many people are uncomfortable about gay men being parents or being around children.
There also seems to be slightly more acceptance of gay women than there is of gay men.
As Darren says this may be due to gay men being more open and accepting of their lifestyle. It could also have something to do with sexual fantasies, where it is deemed “socially acceptable” for men to fantasize about being with two women but not so socially acceptable to think about being with a man.
They have no problems with their son going to playdates at other houses but it is not always reciprocated with those children accepting playdates to be at their house. Some people feel that there is an elevated risk factor because they are gay.
This is not related to being gay parents but it does make things even trickier that Manni is coloured and Darren is white, and while their son is coloured he looks black. People notice and stare trying to figure out the family dynamic.
It is important to have open communication all the time, lots of discussions and not hiding anything from him. They explain things to his son in a way that he understands what is actually going on.
They have explained to him that he has two dads that live with him and there is nothing wrong with that. They have also explained to him that just because he has two dads does not mean that he does not have a mother. By preparing him in advance so that when something does come up he is already empowered to deal with those things.
Dealing With Things Age Appropriately
They have dealt with different things at different times as their son grows up and needs to start dealing with new things. Last year they were focusing on the fact that he has two dads that love each other and him, now this year they have introduced the word gay as another way to describe themselves.
What Advice Do You Have For Gay Couples That Want To Start A Family?
Becoming a parent when you are gay is not a simple arrangement like it can be when you are heterosexual. It takes a lot of commitment, planning and dedication.
It is important as a couple to talk about it and figure out whether you are wanting to be parents together and are you doing it for the right reasons? This is a lifelong decision and it needs to be taken seriously. This goes for any couple wanting to be parents.
Then you need to look at your different options for starting a family. There is surrogacy, adoption or fostering for gay couples and a few more options for lesbian couples such as using a sperm donor.
It is important to look at your finances to see where you stand and which route is ideal for you. Surrogacy is not cheap, so make sure you have the finances available if this is an option that appeals to you.
If you are unsure of the adoption process you can start off with fostering a child and then see if that is a journey you would like to embark on.
Manni shares that adopting a child is a fantastic way to go, there are so many children that need a home and all they need is love.
The adoption process is not always simple. For Manni and Darren it was an 18 month process and they were put through rigorous procedures and checks before being approved. They had to get police clearance to ensure they weren’t on any criminal registers such as a paedophile register, they had to prove they had stable income sources and they had visits from a social worker to check their home environment. The social worker wanted to meet their friends and family to ensure that they were upstanding people.
Parting Tips From Manni & Darren
Once you’ve made the decision to be parents and gone through the process of starting a family enjoy the experience of being a parent, give that child all the love you can and more.
Remember that any child that has been given up for adoption, even with all the love in the world, will always have a feeling of rejection. If you are going to adopt, remember that they have been rejected once already, so don’t reject them a second time.
Darren and Manni share that they have made a huge effort to be their son’s best friend. They spend a lot of time together, reading, playing sport, training together and doing activities. Their son has his own friends and interests but they have made a safe sanctuary for him, so when he does have those moments when people are negative towards him then he knows he has a safe space at home.
Due to this he is quite open and talks to his dads when something has happened or if someone has said something.
I love what Darren shared about making sure that you are your child’s safe place, this is great advice and something that I always strive for with my children.