Gay Dad Family Stories

These Gay Dads Lost Everything After Hurricane Dorian — Except Hope

The couple, who live in "Hope Town" in the Bahamas, lost everything after suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian this past summer.

Max Bethel-Jones, 52, had traveled to more than 120 countries over the last 30 years working with the United Nations, but had never been to the Bahamas — in 2015, he decided to apply for a private teaching job as a special needs teacher in Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama.

Just weeks after his arrival, he'd get a whole lot more than another pin in his map of visited countries when he attended a social event at Freeport Rugby. "My object was to ogle the local male talent but several women had other ideas," he said. One woman was particularly insistent, he said, but after a couple of drinks she got the hint that he batted for the other rugby team. "She promptly told me there was someone I should meet."


That turned out to be Robbie. Max was game, until he found out that Robbie lived 170 kilometers away on a completely different island. "We made contact but I honestly never expected to meet," he said "People struggle to connect over 4 kilometers let alone 170.

Still, a few weeks later, he and Robbie managed to meet up for a date. To get there was an adventure in itself — the journey involved a drive to a tiny local airport on Grand Bahama, a flight aboard a small nine-seater plane called Flamingo Air ("It was pink and white!" Max said. "So gay!"), and a 30-minute boat ride before he ultimately arrived in the settlement on Elbow Cay where Robbie lives — called Hope Town.

Hope Town on Elbow Cay

And there, Robbie was waiting for him with one final mode of transportation — a golf cart. "Transport in Hope Town is 90% via golf carts," Max said. But the journey was well worth it, he said. "I arrived in paradise at the end of the world!" he said.

A few years later, Hope Town became Max's slice of paradise, too, when the couple moved in together. "We got married in August 2016 in Lima, Peru at the British ambassadors residence and became the first same-sex couple to legally marry there," Max said. After Max's work took the couple to Nassau, Bahamas for a two-year contract, the couple moved back to Hope Town permanently just this past summer, in July 2019.

Soon, they decided their paradise was big enough to share. Max already had two kids from a previous heterosexual relationship while in his 20s, who are now 23 and 26 years old, so the thought of having more had never really entered his mind. But one night, over dinner, Robbie — who was adopted at birth— admitted something to his husband that he hadn't expressed before. "Robbie said that there was one thing that made him sad over everything else and that was not being a dad," Max said.

In 2017, the two embarked on an adoption process, looking to Florida since the Bahamian government would make it difficult for a gay couple to do so locally. "We contacted 22 agencies and many failed to get back to us," Max said. Some simply didn't conduct inter-country adoptions, while others refused to work with them because they were gay. "I had one lady at a catholic agency saying it was "not God's will" Max said.

Eventually the couple found One World Adoption, located in Delray Beach, Florida, who agreed to work with the couple. "It took away the heart ache of rejection we had felt for so long," Max said. But their difficulties didn't end there. The couple's first match abruptly ended when the birth mom vanished, and after the couple had already spent $22,000 on payments and living costs. "After 30 weeks she disappeared," Max said. "There was nothing we could do."

Their second placement came six weeks later, when they received a call at 4:30 in the morning. A pregnant girl struggling with drug use, homelessness and HIV and needed an adoption placement — on March 18, 2018, she gave birth to a baby boy. "He was very tiny, five pounds two ounces, addicted to cocaine so was rushed to the NICU, where he remained for 16 days," Max said. Afterwards, the baby — who the couple named Apollo — joined Max and Robbie in their Bahamian paradise.

But life wasn't done throwing the family curve balls. Tropical storms in this area of the world are a "part of life," Max said. So when Hurricane Dorian first started to form in August of 2019, he wasn't immediately alarmed. "We expect to see tropical rain storms a few times throughout the season," he said. And the storm's initial trajectory was meant to hit north of Hope Town. "The odds of it hitting us were very low."

Unfortunately, instead, the couple's home suffered the full brunt of Hurricane Dorian, which is the largest tropical storm on record to hit the Bahamas. The family's home was destroyed, as were all of their possessions, furniture and clothes. Baby Apollo has also lost his crib, toys and puzzles. "Basically, it's rough," Max said. "Everything got either blown away or soaked."

Making matters worse, Apollo has suffered several medical issues after the storm cleared due to water contaminated by unsanitary conditions, and the power has remained off in Hope Town since September 1st of this year. As a result, Robbie and the baby are currently living on another island.

"Any help from the gay dad community would truly be appreciated," Max said, who has set up a Go Fund Me to help the family get back on their feet.

"Skilled individuals in wooden house building and / or carpentry who are able to volunteer would also be appreciated," added Max. "Plus if someone wants to donate lumber there is a list is available. We have also set up a shipping forwarding address in Florida if people want to donate materials instead of money." Email Max at maxhopetown@gmail.com for more details.

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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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Gay Dad Family Stories

Meet the First Same-Sex Couple to Receive a Grant Through Best Buy's Adoption Assistance Program

Keegan and Paul Schroepfer are believed to be the first gay couple to receive a grant through Best Buy's adoption assistance program.

Keegan Shoutz and Paul Schroepfer met at college in 2010, when marriage equality wasn't legal in their home state of Minnesota. Back then, kids were a far off distant thought. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA in 2015, the pair married a year later and began discussing their future as dads. In 2017, the husbands began their adoption journey, and the long wait began.

Keegan, 31, works in public relations for Best Buy's corporate communications team, and Paul, 35, is a lawyer. Their journey to adoption took over two and a half years, and they describe it as "a LOT of waiting." The couple considered surrogacy but decided adoption was the right path for their family. The first part of their journey was focused on a pile of paperwork, in-person classes, and then social outreach.

Their nursery sat empty for a year after all their "homework" was completed.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

Sister Act: How Four Siblings Helped Joey and Rob Become Dads

The husbands *also* received help from Men Having Babies, a nonprofit helping gay men become dads via surrogacy.

"I first learned about Men Having Babies while searching the internet for insurances that covered surrogacy," said Joey Guzman-Kuffel, 40, a Marriage and Family Therapist. "As I researched our surrogacy options the Men Having Babies link popped up. When I clicked on their link, I learned that this awesome organization was bringing awareness to men wanting to have babies and the possibilities to do so."

Joey and his husband Rob Kuffel, 47, Protocol Officer for the US Navy, have been together seven years after meeting via OKCupid.com. They chatted for a week via the app, then graduated to a phone call which lasted 3-4 hours. "I always knew that I wanted to have kids and knew that I needed to be with a partner that wanted to have kids as well," said Joey. Rob felt the same way. The two were married in May 2014.

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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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Change the World

Gay Dads Use 'TikTok' To Fight for Acceptance

Kevin and Ivo are fighting to normalize LGBTQ parents through TikTok, a growing social media platform

"Are we fearful we're going to turn our son gay?" Kevin DiPalma, a red-bearded man, asks the camera.

"No!" says Kevin's son, Nasim, says

"Are we worried about bullies when he gets to school?" Kevin asks next.

"Yes!" Nasim said.

Thus is the nature of the videos Kevin and his husband Ivo upload to their TikTok account, a widely popular and rapidly growing social media platform among young people.

Within 6 months, the family had 200,000 followers across their social media.

See a complication of some of their videos below!


Fatherhood, the gay way

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