Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Asks: Is Destroying an Embryo Similar to Abortion?

It's a question many LGBTQ parents using advanced fertility treatments will need to face — what to do with "left over" embryos.

Let me start off by saying that I have always been pro choice and support all laws that allow people to have full reproductive rights including safe and legal abortions. This is a complicated subject and not one that I ever thought I would really have to deal with on a personal level, especially being a gay man.

I remember a very heated discussion on abortion in my biology class back in university. I was young, idealistic and had very strong convictions about abortion. I was debating with a female classmate who was pro life. She felt there was no reason for an abortion ever, not even if raped by your own parent or sibling. I could not really understand her position, then or now. Don't get me wrong, I still don't agree with her, but now that I'm older and wiser, and also a parent, I have come to respect and accept opinions other than mine.


Turns out that men do have a say and I don't mean the male lawmakers that try and take these rights away. When my husband and I decided to have a child through surrogacy six years ago, this was an issue that we had to think about. When finding a surrogate to work with, it is important to find someone who shares similar beliefs and values as you do. You need to think about what would happen if you discover abnormalities with your embryo or even if the embryos split. Would you want your surrogate to abort or use selective reduction? These are real discussions that are needed prior to signing surrogacy contracts. Everyone has different beliefs, but these are important discussions that need to be dealt with early on. At the end of the day you can talk about this all in theory, but my husband and I knew going into this that it was always the surrogate's decision, as it was her body after all. We could not force her to do anything she didn't want.

MILO'S FIRST ULTRASOUND

There was a case in California in 2013 that demonstrates this, though there was no men involved, this could have easily have been my husband and I. A California woman named Andrea decided to be a surrogate for her friends that were unable to conceive themselves. During the six week check up they found out the baby had Down Syndrome and might not survive to birth. Upon hearing the news of the diagnosis, the baby's intended mothers decided they no longer wanted Andrea to move forward with the pregnancy. The surrogate had other ideas and refused to abort and decided to keep the baby herself.

In our case we were very lucky, though we had discussed a possible termination with our surrogate in certain situations but never had to act on it or discuss it ever again. We were blessed with a healthy little boy on June 27, 2014. So why so much talk about abortion you ask? We have decided not to have any more children; we are "one and done" as they say.

Here is our dilemma: we are left with nine embryos and don't know what to do with them. We have been paying $500 a year to keep them frozen since they were created six years ago. Every year when we receive the bill, my husband and I have the discussion: Do we keep paying, donate them to another couple or to science, or do we destroy them? We have contemplated all of these choices, and then we just pay the money and wait another year.

I love the idea of donating the embryos, but it's a very difficult decision. I have talked to a few couples who are looking for embryos but at the end of the day I couldn't go through with it. These couples didn't live close by and were perfect strangers. It's been recently brought to our attention that there is a facebook group for LGBTQ couples who are looking for donated embryos with an open adoption relationship. I think if we were to donate them, it would be to someone we knew and we could possibly have a relationship of some kind with my family after. The question then becomes how much of a relationship would we have with them? Would we co-parent on some level? Would we discuss parenting styles? So many unknowns.

Another option is that we could donate them to science, but this is something we have not discussed too in depth with each other. I like the idea of helping with the advancement of fertility options and stem cell research, but not sure this is the right option for us. I have to admit this is something I need to talk to more people about and do more research on. I also wonder if in the end if we should be keeping these embryos for our son in the future for any unforeseen reason.

MILO'S FIRST 3-D ULTRASOUND

If I can't find someone I know to donate them to, we will have to make the decision to destroy them at some point. This is where the discussion of abortion all of a sudden became very real to me. I have really had to think about how I feel about embryos and whether they are just a bunch of cells or my son's brothers and sisters. A recent bill, proposed by Anti-abortion lawmakers in Pennsylvania, would require burials and death certificates for "fetal remains," which in their terms includes any fertilized eggs that never implanted in a person's uterus.

I have to be honest—this is not an easy decision for me or my husband and I can't imagine how difficult it must be for most women to abort their fetuses. I completely respect their rights to do so, and I expect others to respect mine. It is such a personal decision. I have a friend who had an abortion when she got pregnant by her "holiday boyfriend" in her early twenties. She was in school, not married and was not really ready for a baby. Her family heavily pressured her to terminate the pregnancy and she decided that was the best decision at the time. I know there is not a day that goes by that she doesn't think about that difficult decision she made. She is happily married now, with a beautiful family but I feel it is one of her biggest sorrows in life. I worry it might be one of mine as well, which is why we keep paying to keep them frozen.

Recently the clinic that was storing our embryos had a failure in one of the freezers and the temperature went too high and 65 people lost their embryos. We were lucky to find out that we were not one of those of those people, but on the other hand, I sometimes think that it would have made the decision easier for us. I know that sounds awful, but I am just being truthful as I am not sure if I am ever going to be able to make a decision on my own.

I am currently a board member for a non-for-profit organization that helps gay men have babies through surrogacy. Through our conferences around the world, we discuss everything surrogacy related and termination does come up when we discuss "questions to ask your surrogate", but we never discuss what people do with their unused embryos. I was hoping this article might open up this conversation. We would love to hear from others what they are doing with their unused embryos. It might help us and others make more informed decisions.

Follow Frankie and BJ below!

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Race

How a White Gay Dad Discusses Racial Issues with his Black Sons

In light of the recent killing of George Floyd by the hands of police in Minneapolis, Joseph Sadusky shares two excerpts from his book that deal directly with issues around raising black sons.

Editor's Note: In light of George Floyd's death, this month, author Joseph Sadusky — who has been sharing excerpts from his book Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad each month —will share two posts that deal directly with issues around raising black sons. This is the first, titled "White," which looks at general questions that come up for a white dad raising black boys. Read previous installments here.

It may be presumptuous for a Caucasian gay man to claim to feel terrified and heartsick at the shooting of Trayvon Martin. But upon hearing the news that day in 2012, this is exactly how I felt.

The horrible truth is that there are many incidents of racial violence toward black males that I could use as starting points for this topic. But the specific case of Trayvon Martin—whose only crime was being a young black male wearing a hoodie, walking in a neighborhood where he had a home—has a particular resonance for me. Whatever the legalities of George Zimmerman using a gun to "stand his ground" if he felt his life was threatened, the simple truth is that he chose—against the direction of law enforcement, whom he contacted for support—to follow an African American male who had every right to be walking those neighborhood streets, however "thug" he might appear.

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Become a Gay Dad

Curious About Covid 19's Impact on Foster Care and Adoption?

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the adoption and foster care processes.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the fields of adoption and foster care to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on adoption or foster care that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Top 5 Questions About Covid-19's Impact On Surrogacy

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the surrogacy process.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the field of surrogacy to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on surrogacy that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.


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Transracial Families Series

How These Dads Address White Privilege within Their Transracial Family

The "white savior" complex is real, said Andrew and Don, who are raising two Black children.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at dads@gayswithkids.com

Andrew Kohn, 40, and his husband Donald (Don) Jones, 47, together 13 years, are two white dads raising two Black children in Columbus, Ohio. Do they stick out? Sure. Have they encountered racism? They say they haven't. "I keep waiting for the moment so that I can become my best Julia Sugarbaker," said Andrew. "I think because we're a gay couple with Black kids, we're the other-other and people don't really say things to us. We have never had people touch our kids hair or do something that was inappropriate."

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Children's Books

New LGBTQ-Inclusive Children's Book Asks: What Makes a Family?

A new children's book by Seamus Kirst follows a young girl's journey of emotional discovery after she is asked which of her two dads is her "real dad."

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Seamus Kirst, author of the new LGBTQ-inclusive children's book "Papa, Daddy, Riley."

Throughout my life, I have discovered that reading provides an almost miraculous way of changing the way I think.

There is no medium that better offers insight into the perceptions, feelings and humanity of someone who is different from us. Through reading we become empathetic. Through reading we evolve. I have often emerged from reading a book, and felt like I was changed. In that, even in this digital age, I know I am not alone.

As children, reading shapes how we see the world. The characters, places, and stories we come to love in our books inform us as to what life might offer us as we grow up, and our world begins to expand beyond our own backyards.

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Gay Dad Photo Essays

Interested in Foster Care? These Amazing Dads Have Some Advice

As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, we rounded up some amazing examples of gay men serving as foster care dads, helping provide kids with a bright future.

Every May in the United States, we celebrate National Foster Care Month. With over 437,000 children and youth in foster care, it's our honor to take a look at some of the awesome dads in our community who are opening their hearts and their homes, and providing these kids with a bright future.

Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Check out these resources here, and visit AdoptUSKids.

Meet the Foster Dads!

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Transracial Families Series

This Transracial Family Relies on a 'Support Group' of African American Women

Puerto Rican dads Ferdinand and Manuel are raising a daughter of Jamaican descent — and love to find ways to celebrate their family's diversity

Our second feature in our transracial family series. Read the first one here.

Ferdinand Ortiz, 39, and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, 38, have been together for 7 years. In 2017, they became foster dads when they brought their daughter, Mia Valentina, home from the hospital. She was just three days old at the time. On December 13, 2018, her adoption was finalized.

Mia is of Jamaican and African American heritage, and her dads are both Puerto Rican. When Manuel and Ferdinand began their parenting journey through the foster care system, they received specific training on how to be the parents of a child whose race and culture was different from their own. "We learned that it's important to celebrate our child's culture and surround ourselves with people who can help her be proud of her culture." However, as helpful as this training was, the dads agreed that it would've been beneficial to hear from other transracial families and the type of challenges that they faced.

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