Gay Dad Life

Family Spotlight: Rick, an HIV+ Gay Dad, and His Four Kids

Rick Nadan went into the surrogacy process much like the average hopeful parent: financially prepared, emotionally ready and physically healthy.


But soon after he learned the gestational carrier who would carry his children was pregnant, the hopeful father learned he was HIV positive.

He had tested negative at the routine tests required for surrogacy in early December 2006. Weeks later, with pregnancy underway, he visited his doctor. “I felt really sick and it wasn't going away," he says. “I went to the doctor and he suggested doing a routine HIV test."

Results were inconclusive. He underwent a series of additional tests and finally received the positive diagnosis.

His mind reeled. “What's going to happen to me? What about the kids? What about the surrogate?"

Rick's fertility endocrinologist recommended terminating the pregnancy — but Rick knew that couldn't be the only option. He flipped into high gear, contacting every in-vitro fertilization (IVF) specialist he could find, all over the country.

“Most of them were wonderful," he says.

They confirmed that the chance of the embryos being infected was very low and the risk of transmitting HIV to the gestational carrier even lower. Some even felt strongly enough they were willing to call Rick's endocrinologist and argue his case.

A specialist in the Boston area tested his sperm samples, with negative results: there was no HIV present.

“In the process of all that, what I did learn was that there really have been thousands of serodiscordant couples – meaning one person is HIV positive and one is negative— that had undergone this process," Rick says.

Rick's doctor spoke with the IVF surrogate personally to assure her the process would be safe. She responded well to the news and had no qualms about moving forward with the pregnancy.

Pregnancy aside, Rick was also faced with the reality of his diagnosis. “If it wasn't for the fact of knowing that I was pregnant and having one or two really strong friends supporting me, I would have just fallen apart," he says.

The news came just before he was scheduled to begin a doctoral program in nursing practice (D.N.P.) at Case Western Reserve University. Newborn twins and school promised a heavy load for Rick to shoulder alone, but he had been game for it. Coping with an HIV diagnosis at the same time felt overwhelming. “I absolutely went from one of the highest points of my life to, 'Oh my god, what have I done?'"

Against his friends' urging, he left his home in Queens, New York for a month-long introductory session for his D.N.P. program, hoping that staying busy would quell his anxiety.

“Believe it or not, I got A's and B's," he says, “but I was chewing on Valiums like Tic Tacs the entire time."

Rick Nadan's kids with the family dog

With the support of friends and his reassuring doctor, Rick adjusted to his new reality.

Eight months later, Rick became a father to healthy twins, Savannah and Keith. The last holdouts for support among his family and friends were his father and stepmother, who worried about his responsibility of raising children alone.

“The whole [IVF] process, for them, was very science fiction," Rick says. “They just looked at me, like, 'How the hell are you going to do this?'"

Their fears subsided the moment they met the twins. “Once they saw their grandbabies, they just sort of melted."

He had always wanted kids. When he was younger, though, options were slim for gay men: IVF wasn't widely available and he wasn't certain he would be allowed to adopt. But even after he met a gay friend with twin daughters, he waited.

He had always imagined starting a family with someone else. Plus, he had been working on his education and his career.

Eventually, as a nurse manager for infectious diseases, he found himself solid in his career and settled, albeit without a partner. “I was making my six-figure salary, I had the corner office, all that stuff. I really didn't have any reason not to do it."

Having met a specialist in Boston who could test semen samples for HIV, Rick decided a few years later to grow his family. Five years after Savannah and Keith's birth, Rick became father to a second set of twins, Calista and Elizabeth.

When Rick's father became ill, he left his job — temporarily at first — to care for his dad. Rick's father passed away a year later.

“When he died, my choice was go back to work and go back to the way I was doing it, or stay home," Rick says. Thanks to an inheritance from his father, he was able to stay home.

“It was the first time I decided that work was not the most important thing in my life anymore. I like being a dad much better."

As a single dad, a gay dad and a dad with HIV, Rick initially felt isolated. Though he hasn't met many HIV-positive single gay dads, he now has a strong network of gay parents to call friends.

“Once I found them, the isolation aspect really seemed to dwindle," he says. “I have plenty of friends that are [HIV] positive, even if they don't have kids of their own."

He raises his brood with the help of family and friends, and only occasionally wonders what he's gotten himself into. “Once in a while, I look at the kids and think, 'Gosh, how did this happen?'" he jokes. “I hate all the laundry, but that kind of comes with the territory. For me, it's just what life is and what I've always wanted."

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News

World's First Sperm Bank Opens for HIV Positive Donors

Sperm Positive, started by three non-profits in New Zealand, hopes to end stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood

"Our donors have so much to give," say the promotional materials of a new sperm bank. "But they can't give you HIV."

The new sperm bank, Sperm Positive, launched on World Aids Day this year by three non-profits as a way to fight stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood. For years, scientists have known that those living with an undetectable level of HIV in their blood thanks to antiretroviral treatments can't transmit the virus through sex or childbirth. Yet discrimination and stigma persists.

The sperm bank exists online only, but will connect donors and those seeking donations with fertility banks once a connection is made on their site. Sperm Positive was started by three New Zealand non-profits — Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc. — who hope the project will help disseminate science-backed education and information about HIV and parenthood.

Already, three HIV positive men have signed up to serve as donors, including Damien Rule-Neal who spoke to the NZ Herald about his reasons for getting involved in the project. "I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," he told the Herald. "I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus."

We applaud the effort all around! To read more about our own efforts to end the stigma surround HIV and parenthood, check out our recent round-up of family profiles, resources, and expert advice that celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV here.

Change the World

9 Stories That Celebrate the Experience of Gay Fathers Living with HIV

This World AIDS Day, we dug into our archives to find 9 stories that bring awareness to and celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV

December 1st is World AIDS Day — a day to unite in our collective fight to end the epidemic, remember those we've lost, and bring much needed attention and money to support those who continue to live with HIV and AIDS. For us at Gays With Kids, it's also a time to lift up and celebrate the experiences of fathers, so many of who never thought they'd see the day where they would be able to start families.

Towards that end, we've rounded up nine stories, family features and articles from our archives that celebrate the experience of gay fathers living with HIV — the struggles, triumphs and everything in between.

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Change the World

Gay Couple Adopt HIV+ Baby Passed Over by 10 Other Families

Married Argentinian couple Damian Pighin and Ariel Vijarra opened their home to a 28-day-old baby when others wouldn't

A couple weeks ago, we brought you a touching story about a gay single dad who adopted a young girl with Down's syndrome who had been passed over by 20 other families.

Well, we're beginning to sense a heartwarming trend among gay men and their openness to kids who might be a little bit different. Recently, an HIV positive baby in Argentina named Olivia was adopted by a gay couple, Damian Pighin and Ariel Vijarra, when she was only 28 days old. The baby had reportedly been rejected by 10 other families who refused to adopt her because of her status.

According to Newsweek, one of the dads told local media: "As soon as I saw her, I felt she was part of my life. The connection was immediate. We held her in our arms, we gave her the bottle and she looked at us with her eyes wide open, without crying."

The couple is no stranger to helping "hard to place" kids find homes. They created a nonprofit organization called Acunar Familias, or "Cradle Families," which helps other couples adopt unwanted children.

Many in the LGBTQ community have faced rejection of their own, so it should come as little surprise that queer parents will provide loving homes when others won't — we guarantee this won't the last story of its kind you'll read. But for now, check out more details on Newsweek.

Gay Dad Family Stories

These Gay Dads Lost Everything After Hurricane Dorian — Except Hope

The couple, who live in "Hope Town" in the Bahamas, lost everything after suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian this past summer.

Max Bethel-Jones, 52, had traveled to more than 120 countries over the last 30 years working with the United Nations, but had never been to the Bahamas — in 2015, he decided to apply for a private teaching job as a special needs teacher in Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama.

Just weeks after his arrival, he'd get a whole lot more than another pin in his map of visited countries when he attended a social event at Freeport Rugby. "My object was to ogle the local male talent but several women had other ideas," he said. One woman was particularly insistent, he said, but after a couple of drinks she got the hint that he batted for the other rugby team. "She promptly told me there was someone I should meet."

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News

Gay Dads Told One Must Identify as 'Mother' to Enroll in Daycare

The Israeli gay dads told one must identify as mother — like a "normal couple" — in order to receive financial assistance for daycare.

Israeli dads Guy Sadak Shoham and Chai Aviv Shoham were trying to enroll their two-year-old twins in daycare when they were told by a government official that one would need to identify as the "mother" in order to be cleared.

According to Out Magazine, the couple was attempting to apply for financial aid to help pay for the costs of preschool when a government bureaucrat called them to discuss their eligibility.

"I understand that you are both fathers and understand that you both run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more the mother," the government said, according to an interview on the Israel site Ynet (translated by Out Magazine). "I am just asking for a written statement in your hand which of you is the mother. From the point of view of the work, which works less than the father. Like a normal couple."

The official, apparently, said she was beholden to rules set for in the Ministry of Economy.

"It is mostly sad and a little disturbing," one of the dads told Ynet. "These are concepts that we consider the past. We do not necessarily come up with allegations against this representative, she is ultimately subject to the guidelines and as she said, they are the state. It is also sad that the state's definition of a mother is someone who works less and is at home with the children, and that we must choose which of us meets that definition."

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, fortunately, issued an apology following the incident, and promised to update its protocols. "We will emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all," the ministry wrote in a statement, an apology that was called "insufficient" by Ohad Hizki, the director-general of the National LGBT Task Force.

"The Ministry of Labor and Welfare must sharpen its procedures immediately to prevent recurrence of cases of this kind, as other public organizations have been able to do," he said.

Read more about this story on Out Magazine.

Gay Dad Life

Top 10 Reasons You Should Date a Gay Dad

Jay Turner lays out the top 10 reasons you should consider dating a single gay dad

We're gay dads. Many of us were married to women, and for various reasons we eventually found ourselves single and looking for companionship from another man. Life is a little more complicated for us because we have kids. But that shouldn't deter you from seeking a relationship with a gay dad. In fact, there are many reasons why we make better partners than men without children. We are generally more mature, responsible, and emotionally available. We are also better communicators.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should date a gay dad:

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Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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