06/15/2012 04:53 pm ET Updated Jun 17, 2012

Gay Dads In San Francisco Talk Raising Kids In The City (PHOTOS)

SAN FRANCISCO -- During 2011's heated mayoral race, an unusual campaign ad flickered across San Francisco television screens.

The 30-second video, titled "Someplace New," showed San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty, an openly gay politician and candidate, dancing in slow-motion with his young daughter, Sidney, in the aisle of an empty Municipal Railway (Muni) train.


"Sidney thinks Muni is magic," said Dufty in a voiceover. "We go underground and come up someplace new. I want all of us to see it that way."

The topic was not especially revolutionary; the often late and overcrowded Muni system is a hot-button topic in San Francisco.

But the moment the spot aired, Dufty made history: It was the first political ad campaign in the nation to feature the child of a gay candidate. While Dufty's profession may be unique, however, his role as a gay parent is not -- especially in San Francisco, a city with a rich LGBT history and population.

"Honestly, it didn't even occur to me that it would be the first," Dufty later said in an interview with The Huffington Post. "When you become a parent, you start to see the world through your child's eyes."

David Lytle and Brice Gosnell, partners for more than 18 years, fill their days with activities focused on their 3-year-old son Migs. They take trips to the park, SoccerTots practice, toddler dance and music classes, and spend weekends exploring the Muir Beach tide pools.

"The beginning of our family may have been different. But in the end, you have your own set of rules and accomplishments, celebrations and frustrations," said Lytle. "Honestly, I don't even think about it most of the time -- that I'm gay and a dad.


Michael Mahoney and his partner of 19 years, Brad Rolfe, are raising their 18-month-old daughter, Stella.

"One of the first things I noticed as a gay dad was how many people say things like, 'Oh, giving mom the day off?' You have to come out every day all over again," said Mahoney to HuffPost.

"It can get tiring," he said. "But it's a good opportunity to educate people, and 9 times out of 10 they think it's the greatest thing they've ever heard -- like we're doing Stella some amazing favor when really she's the biggest blessing in our life," he laughed. "It's great that people are coming from a positive standpoint."

But not all their struggles have been so positive.

When Sidney Dufty was born in 2006, Dufty and Sidney's mother, Rebecca Goldfader, a lesbian and a close friend of Dufty's, faced heated criticism from local news broadcaster Pete Wilson.

On his KGO radio show, Wilson blasted Dufty and Goldfader for bringing a child into a non-romantic, co-parenting environment:

I do not now, nor have I ever accepted, the idea that a baby is a toy, that it is a social science project or a possession. A baby is a human being, a delicate thing, our past, present and future. It is not an experiment. It is not an opportunity to see how far you can carry your views on parenting, alternative lifestyles or diversity in family structures. […] You think the high divorce rate in this country has been good for kids? So, why not start out divorced? See if that'll work.

"He said it was like a football player and a cheerleader giving birth to a mascot," said Dufty. "As if the fact that Rebecca and I didn't have an intimate relationship would somehow affect our relationship with Sidney."

Wilson died shortly after making his remarks. "I wish he were still around so he could see Sidney. Maybe he would feel differently," Dufty said. "I guess I'll never know."


Kevin Wakelin, founder of Castro Dads, San Francisco's largest organization for gay fathers, has tried to find positive answers to some of the questions about gay parenting.

"Being a gay father puts you into a new world, where you're straddling the gay community and the straight community," said Wakelin to HuffPost. "The gay community is my community in a very deep and personal way. But when I became a father, I oftentimes had more in common with the straight parents I met."

When Wakelin's daughter, Hana, was born eight years ago, his life changed dramatically.

"The San Francisco gay community does so many exciting activities that I constantly have to turn down. 'No, I can't go to a weeknight dinner party.' 'No, I can't just drop everything and go to the beach.' But you don't want to be the token gay dad in a community of straight parents either."

That's why Wakelin founded Castro Dads, named for San Francisco's historically gay neighborhood. Inspired by Dufty's informal LGBT parent dinner parties, Wakelin created a Facebook group for gay fathers and their families. Now, the organization hosts weekly dinners in the Castro neighborhood and frequent picnics in Dolores Park.

"Even that presents its challenges," he said. "There was this euphoric feeling at the beginning that we'd finally found our people. And then you realize that just because all of you are gay and all of you are dads, doesn't mean you're going to all get along."

Lytle agreed. "We're certainly not all cut from the same cloth."

Wakelin noted that beyond providing a community for fathers, the Castro Dads meet-ups also allow children of same-sex couples to meet.

Wakelin's daughter has been attending the dinners once a week since she was 3. "What do you think that does for her self-confidence?" he said. "It normalizes our family."

Meet some of San Francisco's gay dads in our slideshow below. And Happy Father's Day to all of our local dads!

Gay Dads in San Francisco