By Brett Griffin-Young, gay dad through surrogacy and Circle Surrogacy's International Outreach Associate.
If you've ever looked for an apartment or bought a house (or watch any HGTV real estate show), you've probably heard the phrase, "Location! Location! Location!" Because where you live sets the stage for the rest of your life and your children's lives.
Or does it?
Surrogacy in the 'Burbs?
Surrogacy is becoming more and more common as a family-building option. Agencies work with singles and couples from all over the world to help grow families. Many celebrities, too, have turned to surrogacy.
Surrogacy is readily available in big cities. But what if you don't live in New York or LA or London? What if you live in a small town, hours from a big city? Is surrogacy still accessible? And, on top of that: what if you are gay and living in a small town? Is surrogacy a viable option?
We're Gay! In a Small Town! And We're Doing Surrogacy!
When my husband and I first started thinking about becoming parents as a gay couple, one of our first concerns was that we didn't live in a big city where lifestyles and decisions tend to be more accepted. It was 2008 and we were living – and still do live – in the suburbs of a small city in the Midlands of England. We didn't know anyone who had done surrogacy, let alone any other gay parents.
We were concerned how our neighbors would react– less for ourselves personally than for any children we had. Would they be accepted? Would they have any friends? If we had a boy would his friends be allowed to have sleepovers at our house? While these may seem like silly questions, to us they were important and what kept us up at night.
When we first started telling people that we were planning to have a baby or two through surrogacy, our neighbors and friends had the usual reactions and concerns of anybody who doesn't have an understanding of what surrogacy is. We got all of the usual, "But what if she decides to keep the baby?!" and, "How do you know she's not smoking, drinking and taking drugs?!" However, not once did they say that gays should not have children! Perhaps some of them thought this, but none of them said it.
Brett and his family
Big-City Thinking In Our Small Town
What astonished us most was how quickly our friends and neighbors became surrogacy advocates and gay parent rights activists! People who probably have never once in their lives given more than a cursory passing thought to the rights of gay people, were now cutting newspaper articles out to excitedly share with us around advancements or changes in the law. It warmed our hearts that our community was rallying around us – and gay parenting.
During our first surrogacy journey, we quickly started to realize that even neighbors whom we did not know very well had our backs. And the joy and celebration when we brought our son home was unbelievable! He was a bit of a local celebrity and only a few days old. All of our initial concerns about people's reactions to us having a baby were soon diminished, and as our son - who is now 8 1/2 years old - has grown over the years, and as we have added to our family, all of our concerns have been dismissed.
Gay Parenting in Suburbia
My children and my family are accepted in such a way that it is barely even noticed that we are a gay family. My son has more of his friends sleepover than any other child I know. I am the go-to parent when there is a snow day and children need looking after; or if a parent is running late for school pick up, I am the one they call. The teachers and school have been incredible in dealing with the "Two Daddy Scenario", avoiding potentially contentious days for kids with same-sex parents, like Mother's Day, by embracing my children's Nana.
Homophobia and ignorance towards same-sex parents and their families has not been our biggest issue, in fact, it has never been an issue. In my personal experience, it's been the do-gooders who tend to be more potentially damaging. Slightly over-the-top reactions upon meeting you and your family, leading into inappropriate questions as they try to prove how liberal they are. One time we were asked about the paternity and the relationship with our egg donors in front of our children, with no regard that this could be sensitive information which has not yet discussed with our 5-year-old son!
As the International Outreach Associate at Circle Surrogacy, I talk to potential parents each and every day, sharing my story. And no matter if you're gay or straight, single or coupled, selecting your surrogacy agency is a monumental decision. It needs to be the right agency for you.
But what I can tell you is this: where your agency is located in respect to where you live, does not matter. As I mentioned, I live in a small town in England. Circle Surrogacy is located in Boston, Massachusetts. I had an amazing experience and relationship with my agency, and we were thousands of miles apart! Circle travels extensively to meet with Intended Parents in person, but also offers consultations via Skype.
Since my son was born we have come to know many same-sex families, many of whom do not live in big cities, but like us pursued surrogacy in suburbia. They, too, have found that their small town has not only embraced surrogacy, but them as fathers. And I love it!