Chris Veldhoven, Artsci'94, runs a unique course in Toronto for gay men exploring parenthood.
Before leaving home, Chris Veldhoven, Artsci’94, may never have envisaged himself in the job he holds today, but with his unique family history and the model of a supportive community at Queen’s, the job is a natural fit.
Chris, who holds the position of Queer Parenting Programs Coordinator at Toronto’s 519 Church Street Community Centre, was seven when his father came out of the closet in small town Nova Scotia. As a child, he recalls meeting people with a variety of different sexual orientations when he and his brother would visit their Dad and his partner. Chris’s view of the world’s gender issues further expanded when, after his grandmother died, his grandfather revealed he liked wearing women’s clothing. News like that was tricky to deal with in a small town, but at Queen’s, Chris, who had himself come out in high school, found a supportive community of mentors, activists and volunteers. “Queen’s became an important place for me outside of the classroom [as well as inside].”
So in 2003, when Chris was hired to design, facilitate and evaluate a course called “Daddies and Papas 2 B,” he knew the Toronto job would be fulfilling. The course, for gay men who wanted to be parents, was not your basic ‘how to change a diaper or get your baby to sleep’ fare, but rather confronted adoption, surrogacy and co-parenting issues. “Its purpose,” says Chris, “was to build communities, explore the social, emotional, legal, medical, political and financial aspects of becoming parents as gay, bi, queer or trans men and improve their confidence to make decisions.”
Over the years, the course has evolved. For one thing, there’s been an increase in the number of gay men considering parenting, and calls for information pour in from all around the world. Says Chris, “Back in 2003, several men took the course but felt there was no option to have kids. Now I have a wide range of guys from their early 20s to their late 50s with a greater sense of entitlement.”
The course has also evolved from 8 to 12 weeks and the issues are changing. Chris says transgendered parenting is emerging. “I have two trans guys who are interested in co-parenting. When I teach the course now, I can’t assume anybody’s gender identity in the room.”
The course, which runs twice yearly, has 20 participants per course. After completing it, some people choose not to have or adopt children, while others take the plunge. Chris says, “Many people say my course has given them confidence to move forward, provides lasting friendships, and gets them through the trials and tribulations of becoming parents. That sense of community is comforting.”