Two Dads. Two Grandpas. And Lots of Love.

Family Equality is thrilled to relaunch our Outspoken Generation series with this blog post by a writer, Julie Schanke Lyford, with queer parents. 

While having two dads may look different to some, my family is just that — my family. I love my dads and they love me. My kids love their grandpas and their grandpas love them. We have ups and downs, just like all families, but the bottom line is my dads are my dads, and love is love. 

Julie and her dads in 2014
Julie (center) and her dads in 2014

I grew up in small town Iowa, which, during the early 1980s when he came out to me, was not a welcoming place for anybody who went against heteronormativity. As it turns out, my dad had come out to my mom in the early 70s, but they decided to remain married and closeted to avoid the onslaught of negative ramifications they knew our family would face both personally and professionally. 

More difficult than finding out that my parents’ marriage wasn’t as it appeared was having to keep this news quiet. When I was dating, I had to find ways to understand if the person I was dating would be okay with my dad being gay without telling him that he was. I got quite skilled at finding out their opinions by triggering comments about pop culture and movies, saying I wanted to rent films with gay leading characters while at the movie rental stores (yes, they still existed back then!) and seeing what their reaction was. 

Julie and her family in 2012
Julie (far right), her husband (far left), children (front), and her dads
Julie (center), her children (to her left), and her dads (to her right)

Once my parents divorced and my dad came out publicly in the late 80s, he was victim to several hate crimes. His college office was broken into, his computer smashed, awful words spraypainted on his walls. It was horrible and it reinforced why my parents had to stay quiet for so long. I realize now that they were protecting me. My dad was a beloved member of the university, though, and the students majorly rallied behind him, even organizing a campus-wide protest in support of him. 

Despite the secrets and worries my family experienced back in the 70s and 80s, today, having a gay father is as normal as having a heterosexual father. His partner/husband has been my stepfather for decades now, and he is as much a part of my family as any stepmother would be. Once gay marriage became legal in Iowa, which is where my dads live, they got married and we all celebrated. Unsurprisingly, my kids, husband, and I are huge supporters of marriage equality and we attended many marches in Minnesota before it became legal.  

Julie's kids at the Minnesota State Capitol in 2013
May 13, 2013 at the Minnesota Capitol to watch the live vote to legalize same-sex marriage: left to right – Adien Lyford, Katy Lyford. The MN Senate passed the bill by a vote of 37–30. Julie said, “I took the kids out of school and we watched the vote live, the kids made signs to have there and stood holding them at the entrance as those voting came in.”

Just as having two dads is every day life for me, having two grandpas is every day life for my children. Despite the normalcy to us, while raising my kids, I realized there were no children’s books that mirrored our family. 

Katy Has Two Grampas by Julie Schanke Lyford and Robert A. Schanke, Illustrations by Maria Luzina

During the Covid lockdown, my dad and I decided to do something about that, so we wrote a children’s picture book called Katy Has Two Grampas, which is based on our true story. The book garnered a lot of attention, been a best seller and won many awards, but the most meaningful part of the experience has been hearing from our readers, like gay grandpas thanking us for a story they can read to their grandchildren that shows the loving relationship between gay grandfathers and their grandchildren. 

Two dads. Two grandpas. Lots of love and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Julie Schanke Lyford

Julie Schanke Lyford

Author, public speaker, trainer (and daughter of gay dads!)

Outspoken Generation

People with LGBTQ parents have been outspoken advocates for themselves, their families, and social justice for decades. Today, people with LGBTQ parents are telling their own truths and changing the national dialogue about the joys and challenges of our families. More than ever, the intersectional voices of people with LGBTQ parents are needed to combat discrimination against families and isolation in our communities.

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