What It Really Means to Be a Father

The White House Office of Public Engagement and Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships honors 10 individuals who are doing tremendous work in the fields of fatherhood and low-income men and boys. Because of his work in this field Bob Johnson is being recognized as a Champion of Change.


After we made the decision to pull our oldest child out of school, due to years of constant abuse at the hands of both students and faculty for being gay, we knew the story couldn't end there. There had to be something we could do.

This is where my journey really began and set me on the path to discovering to what it really means to be a father.

We were blessed to be one of the families filmed and featured in the 2012 documentary "Bully," a film that followed the struggles of five families as they tried to cope with the impact of severe and pervasive bullying.

We spent about a year traveling the country in advance of the film's release speaking at screenings and film festivals about our story and society's responsibility to protect our children, all of them. Little did we know just how much of an impact the film would have on the national dialogue surrounding the issue of bullying.

After seeing a story one evening about a screening of the film in Los Angeles that was sponsored by The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), I reached out to the organization as the proud father of an LGBT child in the hope of establishing a relationship that would allow me to continue the fight for our children long after the buzz from the film had faded into memory.

That partnership has flourished and I have been blessed to advocate on behalf of GLSEN in its pursuit of passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and Student Non-discrimination Act (SNDA) legislation currently before lawmakers.

As a result of this relationship, I have discovered that there is a gaping hole in the heart of the LGBT community that has been created by the absence of support and encouragement from the fathers of LGBT children. Everywhere I have gone, I have been thanked time and time again for being willing to stand up and speak out in support of my LGBT child. People share how much they wished their fathers would have done the same. This always struck me as incredibly heartbreaking and humbling at the same time. I was only doing what my father had taught me to do, which was love my children unconditionally.

I am committed to helping fathers everywhere find their voice and take a vocal and visible role in supporting and encouraging their children.

Bob Johnson is an advocate for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

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