Gay Dad Life

When Someone Calls Adoption "Buying New Sh*t"

This is the seventh article in Anthony Romeo’s series about his adoption journey. Read the first article in the series.

This piece contains some vulgarities thinly disguised by asterisks. Reader discretion (or creativity) is advised.

Sorry gang, no cute cat pictures this time. I don’t have a heartwarming story to tell you about a valuable life lesson we’ve picked up on the road to parenthood. I don’t even have any funny one-liners for you. I’m angry, mad as hell this time, and if you really want to stick along for the whole ride, not just the cute stuff, then you’ll take the good, you’ll take the bad, you’ll take them both, and there you’ll have … the launch of a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for our adoption expenses.

We launched ours on Black Friday, accompanied by a post on Gays With Kids, thinking it was a clever way to maximize the opportunity to help us expedite our own fundraising process, and to, yes, “cash in” on an industry-driven spending-spree. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of a socially acceptable monetary hemorrhage to try to make our family happen?

We were met with a really glowing launch, getting donations from friends and family from day one, on each consecutive day. We raised over $1300 in our first week. People were leaving sweet comments on our GoFundMe page, we were getting encouraging text messages, things felt like they were moving in the direction we’d envisioned.

And then I decided to reach out to friends on social media. Again, mostly positive. But the picture here, lovely readers, is not as rosy as you’d realize from a quick gander at our GoFundMe page. I had a conversation with a friend who had previously donated to a charity with which I was working, and his thoughts are worth sharing. Because if I’m angry about it, maybe you will be too. Or, maybe you’ll tell me that he’s right. Here’s how he started his thoughts.

“Frankly, if you and Dom can’t raise those $20,000 in adoption expenses over a relatively short period of time ... How in the world do you think you’ll be able to support a child for the next 25 years or so? Kids aren’t free, kids aren’t cheap, and it’s wholly unreasonable to feel that you could raise your child on donated funds forever.”

Let’s call my gut reaction sticker shock. I wanted to call him an a***ole. I did not. I decided to take what I thought could be a teaching moment and use it to help someone understand the way the process works.

My response was, “Almost everyone can afford to raise a kid; they aren’t the most expensive thing in the world. It takes budgeting, and restructuring, and sacrifice, absolutely, but it’s doable. To complete a home study at $1,500, fine, totally doable. We are then shown to a birth mother, and if she places her baby with us, that other $19,000 is due immediately. No payment plans, no options. Write the check or there’s no kid.”

I felt like he wasn’t understanding that there’s a $20,000 upfront cost before you even get a baby, which then costs you money. Comparing the cost of upfront adoption fees to a child’s 25-year life cycle as a dependent wasn’t accurate, and it doesn’t hold water as an argument.

He continued, “I know nothing of the process of adoption, I do know something about buying things on credit when you don’t have the income to do so otherwise.”

Fuming. We’d literally worked for days on our GoFundMe script, filmed for over four hours to get the right angles and the right footage, asked my brother-in-law and his friend to volunteer their time to edit and format it for us at no cost, and planned our course of action for months prior to launching the fundraising campaign. And it was being boiled down to buying expensive Nikes that we couldn’t afford.

To obtain $20,000 sooner rather than later has always been the goal. Dom’s 33, I’m 30. Raising money on our own, and trying to hit $20,000 would take time. And hear me: We are saving money, independent of GoFundMe. Once that money is raised, it might take another few years to actually have a baby placed. Age is a consideration, and people feel the need to become parents at different points in their lives. Dom and I feel it now.

My friend added, “Either you can’t afford to save enough to pay the fees, which brings me to question your ability to afford a child. Or you can afford a child, but you choose not to wait to save on your own and instead are soliciting others ... I just don’t understand how you don’t understand that you’re asking me to give up buying some new sh*t for myself to buy some new sh*t for you.”

That’s about as low as you can make a person feel. And it immediately made me second-guess everything Dom and I were doing.

A song called “Die Vampire, Die,” written by the brilliant Jeff Bowen for the musical [title of show], defines a vampire as “any person or thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative self expression.” The song asks, “Why is it that if some dude walked up to me on the subway platform and said these things, I’d think he was a mentally ill a***ole, but if the vampire inside my head says it, it’s the voice of reason.”

And that’s exactly what this stupid Facebook conversation did to me. It put me too much in my own head. Because, truth be told, I’d heard this kind of sentiment expressed a bit less crudely from other folks. It filled me with doubt and insecurity. I worried that people were misunderstanding the reason we were launching a GoFundMe, and suddenly a campaign designed to raise money, to create a pathway of kindness and generosity for our future kid to retrace, had been bastardized, characterized as the exact thing we’d worked so hard to avoid.

Earlier in my professional life, before the term “marriage equality," I canvassed for the Human Rights Campaign. And for a year and a half, I was the guy that stood on the sidewalk and tried to stop pedestrians by asking, “Hey, do you have a minute for gay rights?” I was spit on, called a faggot, told that I had AIDS, I was told that all gays should be forced to live on a separate island. I had a woman stand behind me as I tried to work, screaming the word “ABOMINATION” over and over for almost an hour. I was threatened, and harassed, and bullied, and I endured it all with a smile on my face because I knew a day in my life would come when I’d want the right to marry, just for me, and I could feel that I’d earned it. I stood in the pouring rain, and the freezing cold, in blizzards and heat waves, to make life better for my entire community. When you go through the sheer hell that comes with that work, fundraising for your own adoption process by telling cute stories to strangers online seemed like child’s play. My, how the mighty have fallen, eh readers?

And so this time, there’s no cute ending, there’s no happy tag at the end of the column designed to make you giggle and feel good. There’s just me left hoping that I didn’t seriously misjudge the way things would shake out, hoping that perception isn’t always reality. And still, under it all, hoping to find the right road to being a dad, whatever the “right road” turns out to be.

So, here’s where I stand. I’m going to ask the people who love us, who support us, and who want us to be parents and are willing to help, to help. In the same way that I can make the choice to ask, you can make the choice to decline, the country’s free that way. You can also choose to be an a** in the way you talk to me, but it doesn’t change the fact that $20,000 is a lot of money, money that we don’t have now, and that’s what we’re asking for. We’re perfectly capable of financing the raising of our child, thank you very much.

I’ve got to learn how to be more goal-focused, and to stop letting vampires distract me from the most important part of all of this, and that’s bringing a baby, our baby, home.

And so if giving makes sense for you, then by all means, give. You can give once, you can choose to give monthly. Because either way, you’ll be part of the network of people to whom we will always be connected, and for whom we’ll always be grateful.

Me? I’ll be the guy in the corner reminding himself that sometimes, the only vampires he’s got the power to slay are the ones inside his own head.

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Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.


Amazon's New "Modern Love" Series Includes Episode on Open Adoption

The episode is loosely based on the New York Times "Modern Love" essay written by sex columnist and activist Dan Savage.

In 2005, Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, contributed one of the most talked about essays for the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Better known for his acerbic wit and cutting political commentary, Savage exposed a more vulnerable side in this piece, sharing the highs, lows and everything in between that comes from the experience of pursuing an open adoption.

His son DJ's birth mother was experiencing what Savage called a "slo-mo suicide": homeless by choice, in and out of prison, and surrounded by drugs. Though Savage has chosen an open adoption so that DJ's birth mother would be a presence in his son's life, she often disappeared for months and sometimes years at a time without contacting the family, leaving their young son with lots of questions and no satisfying answers.

The piece ends on a heartbreaking note, with Savage simply seeking some sort of resolution. "I'm starting to get anxious for this slo-mo suicide to end, whatever that end looks like," he wrote. "I'd prefer that it end with DJ's mother off the streets in an apartment somewhere, pulling her life together. But as she gets older that resolution is getting harder to picture."

At the time, many interpreted Savage's story as a cautionary tale for those considering open adoptions. But in 2016, on the Modern Love Podcast, he asserted that was not his intention: "DJ's mom is alive and well," Savage said. "She's on her feet. She's housed. We talk on the phone occasionally. She and DJ speak on Mother's Day and on DJ's birthday." He added that he "would hate to have anyone listen to that essay or to read it — which was written at a moment of such kind of confusion and despair — and conclude that they shouldn't do the kind of adoption that we did," Savage said. "I think that open adoption is really in the best interest of the child, even if … it presents more challenges for the parents. So I encourage everyone who's thinking about adoption to seriously consider open adoption and not to be dissuaded by my essay."

Now, Savage's piece is getting the small screen treatment as one of 9 episodes included in Amazon Prime's adaption of the column. The episode inspired by Savage's essay, "Hers Was a World of One," contains some departures from Savage's original story — Savage's character, played by Fleabag's Andrew Scott, adopts a daughter rather than a son, for example, and the episode concludes closer to the upbeat note struck in the Podcast version of hist story than in the column.

Either way, we welcome any and all attention to the complexities of open adoption. Check out the episode (which also randomly includes Ed Sheeran in a couple scenes) and tell us what you think!


Adopting Dogs Improves Gay Couples' Relationships, Says Adorable Study

In what may be a "pre-curser to parenthood," 56% of gay and bi couples reported spending more time with their partners after adopting a dog.

As part of what may be the most adorable study you never knew you needed, pet-sitting website found that gay and bi couples who adopt dogs reportedly boast stronger relationships as a result — 56% of gay and bi couples said they spent more time with their partners after adopting a dog. More than half of participants also said that owning a dog can help prepare couples for children.

Interestingly, gay and bi couples were also more likely to prepare for potential difficulties in their arrangements — 21% of gay and bi couples reported setting up a "pet-nup" agreement to determine custody of their new pup in case their relationship didn't last. Only 12% of straight couples, in contrast, did the same.

"You can outline the practicalities of what would happen in the event you split from your partner whether you have joint or sole custody," dog behaviorist Louise Glazebrook told Australia's QN News. "It's a real tragedy to see breakups results in dogs needing to be re-homed.

There was, however, one clear downside to pet ownership mentioned in the study — 17% of respondents said they have less sex now that they're sharing a bed with their pup.

Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Newly Out Gay Dad Feels 'Demoted' After Divorce

Cameron Call showed up to his first family Thanksgiving since coming out and getting a divorce — and struggles to find himself "stuck with the singles."

Cameron Call, who came out in summer 2019, has generously agreed to chronicle his coming out journey for Gays With Kids over the next several months — the highs, lows and everything in between. Read his first article here.

Denial is an interesting thing. It's easy to think you're potentially above it, avoiding it, assume it doesn't apply to you because you'd NEVER do that, or maybe you're just simply avoiding it altogether. After finally coming out, I liked to think that I was done denying anything from now on. But unfortunately that's not the case.

And this fact became very clear to me over Thanksgiving.

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New Report Details the 'Price of Parenthood' for LGBTQ People

A new report by the Family Equality Council takes a deep dive into the current state of cost for becoming a parent as an LGBTQ person

Parenthood is expensive. But parenthood while queer is still prohibitively costly for so many segments of the LGBTQ community interested in pursuing a family, according to a new repot by the Family Equality Council, titled, "Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood."

Among the more interesting findings was this one: the cost of family planning is relatively similar for all LGBTQ people, regardless of income level. This shows "that the desire to have children exists regardless of financial security," the report's authors conclude.

Research for the report was conducted through an online survey of 500 LGBTQ adults over the age of 18, and was conducted between July 11-18, 2018. For comparison, the survey also included 1,004 adults who did not identify as LGBTQ.

Other interesting findings of the report include:

  • 29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, and error associated with question-wording and response options.29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Regardless of annual household income, 45-53% of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family. Those making less than $25,000 a year are considering becoming parents at very similar rates as those making over $100,000.
  • Data from the Family Building Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ households making over $100,000 annually are considering the full range of paths to parenthood, from surrogacy and private adoption to foster care and IVF. The most popular options under consideration in this income bracket are private adoption (74% are considering), foster care (42%), and IVF or reciprocal IVF (21%). At the other end of the economic spectrum, for LGBTQ+ individuals in households making less than $25,000 annually, the most commonly considered paths to parenthood are intercourse (35% are considering), foster care (30%), and adoption (23%).

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

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Gay Dad Life

Broadway Performer's Surrogacy Journey Briefly Sidetracked — for One Very 'Wicked' Reason

"Broadway Husbands" Stephen and Bret explain the exciting reasons they had to hit pause on their surrogacy journey — but don't worry, they're back on track!

In the latest video of the Broadway Husbands sharing their path to fatherhood, Stephen and Bret explain their hiatus for the past 4 months. The couple have big news to share including a relocation, a job announcement, and the fact that they're getting ready to restart their journey (which they had to take a brief pause from since September).

Watch their video to find out their latest news.

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