What it meant to attend the GLAAD Media Awards with my gay dad

Saturday night I got a professional blow out, put on a dress I haven’t worn in two years and took my dad as my date to the GLAAD media awards. We went as volunteers, but we were still expected to dress up as if we were attending the awards. My dad wore the suit he wore to my wedding. He may have been just as excited, too.

Leading up to the event, my father’s biggest concern was surviving contact with Channing Tatum, who was there as a presenter. I told him as volunteers, we may be just working and not see any celebrities or even get to see the show.

My father recently moved to Los Angeles, from Dallas, Texas. He is hoping that my husband and I will have children soon and wants to be in close proximity to us. He is 60 years old, single and gay.

Moving to a new city presents a lot of challenges, as far as meeting new people. My goal was to take him to make friends and to get involved in the LGBTQ community here, but later I realized just how much I needed this experience too.

This was, after all, the GLAAD awards, a celebration of equality. There was a feeling of freedom and joy in being around like-minded people who have fought for equal rights in every aspect of society. And it was a feeling I have not had in a long time, since moving away from my father 15 years ago.

Although I am a straight cisgender woman, the LGBTQ community feels like home to me, because I was raised, in part, by two dads. My upbringing has provided me with a connection to a community I value so much.

After having the experience of growing up in an accepting community, I had forgotten how pervasive homophobia still was—until I moved to LA in 2010. I couldn’t believe I was living in one of the most liberal states in the US and Prop 8, an ultimately unconstitutional attempt to ban same-sex marriage, was up for debate.

Despite strides made in the past few years, there are still reminders of ignorance everyday. This month, Dolce & Gabbana made comments about how unnatural it is to have children who don’t have a mother and a father. Then Heather Barwick wrote an essay in the Federalist about how, though she had two moms, she is against gay marriage. I found it all so disheartening.

It’s something many of my friends may not understand. I have only recently met other children of gay parents through The Gay Dad Project. It is an organization for families who have had a parent come out as LGBTQ. My father came out when I was 11, in the early ’90s. At first, I didn’t understand what “being gay” meant. But when I was old enough to grasp my father’s sexual orientation and what it took for him to come out, I accepted him with open arms. I lived with him and his partner for many years and even considered his partner a father figure.

So, I have had it both ways. I had a mom and a dad for the first half of my childhood and then a mom and two dads for the latter half. I have to say I’d take the latter half any day. That’s not to say both my parents weren’t amazing, but they were so much happier when they were living their own truth.

This is all to say that being at the GLAAD awards felt so amazing—I felt like I was a part of a community again, one in which I grew up, and one in which both my father and I thrived.

During the event, were assigned to the silent auction from 4-8 PM. Our task was to sign up attendees to bid on items via their cell phones. We stood there for hours and did not see one celebrity, but we did get to see the gorgeous suits, dresses and all the colors of the gender rainbow.

Our shift ended early and we were treated to a four-star dinner. We heard a rumor they were letting volunteers see the show. We ate as fast as we could and went to investigate. Sure enough, we were allowed to enter the grand ballroom and sit amongst the stars at a few empty tables in the back. 

We watched as GLAAD president, Sarah Kate Ellis, gave her speech. With every word she spoke, I realized LGBTQ people and their children are still facing a battle for equality. She said, “You can’t legislate acceptance.”

Even if gay marriage is passed in the Supreme Court, it doesn’t mean that people will stop making comments that kids like me are somehow unnatural or damaged because of our parents or the way we came into this world. Or that members of the LGBTQ community won’t still have to fight for equality. I was grateful to Ellis and the entire organization of GLAAD for speaking out on our behalf.

That night, my dad got to see Channing Tatum, from a distance, but still. Ellen DeGeneres touched his arm at one point. By the end of the night, he made his first LA Facebook friend. For me, the highlight was seeing kids walking around with their families—kids like me—who were just as proud of their parents as their parents were of them.Elizabeth Collins is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. She is currently working on her one woman show, “Raised By Gays And Turned Out OK” that will premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this June. She writes a blog, has a website and a tweets at @raisedbygaysok. (Photo by Elizabeth Collins)