Gay Dad Family Stories

Adoption for These Dads Was Like a "Rollercoaster" But Well Worth the Ride

After multiple scam attempts, bizarre leads, and a birth mom's change of heart, Jason and Alex finally became dads.

Photo credit: Dale Stine

Every gay man who pursues fatherhood fights for their right to become a dad. They've had to keep going even when at times it's seemed hopeless. Jason Hunt-Suarez and Alex Suarez's story is no different. They had their hearts set on adoption; overcame multiple scams, some very bizarre leads, a birth mother's change of heart at the 11th hour, their adoption agency going bankrupt, and tens of thousands of dollars lost along the way. But after a long, turbulent, and heart-wrenching three-year-long journey, it was all worth it.


Jason (left) and Alex

Together 10 years, married for four, Jason and Alex live in Miami, Florida. Jason is in retail management and Alex is a middle school teacher. Although there was a time when they flirted with the idea of becoming dads through surrogacy, after attending an adoption seminar they knew that they wanted to adopt. But making that decision was the easiest part of their journey.

After becoming licensed adoptive parents in 2014, Jason and Alex were placed into a waiting pool with other parents-to-be, and signed with the adoption agency IAC. In 2015, an "emotional scammer" sent them messages via an online site to match potential adoptive parents with their birth mothers. "It was mostly talking through email and text, then some calls for a few weeks," explained Jason. "She sent us doctor's notes and sonograms of her 'pregnancy.'" It was on one of these sonograms that the dads noticed an irregularity: it was dated 2012. "We confronted her about it and she accused us of being heartless towards her." The dads were forced to block her and hit restart on their path.

They encountered something very similar in June 2016. The connection lasted a month, before the birth mom disappeared. That year they also received other very strange calls: one from a woman who wanted to create a child the "old fashioned way." The dads-to-be were quick to block the connection.

In October of that year, the dads were successfully matched with an expectant birth mom. They were ecstatic!

But then, on January 31st, 2017, Alex and Jason, along with so many other folks waiting to adopt, heard news indirectly that their agency was filing for bankruptcy. At first they were shocked and convinced that they'd misunderstood the news shared by a friend who they'd met during their adoption process. But then they received confirmation from their counselor. "We were shocked and scared because at that point we were matched with an expectant birth mom and were now in limbo," said Alex.

On the advice of others, they contacted an adoption attorney in Miami, who had come highly recommended. "The thought of losing almost $30,000 to the agency and now having to come up with another $10,000 to finish the adoption was numbing but we had to do what we needed to in order to make it all work out," said Jason. "It wasn't until later that the anger kicked in, but what kept us moving was our birth mother at the time, and that we were in a better place than hundreds of others."

The day before the excited dads-to-be were going to travel to where their birth mom was giving birth, they received a devastating call at 3 in the morning: their birth mom was incredibly sorry, but she had decided to keep the baby.

"That was worse than the agency going bankrupt because at that point we were lost," said Jason. "We understood her decision and always knew that was a risk but it made Alex want to stop the whole process."

But Jason wasn't ready to give up. He dug into his retirement fund and savings, and came up with an additional $20,000 to start the adoption process from scratch with their new attorney. Three weeks later, they received a call that would change their story forever.

Jason and Alex's new birth mother was in Arizona and due in July. Although the husbands were wary of the additional travel due to the added expense, they jumped at the opportunity. They decided to keep it a secret until the day the birth mother signed the relinquishment papers.

Jason and Alex reached out to a lesbian couple, Holly and Dawn, whom they had met through IAC and knew lived in Arizona. Holly and Dawn had been successfully matched a year earlier. For the month that Jason and Alex were in Phoenix, the wives went out of their way to make the new dads feel welcome and at home. "They helped us find an Airbnb on the block where they lived, they gave us their pack and play, invited us to their home for dinner, and even threw us an adoption celebration party!" said Jason. This fellow adoptive parent friendship meant so much to Jason and Alex, something they'll be forever grateful for, and they've vowed to do the same for other adoptive families back in Miami.

On July 16, 2017, their son Aiden was born. Aiden's birth mother decided to have a closed adoption with the option for her to make it open at her discretion. (Although there has been no contact as of yet, the dads are still hopeful that one day Aiden will have a relationship with his birth family.)

When Jason and Alex returned to Miami, they came home as a family of three.

The weekends have changed considerably for the husbands as their first priority is now Aiden and doing family orientated activities. "I never knew I could have this different kind of love," said Jason. "My heart is so full."

Although the journey was emotionally and financially draining, the dads are so happy they kept going. "Don't give up," said Alex. "If your heart is telling you to go for it, then go for it."

"Be financially ready and emotionally ready for a roller coaster ride," added Jason. "It was so tough wondering if and when it would happen but let me tell you, when I look at him, I can say it's all worth it and all the pain goes away."

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Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Entertainment

Amazon's New "Modern Love" Series Includes Episode on Open Adoption

The episode is loosely based on the New York Times "Modern Love" essay written by sex columnist and activist Dan Savage.

In 2005, Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, contributed one of the most talked about essays for the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Better known for his acerbic wit and cutting political commentary, Savage exposed a more vulnerable side in this piece, sharing the highs, lows and everything in between that comes from the experience of pursuing an open adoption.

His son DJ's birth mother was experiencing what Savage called a "slo-mo suicide": homeless by choice, in and out of prison, and surrounded by drugs. Though Savage has chosen an open adoption so that DJ's birth mother would be a presence in his son's life, she often disappeared for months and sometimes years at a time without contacting the family, leaving their young son with lots of questions and no satisfying answers.

The piece ends on a heartbreaking note, with Savage simply seeking some sort of resolution. "I'm starting to get anxious for this slo-mo suicide to end, whatever that end looks like," he wrote. "I'd prefer that it end with DJ's mother off the streets in an apartment somewhere, pulling her life together. But as she gets older that resolution is getting harder to picture."

At the time, many interpreted Savage's story as a cautionary tale for those considering open adoptions. But in 2016, on the Modern Love Podcast, he asserted that was not his intention: "DJ's mom is alive and well," Savage said. "She's on her feet. She's housed. We talk on the phone occasionally. She and DJ speak on Mother's Day and on DJ's birthday." He added that he "would hate to have anyone listen to that essay or to read it — which was written at a moment of such kind of confusion and despair — and conclude that they shouldn't do the kind of adoption that we did," Savage said. "I think that open adoption is really in the best interest of the child, even if … it presents more challenges for the parents. So I encourage everyone who's thinking about adoption to seriously consider open adoption and not to be dissuaded by my essay."

Now, Savage's piece is getting the small screen treatment as one of 9 episodes included in Amazon Prime's adaption of the column. The episode inspired by Savage's essay, "Hers Was a World of One," contains some departures from Savage's original story — Savage's character, played by Fleabag's Andrew Scott, adopts a daughter rather than a son, for example, and the episode concludes closer to the upbeat note struck in the Podcast version of hist story than in the column.

Either way, we welcome any and all attention to the complexities of open adoption. Check out the episode (which also randomly includes Ed Sheeran in a couple scenes) and tell us what you think!

News

Adopting Dogs Improves Gay Couples' Relationships, Says Adorable Study

In what may be a "pre-curser to parenthood," 56% of gay and bi couples reported spending more time with their partners after adopting a dog.

As part of what may be the most adorable study you never knew you needed, pet-sitting website Rover.com found that gay and bi couples who adopt dogs reportedly boast stronger relationships as a result — 56% of gay and bi couples said they spent more time with their partners after adopting a dog. More than half of participants also said that owning a dog can help prepare couples for children.

Interestingly, gay and bi couples were also more likely to prepare for potential difficulties in their arrangements — 21% of gay and bi couples reported setting up a "pet-nup" agreement to determine custody of their new pup in case their relationship didn't last. Only 12% of straight couples, in contrast, did the same.

"You can outline the practicalities of what would happen in the event you split from your partner whether you have joint or sole custody," Rover.com dog behaviorist Louise Glazebrook told Australia's QN News. "It's a real tragedy to see breakups results in dogs needing to be re-homed.

There was, however, one clear downside to pet ownership mentioned in the study — 17% of respondents said they have less sex now that they're sharing a bed with their pup.

Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Newly Out Gay Dad Feels 'Demoted' After Divorce

Cameron Call showed up to his first family Thanksgiving since coming out and getting a divorce — and struggles to find himself "stuck with the singles."

Cameron Call, who came out in summer 2019, has generously agreed to chronicle his coming out journey for Gays With Kids over the next several months — the highs, lows and everything in between. Read his first article here.

Denial is an interesting thing. It's easy to think you're potentially above it, avoiding it, assume it doesn't apply to you because you'd NEVER do that, or maybe you're just simply avoiding it altogether. After finally coming out, I liked to think that I was done denying anything from now on. But unfortunately that's not the case.

And this fact became very clear to me over Thanksgiving.

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Resources

New Report Details the 'Price of Parenthood' for LGBTQ People

A new report by the Family Equality Council takes a deep dive into the current state of cost for becoming a parent as an LGBTQ person

Parenthood is expensive. But parenthood while queer is still prohibitively costly for so many segments of the LGBTQ community interested in pursuing a family, according to a new repot by the Family Equality Council, titled, "Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood."

Among the more interesting findings was this one: the cost of family planning is relatively similar for all LGBTQ people, regardless of income level. This shows "that the desire to have children exists regardless of financial security," the report's authors conclude.

Research for the report was conducted through an online survey of 500 LGBTQ adults over the age of 18, and was conducted between July 11-18, 2018. For comparison, the survey also included 1,004 adults who did not identify as LGBTQ.

Other interesting findings of the report include:

  • 29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, and error associated with question-wording and response options.29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Regardless of annual household income, 45-53% of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family. Those making less than $25,000 a year are considering becoming parents at very similar rates as those making over $100,000.
  • Data from the Family Building Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ households making over $100,000 annually are considering the full range of paths to parenthood, from surrogacy and private adoption to foster care and IVF. The most popular options under consideration in this income bracket are private adoption (74% are considering), foster care (42%), and IVF or reciprocal IVF (21%). At the other end of the economic spectrum, for LGBTQ+ individuals in households making less than $25,000 annually, the most commonly considered paths to parenthood are intercourse (35% are considering), foster care (30%), and adoption (23%).

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

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Gay Dad Life

Broadway Performer's Surrogacy Journey Briefly Sidetracked — for One Very 'Wicked' Reason

"Broadway Husbands" Stephen and Bret explain the exciting reasons they had to hit pause on their surrogacy journey — but don't worry, they're back on track!

In the latest video of the Broadway Husbands sharing their path to fatherhood, Stephen and Bret explain their hiatus for the past 4 months. The couple have big news to share including a relocation, a job announcement, and the fact that they're getting ready to restart their journey (which they had to take a brief pause from since September).

Watch their video to find out their latest news.

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