Ten-year-old Kevin is having dinner with his father Tyler Tone. It’s a casual meal at the coffee table with Tone sitting cross-legged on the floor and Kevin curled up on the couch.
It’s the night before their trip to San Francisco where Tone will do a reading from his short story, My Pride and Joy, published in the gay anthology, Charmed Lives. The piece focuses on Tone’s experience as a gay father. He conveys how, for him, the desire to be a parent transcends all boundaries of sexual identity.
“My son is a union of complete desire; the deepest desire of a gay man and a lesbian woman to be parents,” Tone reads aloud. “He was created out of an act of need, not an act of sex.”
While some gay men choose to adopt and others have children from previous relationships, Tone passed on his own genes.
His lesbian friend, Fiona, is Kevin’s biological mother through artificial insemination. Fiona has another son, also through artificial insemination, by Tone’s ex-partner Joel. That son, 14-year-old Keegan, lives with Kevin and their two mothers, two cats, a ferret and a guinea pig on the Sunshine Coast.
So for Kevin, that’s two mothers, two fathers, one brother and a cuddly menagerie.
“It means more people to love me and to love,” says Kevin. “Some people don’t have any parents. Some people just have one, two, three. It’s more family; a lot more family.”
Xtra West first profiled the father and son in January 1998. Back then Tone was living in an East Vancouver house with Fiona, Kevin and Keegan.
“Kevin’s mom and his mom’s wife have sole custody,” explains Tone who still lives in East Vancouver. “Kevin and I get together every second weekend and then every once in a while we’ll go on one of these grand adventures where we’ll go away to San Francisco. I took the kids to Disneyland in 2003.”
Kevin is an articulate, courteous kid who sits quietly and patiently as I talk to his father.
“You are so well behaved,” I tell him, recalling how hard it was for me to sit still as a 10-year-old. I take note of a book he’s been holding all night.
“What’s that book you’re reading?” I ask.
“I want to own a video game company someday,” he tells me. ” So I have this book that tells me how to design and make video games.”
The conversation quickly turns to Tone’s creativity with a needle and thread.
“My father made me a dress out of ties,” Kevin exclaims. “Wanna see?”
After a quick wardrobe change, Kevin parades into the living room in a dress made out of neckties.
“I’m far too hairy to wear dresses,” I say.
“You could just shave it all off,” suggests Kevin.
Tone, Kevin and I all agree that shaving too much body hair might be too painful.
For Tone, the biggest challenge of being a gay parent has been dating.
“Whenever I was in a relationship with someone I was constantly having to multi-task,” he says. “I’d be like ‘Hi honey, I need to see you this weekend but I also have my son, so the three of us have to do something together.’ I don’t know if anyone really got the full attention they needed.”
With some men, however, Tone says his fatherhood is a sign of stability.
“A lot of men, I find it interesting, when they find out I have a son instantly they see stable,” he says. “There’s usually a lot of interest with that which is neat.”
Has life changed for Tone’s family over the years as attitudes toward non-nuclear, queer families have evolved?
“When Keegan was two we were part of a TV program for CBC for the national news,” says Tone. “They were polling people on what they thought about gay people having kids. That was 13 years ago and the poll results were adamantly–like 80-something percent–against gay people having kids. Macleans just did a poll this year and 67 percent were like, ‘sure let ’em go for it.’ In 13 years that’s amazing.”
As he looks ahead to the future, Tone sees a world where being gay isn’t such a big deal.
“My boyfriend is an officer in the American army and he says all the new enlisted guys are 18 to 26, and they don’t care,” beams Tone. “They have a buddy or a brother or a sister or a father who’s come out. They’ve watched Will & Grace and laughed at it. They’ve grown up with The Simpsons for heaven’s sake; they’ve grown up with Smithers.”
He believes the children of gay parents are the ultimate measure of universal acceptance.
“I think that this is just a natural want for the gay and lesbian communities to come together to create children, if that’s what they want,” he says. “Children act, I think, as a bit of a bridge. With that strength, people naturally just sort of tell two friends who tell two friends and so on.”
“It’s like a big pyramid scheme,” I suggest.
“Sure! Why not?” he replies, as he leans back and smiles at his son. “Kevin’s at the top and the whole world’s underneath.”
What will the world be like for him and Kevin in 50 years?
“I’ll probably be a grandpa depending on how prolific he is with his kids, if he has any, then great grandchildren are possible,” he predicts. “Could you imagine two 90-year-old men with great grandchildren? It’s amazing. I love the image.”