To recognize Fathers’ Day, Lane Igoudin—a long-time supporter of Family Equality—reflects on a recent moment of pride + joy.
She is adjusting the black cap on her head in the bright white California sunshine and tilts it up a bit on one side – to give it a jauntier look, I guess.
“Pappy, which way does it go?” she asks, swinging side-to-side the golden tassel clasped at the top with a ‘2022’ tag.
“To the right,” I say.
I’ve seen enough graduations. I read graduates’ names at the Commencements at the college where I teach.
“First to the right, and then you move it to the left after you shake the principal’s hand, or at the very end, when everyone received their diplomas. Just do whatever they tell you on stage.”
“Alright, I’m ready then!” She kisses my husband on the cheek, and then me, and then starts out in her black gown and checkered Vans in the direction of her classmates waving to her from the distance.
“Wait, wait!” I run after her, pulling a bottle of Coppertone out of my pocket and handing it to her, “You don’t want a ‘graduation burn.’”
This is a big day for all of us. We started down the public adoption path almost 20 years ago, before marriage equality, partner benefits, or even the opportunity to name two men as legal parents on the Social Security card application (at the time, I had to be listed as the ‘mother’). Back then, LGBTQ+ families were still very much hidden from public view, and in many states, gay men were not allowed to adopt, especially as a couple. In some places, our parental rights could be abridged or overturned if we were to cross the state line.
While that’s changed dramatically over the years—with “same-sex couples…nearly three times as likely as their different-sex counterparts to be raising an adopted or foster child,” (according to a 2015 study by the UCLA Williams Institute)—getting to the cap’n’gown was anything but easy.
As many a foster-to-adopt parent knows, you don’t just adopt kids from the foster system; you adopt their history and past experiences, too. They can do their best, and you can do your best, but trauma can take a wrecking ball to everyone’s plans and expectations.
Many times in my daughter’s teenage years, the challenges we faced made me worry that we wouldn’t even make it to the 12th grade, never mind the joyful ceremony we were witnessing. But those challenges taught me to go with the flow, trust the unknown, and pray that things would turn out fine.
Now, here she is, four years and four high schools later, graduating and already registered for her college classes in the fall. So, I guess we’ve done OK.
I am looking at her – a graduate – in wonder, celebrating not all that she could be, or all that I had once planned for her, but how far she has come and how far we have made it as a family.
And in looking at her, I feel so much gratitude for the tireless work of generations of LGBTQ+ warriors, including Family Equality, that fought so hard to give us the right to live the life of a parent—a full, three-dimensional, all-encompassing life of caring for another human being.
If there is anything I’ve learned from adopting her from the foster system at 1, and now looking at her at 18, it’s this: we both have changed through this. She has grown into an assertive, talented, complex young woman. And she has taught me so much about how to be a parent, how to be myself.
She’s not the only one graduating today. It’s our milestone.
Lane Igoudin is a Los Angeles-based writer, blogger, and a proud dad to two amazing teens. An English professor at Los Angeles City College, he writes about gay fatherhood, foster and adoptive parenting, and spiritual growth. A dedicated supporter of Family Equality.org, Lane has written on this site about raising an intersectional gay family and the blessing of parenting daughters. See more at www.laneigoudin.com.