Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A "Village of Women" Helped These Gay Men Become Dads

Elliot Dougherty's mother-in-law served as a gestational carrier, and his sister donated eggs, so that he and his husband could become dads

All good love stories start hot. Ours just so happened to, literally. The summer I turned 23, during the sweltering heat, I stood at an invisible crossroads. I felt a momentum pulling at me, but I couldn't tell from which direction. I had been putting myself out there as a hairstylist and building my portfolio by working with local photographers and designers. At the beginning of July, I received a Facebook message from a young man named Matthew Eledge. He sent me the script to a short film he was directing, hoping I might be interested. We met a few days later on a humid summer day at a quaint French cafe in the Old Market of downtown Omaha. Drinking wine, we discussed our inspirations for hours.


That summer, we shot the film amid blistering record temperatures in a small nearby village. I styled the wigs while he stole my heart. That fall, the film was released, and I moved in with Matthew. We were madly, deeply in love. The kind of love that can only come from two dreamers sharing a waking vision together. Late nights turned into early mornings. We were reckless artists, dreaming up impossible plans of moving to Paris. Love made us brave, but boredom made us restless. Come spring, we began untethering ourselves from our life in Nebraska. By that next summer, we packed up one backpack each and left for Europe. We spent most nights sleeping in a twin-size bed at budget hostels, sharing cheap meals together, reading the same books, and philosophizing about everything under the sun. We got to know each other deeply while traveling and aligned in every way. Five months later, we headed back home, missing the life we fled. That's when I began to dream of homesteading and starting a family.

Elliot and Matthew's wedding

Life is about harvesting intentions from the seeds of passion you sew. For the next few years, my garden grew and grew, but so did something else. Cancer had begun growing in my sweet mother. She fought hard, and we did all we could to heal her. In the past, we didn't express the need to get married, but a part of us wanted to. I wanted my mom to be there to see it. Suddenly, internal desires became urgent intentions. Gay marriage had just been legalized. In a heartbeat, we were engaged, but not without consequence. Matthew worked as a high school teacher at a private Catholic school. When they caught wind of his plans to marry me, they denied him an extension on his teaching contract for the following year. To marry me would mean losing a job he loved. The situation became a national media whirlwind as students publicly protested the administration's decision. They created an online petition that gathered over 100,000 signatures. The school didn't budge, but neither did we. We were married that fall in the woods where we shot the film and first fell in love. The following weekend, we celebrated our reception at a historical music venue. The night was a celebration, not just for our love, but for all of the love now recognized between same-sex couples throughout the country. I'll never forget the way my mom giggled awkwardly during our mother-son dance as I cried and told her how much I loved her. It was one song, one fleeting moment that I will live in forever.

Elliot dancing with his mom

Soon after, my mom's health quickly declined. My sister also wanted to get married to her fiancé before my mother passed, so she quickly scrambled a wedding in our parents' living room. I laughed through tears as I curled her hair and stuffed socks into her bra because her dress hadn't been altered yet. Days later, as my mom drifted to the other side, her breaths becoming heavier and heavier, my mother-in-law Cele Eledge came to visit her. Cele hugged her softly, grabbed her hand, and whispered in her ear, 'You don't have to worry about Elliot. I promise to take care of your boy as if he were mine.' The summer wind blew love into my life, but a cold breeze took my mom away that February.

A few months earlier, my first nephew, Easton, was born. I hadn't realized I wanted kids, but the joy Easton brought made me want to be a father. Given how Matthew was fired from his job, we suspected the adoption process may not be sympathetic to our dreams of building a family. Not to mention, it was illegal for same-sex couples to even foster a child in many places two years prior. As we had since our first summer swoon, we took things into our own hands. We started living frugally, saving money for a three-letter dream called IVF. We began by scouring egg donor websites, bumbling through various options, but the whole process felt cold and corporate.

I mentioned my frustrations with the process to my sister over brunch. Immediately, she said, 'I'll donate my eggs.' My sister has always been my best friend, and losing our sweet mother brought us even closer. I absolutely cherished this idea. Not only would the child be genetically related to me and Matthew but, more importantly, my mother's legacy could live on in our child as it forever will in our hearts. Now we just needed to find someone willing to be a surrogate. We mentioned this during a big family dinner, and Matthew's mother casually said, 'Oh, I love being pregnant! If you're taking names for candidates, put my name in the hat!' We laughed lovingly at the unrealistic gesture. Cele hadn't had her period in over a decade, but her support meant the world to us. She couldn't have a baby… could she? In a conversation with our IVF specialist, we mentioned the casual comment his mother had made. Matthew laughed. Our doctor didn't. 'Anyone can have a baby if they are healthy and have a uterus. It's all about egg quality, and considering that your sister is young and fertile, your chances are looking good. Bring your mother in and we can see.' Cele continued to vault each health examination hurdle. Her cholesterol levels came back lower than ever and her pap smear was cleared. In the middle of her cardio test, the doctor abruptly turned off the treadmill. 'No matter how fast we turn up this speed, we can't even get you to hit the danger zone!' My mother-in-law was put on estrogen, and for the first time in years, she had her period. When the first ultrasound results came back, we were told, 'Her uterus is beautiful.' Matthew was both proud and mortified.

Matthew, Cele, Lea and Elliot

Ours is a story of summers. As the weather turned hot, my sister went through a series of intense shots and underwent surgery to retrieve 24 eggs. Of those 24, they found three of the embryos viable for life. From the infinitely impossible to a concrete number, we had three chances at the child we dreamed about. At our doctors' advice, we decided to transfer only one embryo; carrying multiple babies is a major health risk for the carrier. The last thing we wanted to do was put the only mom we had left at risk. On the day we went to the hospital to transfer the single embryo into Cele's freshly awoken uterus, I brought my mom's ashes in a small urn. I was eating a hardboiled egg in the waiting room when Cele, in a delirious state from the morphine, said, 'Hmmm. Eating an egg on this day. How appropriate!' Our laughter became tears as they wheeled her off for the procedure.

Next came the two-week wait to see if the embryo attached. They strongly suggested to avoid taking a pregnancy test on our own. Five days later, on my 29th birthday, we asked Cele to pee on a stick anyway. Minutes later, she sent a frown face via text message and said, 'It's negative.' Later that morning, Matthew drove to his parents' house to comfort his mother. She looked up at him and bluntly stated, 'Ya know, it may have been negative, but I gotta tell you, I sure do feel like shit.' She asked him if he wanted to see the pregnancy result himself. He took the walk of shame, knowing he would only find disappointment. But when he squinted and looked at that pregnancy test with just the right amount of light, he could see it: an oh-so-faint second pink line. A maybe baby. He ran back outside and mentioned what he saw. Cele pushed him aside, literally screaming, 'Shut the f*ck up!' She insisted Matthew was seeing something that wasn't there. She could not, no matter how much her heart willed it, see it. After a second pregnancy test, everyone saw that second pink line. Cele was pregnant. We were pregnant. She may have the physique of a 20-year-old, but she definitely had the eyes of a 60-year old.

Lea, Elliot, Matthew and Cele,

Cele continued to soar through ultrasound after ultrasound, as our dear friend Laurie pumped and stored her breast milk for us. Two men in love, trying to make a family, were surrounded and lifted by a village of women working to help us. As two men about to raise a daughter, Matthew and I sometimes wondered if we lacked that special something women have, that maternal magic that heals the world. We soon realized that didn't matter, because this little girl would be surrounded by the most powerful women in the world anyway.

On March 24th, Cele's blood pressure began to rise alarmingly high. The doctor said she was at risk of gestational hypertension. At 38 weeks of pregnancy, he decided to have her induced. Although she requested we be on the other side of the room, Cele allowed us to be there for the delivery. The process of giving birth is truly indescribable. I watched my charming, goofy mother-in-law shift into a silent, stoic warrior who dug deep within herself for this visceral, supernatural strength. Childbirth is not effortless magic, but it is an undeniable miracle.

15 minutes later, I was able to take off my shirt and do the same. Speaking of magic, in that one instant, the whole room and everyone in it disappeared. I felt my heart open in a way I had never experienced. Our Uma Lu, the most beautiful creature I had ever seen, was barely born, and I could already see my mother in her face. In that moment, I made a promise to take care of her as tenderly as my mother took care of me.

Now, a few months later, I am holding my daughter in my arms, feeling a love I didn't know existed. I still cannot believe how she came to be. Her beautiful aunt gave her the seed of life, her selfless grandma provided the loving garden for her to bloom, and my own mother's example will help guide her as she grows. This is a story of two men in love, surrounded on all sides by women. It's an origin story of creativity, of true poetry. It is a story that can't be made up, only lived."

Upstream Pictures has secured the life rights to The Eledge Family's story, to develop a feature film as well as a docuseries featuring the Eledges as they continue to grow their family. Stephen Gyllenhaal and Ambika Leigh will produce both projects, and Screenwriter Kathleen Kwai Ching Man will write the feature script.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

Gay Dads Freddie and Jeff Featured in CNN Documentary About Surrogacy

"Just in three days, I see the world differently," said new dad Jeff after the birth of his son Jace.

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.

"On our third date, Jeff and I discussed our desire to become parents someday, so we've always wanted to be dads," said Freddie. Jeff and Freddie Beisler-Snell met through a mutual friend and have been together 13 years, married for three. Right from the very beginning, they saw fatherhood as part of their future. In May 2019, they welcomed their son Jace via surrogacy.

When Jeff, 40, and Freddie, 36, started their journey, they began looking into adoption. Although they both yearned for a biological connection to their future kids, they didn't know much about surrogacy, or if it was a viable option for them. After doing a little more research, they attended a Gay Parents To Be event, sponsored by RMA of Connecticut taking place in Atlanta. "This event was great because it opened our eyes up to the entire surrogacy process," said Freddie. "After the event, we did some additional research on potential agencies and IVF doctors. We ended up narrowing down our search, and landed on Circle Surrogacy as our agency, and RMA-CT for our IVF clinic."

And from there, their surrogacy journey began.

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Change the World

Judge's Decision in NY 'Compassionate Surrogacy' Case Involving Gay Dad Overturned

Though compensated surrogacy remains illegal in New York State, "compassionate surrogacy" arrangements are remain legal

Last week, an unanimous four-judge panel, part of the New York Appellate Division in Brooklyn, New York, revived a gay dad's petition to adopt his son born via surrogacy. The dad, identified as "Joseph P." in court documents, had earlier been denied his petition to adopt by a Queens County Family Court Judge, John M. Hunt. The Queens judge denied the petition because compensated surrogacy contracts are illegal in New York. However, the child born to Joseph was born via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning his gestational surrogate was not compensated.

The Appellate court's decision, written by Justice Alan D. Scheinkmanm called Hunt's decision "clearly erroneous," and held that a new Family Court judge should re-hear the case.

Judge Hunt's decision is all the more confusing since Joseph had actually already become a father via surrogacy in New York—three times over. In each instance, he used donor eggs and a friend serving, voluntarily, as the gestational surrogate. He had his first child in 2012, and then twins the following year. In all three instances, a Family Court judge granted Joseph's adoption petition, given that each child was conceived via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning no money changes hands in the course of a surrogacy journey between carrier an intended parent. This type of surrogacy arrangement is not illegal under to New York law. The social worker in Joseph's latest attempt to adopt, Gay City News noted, also gave him a favorable review, calling him "a mature, stable, and caring person who intentionally created a family of himself, the twins, and John."

Gay City News notes: "Justice Scheinkman provided a careful description of the laws governing surrogacy in New York. The Legislature provided that surrogacy contracts are unenforceable and treated as void. However, the only surrogacy contracts actually outlawed are those where the surrogate is compensated. It was clear to the Appellate Division that the Legislature did not mean to outlaw voluntary surrogacy arrangements, merely to make them unenforceable in the courts. Those who enter into a compensated surrogacy agreement face a small monetary fine and people who act as brokers to arrange such agreements are liable for a larger penalty. There is no penalty for voluntary, uncompensated surrogacy arrangements."

Read the full article here.

Change the World

Surrogate Pens Powerful Op-Ed, Urging New York Legislators to Legalize the Practice

Victoria Ashton says she was "fully in control of her body" while serving as a surrogate for two New York families.

In an essay for Gay City News, Victoria Ashton, who has serves as a gestational surrogate for two New York-based families, powerfully defended her decision to help others form their family, and urged legislator to enact the Child-Parent Security Act (CPSA) to legalize the practice in New York State.

She says, for her, the decision to become a surrogate was "easy." After she had her own two children, and her family felt complete, Victoria says she "still felt this nagging desire to bring more children into this world. I loved being pregnant and both of my pregnancies were easy and textbook. But since I thought the only way to be pregnant again was to have another child of my own, I tried to push it aside and move on, because at the time two children was the perfect fit for us."

So she began to educate herself and research the process for becoming a gestational surrogate. "I understood the commitment, I understood the process, I understood the risk — but my overwhelming desire to help someone in need by giving them life is a reward that tops it all. Somewhere out in the world another family or couple deserves to be just as happy as I am. A man or woman deserves to be called Mommy and Daddy, if they wish. They deserve to experience firsts. They deserve unconditional love."

Victoria also sought to clear up misconceptions that some may have about the role and rights of a surrogate throughout the process, saying she had "full control over" her body throughout the process. "I made decisions about my own body and my own health," she wrote. "I felt protected and secure. It was a partnership from day one." But, she noted further, she was lucky to live in a state where surrogate enjoy full protection under the law. "Had those not existed," she wrote, "it would have complicated my own decision."

Currently, those protections don't exist in New York, she pointed out. But the soon could, if the New York State Child-Parent Security Act (CPSA) is passed. The bill, Victoria writes, "goes above and beyond in providing the necessary protections that create successful surrogacy partnerships."

Read Victoria's full essay here.

Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

Only so much growth and learning can occur when we limit ourselves to our fears. If people never did anything they were afraid to do, life would be incredibly boring and far too predictable. At some point we must face the things we fear and just go for it not knowing what will happen next.

After finally coming out to my ex-wife after ten years of marriage (see previous articles for that story), and eventually telling my family I knew there was one more step I needed to make.

I am a business owner. I am a structural chiropractor and am highly specialized in my field. Nearly four years ago I opened my own clinic, Horizon Chiropractic Center, in Phoenix, Arizona. I poured my whole heart, body, and soul into the creation of my practice and its growth. Opening a business fresh out of school is no simple task and I worked hard to build my practice with close relationships and word of mouth referrals. I established myself as an expert and built a strong reputation as a family man, and my ex-wife and kids were the face of my practice.

I loved and do love every person who has ever come into my office and treat them like family. We laugh together during visits, celebrate wins, cry together, often hug, and cheer each other on regarding various things in our life. That's also a large part of who I am: a people person. I enjoy spending quality time with those I am privileged to help. No one comes in my office and only sees me for 2-5 minutes.

Even though there was so much good that I had built into my brand and reputation fear eventually found its way into my business too. I was afraid of what would happen if people found out the truth. Would they be okay with having a gay chiropractor? Would they still trust me to be able to help them? Of course, the story in my head I was telling myself was much bigger and badder than it needed to be.

When we decided to get a divorce, I felt strongly that I needed to face these fears and begin telling a number of patients the truth of what was happening in my life. I know in reality it is no one's business but my own. However, I felt like I needed to let my patients who had become like family to me truly see me for who I am, and who I always was. And so slowly, case by case, I began to tell a select number of people.

I'll never forget the first patient I told. She had been coming in for years and was bringing her son in to see me who is on the autism spectrum. It was the day after my ex-wife and I decided to get a divorce and she could tell something heavy was on my mind. I eventually came out to her. The first words out of her mouth were "I am so proud of you!" We cried and hugged and it was the complete opposite of what I ever expected. And it was perfect. I felt loved. I felt accepted. I felt seen.

As time went on it got easier. And overall the responses were all completely positive and supportive. Out of all the patients I told and those who found out from other circles, only three stopped coming in to see me. Since coming out, my office has grown tremendously. My reputation hasn't changed. If anything, it's solidified. I can't help but think that part of that is due to finally embracing all of me and allowing others the same opportunity.

I read somewhere once that you never really stop coming out of the closet. And I've noticed that too. Sure, not everyone needs to know; it isn't everyone's business. And I hope that one day we live in a time period where fear doesn't prevent anyone from being seen. I want to contribute to the upward trajectory I think our society is headed of understanding, acceptance, support, and equality.

I would love to be able to say that after coming out publicly I no longer feel fear; but I do. And I think in some ways I always will no matter what. But that's part of life, right? Recognizing fear when we have it but then choosing to move forward out of love – love for others, but maybe more importantly love for ourselves.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Interested in Surrogacy? Check Out These Bay Area Events This Weekend

If you're in the Bay Area this weekend, two major events are happening that will be of interest for dads-to-be and surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF)

If you're in San Francisco or the surrounding area, clear your calendar this weekend. Two events are happening simultaneously that are significant for dads-to-be AND surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF). For an outlines of both events, check out below.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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