Gay Parenting: Fiction vs. Fact

The Families

Meet the families ...

Johnny Symons & William Rogers / Zachary

Johnny Symons and William Rogers holding toddler Zachary In the film and in real life, DADDY & PAPA Director/Producer Johnny Symons and his partner William Rogers are a San Francisco Bay Area interracial couple who adopt an African American baby named Zachary. When they first find Zachary, he is living with Dora, a devout Christian foster mother who is reluctant to let go of the child she has raised from birth. She does not believe in homosexuality and her friends plant all kinds of fears in her mind. But when she and her friends get to know Johnny and William, their minds are opened and changed. They quickly see that it is love that will make this family.

Update on Johnny, William & Family >>
Johnny on adapting:
Dora told us she wanted to stick around as Zach's granny. We had been counting on a baby joining our family, but not a fundamentalist Christian as well.  Now it was our turn to adjust.

Kelly Wallace / Jesse and Ray

Kelly Wallace / Jesse and Ray Kelly Wallace is a 38-year-old single white gay man living in San Francisco’s “gay Mecca,” the Castro district. We follow his process of adopting two brothers, ages two and three, from foster care. As Kelly and his sons struggle to adjust to their radically changed lives, we see firsthand the challenges of single parenting, the difficulties of raising hard-to-place children and the isolation of being a family in a virtually childless neighborhood.

Update on Kelly, Jesse and Ray >>

Kelly recounts a conversation with his adopted son Jesse:
Jesse came and woke me up at about 3:00 in the morning and said,  “You know what, daddy? When I was little I didn't have a family So I just walked around the street by myself and I went up to one house and I said, 'No, that's not my house.' And I went to another door, I said, 'No, that's not my door.,. And then, Daddy, I came up to your house and it said Kelly Wallace on the door. And I said, 'That's my house.' So I knocked on the door and you answered it, and I said, 'Would you be my Daddy?'” And [Kelly] said, “You know, honey, I'd love to be your dad.” And Jesse said, “So then I moved in and now I have a family.”

Philip Himberg & Jim Ballantine / Fanny

Philip Himberg & Jim Ballantine / Fanny The story of Fanny Ballantine-Himberg, a precocious nine-year-old, starts with the generous act of a surrogate mother. The film recounts how her fathers Philip Himberg and Jim Ballantine arranged with a friend to bear their child. A decade later, they have split up, and each has a new partner. Their daughter’s biggest problem now is not that her fathers are gay, but that they are divorced.

Update on Fanny & her dads >>

Fanny Ballantine-Himberg on having two dads:
I don't know what it feels like to not have two dads. I feel like I have a lot of parents and that I can brag about having more parents than other people.

Jim Ballantine on divorce: 
We're probably more at issue with being divorced parents than we are with being gay parents. I think the gay part of it is really not a big deal, but being divorced is a huge deal.

Doug Houghton / Oscar

Doug Houghton / Oscar Since his homeless father abandoned him five years ago, eight-year old Oscar Williams has been raised by Doug Houghton, a nurse who cared for him when he was in a clinic and who subsequently became his legal guardian. Florida law categorically denies Doug, a gay man, the right to formally adopt Oscar. At the invitation of the ACLU, he joins a lawsuit to sue the state and legally establish his parental rights.

Update on Doug & Oscar >>

Doug Houghton on societys norms:
I think every kid would ideally probably like to have a mom and a dad and two sets of grandparents and, you know, two brothers and sisters and a dog and a house in the country ... That's still the norm that our society imposes upon us.
Oscar on love:
 When I first came with my dad, I didn't know what love was. And [now] he always keeps me safe.

Photo credits:
Johnny Symons, Zachary Symons-Rogers and William Rogers / Photo by Kim Larson
Ray, Jesse and Kelly Wallace / Photo by Kim Larson
Philip Himberg, Jim Ballantine and Fanny Ballantine-Himberg / Photo courtesy Philip Himberg
Doug Houghton and Oscar Williams / Photo courtesy Doug Houghton

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