Gay Dad Family Stories

Two Illusionists Tackle Their Trickiest Act Yet: Fatherhood

After Ryan's sister offered her "oven," Chris and Ryan were able to form their family through surrogacy.

When Chris was a little boy, he found a magic trick at the bottom of his cereal box and quickly became hooked on magic. Little did he know that this was to be the start of a career in the art of illusion. Ryan had a similar formative experience at a similar age when he received a magic kit for his birthday and started doing shows for friends and family. "Our hobby continued as we grew older and we were doing shows for schools, banquets, and corporate events," said Chris.

In 2005 they met in Michigan. "We were both performing separately and event coordinators double booked us for the same event," said Ryan. "So on the spot we created a two-man show and the result was amazing; we had chemistry on stage and off, and the rest is history."

Yet, the rest is far from history. The rest tells a story of two illusionists who, while living and working abroad in Guam, became dads with the help of incredible family members and wonderful friends. So let's start after that serendipitous meeting, and what lead them to become dads.


After their two-man show success, Chris and Ryan Zubrick began touring and creating their illusionist act together. "We were performing and touring around the Midwest when we saw a job posting on an online forum for a headlining act overseas," said Chris. They submitted their promotional material and eventually got the job in June 2007. "A two year contract in Saipan turned into a 7.5 year contract and we were then promoted and moved to their theatre in Guam - it was a much larger theatre and production." (Their current contract takes them through till April 2020.)

On October 10, 2013, Ryan and Chris were married.

As they both always wanted kids – "It was something we had talked about all along" - they began their adoption journey with an agency based in Portland, Oregon. But just as they were about to get into the waiting pool of parents-to-be, they received an email from Ryan's sister Kimberly, which included this unforgettable and life-changing line:

"I have an oven that has never been used, in good shape, and I wanted to see if you needed it?"

At first, Ryan and Chris were so blindsided by the offer, they took it literally. "Looking back, we laugh to ourselves because we didn't know why Kimberly was offering us an "oven" as ours was in perfectly good condition!" chuckled Chris. "Could we be so naïve?"

So excited by Kimberly's generous offer, they shared the news with their longtime friend, a genetic counselor, to learn more about the process of surrogacy. To both of their surprise, their friend said, "If you guys are looking for eggs, I'd be more than happy to donate mine!"

"Everything seemed to be falling into place for us," said Ryan.

They parted ways with their adoption agency and began researching surrogacy in California. Because of their unique situation, and the decision to not involve a third party agency, they struggled to find professionals that would work with them. "We knew things would not be without complication," said Chris. "Kimberly was family and this would be her first pregnancy. And on top of that, our egg donor was a really close friend, but we knew it would be worth it in the end."

"It was taxing emotionally, but after months of searching and being rejected countless times, we found a team of lawyers, psychologists and a fertility clinic who would work with us regardless of our unique situation," said Ryan. "Thankfully, California has some of the best surrogacy laws already in place for us."

The dads-to-be traveled to Santa Monica for the sperm donation and embryo transfer. They were able to transfer two embryos to Kimberly, one fertilized by each husband; only one took, and a few months later they found out at their gender reveal that they were having a boy! Ryan and Chris were thrilled and began to make plans to be there for the birth. (They had FaceTimed in for all the doctor's appointments and ultrasounds from Guam.)

The day finally came, and the dads were scrubbed up and ready to welcome their son into the world, when the birth plan went out the window. "Ryan's sister experienced a placenta abruption, cutting off Oliver's life line for about 6 minutes," explained Chris. "She was rushed in for an emergency C-section." The dads were not allowed in for the surgery, and due to his time without oxygen, their son had to be rushed via ambulance to the Children's Hospital in LA where he stayed for two weeks undergoing cooling therapy. "We were unable to pick him up or hold him," remembered Ryan. "It was very difficult." Being there for the birth, cutting the umbilical cord and experiencing skin-to-skin contact all disappeared, but thankfully, after two weeks, their son, Oliver was released and cleared all his milestones, and the dads were finally able to take him home.

Today, the family of three start their day a little later than most families due to their evening performance schedule, typically rising around 9:30am. The day is then filled with activities, errands, walks, beach expeditions, and anything to do with the water as Oliver loves it all! Around 6:30pm, Ryan and Chris head to work – "the theatre where we perform is right across the street from our house" – and Oliver goes to a sitter's or they come watch him at his house.

Around 10:30pm, Ryan and Chris have finished their performances and come home to Oliver or collect him from his sitter's. "We have a late dinner and play," said Chris. "He usually has a lot of energy." At 11:45pm they start the bedtime process: pajamas, stories, and teeth brushing, then bed. The dads usually follow around 2am.

Within the small community of Guam, Ryan, Chris and Oliver have only received positive comments and acceptance. "We are local celebrities due to our profession so everyone knows us," said Chris. "From locals and tourists alike we have only experienced positive responses about our same sex family."

Ryan and Chris agree that although they encountered some difficulties when pursuing fatherhood, they were very fortunate in their journey to become dads. And through their experience, they have some advice: "There will be hurdles and challenges and times when it seems like it may not be worth it, but it so is. Rely on each other for support, take small breaks from the process if need be, but if it's something you really want, push through and think about how awesome being a father will be."

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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!

News

Adopting Dogs Improves Gay Couples' Relationships, Says Adorable Study

In what may be a "pre-curser to parenthood," 56% of gay and bi couples reported spending more time with their partners after adopting a dog.

As part of what may be the most adorable study you never knew you needed, pet-sitting website Rover.com found that gay and bi couples who adopt dogs reportedly boast stronger relationships as a result — 56% of gay and bi couples said they spent more time with their partners after adopting a dog. More than half of participants also said that owning a dog can help prepare couples for children.

Interestingly, gay and bi couples were also more likely to prepare for potential difficulties in their arrangements — 21% of gay and bi couples reported setting up a "pet-nup" agreement to determine custody of their new pup in case their relationship didn't last. Only 12% of straight couples, in contrast, did the same.

"You can outline the practicalities of what would happen in the event you split from your partner whether you have joint or sole custody," Rover.com dog behaviorist Louise Glazebrook told Australia's QN News. "It's a real tragedy to see breakups results in dogs needing to be re-homed.

There was, however, one clear downside to pet ownership mentioned in the study — 17% of respondents said they have less sex now that they're sharing a bed with their pup.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

Keep reading...
Surrogacy for Gay Men

Interested in Surrogacy? Check Out These Bay Area Events This Weekend

If you're in the Bay Area this weekend, two major events are happening that will be of interest for dads-to-be and surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF)

If you're in San Francisco or the surrounding area, clear your calendar this weekend. Two events are happening simultaneously that are significant for dads-to-be AND surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF). For an outlines of both events, check out below.

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News

Gay Dads Show Up at Boston Event to Drown Out Anti-Trans Protesters

When Trystan Reese found out protesters were planning to show up to an event in Boston he was presenting at, he put out a call to his community for help — and gay dads showed up.

A couple months ago, Trystan Reese, a gay, trans dad based in Portland, Oregon, took to Instagram to share a moving, if incredibly concerning, experience. Reese, who works with Family Equality Council, was speaking at an event in Boston, and learned before his appearance that a group of protesters were planning to attend.

"As a trans person, I was terrified to be targeted by anti-LGBTQ people and experienced genuine fear for my own safety," Trystan wrote. In response, he did what many LGBTQ people would do in a similar situation — reach out to his community in Boston, and ask for their support. "And they came," he wrote. But it wasn't just anyone within the LGBTQ community that came to his defense, he emphasized — "you know who came? Gay men. Gay dads, to be exact. They came, ready to block people from coming in, ready to call building security, ready to protect me so I could lead my event. They did it without question and without reward. They did it because it was the right thing to do."

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

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