Co-parenting

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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So far in our podcast, we mostly interviewed dads who had their kids either through surrogacy or adoption. But there are other ways in which you can become dads. In this week's episode we look at two ways that are often overlooked: Known Sperm Donor, and Co-Parenting.

David Dodge, managing editor at GaysWithKids.com is a father of two children, who he had together with a lesbian couple. Though he has no legal rights with his daughter and son, they still call him 'papa,' and his parents go to visit their grand children even when he's not around. In our interview, David sheds light on being a Known Sperm Donor.

In our second interview we had Bill Delaney and husband J.R. Parish on a Skype call from San Francisco. They are co-parents of two girls together with a lesbian couple. In the call they discuss this carefully planned (and amazing!) arrangement.



During the episode, we count the ways* in which gay men can currently become dads:
1. Adoption
2. Surrogacy
3. Men who come out of straight partnerships and marriages
4. Sperm Donation (known or unknown donor)
5. Co-parenting




*If you would like to add to or comment on this list please write to us at hello@daddysqr.com

Our Family Coalition

Our Family Coalition (OFC) is based in the Bay Area but is the largest state-wide advocacy organization for LGBT families. They've contributed to varying degrees to everything from marriage equality court cases, to getting LGBT inclusive curriculum added to CA's public school system, to achieving the multi-parent legal recognition that was mentioned on our interview with Bill and J.R.

Episode Credits:

Co-Hosts: Yan Dekel, Alex Maghen

Guests: David Dodge GaysWithKids.com, Bill Delaney & J.R. Parish
Music: Hercules & Love Affair, "Leonora" buy here
Articles referred to in this episode:
Putting the 'Known' in Known Sperm Donor (David Dodge, The New York Times)
The Known Sperm Donor (GaysWithKids.com)
Top Three Benefits of 'Intentional Co-Parenting' for Gay Men & Couples (Bill Delaney, GaysWithKids.com)
11 Steps Gay Men Should Take Before Co-Parenting With a Female Friend (Bill Delaney, GaysWithKids.com)





For any questions, comments or advise, please do not hesitate to contact us at hello@daddysqr.com or on Twitter @yanirdekel

J.R. and Bill with their daughters

Gay Dad Life

The Best Part of Coming Out, Says This Gay Dad, Is Being an Out and Proud Role Model for His Daughter

"I couldn't face myself in the mirror and think that I could be a good dad and role model for my child when I was lying to myself every moment of every day," said Nate Wormington of his decision to come out.

Photo credit: https://eliseabigail.com/

Nate Wormington had lived much of his life not being true to himself. He had a beautiful baby girl, was married to his best friend and soul mate, but there was still no doubt in his mind that he was gay. Still, he chose to stay in a heterosexual relationship lifestyle, and it was making him incredibly depressed.

"For some that may be a sustainable life, but denying a core value of myself began to take its toll on me, and I had to own up to my own truth to salvage my life and my relationships with the people I love." Despite the difficulties in doing so, he eventually, he came out. Today, he's co-parenting with his ex-wife and they're still best friends. This November, he's getting married to the man of his dreams. But most importantly, he's proud to be a positive example to his 7-year-old daughter.

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Co-parenting

Top Three Benefits of 'Intentional Co-Parenting' for Gay Men & Couples

Entering into intentional co-parenting arrangements with another adult or couple has many benefits, says Bill Delaney. Here are his top three.

I often joke that the best thing about co-parenting is that we can have both kids and a life. It's certainly easier to maintain a non-child-centric social life with scheduled child-free days, but that is the least of the benefits of sharing parenting responsibilities.

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Change the World

Study Finds Two-Thirds of Gay Dads Experienced Stigma in Last Year

The study also found that over half of gay dads have avoided certain social situations in the last year for fear of experiencing stigma.

According to new research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the vast majority of gay men and their children experience some form of stigma. The findings are based on a survey of 732 gay father across 47 states in the United States.

More gay men are becoming fathers each year, and have more options for doing so than ever before: including adoption, foster care, and surrogacy. However as the study's authors write: "Despite legal, medical, and social advances, gay fathers and their children continue to experience stigma and avoid situations because of fear of stigma. Increasing evidence reveals that stigma is associated with reduced well-being of children and adults, including psychiatric symptoms and suicidality"

Almost two-thirds of respondents, or 63.5%, reported experiencing stigma based on being a gay father within the last year. Over half, or 51.2%, said they have avoided situations for fear of stigma, in the past year. Importantly, the study found that fathers living in states with more legal protections for LGBTQ people and families experienced fewer barriers and stigma. Most experiences of stigma (almost 35%) occurred, unsurprisingly, in a religious environment. But another quarter of gay dads said they experienced stigma from a wide variety of other sources, including: family members, neighbors, waiters, service providers, and salespeople

Surprisingly (or perhaps not?) another source of stigma cited by the study originates from other gay men. "Gay men report suspicion and criticism for their decision to be parents from gay friends who have not chosen parenthood." The study also says gay dads often feel "isolation in their parental role."

The study concludes, "Despite growing acceptance of parenting by same-gender adults, barriers and stigma persist. States' legal and social protections for lesbian and gay individuals and families appear to be effective in reducing experiences of stigma for gay fathers."

Read the whole study here.

Gay Dad Photo Essays

5 Pics of Ricky Martin In Newborn Baby Bliss

He may be a superstar most of the year, but with a new baby girl at home, Ricky Martin is just a regular ol' dad deep in the throes of newborn baby bliss.

On January 1st, 2019 superstar Ricky Martin and his husband Jwan Yosef shared a post via Instagram announcing that they'd welcomed a baby girl named Lucia into their family.

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Gay Dad Life

Gay Dads Featured on Cover of Parents Magazine for First Time

Fitness guru Shaun T. and his husband Scott Blokker are the first gay dads to be featured on the cover of Parents Magazine

I literally never thought I'd see the day. Literally.

Gay fathers on the cover of Parents Magazine! Gay fathers being celebrated in a "main stream" publication about being parents. Gay fathers!

I don't want to get overly dramatic here, but this is a milestone. A massive cultural milestone.

Sure, gay dads have come a long way in being accepted in our popular culture, but to my eye we've never been on the cover of a big popular parenting magazine celebrating our parenting skills. As if we are the norm.

We are now - thanks to Parents Magazine.

This is a particular milestone for me because I have a bit of a history with the magazine and with parenting publications in general. My first job out of grad school was in brand marketing at Johnson's Baby Products where I did indeed run advertising in this particular magazine. Back then though we only featured married, straight couples. There were no other kinds of parents to feature back in the day! And if I'm to be really honest, they were generally white, married, straight couples.

I distinctly remember one photo shoot where I forgot to put a wedding ring on the "husband's" finger and we had to reshoot it. No photoshop back then!

Now admittedly this was before I was a dad and before I was out, but as the years went by and I embraced my own journey as a gay dad, there were no role models or pop culture markers to say that I (and other gay dads) were accepted. There were no Andy Cohens publicly making baby announcements. We were alone on our parenting.

It was hard. There was a constant barrage of straight parenting norms that constantly reminded us that we were different.
Not any more! Being a gay dad, or any dad, is now simply being a parent. A good parent. A loving parent. And we have Parents Magazine to thank for the reminder and endorsement, with hopefully more to come.

And I can't help but think, and actually know, that this kind of normalization will inspire the next generation of gay dads who will simply accept, without hesitation, that fatherhood as a gay man is a real, accepted, and normal option.

Bravo!

Sponsored

Broadway Husbands Talk Eggs, Embryos and Exciting News

The husbands explain what is considered a good egg retrieval.

In their previous video, Broadway Husbands Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna shared that they found their egg donor. In this video, the dads-to-be discuss their embryo creation process. And - spoiler alert - there are now frozen Hanna-Shuford embryos, and the husbands are ready for their next step: finding a gestational carrier.

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