Paths to Gay Fatherhood: The Dad via Straight Relationship
According to the 2013 American Community Survey, 8 percent of same-sex male couples are raising children under 18 years old. A majority of these men – 53 percent – are raising a biological child. Some of these kids – perhaps even a majority – were born to men while they were in a former different-sex relationship. Other biological children are born to GBT men via surrogacy, via co-parenting, or through known sperm donation. Some trans men, further, decide they want to conceive and carry their own biological child. We don't have great statistics, unfortunately, for each of these categories of biological fatherhood within the GBT community. But what we lack in research, we can make up for in stories:
The dad via straight relationship
You're married to a woman. You have one or more children with her. Then, like so many other marriages in the United States (though not as many as you might think) your marriage ends in divorce. Going through a divorce with children is complicated for any family, but becomes much more so when you are simultaneously coming to terms with your sexuality.
“Just roll with it," Jim Joseph told me, when I asked how he had dealt with his own post-divorce coming-out experience, and who we introduced you to in an article several weeks ago. “Life is full of changes, and this is a moment that is perhaps filled with the most change. So try to accept it, force yourself to embrace it, completely own it."
For Jim, the biggest challenge of coming to fatherhood in this way was trying to find a support system and a new community. “You've been married to a woman, had children with her, gotten divorced, and then have come out as a newly gay man," Jim explained. “It's very hard to figure out where to fit in."
Moreover, it was surprisingly difficult, Jim said, to relate or align himself with people who might be considered part of his “natural" community because of his experiences in a former, heterosexual relationship. “Who are your friends? Gay men, divorced men, dads, single men, or all of the above? Or more likely none of the above? It can feel very lonely and it can feel like you are the only one of your kind around."
At least anecdotally, we know that Jim is not alone. Many children of GBT parents, in fact, were similarly born while their fathers were in a former, heterosexual relationship. But we don't know how many. In a 2013 paper for the Williams Institute, Dr. Gary Gates, one of the authors, cited LGBT “stepfamily formation, post-heterosexual divorce," as an area lacking in current research.
“Unfortunately," Dr. Gates wrote to me via email, when I inquired about the subject, “I have no way of estimating the extent to which biological children of LGBT parents are the product of current or prior different-sex relationships."
The lack of resources available to dads like him, Jim said, is exactly why he decided to write his story down into his new book, called “Out & About Dad," on his experience coming to terms with his sexuality post-divorce, so that other men like him wouldn't feel alone. If you are a GBT dad who is or has experienced a divorce, be sure to pick up Jim's book. At Gays with Kids, we've also brought you many articles on the subject, so be sure to check those out as well.