Gay Dad Family Stories

This Couple Made an Album of Nursery Rhymes for Children With Gay Dads

Noticing a lack of representation, these popular social media dads made up a bunch of nursery rhymes just for gay families

With over 135,000 Likes on Facebook, and 50,000 followers on Instagram, Bud Lake and Manuel Santos, dads to two children via international surrogacy, have been sharing their lives with the world for the past 4 years. They are strong believers in the importance of visibility, and they use their platform to show the world that love makes a family.


Originally from New Jersey, Bud had been living in Madrid for 8 years when he met Manuel Santos. They were 36 at the time and both knew that they had found someone very special. They fell in love and began to plan their lives together. "We began talking about getting married and having kids pretty much from the day we met," explained Bud.

Manuel lived in Valencia. So after a year of dating, Bud quit his job and moved to Valencia to be with Manuel. Not long after, they began planning to have children. Their friends thought they were crazy to give up their social lives, vacations, romantic dinners, and professional careers so quickly, but they felt it was the right time. They moved again, to the suburbs of Valencia, to a small town of about 6,000 people to be closer to Manuel's family, parks, playgrounds, great public schools, and a great local community. "We both grew up playing in the streets of our neighborhoods without parents worrying about us all the time and getting home in time for dinner," explained Bud. And that's the lifestyle they wanted for their kids.

Bud kisses Manuel's cheek

Bud and Manuel chose surrogacy to grow their family and over 6 years ago, they started their first surrogacy journey in India and had their eldest, Álvaro. A year after he was born, the began their second journey in Thailand and in January 2015, their daughter Carmen was born. (You might remember reading about a gay dad family stuck in Thailand fighting for the right to bring their baby daughter home after a change in Thai law and a surrogate who went back on her contract: that was the Lake Santos family.) "Even though we hit a pretty big snag with our journey having Carmen, we wouldn't change anything about either journey," said Manuel. "We have forgotten about all the problems and have two healthy and happy children and a really beautiful family, and that's what's important." Both Thailand and India will forever hold a special place in Bud and Manuel's heart; both for the wonderful people they met, and the amazingly diverse and international family that they love.

Today, the family of four still live in the suburbs of Valencia and have a social following close to 190k, many of whom started following the family during Carmen's prolonged stay in Thailand. They share charming videos of Álvaro and Carmen talking about their two-dad family, and beautiful photos on their Instagram. They've also designed t-shirts in collaboration with TeeSpring, and they've even created an album of nursery rhymes for gay dad families!

"There really was an absence of nursery rhymes for our type of family," said Manuel, talking about what inspired the project. "It's there for all same-sex families, present and future ... someday someone will say, hey look at this couple that made a Daddy and Papa version of Finger Family ... That's cool!"

Even though they are the only two-dad family in their town, Bud and Manuel don't feel like they've ever been discriminated against which is wonderful to hear. "We aren't sure if we are just really lucky, or if people are just becoming much more accepting," said Bud. "Carmen just started school this year, but this is Álvaro's third year and it has actually been the complete opposite, we have a really great relationship with all the other parents in his class." Both parents believe in the importance of same-sex parents making their families visible to show that they are just another type of family unit.

The dads live this attitude by continuing to share their lives on social media, and the response they receive has been heartwarming. "We love that we get so many warm messages of support, young people that say they see that it CAN be possible for them to be parents in the future," said Manuel. "Just a few years ago we thought it would be impossible to be parents, and many young LGBTQ still believe that because they are gay they can't have a family. But nowadays this is changing thanks to Facebook and Instagram, and young people see all the positive examples out there."

Sure, they've received the odd homophobic remark, but the dads say they block those users and quickly move on.

Fatherhood continues to amaze Bud and Manuel, both with its challenges and rewards. "It's such a weird feeling, like nothing about fatherhood is surprising, and everything is surprising all at the same time," said Bud. "Parenthood is the most common thing on the Earth, something that the whole world has in common. No matter what language you speak, what country you are from, if you are rich or if you are poor, from a more conservative or liberal society, there are parents everywhere. Being a parent on the surface is easy, as long as you just roll with the punches, take one day at a time, and just to do the best you can (what we all do). BUT on the other hand it can be so hard and so challenging. Those beautiful little persons push you to your limits and past on a daily basis. The psychology of dealing with a child is extraordinary, the patience that is required is in most cases something superhuman. And all things considered, we are so lucky to have two wonderful children that are super sweet, well mannered, and well behaved."

Twogaypapas on Instagram: “El otro día en una de las fotos que posteamos se veía uno de los tatuajes que llevo en las muñecas y alguien preguntó que qué significaba.…”

Although nothing is for certain, and the family love their hometown in Spain, it has been Manuel's dream for sometime to move to Florida where Bud's parents live and open a paella restaurant - Valencia is where the paella originated - but that probably won't happen till the kids are older. For now, they'll continue to enjoy the suburban lifestyle in Spain, being a block from the beach and a short bike ride to the mountains.

When asked about each of their fatherhood journeys, Bud and Manuel said they were both "unique, special and challenged us as a couple," but they agreed they wouldn't have it any other way. "One thing is for sure, the love we have for those two little beings is out of this world and we would never change a thing about them about our road to fatherhood, or about fatherhood itself."

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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."

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News

Gay Dads Told One Must Identify as 'Mother' to Enroll in Daycare

The Israeli gay dads told one must identify as mother — like a "normal couple" — in order to receive financial assistance for daycare.

Israeli dads Guy Sadak Shoham and Chai Aviv Shoham were trying to enroll their two-year-old twins in daycare when they were told by a government official that one would need to identify as the "mother" in order to be cleared.

According to Out Magazine, the couple was attempting to apply for financial aid to help pay for the costs of preschool when a government bureaucrat called them to discuss their eligibility.

"I understand that you are both fathers and understand that you both run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more the mother," the government said, according to an interview on the Israel site Ynet (translated by Out Magazine). "I am just asking for a written statement in your hand which of you is the mother. From the point of view of the work, which works less than the father. Like a normal couple."

The official, apparently, said she was beholden to rules set for in the Ministry of Economy.

"It is mostly sad and a little disturbing," one of the dads told Ynet. "These are concepts that we consider the past. We do not necessarily come up with allegations against this representative, she is ultimately subject to the guidelines and as she said, they are the state. It is also sad that the state's definition of a mother is someone who works less and is at home with the children, and that we must choose which of us meets that definition."

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, fortunately, issued an apology following the incident, and promised to update its protocols. "We will emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all," the ministry wrote in a statement, an apology that was called "insufficient" by Ohad Hizki, the director-general of the National LGBT Task Force.

"The Ministry of Labor and Welfare must sharpen its procedures immediately to prevent recurrence of cases of this kind, as other public organizations have been able to do," he said.

Read more about this story on Out Magazine.

Entertainment

First Gay Dads Via Surrogacy in the U.K. Separate as One Plans New Family with Daughter's Ex-Boyfriend

Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow first became known in the UK for being the first gay couple to become dads via surrogacy.

Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow first made headlines in 1999 when they became the first gay couple to become dads via surrogacy in the U.K. They did so again after they announced their separation — and when Barrie revealed he's dating his daughter's bisexual ex-boyfriend, the 25-year-old Scott Hutchinson.

And now the new couple are sending shockwaves through queer media by announcing the two hope to have twins via surrogacy in the near future.

According to Out Magazine, Scott not only dated Barrie's daughter, Saffron, but also worked as his assistant. Despite the age difference and potential for family drama, the pair fell in love. The couple still share a home with Barrie's ex, Tony — and their daughter Saffron.

Barrie told The Sun that the couple also hope to have twin daughters via surrogacy in the near future — and is revealing it now because he doesn't "want there to be any secrets and I want to get any negativity out of the way before our babies arrive." Barrie's ex, Tony, is reportedly onboard with this arrangement — he's even agreed to serve as the future twins' godfather.

Out Magazine further reported that Barrie and Scott each hope to fertilize an egg, and hope to conduct the insemination with their surrogate within the next three weeks. Of course, who are we to judge, assuming all adults involved are consenting and on board with this unconventional turn of events (though comment from the daughter Saffron is notably absent in the interviews). But that didn't stop Out Magazine from ending their reporting with just a wee touch of gay shade... If one of their future daughters "has a cute boyfriend one day," they write. "Who knows!"

Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

Only so much growth and learning can occur when we limit ourselves to our fears. If people never did anything they were afraid to do, life would be incredibly boring and far too predictable. At some point we must face the things we fear and just go for it not knowing what will happen next.

After finally coming out to my ex-wife after ten years of marriage (see previous articles for that story), and eventually telling my family I knew there was one more step I needed to make.

I am a business owner. I am a structural chiropractor and am highly specialized in my field. Nearly four years ago I opened my own clinic, Horizon Chiropractic Center, in Phoenix, Arizona. I poured my whole heart, body, and soul into the creation of my practice and its growth. Opening a business fresh out of school is no simple task and I worked hard to build my practice with close relationships and word of mouth referrals. I established myself as an expert and built a strong reputation as a family man, and my ex-wife and kids were the face of my practice.

I loved and do love every person who has ever come into my office and treat them like family. We laugh together during visits, celebrate wins, cry together, often hug, and cheer each other on regarding various things in our life. That's also a large part of who I am: a people person. I enjoy spending quality time with those I am privileged to help. No one comes in my office and only sees me for 2-5 minutes.

Even though there was so much good that I had built into my brand and reputation fear eventually found its way into my business too. I was afraid of what would happen if people found out the truth. Would they be okay with having a gay chiropractor? Would they still trust me to be able to help them? Of course, the story in my head I was telling myself was much bigger and badder than it needed to be.

When we decided to get a divorce, I felt strongly that I needed to face these fears and begin telling a number of patients the truth of what was happening in my life. I know in reality it is no one's business but my own. However, I felt like I needed to let my patients who had become like family to me truly see me for who I am, and who I always was. And so slowly, case by case, I began to tell a select number of people.

I'll never forget the first patient I told. She had been coming in for years and was bringing her son in to see me who is on the autism spectrum. It was the day after my ex-wife and I decided to get a divorce and she could tell something heavy was on my mind. I eventually came out to her. The first words out of her mouth were "I am so proud of you!" We cried and hugged and it was the complete opposite of what I ever expected. And it was perfect. I felt loved. I felt accepted. I felt seen.

As time went on it got easier. And overall the responses were all completely positive and supportive. Out of all the patients I told and those who found out from other circles, only three stopped coming in to see me. Since coming out, my office has grown tremendously. My reputation hasn't changed. If anything, it's solidified. I can't help but think that part of that is due to finally embracing all of me and allowing others the same opportunity.

I read somewhere once that you never really stop coming out of the closet. And I've noticed that too. Sure, not everyone needs to know; it isn't everyone's business. And I hope that one day we live in a time period where fear doesn't prevent anyone from being seen. I want to contribute to the upward trajectory I think our society is headed of understanding, acceptance, support, and equality.

I would love to be able to say that after coming out publicly I no longer feel fear; but I do. And I think in some ways I always will no matter what. But that's part of life, right? Recognizing fear when we have it but then choosing to move forward out of love – love for others, but maybe more importantly love for ourselves.

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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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."

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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