I am an out and proud gay uncle, or “guncle”. I have three nieces and three nephews. They often refer to me as the “sparent” (spare parent) or a PUNK (Professional Uncle No Kids).
Gay Uncles’ Day, also known as Guncles’ Day, is celebrated on the second Sunday in August. Yes, it’s a thing. Sunday 9 August 2020 is the next Gay Uncles’ Day.
The idea for the day came from C.J. Hatter of Florida, who made a Facebook post on 8 May 2016 that said: “I hereby proclaim the second Sunday in August to be Gay Uncles’ Day! Hey, we deserve a holiday of our own!”
The holiday gained traction when rugby player and Australian bobsleigh team member Simon Dunn made an Instagram post with his nephews where he asked if people wanted to celebrate the holiday. “My goal in promoting this day of celebration is to normalise the role of the gay uncle, cousin, brother…whatever, in the family and in society. The more visible we are and the more forthright we and our loved ones are of our very existence, the less uncomfortable society will be with us.”
As a “guncle”, I share a unique bond with my nieces and nephews. The bond allows them to experience a special sense of mentorship, compassion and cultural awareness. And, most importantly, a confidante who is one step removed from their parents.
From my brothers’ and sisters-in-law’s perspective, my gay uncle duties enable them to leverage a “helper in the nest”. I’m not distracted by having my own children. My time can be freed up to help theirs. Certain biological and anthropological studies have theorised that the “gay gene” emerged for that very reason: to be an extra pair of hands to help their tribe survive and thrive. There is a Darwinian perspective to this.
As the African proverb attests: “It takes a village to raise a child”. An entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. Gay uncles are part of that community.
My “guncle” role is not driven purely by altruism. As a gay uncle, I am able to ensure my genes will live on in my nieces and nephews. They share 25 per cent of my DNA. When I came out of the closet, I also declared that I never wanted to have children of my own. I became a dead-end branch on the family tree. Many friends were perplexed as to why I didn’t have a paternal urge to pass on my genes to progeny of my own. Being a “guncle”, I’m able to have (what I deem for myself) the best of both worlds. I’m relieved of society’s typical assumption that people must “go forth and multiply” while at the same time still having my DNA pass on to the next generation.
At family Shabbat dinners, I often like to plonk myself at the dining table amongst my nieces and nephews. I get to hear their news for the week. I delight in their optimism and successes. And I feel their pain when their lives are not going according to plan.
I am more often than not the emcee of family simchas, be it a bar- or bat-mitzvah, a special birthday or an anniversary. Again, this highlights my distinctive role in my family.
I’m particularly proud when my nieces and nephews finish their secondary schooling (three down, three to go). I revel in their valedictory dinners. Their VCE scores give me a major sense of naches. I am there to advise them on suitable university courses. All that, without having to pay a dollar in school fees!
There is a distinct sense of kinship when they introduce me to anyone lucky enough to be dating them. There’s a twinkle in their eye and slight smirk on their face when they tell me that of course their date knows they have a gay uncle. How cool is that! Bragging rights, no less!
The relationship is a two-way street. Being digital natives, my nieces and nephews are my go-to people for any tech help or advice. They keep me updated on pop culture and trends. How else would I know about Tik Tok, for example? And they inform me on the latest sports news, even though it doesn’t particularly interest me. I confess I draw the line at attending their sports’ matches as I don’t care much for sport. After all, no “guncle” is perfect!
Being a gay uncle is an awesome honour, a privileged responsibility and a wonderful pleasure. I hope my nieces and nephews feel that I have admirably lived up to the role.