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Our Summer

Russ, Kergan, Mason and MarcusDearest family and friends,

Russ and I have for many months been wanting to share with you the ordeal our family has been facing, but haven’t been able to, until now. As most of you know, I adopted Mason with my now-ex, and I was the stay-at-home father for the first year and a half of Mason’s life. Upon our breakup, I became Mason’s primary custodial parent and have served in that role to this day. Our family quickly grew to include Russ and Marcus, leading to many years of amazing adventures, emotional bonding, and terrifically fun times.

Once we had made the decision to put our house on the market, we discussed this with Mason to find out if he wanted to move with us to Colorado or remain in California. He said he wanted to be with us, as we are the only family structure he has known, and he has reaffirmed that decision many times over. Thus, we were shocked several months ago to find that my ex had filed suit for full custody of Mason, which would mean he would remain in Orange County and we would have only a few visits with him each year. Ever since, our entire family has faced a whirlwind of emotions. Not only have we had to deal with the tremendous stresses of selling our house, buying a new one, and the subsequent pack/move/unpack–while also fulfilling our full time jobs–but we have had this emotional legal battle hanging over us the entire time, ripping our family apart. We have been so saddened to have Mason taken from us over the summer, as moving him wasn’t permitted by the court until this matter was settled. Marcus has missed him terribly, and Russ and I have had countless sleepless nights. You simply can’t imagine how horrific it is to potentially have your child taken from you, against his wishes.

Finally, after months of hearings, court investigations, and testimony, on this past Monday the judge finally ruled that Mason could move, and we flew back to Colorado that same night, as Mason had already missed the first day of school.

Today, we are relieved, but exhausted and emotionally tapped out.

Needless to say, we have appreciated your support throughout these months. One of the many reasons we moved to Colorado was for a less-expensive life, as I have been struggling to pay back debt, only to find ourselves with what will be over $50,000 in legal fees. I’ve opened so many credit cards to cover the attorneys fees, and have no idea how to pay for them, which only serves to make my stress even worse. (I would prefer to work this debt off, so if you know of any freelance writing projects or marketing work which could be done in the evenings, please let me know.) Reluctantly, on the advice of friends who want to help us out, we’ve also set up a GoFundMe account, should anyone like to contribute. http://www.gofundme.com/272329d4

Still, as daunting as the debt may be, that is nothing compared to the incredible relief we feel to have our “Boo Boo” back home with us. Our family simply wasn’t the same without him. And we are especially grateful to all of you for your support, encouragement, and prayers.

Family has always been paramount to us, and we are so grateful to finally have ours back together.

Love,
Kergan and Russ

P.S. Please don’t leave any negative comments about my ex. This entire episode has been so emotionally draining, we want only positive energy moving forward. Thank you for respecting our wishes!

A Note to My Republican Friends. (Yes, I Have Some.)

republican-democrat-battle1This is to all my Republican friends: Many of you have told me that while you yourself have more liberal social views, you vote Republican because you see that party as being for limited government and a strong economy. PLEASE CONSIDER THIS, THOUGH: Your actions in voting Republican are leading to the death of the planet, as your leaders disavow climate change and are indeed working to ban even the phrase. Your leaders, putting corporate profits above ecological sensibility, continue to push for deregulation of corporate oversight, and that deregulation and lack of oversight leads to increased pollution. This, despite a mountain of evidence that our earth is changing quickly, and not for the better. Devastation of species and the environment are imminent, and YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.

Many of you have told me that while you personally support LGBT equality, you feel that Republicans actually are–at their heart–LGBT allies, but are just appeasing the louder voices of the party’s right wing base. But your actions in voting Republican are leading to laws which discriminate against the very people you claim to support. People can be turned away, simply from ordering a meal, or holding a job, or having a roof over their head just because they’re gay. What year are we living in, you may ask? Good question. Just remember, YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.

Many of you have said that while you support tighter gun control, to avoid the kind of mass shootings we’ve seen, you don’t want your guns “taken away.” Well, guess what? In the last 10 years, your guns HAVEN’T been taken away, have they? At the same time, your vote has led to inaction on behalf of stricter laws. We DON’T HAVE tighter gun control laws, which means senseless killings and mass shootings will continue, and YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.

Many of you say that you think Republicans are better in terms of national security. Yet the biggest terrorist act against the U.S. occurred during a Republican President’s watch. YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN.

Many of you say you want a peaceful, diplomatic foreign policy, yet voted for a man who led us into two ill-considered and expensive wars, killing countless in the process. YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN. Meanwhile, Democratic Leadership is trying to bring peace to areas of strife. You might not agree with every decision made, but it is all with the goal of peace–yet the Republicans in Congress seem determined to screw up even that. Just remember, if an Iran agreement isn’t reached due to Republican interference and war occurs, YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN.

And finally, for those who vote Republican due to fiscal concerns, just remember this: It was your Republican President who got us into the financial crisis and collapse in the first place, and it was a Democratic President who got us out of it. The economy has now gained nearly five times more jobs under President Barack Obama than it did during the presidency of George W. Bush, and the unemployment rate has dropped to just below the historical average. Corporate profits have nearly tripled, and stock prices have soared. ALL THIS ECONOMIC ADVANCEMENT, from a Democrat, not a Republican.

Now, you may want to quibble the details–and I’m sure many of you will–but my point is this: YOUR VOTE MATTERS, and your vote is killing the planet, creating discriminatory laws against LGBT people, ensuring pay inequality for women, enforcing a lower-than-liveable minimum wage which leads people to poverty, and so much more–none of it good. Yeah, the Democrats have problems too. Lord knows, they ain’t perfect. But they aren’t trying to kill the planet either. Peace.

Wisconsin Bans Phrase “Climate Change” When Discussing, Uh, Climate Change

Put a Ring on It: Why Marriage Equality Matters

02-Kergan-Russ-Wedding-Ceremony-331-colorWhile the LGBT community continues to battle discriminatory legislation in Indiana and states contemplating similar such laws, it gives me some measure of comfort to know that this month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the long-raging debate over same gender marriage. For some, the court’s eventual decision will be solely intellectual, but for me, that verdict will be extremely personal, and it is my every hope that marriage equality will be the resulting law of the land in all 50 states. After almost 12 years together and raising two children, my partner Russ Noe and I were legally wed in California on June 7, 2014. That moment was a lifetime in the making and as the gold wedding band slid onto my finger, I was fully cognizant of all that it meant, both legally and emotionally… For as it happens, in my recent history, I’ve experienced inequity more fully than most.

One fall day in September 2001, I lost almost everything I held dear when I stumbled upon an email not intended for me. In it, I learned that my then-partner of six years, “Rob,” had broken the commitments we’d made and that, in fact, I’d been lied to from the start of our relationship. As that email glowed onscreen, I remember looking over to where our infant son lay sleeping, wondering what our collective future held. Rob and I had created a life together, had a commitment ceremony, bought a house, and adopted a child… I’d given up my career to be a stay-at-home dad, only to soon discover that while I was the primary caregiver, with a stronger emotional bond to our son than Rob, I had no legal parental rights whatsoever. Should Rob so choose, he could lawfully banish me from my child’s life.

I couldn’t imagine losing my son, nor how devastating that might be for him emotionally. He was my touchstone, and I vowed that somehow I would find a way for us to remain together.

I was urged by my attorney not to confront Rob about all I’d discovered and instead wait until my rights were settled, as I was then undergoing a process known as a second parent adoption. And so I returned home, plastered a smile on my face, and attempted to act as if everything were fine. I went about my daily life, taking care of our house and son, though I was tormented and wracked with fear inside.  During this period, I even went with Rob to one of his therapy sessions, only to hear the therapist say that the only issues in our relationship were my doubts about Rob’s faithfulness, and that Rob was a moral and ethical human being. For one hour I sat, boiling inside, unable to stand up for myself and all that I’d discovered to be true.

Rob and I had stood in front of our family and friends, declaring our love and commitment toward one another. We called each other “husbands” and combined our finances, which were intended to be shared 50/50. We acted like a married couple and built our life like other married couples, but we didn’t have the same legal protections and benefits as our peers. This discrepancy became even more pronounced as time passed.

After two months of silence, unable to confront Rob, a court case in California placed all second parent adoptions–including mine–on hold, determining them to be incompatible with state law. To clarify this confusion, the California State Supreme Court would have to eventually rule on the legality of second parent adoptions, which could take months. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to remain silent indefinitely, I finally confronted Rob about all I’d discovered. In the process though, in order to ensure my rights were established, I pretended to give him hope that our relationship could be salvaged. I told him that we should take time apart and live separately, to see if we could mend the rift and find a way forward together as we had intended, as a family. In other words, in my attempt to hold onto my son, I became a liar, just like Rob.

We sold our house, and on the day it closed escrow, Rob went to the bank and took out the proceeds, leaving me what he alone determined to be “fair.” I had no choice but to live with that, and any other crumbs he offered, as I had no legal recourse. In the eyes of the court, we were no more than roommates, and I couldn’t afford to rock the boat until my parental rights were firmly established.

Eventually, a court date for my adoption was established. Even as Rob stood next to me in the court room, I waited, breathlessly, afraid he would halt the proceedings and take away this child whom I loved so dearly. At last, the judge signed the paperwork and the adoption was complete. After walking to my car, I sat in the front seat, holding my son and crying uncontrollably, grateful to no longer be afraid and for the ordeal to finally be over.

I had been in a similar emotional state before, in 1995, when my partner Shane Sawick died of complications from AIDS. In that situation, I endured months of anxiety, not to mention the physical and emotional toll of being a daily caregiver, but I did so all with the knowledge of how his story would play out. I knew that the end would come and I knew what it entailed. Still, when it did, it was agonizing.

At the time, I thought that never again would I experience anything as painful, but the prospect of losing my son and the months of uncertainty and turmoil that provoked proved far worse to my psyche.

It took me a long time to fully work through my anger and learn to trust again. Moving forward wasn’t easy, but I did it, with the support of my son and those I loved. That journey led me to Russ and the subsequent adoption of a second son.

Almost one year ago, as the sun shone brightly on a beautiful June day, Russ and I stepped out into our garden wedding ceremony, walking behind our sons, who served as best men. They each had written notes about the importance of family which they read to our assembled guests. Russ and I shared our vows, which we’d also written, publicly proclaiming our promises and commitment to the life we had crafted. At the end of the ceremony, as Russ slipped the gold wedding ring onto my finger, all the emotions and moments of my life seared through me, reminding me of the road I’ve traveled, the battles fought, and the promise of things to come.

Our rings are just simple bands, nothing fancy. But they are durable and signify the legality of our union. They are gold wedding rings, meant to last a lifetime.

This originally appeared on KerganEdwards-Stout.com. Kergan Edwards-Stout’s debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, was the recipient of a Next Generation Indie Book Award. His collection of short stories, Gifts Not Yet Given, was named on multiple “Best Books of the Year” lists. He is currently at work on a memoir, Never Turn Your Back on the Tide.

Photography by Sara + Ryan, flowers by Untamed Designs, and event coordination by Bridal and Event Lounge.

I’m on Rated G Radio Thursday March 26

Garrett Miller Looking for some great conversation? Join host and hottie Garrett Miller and me as we chat about the topics of the day on Rated G Radio. It all happens on Thursday March 26, 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern. You can follow the show at Super Gay Radio and call in with your comments at 323-657-1493.

Last time we chatted, we covered everything from the Long Beach port shutdown to Lady Gaga, and everything in between that is gay-gay-gay, so you know you’re in for a good time!

Twenty Years Ago Today…

Shane - LouvreIt is astounding how our bodies hold and store memories, filing them away, only to open their drawer unexpectedly to remind us of their presence. I had planned on sleeping in late this morning, as I rarely do anymore given that we have kids, but our dog Toby was whining to be let out. Even so, I tried to remain half asleep as I did so, returned to bed, and placed an eye mask over my eyes. On my first deep inhale to restore sleep, though, I immediately woke fully: today marks Shane’s last full day of life, exactly twenty years ago.

It seems impossible that so much time has gone by, as so much of him and that experience remains within me, prompting memories such as this. I think of him often and relate to our children each year, as we unpack Shane’s trove of nutcrackers, just who he was and what he meant to me. And yet I’ve also packed so much into those subsequent years (a commitment ceremony, the birth of Mason, the unexpected and dramatic breakup of that relationship, subsequent costly court battles with my ex, the years of trying to heal, eventually meeting Russ, adopting Marcus, getting married, writing books and embarking on countless other new adventures), that the length of time also seems substantial… As if another life, one so disconnected with the life I lead today.

Just a few weeks ago, on March 5, I turned 50. It was twenty years ago, on the day of my turning 30 in 1995 that we checked Shane into the hospital, where he would die two weeks later.

That year, we had planned for me a simple 30th… Given Shane’s months of decline, I could not bear any major celebrations, of attention being placed on me instead of Shane, and instead opted for my family to join us in L.A. for dinner and cake. When I called my mom to tell her that couldn’t happen, as Shane would be in the hospital, her words and tone communicated to me that she felt as if his health were a direct attempt to sabotage her plans.

For this year’s birthday, I opted for no celebration as well. For some reason, I just didn’t want the attention. I took my birthday off Facebook, blocked the ability of people to post to my wall, and decided instead to have a simple family dinner. Many thought that I was hesitant about turning 50, but I have no qualms about aging. I wear my years on earth and my varied experiences as a badge of honor. But this morning I realized that my reluctance for attention is also tied into Shane and what he was going through 20 years ago on this very day.

Shane and Kergan - Eiffel TowerIn the fall of the prior year, 1994, we’d gone to Europe. I’d never been and Shane wanted to return, both as a likely last-hurrah and to share it with me. While he’d had a few minor health incidents in the months leading up to our trip, as well as a decline in t-cells, he was still relatively healthy. But our 5 week journey to France and Italy took an increasing toll on him as each day progressed. By the time we got to Rome, from which we’d depart, it was physically apparent how taxing the trip had been–you could see the strain on his face. All of the walking and stairs had been too much, and those last few days he would journey out from our hotel only once each day, to quickly take in a sight, sometimes just from a taxi cab window, and then we’d return back to the hotel again. Too weak to go out for meals, I’d bring him takeout–he was craving McDonald’s–and I became inordinately familiar with their location near the Spanish Steps.

Upon our return to the states, his health began to quickly spiral downward. He began having mobility issues. Walking down a straight corridor, he would suddenly veer to the right or left, or stumble. Driving, he would either abruptly stop short, or too far into a crosswalk. It soon began to affect his speech, as his words became muddled.

His eventual diagnosis was Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML), which essentially is a lesion which grows on the brain and increasingly affects the motor skills.

Shane Michael SawickIn just a few months, he went from a vibrant young man, filled with exuberance about life and excitement about our upcoming trip, to a bedridden, shrunken figure, rarely leaving our bed.

While we had hoped to keep Shane at home and comfortable, his body and organs began to fail him, leading to his hospital admittance. In just two short weeks, he lost the ability to speak, as well as the ability to blink to signify “yes” or “no,” and even to squeeze my finger. He was fully alert inside, with all of the knowledge and emotions he’d always had, but he was completely unable to communicate any of it. Each night, after his mother had returned to our apartment and all visitors were gone, I would crawl up alongside him in bed. I would talk to him about my love for him, share the news of the day, and remind him of all the wonderful things we’d experienced together. I talked often of Italy and France… Of the countless kitties of the Pitti Palace. Of the jasmine-like scented grapes we ate in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. And of our last night ever of sex, in Rome, when it became clear the end would soon come.

Shane and friends - Boothbay Harbor, MaineI hold Shane up today, as I have continually over the twenty years since. In that time since, his dear mother has died and his beloved sister, whom I think he loved most of all, has bravely battled cancer. Shane’s best friend Vivian still lives on, but Shane’s L.A. circle of friends has drifted apart. We lost David to AIDS not long after Shane’s death. Another of the group with AIDS came close to dying, but through the miracles of an experimental treatment is alive today. I know Shane would be disappointed to know that this dear group of guys, with whom years of memories were made, would not survive his passing. In many ways, he was the glue, and his absence led to consequences none of us would have imagined.

Shane Michael SawickAnd so today, on the 20th anniversary of his last full day on earth, I hold up Shane Michael Sawick. Without loving him, I don’t think I would have come to love myself. Without him, I would never have become a writer. And without him, I couldn’t have grown up enough, to have explored myself enough, to be the father and partner that I am today.

Shane died on March 22, at 12:22am. He was surrounded by his family and friends, and we played a tape cassette of his beloved Bette Midler singing his favorite song, “Shiver Me Timbers,” as they pumped morphine into his veins and he took his last breath.

He will not be forgotten.

Interview with Award-Winning Novelist David Pratt

Looking After JoeyDavid Pratt, Lambda Award-winning novelist for Bob the Book, is back with a funny and touching new novel, Looking After Joey (Wilde City Press). In it, Calvin, a single accountant, must look after Joey, a porn character who unexpectedly steps through the TV into Calvin’s life–and can’t go back. Calvin’s friend Peachy comes to the rescue, declaring that he and Calvin will teach Joey what he needs to know to be a gay man in this world—from Cher and Liza to how to cross the street without getting hit. But on a deeper level Joey’s presence causes Calvin to reevaluate what he desires, and his yearning for connection propels everyone through the story, as they find themselves forming a family of choice.

As our work shares many themes, primarily those of love and family, I appreciated the time Pratt took to connect to discuss our definitions of family, particularly their meaning for us as gay men.

Kergan Edwards-Stout: David, thank you so much for taking the time to chat! As you know, I was a big fan of Bob the Book, and was so pleased to hear of your new novel. One of your gifts as a writer is in bringing objects to life. In Bob the Book, you animate a book, and in Looking After Joey, you create depths and layers in a porn character.

David Pratt: In Bob, I actually created humans in the guise of books, who live as books might if books were sentient. In Looking After Joey, it’s Joey’s vulnerability and curiosity that bring him alive. He’s a porn character who crosses into our world, like a baby bird fallen from the nest. His reactions to what we call “real life” are hilarious and touching. Or both at once, as when he sees his first handicapped person. There is humor to it, but the scene is also gripping.

Edwards-Stout: Key to my enjoyment of the book was the role that family plays in it. Your lead character, Calvin, is on a quest to find a relationship, but ends up finding much more than that. It occurred to me, though, that while I know much about you as a writer, I don’t know much about your personal life, aside from your relationship with your partner, Rogério. How did you meet him? Read the rest of this page »

Rated G Radio Appearance

Looking forward to chatting once again with the personable Garrett Miller and Rated G Radio! Garrett Miller I’ll be on-air Thursday February 19, 7PM (Pacific), and while I have no idea what we’ll be talking about, our conversations are always stimulating!

UPDATE: It’s a good thing RatedGRadio​ is not televised, as my IPL photofacial today left me looking–well–lobsterish. Garrett Miller​, I look forward to talking to you tonight at 7PM Pacific. Anyone wanting to listen in or call with a question, check out the phone number and streaming broadcast here.

Fun to See Our Family on The Huffington Post!

Christmas 2011After being interviewed by Corinne Lightweaver of RaiseAChild.US for this The Huffington Post article, I flashed back to when I first met our youngest, Marcus, in his foster home. When my social worker and I walked up to the door, Marcus–without knowing me or why I was there–ran up and gave me a hug. I took that as a sign… (I ignored “the sign” of my next visit, when I took him to a park and he cried for two hours uncontrollably.)

There was also another child there at the foster home, Christian, who was about 11. He was a beautiful kid, loved basketball, and he asked if I was there to adopt Marcus. I told him that I might be, and it was clear to me that as happy as he was that Marcus might be adopted, he knew the chances for himself were slim. I walked away from that home happy that I’d just met the newest member of our family, but also sad that I couldn’t manage to take Christian as well…

Did you know that the number of LGBT people willing to fost-adopt children FAR OUTWEIGHS the number of kids in foster care??? Simply by making adoption by LGBT people across the U.S. legal, we could provide houses for all the kids in foster care. Astounding, and sad–for all the “Christians” in the world–that we can’t do just that.

Thanks to Corinne Lightweaver and Raise A Child, USA, for the chance to chat! Read the interview here!

Did You Miss My Appearance on Rated G Radio?

Thanks to Garrett Miller and Rated G Radio for another great interview! Garrett Miller Last night Garrett and I had a wonderful and provocative discourse on everything from World AIDS Day, to my writing, to safer sex, to family life, and to the holidays… As always, it was a fun time, as Garrett always asks thought-provoking questions. If you missed it, you can listen to the whole thing here.

And for those wondering, YES, I did discuss my new writing project, my memoir entitled Never Turn Your Back on the Tide!