Gay Dad Family Stories

This Surrogate Helped Two Different Gay Couples Realize Their Dreams of Becoming Dads

Shelly Marsh says her daughters are her "life," and wanted to share that love as a surrogate for two different gay couples.

We've shared hundreds, possibly thousands, of stories about GBT men who've become dads through the many different paths to fatherhood. We've thanked the women who've made our dreams come true; we wouldn't be dads without their, in many cases, selfless acts of love. Amongst the courageous birth moms, and our co-parenting counterparts, are the surrogates who carry our children. It's a very personal decision to become a surrogate, but Shelly's choice was simple: if she could help others experience the joys of parenthood, she would.


Shelly and Brian with their two daughters

Shelly Marsh, 32, met her husband Brian Marsh, 40, over 12 years ago when they were both working at Disneyland. Together they have two daughters, Aubrey who is 11 years old, and Stella who is 9.

When Shelly heard about surrogacy and the ability to help others have a family, she knew it was for her. "My girls are my life and if I have the ability to share that love with someone else, that is what I wanted to do."

The first dads whose children she carried were Norwegian couple Erik-André and Kenneth. "The agency asked us to make a profile presenting ourselves and how we wanted to do the process and what our wishes were concerning our relationship with the surrogate and her family, both during the process and after," explained Kenneth.

Shelly and Brian saw their profile and got in touch with them through their agency. The couples emailed and Skyped before meeting in-person in Los Angeles. "It was very good for us that the surrogate got to choose us out of several profiles, and not the other way around," continued Kenneth. "The knowledge that Shelly and Brian had chosen us was very comforting and it was no less than absolutely fantastic. We had a hard time believing there were people in this world like them. The more we got to know them, the more we knew it was a good match and we would all be okay."

Shelly with dad Erik-André and Kenneth and their twins

The couples were matched for nine months before Erik-André and Kenneth found an egg donor. "The wait was hard for all of us but it worked out perfectly in the end," said Shelly. "I always knew that the obstacles would be worth it."

In September 2013, Shelly gave birth to Erik-André and Kenneth's twins. "I don't think we ever realized the high that we would feel when we got to hand those sweet babies over to their daddies," recalls Shelly. "That was the moment we worked so hard for and it was always the most breathtaking moment, every time."

Shelly continued her surrogate journey with another family, Billy and Brian, who live locally in Los Angeles. She carried two pregnancies for them: a little boy born in August 2015, and a baby sister born in January 2018.

"Our surrogacy journey with Shelly began with one of those magical life moments where we felt like we already knew her and her husband Brian," said Billy. "You hear stories of varying degrees about the relationships that people have with their surrogates but ours and always will be complete love, admiration and respect and they will forever be a part of our family."

Shelly with dads Billy and Brian

The couples were very involved in each of Shelly's surrogacy journeys: from Skyping in for doctor's appointments and ultrasounds, to being in the states weeks ahead of time to be present for the births.

All the families have remained close. "I get to speak to both families I helped on a weekly basis," said Shelly. "We vacation together and share a very special relationship that I am beyond grateful to have. They are just an extension of our family now and I just love them all so much!"

Shelly's surrogacy families are in full agreement. "The most important thing in a surrogate journey, we think, is to get matched with a surrogate and her family with similar expectations thoughts and hopes about the journey," said Kenneth.

Shelly has some advice for future surrogates: "You have to be honest with yourself as to how much of your heart and life you will give away - it is a huge commitment but to see these people as a family after all the work is truly worth every moment," she said. "Be in it for the good you will give back to the world, and be honest with your feels and the contact you want – these journey can change everyone's life for the better, forever!"

Through her experience as a surrogate, Shelly has since become an integral staff member for Men Having Babies, joining the team as the Marketing Director in December 2017. (Men Having Babies is a nonprofit organization created to help put surrogacy within reach for gay men around the globe.) "My passion was ignited and I am able to help many more gay couples through my work."

Recently, Shelly and Brian celebrated 12 years of marriage by renewing their vows in front of 120 friends and family. Their chosen families – Erik-André, Kenneth and their sons, and Brian and Bill with their kids were there, too. In one incredibly moving photo (the feature image of this article), Shelly, Brian and their two daughters, stand amongst the two families Shelly helped become whole. They are her womb family. "That photo is a 'tear duct kinda moment,'" explained Shelly. "Those moments you save directly in your tears ducts because they will always make you cry the happiest tears... It was the perfect day!"

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Politics

Daughter of Married Gay Couple Who Used Surrogacy Abroad Isn't Citizen, Says U.S. State Department

A decades-old law can be used to discriminate against gay couples who use surrogacy abroad.

James Derek Mize and his husband Jonathan Gregg are both American citizens, but their daughter, born via a surrogate, may not be, at least according to the U.S. State Department.

The New York Times took an in-depth look at this case in a piece that ran in the paper yesterday. While James was born and raised in the U.S, his husband Jonathan was originally born in Britain. That may be enough, according to the State Department, to deny their daughter citizenship.

"We're both Americans; we're married," James told the New York Times. "We just found it really hard to believe that we could have a child that wouldn't be able to be in our country."

According to decades-old immigration law, a child born abroad must have a biological connection to a parent that is a U.S. citizen in order to be eligible to receive citizenship upon birth. Children born via surrogacy are determined to be "out of wedlock," according to the Times report," which then requires a more onerous process to qualify for citizenship, such as demonstrating that a biological parent is not only an American citizen, but has spent at least five years in the country.

The intent of the law, which dates back to the 1950s, was to prevent people from claiming, falsely, that they are the children of U.S. parents. But LGBTQ advocates argue this archaic policy is being used intentionally to discriminates against same-sex couples, who often have to rely on donors, IVF and surrogacy in order to have biologically children, and are thus held to a higher standard.

"This is where our life is. This is where our jobs are," James told the Times. "Our daughter can't be here, but she has no one else to care for her."

Read the whole story here.


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Netflix Documentary Explores a Gay Chinese-American's Path to Parenthood Via Surrogacy

"All In My Family," a new short documentary by filmmaker Hao Wu, explores his family's struggle to accept his sexuality and decision to pursue surrogacy in the United States

Filmmaker Hao Wu's latest documentary, released on Netflix this past week, explores his coming out story and his path to becoming a gay dad via surrogacy in the United States. Viewers watch as Wu comes out to his Chinese parents, who are not accepting of his sexual orientation.

As the film's synopsis notes, Wu, the only male descendant in his Chinese family, was "raised with a certain set of expectations - excel at school, get a good job, marry, and have kids." He achieves each of these goals, but as a gay man, he hasn't done so in the way his family had hoped. The film follows Wu brings his husband and children to China to meet his family, many of who are still unaware of his sexual orientation.

"I wanted to show the challenges for gay people of Chinese descent, what kind of cultural and generational barriers and differences they have to negotiate in order to build a family of their own," Wu said in an interview with InkStone.

Watch the moving documentary in full here.


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They signed with Circle Surrogacy after interviewing a few agencies. "We immediately connected with their entire staff, particularly Anne Watson who lovingly dealt with my healthy neuroses on the daily for 1.5 years," said Byron. "They definitely personalized the service and helped us understand all 2,000 moving parts." The dads-to-be were also very impressed with how much emotional support they received from Circle.

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