DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Gays With Kids.
The other day my husband (see photo above, left) and I met an old friend at the jetty to catch the boat to town. He’s a gay dad, just like us, with a son who will begin school this year. There are a great many ways to become a parent these days, and gay kids growing up today (in our part of the world) view becoming a parent as a possibility as much as any straight kid would. What a change from when I was growing up! Yet in reality, it is still quite challenging for a gay man to become a father.
Many most gay men who are fathers probably got there the traditional way. My friend had chosen IVF; a pregnancy was achieved at the first try. He and his lesbian friend pretended to be an involuntarily childless couple, so the Swedish health care system would cover the procedure. (This option could create a host of potential legal and personal problems.) Other popular routes include adoption, foster care, and, in recent years, surrogacy. The latter is of course quite expensive, even if you do it an Asia. I know; I wrote a book about it!
As we were discussing our parenting – dodging the touchy subject of “Do you want another one?” – the discussion turned to a Swedish gay fathers’ group on Facebook, with physical meetings once a month in Stockholm. Apart from the fact that it’s impractical to be there, I also questioned the value of the group per se. Not for anyone, but for me.
Yes, I wish I had someone to discuss my parenting challenges every now and then, particularly with my mother no longer with us. But are the rashes on my son’s skin any different because I’m gay? Is his potty training going to be any different because I’m gay? I hope not! For the most part, I’m quite happy riding the waves of the Web to find information on what I need to know to raise our son.
However, there are instances where being a gay dad still is different from being “just a dad,” especially in terms of travel, as we’ve been able to read right here on Gays with Kids. I’d never even considered bringing along documentation to prove that my son is actually my son and not just a kid I’ve kidnapped in the nearest terminal before boarding my flight, complete with a passport with my name in it. Who knew some immigration officials could be so paranoid?
There’s also the difference (mentioned above) of how we become parents. Lesbians have it a lot easier here, fully equipped with the “oven” to bake their own kids. And in places where insemination isn’t offered through the health care system, I’ve heard more than one lesbian say, “I’ll just get drunk, go to a straight bar and get it over with.” Some do.
Gay men don’t have that option, and so some of us choose surrogacy, to “rent” or “borrow” a womb. Commercial surrogacy is legal in only a few places in the world; the practice invites criticism, especially in Europe. One look at my son and I say: totally worth it! But yes, being a gay male has its limitations and I believe that in sharing our experiences and knowledge, we can assist and help those who are still facing the “how to”. We should also be more politically active in terms of working towards opening up adoption routes for gay couples, because it is the most logical and ethical way of becoming a parent.
Surrogacy is, and probably always will be, controversial. Recent events involving Israeli air lifts after the earthquake in Nepal are a good example of the ethical dilemmas surrounding commercial surrogacy. With more and more countries closing their borders to gay couples (e.g., Russia, India, Thailand), wouldn’t it be a shame if you had to be a millionaire to afford a child? Is that what we want? There are literally millions and millions of children around the world, abandoned, abused or mistreated by their parents, kids who need a loving home and nurturing parents.
I think of my son, and I have no idea if he’ll be straight or not, but on the odd chance that one day he turns out to be gay, I want him to be able to become a dad, should he want to, without having to fight homophobia, without having to invest a fortune. I see that as my primary role moving forward, and I believe Gays With Kids plays a huge role in this endeavor, because believe it or not, I can’t wait to be a granddad someday.