Paths to Gay Fatherhood

Gay Surrogacy: Paths to Fatherhood for Gay Men

The Dad via Surrogacy


A couple of decades ago, surrogacy was more or less synonymous with the case of Baby M, who was born via traditional surrogacy in 1986. In the case, a woman, Mary Beth Whitehead, had agreed to carry a child for a wealthy married couple, William and Elizabeth Stern using William's sperm for $10,000. After the birth of the child, however, Whitehead changed her mind, gave up the $10,000 and decided to keep the baby girl.

The resulting court battle that ensued captivated the nation, and prompted several states to pass laws limiting surrogacy in some form. Many other countries across the globe, moreover, banned the practice outright. And locally, where no official federal policy exists, anyone seeking to become a parent via surrogacy needs to contend with the patchwork of state laws and regulations on the practice. Some states ban surrogacy outright, while others merely place restrictions on the practice. In New York and Oregon for instance, surrogacy is legal, but compensating a surrogate for the practice is illegal.

As for GBT individuals who become dads via surrogacy? By now, you should be able to say it with me: Very little research exists. And most research on surrogacy has focused on its use within heterosexual relationships. But, in some of the limited research that has been done on gay and bisexual men who became fathers through surrogacy, no significant differences were noted when compared with straight couples. And when differences were noted, they pointed to advantages for same-sex couples, such as providing “superior quality of parenting, greater warmth and emotional involvement" to their children.

Anyone considering a route to fatherhood through surrogacy will need to decide which type of surrogacy is best for his family. There are two different types: The first is referred to as traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate is impregnated with the sperm of one of the male partners through insemination. The other type, known as gestational surrogacy, occurs when another woman donates an egg to be fertilized by a male partners' sperm, and the resulting embryo is transferred to the surrogate's womb to carry. In practical terms, this means that a traditional surrogate is biologically related to the child she carries, while a gestational surrogate is not.

“I come from a small family," Jason Howe told me, who is a fellow writer for Gays With Kids, and has written about his experiences with gestational surrogacy. “And in the beginning, I really wanted my own biological children." His husband, for his part, liked the fact that surrogacy, especially one done through an overseas agency, meant that there was no other parent in the picture. Though both are happy with their decision to use a surrogate, “once we had our girls in our arms," Jason said, “I realized that I would have loved any child that was mine just as much, biological or not."

Jason (l) and his husband Adrián with their girls

So what advice would Jason give to others considering surrogacy?

“Be sure to do your due diligence," Jason told me. “Paying someone who's not your partner to carry your baby can be a harrowing experience. You have to trust that the surrogate is doing what you expect her to do to ensure a healthy pregnancy, so you'll want to be as comfortable as possible with the process as you head into it." This is doubly true, he said, for international surrogacy, where contact with the surrogate may be minimal, and it's easier to obscure things like their living conditions or their health regimen. “Don't be afraid to come off as a suspicious ass****," Jason joked. “Ask plenty of questions."

Jason, who used an international agency, says he has no regrets about his path to parenthood apart from one thing: He wishes he had met his surrogate. “We never got that chance," Jim said. “We had heard stories about young surrogates, usually from rural villages, sitting silent and uncomfortable at meetings with Western parents, or worse, visibly horrified if they discovered the parents were gay." So when Jason's clinic asked if they wanted to meet their surrogate, they responded, “only if she wanted to meet us." Later, the couple changed their mind, and decided to personally check on the surrogate's welfare, and provide some gifts, but she'd already gone back to her village. “We never learned whether or not that was true and we never got to meet her in person. It's the only part of the story of my daughters' origin that I won't enjoy telling them."

Captain Chris Armijo, who Gays With Kids readers first met in an article this past March, also chose gestational surrogacy as his path to parenthood. But, unlike Jason's, his surrogate and egg donor are very much involved in the lives of his twin daughters. It's a reality that requires planning. “Do some homework, do the research, put in the time and effort," Chris said. “Don't skip steps to speed up the process. There are so many factors involved in the decision to become a parent [via gestational surrogacy]."

Part of Chris' advice comes from personal experience. “It was rocky at first," Chris said. “We did not identify clear roles and responsibilities and expectations. We had to overcome that internally."

What would he have done differently, then?

“Keep a bottle of liquor nearby," he joked, before offering this more serious piece of advice: Contact an expert who is well versed in the process of surrogacy. “Get someone in the room who you can work with to come up with a clear, articulated picture of what roles should be. Then put it in writing."

Chris with his daughters Sophia and Ryan

Still, according to Chris, it's important to be flexible, and understand that relationships can change. “Once the baby gets there, everything goes out the door," Chris said. “Let things evolve if you're open to it. Have to know what your level of acceptance of their involvement will be. Boundaries will be crossed."

“How I envisioned [our relationship] is totally different than today," Chris admitted. Chris' egg donor, for instance, has been a friend of his for 17 years. “She evolved from being Auntie Jessica to Mommy Jessica. She comes to visit four or five times a year, and the girls are getting to know her family." Now, Chris says, Jessica is starting to become more inline with a mother figure. It's a complicated situation, Chris said, “but it works for us."

So for any dads-to-be out there considering surrogacy, you've heard it straight from our experts: Be an ass**** and keep a bottle of liquor nearby as you go about the process. If you need some additional help, though, check out online resources such as Men Having Babies and It's Conceivable Now. And, once again, be sure to check out all the excellent Gays with Kids articles on the subject!


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Gay Dad Life

Huge Congrats to New Dad, Andy Cohen!

Late Monday night, Emmy-winning reality TV producer and host, Andy Cohen, welcomed a son via surrogacy.

Late Monday night, Emmy-winning reality TV producer and host, Andy Cohen, welcomed a son via surrogacy.

"WOW! This is my son, Benjamin Allen Cohen. He is 9 lbs 2 ounces !! 20 inches !! Born at 6:35 pm, PT
He is named after my grandfather Ben Allen. I'm in love. And speechless. And eternally grateful to an incredible surrogate. And I'm a dad. Wow. ♥️🌈
"

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Change the World

Governor Cuomo Proposes Ending Ban on Surrogacy in New York

New York is currently just one out of four states to completely ban the practice of compensated surrogacy

New York's Governor, Andrew Cuomo, recently proposed a law that would permit compensated surrogacy for the first time in New York state. As the New York Post reports, a ban on the practice has been in place since 1992.

"New York's antiquated laws frankly are discriminatory against all couples struggling with fertility, same sex or otherwise," the Governor told The Post in a statement. "This measure rights this wrong and creates a new and long-overdue path for them to start families and also provide important legal protections for the parents-to-be and the women who decide to become surrogates."

This move is the latest in a slew of progressive policies backed by Governor Cuomo since Democrats in the state took control of the Legislature after the 2018 elections.

The law would bring New York in line with most states in the country. Currently, the state is one of only four (including Arizona, Michigan and Nebraska) that ban all compensated surrogacy contracts outright.Andrew Cuomo

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, who is himself a gay dad through surrogacy, has introduced several bills over the years to legalize the practice.

"For the first time," the Senator said, "I'm seeing movement."

Read the whole article here.

Change the World

How "Easy" Is It, Really, for Gay Men to Become Dads?

It's never been easier for gay men to become dads, but a recent Washington Post article, which includes interviews with four gay parents, gives voice to some of the challenges that persist.

In recent weeks, with reports like this one in eWire.News, and famous gay dads gracing the cover of Parents Magazine for the first time, a perception is growing that it's now "easy" for gay men to be dads now. To examine this idea, Washington Post recently interviewed four gay men who have become fathers at some point in the past 10 years to examine their experiences. What they found is that, yes, it's easier than ever before for gay men to become dads. But we still face many more barriers than our straight counterparts.

None of these barriers will be news to any gay man who has become a father. But it's helpful that major publications like the Washington Post are now starting to recognize and give voice to them.

The first "finding" from their conversations is that gay men need more "money in the bank" that straight people. With the exception of adoption through foster care, "the financial costs are often tantamount to buying a car or even a house outright," the author notes.

The article also notes that gay men--and fathers in general--are given less paternity leave in the United States on average than many other countries. One of the dads interviewed for the piece, who adopted his sone through foster care, said he could only afford to take two weeks of paternity leave, which was " too short," he said. His son "struggled to see me as the paternal figure — I was just the guy who went to work and came home from work later. That's a struggle for most dads whether gay or straight — but I wish I had gotten more time just to bond with him."

Gay dads also must do more "emotional heavy lifting," the author notes, noting that many attend therapy for many months before taking the plunge. "We don't come to parenting by accident," another dad interviewed in the piece said. "We come to it by way of a lot of money, and with great intentionality. That is the commonality among gay dads with children."

A final common experience to many of the gay dads interviewed in the piece were annoyances dealing with strangers. "The thing that has been the most difficult are strangers who don't understand," one of the dads said. "They see us out with our son and we don't fit into their little box of what a family looks like. I've been asked whether Jeffrey and I mixed our sperm together in a cup. And that's rude, but as our son gets older, he is being shaped by a certain narrative about who he is."

Read the whole article here.

Change the World

Breaking with Older Generations,  Most LGBTQ Millenials Say They Want Kids

According to new research by the Family Equality Council, the number of LGBTQ parents is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years

According to the LGBTQ Family Building Survey, recently released by the Family Equality Council, the majority of young LGBTQ say they are interested in becoming parent. This marks a dramatic shift when compared with the attitudes of older generations.

Among the survey's findings:

  • 63% of LGBTQ Millennials (aged 18-35) are considering expanding their families, either becoming parents for the first time, or by having more children
  • 48% of LGBTQ Millennials are actively planning to grow their families, compared to 55% of non-LGBTQ Millennials, a gap that has narrowed significantly in comparison to older generations
  • 63% of LGBTQ people planning families expect to use assisted reproductive technology, foster care, or adoption to become parents, a significant shift away from older generations of LGBTQ parents for whom the majority of children were conceived through intercourse.

Despite the expected increase in LGBTQ parents, most providers, they note, "do not typically receive training about the unique needs of the LGBTQ community; forms and computer systems are not developed with LGBTQ families in mind; insurance policies are rarely created to meet the needs of LGBTQ family building; and discrimination against LGBTQ prospective parents by agencies and providers remains widespread."

The Family Equality Council goes on to recommend that family building providers "from reproductive endocrinologists and obstetricians to neonatal social workers, family law practitioners, and child welfare workers" begin preparing now to welcome future LGBTQ parents.

Read the full report here.

Change the World

Gay Dads More 'Equitable' in Parenting Roles Than Straight Dads, Says New Study

Unmoored by gender roles, gay dads take equal parts in being "playmates, caregivers, protectors, role models, morality guides,

A new study conducted by Éric Feugé from the Université du Québec à Montréal observed 46 families, made up of 92 gay dads and their 46 children over a period of seven years.

The study, which Feugé says is the first of its kind, analyzed the roles gay dads take in raising their kids and found the way they parent is 'very equitable'.

'We learned that gay fathers' sharing of tasks is very equitable,' the researcher told the Montreal Gazette, who added there was a "high degree of engagement" by both gay dads in all types of parental roles. "What's really interesting is that they don't conform to roles of conventional fathers. They were able to redefine and propose new models of cultural notions of paternity and masculinity."

Unmoored by gender roles, gay dads take equal parts in being "playmates, caregivers, protectors, role models, morality guides,' the author said.

Read the full review of the research here.

Change the World

Don't F*ck With This F*g

After a homophobic encounter on the subway, BJ questions what the right response is, in an era of increasing vocal rightwing activists

On February 1, 2019, Frank and I went out on a date night, something we haven't done in a while. Our son was sleeping over at his grandparents for the night and we made plans with our friends to meet them for dinner downtown. We decided to save some money and take the subway into town instead of taking a taxi.

We boarded the subway and sat down opposite a couple, a man and woman. I noticed they looked at us as we boarded the train and began whispering to each other. Frank and I were talking to each other when I heard the man uttering under his breath, "F*$%ing faggots."

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Gay Dad Life

14 Gay Dad Families Show Their Love This Valentine's Day

These pics of gay dads smooching will warm the hearts of even the biggest V-Day skeptics

You might quietly (or loudly) oppose the commercialism and celebration of Valentine's Day, but let's just take a moment and rejoice in these beautiful signs of affection, shared between 14 awesome two-dad families. Cynicism gone? Good.

Happy Valentine's Day, dads! We hope you have a lovely day with your kids, your significant other, and / or friends. Because who doesn't love love!?!

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