Personal Essays by Gay Dads

These Gay Dads Realized Their Dreams of Fatherhood by Refusing to 'Stay in Their Lane'

Bradley Pounds recently admitted to himself that something in his life was badly missing: fatherhood.

Somewhere deep in the jungle of Facebook groups for would-be parents, I posted my shot in the dark. Here's what I actually wrote in early 2015:

Hello to all and thanks for the add!

My partner and I are potential IPs [Intended Parents] in the information-gathering stage. We live in Austin where I manage a real estate firm and he's a nurse. I think the goal right now is to casually make connections while we make decisions on gestational vs traditional, indy vs. agency. I hope it's ok if we just kind of hang back and learn from you guys for the time being! Talk soon!

I spent half an hour agonizing over just the right placement of exclamation points to help me sound easy-going and well-adjusted. Now, if I were being candid, here's how it should've read:

Hello to all and thanks for the add!

I'm here to tell you about a huge hole in my life that I've tried desperately for a decade to fill with work, travel and volunteering! It's not that I don't know what's missing. I've known since I was a little boy that I wanted a family, and for years have said we'd try "someday." But really I'm paralyzed by the fear that if I take steps to make it happen, something will go wrong and I will be worse off for trying. I will have acknowledged that my dream for my life, the thing I silently pray for at night, is to become a father. So if I try and it doesn't work out, I've admitted to myself and everyone else that my life was unfulfilled. I'm fairly certain that my partner feels the same, although I've actually never asked him for fear that together we'll set our hearts on becoming fathers only to fail miserably and wind up in a deeper emotional chasm than when we started. Obviously, this is a cry for help. Talk soon!"


Two and a half years later, I can poke fun at myself for that tentative, guarded attempt at connection because right now, across the room, I am watching silently as my husband Shannon makes funny faces at our three month-old son Jake until he squeals.

Our parenthood story really begins in rural East Texas in 1979. Born within a few months of one another and in small towns about 80 miles apart (which made us neighbors by East Texas standards,) we both grew up with the inborn need to be parents. Some thirty years later, we met in Austin and fell in love. We discussed children early on in our relationship, but quickly filed that discussion in a folder labeled "Someday."

Born two years before the start of the AIDS crisis, our generation grew up with very few gay men to look up to as examples of how to be in the world. A great number of would-be role models had died, while many of those who survived were shell-shocked from losing friends by the dozen. Coming of age in a world where being queer was dangerous, not to mention social suicide in our small towns, we both learned to keep our heads down. We did our best to blend into the background like wallpaper, avoiding exposure at all costs.

Thanks to folks like Ellen DeGeneres and other positive media portrayals of gay people, the tide turned enough that more of us started living our lives openly. We came out. Still, that acceptance was conditional. The social messaging had changed. Now it felt like we were allowed a seat at the table — as long as we stayed in our lane. We could find some degree of belonging and be valued as the funny friend or the overachieving colleague, but the new 'deal' with the straight community came with a mutually understood caveat: "You don't volunteer information about your relationships, and we won't ask." The thought of two men in love still made people too uncomfortable. So, that's where the line was drawn. We called it 'tolerance' back then, and for those of us starved for connection and acceptance, we bought it and went on with life. We settled. Many of us, including myself, built lives around working hard, having fun, looking good and creating a 'chosen family' of friends. We stayed in our lane.

I told myself that my life was working just fine and tried to ignore the voice that said, "Something's missing." Over time, that sense of being unsatisfied grew from a vague, undefined feeling to a gnawing urge to make a change. Then I met Shannon.

An unintended consequence of being in a healthy, loving long-term relationship was that it challenged that unconscious belief that I didn't deserve to be loved . . . that a happy ending wasn't in the cards for me. See, the thing about homophobia is that it always starts from the outside. No one is born with it. But this thing that makes you different, this inexorable part of you that you can't change no matter how hard you try -- it's only a matter of time before someone sniffs it out and then weaponizes it against you. A bully lobs a slur at you in middle school. You legitimize it with an assortment of hateful messages from the church and the culture at large -- and you repeat it all to yourself, kicking your own ass for decades. Now it's internalized, cementing your view of yourself in the world as inferior. The bully grows up and moves on but you pick up the stick, flagellating yourself with a mantra of "I'm less, I'm dirty. Who's gonna love me now?"

But something told me to lean into this relationship, unlike the ones before that I had successfully sabotaged in one way or another. I chose to be vulnerable and to accept the love I was shown, and not torpedo it when things got tough. The expectation that I would be alone shattered, which threatened the rest of my twisted self-image. I began to confront some of the paper tigers that had haunted me for so long. I dared to think about what a fulfilled life would look like instead of just cramming my days full of 'stuff' as a means of distraction. When I slowed down enough to listen for what I really wanted, it didn't take long for my lifelong dream of becoming a dad to bubble up to the top. The first place I went was Facebook, since I thought I would find a group for parents pursuing surrogacy and just hover around for a few years and leech information off of those guys. I did find a group called Texas Surrogacy, which was a mix of parents, surrogates and professionals — and as planned, I lurked around like a weirdo.

Maybe a week later, Shannon and I were in the middle of purchasing our first investment property. It was a big deal. We'd saved some money and felt obligated to do something grown-up with it. But there wasn't much excitement around the idea. While writing the offer, I asked him, "Why doesn't this feel right?"

Half-apologetically, I told him about my post in the surrogacy group. Without judgment, he asked me why I did it. The dam broke. We cried. We said things we'd been too afraid to say before. We tore up the contract; we knew we were meant to make a different investment. I told him that I'd been exploring the subject online and he agreed that we should start digging. We reached out via the Facebook group and were introduced to Simi Denson, who sat down with us at Blue Star Cafeteria and laid out for us, very plainly, what we would be biting off if we moved forward. The process was daunting. Simi's style was direct but loving. We both walked away with a feeling that we were exactly where we needed to be. I've thought about this a lot since then, and I think that taking that initial meeting is maybe the single smartest thing that I've done in my adult life. Simi would eventually become our attorney, friend and trail guide on our journey to meet Jake.

You might be wondering, why did we choose surrogacy? Adoption would have certainly been more affordable and may have gotten us to our goal a little earlier (and let's face it, we're getting a late start at this parenthood thing, so time is precious.) We actually plan on continuing to build our family through adoption in the near future. And we will love those children as much as we love Jake. But both of us felt compelled to try for children with our genetics as well. There is something innate within people that wants to continue their family lines. We wanted the same experience that everyone else gets. We refused to stay in our lane.

Getting from there to where we are now was not easy. If you're reading this, I assume that you are considering whether this process is right for you, and with that in mind, you should know a few things. Gestational surrogacy is fraught with stressful moments. Like us, you may experience loss and disappointment when the first few attempts don't work. At times, you will feel like you are hemorrhaging cash. You will spontaneously, inexplicably burst into tears at inopportune moments. And you might as well wad up your ideal timelines and throw them out the window; instead, accept that now you are at the mercy of the human body (actually, several of them) and you will have a child if and when God (or biology, or the universe, whatever) sees fit.

But holding our son, I have to work hard to dredge up those memories of the rough spots. We transferred two embryos to our surrogate, one from each of us, and got one beautiful baby boy. When I look at him I see my chin, my grandfather's smile, but then I look at Shannon's baby photos and Jake is his spitting image. It is impossible that his genetics are from both of us; we know that. And yet, somehow, we're both in there.

I cannot share our story without telling you about our angels, because without them, there is no story. Ironically, turning two men into Dad and Daddy took a village of Mommies. To get where we are today took the help of two egg donors, two carriers, one attorney and about a dozen supportive characters (many of them surrogates themselves) who played parts large and small. All are women who devote much of themselves to making the impossible a reality for those of us who need help. They've each found purpose in filling empty homes with chaos and giggles. They breathe life into the dreams of others.

Update: Bradley and Shannon welcomed their second child, a daughter named Ruthie, in January. Jake will be two years old in May.

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
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."


Surrogacy for Gay Men

'Men Having Babies' Launches Surrogacy Seminar Series in Toronto

Calling all Toronto gay, bi and trans dads-to-be who are interested in surrogacy! Men Having Babies has an upcoming event that you'll want to know about.

This Saturday, March 7, Men Having Babies (MHB) will host the first in a series of events about surrogacy in Canada. The series consists of four seminars, each three to four hours long, running from March through to October of 2020, hosted and co-sponsored by Toronto LGBTQ+ institution, The 519.

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
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
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

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse