Gay Dad Life

Considering Open Adoption? Be Ready for Anything, Say These New Gay Dads

After reading "The Kid" by Dan Savage, this gay couple realized open adoption was the right path to fatherhood for them.

Guest post written by Dominic Ferraro, on his journey to becoming a gay dad with husband Andy via open adoption

The one

Andy and I met in college through mutual friends, in 2003. I was 18 and Andy was 20, so we were pretty young when we first met. We both went to college at Iowa State, and the Women's Center on campus was having an ice cream social and we were both there. We only spent about 5 minutes together then, but decided to meet for a movie the next night, and the rest is history as they say. We have been together ever since.


In 2012, while on a trip to Rio De Janeiro, Andy proposed to me and we had a civil union in 2013 in Chicago. We'd been together 10 years.

Shortly after our civil union, we moved to San Francisco. It all happened relatively quickly as at our wedding we didn't have any idea we would be moving. Andy had gotten a job offer that was just too good to turn down, so we packed up our entire lives and moved to California.

When we got to California gay marriage was legal, so in 2014 we were legally married.

Dominic (left) and Andy

The path

As a couple we both knew we wanted kids and it was something we discussed early on in our relationship. It was the timeframe that we could not really figure out. My parents were young. I always enjoyed having them around when I was young. I never heard the excuse that they were "too tired" to do things with me. As for Andy, he didn't really seem to have a time frame in mind.

We originally considered surrogacy because we had a lot of misconceptions about adoption, as I think a lot of people do. In 2013, shortly after our civil union in Illinois, we had even reached out to a friend about being a surrogate, but because we moved so abruptly to California, it never worked out.

Someone suggested a book to me by Dan Savage called The Kid. Andy and I both ended up reading it and it very much changed our minds on adoption. Reading The Kid coupled with the current political climate and things going on in the world really made us think. If we could change a child's life that might otherwise not have a great life and relieve some burden for a birthmother who has found herself in a difficult situation, then that would be a bonus to having a child. We chose open adoption because of the continued relationship we are able to have with Naya's birth mother.

Andy and Dominic in Mykonos

The process

My advice to anyone going through an open adoption process is to be ready for anything. I have listened to a number of other adoptive parent's stories and they are all different.

We were told that on average you would spend 16 months waiting before a birthmother might choose you, and you are only entered into the "pool" of people to choose from once you finish your paperwork, which includes: A home study (which can take 4-6 weeks) and a number of other adoption agency paperwork. It took us about 6 months to finish our paperwork and get our profile on the adoption website.

Our waiting time was not the average though, by any means. We expected that we would be chosen some time toward the end of 2018 just based on the adoption agencies timeline. In the mean time while we were waiting we tried to think about it as little as possible, because waiting is one of the hardest parts.

We didn't wait long though.

Andy and Dominic in Hawaii

The call

Two months after our paperwork was complete we got a call from the adoption agency saying a birthmother was interested in us. I was the one that got the initial call from the agency saying a birth mother was interested in us and honestly, I pretty much blacked out during most of the phone call, out of shock. It wasn't until going back and reading the follow up email from our agency that I got most of the details.

From that point on, it was a whirlwind! After a couple phone calls and an in-person visit with Naya's birthmother, we all decided to go forward, and at that time we were placed! Our birthmother was already 7 months pregnant so we had 8 weeks to figure everything out, 3 of which we had already planned a European vacation. So needless to say the pressure was on and in 5 weeks we had bought a car and most of the things necessary to take a baby home from the hospital. All while keeping it a secret from most of our family and friends incase for some reason things didn't work out.

While we were in Europe we were cutting it very close to the due date and any phone call was panic inducing for fear we might have to fly home in a pinch and potentially miss Naya's birth. In the end it all worked out and the vacation turned out to be very relaxing for us before becoming new parents.

The new dads

The baby

Naya was born a couple days late, so there was a lot of built up anticipation when she was actually born. Since she was late all of our birthdays ended up being in October, the 3rd, 9th and 20th which is something that is special to us. The whole experience is overwhelming most of the time, but in that moment I think we were both just grateful. Grateful that Naya and her birth mother were both healthy and doing well and that we got the family we have always wanted.

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Change the World

'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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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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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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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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