Opinion: A good reason to #EndFathersDay: It’s a gendered holiday

Fathers and daughters at a gay rights demonstration in Paris.
Fathers and daughters at a gay rights demonstration in Paris.
(Lionel Bonaventure / AFP/Getty Images)

Although I’m a dad, I think it’s time to put an end to Father’s Day.

When I was a kid, I always saw myself throwing a Frisbee with my future children. But when I came out at USC in 1992, gay parenting was still in the closet. My fathering prospects seemed dim, until I met Peter. His easygoing style hinted at papa potential too.

Nine years later we trudged through mounds of paperwork and a home study so we could adopt. Our newborn immediately became the center of our lives: two middle-aged white guys with our darker-skinned daughter. We looked like Cam, Mitch and Lily on “Modern Family.”


Once my little girl started nursery school, she presented us with felt pumpkins, turkey lookalikes and pipe cleaner hearts, something for every non-religious holiday, and I joyfully hung them all on the refrigerator. But when Mother’s Day rolled around, I panicked. My child has many different mothers: a godmother, two grandmothers, a birth mother. But no mom, because she has two dads.

A week before the May mommy celebration, I approached the preschool director. She suggested a plan: “We were thinking you could receive the tissue flowers. Your partner would get the baseball collage on Father’s Day.”

I frowned. For all the mothering I do, being labeled the matriarch was an inelegant solution. And it didn’t work. My confused daughter left her handmade papery carnations on the kitchen counter, uncertain of their rightful owner.

I know we aren’t alone in this conundrum. Recent census data indicates only 19% of homes are composed of traditional moms, dads and kids. More than 11 million residences with kids are headed by a single person or a same-sex couple. These families too have to be fumbling through one of the parents’ holidays.

There is an alternative: the all-inclusive Parents’ Day. Signed into law by President Clinton, the occasion is observed the fourth Sunday of July. Think of how Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday gave way to Presidents Day. Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day, included every parental type when she wrote of a day “for sons and daughters to honor their mothers and fathers.”

As a son, I’ll have to remember a new date and send two remembrances (flowers for mom, socks for pop). But after grappling with my gayness, adopting a baby and making sacrifices as a father every day, letting go of gendered holidays could be my easiest act yet.

Haig Chahinian is a career counselor. Parents’ Day is July 27.