Adults

Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children

Do we have a biological right to parenthood? Kevin Saunders, a childless 52-year-old gay man, says no.

Guest post written by Kevin Saunders.

Two dear friends of mine, each partnered, capable gay men of relatively sound mind and body, have recently decided to become fathers, and I could not be more unnerved. The expense, the risk, the potential for disappointment, the logistical complexity that they must navigate leave me baffled and at times enraged with the lingering question that I have, out of respect, refrained from asking, "WHY, WHY, WHY do you want to do this?!" These feelings toward what most would consider a happy occasion beg a reciprocal enquiry: "Why do you care?" The answer is rooted in a disposition and a history that has left me skeptical of the innate right to biological parenthood that many, gay or straight, seem to feel entitled to.


I've never wanted to be a father. Ever. Well, there was that frantic 48-hour period during graduate school (I'll get to that later), but as a 52-year-old gay man I can honestly say that the prospect of rocking, diapering, schooling, disciplining, worrying, and waiting for some genetic iteration of myself is deeply, existentially unappealing to me. Many have told me, "You'd be a wonderful father!" Friends and family have said that I'm so calm, so patient, so grounded. Loyal and reliable like all fathers should be. (Be damned the biosocial somersaults and private loans I'd have to endure to make this happen.) But what they don't seem to get is that, though I may on occasion possess these admirable parental qualities, I don't really like children. I'm not fond of any biped who can't hold a conversation. One who can't see beyond his/her own narcissistic needs. One who will invariably be disappointed in my failures and shortcomings. Of course, this could apply to any adult as well, but I assure you, I wouldn't like them either.

I recently watched a 3 year old have a bone-shattering meltdown in a cafe because his sleep-deprived father cut his blueberry muffin in half. Not charming. Not interested. I've seen women literally drag truculent children by the wrist through airports and shopping malls. What profound joy is this? I've heard stories of teens with broken bones, totaled cars and baby mamas. No thanks. Sorry guys, I can't make it to dinner; I have to bail my daughter out of jail.

A bit of background information: I'm an adopted only child. My adoptive mother told me, from the moment I could understand what she meant, "You're not like a lot of kids. You were chosen. You will never have to think that you were an accident." For a long time, I was proud of being adopted. I told everyone. And then, some time around 10 or 11, I started to wonder about my first family. I wondered why I was given up. Why was I unchosen and then chosen? The truth of it I'll never know, but more than likely it had something to do with being the product of mixed race parents in the late 60′s, right on the boundary between miscegenation and free love.

From my very particular point of view, there are plenty of children walking the earth right now who need love and caring. Why make more of them? I was fortunate. I was rescued from a life of foster care and group homes, and having worked with these unwanted kids for many years as a therapist, I know firsthand the enduring consequences of abandonment.

Which brings me to my temporary psychosis in graduate school. My first year I was assigned to a therapeutic after school program for "problem kids." Some were autistic or neglected. Many were socially awkward, at risk for foster care, selectively mute, smelly, biting, kicking and cursing little monsters between 6 and 12 years of age. I was utterly terrified of them all at first. But by the end of my internship, I had found my paternal wings and realized that all they really wanted, all they ever needed, was to be seen and heard and loved. There was one in particular that I fell for. Andre. He was quiet, polite, with deeply intelligent eyes. And though he never showed me any favoritism at all, I began to plan how I would adopt him, despite my mounting debt and joblessness. Needless to say, I came to my senses.

I think the lesson I learned was that fatherhood was an abstraction without a living and breathing being in front of me. I've fallen for people big and small, but even then, the responsibility of meeting their needs overwhelms me. All people aren't meant to be parents. I'm one of those people.

I enjoy my childless life. I like my lazy Sundays. My brunches. My vacations to child-free resorts. I want to be able to cut my muffin in half without enduring armageddon. Call me selfish. Or call me sensible.

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Gay Dad Life

Why Limit Yourself to One Path to Parenthood? These Dads Pursed Two!

Pursuing foster care and surrogacy at the same time wasn't easy — but Travis and Jay learned important lessons about both along the way.

Travis, 36, and Jay, 29, met nine years ago in a gay bar in Riverside, California. Both work in the medical device industry and in June 2018, they were married in front of friends and family, and their 19-day-old son through foster care.

To say June 2018 was a big month for Travis and Jay would be an understatement. They became first-time dads to four-day-old Kathan, and solidified their union with marriage. When the wedding part was over, the new dads were able to focus all their attention on their new family. It had been almost 18 months since they began the process of becoming foster parents till they were matched, and while they were waiting, they began to get anxious.

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'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.

Entertainment

Amazon's New "Modern Love" Series Includes Episode on Open Adoption

The episode is loosely based on the New York Times "Modern Love" essay written by sex columnist and activist Dan Savage.

In 2005, Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, contributed one of the most talked about essays for the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Better known for his acerbic wit and cutting political commentary, Savage exposed a more vulnerable side in this piece, sharing the highs, lows and everything in between that comes from the experience of pursuing an open adoption.

His son DJ's birth mother was experiencing what Savage called a "slo-mo suicide": homeless by choice, in and out of prison, and surrounded by drugs. Though Savage has chosen an open adoption so that DJ's birth mother would be a presence in his son's life, she often disappeared for months and sometimes years at a time without contacting the family, leaving their young son with lots of questions and no satisfying answers.

The piece ends on a heartbreaking note, with Savage simply seeking some sort of resolution. "I'm starting to get anxious for this slo-mo suicide to end, whatever that end looks like," he wrote. "I'd prefer that it end with DJ's mother off the streets in an apartment somewhere, pulling her life together. But as she gets older that resolution is getting harder to picture."

At the time, many interpreted Savage's story as a cautionary tale for those considering open adoptions. But in 2016, on the Modern Love Podcast, he asserted that was not his intention: "DJ's mom is alive and well," Savage said. "She's on her feet. She's housed. We talk on the phone occasionally. She and DJ speak on Mother's Day and on DJ's birthday." He added that he "would hate to have anyone listen to that essay or to read it — which was written at a moment of such kind of confusion and despair — and conclude that they shouldn't do the kind of adoption that we did," Savage said. "I think that open adoption is really in the best interest of the child, even if … it presents more challenges for the parents. So I encourage everyone who's thinking about adoption to seriously consider open adoption and not to be dissuaded by my essay."

Now, Savage's piece is getting the small screen treatment as one of 9 episodes included in Amazon Prime's adaption of the column. The episode inspired by Savage's essay, "Hers Was a World of One," contains some departures from Savage's original story — Savage's character, played by Fleabag's Andrew Scott, adopts a daughter rather than a son, for example, and the episode concludes closer to the upbeat note struck in the Podcast version of hist story than in the column.

Either way, we welcome any and all attention to the complexities of open adoption. Check out the episode (which also randomly includes Ed Sheeran in a couple scenes) and tell us what you think!

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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