Founded in 2014 by Danny Wiseman and his husband, Jeff Barrera, I Heart My Guncles offers an adorable line of children’s clothing specifically designed for the niche market of the nephews and nieces (and, most recently, the children and grandchildren), of gay and lesbian couples. I met the I Heart My Guncles team at this year’s LGBT Expo in New York City, and I’m thrilled to have Danny here to tell us about the company and its clothing line.
C.J. Asher – First of all, thank you for this interview! Tell me a little about yourself and Jeff.
Danny Wiseman – Both Jeff and I are originally from Texas. Both of us got our degrees there – him at the University of Texas in biology and me at Texas A & M University in zoology. I’m an actor and he works in high-end hospitality in baseball. We met here in New York and have had one crazy adventure after another. We are married for four years, but together for eleven and a half.
C.J. Asher – So tell me, how did you first come up with the idea for “I Heart My Guncles”?
Danny Wiseman – This all started two years ago when, between our friends, we were expecting about nine babies in six months. Exhausted by the thought of trying to figure out what different thing we could get everyone – as they all know each other and attend each other’s baby showers – we were looking for something very specifically from the two of us. It didn’t take long to realize that there really isn’t a market for gifts for – FROM – the gay community. In other words, there are tons of things out there “from your Uncle” or “I love my Aunt”, but nothing that speaks about US in specific. So we set out to design our own t-shirts. Our first order was for twenty five t-shirts and onesies – as we had to give one to the new babies’ older sibs – and the idea to make a business out of it really sprang from the enthusiasm and encouragement our friends showed when they received the gifts.
C.J. Asher – Where did the terms “guncles” and “gaunties” originate from?
Danny Wiseman – As I said, we have a fertile bunch of friends and have always been “uncles” to the kids. And as some of the kids got older and were able to recognize familial relationships and started putting who with whom, GUNCLES came about because we were their “gay uncles.” Because Jeff’s sister is lesbian – and we have some very close friends who are lesbian as well – we wanted to make sure that the ENTIRE community was included, so GAUNTIES (gay aunties) was born.
C.J. Asher – Tell me about some of the products that you offer on your site?
Danny Wiseman – We’re a very straightforward operation; we sell t-shirts, bibs, and onesies with the “I Heart My…” logo. We also do doggie clothes! With our recent addition of “I Heart My Mommies” and “I Heart My Daddies”, we have nearly every family member covered, including Grammies and Grampas!
C.J. Asher – What types of customized gifts can you offer?
Danny Wiseman – We are happy to offer customized gifts. While what you see on the website is what we carry in stock, we can do a shirt of almost any size or with any name! In fact, we just completed an order for “I Heart My Guggy,” which was the name that family used to refer to their gay uncle. We are working now – for the first time – on some specialized gifts which are dresses for little girls. As I say, the website is really set up for the main stock we carry, but if you’ve got an idea for something, such as coffee cups, tote bags, or ball caps, shoot us an email and we are happy to do the pricing and work something out!
C.J. Asher – What types of feedback have you received from your customers?
Danny Wiseman – Our best testimonials are always pics of kids and pets in the clothes… THEY’RE SO DARN CUTE! We always ask that folks take pics of the kids and then tag us when posting them on social media. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Facebook.
C.J. Asher – How are your clothing items manufactured and using what materials?
Danny Wiseman – We employ direct-to-garment printing to ensure the safest and most resilient printing without the worry of cracking or peeling and use RabbitSkins brand clothing because of their CPSIA compliance. T-shirts and onesies are made from a cotton/poly blend (90/10) to accommodate an active toddler lifestyle while maintaining a snuggly soft feel. Bibs are 100% cotton.
C.J. Asher – What new products from I Heart My Guncles can we look forward to in the near future?
Danny Wiseman – We just released the “I Heart My Mommies” and “I Heart My Daddies” lines and are expecting a busy summer season as Pride is JUST around the corner. After that? Who knows what will come around!
C.J. Asher – What do you think will bring about greater acceptance of LGBT individuals within our society?
Danny Wiseman – I have to say that this is a difficult question for me to answer as we live in a large, gay, urban area where we are accepted as a couple. And we are SO fortunate to come from families who love us and love us together. I do believe, however, that not shielding kids from homosexuality definitely helps to make being gay more normal, less of a reason to point someone out as different. I know that this may sound naive, as I myself grew up catholic in a very Southern Baptist town and know the VERY present power of the Church in a community, but I think that inclusion from an early age makes the idea of being gay not so foreign to people as they grow up.
C.J. Asher – What are some of the biggest issues and obstacles facing LGBT parents today?
Danny Wiseman – We actually have no children of our own. And would like to very much. I do think that adoption process in general, gay and straight, has become so very convoluted and difficult – not to mention EXPENSIVE – that is not only a daunting, but very often a heart-breaking letdown. I’m not sure that we could offer a genuine opinion about the difficulties facing gay parents, as we have never walked in their shoes. I can say that we have many friends who are gay and have children and that what we hear from them is that being a parent in general is difficult, but fulfilling beyond measure. Most have had a very positive experience, once the adoption process has been completed. And most are very settled, welcomed, and comfortable in the community where the live.
C.J. Asher – Besides I Heart My Guncles, what other efforts are you taking to support the LGBT community?
Danny Wiseman – We haven’t had one in a couple of years, but we are looking forward to holding our annual gay Santa pub crawl here in Hell’s Kitchen again this year as a fundraiser for LGBT Youth shelters. Our local gay bars and their patrons all donate as the crazy cast of winterland characters parade through the bars. I do think that the teenage years as a gay youth – particularly in more rural areas where there are fewer people like them – are perhaps the MOST difficult. We support the shelters here as a way to help these struggling youth who believe they have nowhere else to go find a positive place to learn about themselves and learn about others like them.