Cohen and Murray became dads via surrogacy when they were 25 and 28 years old, respectively. Both men came from large families and always wanted to be dads; Cohen said, "It was a no-brainer!" They wanted a biological link to their child so Cohen and Murray pursued the option of surrogacy in nearby Thailand. Their path to fatherhood began in September 2012 and on June 20, 2013, their daughter Charlee was born. Today they live in New South Wales, Australia, in the small town of Kiami, 70 miles south of Sydney. Get to know Cohen and Murray as they speak candidly about their surrogacy journey, life as a gay family in Australia and their desire to become dads.
Gays With Kids: We love a good love story, can you tell us about how you two meet?
Cohen: Murray and I met back in 2008 and I had just come out to a few friends and my family. We connected through MySpace when that was a thing, LOL. The minute I met Murray I knew we had a big spark. Murray was the first person I had ever been with and from that day on we haven't spent a day apart.
Gays With Kids: How did you create your family?
Cohen: Murray and I moved in together and bought a house after 12 months. Things moved very quickly for us but it all felt so natural and amazing. After we settled into our new home another 12 months went by and we started speaking about having kids one day soon. We looked into a few options and I joined a few Facebook groups and researched many different options. We looked into surrogacy, adoption and fostering, but ultimately we decided to go for surrogacy as we really wanted to have a genetic link.
I spoke to a friend on Facebook who had just had twin boys using surrogacy in Thailand. I thoroughly researched a few different clinics and we found one we really liked. We emailed the clinic in September 2012 and we were over in Thailand by October 2012 with our amazing friend and egg donor. This trip was our first overseas trip ever so it was so exciting and intense at the same time. After all the IVF we came home. Early November we got the results back for our pregnancy tests and we got the good news that one of our surrogates were pregnant and we got some sad news that our other was not. We flew over for the birth in June 2013. It was the most beautiful and emotional experience ever. One we will cherish forever.
June 20, 2013: "The happiest day of our lives" - Cohen (left)
Gays With Kids: Why did you choose Thailand and how do you feel about it closing the borders to surrogacy for gay couples and singles now?
Cohen: We chose Thailand because we felt it was a much more ethical option over India and was more affordable than U.S.A. We are sad about them closing the door on surrogacy.
Gays With Kids: How long did the surrogacy process in Thailand take?
Cohen: The whole process took us 12 months and after the birth we had to live in Thailand for 6 weeks organizing all the paperwork to come home.
Gays With Kids: Please share any advice you may have for others considering a similar path to fatherhood.
Cohen: Be prepared for ups and downs. It’s a rollercoaster ride full of emotions but don’t give up – it's worth every minute of the ups and downs.
Gays With Kids: Please describe your experience as a gay dad family in Australia.
Cohen: We have had a very positive experience being gay dads and are very lucky to have such great support from family and friends. To be honest, we haven't faced any challenges.
Gays With Kids: Congratulations on your engagement! We understand that you plan to marry as soon as Australia recognizes same-sex marriage. What is your view of the current situation for same-sex couples wishing to marry in Australia?
Cohen: I think it's sad and unfair that in this day and age Australia isn't following suit along with the many countries that have legalized gay marriage, and we hope that in the near future we can be lucky enough to call each other husbands.
Gays With Kids: What do you consider to be the most important lesson you are teaching your child?
Cohen: Teaching love and respect. This so something that we think is so important to instill into our child.
Gays With Kids: What does Charlee call her two daddies?
Cohen: I am "Dad" and Murray is "Daddy".
Family time relaxing on the beach
Gays With Kids: Are you planning on extending your family? And if so, what path are you considering?
Cohen: We are in the process of surrogacy here in Australia and have had a few miscarriages but we are hopeful and haven't given up just yet.
Gays With Kids: Do you have help, i.e. a nanny, babysitter or relative?
Cohen: We have help from family with Charlee. I'm a chef but a full-time stay-at-home dad and Murray is an electronic engineer in the mines.
Gays With Kids: Describe your perfect day as a family.
Cohen: Singing and dancing. Arts and crafts and quality family time for sure.
Gays With Kids: What have you learnt about yourself as a parent?
Cohen: That we have so much more patience than we thought we had. That we have so much love to give and so much knowledge we want to share.
Follow Cohen, Murray and Charlee on Instagram @therealdadsofsydney. They hope their account will spread the word that families come in different shapes and sizes. Or, as Cohen and Murray would say: Gay men can make real dads.
*Answers have been edited for clarity.