Gay Dad Life

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.

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Gay Dad Life

Karamo Brown Co-Writes Children's Book with Son, Jason

The 'Queer Eye' star and his son named the story on a family mantra: You are Perfectly Designed

When his sons, Jason and Chris, were young, "Queer Eye" Star Karamo Brown repeated the same saying to them: "You are perfectly designed."

That mantra is now a Children's Book, cowritten by Karamo and his 22-year-old son, Jason, who used to come how and "say things like, 'I don't want to be me, I wish I was someone else, I wish I had a different life." As a parent, that "broke my heart," Karamo told Yahoo! Lifestyle. "I would say to him, 'You are blessed and you are perfect just the way you are,' as a reminder that you have been given so much and you should be appreciative and know that you're enough — I know that the world will try to tear you down, but if you can say to yourself, 'I am perfectly designed,' maybe it can quiet out some of those negative messages."

The illustrations, by Anoosha Syed, also make a point of displaying families of a variety of races and sexual orientations throughout the book.

Read more about Karamo's fascinating path to becoming a gay dad here, and then check out the video below that delves deeper into the inspiration behind "You Are Perfectly Designed," available on Amazon.



Gay Dad Life

The Suburban Gay Dad

Are you intimidated by the suburbs? This gay dad was — but then he moved there.

In a recent article for Yahoo! Lifestyle, Steve Jacobs says the thought of living in the suburbs as a gay dad "intimidated" him. But when he started fantasizing about garages, he began to question that notion. Any apprehension he had soon evaporated, he said, one winter morning while trying to navigate the snowy streets of New York City with a stroller.

While "pushing the stroller through snow banks and pools of slush with snowflakes stinging our faces," he wrote, "a vision came to me: I pictured us walking into a garage, hopping into a car, and arriving at a diner with 10 times less drama. This image planted the seed of moving to the 'burbs that I couldn't shake."

Soon, the family of four found a house in a town a half hour outside the city. "It had grass and a beautiful yard for our spirited kiddos. The schools were good. There were even good restaurants. The only red flag: Census data estimated only 0.1 percent of the population was gay male."

There were some "growing pains" while trying to make friends in this environment. "When we attended our first dinner party, within minutes the hostess went to the kitchen and the other wives followed her, while the husbands settled into the living room. Ira and I froze, looking at each other. In the city, our straight friends hadn't separated out like this for the evening. Should we stay with the dudes, exert our masculinity, and blow off the mom we liked? Or does one of us go with the wives and accept the personal branding that comes with that? We did a quick rock paper scissors in the foyer. Ira went with the wives."

But ultimately, "being a parent defined me more than I ever imagined it would," he wrote, and he settled in nicely to his new suburban life.

Have you had a similar adjustment, from city life to the suburbs? Tell us about it at dads@gayswithkids.com for an upcoming piece!

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.

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Change the World

11 Family Stories That Show the Depth of the Adoption Experience for Gay Men

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! To celebrate, we've curated some adoption stories that show the true depth and breath of the adoption experience for gay men.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! And few people are more aware of the importance of lifting up and celebrating adoption in this country than the LGBTQ community. According to the Williams Institute, 21% of same-sex couples are raising adopted children compared to just 3% of different-sex couples. Despite the fact that we are a crucial part of the support system for children needing loving homes, we are currently facing an administration that is trying to make it legal for foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against us on the basis of religion.

To help celebrate National Adoption Awareness Month, and demonstrate that religious beliefs should in never trump the ability for a loving LGBTQ family to welcome children into their home, we've rounded up several family stories that show the true depth and breath of the adoption experience — men who never planned to become dads, and woke up one day to find themselves responsible for little ones. Men who always wanted to become dads, and suffered through years of failed placements before finally making their dreams come true. Single men, who realized they were strong enough to adopt on their own. And men who adopted older children through the foster care system.

These are just a few of the inspiring stories of gay, bi and trans adoptive dads — we are literally sitting on a treasure trove of them. And, no doubt, there are countless more headed your way in the months to come.

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Popular

"We're Dads, the Greatest Thing We've Ever Been": Congrats to Gay Men Whose Families Recently Grew!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

Congrats to the dads whose families grew this month!

Congratulations to dads Ryan and Sebastian on the birth of their son, Máximo!!

Ryan and Sebastian's path to fatherhood was through surrogacy and their journey took nearly five years from start to finish. "There were many ups and downs and we almost gave up — but are so glad we didn't!"

"Holding Máximo for the first time was something we will never forget," shared Ryan. "He was looking up at us and we were just overcome with love and joy."

This new family of three live in Long Island City, New York.

Congratulations to dads Andy and Mike on their birth of their son Bennett!

In July this year, Andy and Mike became first time dads through surrogacy when they welcomed their son Bennett.

"We are absolutely in love with our baby Bennett! He's doing awesome and his Daddy and Papa have been rewarded with a lot of big smiles! He sleeps a lot and is generally relaxed as he learns about the world around him. He's made us happier than we knew possible and we feel incredibly blessed that he is the culmination of our wonderful surrogacy journey."

Even though their son is only 3 months old, they're already starting to think about and plan for his sibling! Congrats dads!

Congratulations to dads Bryan and Zachary on the birth of your son Spencer!

Three years ago, husbands Bryan and Zachary moved from New York City to Dallas, Texas to start a family.

"Like for most, our journey had many uncertainties with ups and downs along the way," said Bryan. "When you stop and really think about everything that goes into the process and has to take place, it's a true miracle and we feel blessed."

On August 26 this year, their son Spencer was born through surrogacy. "Patience, hope, support and remembering what's eventually to come helped my husband and I during the most stressful times. Now that Gates is here, it's hard to even look back."

"Holding Gates for the first was a true miracle - my husband and I finally took a breath. At that moment, the three of us created our new family and everything was exactly how it was supposed to be."

Congratulations to dads John and Ryan on finalizing the adoption of their son Connor!

When John and Ryan in 2004, they both knew they wanted to be parents. They were married in 2005 and started their journey as foster parents in 2009. They first became dads when their son Cody, then an infant, came to live with them. His adoption was finalized in 2013.

"After Cody's adoption, we 'closed' our home and actually moved a few times before joining the foster parent community again in 2018. When we decided to look to foster and adopt again, Cody was fully on board and that was a big part of our discussions about timing."

Their son Conner was placed with them as an infant in May 2018. Connor's adoption was finalized on October 16, and he was 19 months old at the time.

"Adoption day was a whirlwind," shared John. "We were first on the docket for the judge and he made quick work of finalizing his placement and formally making Connor a member of the family!"

The forever family of four live in San Antonio, Texas and would love to connect with other families like theirs.

Congratulations to dads Matt and Ian on the birth of their son Rocco!

Denver couple Matt and Ian had been dreaming of the day when they'd become dads. The husbands have been together going on 8 years, married for 5, and had picked out their son's name even before they were married.

"The journey to fatherhood has been a long and emotional one," shared Matt. "After our first fertility clinic placed roadblocks in front of us for almost two years, we changed to a new once and suddenly found ourselves on a pace far quicker towards fatherhood. We engaged a surrogacy agency to find our gestational carrier after two attempts to do it ourselves, and ended up with someone who was so far and beyond what we ever could have imagined, we cannot imagine the journey without her. We call her our angel not just because of her selfless act but for her guidance along the way as a mother herself."

From their first 13 embryos, one little one tried to hang on but didn't quite make it to the end. After several years of trying up, they decided to give it one more go and were able to produce 6 eggs, one of which resulted very quickly into a multiplying, healthy and genetically viable embryo - the last of 19 attempts. "The day we found out that our little bundle of cells had matured, we unexpectedly lost my Grandfather on the same day – a stark reminder of the cycle that is life. We gave our son the middle name of Keen as it was one of my late grandfather's signature words to use. 'Oh, that's so keen...' is a phrase I can still hear him saying to me as a child."

On July 26, the dads welcomed their son Rocco! "We are blessed now with a sleeping, funny, expressive and engaged little spirit in our lives. The process was tough, emotional and downright exhausting. The moment he showed up though, let out a scream then looked at his with his funny little furled brow, every single appointment, lost night's sleep, worry and tear was collectively worth it. We are Dads … and that is simply the greatest thing we have ever been."

Congratulations to Travis and Jay on finalizing the adoption of their son Kathan!

Travis and his husband Jay began their path to fatherhood a little over three years ago when they began the certification process to adoption through the foster care system. "After a little over a year and a half in the making we got the call on June 3rd 2018 at 11:30am. That day changed our lives in so many beautiful ways," said Travis.

At just 4 days old, the dads brought their son Kathan home, and 16 months later, they celebrated his adoption being finalized. "It felt like we had been set free as a family for the first time."

Kathan's adoption day was incredibly personal for the dads so they spent it with close family and took Kathan out for celebratory brunch.

Congrats to this Orange County forever family of three.

Congratulations to dad Derek and Zack on the birth of their daughter Georgia!

On October 18, 2019, dads Derek and Zack, and big brother Hank, welcomed Georgia to the family. The family is over the moon!

"Zack and I were lucky to be able to work with the same surrogate that helped us with our son Hank," said Derek. Their family journey experienced a significant setback when one of their fertility clinic's embryo storage tanks malfunctioned, and they lost all their genetic material - 11 fertilized embryos - that Derek's sister and Zack had donated to create their family. Luckily, Derek's sister was incredible and happily flew out to donate her beautiful genes again.

"Our family is truly the living embodiment of the love of our extended family and our carrier Raelene (and her family) have for us and our dream to meet our children. Meeting Georgia, for me, was the realization of all those feelings of love and hope we felt throughout our journey."

Congrats to this San Francisco family of four!

Congratulations to dads Rob and Scott on the birth of their daughter Sierra!

Rob and Scotty's journey to fatherhood started in December 2014, and they became first time dads eighteen months later when their son Ryder was born through surrogacy. In early October this year, they welcomed their daughter, Sierra, also through surrogacy.

"Holding her for the first time was amazing and warmed our hearts completely," shared Scotty. "Our son loves his baby sister and is very protective of her!!"

Huge congrats to this Sacramento family!

Congratulations to dads Brian and John on the birth of their son Weston!

Brian Wall and his fiancé John Agricola live in Toronto, Canada, and they recently welcomed their son Weston into the world on November 13.

"Our path to fatherhood was made a little simpler because my first cousin offered to be our surrogate," said Brian. "It took about a year total from picking an egg donor and our first successful embryo transfer on March 13."

When the dads first held their son they both agreed it was the most emotional experience they've ever had. "So grateful to our surrogate and he is a healthy boy!!"

Congrats to this new family of three, and can't wait to see wedding photos from your upcoming nuptials!

Congratulations to Ricky and Jeff on finalizing the adoption of their daughter Kylie!

Ricky and Jeff finalized the adoption of their youngest on November 8, the biological sister to their son Kadyn.

"Her birth mom knew that she couldn't take care of her and wanted us to have her," shared Ricky. "We went through the county again and we were able to adopt Kylie 6 months after her birth. The extra cool experience this time around was the fact that we were invited to be there to be part of the birth."

To be finalize Kylie's adoption was "amazing" said the dads. "It means that nothing and no one can do or say anything that would effect her being with us, which almost happened about a month before the adoption day."

Congratulations to this Californian forever family of four!

News

United Nations Calls on Cambodia to End Criminalization of Surrogates

Cambodia's 2016 law criminalizes surrogacy — and requires women who work as surrogate to raise the children they conceived for intended parents as their own.

Last Friday, the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reiterated its support to end the harassment and criminalization of surrogates in Cambodia, according to Voice of America.

The report issued by CEDAW recognized growing international criticism of the unregulated practice of surrogacy around the world, which often leads to the exploitation of women who work as surrogates. However, since surrogacy became illegal in Cambodia, over 60 women working as surrogates — the very people put in danger of exploitation — have been arrested and subjected to criminal proceedings. The women were only released according to VOA, under the condition of raising the surrogate children until they are 18.

"The Committee is particularly concerned that such an obligation creates an additional financial and emotional burden on women who are in precarious situations, which led them to act as surrogates in the first place," the report reads, "and that they face discrimination and stigma from their families and communities for having acted as surrogates."

CEDAW called on the Cambodian government to repeal the October 2016 law — particularly the requirement of raising the children they conceived for other intended parents as their own. This punishment is particularly onerous given that many of these women entered surrogacy arrangement against their will, said Chak Sopheap, Executive Director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, speaking to VOA.

"Surrogate women in Cambodia are likely to be at the sharp end of various economic and political hardships that caused them to make the decision to become a surrogate," she told VOA in an email. "We have seen, over the past year, women surrogates raided, charged with human trafficking, and detained, with no transparency from the authorities as to their wellbeing or that of the children they have given birth to."

Read more about this story here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

One Single Gay Dad's Trailblazing Path to Parenthood Via Surrogacy

20 years ago, Gene became the first single gay man to work with Circle Surrogacy in order to become a dad — trailblazing a path for many others since.

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.

"I think I was pretty naïve, I guess," chuckled Gene, one of the first single gay dads to work with Circle Surrogacy over 19 years ago. "I just had made a decision and went out and did it, and wasn't really thinking about how difficult it might be or what other people thought, being first at doing something."

So how did Gene hear about surrogacy as an option for single gay men? Well, it began with Gene flipping through a bar magazine. He recalls seeing an ad about a woman providing a service to connect gay men with lesbians in platonic co-parenting relationships. While he started down that path, working with the founder, Jennifer, he remembers thinking, "What if I meet someone? What if I want to move? It would create all these complications."

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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