Change the World

“The Commitment": A Film About Love, Loss, and Same-Sex Adoption

Guest post written by Albert M. Chan, the creator and star of "The Commitment," a film about the journey of a gay adoptive parent.

As an actor and filmmaker, I was inspired to make the fictionalized short film “The Commitment" by my own roller coaster journey to become a gay adoptive parent. At the time, I didn't know of any film that tackled the subject of domestic adoption, especially same-sex adoption, in an authentic way. So I made “The Commitment" to educate, entertain and move audiences with a depiction of both the most heartbreaking and the most joyous aspects of adoption, from the perspective not just of a married gay couple, but of birthparents and adoption professionals as well.

My husband and I started the domestic adoption process back in 2010. After deciding on an agency, we began to tackle the long checklist of requirements: registration forms, application forms, criminal background checks, FBI fingerprinting checks, child abuse checks, employment verifications, written references, online and in-person seminars, book studies, and homestudy meetings with an adoption social worker.

Once requirements are completed, couples usually wait about a year before being selected by a birthmother. But we had barely joined the pool of adoptive waiting parents, when we received the surprising news that a young pregnant woman had chosen us to parent her baby.

Film still: Robert (Albert M. Chan, left) and Ethan (Jason Lane Fenton, right)

We had less than three weeks to prepare for the arrival of our baby boy. We selected a pediatrician, made arrangements to take time off work, borrowed a variety of baby items, chose a daycare, and maxed out the minutes on our calling plan. But on that important day when we were to meet the birthmother of our baby for the first time, the agency canceled our meeting. The birthmother had changed her mind and chosen to place her baby with family friends.

The loss was more emotional than we would have expected. I recall how unusually hard it was to talk to people, even when they were simply saying how sorry they were that it didn't work out. Those familiar with domestic adoption had told us before we began that the adoption process is truly a roller coaster ride, and now we finally understood what they meant.

Film Still: Robert (Albert M. Chan, left) and Ethan (Jason Lane Fenton, right)

I dealt with the feelings of loss and disappointment the only way I knew how — I wrote “The Commitment." As my character tells his husband at the end of the film, “There is a baby out there somewhere, and it's making its way to us." This realization helped me get through the remainder of the adoption process. Four unsuccessful birthparent matches and one year later, “The Commitment" went into production. Two weeks after the film wrapped, our beautiful son Andrew was born, the result of our fifth match. Andrew brings us incredible joy, and I can't possibly imagine it any other way: We were meant to be together.

Richard, Albert's husband, (left) and Albert with newborn Andrew

Fast-forward to summer 2016, when Andrew was almost five years old. My husband and I had been waiting to adopt a second baby for over a year, and in that time period, we had several potential matches fall through. Then one morning, while we were in the midst of mourning yet another unsuccessful match, I received an email out of the blue from the adoption agency that facilitated Andrew's adoption. They explained that a baby was born earlier that day and asked if we were interested. We said yes, making sure to keep our optimism in check. The next day, on our way to celebrate Father's Day with our family, we received a phone call that confirmed the birthmother wanted us to parent her baby. We learned that the birthmother, who is Chinese (specifically Cantonese), was looking for a gay couple and preferred a Chinese home. I am Cantonese as well. Just as in Andrew's case, I felt that Justin was meant to join our family.

“The Commitment" has definitely struck a chord with people of all races and nationalities. The film is still going strong on the film festival circuit, having been shown at over 30 film festivals on four continents. It has been shown in countries where publicly showing gay films is a political act in itself. I've even had straight people tell me they identified with the film because they had suffered a miscarriage.

Richard (left) and Albert (right, holding Justin) with their sons Andrew and Justin

Love and loss are universal experiences, and I'm glad to see that as a society, we are generally moving in the direction where gender doesn't matter anymore. As an actor and filmmaker, I've stayed on this theme with my latest project “Welcome to the World," a first-person, confessional-style film about a man having trouble getting over the death of his boyfriend. The film presents, in real time, the journey of his awakening from isolation back to humanity.

“The Commitment" is available on Amazon as part of the gay shorts collection Green Briefs, available on DVD and via streaming. “Welcome to the World" will hit the film festival circuit in the latter half of 2017. For film trailers and the latest news, visit The Commitment Movie and Welcome to the World Movie.

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Change the World

Rebel Dad: 1st Gay Canadian to Adopt Internationally Writes New Memoir

David McKinstry set a legal precedent in 1997. A few years later, with his second husband, Michael, he did so again when they became the first gay Canadian couple to co-adopt children.

Excerpt #1 – From Chapter 1: The Search (1793 Words)

As the first openly gay Canadian man approved to adopt internationally, David McKinstry set a legal precedent in 1997. A few years later, with his second husband, Michael, he did so again when they became the first gay Canadian couple to co-adopt children.

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of his new book Rebel Dad: Triumphing Over Bureaucracy to Adopt to Orphans Born Worlds Apart. Here, it's 1998 and David finds himself in India. While in India, David visits several orphanages with his guide, Vinod, on his quest to adopt. With Indian adoption officials being extremely homophobic at the time, David could not reveal that he was a gay man.

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Change the World

Are You a Bisexual Dad? Gays With Kids Wants to Tell Your Story!

After a recent reader pointed out our lack of stories featuring bi men, we're reaching out to try to increase exposure for the bi dad community!

Recently, Gays With Kids received the following message via one of our social media channels:

"Hey guys, love what you do. But where are your stories about bi men who are dads? Do they not exist? I get the sense from your page that most queer dads identify as gay. I identify as bi (or pansexual) and want to become a dad one day, but just never see my story represented. Are they just not out there?"

We can say with resounding certainly that YES bisexual dads absolutely exist. In fact, of all the letters in our acronym, far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "b" category than any other.

But our reader is certainly right in one respect--we don't hear the stories of bisexual/pansexual dads told nearly often enough. While we occasionally find stories to tell about bi dads, like this great one from earlier this year from a dad who just came out, we otherwise aren't often finding stories of bi dads nearly as easy as we do gay dads. We're sure this is due to any number of reasons--societal pressure to stay closeted from both the straight and LGBTQ communities along with erasure of bisexuality both come to mind.

But it's also because we haven't done the best job reaching out specifically to the bi dad community! We hope to change that. So if you are a bi man who is a father (or wants to become a father) and in a relationship with a man OR woman (or are single!) we want to hear from you! Click here so we can help tell your story and increase exposure for the bi dad community, or drop us a line at dads@gayswithkids.com!

Change the World

Two Clinics in Netherlands to Start Offering IVF Services to Gay Couples and Surrogate Mothers

At least two Dutch IVF clinics say they will serve gay couples in 2019 for the first time, according to a current affairs show

According to Pink News, the Netherlands will be the next country to offer IVF treatment to gay couples, starting next year. The news was first reported on a current affairs show De Monitor that undertook a survey of the country's fertility clinics. They found two facilities who have agreed to provide IVF treatment in the coming year.

This will add the Netherlands to the short list of countries in which gay couples seeking to use surrogacy to start their families won't have to look abroad to do so.

The article quotes a local clinician as saying on the show: "I think it's crazy that gay couples, but also women who have medical issues, have to go abroad to fulfil their desire to have children, while all medical and technical expertise and knowledge is in house."

Dutch gay couples may still face some legal headaches, however. According to Dutch Law, Pink News writes, the person that gives birth to the child is the legal parent. While the law was updated in 2014 to allow a non-biological lesbian parent to claim guardianship over her child, no such accommodation has yet been made for gay couples. They will still need to seek a court's approval before gaining legal parenting writes until the law is changed.

Read the article here.

Gay Dad Life

Gay Dad Creates a New Kind of LGBT Children's Book

Titled, "What Does a Princess Really Look Like?" the book differentiates itself from most other LGBT picture books. Namely, the story doesn't explain, clarify or justify its gay characters (who are dads). The characters are just a natural part of the story - the new normal.

Gay dad Mark Loewen's children's book debut made a splash in the children's LGBT literature pool this year.

Titled, "What Does a Princess Really Look Like?" the book differentiates itself from most other LGBT picture books. Namely, the story doesn't explain, clarify or justify its gay characters (who are dads). The characters are just a natural part of the story - the new normal.

"What Does a Princess Really Look Like?" is the story of Chloe, a girl who loves princesses. As she sets out to craft an imaginary princess out of paper, yarn, and colored pencils, she becomes disillusioned with the importance of beauty. Chloe realizes that the power of a princess is not in how she looks to others, but in the change she can affect around her. More than looks, her princess values knowledge, bravery, strength, assertiveness, and kindness.

"In a way, Chloe's experience is the LGBT experience," explains Loewen, "but I didn't realize this until after I finished the book. I grew up very concerned about how others saw me. Then I found my own happiness when I learned to look past other's opinions of me, and appreciate who and how I was."

Another key element of the message in this book comes at the end of the story. Chloe's dads help her realize what a princess is not: perfect. "Being OK with being imperfect has been one the most freeing lessons I've learned. And I want my daughter to get this message early on. We should aim to be the best we can, but if we aim to be perfect, we'll surely fail."

Loewen's book tour started in Provincetown, MA, during Family Week, a weeklong gathering of LGBT families, organized by Family Equality Council and Colage. "I can't describe what it feels like when I read my book to children who have LGBT parents, and when I turn to the page that shows Chloe dancing with her two dads. Their eyes sparkle with excitement as they see themselves in the story," Loewen describes.

Loewen's book was named one of 20 LGBT Books for Preschoolers to High School Kids in a post by the parenting site scareymommy.com. It was included in the online review magazine, Children's Bookwatch. Midwest Book Review described the book as, "A unique, entertaining, and iconoclastic picture story from beginning to end."

Bestselling author Rachel Simmons (The Curse of the Good Girl) praised "What Does a Princess Really Look Like?" for "helping girls expand their definition of what a princess can truly be." Katherine Wintsch, founder of The Mom Complex, endorsed the book for delivering "the right message at the right time for the next generation of brave young women." The librarian ran website, www.bendybookworm.com, described the book as "the beginning of a new Manifesto of Beauty for young girls."

Finally, www.mombian.com, a website for lesbian mothers, speaks to the LGBT aspect of Loewen's book. "I love that this is an LGBTQ-inclusive children's book with a message, but that the message isn't about LGBTQ identity. Not that that's not an important topic—but we LGBTQ parents and our children have multifaceted identities, and sometimes we want books that speak to other parts of us, while still showing families that look like ours."

Giving visibility to families with two dads is also Loewen's goal, and why he shares many of his family's experiences on Instagram and Facebook.

For more information about Mark Loewen and his upcoming projects visit his website. Mark is also the founder of www.bravelikeagirl.com, a website that helps parents who are raising girls.

"What Does a Princess Really Look Like?" is available on Amazon, or anywhere books are sold.

Fun

Check Out this Amazing Xmas Tree Cake Recipe By the Dad Behind "Preppy Kitchen"

We're thrilled to be working with John Kanell, the gay dad behind the popular "Preppy Kitchen" account, to bring you some amazing holiday recipes! First up: learn how to "paint with buttercream" in this incredible Christmas Tree Cake recipe

My husband and I love entertaining during the holidays, and a great cake is often the focal point for our gatherings. For this Christmas Tree Cake, I made a spicy gingerbread batter for the layers and piped a two-tone swirl of Italian meringue buttercream in between each layer. The red batch is spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, and cloves, while the white part is a mellow vanilla flavor. For those who don't know, Italian meringue buttercream is creamy, less sweet than your average frosting and PERFECT for cake decorating as it's quite smooth. I "painted" the tree on with a pallet knife and dusted it with confectioner's sugar for a snowy effect. My twin boys were mesmerized by the process as they watched from their highchairs. Maybe next year they'll be able to help out!


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Expert Advice

How to Get Your Little Ones to Eat (and Enjoy!) Their Vegetables

Meet David and Danny fathers and founders of Kekoa Foods sharing some tips on how to keep your little ones eating their healthy vegetables during the hecticness of the holidays.


Watch:

Tip Number 1 – Try to prepare your own meals with fresh ingredients. Doing so gives you better control over the amount of sugar, sodium and cholesterol you and your family consume.

Tip Number 2 – Experiment in your kitchen with herbs and spices you haven't used before. Some items we've added in recent years include cumin, tarragon, curry, turmeric and ginger. Start slowly, though, you can always add more next time.

Tip Number 3 – Use veggies instead of pasta to get more veggies in your diet. We like spaghetti squash, zucchini and beets for this purpose and toss them with our favorite sauce.

Tip Number 4 – Instead of adding cream to veggie dishes to get your kids to eat them, sprinkle them with just a touch of parmesan cheese and add fresh lemon juice. It enhances flavor without adding a significant amount of cholesterol or fat.

Sponsored

A 'Men Having Babies' Conference Started These Happy New Dads on Their Path to Parenthood

In the Bay Area? Sign up now for the next Men Having Babies Conference taking place this January 12-13!

Last year, after 12 years together, Jimmy Nguyen and Michael Duque were finally ready to become dads. And so in 2017 they began their journey to fatherhood. Little did they know how quickly that would become a reality. What began with a serendipitous sighting of an ad for an upcoming Men Having Babies conference resulted in the joyous birth of their son in October 2018. Here's their story.

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