We asked a gay dad what 'family' meant to him. This is the story he told.

Fred Swanson always knew he wanted children, but how that was going to happen was a giant question mark.

"One of the biggest struggles for me in coming out was not having clarity on how I would have kids," Swanson says.

Swanson is gay and came out in the 1990s. At the time, he says, there weren't many models of gay men having kids of their own. Furthermore, there were several legal roadblocks for same-sex couples. Many states banned gay parents from adopting or fostering children. Even as recent as 2016, the state of Mississippi had a ban on same-sex couple adoption.


Then in 2003, a chance meeting online brought Adam Diamond into Swanson's life.

Swanson (left) and Diamond. Photo courtesy of Fred Swanson.

The two began dating, and as their relationship grew more serious, they started planning a future together. Both men were invested in having kids. Swanson had the idea to foster kids then eventually adopt.

Foster care and adoption made sense to the couple; they saw it as a way to show up for another human being.

When people talk about foster care, it often falls into a kind of savior narrative, Swanson says, but that's not the story of their family. People all over the world help each other out — Swanson and Diamond were just fortunate enough that the way they could help was to open their home to their kids.

"When someone needs a hand, you step up and you try to help out," Swanson says.

There are about 420,000 kids in foster care in the United States at any given time and those kids are disproportionately LGBTQ or black. Those are the numbers that motivated the couple to start working in 2008 with Amara, a Seattle foster care support organization, to prepare to welcome a child into their life. They left their too-cramped-for-kids home in Seattle and bought a house in Burien, a suburb about 20 minutes south.

In 2009, they welcomed 3-year-old Jaylen into their home.

But just as Jaylen was about to move in, Swanson and Diamond got a surprise. Jaylen's mom had just given birth to a newborn baby, Jaylen's little sister Jade, and wasn't going to be able to care for her. The question came up: Would Swanson and Diamond be interested in fostering a newborn as well?

It was a bit of a shock. "Neither Adam nor I had imagined that a newborn baby was going to be part of our plan," Swanson says.

Yet, two days later, they were driving down to Tacoma to pick up Jade.

"That was both exhilarating and also terrifying," Swanson says. Adding two kids, including a newborn, to their family was tremendous and sometimes overwhelming but joyful for the new parents. And, as Swanson points out, it's hard to not fall in love with a newborn baby. The couple officially adopted Jaylen in 2010 and Jade in 2014.

Over the years, their family has grown in love and size. A third child, Noah, arrived in 2012 and was adopted in 2015. There have been a few small challenges, of course, some around being LGBTQ parents — a little teasing at school (which has since stopped) and some ire at the Boy Scouts.

For the most part they're a happy, healthy family unit. Their house is full of toys. Swanson is "Daddy," and Diamond is "Aba," the Hebrew word for father. It's a life of fidget spinners and roller-rink birthday parties.

Having a family has redefined Swanson's relationship with the world.

Clockwise from top left: Fred ("Daddy"), Adam ("Aba"), Jaylen, Noah, and Jade. Photo courtesy of Fred Swanson.

It's changed his relationship with the future. "Creating a just and equitable world for my kids is different than creating that for myself," he says.

He's proud of the family he's built along with Diamond — a happy, healthy, and, yes, LGBTQ one.

Most of all, it's reaffirmed his feeling that the most important thing we can do is simply to reach out and support each other. "It really starts with 'how do I show up for you as a human and what do you need?'" Swanson says. "Parenting is a big piece of that."

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

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