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One Surrogate's Experience Carrying Twins for Gay and HIV+ Intended Parents

Checking the "yes" box to serve as a surrogate in the Special Program for Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) program, she says, was one of the most rewarding decisions she's ever made

Photo credit: Cassandra Photo

In partnership with Circle Surrogacy. Written by a Circle surrogate who carried twins for an international gay couple in the SPAR program.

The word serendipity is such a magical word, and one that's rarely used. But so far, it's the best word I can think of to describe my surrogacy experience, carrying twins for a gay HIV positive couple in the SPAR program.

I came to surrogacy because I have been drawn to help others my whole life. Because of a medical condition, my sister is unable to have her own children. I witnessed first-hand the painful questions young women are asked all too often: "When are you going to have kids?" Hearing my sister reply, "I won't be" helped shape me into who I am today, and my decision to become a surrogate.

I was looking for something exceptional in my surrogacy, but I didn't know exactly what that was. When I applied to be a surrogate, I had never thought of all the different walks of life waiting and hoping for someone to come along and help create a family for them.

Saying "yes" to the Special Program for Assisted Reproduction (SPAR).

During the application process I was asked if I would consider carrying a baby for intended parents in SPAR. I initially checked off the "NO" box; originally, I wasn't interested in working with someone in the SPAR program who was HIV+. Honestly, I did not fully understand what I read about it, and it seemed complicated and frightening. Checking off "No" seemed easier. But I sat there for a moment, trying to open up my mind. I thought to myself, 'What's the harm in checking "Yes" and getting more information?' Becoming a surrogate was going to be the biggest learning experience of my life, and I wanted to be all in! I changed my answer to "Yes," which I now feel was serendipity.

Soon after submitting my application, I received my first intended parent profile almost immediately. I was so excited I could burst! There were names and faces behind all this paperwork—an international gay couple in the SPAR program. Wow!

Their pictures were happy and handsome. At first, I felt a little overwhelmed. For some reason I expected a cookie-cutter heterosexual couple from Iowa or another U.S. state. My husband and I discussed the couple's profile extensively.

I had so much going through my head. What if these intended parents got sick from HIV and were not able to take care of their babies? I wondered what their lives looked like day to day, what medications they were taking, and their overall health. Most of these questions came from my lack of knowledge of HIV, and the advancements that have been made over the past few decades. So I did more research.

My husband and I learned that men in the SPAR program must be actively treating their HIV. My IPs were just as "healthy" as anyone else I could carry for. We also spoke with Dr. Kiessling about the science behind the program, and how it has been made possible that a man can be a bio dad without passing on HIV to the carrier of the baby. Dr. Kiessling explained the process of making all of this possible and safe; she is an expert in her field and has devoted her life to this research and development. With that knowledge, I felt completely comfortable that I was not at risk.

When we Skyped with our intended parents, I never once thought about SPAR or HIV. These two men were intriguing. It came down to the fact that I felt that they should have the same right as anyone else to experience parenthood. Both my husband and I knew they were the right match for us. From then on, I can honestly say joining SPAR became a non-issue for me.

SPAR didn't define the dads, parenthood did.

During my journey, I only shared with my husband and a few close friends of mine that my intended parents were HIV positive. After I first met my intended parents, I really never thought about it. I did not want HIV to define them. I wanted to get to know them as soon-to-be dads. I wanted them to have a surrogacy experience just as anyone else would. This is the most exciting time of their lives and one of the most exciting times of mine! I did not feel like it was my business to share personal information about my IPs to others. No one else goes around introducing people as a medical diagnosis so why should they be treated that way? We just felt joy!

While I never focused on the fact that my IPs were HIV+, I felt more connected to them because they were in the SPAR program. I knew they didn't have the same number of gestational carrier match options that gay men who weren't part of the SPAR program had. It felt even more gratifying for me to be able to be the person who helped make their dreams come true.

Love is love.

I wholeheartedly believe that checking the "Yes" box was a defining moment in my life. I expanded my mind to something so pure and brand new. The concept, however, was one that was very familiar to me: Love is love, and everyone deserves to have their wildest dreams come true. These two men who walked into my life now have two flawless, healthy baby boys and will forever be a family.

I still keep in touch with the dads, and they send me photos and updates of the babies. Even though I carried their babies, I'm the one who is grateful that they came into our lives. I learned so much on my surrogacy journey, and grew as a person, and I have them to thank.

***

If you'd like more information on Circle's SPAR program, please visit our page on SPAR parenting






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Change the World

Ricky Martin's Kids Design Shirt to Help Victims of Hurricane Maria

Ricky Martin's latest project is aiming to raise funds for Puerto Rico by selling t-shirts designed by his twins, Matteo and Valentino.

Since Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria last year, Ricky Martin has been at the forefront of relief efforts, traveling frequently to his home island to help rebuild houses, raise money, and increase awareness of the continuing struggle there.

Earlier this month, the gay dad of two announced his most recent effort to support the cause, a campaign called "De mi familia a tu familia" (From my family to your family). The project is aiming to raise funds for Puerto Rico by selling t-shirts designed by his twins, Matteo and Valentino.

On the anniversary of the hurricane, the singer took to twitter, writing: "this is stronger than me. I could not wait another day. A year later, we FOLLOW #Allin4PR. The number of deaths after hurricane Maria was high, but the spirit of my people is UNBREAKABLE."

He continued, writing: "As we continue to strengthen hearts and demand hope, we still need your help. Therefore, from my family to yours, I share with you a symbol of hope, our beautiful flag, painted by my children. All proceeds from the limited edition of this shirt help the Ricky Martin Foundation continue to provide sustenance – not only in the reconstruction of homes in Loíza, but for emotional healing and social transformation."

To support the cause by buying the shirt made by Ricky Martin's kids, follow this link.

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Helping Gay Men Afford Adoption Through Sizable Grants

Helpuadopt.org is putting adoption within reach for our families!

Eight years ago, Jay Faigenbaum messaged Adam Jacobs on the dating site Match.com. Adam had let his membership lapse, however, so wasn't able to read the email. “I'd kind of given up on dating at that point," Adam admitted. Still, he was intrigued by Jay's mystery message.

“I called customer service and said, 'Dr. Phil promised me six months free if I didn't find love on your site,'" Adam laughed, referencing a commercial from the time featuring the self-help guru. Sure enough, the company offered Adam six months for free. But as it would turn out, one extra day was all he needed.

“Jay's email was the last I ever read," he said.

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Change the World

Jared Polis on Track to Be Nation's First Gay Male (and Gay Dad!) Governor in Colorado

Jared Polis is leading his Republican challenger by comfortable margins according to recent polls

Openly gay Congressman Jared Polis, the Democratic nominee for Governor in Colorado, is currently leading in the polls against his Republican Challenger, Walker Stapleton. Polis shook up the Governor's race last summer in Colorado by throwing his hat into the ring for the Democratic primary. If elected, the dad of two would become the nation's first openly gay male Governor. (Kate Brown, the openly bisexual Governor of Oregon, is the only member of the LGBTQ community to win election to a state's highest Executive office in the country.)

Polis, who was first elected to represent Colorado's Second Congressional District in 2008 and serves as co-chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus, is no stranger to making history. In 2011, when he and his partner Marlon Reis announced the birth of their son, Caspian Julius, Polis became the first openly gay parent to serve in the United States Congress. The couple welcomed a daughter, named Cora, in 2014.

Despite making history in this way, Polis and his husband have thus far kept private about their family, declining to state publicly whether their children were adopted or born via surrogacy.

Polis, who already beat out a crowded field of fellow Democrats vying for the state's top position, was seen as a strong contended as soon as he entered the race. He has been among the state's more popular Representatives, consistently winning reelection with comfortable margins. Also, thanks to several successful internet ventures prior to his turn as a public servant, he is one of the top 10 wealthiest members of Congress, meaning he's had plenty of cash on hand for his campaign.

Gay Dad Life

Dads, What's the Ickiest Thing You've Had to Do as a Parent?

Our latest "Hey Dads, Gay Dads!" video features fun sentences like, "And then he threw up in my face..." and "he pooped in the back of my car, and I didn't have enough wipes...."

From poop explosions and throw-up, to getting creative with the clean-up, we've experienced our fair share of gross. Watch these gay dads recount some of their "ickiest" moments. What's yours?


Change the World

In a First, Two Male Mice Make Offspring Without Female DNA

Thanks to advances in gene editing and stem cells, scientists in China helped two male mice create offspring together, without any female DNA.

Thanks to advances in gene editing and stem cells, scientists in China helped two male mice create offspring together, without any female DNA. The feat had already been accomplished with two female mice, but this latest advancement marks the first time two male mice have created offspring that were carried to full term.

This marks a major advancement, but it's not time to start lining up at your local fertility clinic just yet, guys: while the mice pups born from two females were healthy, and were even able to conceive their own offspring, those born to two male pups died shortly after their birth.

A recent article in National Geographic helps explain why the feat is more difficult with makes. One of the main barriers is due to a process called "imprinting," during the development of sperm and eggs, when "tags" attach to our chromosomes. In mammals, these tags vary by sex.

"For female mouse pairs, they had to delete three locations to get healthy young," according to the article. "For male mouse pairs, they had to snip seven regions."

For the female pups, snipping just these three regions allowed the pups to grow at a normal rate. Snipping the seven regions in males allows the babies to develop to full term, but it is not enough, yet, to allow the offspring to live much past birth.

An additional barrier: to make an individual, you have to have an egg. "Males don't have eggs," a developmental biologist helpfully points out in the piece.

Read the full article here.

Change the World

Australian Politician Gives Impassioned Defense of Gay Men's Access to Altruistic Surrogacy

A new bill passed by the Western Australian Legislative Assembly aims to make it legal for gay men and couples to use "altruistic" surrogacy to start their families.

This month, the Western Australian Legislative Assembly passed a bill to allow single men and gay couples to access "altruistic surrogacy" to start their families. Previously, only single women, lesbian couples and heterosexual couples were allowed to pursue surrogacy arrangements. (Read more about different types of surrogacy arrangements.)

The legislation passed after a long and at times heated debate, during which John Carey, one of three out gay members of the parliament, made an impassioned defense of gay men's ability to access altruistic surrogacy as a means to start their families.

"I came into politics to believe in the best of people, to appeal to the best our our humanity, to show greater kindness, to understand that despite our differences there is much that brings us together," Carey said at the beginning of the debate, according to Out in Perth, which reported on the proceedings. "This is why I proudly stand here today as a member of parliament, and to support progressive change, to support that humanity in our community.

Carey stressed that children being raised by LGBTQ people, "are loved. They are respected. They are supported in their aspirations and their dreams. They go to school, they visit school, they to to playgroups and they mix with they peers, and they are all raised by same-sex parents, and many of them male couples."

Allowing gay men to access altruistic surrogacy was a substantive win for the local LGBTQ community, which also recently saw gay marriage legalized. But it is also, as Carey noted in his speech, a symbolic one. "Every bit of reform which tackles discrimination, which removes those barriers is critically important," he said. "It's not just for those same-sex couples who want to have a child, but also for all those young generations who will see another part of discrimination dismantled from our legislation."

Read Carey's full defense of the bill, which will next be read and debated in the Legislative Council, here.

Change the World

Finding No Children's Books in Brazil That Represented His Family, This Gay Dad Decided to Write His Own

Alexandre de Souza Amorim wrote "The Knight and the Werewolf - A Story of Courage" to provide his daughter with a children's story that reflected her family

Guest post by Alexandre de Souza Amorim.

My name is Alexandre de Souza Amorim. In 2016, my husband and I became parents of a beautiful baby princess. The following year, our story was posted here in "Gays With Kids".

Today we return to tell a second part of this story. Sara, our daughter, has always loved books or "booklets" as she calls them. And since she arrived, we started looking for children's books that represented our family, our love and LGBTQI characters. In Brazil there is a very small number of these publications.

"Facing our greatest fears, we may come across great surprises." - Alexandre de Souza Amorim

One day I was talking to another gay couple, who are also parents, and they complained about the lack of books with LGBTQI characters in Brazil.

I am a father and also a psychologist, and I know that the representativeness of our families and our love in the following of culture (cinema, books, theater, music, etc.) are important weapons in the fight against homophobia and violence of all kinds. I have already written chapters of books and articles on psychology, and I soon thought: Can I write a children's fairy tale? I wish my daughter would grow up in a world with fewer differences and more love. And from this desire was born my first children's book: "The Knight and the Werewolf - A Story of Courage"

"Every parent should remember that with their support their children can find the path of their happiness faster." - Alexandre de Souza Amorim

But that dream has only become possible because I have met people who also believe that we need more representation. Lea Carvalho, publisher at Metanoia Publishing House agreed to publish the book as soon as she read it. And Bruno Guimarães Reis, from Studio Bonnie & Clyde, is the illustrator who gave life to my characters.

The official launch of the book will be on November 1, 2018, but it can already be purchased on the publisher's website.

"Some adventures can be full of great surprises." - Alexandre de Souza Amorim

The book tells the story of young Kevin, who dreams of becoming a knight of his kingdom. When that dream comes true, Kevin is named the bravest knight in his kingdom. But being brave does not mean that you are not afraid of anything, but that you can face even your greatest fears. And it is facing his fear of Werewolves that Kevin meets Prince Noah. Friendship soon becomes love. It is a book about courage, love and with a great sensitivity to teach children that there are many possibilities to exist and to love.

I'm really glad this dream came true. And I am happier to know that my daughter and other children may have a book that shows that the knight can fall in love with the prince and that there is no problem in that. Love is love. And love is a beautiful thing.

Change the World

Live in Massachusetts? Vote 'YES' on Ballot Question #3 to Protect Trans Rights

Massachusetts Ballot question #3 would remove "gender identity" from public accommodation non-discrimination law, opening to the door to trans individuals being targeted in public

This November 6th, ballot question #3 in Massachusetts puts transgender individuals at risk of losing their civil rights. In 2016, the state passed a landmark non-discrimination law that prohibits discrimination against trans people in public spaces, including hotels, restaurants, retail stores, gyms, parks, bathrooms, locker rooms and more. But an anti-LGBT group collected enough signatures to put a repeal effort on this ballot this year that, if approved by voters, will remove these protections from public accommodation non-discrimination law.

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