Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at email@example.com
Andrew Kohn, 40, and his husband Donald (Don) Jones, 47, together 13 years, are two white dads raising two Black children in Columbus, Ohio. Do they stick out? Sure. Have they encountered racism? They say they haven’t. “I keep waiting for the moment so that I can become my best Julia Sugarbaker,” said Andrew. “I think because we’re a gay couple with Black kids, we’re the other-other and people don’t really say things to us. We have never had people touch our kids hair or do something that was inappropriate.”
When Andrew and Don first started their path to fatherhood more than six years ago (read Andrew’s blog posts here), they didn’t receive any training on transracial adoption, so they’ve learned a lot of what they know now as they go. “We have intentionally made choices to find childcare and schools that are racially and ethnically diverse, actually moving so that our children can see other children that look like them. We also chose childcare that was diverse so that our kids could be around adults who are Black.”
While their kids are still young, and the topic of race hasn’t been discussed in-depth, the family is nonetheless very aware of their different skin color. Andrew and Don expect the conversations to evolve as their kids start to recognize their differences from their dads with a more complex viewpoint. “This is certainly something we could be better at intentionally addressing, but at the moment the kids realize they have a different skin color and it does not go beyond that … Hopefully we’ll teach our kids that we’re more of the same than different.”
In the meantime, their main concerns are centered around being able to give their children the cultural knowledge they need to navigate a world consumed with white privilege. “Somethings that are easy for us to do won’t be so easy for them when we’re not around,” said Andrew. “We are aware of it every day. We are aware of our white privilege, we recognize that the white savior is a real thing, and we work every day to promote fairness and equality.”
They also worry about their kids navigating a world where they have no real connection to their birth families.
To aid in countering this, Andrew and Don recognize the importance of their children being around folks that look like them, to normalize their racial identity and for their kids to have Black role models. They’ve made conscious steps towards this by, as mentioned above, relocating to a different area of the city which is more ethnically and racially diverse, as well as choosing childcare options with Black role models. “They also need to be exposed to cultural events and daily activities,” added Andrew, “including hair and medical professionals that can help with their specific needs.”
Despite the extra challenges that transracial families might experience, both Andrew and Don want to make one thing clear: don’t let it stand in the way of adopting your child. “We believe in giving kids the best homes possible, and that opportunity shouldn’t be determined by the kids skin color.”
The Columbus dads will continue to make sure they’re providing their children with opportunities to celebrate their racial identity. “We’ve had a pretty great experience over the past six years, with family, friends, and our community. There will be bumps ahead but as long as our kids know we love them, we’ll be okay.”
Seven suggestions for a successful transracial adoption
The realities of raising a kid of a different race.