Priming Your Kid's School to be Gay Dad-Friendly

My kids are in college and high school now, but I vividly remember the days when my husband and I were anxious about them going to school. We wondered if having two gay dads would negatively impact their experience from nursery school to high school. Would they be shunned? Bullied? Or would they constantly have to explain their family to teachers, classmates and other parents?

I can happily report that they loved school and overall their academic experiences have been positive. Looking back, there are eight things we did every year (when our kids were younger) to prime their schools for a gay-dad family and ensure our children’s success.

StrahFamilyPic.jpg1. Be Proactive

It's always better to be proactive than reactive. Talk to your kid’s teacher, guidance counselor and principal about your family before school starts. This is an opportunity to set the tone that you are proud and open but also have your children’s best interests at heart. Explain how you would like to be referenced. Are you a "Daddy David" and "Daddy Barry" family or a "Daddy" and "Papa" family? How do you explain your family’s story? Surrogacy or adoption? Birth mother or no mother? It's important that you let your school know how you want your family’s story to be told before an inaccurate or false narrative is set. A simple explanation is usually the best. We used, "We are a two-dad family and our son Zev was adopted at birth." End of story. 

2. Have Representation

For younger children, make sure your family is represented in the classroom. An easy way to do this is to give some of your favorite gay dad books to your teacher. You might ask the teacher to read one of them to the class.

3. Coping with Difficult Situations

Ask your teacher before school starts how they would handle a difficult situation involving your child so they think about it in advance. Talk about age appropriate questions you anticipate. We were surprised and thought that once our family was explained in the first or second years of preschool, our children would not get any more questions. But we learned that as children grow older and mature cognitively, they ask more sophisticated questions about family configurations and reproduction.

4. Give Your Teacher Talking Points

If necessary, give your teacher some talking points such as, “Some kids have a mom and a dad, some kids have a mom and no dad, and some kids have two moms and no dads or two dads and no moms.” You can also give your teacher some resources for further references such as HRC organization and GLSEN. It's great to increase awareness about same-sex families, but keep in mind that your child might not feel as comfortable as we do or want to be the teaching example.

5. Empower Your Children

Empower your child to handle any situation and decide what (if any) information they wish to share. We used the educational booklet W.I.S.E.-UP! (from the Center for Adoption Support and Education) and read it to our children and encouraged role play. It stands for: Walk Away, Inform, Share, Educate.

Most children are naturally curious. You can count on your kids getting questions such as:

  • “Why do you have two dads?"
  • "Which one is your real father?"
  • "Where is your mother?"
  • "Why did your mother give you up?"
  • "Why didn’t your parents want you?"
  • "Whose tummy did you grow in…”

Kids of a different race than their adoptive parents often hear, “Why is your color skin different than your dads’?"

6. Be Present

Be as present and involved as possible at school. Studies show that kids whose parents demonstrate a vested interest in their school do better academically. But it also helps to know the other parents, families, faculty, and staff. Join the PTA, auction, or diversity committee. Host the class potluck. Organize the bake sale. Arrange play dates. Volunteer. Try to do as many drop-offs and pick-ups as you can.

7. Enlist Allies

Enlist allies at your school. Is anyone else LGBT or LGBT friendly? Who could you speak to if there is an issue? Is there a Diversity Group? If there is, you should join it to make sure gay families are on the agenda.

8. Contact Others

Speak to other gay families already at your school. Ask school administrators for names from the directory so you can hear first-hand how their experience has been. We often hosted all of the LGBT-parented families at our home for a meal so the kids could get to know each other and be part of a community that reflected their family configuration.

Although the above suggestions require time and effort, doing them will help to ensure that your child (and you) have an A+ school experience!

David Strah, MA, AMFT is a registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (IMF101904), and has a private practice in Larchmont Village under the supervision of Paul Keeley, LMFT #45541.

David is the co-author of Gay Dads: A Celebration of Fatherhood (Penguin/Putnam 2003). He has a masters degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in LGBT Affirmative Therapy from Antioch University, Los Angeles and a masters in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

To learn more about David or to schedule an appointment, visit or call (917) 922-2650.


POP Hacks! "Daddy's got this..."

We all experience it--people looking left and right, high and low for Mommy. When people see us out in the world with our kids, many assume that we have no clue what to do... that we're just waiting for Mommy to show up.

In fact, we manage fine without Mommy. Like all parents, we have mastered the basics and we have even developed some pretty awesome "hacks" to get the job done with finesse.

Welcome to Pop Luck Club's new media project - POP Hacks! "Daddy's got this..."

These 60-second clips are "tips & tricks" we have learned along the way and we now pass them on to future dads, so they can be confident and get the job done with style.

Hatch.jpgTopics range from home time with your newborn:

  • Calming Baby
  • Bathtime
  • Swaddling Like a Pro
  • The Night Shift
  • The Perfect Burp
  • Eye Contact, Smiles & Cooing

To "On-the-go" baby tips:

  • Wearable Babies
  • Snack Hacks
  • Stroller Technique
  • Driving Miss Baby
  • Costco with Multiples
  • "Are you the Manny?"

We cover social and academic development:

  • My Kid's Bookshelf
  • The Right Daycare
  • PTA Dad!
  • Prep School for Mother's Day
  • Drawing the Family Tree

Being a daddy brings years of challenge and adventure. These POP Hacks are targeted to give you a head start on many of your future victories.

Take a minute to record your best advice! Whether you use a tripod, selfie-stick, or a friend, make sure you are well lit, stand relatively still, and that we can hear your words. No need to edit, but keep it between 55-65 seconds. Send videos to [email protected]




Back-to-School: Finding a Supportive Community

On Sunday, September 13, 2015, we will host a panel discussion entitled, Back-to-School: Finding a Supportive Community. So that we can maximize our time to ask in-depth questions of our experts, we posed some of the most common questions of our membership in a webinar, which will remain on our website as a primer on the topic.

The video excerpt runs about 15 minutes and we will be posting more as it is edited over the next days.

For more information and to RSVP for Sunday, CLICK HERE


Family Building: Surrogacy, Fostering & Adoption

On Sunday, April 12, 2015, we will host a panel discussion on Family Building. So that we can maximize our time to ask in-depth questions of our experts, we posed some of the most common questions of our membership in a webinar, which will remain on our website as a primer on the topic.

The video runs about 37 minutes and we discuss Surrogacy, Fostering & Adoption. For each method, we touch on:

  • Sequence & Timeline;
  • Range of Costs; and
  • Risks & Variables.

For more information and to RSVP for Sunday, CLICK HERE


Int'l Family Equality Day

ifed.jpgOn May 4, 2014, LGBTQ family organizations from around the world will join forces, for the third time, to increase the international visibility of LGBTQ families.

Regardless of different legal, political and social circumstances around the world, the dramatic increase in the numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) people choosing to raise children is a global phenomenon.


In July 2011, LGBTQ family activists from around the world gathered for the first ever International Symposium of LGBTQ parenting organizations. The symposium provided an opportunity to establish ongoing international cooperation in areas such as research, visibility and advocacy, and the development of resources and programs for LGBTQ families worldwide. One of the key outcomes was the establishment of the International Family Equality Day (IFED), which will take place every year on the first Sunday in May.

Pop Luck Club is hosting the Los Angeles event for IFED at picturesque Lake Hollywood Park on Saturday, May 4, 2014. All are welcome - gay and lesbian parents, prospective parents, straight allies and everyone's kids!

We will share a meal, play lots of games and do arts & crafts activities. There is no charge, but bring a picnic blanket and food to share. RSVP HERE.


It Gets Better... flashback!

Back in Fall 2010, members of Pop Luck Club filmed an "It Gets Better" video, telling our stories and (hopefully) inspiring young people to find their own path to happiness in adulthood. In fact, the video caught the attention of IGB founder Dan Savage and was featured on the site over the 2010 Thanksgiving weekend, which yielded over 6,000 views and many emailed messages of support and thanks from around the country.

It is a great snapshot of our group, filmed during one of our monthly meetings. If you've got ten minutes, settle in to a chair, grab some tissues and be inspired by the love and fulfillment we have found through becoming fathers.


Celebration Theatre Supports PLC!

CelebrationLogo.jpgWe are very excited to announce our newest sponsor... Celebration Theatre. Thanks to PLC member Michael A. Shepperd, Co-Artistic Director at Celebration Theatre, for making it happen. On Saturday, April 24, 2014, Celebration Theatre celebrates its 31st season and honors actors Robert Forster and Wendie Malick at its Vibrant Voice Awards.

"Being the Artistic Director of an LGBTQ  theatre and being a dad, I wanted to make sure that we not only did works that would interest and intrigue everyone, I also wanted to make sure we included works for LGBTQ folks with families," say Shepperd. "Since taking over as Co-Artistic director, we have done three family oriented shows and have commissioned two more. I look forward to Celebration becoming  a place where dads can come for a night out away from the kids or an afternoon of fun for the whole family."

Celebration Theatre was founded in 1982 by gay rights pioneer and co-founder of the Mattachine Society, Chuck Rowland, when he leased a storefront in Silverlake to start a community theatre dedicated to producing gay-themed material.

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Remembering Dan, Ron & David


(reprinted  from, 9/11/13)

BrandhorstGamboa.jpgWhen United Flight 175 flew into the second tower of the World Trade Center in New York City 12 years ago today, three dear friends of The Pop Luck Club were lost. Daniel Brandhorst and Ronald Gamboa and their young son David died, perished in the terrible event. Though their story did not get press on a national level, it is part of the fabric of LGBT history and the quest to achieve family equality for LGBT people.

Dan and Ron were charter members of The Pop Luck Club, a group of gay dads gathering monthly in West Hollywood to offer support, resources and kid-friendly activities. The couple met in 1987. When they adopted David in 1998, they also took on the challenge of helping many other prospective dads to find their way to creating families of their own. David was in the first wave of Pop Luck kids who were regulars at the West Hollywood Park playground. Those who knew the family saw how parenting increased the deep bond Dan and Ron shared as they watched young David blossom.

We are grateful for their time with us and we miss them.

Dan and Ron were part of an increasing number of LGBT parents who were willing to be visible and thereby change the hearts and minds of mainstream America. According to the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Americans opposed LGBT adoption in 1999. By 2012, opposition had dropped to 42 percent, more than a point per year.

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Pop Luck Club 9/11 Memorial

Reprinted with permission of Karen Ocamb, LGBT/POV and FrontiersLA.
About 80 people came out for a 9/11 memorial sponsored by the city of West Hollywood and the Pop Luck Club of Los Angeles on Sunday at the West Hollywood Park Auditorium. They honored Pop Luck Club co-founders Daniel Brandhorst, Ronald Gamboa and their son David Reed, 3, who were on board United Flight 175 when it crashed into the second tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2011.
911Memorial.jpg“Ten years later and it’s still difficult to comprehend,” said Rich Valenza, co-president of the Pop Luck Club. “Things were different ten years ago and very different for prospective gay fathers.”

West Hollywood Mayor John Duran said that “the world suddenly changed in one day” on Sept. 11, 2001, but for one brief moment, America seemed united.

Rich Valenza, co-President of The Pop Luck Club, could barely get through his opening remarks. “Ten years later and it’s still difficult to comprehend,” he said, choking up. Screams of children playing outside the West Hollywood Park Auditorium punctuated the moments of silence, though no one inside was perturbed. “Things were different ten years ago and very different for prospective gay fathers.”

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