Parenting is a tough enough job on its own. Add to that the challenge of being accepted for what kind of a parent you are, and the whole thing can feel insurmountable. But that hasn’t stopped two dads in New Orleans from being extraordinary parents to their little girl.
Husbands Erik and Douglas Alexander have taken to Instagram and their blog NolaPapa to help create visibility around what it means to be positive, loving gay dads. After adopting their daughter Allie Mae in 2015, they wanted an outlet to reach out to other LGBTQ families and document their own family’s journey.
In the process of sharing their story, Erik and Douglas have become a beacon of hope for gay parents in the South.
“I have connected with so many gay families all across the world on Instagram. It is absolutely amazing,” Erik tells Babble. “From one gay family that has eight kids, to another family that has four special needs kids, the strength and resilience I see in these families give me so much motivation to be a better dad.”
After dating for almost 11 years, Erik and Douglas married in 2015 when Louisiana legalized same-sex marriage. And despite an expected 3-5 year waiting period, they were able to adopt their daughter Allie Mae in only a month and a half. Suddenly, their small suburban world changed as more and more people noticed their growing family. Their town is close to New Orleans, which is considered to be a very liberal city. But, according to Erik, “The 10-15 minutes it takes to get here takes you back in time about 30 years.”
Erik took to writing a poignant story earlier this year about the weekly struggles of seeing people stare at them when they’re out with Allie Mae. The duo believe that staring stems from a simple lack of awareness, since they are the only gay couple they know in their town. The reactions have triggered long held pain from the bullying and obstacles Erik encountered as a gay youth in the South.
“As a teenager, learning that I wasn’t like all the other boys was particularly difficult,” he shares in his story. “I was often bullied about my differences … Over time, it really hurt me and would often break me down.”
In Erik’s home state of Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant signed a 2016 religious freedom law that would allow religious organizations — such as businesses, schools, adoption agencies, etc. — to turn away LGBTQ customers. Thankfully, a federal judge blocked the controversial law. But for it to go that far shows how much discrimination still exists.
Up until recently, Erik and Douglas have struggled for months to find daycare for Allie Mae. “Many daycares here are Catholic, and Catholic churches will not accept a gay family into their daycare. So that was a bit frightening,” Erik tells Babble.
By creating visibility around his family, Erik hopes to encourage other LGBTQ families living in the South and beyond to embrace the vulnerability of being seen as “different.”
“The more gays and gay families that live in an area such as this one, the more opportunities we’ll have to maybe help normalize society around us for gay families, while helping change mindsets around what a traditional family can be for the others that live in our town that may be set in their ways,” he tells Babble.
Erik also wants to embolden gay parents to feel just as qualified and able to care for their kiddos as any other family. “Allow the outside onlookers to see for themselves that we are awesome parents. We love our spouses with all of our heart, and we would do anything in the world for our children,” Erik says.
He calls Allie Mae his “angel,” and despite any challenges he and Douglas face in raising her, he always wants his daughter to see him as a confident, strong dad.
Erik and Douglas remind everyone how truly important it is to include love and acceptance in your life — as great examples to your little ones. What an inspiring team!