Erik Alexander and his husband Douglas are fathers to two beautiful little girls. But despite their family being an example of love, respect, and affection, that doesn’t stop others from judging them.
Alexander recounted one specific incident to Love What Matters in which the couple and their daughters went out to eat in their hometown of New Orleans and received dirty looks from the family seated beside them:
“They were obviously disgusted. I admit, that hurt.”
But as anyone in love knows, the opinions of others aren’t what matters.
Alexander also reports getting rude and invasive questions from onlookers when out with his family:
“Sometimes people ask ignorant questions like ‘who is the mom?’ Or ‘how will you talk to her about girl problems?’ and that is much easier to shrug off.”
Even long before the couple had children, they faced challenges from family and friends as a gay couple in the South. But as Alexander recounts, nothing was going to stop their relationship from blooming. He remembers meeting his husband and falling in love immediately:
“I was working at a night club on Bourbon Street and stepped into the back. He sat at a desk filling out a new hire work form. At that moment it was like time stopped…I still remember what the room smelled like, I even remember what we were wearing…People often ask me if it was love at first sight. My answer to them is always ‘absolutely.’”
The two met after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the city and its citizens were still recovering, but the couple found solace in their new relationship. In their early 20s, they went through the same “wild phase” that most young people do:
“Our twenties were wild to say the least. New Orleans doesn’t sleep. The bars never close. So, spending so many nights in the club meant we also saw so many sunrises.”
But like many of us, they also recognized when it was time to settle down:
“Once we cleaned up our act there was no stopping us. It was like something ignited in us and we had a burning desire to make something happen for ourselves.”
Unfortunately, the couple still faced barriers when starting their careers:
“Douglas decided he wanted to pursue a career that would allow him to help people who have a history of substance abuse. At first all of the local universities rejected his application. The community college accepted him but pressured him to enroll in an air-conditioner repair program saying medical school was too lofty of a goal for someone like him.”
Luckily, Douglas didn’t give up or let anyone else’s idea of what he was capable of stand in the way of his goals:
“He pushed forward anyway and ended up getting a full scholarship to Loyola University. He went to college and also started a fundraiser to bring scientific instruments to local classrooms across New Orleans by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. After Loyola he graduated from LSU New Orleans School of Medicine.
He is now a doctor of medicine in a psychiatry residency program which will allow him to practice a mind-and-body approach for substance abuse.”
In 2014, the couple got engaged and bought a house the following year. That also happened to be the year when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Erik and Douglas were married in the French Quarter on August 1st of 2015.
Then came their whirlwind quest to start a family. The two had always wanted to become fathers but were told that it could take 5-7 years since they were a gay couple. But fate was on their side and they only waited a mere 3-and-a-half weeks to welcome their first daughter because her original adoptive parents backed out after she was born prematurely:
“Our baby was born prematurely and she had to stay in the NICU. She was born at 30 weeks and because of this the original adoptive family backed out of the adoption and left our angel without a family to go home to. Then the birth mom felt that may have been a sign for her to keep the baby. And she did. For 4 days. I was an emotional wreck…On the fourth day the birth mom decided to change her mind. As life would have it we were indeed allowed to adopt our baby girl!”
This left the couple with a month to prepare their home for a new baby as she spent time in the NICU gaining weight and getting stronger. Alexander said “After all of that drama I guess we did what any parent would do in that moment. We ran to Target!”
The couple brought their first daughter home on December 4th, 2015 and were able to adopt again a year and a half later. That’s when Alexander left his job as a general manager of a restaurant in the French Quarter to become a stay-at-home dad.
“Douglas and I both felt strongly about one of us being home with the girls. I knew this was my calling.”
Now Alexander runs a blog called Nola Papa as well, highlighting the couple’s adventures as dads in the South. While they often get unwelcome attention, they’ve learned to treat it as a teaching moment:
“Being a family with two dads makes it obvious whenever you walk into places. People often stare. Most of the time it is innocent and purely out of curiosity. For many around here, especially living in the south, people aren’t exposed to same-sex families often…I constantly tell myself this is a teaching moment for them. They probably have never seen a family like ours before and they are curious. I suppose if we need to be the ones to help teach them then so be it.”
But that doesn’t make it easier when someone looks at their loving family with disgust. Nevertheless, Alexander’s blog has been a great coping mechanism:
“To have someone look over with such hatred validates the reasons I started my blog.”
Sadly, much of Alexander’s own family has been at the heart of some of the couple’s most hurtful moments:
“The most hurtful situations has come from my own family…My ‘life choices’ interfere with their messed up view of society and because of that they are absolutely absent in my life. At first it hurt but now I am strong enough to know I have too many people that love me and my family to worry about someone who doesn’t. I am so lucky to have a mother who loves us unconditionally and stands up for us regularly. She is my best friend and I will always admire her strength.”
But at the end of the day, the couple knows that they are just like every other loving family:
“We love our children just as any other straight family does. Just like them, we would do anything on earth for our babies. We do that every single day regardless if we are two dads. We are that family who sits around the dinner table and talks about our day…We are the ones who go to Costco and look down and realize we put two different shoes on our baby. But most importantly we are the family that can laugh at ourselves.”
The couple has now been together for 13 years and knows that the love they have for each other can overcome any amount of hatred directed their way. They aim to lead by loving example and use the strength of their relationship to overlook and move beyond the judgment of others without letting it interfere with their lives or happiness.
“We live in an incredibly divisive time and right now visibility is critical to help normalize same-sex families. We are the new normal, loving family that teaches our children acceptance of all walks of life and the importance of being kind to one another.”
Now the couple is concentrating on raising strong and respectful daughters who appreciate people’s differences so they can grow up in a world more accepting than the one their fathers have faced.
Photos have been used with the permission of Erik Alexander.
Please SHARE this with your friends and family.
Follow your friends or be the first to join our group
Source: Love What Matters