Pride 2014 parents: Ian Colvin on being a gay dad
When Ian Colvin (né Buckley) came out as gay 20 years ago, he thought it meant the death of his long-held dream of becoming a father.
Life, however, gave him the opportunity for that dream to become reality. The 38-year-old RBC employee and his 42-year-old husband, Darryl Colvin, are now the proud fathers of five-year-old Oliver and 19-month-old Elizabeth.
Yet the path to becoming same-sex parents was a roller-coaster ride.
In an interview at the Georgia Straight office, Ian said that even five years ago, the adoption process was quite different.
“There wasn’t a lot of history to go on. There weren’t same-sex-parents groups. There weren’t websites to put you through the process.”
As a same-sex couple, their options for adoption were limited. International adoption wasn’t available to them, and there were only two U.S. states where it was possible.
“I was talking to an agency down in the States and trying to see if we could work with them, and they phoned me back and they’re just like, ‘No, we can’t. You’re a same-sex couple,’ ” he said, “and I just remember bursting out in tears, just like, ‘This is never going to happen.’ ”
After the “intense process” of taking six weeks of parenting classes, a home evaluation by social workers, and reference checks, they received approval from Family Services of Greater Vancouver Adoption Agency, part of the nonprofit Family Services of Greater Vancouver. The Colvins became an exception: while most applicants wait years to become parents, they only had to wait nine months.
Much to Ian’s delight, he said they’ve been treated like any other couple by staff at hospitals, daycares, and schools.
“We got this really cute piece of artwork from our son [who made it at school]. It was, like, how many people are in your family? And there were two guys glued to the top of the picture and there was a little boy glued to the bottom. And they modified that artwork specifically for us without us having to even ask. To me, that’s so empowering.”
He was also able to move back to the suburb where he grew up, Port Moody, to raise his children there, and the family has been embraced without question by others.
Nonetheless, he did experience how biased people are against men taking care of a baby. Most men’s washrooms don’t have baby-changing tables. Plus, there were remarks from strangers.
“You’d go out and you’d get these wonderful people, who probably had the best of intentions, asking you about, ‘Oh, are you feeding them the right formula?’ ‘Why does that formula look like that?’ ‘Oh my goodness, you’re so brave! How can you be taking your child out?’ ”
He has also heard heterocentric comments such as “Oh, you’re giving Mom the day off” and has been asked where his wife is.
While he could have laughed the questions off, he realized he couldn’t if he wanted to teach his children not to be ashamed or closeted.
“When you have kids, you have to—in order to instill that sense of pride in your kids—keep coming out in order to change society’s perception of same-sex families. You have to take more responsibility of coming out.”
Since LGBT communities have traditionally focused on adult activities, Ian expressed pleasure at seeing the slow integration of family-oriented events like the Pride Festival’s Family Zone, as his priorities have shifted since his days as a single man or a member of a couple. (“We’re going to find the bouncy castle before we find the beer garden.”)
He joined the Vancouver Gay Dads meet-up group for social support and has been blogging about his parenting experiences to share them with others.
Most of all, he wants LGBT youth to know that becoming a parent in the future is an option that’s open to them.
“I want to be able to inspire…[people] who have parked that dream and say, ‘Actually, don’t give it up because it’s the most incredible thing that could ever happen.’ ”