Become a Gay Dad

Paths To Gay Fatherhood: The Co-parent Dad

The Co-parent Dad


Many GBT men who first become dads in a former heterosexual relationship move on to form stepfamilies that include a new same-sex relationship. LGBT stepfamilies are actually quite common, which, again, isn't so dissimilar to stepfamily creation on the whole in the United States. According to the National Stepfamily Resource Center, 42 percent of adults report having at least one step relative, and 30 percent report having a step or half sibling.

It should go without saying, though, that LGBT stepfamilies face additional complications. “When dating a man as a man with children, I think the most important thing is to just keep it as normal as possible," Kenny Este-Scarle told me, who we first met in a Gays With Kids article that ran last November. Kenny adopted two boys with his ex-wife before divorcing, ultimately coming to terms with his sexuality, and then, eventually, remarrying his current husband, Greg.

“Don't make it a bigger deal than it has to be," Kenny told me, when I asked his advice to other gay dads who find themselves in the dating pool post-divorce. “It can be intimidating, but be upfront and honest with the kids and the boyfriend and let everyone involved know this is okay. Change is okay and can be an amazing journey!"

What about from the other perspective, as a gay man dating another man with kids? “Don't jump into anything," Greg told me. “Take it slow with the kids, let them warm up to you. When you start to date a man with children, it is a package deal. You can't just have him. You have to share. If you can't share then it's probably not a good idea to pursue this kind of relationship."

“I think it's important that a potential partner needs to get to know how the man and his kids interact," Kenny added, suggesting couples first spend time exploring how best to integrate the new relationship. “It's about becoming part of a family and growing together."

Kenny also encouraged dads with kids to include his new partner in parenting in ways that feel comfortable. “Pull the 'boyfriend' aside for tips, pointers, encouragement and any help he may need in developing a relationship with the kids," Kenny said. “It's best that the adults be on the same page so as to provide consistency in everyone's lives! It just makes it easier."

Greg and Kenny with their three sons

For Greg and Kenny, the decision to involve Greg centrally in parenting allowed the family to evolve in interesting and useful ways. When Greg first started dating Kenny, for instance, Greg was, in his words, just “dating a man with kids." Once their relationship evolved, and the couple got married, however, Greg's role in the family began to evolve as well. Now Greg is also “dad," and is an integral part of the co-parenting arrangement with Kenny's ex-wife, in a situation that works for them all.

It's not, however, a situation without its fair share of complexity. “How do I, as the 'first' dad, let the other dad do things in a way I might not necessarily like?" Kenny asked rhetorically. “How does the 'new' dad deal with the pressure or expectations of being a new parent, and feeling like the other parent is watching and judging him?" There are no simple answers to these questions, Kenny suggested. Rather, they need to be continually addressed and revisited in any co-parenting arrangement.

Of course, an increasing number of GBT dads are entering co-parenting arrangements not by way of former relationships, but intentionally, with other couples or individuals. Though couples entering intentional co-parenting arrangements don't have the added complexity of a divorce to contend with, the situation still presents many challenges. One might wonder, then, why anyone would intentionally choose to enter a co-parenting arrangement in the first place. Won't there be too many cooks in the kitchen?

“There were a few factors behind our decision to co-parent," Bill Delaney told me, who writes about his experience co-parenting for Gays With Kids. “The financials of raising kids in San Francisco, the most expensive city in the country, was a big one. The lack of extended family support since we're not local was another."

Moreover, Bill believes that having those additional cooks is more help than hindrance. “The overall effort it takes to be a full-time parent is daunting and personally I didn't feel up to the job," Bill explained. “Now we are a team of four fully engaged and committed parents and it works beautifully for us and more importantly, for the girls. They are often the envy of their friends."

Co-parenting, Bill explained, also helps avoid some other common problems facing other LGBT parents: “It's an odd thing. We don't have the usual conflicts that many LGBT parents or their kids experience when it comes to holidays such as Father's Day and Mother's Day, or other occasions where both a mother and father, or lack of one or the other, might be referenced. But then, we're also not the traditional opposite-sex parented family either, not even to those who have divorced and remarried which are at least structurally similar to our two-home, four-parent set up. It's a nebulous realm of in-between, but a bit of both. It's an untraditional family. It's pretty cool."

So, for anyone interested in getting messy in the kitchen, what's Bill's advice?

“Be thorough," Bill said. “Be sure you and your co-parents are a good match in temperament and ability to communicate." Bill also recommends discussing all expectations in advance, no matter how touchy or uncomfortable. “Religion, approach to discipline, legal custody, financial arrangements…" he listed. “Even views on abortion," he added, “should there be medical issues for the mom or the child."

Bill also suggests that co-parenting arrangements be put into writing, and that they cover more than just legal concerns. “It is about spelling out all expectations while everyone is calm and rational," Bill said. “You can refer to the agreement if there are disputes, as can legal authorities should it escalate. Consulting legal experts who specialize in alternative families doesn't hurt, nor does meeting with child care professionals who specialize in shared custody cases. We did both and it was a big help."

J.R. and Bill with their two daughters

If you are considering entering into a co-parenting arrangement, there are some resources available that cater specifically to LGBT parents. Organizations like CoParents and CoParentMatch, for example, pair you with other LGBT parents interested in entering a co-parenting arrangement. And other sites such as coparently aren't specifically LGBT, but nonetheless provide resources for individuals who are co-parenting after a divorce. And, once again, check out the Gays With Kids archives for additional stories on LGBT co-parenting arrangements.

More Paths to Gay Fatherhood.

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Gay Surrogacy in the U.S. for International Dads

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Written by Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation, who has been helping international gay men become dads for over two decades.

Becoming a gay dad through a surrogacy agency in the U.S. – when you live outside of the United States – can feel overwhelming. You may have questions such as: Why should I come all the way to the US for surrogacy? What do I need to know as an international intended parent? How do I get my baby home?

We spoke with Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation who has been working with international gay parents for over two decades. Circle Surrogacy was founded by a gay dad and lawyer, and is the most successful surrogacy agency with a full legal team on staff who are experts working with international parents.

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Jewish Agency to Help Cover the Costs of Surrogacy for Gay Couples

Isaac Herzog, of the Jewish Agency's Chairman of the Executive, has made it a priority to support employees family-planning journeys, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to an article in the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Agency for Israel is about to become first state organization to provide financial assistance to gay employees seeking child surrogacy services overseas. The move is intended to help offset the high costs associated with conducting surrogacy abroad.

The move to do so was led by Isaac Herzog, the Jewish Agency's Chairman of the Executive, who has made it a priority to support employees family-planning journeys, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The decision will apply to the agency's roughly 1,250 employees. The loans can be used to help cover the costs of necessary medical procedures before surrogacy, and for the process of surrogacy itself, the article notes.

Last year, in a controversial move, the Israeli government expanded the ability of single women to access surrogacy services in the country, but excluded single men and gay couples from the policy.

Herzog said the following in announcing the new initiative:

"We are also making a symbolic statement, because it reflects the egalitarian stance of a large organization that is recognizing the right of every man or woman to actualize their wish to be parents and to raise a family, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. The Jewish Agency is one big family, and all its members are equal."

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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.

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

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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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Fatherhood, the gay way

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