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Positive Outlook

With “Coming Clean: Confessions of an HIV+ Dad,” Jim Lunsford explores his life and his HIV status, to develop an open relationship with his son – and himself. 

As a writer, Jim Lunsford is always looking for inspiration. And as a new father, he finds it every day. In fact, he’s already mulling an idea for a children’s book, and it’s one with a moral that any parent can agree upon: honesty is the best policy.

Even if that means revealing the truth about Kris Kringle.

“I think it might be called The Truth About Santa Claus,” says Jim of the kid’s book he may soon write. It's not intended to be a harsh, childhood-souring exposé. To Lunsford, emotional honesty and openness are paramount. The truth won’t just set you free: It will become the greatest gift of all.

“There’s an idea that once you tell a child the truth about Santa Claus, you’re taking something away from them,” says Jim. “I feel the opposite. A happy truth expands a child’s world. It doesn’t close it off. The more I make friends with honesty and truth myself, the more empowerment I find. And that’s something I want my child to have.”

And that’s also why Jim launched “Coming Clean: Confessions of an HIV+ Dad,” a blog that offers “a resolution to myself and reflections for my son.” Since his first post in December 2012, Jim has slowly traced two parallel journeys. One is the chronology of his own development as a man, a gay man, and an HIV-positive gay man: from losing his virginity (to a girl) to finding his truer sense of sexuality, and from growing up as a conflicted Catholic in the San Fernando valley to coming of age as a struggling actor in Los Angeles.

The other journey is his experience as a father to his son, who turns 3 years old in October, conceived through intrauterine insemination (IUI); Jim and his partner co-parent with the tot’s two mommies, longtime friends whose life-changing phone call to Jim (“You’d make the perfect father…”) is one of the first posts on the blog.

A year and a half later, Jim, who updates about twice per month, has only now reached the moment where he and the mommies are told that an insemination has been successful. Because unlike other fatherhood blogs that focus on pithy observations and rapid-fire play-by-play of every tender “first,” “Coming Clean” takes its time — leaping between “now” and “then” as it slowly unravels Jim’s biography and serves as a vehicle for disclosure and self-discovery. Coupled with Jim’s dry humor and wistful prose – largely hopeful but with honest glimpses of darkness and self-doubt – it reads more like a serialized novel than a typical blog.

“As a writer, I need to express myself,” says Jim of his impetus for launching the blog. “Yet I found myself so consumed with the prospect, and then the project, of being a father; my writing time is limited. And this allows me to combine those two things. I can explore the [parent-child] relationship in a way that is creative.”

And though his son may be a ways off from reading it himself, Jim also wanted to create an open window into his private world – opening up an opportunity for father-son dialogue and emotional honesty. That is, in part, a response to the very different dynamic that Jim experienced growing up. He says his family has been supportive of him every step of the way: “I’m so fortunate in that way.” Yet his family was also “well-practiced at non-communication,” Jim chuckles. “We just didn’t talk about a lot of stuff.”

“Coming Clean,” which touches on everything from his first kiss with a boy to the darkest moments of his post HIV diagnosis, will one day serve as a clear signal to his son: I’m an open book, and you can be too. “I’ve been so supported by my family. In times when I haven’t been fully forthcoming, it was my own fear that held me back. For my son, this project will clearly point out the door to communication. He’ll never have to question whether he has love or support available to him.

It will also serve as a way for Jim’s son, and other gay dads, to learn more about the diagnosis he received nearly 30 years ago: How the experience shaped him, his experiences and his outlook. “As someone who has been HIV positive for more of my life than not, I don’t take for granted that I will be here when my son is 5, 10, or 15 years old,” says Jim. “It’s important to me that I leave him with some kind of explanation of why I chose to bring him into the world – a world that I sometimes have a dark point of view about.”

Going through the insemination process as an HIV positive man isn’t easy – in large part, says Jim, because there’s a “lack of information” available. (For instance, long term research on how medications may affect sperm or genetics.) And HIV-positive parents do continue to face unique stigmas. But Jim says he’ll tackle the topic with his son with the same candor and transparency as all the issues he covers on “Coming Clean.” “I’ll probably explain it to him the first time my son first asks me, ‘Why are you taking those pills?’” says Jim. “His understanding will grow as he gains the ability to comprehend the complexities. But I’m blessed to be who and where I am right now, and I don’t think of my HIV status as some black mark. So I won’t represent it to my son in that way.”

And writing his blog has only helped Jim further eradicate any self-stigmatization that remained. “For many years, I thought that being gay was the barrier in my life that was going to prevent me from accomplishing so many things. Then along came HIV, and that fortified the thought even more.”

“This has given me an opportunity to turn down a new road, taking away stigma that I’ve carried for so long. I’m HIV-positive heading toward HIV-Proud. And I think if nothing else comes from this project, that’s quite a transformative gift.”

And though real life isn’t always a fairy tale, that gift is only received by honestly tackling the truth.

Sorry, Santa.

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Colorado Republicans Try and Fail to Outlaw LGBTQ Marriage and Adoption Rights

A bill introduced by four Republican state legislators in Colorado that would outlaw same-sex marriage and adoption rights was voted down.

The "Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act," which would have outlawed gay marriage and adoption in the state of Colorado, was voted down in the state legislature this week. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Humphrey and three of his conservative colleagues: Dave Williams, Shane Sandridge and Mark Baisley.

If enacted, the bill would have enforced "state law that marriage is between one man and one woman" and restrict "adoption of children by spouses in a marriage ... that consist of one man and one woman."

The bill, which had little chance of success, particularly in Colorado which has trended more progressive over the past several election cycles, was mostly symbolic, according to Sanridrge. "We all know this bill isn't gonna pass in this current left-wing environment," he told Colorado Public Radio. "It's to remind everyone, this is the ultimate way to conceive a child."

In a sign of how far we've come on the issue of LGBTQ marriage and parenting rights, most Republican legislators in the state did not endorse the bill.

Though the bill had little chance of passage, LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state are taking the threats seriously nonetheless. Daniel Ramos, director of the LGBTQ group One Colorado, told LGBTQ Nation that the bills were an attempt to return Colorado to its "hate status" of the 1990s, adding the aggressiveness of the measures were "a bit surprising."

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Your Marriage Should Be Gayer, Says the New York Times

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," lists the many insights LGBTQ marriages can offer straight ones.

According to a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times this week by Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," turns out the people convinced marriage equality — legal across the United States for five years now — would usher in the complete breakdown of civil society should be more worried about the health of their own marriages.

In the article, Coontz details the results of research that followed 756 "midlife" straight marriages, and 378 gay marriages, and found same-sex couples reporting the lowest levels of physiological distress — with male gay couples reporting the lowest. The reason for this, the author said, is pretty simple — misogyny. The idea that men and women should strive for parity in a relationship is still a fairly new idea, Coontz said, and traditional gender roles are still pervasive. Gay couples, meanwhile, are free from such presumptions, which often results in happier, healthier relationships.

The most interesting findings in the research relate to parenting. While gender norms tend to be even more emphasized among straight people once they have children, with the bulk of the childrearing falling to mothers, same-sex couples — once again freed from the stereotypes of the male/female divide — parent more equitably. As the author notes, "A 2015 survey found that almost half of dual-earner, same-sex couples shared laundry duties, compared with just under a third of different-sex couples. And a whopping 74 percent of same-sex couples shared routine child care, compared with only 38 percent of straight couples."

When it comes to time spent with children, men in straight marriages spent the least amount of time and the lowest proportion of "nonwork" time, with their children — while men in same-sex marriages spent just as much time with their children as women in a straight relationship. "The result?" Coontz writes, "Children living with same-sex parents experienced, on average, three and a half hours of parenting time per day, compared with two and a half for children living with a heterosexual couple."

Straight fathers devote the least amount of time — about 55 minutes a day — on their children, which includes things like physical needs, reading, playing, and homework. Gay mothers spent an additional 18 minutes each and straight mothers an additional 23 minutes. Gay fathers spent the most time with their children, the study found, an average of an additional 28 minutes a day.

Taken together, straight couples spend an average of 2 hours and 14 minutes on their children. Lesbian moms spend an additional 13 minutes, while gay men spend 33 more minutes than straight couples.

One factor, the author notes, that can help explain this difference is this: gay parents rarely end up with an unintended or unwanted child, whereas a full 45% percent of pregnancies in straight relationships in 2011 (the last year data is available) were unintended, and 18% were unwanted.

But right. Gay people shouldn't be parents.

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Uber Driver Accuses Gay Dads of Child Trafficking

An Uber driver in San Diego reportedly accused two gay dads of child trafficking because their child "didn't have a mother."

[An update on this story as of February 17, 2020: Uber Support has still yet to respond to James Moed and his multiple requests from further comment. The driver who falsely accused the gay dads of kidnaping their own child, in fact, continues to "drive around with a "Pro Diamond" status with a 4.93 rating," James said in a recent Tweet.]

On January 29 of this year, James Moed took an Uber with his husband, and their newborn son, to the Marriott Marina hotel in the San Diego area. As their newborn son cried in the backseat of the car, the family's driver offered this piece of helpful advice:

The baby just needs his mother.

Any queer dad has been through this scenario a million times — the dreaded "Where's the Mommy?" question. But even when the dads explained that their son had two fathers, not a mother, the driver "didn't back down," Moed said via Twitter.

Little did the couple realize just how perplexed the driver actually was. At 1:30am in the morning, the couple was greeted by a loud knock on their hotel door. Officers from the Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department were on the other side, demanding to see the couple's identification — and their son's.

"It turns out the Uber driver who had taken us to the hotel had called the cops – accusing us of child trafficking? Endangerment?" Moed wrote on Twitter. Though the situation was quickly resolved, the couple was nonetheless — and understandably — "freaked out."

"What if we hadn't had his passport?" Moed wrote. "Where can my queer family travel safely?"

The couple took their complaints to Uber. In response — they were refunded $10. "Keep your $10," Moed wrote. "We want proof you keep your LGBTQ riders safe."

After Pink News requested further comment from Uber, the company gave the following canned response:

"As soon as we learned of this incident we launched an investigation. Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not tolerate discrimination."

The dads, however, are keeping up the fights, demanding evidence of some sort of LGBTQ sensitivity training their drivers must undergo. We'll keep you posted as we learn more.


What's it Like to Be a Child of the 'Gayby Boom'?

Tosca Langbert, who grew up with two dads, writes a piece for the Harvard Business Review about what it's like being among the first children of the "Gayby Boom" to come of age.

We've previously written about the pressure on LGBTQ parents to appear perfect, given that so many in the United States still feel out families shouldn't exist in the first place. And we know this pressure trickles down to our kids. But In an article for the Harvard Business Review titled 'The Gayby Boom Is Here to Stay," author Tosca Langbert eloquently writes, from her perspective, about the experience of beingone of the first children to come of age during an era when LGBTQ parenthood is far more commonplace. She and her two siblings, she notes, "were raised in a family that was an impossibility only decades ago."

In the article, Langbert said she knew from a young age that her family was different from those of most of her peers, who had one a father and a mother. But otherwise, she writes, she didn't feel like her family differed much. "Like any other parents, Dad sat in the carpool lane after school and taught us how to ride our bikes," she writes, "while Papa took us to the movies on the weekends and separated the whites from the colors."

Despite this mundanity, her family remained something to marvel at for much of her youth. When the family moved into a new neighborhood in 2006, it made the local newspaper, with a headline titled, "Gay Father Tests Tolerance in the Park Cities."

She and her siblings have spent much of their lives, she explained further, having to respond to the question: what's it like having two gay dads? For Langbert, there is only one correct response, which is: Amazing! "Any other response, even if simply accounting for a family's nuanced experience, might as well be an outright admission of failure on behalf of the entire LGBTQ community," she wrote.

Children of the 'Gayby Generation,' are also put in the position of having to come out on behalf of their parents, and "often with mixed results," she wrote. She gave the following anecdote as an example:

"My father was asked to step down from his leadership position in my brother's Boy Scout troop on account of his sexuality. Even though my siblings and I were only fourth graders at the time, we understood that our family was under strict scrutiny, and that even the slightest misstep could beget severe consequences for how competent our fathers were perceived as being. In the face of this pressure, the first generation of 'gaybies' recognized the importance of presenting their families as perfect; doing otherwise would only present ammunition to those already dubious about the rights of LGBTQ parents to raise children."

The entire article, which includes the perspectives of multiple now-grown kids that are part of the "Gayby generation," is well worth a read, which you can access here.


Utah Bill Would Allow Gay Men to Enter Surrogacy Contracts

Rep. Patrice Arent of Utah is sponsoring a bill that will remove a provision that currently prohibits gay men from entering into commercial surrogacy contracts in the state.

Though Utah is not one of the three states that currently prohibit commercial surrogacy contracts, the state's current policy does specifically exclude gay men from doing so. That may soon changed, however, thanks to a bill in the state's legislature that was unanimously voted out of a House Committee that would remove that restriction.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, a Democrat, was created in response to a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court this past August that found the ban on gay men unconstitutional.

Gay men have been excluded from legally entering surrogacy contracts due to a provision in the current law that requires medical evidence "that the intended mother is unable to bear a child or is unable to do so without unreasonable risk to her physical or mental health or to the unborn child," Rep. Arent told the Salt Lake Tribune — a requirement that clearly excludes gay male couples.

The state's original surrogacy law dates back to 2005, before same-sex marriage was legalized in the state, which accounts for the gendered language. Though the state's Supreme Court already ruled the provision unconstitutional, Rep Arent further told the Tribute that, "People do not look to Supreme Court opinions to figure out the law, they look to the code and the code should be constitutional."

Surrogacy for Gay Men

Dads Talk About Surrogacy Process in New Video for Northwest Surrogacy Center

The Northwest Surrogacy Center interviewed some of their gay dad clients for a video to celebrate their 25th anniversary of creating families through surrogacy!

Image: NWSC Clients

Last year, Northwest Surrogacy Center celebrated 25 years of helping parents realize their dreams. And they celebrated in style by inviting the families they've worked with over the past two and a half decades to join them!

At the party, they took the opportunity to film queer dads and dads-to-be, asking them a couple of questions: how did it feel holding your baby for the first time, and tell us about your relationship with your surrogate.

Watch the video below and get ready for the water works!

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Campaign to Legalize Surrogacy in New York Heats Up with Competing Bills

Two competing bills — one backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Senator Liz Krueger with stricter provisions — are aiming to legalize surrogacy in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is once again attempting to legalize commercial surrogacy in the state, which is still just one of three states in the country to forbid the practice.

"This antiquated law is repugnant to our values and we must repeal it once and for all and enact the nation's strongest protections for surrogates and parents choosing to take part in the surrogacy process," Governor Cuomo said in a statement in announcing a broader effort called Love Makes a Family. "This year we must pass gestational surrogacy and expedite the second parent adoption process to complete marriage and family equality."

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

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