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.

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"We're Dads, the Greatest Thing We've Ever Been": Congrats to Gay Men Whose Families Recently Grew!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

Congrats to the dads whose families grew this month!

Congratulations to dads Ryan and Sebastian on the birth of their son, Máximo!!

Ryan and Sebastian's path to fatherhood was through surrogacy and their journey took nearly five years from start to finish. "There were many ups and downs and we almost gave up — but are so glad we didn't!"

"Holding Máximo for the first time was something we will never forget," shared Ryan. "He was looking up at us and we were just overcome with love and joy."

This new family of three live in Long Island City, New York.

Congratulations to dads Andy and Mike on their birth of their son Bennett!

In July this year, Andy and Mike became first time dads through surrogacy when they welcomed their son Bennett.

"We are absolutely in love with our baby Bennett! He's doing awesome and his Daddy and Papa have been rewarded with a lot of big smiles! He sleeps a lot and is generally relaxed as he learns about the world around him. He's made us happier than we knew possible and we feel incredibly blessed that he is the culmination of our wonderful surrogacy journey."

Even though their son is only 3 months old, they're already starting to think about and plan for his sibling! Congrats dads!

Congratulations to dads Bryan and Zachary on the birth of your son Spencer!

Three years ago, husbands Bryan and Zachary moved from New York City to Dallas, Texas to start a family.

"Like for most, our journey had many uncertainties with ups and downs along the way," said Bryan. "When you stop and really think about everything that goes into the process and has to take place, it's a true miracle and we feel blessed."

On August 26 this year, their son Spencer was born through surrogacy. "Patience, hope, support and remembering what's eventually to come helped my husband and I during the most stressful times. Now that Gates is here, it's hard to even look back."

"Holding Gates for the first was a true miracle - my husband and I finally took a breath. At that moment, the three of us created our new family and everything was exactly how it was supposed to be."

Congratulations to dads John and Ryan on finalizing the adoption of their son Connor!

When John and Ryan in 2004, they both knew they wanted to be parents. They were married in 2005 and started their journey as foster parents in 2009. They first became dads when their son Cody, then an infant, came to live with them. His adoption was finalized in 2013.

"After Cody's adoption, we 'closed' our home and actually moved a few times before joining the foster parent community again in 2018. When we decided to look to foster and adopt again, Cody was fully on board and that was a big part of our discussions about timing."

Their son Conner was placed with them as an infant in May 2018. Connor's adoption was finalized on October 16, and he was 19 months old at the time.

"Adoption day was a whirlwind," shared John. "We were first on the docket for the judge and he made quick work of finalizing his placement and formally making Connor a member of the family!"

The forever family of four live in San Antonio, Texas and would love to connect with other families like theirs.

Congratulations to dads Matt and Ian on the birth of their son Rocco!

Denver couple Matt and Ian had been dreaming of the day when they'd become dads. The husbands have been together going on 8 years, married for 5, and had picked out their son's name even before they were married.

"The journey to fatherhood has been a long and emotional one," shared Matt. "After our first fertility clinic placed roadblocks in front of us for almost two years, we changed to a new once and suddenly found ourselves on a pace far quicker towards fatherhood. We engaged a surrogacy agency to find our gestational carrier after two attempts to do it ourselves, and ended up with someone who was so far and beyond what we ever could have imagined, we cannot imagine the journey without her. We call her our angel not just because of her selfless act but for her guidance along the way as a mother herself."

From their first 13 embryos, one little one tried to hang on but didn't quite make it to the end. After several years of trying up, they decided to give it one more go and were able to produce 6 eggs, one of which resulted very quickly into a multiplying, healthy and genetically viable embryo - the last of 19 attempts. "The day we found out that our little bundle of cells had matured, we unexpectedly lost my Grandfather on the same day – a stark reminder of the cycle that is life. We gave our son the middle name of Keen as it was one of my late grandfather's signature words to use. 'Oh, that's so keen...' is a phrase I can still hear him saying to me as a child."

On July 26, the dads welcomed their son Rocco! "We are blessed now with a sleeping, funny, expressive and engaged little spirit in our lives. The process was tough, emotional and downright exhausting. The moment he showed up though, let out a scream then looked at his with his funny little furled brow, every single appointment, lost night's sleep, worry and tear was collectively worth it. We are Dads … and that is simply the greatest thing we have ever been."

Congratulations to Travis and Jay on finalizing the adoption of their son Kathan!

Travis and his husband Jay began their path to fatherhood a little over three years ago when they began the certification process to adoption through the foster care system. "After a little over a year and a half in the making we got the call on June 3rd 2018 at 11:30am. That day changed our lives in so many beautiful ways," said Travis.

At just 4 days old, the dads brought their son Kathan home, and 16 months later, they celebrated his adoption being finalized. "It felt like we had been set free as a family for the first time."

Kathan's adoption day was incredibly personal for the dads so they spent it with close family and took Kathan out for celebratory brunch.

Congrats to this Orange County forever family of three.

Congratulations to dad Derek and Zack on the birth of their daughter Georgia!

On October 18, 2019, dads Derek and Zack, and big brother Hank, welcomed Georgia to the family. The family is over the moon!

"Zack and I were lucky to be able to work with the same surrogate that helped us with our son Hank," said Derek. Their family journey experienced a significant setback when one of their fertility clinic's embryo storage tanks malfunctioned, and they lost all their genetic material - 11 fertilized embryos - that Derek's sister and Zack had donated to create their family. Luckily, Derek's sister was incredible and happily flew out to donate her beautiful genes again.

"Our family is truly the living embodiment of the love of our extended family and our carrier Raelene (and her family) have for us and our dream to meet our children. Meeting Georgia, for me, was the realization of all those feelings of love and hope we felt throughout our journey."

Congrats to this San Francisco family of four!

Congratulations to dads Rob and Scott on the birth of their daughter Sierra!

Rob and Scotty's journey to fatherhood started in December 2014, and they became first time dads eighteen months later when their son Ryder was born through surrogacy. In early October this year, they welcomed their daughter, Sierra, also through surrogacy.

"Holding her for the first time was amazing and warmed our hearts completely," shared Scotty. "Our son loves his baby sister and is very protective of her!!"

Huge congrats to this Sacramento family!

Congratulations to dads Brian and John on the birth of their son Weston!

Brian Wall and his fiancé John Agricola live in Toronto, Canada, and they recently welcomed their son Weston into the world on November 13.

"Our path to fatherhood was made a little simpler because my first cousin offered to be our surrogate," said Brian. "It took about a year total from picking an egg donor and our first successful embryo transfer on March 13."

When the dads first held their son they both agreed it was the most emotional experience they've ever had. "So grateful to our surrogate and he is a healthy boy!!"

Congrats to this new family of three, and can't wait to see wedding photos from your upcoming nuptials!

Congratulations to Ricky and Jeff on finalizing the adoption of their daughter Kylie!

Ricky and Jeff finalized the adoption of their youngest on November 8, the biological sister to their son Kadyn.

"Her birth mom knew that she couldn't take care of her and wanted us to have her," shared Ricky. "We went through the county again and we were able to adopt Kylie 6 months after her birth. The extra cool experience this time around was the fact that we were invited to be there to be part of the birth."

To be finalize Kylie's adoption was "amazing" said the dads. "It means that nothing and no one can do or say anything that would effect her being with us, which almost happened about a month before the adoption day."

Congratulations to this Californian forever family of four!

News

United Nations Calls on Cambodia to End Criminalization of Surrogates

Cambodia's 2016 law criminalizes surrogacy — and requires women who work as surrogate to raise the children they conceived for intended parents as their own.

Last Friday, the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reiterated its support to end the harassment and criminalization of surrogates in Cambodia, according to Voice of America.

The report issued by CEDAW recognized growing international criticism of the unregulated practice of surrogacy around the world, which often leads to the exploitation of women who work as surrogates. However, since surrogacy became illegal in Cambodia, over 60 women working as surrogates — the very people put in danger of exploitation — have been arrested and subjected to criminal proceedings. The women were only released according to VOA, under the condition of raising the surrogate children until they are 18.

"The Committee is particularly concerned that such an obligation creates an additional financial and emotional burden on women who are in precarious situations, which led them to act as surrogates in the first place," the report reads, "and that they face discrimination and stigma from their families and communities for having acted as surrogates."

CEDAW called on the Cambodian government to repeal the October 2016 law — particularly the requirement of raising the children they conceived for other intended parents as their own. This punishment is particularly onerous given that many of these women entered surrogacy arrangement against their will, said Chak Sopheap, Executive Director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, speaking to VOA.

"Surrogate women in Cambodia are likely to be at the sharp end of various economic and political hardships that caused them to make the decision to become a surrogate," she told VOA in an email. "We have seen, over the past year, women surrogates raided, charged with human trafficking, and detained, with no transparency from the authorities as to their wellbeing or that of the children they have given birth to."

Read more about this story here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

One Single Gay Dad's Trailblazing Path to Parenthood Via Surrogacy

20 years ago, Gene became the first single gay man to work with Circle Surrogacy in order to become a dad — trailblazing a path for many others since.

This article is part of our family feature series with Circle Surrogacy, a surrogacy agency that has been helping LGBTQ+ singles and couples realize their dream of parenthood for the past 20 years.

"I think I was pretty naïve, I guess," chuckled Gene, one of the first single gay dads to work with Circle Surrogacy over 19 years ago. "I just had made a decision and went out and did it, and wasn't really thinking about how difficult it might be or what other people thought, being first at doing something."

So how did Gene hear about surrogacy as an option for single gay men? Well, it began with Gene flipping through a bar magazine. He recalls seeing an ad about a woman providing a service to connect gay men with lesbians in platonic co-parenting relationships. While he started down that path, working with the founder, Jennifer, he remembers thinking, "What if I meet someone? What if I want to move? It would create all these complications."

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Raising Grounded Kids in Crazy Manhattan

When it comes to raising kids in Manhattan, Dr. Evan Goldstein lives by this lesson — less is more.

There are several lessons that we all learn as we continue to age on this wacky place called earth. But I learned one of life's most important nuggets my first year of medical school, and it has never left me. I remember this one night in particular—it was late, and I had been studying when I realized I forgot an important book in the stacks of the library. Thankfully, a janitor opened the locked door and allowed me to retrieve my belongings. I remember it took him a while to open the locked section that I needed to enter, as he had so many dangling keys on his keychain. He responded to me gazing at the lock by saying, "Son, I may only be a janitor without any education beyond high school, but I have seen medical student after student enter this school for the past 25 years. Can I give you some advice?" "Of course," I said. "Do you see all these keys on this keychain?" he said. "Every single one holds a new responsibility. Less keys, less responsibility. Less is more! Remember that my friend." And with that, he was gone.

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Change the World

11 Family Stories That Show the Depth of the Adoption Experience for Gay Men

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! To celebrate, we've curated some adoption stories that show the true depth and breath of the adoption experience for gay men.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! And few people are more aware of the importance of lifting up and celebrating adoption in this country than the LGBTQ community. According to the Williams Institute, 21% of same-sex couples are raising adopted children compared to just 3% of different-sex couples. Despite the fact that we are a crucial part of the support system for children needing loving homes, we are currently facing an administration that is trying to make it legal for foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against us on the basis of religion.

To help celebrate National Adoption Awareness Month, and demonstrate that religious beliefs should in never trump the ability for a loving LGBTQ family to welcome children into their home, we've rounded up several family stories that show the true depth and breath of the adoption experience — men who never planned to become dads, and woke up one day to find themselves responsible for little ones. Men who always wanted to become dads, and suffered through years of failed placements before finally making their dreams come true. Single men, who realized they were strong enough to adopt on their own. And men who adopted older children through the foster care system.

These are just a few of the inspiring stories of gay, bi and trans adoptive dads — we are literally sitting on a treasure trove of them. And, no doubt, there are countless more headed your way in the months to come.

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Gay Dad Life

Karamo Brown Co-Writes Children's Book with Son, Jason

The 'Queer Eye' star and his son named the story on a family mantra: You are Perfectly Designed

When his sons, Jason and Chris, were young, "Queer Eye" Star Karamo Brown repeated the same saying to them: "You are perfectly designed."

That mantra is now a Children's Book, cowritten by Karamo and his 22-year-old son, Jason, who used to come how and "say things like, 'I don't want to be me, I wish I was someone else, I wish I had a different life." As a parent, that "broke my heart," Karamo told Yahoo! Lifestyle. "I would say to him, 'You are blessed and you are perfect just the way you are,' as a reminder that you have been given so much and you should be appreciative and know that you're enough — I know that the world will try to tear you down, but if you can say to yourself, 'I am perfectly designed,' maybe it can quiet out some of those negative messages."

The illustrations, by Anoosha Syed, also make a point of displaying families of a variety of races and sexual orientations throughout the book.

Read more about Karamo's fascinating path to becoming a gay dad here, and then check out the video below that delves deeper into the inspiration behind "You Are Perfectly Designed," available on Amazon.



Change the World

"Dadvocates" Gather in D.C. to Demand Paid Family Leave for ALL Parents

"Dadvocate" and new gay dad Rudy Segovia joined others in D.C. recently to educate lawmakers on the need for paid family leave for ALL parents

On Tuesday October 22, Dove Men+Care and PL+US (Paid Leave for the United States) led the Dads' Day of Action on Capitol Hill. A group of over 40 dads and "dadvocates" from across the states lobbied key member of Congress on the issue of paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads. They shared stories of their struggles to take time off when welcoming new family members and the challenges dads face with no paid paternity leave.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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