Gay Dad Life

Gay Fatherhood in the Land of Dolce & Gabbana

Fashion designer Domenico Dolce proved his good taste stops at the edge of the runway when he told Italian magazine Panorama that "children of chemistry" (more commonly known as children born through surrogacy) are "synthetic children." His comments sparked an international uproar; Elton John, whose own sons were born to a surrogate, led a boycott against the Dolce & Gabbana brand. Yet in Dolce’s native Italy, his opinion that “the only family is the traditional one” is no extremist position. Rather, it’s one that’s entrenched in law, with both surrogacy and gay adoption illegal in Italy.


“[Surrogacy is] such a taboo topic in Europe,” says Claudio Rossi Marcelli, 38, whose book "Hello Daddy!” tells the story of how he and his partner Manlio Sanna, also 38, welcomed twin girls through an American surrogate. “It’s always very theoretical: about principles, about ethics, moral issues. But when you put faces onto people, it all becomes more human. People change their minds so quickly.”

Claudio Rossi Marcelli’s “Hello daddy!”

Luigi Codecasa agrees. When he welcomed his twins Pietro and Silvia, 7, the Milan-based doctor was delighted at the way his community rallied behind his new family. Codecasa recalls showing his local baker the sonogram of his two children, who were conceived with a lesbian friend. The baker was shocked that a gay man would have children, Codecasa says, but today, Pietro and Silvia are her little VIPs.

“She is always inviting them to the back of the shop and giving them pizzas or croissants for free,” he says proudly. “It’s the same in the street market. Both the butcher and the grocer go crazy for the kids.” The butcher’s wife even confided in Codecasa that she had conceived through artificial insemination. “I can tell you because I know you will understand me,” she said.

Codecasa is the founder of Papà Arcobaleno (Rainbow Dads), a Milan-based group of more than 150 gay fathers and prospective fathers who are located across Italy and beyond. Through their Facebook page, they share support and parenting tips with their members and other curious gay dads internationally. Codecasa contacted Gays With Kids via Facebook a few months ago.

Dads Luigi Codecasa and Marco Mazza with children Pietro and Silvia

Through the group Codecasa met Andrea Lorenzato, a 36-year-old sales rep and new father to an 8-month-old baby girl. Lorenzato agrees that Italian law is out of step with the spirit of the people. “The community is behaving differently than what the law says,” he notes. Along with his partner, Francesco Ineppo, he is a new father to an 8-month-old baby girl, Teresa, whom they welcomed through a surrogate. This April, Teresa will be baptized in a Catholic church. “The law of the church could say that they don’t approve of gay people,” Lorenzato says. “But at the end of the day no one is going to tell you, ‘I am not going to respect this little baby.’”

Despite the momentum in the streets, the Italian government, currently lead by centre-left prime minister Matteo Renzi, hasn’t budged when it comes to updating laws for gay families. “Italians have zero civic sense,” Marcelli says. “That’s why the country is such a mess. Everyone is about their own interests. Even if they are personally okay with being gay and being a gay parent they don’t go out and make it a political statement. So the political parties don’t feel that urge to put it in the political agenda.”

Under pressure from the European Union, civil unions for gay couples are expected to be legalized in some fashion by May of this year while mayors of Italian cities such as Rome, Milan and Florence have already gone rogue by recognizing the marriages of gay Italians who wed abroad. However, for gay men, the type of international surrogacy Dolce criticized is one of the few ways they can realize their dream of fatherhood.

Even then it’s a minefield of legal loopholes and prohibitive expenses. Lorenzato and Ineppo immediately struck countries such as India, Thailand and China from their lists when searching for a surrogate because of concerns surrounding how the women might be treated. “We didn’t want this journey to create sadness for someone else,” Lorenzato says. They were looking closely at the Philippines, but backed off at the advice of a lawyer. “There was the possibility that one day the mother of this baby could wake up and say, ‘I want this baby back, give me money,'” he says. “And this was not a solution that we could consider.”

Like many gay Italians looking to become parents, they ultimately found their surrogate in California. Teresa was conceived on their first try and had a perfectly healthy gestation. Then, three months before her due date, the daddies-to-be received a text from their surrogate’s husband. “We are in the hospital. The baby will be born in three hours by C-section. Come here.”

Dads Francesco Ineppo and Andrea Lorenzato with their daughter Teresa

They were on the first plane out of Venice the next morning, and when they arrived at the hospital in Redwoods, Calif., they found a child fighting for her life. “You see this very little baby with all these tubes, all these computers and machines around her,” Lorenzato remembers. The couple tried to prepare themselves for the worst, telling each other, “We’ve survived so far without this baby.” “But it’s impossible,” Lorenzato says, “because your heart is inside that crib.”

Teresa was in the hospital for two months before she was well enough to travel back to Lorenzato and Ineppo’s home in Vicenza, 45 minutes west of Venice. Today, she is a model child. “She’s sleeping all night from 8 o’clock in the evening to 6 o’clock in the morning,” Lorenzato says. “So far she’s so good. We are expecting her to wake up one day and say, I am going to make your life a nightmare.”

Surrogacy is not an option for everyone, however. “Unfortunately there’s an economic aspect to the situation that doesn’t allow all gay couples to become dads,” he says. Expenses for an international couple using a California surrogate can range from $70,000 to more than $91,000 (not including insurance). Fees cover everything from psychological screening to agency fees to a housekeeping allowance for the surrogate.

Co-parenting is another option. Codecasa was lucky enough to meet Alessendra di Minno, a gay woman who was also dreaming of having a child. They spent three months getting to know each other, discussing their views on everything from religion to education before they agreed to try to conceive a child they could co-parent.

For five years they tried what Codecasa calls their “homemade attempts,” with a turkey baster. They also saw a doctor for artificial insemination. They finally conceived on Christmas Day and on August 15 welcomed not one but two babies: Pietro and Silvia. Today di Minno and Codecasa take turns co-parenting: the children’s permanent residence is with their biological mother, but they spend Wednesday nights and one afternoon a week with Codecasa in between soccer practices and gymnastics classes, as well as every other weekend.

Despite what Dolce voiced about “traditional families,” Marcelli believes it’s precisely because family values are so entrenched in the culture that Italians are more willing to embrace gay parents in their communities. “Paradoxically, it’s even easier to be gay parents than a gay couple,” says Marcelli. “When you have kids you can show your neighbours that their lifestyle is so similar to yours. When you have kids, the schools, the doctors, they welcome you into the family club.”

Despite this secret pass, the lack of legal protection has meant Marcelli and his partner Manlio Sanna have had to improvise. Only one father can be listed on the child’s birth certificate, and with their 7-year-old twins Clelia and Maddalena, they decided that Marcelli would be the biological father: his flexible schedule as a professional writer would allow him more time at home during the children’s infancy. But when it came time to conceive their third child, a son named Bartolomeo, now 3, Marcelli was uncomfortable.

Dads Claudio Marcelli and Manlio Sanna with their children Maddalena, Bartolomeo and Clelia

“I always felt that the lack of a legislation over the legal status of our family gave me a lot of power over the legal status of our kids,” he says. “I always told Manlio, 'One day I could just freak out and decide I don’t want to see you anymore. I have the power to keep these girls from you.’ I always felt this was really disproportionate. When it was the second time around I said, ‘Let’s make you the legal father of this third kid so we’re all tangled and creating a guarantee.' It’s kind of a weird thought because you don’t want to think about the worst.”

However, the issue highlights why it is so important for parental rights not only to be informally recognized by knowing neighbors, but also to be enshrined in law. “They say that the real fight for gay marriage is the fight for gay divorce,” Marcelli says. “When all of a sudden things go wrong you need the law to protect you from becoming the worst part of you.”

If only Domenico Dolce had a law like that to protect his foot from getting stuck in his mouth.

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Family Stories

These Dads Had 'Twins' — Just Four Months Apart

Angel and Dan's wanted twins, without the complications of a twin pregnancy — so they worked with two separate surrogates at once.

If you have ever been out late on a Saturday night, you may have high hopes of meeting a handsome stranger, but you probably wouldn't expect to meet your future husband. Angel Mario Martinez Garcia, 45, surely didn't when, five years ago on a very early Saturday morning in Barcelona, he casually approached Dan's Mouquet, 40, and asked him, over many gin and tonics, what he wanted out of life. The nightlife setting notwithstanding, Dan's told Angel he ultimately wanted a quiet life, with a partner and children.

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Just Like Dad: Ways My Kids and I Are Alike

Joseph Sadusky recounts the ways he and his adopted sons are cut from the same cloth.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about my life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

10 of Our Most Popular Posts Featuring Single Gay Dads

Happy Single Parent's Day! To celebrate, we rounded up some of our most popular articles featuring single gay dads.

Did you know March 21st is Single Parents Day? Well now you do, and you should mark the occasion by checking out our round up of some of our most popular articles featuring single gay dads!

Keep reading... Show less
Politics

Gestational Surrogacy Legalized in New York State

The Child-Parent Security Act, which legalizes commercial surrogacy in New York State, was included in the 2020 New York State Budget signed by Governor Cuomo

Yesterday, a years-long battle about the state of compensated gestational surrogacy came to an end in New York when the Governor signed into a law the Child-Parent Security Act in the 2020 as part of the state budget.

The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

"Millions of New Yorkers need assistance building their families — people struggling with infertility, cancer survivors impacted by treatment, and members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Family Equality Council said in a statement about the victory. "For many, surrogacy is a critically important option. For others, it is the only option. Passage of the Child-Parent Security Act is a massive step forward in providing paths to parenthood for New Yorkers who use reproductive technology, and creates a 'surrogate's bill of rights' that will set a new standard for protecting surrogates nationwide."

Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."


Expert Advice

4 Tips for Single Gay Dads Raising Daughters

Here are some ways to create a safe space for your daughter to discover who she is, with you by her side.

There's nothing quite like father-daughter relationships, and when it comes to single dads, your little girl likely holds a very special place in your heart. From the moment she's born, it's as if you can see every moment of her life in front of you, from her first steps to walking her down the aisle at her wedding. You'll be the first man she'll know and talk to, and you'll be her biggest example of what a loving man looks like. She'll come to you for advice on how to navigate challenges, be independent, treat others and grow into herself.

Your relationship with your daughter may be shaped by your personal history, whether you've been through a difficult divorce or breakup, you've transitioned out of a straight relationship, or you made the courageous decision to pursue surrogacy on your own. Whatever your situation is, studies have shown that children with involved fathers excel more in school and have fewer behavioral issues in adolescence.

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

After Suffering a Violent Homophobic Attack, This Gay Dad Turned to Advocacy

After Rene suffered a brutal homophobic attack that left him hospitalized, he and his family have turned to advocacy to heal

Guest post written by Rene and Nejc

We are Rene (35) and Nejc (29) and we come from Slovenia, Europe. I was an avid athlete, a Judoist, but now I am an LGBT activist and Nejc is a writer, who published a gay autobiography called Prepovedano. He was also a participant in a reality show in Slovenia (Bar) and he is an LGBT activist too. Nejc and I met by a mere coincidence on Facebook, and already after the first phone call we realized that we are made for each other. Nejc and I have been together as couple almost one year. We think we have been joined by some energy, as we have both experienced a lot of bad things with previous relationships and now we wish to create and shape our common path.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

What's Life Like as a Single Gay Dad? These Guys Sound Off

We checked in with some of the single gay dads in our community to see what life is like while parenting solo

March 21st is Single Parents Day! To celebrate, we checked in with some single gay men in our community to sound off on what life is like while parenting solo — the good, the challening and everything in between.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse