TOP - Trans Dads

Becoming Papa

For as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be a parent. As soon as I could talk I asked for baby dolls, and then later, I asked for a baby brother. I got both. By age 5 I had the full-fledged “baby fever" that some women approaching their thirties feel. I had a special doll, Jessica, that came everywhere with me. I dressed her in my old baby clothes, I wore her in a carrier I bought at a yard sale, I took her on adventures in the woods and sat her in the basket of my bike. I remember pretending to nurse her as I had seen my mother and aunts do with their babies. I treated her like she was a real baby, like she was my baby, she was my practice for someday when I would get to have a real baby of my own. Even though I was born and raised female, I don't recall being strongly connected to the idea of pregnancy and birth, I just knew I wanted babies and imagined that someday I would probably adopt children. I wanted to start a family young and have a house full of kids.


As I grew up and went through puberty my feelings about my gender began to shift. Being a girl was fine as long as I stayed a girl, a tomboy, androgynous, ambiguous, a kid. But now I was “becoming a woman," a "young lady." The ideal repulsed me, except I didn't have words for it then, and I didn't know I had any other options. I tried to yield to it, but I never felt quite right and I began to like myself less and less. This coming of age all happened before the internet was a useful tool so the only transgender people that I ever heard of were sensationalized on trashy daytime talk shows and I knew that I didn't identify with them. The teenage years are a difficult time for everyone and I thought that the awkwardness with my body, sexuality and gender would pass. I thought that eventually I would meet the right guy and we would have a family and I wouldn't feel so anxious in my body. Little did I know that would actually happen, but I would take a very different path to get there.

As my twenties approached I had learned the word transgender and that's how I began to identify. I explored the parameters of my new gender, the kind of man I wanted to be, the kind of people I wanted to date, the kind of life I wanted to have. I settled into my identity throughout my twenties: I learned where my it was flexible and where it was not; I had relationships with both women and men but eventually was only interested in dating men. I medically transitioned by taking testosterone and having chest surgery. By my late twenties my gender wasn't on the front burner anymore, it didn't come up often and I wasn't quick to bring it up unsolicited. For all intents and purposes, I moved through the world as a queer man, and once I felt at home in my own skin, I knew I was really ready to find a partner and start a family.

When I medically transitioned, I considered that I would probably never be able to have a biological child. (That is what I had been told at the time.) It did cause me to pause and think but the idea of ever being pregnant was so far outside of my comfort zone it didn't ever seem like a plausible idea. So I forged ahead and assumed that I would take a different route to parenthood. I began exploring what adoption would require of me. I quickly learned that it would involve a lot of money and little privacy about my past and present life. While I lived comfortably, I didn't come close to having the money to cover the cost of a home study, birth mother expenses, legal fees, adoption fees, etc. Surrogacy never personally appealed to me and also can be a costly undertaking. I considered becoming a foster parent, and while fostering is something I think I could do and someday might like to do, first I wanted to have a baby that would be mine – not necessarily in the biological sense, but in the forever sense. I felt discouraged that I would never get the chance to become a Papa.

Then I started to think about the other option that I had previously discarded. I have the means to carry a child. I wasn't sure whether I would be physically be able to because of all the years I had taken testosterone, but other transmen before me had done it and they had healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. I decided to let the little seed of an idea take some time to root and grow. The idea did more than grow, it blossomed. It wasn't just a means to have a baby, but the way I really wanted to have a baby. Once I was comfortable with myself, and confidently passing as male, the idea of carrying a child began to have some appeal. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I believed that it was something I could do, and the more I considered it the more it felt like the right choice. As I turned thirty I made a deal with myself that by time I was 32, single or partnered, I would be on the path to fatherhood.

Fast forward a few years; I had been in a relationship for 2 years with my current boyfriend, we had many talks and discussions about building a family and despite our big and little fears we mostly felt excited and hopeful, so we decided to move forward. With the support of my doctor I stopped taking hormones, I got a clean bill of health, and after 10 years on hormones, my cycle started up again. (Never before had I looked forward to having a period.) We had begun to discuss the best time to start trying, and then it happened. Just two weeks after my 32nd birthday we made a baby. For nine months our little one grew, from a speck the size of a poppy seed to a fully formed baby. Somewhere in those nine months I began to appreciate my body in a way I had never been able to before – not a female body or a male body but a transgender body. A body that has the capacity to grow a beard and grow a baby. A body that, on May 20, 2014, after a long and painful but uncomplicated natural labor and delivery, finally made me a papa.

Stephen, Rowen and Josh

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The Trans Dad

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TOP - Trans Dads

Real Men Give Birth

In this first article for Gays With Kids on transgender fatherhood, journalist E.J. Graff investigates the experiences of two transdads who each carried and delivered their own child.
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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Do We Have a Biological Right to Fatherhood? Absolutely, Says This Gay Dad

Jay Bostick, a gay foster dad, responds to Kevin Saunders' controversial essay "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children"

Editor's Note: Below is an essay by Jay Bostick who eloquently lays out many of the reasons why he and many other readers were upset by a post we ran yesterday by Kevin Saunders titled, "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children." This post clearly touched a nerve! (Check out the ongoing discussion on our Facebook page.) While some of our readers appreciated Saunders' viewpoint, many others felt slighted by his reasoning for not having children, calling him everything from "self-involved," "selfish," and an "insufferable narcissist." Many other readers rightly questioned why Gays With Kids would even run an essay from a man who does not want children on (of all place) a parenting website.

The former point is a matter of opinion, but I'll offer some clarification on the latter. We agreed to run this post for two reasons. First, Saunders' perspective is unique among many adopted gay men. We have run countless essays on this site featuring adopted gay men who, inspired by their own upbringing, decided to give back by opening up their homes to children who need them. Saunders' experience, however, led him to conscience decision not to have children, a perspective worthy of discussion particularly by anyone who has been touched by adoption in some way. Secondly, as a 52-year-old gay man, Saunders is starting to find himself alienated from many in his LGBTQ peer group for his decision not to have kids. Again, we are so much more familiar with the opposite perspective on our page: when they become parents, many gay men find themselves ostracized from the broader, childless LGBTQ community. That the inverse is also starting to become true is a testament to the increase in LGBTQ parents in the United States, and an interesting dichotomy we believed warranted further exploration.

All that said, Saunders' essay is a matter of opinion, and one our readers (nor we) certainly don't have to agree with. This is why we were thrilled to receive this "counterpoint" to Saunders's essay from Bostick. We, at least, are enjoying the respectful exchange of ideas, and hope you are as well. Give Bostick's essay a read, as well as the original, and then let us know what you think in the comments or at dads@gayswithkids.com.

--David Dodge, Managing Editor

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Adults

Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children

Do we have a biological right to parenthood? Kevin Saunders, a childless 52-year-old gay man, says no.

Guest post written by Kevin Saunders.

Two dear friends of mine, each partnered, capable gay men of relatively sound mind and body, have recently decided to become fathers, and I could not be more unnerved. The expense, the risk, the potential for disappointment, the logistical complexity that they must navigate leave me baffled and at times enraged with the lingering question that I have, out of respect, refrained from asking, "WHY, WHY, WHY do you want to do this?!" These feelings toward what most would consider a happy occasion beg a reciprocal enquiry: "Why do you care?" The answer is rooted in a disposition and a history that has left me skeptical of the innate right to biological parenthood that many, gay or straight, seem to feel entitled to.

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Gay Dad Life

Gays WITHOUT Kids (If Just For a Day...)

Andrew Kohn explains why he decided to leave his kids at home this Pride

I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Antwon and Nate became dads through the foster care system. Nine months after becoming licensed, they received a call on a Tuesday, and two days later, their daughter moved in. "It was very quick," said Nate. "Honestly, it was more just shock and nervousness for me."

As new parents, Nate took unpaid leave for two weeks, before going back to work part-time. Antwon didn't receive any leave.

"It's definitely important to have time off to bond, but it's also important to be financially stable when you do it," said Antwon. "I don't think you should have to choose between staying financially afloat or showing your kid love... and I don't think anyone should have to make that choice."

Only 15% of dads in the U.S. have access to paid paternity leave. We want to change this.

Watch Nate and Antwon's video to find out how:

Sign the pledge: www.dovemencare.com/pledge

Like Antwon and Nate, we're helping Dove Men+Care advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads! Over the next three months, we will be sharing stories of gay dad families and their paternity leave experience. Our goal is to get 100,000 folks to sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Dove Men+Care has collected over 30,000 signatures on the Pledge for Paternity Leave in three short months, in a mission to champion and support new legislation for federally mandated paid leave laws in the U.S. With the conversation growing on Capitol Hill, Dove Men+Care will target key legislators to drive urgency behind paid paternity leave policy and provide a social proof in the form of real dad testimonials, expert research and signature support from families across the country.

Our goal is to help Dove Men+Care bring 100,000 signatures to key policymakers in Washington, D.C. for their Day of Action on the Hill, and drive urgency behind this issue.

If you believe *ALL* dads should receive paid paternity leave, sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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