Surrogacy for Gay Men

The Ongoing Gay Legacy of CT Fertility

Roughly 90% of the patients at CT Fertility are gay men. And that's not by accident.

**CT Fertility is now closed. Message from CT Fertility: "Thank you for entrusting your care to us for the past 25 years. We wish each and every one of you all the best."**

Here's a shocker: it turns out us gay dudes don't know diddly about the female reproductive system. That will change pretty rapidly, though, if you step foot inside the offices of CT Fertility.

"Gay male couples tend to have no clue about pregnancy when they first walk in," laughed Medical Director at CT Fertility, Dr. Melvin H. Thornton II. "I'm sometimes accused of giving out too much information, but I'd rather give too much than too little."

The bulk of his patients are gay, which means Dr. Thornton, who has over 22 years of experience in the fertility world, has become something of a part-time professor in addition to a medical professional as he shepherds gay men and couples through the process of creating embryos.


"These guys just want a family, that's what they know," said Linda Vignapiano, Director of Clinical Operations for the East Coast for CT Fertility's parent company, IntegraMed. "So they have no idea what PGS is, for example, so we try to teach them."

"Really? That's crazy," I laughed along with her.

"That's Preimplantation Genetic Screening," Linda clarified a moment later, likely sensing, like most gay men, I had no idea what she was talking about. (Hey, admit it, you didn't know either.)

Herein lies how CT Fertility is setting itself apart. Particularly for an industry whose entire goal is to help make dreams of parenthood come true, the process can often feel incredibly sterile and impersonal. But at CT Fertility—whether you like it or not—you're going to be kept in the loop.

***

Roughly 90% of the patients at CT Fertility are gay men, and this is not by accident. Over 25 years ago, a man by the name of Dr. Michael Doyle founded CT Fertility with the explicit goal of helping LGBTQ people start their families.

"He was really a trailblazer," Linda said, noting Dr. Doyle worked hard to establish CT Fertility as an early leader in the LGBTQ community.

Two years ago, Dr. Doyle left clinical practice and was replaced by a man who spent 15 years as the Medical Director of the Columbia University IVF program, and nine years as Director of their donor egg program—Dr. Melvin H. Thornton II.

Dr. Melvin H. Thornton II

It's an intimidating name. But you need just a couple of minutes with Dr. Thornton to understand why Dr. Thornton fits in comfortably at CT Fertility.

"I started my practice initially in Southern California, where everyone talks to everybody," said Dr. Thornton. When he moved to New York to begin working at Columbia, he realized something about East Coasters: "Nobody talks," he said.

If you walk into Dr. Thornton's office, however, not talking is not an option.

"The first thing I like to do in a consultation is ask questions that sometimes surprise them," said Dr. Thornton. "I ask how they met, or how long they've been together. I ask how their engagement was."

Next, Dr. Thornton does something else you might not expect from a man with a roman numeral after his name: mental visualization exercises. Close your eyes and look into your future 10 years, he'll say. Imagine yourself in Central Park on a nice summer day.

How many children do you see with you?

"The number is usually controversial," he says. "One partner says two, the other says three. Then they'll look at each other, and think: wait, what do you mean? I want them to help them have the family they really want, but they need to get on the same page."

But he also wants to make sure intended parents never get too bogged down in the details. "This whole process is about family," he said. "It's important to never lose sight of that."

***

Both Linda and Dr. Thornton, with their combined experience of nearly 50 years in the fertility industry, say working with gay men is a pleasure. Working for straight couples and women can be more difficult, they say, since they are often treating infertility, or attempting to conceive at an advanced age, meaning success is less of a given.

"When gay couples come in, you typically have a donor egg, healthy sperm and a gestational carrier with a proven uterus," said Dr. Thornton. "You can pretty much be confident they will have the family they're looking for."

"I had infertility myself," said Linda Vignapiano. "I know what it's like. So working with gay couples—everybody is just happy and excited."

Linda Vignapiano

The success rate for gay men may be much higher, but that doesn't mean the process is any simpler. In fact, in many ways, it can be much more complicated.

"In the old days, I just had a man and a woman and I knew what I was doing," Linda said. "Now? I have two men, an egg donor, a surrogate, and a surrogacy agency I interact with. It's a party!"

What this means for CT Fertility, specifically, is that the clinic has learned to adapt its business practices to anticipate and accommodate the different needs of their LGBTQ intended parents.

For instance, at other fertility clinics with less experience working with gay men, you may end up with one coordinator for the intended parents, another for the surrogate, and yet another for the donor. At CT Fertility, Linda says continuity is key: intended parents, donors and surrogates all have the same coordinator.

"At some of the larger IVF clinics, we've been told by patients that it can feel like a conveyor belt—they never get the same person twice," she explained. At CT Fertility, "you're not going to get a 'doc of the day,'" she continued, meaning if you are a patient of Dr. Thornton's to start with, you will stay that way throughout the entire process, from your initial consult to your surrogate's transfer. "That feels good to our patients."

***

While no official numbers exist, many fertility clinics have reported a rise in the number of gay couples seeking to start their families via surrogacy in recent years, thanks in large part to marriage equality and increased societal acceptance of LGBTQ parents.

"The biggest thing I've seen change for gay men in recent years is the simple reality that they can have a child this way," said Dr. Thornton. "You'd be surprised, I've talked to lots of gay men who didn't know this was available to them."

But what work still needs to be done in order to make surrogacy more widely available to gay men?

First and foremost: the price tag remains a major sticking point. Though some financial assistance programs like the one offered by Men Having Babies has helped put surrogacy within reach of more gay men and couples, the option will remain inaccessible until it becomes more affordable.

Dr. Thornton says he's encouraged that a few larger companies, like Deutsche Bank and Google, have begun to provide fertility services for gay couples. "But everyone should have a right to fertility," he said. "If you're a gay man who works for a company that has IVF coverage, you should be allowed to create embryos."

And while attitudes around gay men and surrogacy are improving by the years, some stigmas continue to linger.

"Somebody needs to educate the FDA," Linda said, explaining that, just like with blood donation, gay men are considered "high risk" sperm donors by the government and are thus automatically barred from being considered a "qualified" tissue donor. In practice, all this means is the surrogate needs to sign a waiver acknowledging the "increased risk."

"But it just really sticks in my craw," Linda said. "It's not even like they are 'donating' anything—these are their babies!"

Still, Dr. Thornton says we are lucky to have the option of surrogacy at all in the United States. "In certain countries, you can't even talk about surrogacy," he said. "So it's great to have the reproduction freedom we have, I just wish it was more widely available to everyone."

With states like New York and New Jersey looking to legalize surrogacy this year, and advocates pushing more businesses to cover fertility treatments for LGBTQ couples, it's clear the option is likely to soon become available to more gay men.

And when that happens, the staff at CT Fertility will be there, eagerly waiting to educate you.

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

What Professionals Will I Work With on a Surrogacy Journey?

There will be LOTS of people involved in your surrogacy journey. Kristin Marsoli of Circle Surrogacy breaks down the team of people you can expect to work with.

A surrogacy journey, while monumental, is also a complex process with multiple milestones, many of which are new territory for intended parents. You will likely form the strongest relationships with your egg donor and surrogate, however there are many other professionals who you'll encounter on your journey who will educate and support you on your way to parenthood.

Here are the types of professionals you can expect to work with on your surrogacy journey working with an agency such as Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation:

Parent Outreach Team

When you start your research on surrogacy and surrogacy agencies, if you contact Circle Surrogacy, your first point of contact will be a member of our Parent Outreach Team. This person solely supports intended parents at the very beginning stages of their journeys, before they've signed on with an agency. The Parent Outreach Team is a wonderful resource to answer questions about the surrogacy process, surrogacy costs, how to choose an agency and more. At Circle, many of our Parent Outreach Associates are also parents through surrogacy, so they can share their experiences and understand exactly what it's like to be in your shoes. When you have your surrogacy consultation, you'll meet with a Parent Outreach Associate and a Lawyer to discuss your personal surrogacy needs and journey. Your Parent Outreach Team will support you through signing on with the agency.

Circle's Parent Outreach Team

Egg Donation Matching Coordinator

It's time to match with the first of two women who will be very important in your journey to parenthood: your egg donor! Selecting an egg donor may come easy to some, but others may take more time determining their perfect match. Our egg donor coordination team will help you find the right egg donor to meet your needs. They will help you navigate the egg donor database and coordinate your egg donor match.

IVF Doctor and Clinic Coordinators

You'll work closely with your IVF clinic professionals, including coordinators and, especially, your doctor. Your IVF doctor will advise you on your IVF journey and embryos, evaluate your egg donor and surrogate to determine they are ready for the process medically, and perform the egg retrieval and embryo transfer. Some intended parents come to surrogacy having already identified a clinic, others look for guidance in choosing a clinic that will best suit their needs.

Program Manager and Coordinator

Perhaps the professionals you will work the closest with will be your Program Manager (PM) and Program Coordinator (PC). As your journey support team, your PC and/or PM will be your day-to-day contact during your entire journey, from the moment you sign on with the agency, until the birth of your baby and beyond. Your PC and your PM ensure that you are meeting every milestone, having a smooth journey, and preparing for the arrival of your baby(ies).

Social Workers

Early on in your journey, you'll have an intended parent support call with one of the agency's social workers. During this call, you'll speak with the social worker about your upcoming journey, setting up expectations, talk about matching preferences and more. Social workers are also available to intended parents throughout their journey should they have a bump in the road, or if they need help navigating and talking through a situation.

L-R Alicia Abdella, Manager of Intended Parent Support and Social Worker, Jessica McCaffrey, Intended Parent Attorney and Scott Buckley, VP of Client Services

Lawyers (both at Circle and local attorneys)

During the surrogacy process you will work with a lawyer for the following milestones:

  • Drafting, negotiating and finalizing your surrogacy contracts
  • Establishing your parental rights
  • Safely returning home

Intended parents will be assigned a Circle attorney who will be part of the Coordination team. Parents can also expect to work with local counsel – lawyers who work out of the state from which their gestational carrier resides. Local counsel will help with establishing parental rights.

Surrogate Matching Team

A key milestone during your surrogacy journey is matching with your gestational carrier. At Circle, the Matching Manager – who is also a lawyer – presents intended parents with the profile of a gestational carrier whom she believes will be a great match. The match is based on a few criteria: legal fit, personality fit, geographic location and views on surrogacy. The Matching Team will help coordinate your first call with your potential surrogate, and work with you to find the most suitable match.

Trust Accountant Team

Each surrogacy operates a little differently; however if you work with a full-service agency such as Circle Surrogacy, a Trust Accountant will manage any outgoing payments to surrogates, egg donors and third parties. Upon matching, trust accountants keep intended parents informed of the monies needed to fund all expected expenses up until 6 months post delivery. They can also answer any financial questions intended parents may have.

Medical Billing Team

Intended parents will interact with the Medical Billing Team when they are matched with their gestational carrier. The team determines what intended parents can expect to pay for medical expenses from local monitoring, pregnancy and delivery, based on their specific case. The Medical Billing Team also reviews each medical bill from monitoring, physicians and the hospital prior to payment to ensure accuracy, and advocate for intended parents should medical facilities need to be called for any discrepancies.

Gestational Carrier's OBGYN

Around the 10th week of pregnancy, the IVF clinic will discharge your surrogate from their care and she will start seeing her OBGYN. Your surrogate will select her OBGYN that is local to her, and usually the same doctor she saw for her own pregnancies. Many intended parents attend the 20-week ultrasound with their surrogate, at which time they meet the OBGYN in person (in some cases, IPs have been "attended" ultrasound appointments via video on their surrogate's phone!).

The entire team at Circle

Hospital Staff

Your baby will be delivered at a hospital in your gestational carrier's home state; many times, it's the hospital where she delivered her own children. Circle recommends touring the Labor & Delivery section of your surrogate's hospital to help familiarize yourself with its staff and layout in advance. Many intended parents combine their visit for the 20-week ultrasound and the hospital tour. Touring the hospital with your surrogate enables you both to ask questions of the hospital staff and prepare for baby's delivery.

Embassy personnel (international intended parents)

International parents will work with their agency's legal team as well as local counsel to ensure they can return home safely. Some intended parents will need to travel to the embassy to secure travel documents for their baby(ies).

There are so many experienced professionals involved in a surrogacy and egg donation journey. It's important to understand with whom you'll be working throughout each milestone. While every agency operates differently – and an independent surrogacy journey will involve fewer agency professionals – these are the professionals intended parents can expect to work with on a journey with Circle Surrogacy. And because Circle is a full-service agency, many of the professionals mentioned above – outside of IVF clinics, local attorneys, hospital and embassy personnel – are all under one roof, making the management of your journey smooth and secure.

Surrogacy for Gay Men

'Broadway Husbands' Meet Potential Surrogate for First Time

Bret and Stephen talk about meeting their potential surrogate for the first time, and their second "team day" at RMA of Connecticut

In their latest video documenting their surrogacy journey, Bret and Stephen talk about meeting their potential surrogate and her husband for the first time.

Bret played tour guide for the couple, he said, who had never been to New York.

"It was super exciting, I think we were a little nervous," Bret said. "Would we even recognize each other even though we'd FaceTime'd each other? Would there be weird things, ticks we didn't catch? I was worried that I would weird them out, which I think I did."

"He did," said Stephen with a smile.

In the rest of the video, Bret and Stephen talk about their second "team day" at RMA of Connecticut, where the husbands had another opportunity to meet and greet all the professionals involved in their journey.

Check out more videos from the Broadway Husbands here!

Broadway Husbands Talk Second Team Day

In this video you'll hear Bret and Stephen discuss:

Bret and Stephen discuss meeting their potential surrogate for the first time in person (0:43)

The dads-to-be chat about about their emotions around meeting their potential surrogate for the first time (1:15)

Recap of their first Team Day with RMA of Connecticut (watch the video about their first Team Day here) (1:38)

Bret and Stephen describe what's involved in their second Team Day and the medical side of matching with their surrogate (2:25)

They discuss the group therapy session with their surrogate and her husband (3:18)

They husbands wrap up by talking about their overall experience with RMA of Connecticut (4:51)

Gay Parents To Be®

Gay Parents To Be® is the leading international fertility program serving the LGBTQ community. Our full-suite of fertility services was founded by our Medical Director, Dr. Mark Leondires, a gay dad through surrogacy and egg donation, and leading advocate for the LGBTQ family-building community. Gay Parents To Be® is a single-source destination with a trusted partner network, including surrogacy and egg donation agencies and reproductive attorneys. We are the only East Coast IVF Clinic designated as a fully-inclusive LGBTQ Healthcare Leader by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) .

When you're ready, we're here to welcome you: https://www.GayParentsToBe.com




Surrogacy for Gay Men

Gay Dads Ask: Can We Make Surrogacy Cheaper?

The guys behind Daddy Squared are back with the second season of their podcast! And they're starting by tackling a common question: why is surrogacy so expensive?

Through our podcast we have met so many dads in various stages of the parenthood journey. But whether it's in gay dad Facebook groups or in face-to-face interaction, there's no doubt that the biggest issue gay dads tackle is the cost of surrogacy.

Bringing a biological baby into the world can cost $180,000. For twins it can be around a quarter million. The biggest question is: Can we make it cheaper?

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Change the World

Judge's Decision in NY 'Compassionate Surrogacy' Case Involving Gay Dad Overturned

Though compensated surrogacy remains illegal in New York State, "compassionate surrogacy" arrangements are remain legal

Last week, an unanimous four-judge panel, part of the New York Appellate Division in Brooklyn, New York, revived a gay dad's petition to adopt his son born via surrogacy. The dad, identified as "Joseph P." in court documents, had earlier been denied his petition to adopt by a Queens County Family Court Judge, John M. Hunt. The Queens judge denied the petition because compensated surrogacy contracts are illegal in New York. However, the child born to Joseph was born via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning his gestational surrogate was not compensated.

The Appellate court's decision, written by Justice Alan D. Scheinkmanm called Hunt's decision "clearly erroneous," and held that a new Family Court judge should re-hear the case.

Judge Hunt's decision is all the more confusing since Joseph had actually already become a father via surrogacy in New York—three times over. In each instance, he used donor eggs and a friend serving, voluntarily, as the gestational surrogate. He had his first child in 2012, and then twins the following year. In all three instances, a Family Court judge granted Joseph's adoption petition, given that each child was conceived via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning no money changes hands in the course of a surrogacy journey between carrier an intended parent. This type of surrogacy arrangement is not illegal under to New York law. The social worker in Joseph's latest attempt to adopt, Gay City News noted, also gave him a favorable review, calling him "a mature, stable, and caring person who intentionally created a family of himself, the twins, and John."

Gay City News notes: "Justice Scheinkman provided a careful description of the laws governing surrogacy in New York. The Legislature provided that surrogacy contracts are unenforceable and treated as void. However, the only surrogacy contracts actually outlawed are those where the surrogate is compensated. It was clear to the Appellate Division that the Legislature did not mean to outlaw voluntary surrogacy arrangements, merely to make them unenforceable in the courts. Those who enter into a compensated surrogacy agreement face a small monetary fine and people who act as brokers to arrange such agreements are liable for a larger penalty. There is no penalty for voluntary, uncompensated surrogacy arrangements."

Read the full article here.

Entertainment

How Fatherhood Has Impacted Tom Daley's Diving Career for the Better

British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Change the World

One Gay Dad's Fight Against Hate in Superior, Nebraska

Brian Splater is refusing to let homophobic and transphobic elected officials in his town go unchecked

Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.

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Politics

America's First Gay Dad Governor Heads Into the Lion's Den

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently became the first elected Democrat to speak at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver

Last Friday, American's first gay dad Governor, Jared Polis, became the first elected Democrat to speak at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he urged the Republican crowd to help him build a "Colorado for all."

"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Fatherhood, the gay way

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