Feature Stories

Hippie Hal: The Three-Peat Known Sperm Donor, Part II

If you missed it, read the first part, "Hippie Hal: The Three-Peat Known Sperm Donor," first.


The Kids Are All Right

I like to think of myself as a fairly progressive person — I like free love and patchouli as much as the next hippie — but it’s hard for me to conceive of serving as a sperm donor for multiple women. As soon as I agreed to become a donor for Tori and Kelly I felt … what was the word? Taken? Off the market? Betrothed?  Call me old-fashioned, but I guess I’m more of a “one sperm donor, one lesbian couple” kind of guy.

But even if I were to consider donating to another couple someday, it’s hard to imagine my doing so without some pretty lengthy conversations with Tori and Kelly about the impact it would have on them. In essence, I’d be creating a biological sibling for their daughter, one who’d grow up in a completely separate family. And in Hal’s case, his children grew up not only under separate roofs, but in different cities —Huckle in Wisconsin, Yeshi in Northern California, and Sam on the East Coast. So what did each of Hal’s wives think about his serving as a donor to multiple women? Were the moms all on board with this arrangement, like some sort of queer, progressive version of HBO’s Big Love? Or were there problems with “sharing” Hal in this way?

“They’ve all taken a similar perspective: it’s family building,” Hal said. “Our kids have benefited from multiple relationships and multiple lineages. These kids can end up sometimes with four sets of grandparents. How great is it that there are that many people who care about you? It’s only a blessing. I think they’re happy with the situation.”

Okay, sure. Despite the complications that might arise with managing three donor arrangements simultaneously, I could see the appeal in this. There’s clearly nothing wrong with having more love in a child’s life. But how was this arrangement for the kids? Wasn’t it strange for them to grow up knowing they had siblings out there in the world being raised in other families and cities? How often were they able to interact with one another?

Hal thought a moment before answering. “They didn’t see each other a lot growing up,” he admitted. “And now that they're adults, much of their communication is on Facebook. But there’s affection there. I’ve been around them when they proudly introduce each other to someone as their sibling.”

Hal’s characterization of his kids’ relationship struck a chord in me; it could very well describe the relationship I have with my siblings. I have two brothers who grew up with me in the same household. But as adults, we all live in separate cities and don’t see or talk to one another all that often. I also have a half-brother, the product of my father’s second marriage, who I have never lived with, and see only once or twice a year. But we’re all still very much family, and there’s a lot of love between us all. Siblings don’t need to be in constant contact with one another or grow up in the same household in order to have a strong sense of family.

As far as Hal’s own relationship with the kids while they were growing up, he made an effort to see them all as much as possible. “I spent part of summers with each of them, and traveled to Wisconsin and New York quite a bit. I tried to do lots of fun things [when they were] growing up,” he said. “I took them camping and on other adventures.” But Hal also feels his relationship with his children has deepened the older they have gotten.  “Some people are drawn to babies. They can spend hours cooing and carrying on over them, and that’s just not me.  Now that they are fully grown, I’m delighting in our relationships more than ever.”

By way of example, Hal referenced a trip several years ago when all of his children and his parents came to stay with him near the end of his mother’s life. “Everyone stayed in my house,” he said, which wasn’t really set up to sleep large crowds. “I just put beds everywhere,” he laughed. “It was a wonderful time. I’m so glad we did it because my mom died maybe a year later.”

It certainly sounded like Hal has a meaningful relationship with each of his children, despite the complexities involved in their relationship and the physical distance between them. But I was curious: What, exactly, did he see as the role he played in their life? Did he think of himself as their donor? As a father? A friend?

“Well, for me, my father meant the guy who parented me, who lived in the house with me, who supported me, who drove me crazy,” Hal said. “That’s not who I am to them. But I think we’ve redefined what it means to be a father. We could tell the kids that these are your parents, these are the moms who raised you. And I’m your dad.”

And for Hal, what matters is how the kids turned out. “They’re terrific, lovely people,” he said. “They’re an asset to the world.”

Donating in the Disco Era

I find Hal’s story so interesting not only because he’s something of a known donor Casanova, but also because he entered into these donor arrangements during such a different era from me. Did he face much opposition donating within the contexts of the 1970s and 1980s? This was the era, after all, of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, when over half of the states still had sodomy laws on the books, decades before terms like “marriage equality” had entered mainstream discourse. You couldn’t just help some lesbians get pregnant in this context without anyone noticing, right? Wasn’t Anita Bryant foaming at the mouth trying to save these children?

“You know, it’s interesting,” Hal said after thinking a moment. “I can’t remember any opposition.”

“None?” I said skeptically.

“None,” he repeated. “Remember, this was San Francisco. It was the free-loving 1970s! I think most people just thought it was pretty cool.”

Though Hal hasn’t encountered any opposition personally, he also isn’t blind to the fact that there were people who clearly opposed what he was doing. “I’ve always been amazed and astonished by the paradox of gay people being accused of not caring about the future of kids,” he said. “Children that are conceived by queer people: it’s such an intentional process! It involves keeping charts and tracking cycles and having conversations well in advance. There are no accidents with gay parents. Talk about planned parenthood!”

In Hal’s case, it was planned parenthood, indeed; three times over.

***

Though everything is going remarkably well in my own arrangement with Tori and Kelly, I’ll admit there are moments when I still get nervous when thinking about what the future may hold for us all. Our adventure has just begun, and there are still a lot of “what-if” doomsday scenarios that play in a loop in my head.

When I start to get overwhelmed, though, I often think of my conversation with Hal. Here was a man who was able to maintain not one but three successful known donor arrangements in an era that was far less friendly to LGBTQ families. And in the end, he played a part in helping to produce three healthy, happy adults. Surely, then, I can make it work with just this one arrangement to worry about, right?  Right?

In the meantime, I’m looking into where to erect Hal’s statue.

Show Comments ()
Expert Advice

Get the Book: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction

Dr. Kim Bergman's new book "Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Reproduction" breaks down surrogacy, egg donation and sperm donation.

Guest post written by Dr. Kim Bergman

If you are reading this article, chances are good that you are thinking about building a family. You've been dreaming about your baby, first smiles and first steps, family vacations and holidays spent together. As with any dream, you might need some help to fulfill it. Thanks to advancements in medical technology, and a changing legal climate assisted reproductive technologies (ART) for the LGBTQI community can help make your dream a reality.

Keep reading... Show less
Coming Out

How Three Gay Dads Found Peace With Their Ex-Wives After Coming Out

Making amends with an ex-wive is not always an easy or short road for many gay dads. Here's how three gay men and their ex-wives managed to find themselves at peace after a coming out process.

Author Jason Howe takes a looks at how three gay men managed to navigate the process of coming out to their wives and children to ultimately find peace and acceptance.

Keep reading... Show less
Coming Out

Advice on Coming Out to Your Kids From Gay Dads Who've Been There

We surveyed gay dads who have come out to their kids later in life to share their top lessons and advice.

“Take it back!"

You'll often hear those three words come from the mouth of a child. Usually they're in response to a playground tease, the common kind of slander — four eyes! metal mouth! — that kids get over fast. But when California dad Steve sat his three sons on the living room couch, the news he had to share was of much greater consequence. So when his 11-year old middle son burst into tears and shrieked those three words, the reaction pierced his dad's already-anxious heart.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Entertainment

How Fatherhood Has Impacted Tom Daley's Diving Career for the Better

British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Change the World

One Gay Dad's Fight Against Hate in Superior, Nebraska

Brian Splater is refusing to let homophobic and transphobic elected officials in his town go unchecked

Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics

America's First Gay Dad Governor Heads Into the Lion's Den

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently became the first elected Democrat to speak at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver

Last Friday, American's first gay dad Governor, Jared Polis, became the first elected Democrat to speak at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he urged the Republican crowd to help him build a "Colorado for all."

"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse