Gay Dad Life

A Known Sperm Donor Deals with the D-Word

A known sperm donor wrestles with his name. What should he call himself? Who would be be to this child?

For us Known Donors, Father's Day can be a little complicated — less a celebration and more of a soul searching, where we think once again about who we really are to the child we helped create.

I donated sperm to my friends, a lesbian couple. After a challenging few months trying to make it work, one of them was finally pregnant. Then came the next challenge. What would I call myself? Who would I be to this child?


Nearing the due date, I went to meet up with a lawyer to sign away my rights so that both my friends could claim full parenthood and the non-bio mom could adopt without complications.

“You guys need to have a discussion about what you will be called," said the lawyer. “But I have to say the word 'dad' is a little loaded in this situation. It's legally binding, And if you call yourself dad and you aren't a constant presence, the child may feel abandoned." The last thing I want to do is have this future child feel abandoned just because of one word.

That stuck with me. And since our child was born, I have been very careful to not call myself a “dad," even casually, to my friends and family.

The problem is — there doesn't seem to be a good replacement word. If "dad" is inappropriate, then "donor" sounds clinical. "Uncle Mike" just makes me sound like the host of a children's show. This person I have become isn't just an uncle, but I am also not really a dad with a capital D.

For us Known Donors (if we are not co-parenting) the D-word — or even the word “father" — is hard for us to own.

In my case, the momz (that's what I call them) live a couple hours away, upstate with our Little Being (LB for short).

Here's my issue: I am a freelance writer and performer (I know: what lucrative career choices!) I am not swimming in money, and I seem to be constantly working to afford my scruffy artistic life. I knew from the beginning I wouldn't be that constant presence this child needs.

“I guess I have an um, sperm daughter?" I said to people at first, awkwardly.

“Mike," said David, one of my closest friends. “Please stop using that expression? Sperm daughter just sounds gross."

I have spent the last year performing a solo show called Spermhood: Diary of a Donor, which is about my crazy adventures as a gay man donating sperm for my friends (the tests! The clinics! The 25 year old twinks you meet on Grindr who call you “Daddy!"). After performances I have met a number of people who represent a spectrum of donation: from straight men who are married and have their own families and expect no relationship, to gay men who are single and don't know what they want to call themselves because they never thought they would have to define this kind of relationship (that's me, obvi). And all of us, I have noticed, have had to contend with the D-word.

One thing I have learned— there are no rules. Sometimes “Dad" fits comfortably into the situation, even if the donor isn't a clear co-parent. One lesbian couple give over their children to the donor every Saturday. They call it “Dadurdays." And one friend of mine, a gay man who lives in New York City, was a donor for a lesbian couple who live in Chicago. They had two daughters, and he tries to see them when he can. One summer, he afforded a trip out to see them when the daughters were around 5 and 7. The older one came up to him. “Are you my dad?" she asked.

My friend was nervous but told the truth, “Um. Yea?"

“OK!" she said, and went off to play.

But then there is the other side. Recently I was at a bar sitting next to three women. They were talking about their nostalgia for the early days of the internet. “Oh man I miss that crunchy uploading sound!" one woman said. She went on to talk about how much she misses AOL chat rooms and the ad hoc community it provided. She described a friend who grew up with an alcoholic father that abandoned her family. The mom, she said, was checked-out. The friend had no where to turn, and went on AOL to ask if she should contact her dad. “Five moms created a private chat room," said the woman sitting next to me, “and gave my friend a ton of advice. One of the moms said 'Okay, first of all, he is not your dad, he is your father. Don't give him the power of that word.'"

Dad. That day, looking down at the contract, I realized the power of that word. But it still felt weird to forsake it. A 25 year old twink can call me “daddy" but my own child can't? The irony.

After signing the contract, I walked back home from the lawyers office. I remember passing by a dad who was carefully walking behind his young son learning how to ride a bike. The dad gave him space but remained a few feet behind, protectively. “Turn right, Caleb. Turn right, turn right. That's it!"

I thought of my dad, and how much I took for granted his constant presence in my life. My dad came home from work every night, dumped his change and Chapstick on the counter and, no matter how exhausting his work day may have been, always found the energy to talk to me. I always knew he would come home, and not for a second did I doubt that. He was always there for me. He was, and still is, definitely my Dad with a capital D.

So what am I to this child. The question plagued me, until one day I spoke with Peter, a friend of mine who donated to two women. They now have a beautiful, sweet kid named Winter. Peter is also not a primary parent, but he found a way to relax himself from the pressure of definition. “Winter doesn't belong to me," he said. “I belong to Winter."
Illustration by Ben Tousley

For more on known donors:

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Family Stories

These Dads Had 'Twins' — Just Four Months Apart

Angel and Dan's wanted twins, without the complications of a twin pregnancy — so they worked with two separate surrogates at once.

If you have ever been out late on a Saturday night, you may have high hopes of meeting a handsome stranger, but you probably wouldn't expect to meet your future husband. Angel Mario Martinez Garcia, 45, surely didn't when, five years ago on a very early Saturday morning in Barcelona, he casually approached Dan's Mouquet, 40, and asked him, over many gin and tonics, what he wanted out of life. The nightlife setting notwithstanding, Dan's told Angel he ultimately wanted a quiet life, with a partner and children.

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Just Like Dad: Ways My Kids and I Are Alike

Joseph Sadusky recounts the ways he and his adopted sons are cut from the same cloth.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about my life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

10 of Our Most Popular Posts Featuring Single Gay Dads

Happy Single Parent's Day! To celebrate, we rounded up some of our most popular articles featuring single gay dads.

Did you know March 21st is Single Parents Day? Well now you do, and you should mark the occasion by checking out our round up of some of our most popular articles featuring single gay dads!

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad's Adoption Journey Amid a Global Crisis

Erik Alexander writes about a personal moment of happiness — the birth of his son — amid a world gripped by the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19 has shaken the whole world to its core. From one part of the globe to the other, it has all but stopped life as we know it. This scenario seems all too reminiscent of something that the American South will never forget. Living in New Orleans, Louisiana we are accustomed to dealing with evacuations and disasters because of hurricane season each year. From June to November, we are on alert. As you can imagine, Hurricane Katrina's lasting effects really taught us how to deal with disaster prep along with recovering from the aftermath.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics

Gestational Surrogacy Legalized in New York State

The Child-Parent Security Act, which legalizes commercial surrogacy in New York State, was included in the 2020 New York State Budget signed by Governor Cuomo

Yesterday, a years-long battle about the state of compensated gestational surrogacy came to an end in New York when the Governor signed into a law the Child-Parent Security Act in the 2020 as part of the state budget.

The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

"Millions of New Yorkers need assistance building their families — people struggling with infertility, cancer survivors impacted by treatment, and members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Family Equality Council said in a statement about the victory. "For many, surrogacy is a critically important option. For others, it is the only option. Passage of the Child-Parent Security Act is a massive step forward in providing paths to parenthood for New Yorkers who use reproductive technology, and creates a 'surrogate's bill of rights' that will set a new standard for protecting surrogates nationwide."

Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."


Expert Advice

4 Tips for Single Gay Dads Raising Daughters

Here are some ways to create a safe space for your daughter to discover who she is, with you by her side.

There's nothing quite like father-daughter relationships, and when it comes to single dads, your little girl likely holds a very special place in your heart. From the moment she's born, it's as if you can see every moment of her life in front of you, from her first steps to walking her down the aisle at her wedding. You'll be the first man she'll know and talk to, and you'll be her biggest example of what a loving man looks like. She'll come to you for advice on how to navigate challenges, be independent, treat others and grow into herself.

Your relationship with your daughter may be shaped by your personal history, whether you've been through a difficult divorce or breakup, you've transitioned out of a straight relationship, or you made the courageous decision to pursue surrogacy on your own. Whatever your situation is, studies have shown that children with involved fathers excel more in school and have fewer behavioral issues in adolescence.

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

After Suffering a Violent Homophobic Attack, This Gay Dad Turned to Advocacy

After Rene suffered a brutal homophobic attack that left him hospitalized, he and his family have turned to advocacy to heal

Guest post written by Rene and Nejc

We are Rene (35) and Nejc (29) and we come from Slovenia, Europe. I was an avid athlete, a Judoist, but now I am an LGBT activist and Nejc is a writer, who published a gay autobiography called Prepovedano. He was also a participant in a reality show in Slovenia (Bar) and he is an LGBT activist too. Nejc and I met by a mere coincidence on Facebook, and already after the first phone call we realized that we are made for each other. Nejc and I have been together as couple almost one year. We think we have been joined by some energy, as we have both experienced a lot of bad things with previous relationships and now we wish to create and shape our common path.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse