Gay Dad Life

One Gay Dad's Response When Asked: What Makes a Family?

While a panelist at an LGBT event, Salim Stephensen was asked a tough question: what makes a family? Here's his response.

As a gay parent I'm occasionally asked to take part in panel discussions at LGBT events. These are common in London's business district (where I work) as the big firms place increasing emphasis on diversity – and rightly so. Anyway, I took part in one the other day at Deutsche Bank which was moderated by my friend and fellow gay parent, Tuvia Borok.


Tuvia introduced the audience to the panel of five gay parents, all pretty senior legal and financial professionals, with me, a humble paralegal, perched on the end at number six. I always get super nervous sharing the panel with these folks!

Tuvia kicked off the discussion with the first question to the panel…

"What makes a family?"

It was such a big question I didn't know where to start. Cue nervous panicking. Cue buckets of sweat. Cue heart-thumping.

There was a moment of silence, only a few seconds but long enough for my head to fill with jumbled up thoughts, all trying to make sense of each other and give a coherent answer. Imagine the feeling of bees swarming inside your head – each bee a different thought – pulling each other's wigs off and scratching each other's eyes out, all trying to be the prevailing thought. This is exactly how I feel when I'm faced with public speaking. I really need to sort that out!

Mercifully, Tuvia looked to the panelist next to him, Gary Crichlow, for an answer first. Gary began with something along the lines of his family being like every other despite having same-sex parents.

Although it was a great answer, it wasn't how I'd interpreted the question. I thought Tuvia was literally asking us how we would define the concept of family. If I were to ask myself what makes a family, my answer would be love.

But then my mind drifted back to a conversation I'd had recently with a guy I'd met through mutual friends at a barbecue. Just in case he reads this, let's call him Archie (I love that name).

Salem (fair right) at the panel discussion

Archie told me about his brother. Halfway through the conversation Archie mentioned in passing that his brother wasn't actually his biological brother, but rather his best friend who he'd known for about six years and who he thought of as a brother. I couldn't help but think: 'He's not really your brother then'.

I didn't want to be dismissive. People who are so rigid with definitions are the same people who would probably, for example, say that I'm not a 'real parent' because I didn't become a father in the traditional way. Or perhaps these same people would say that the American egg donor I used for IVF is my son's mother. Of course biology dictates that she is, and I'm sure she's a wonderful woman, but I never met her! I would never consider her part of our family alongside granny, granddad, aunty etc. To be called "mum" you surely need to be present, right? Doesn't that title need to be, for want of a better word, earned?

But then, who am I to say how these titles work? How could I, someone who believes a family only needs love, then turn around and say to myself that Archie's brother is not his brother? This guy has obviously been very much present and loving.

I tuned back into the panel when I heard Tuvia's voice again. It turned out he wasn't asking every question to EVERY panelist, and by the time I'd formulated a half-decent answer the subject had moved on! I did still participate in the subsequent topics but I think by then I'd loosened up a bit (nothing to do with the big glass of wine I'd been guzzling whilst waiting my turn).

But this first question did stick in my head long after the evening was over. I checked the Oxford dictionary and it broadly defines family as having a biological element. In fact I was surprised at how dated it was, citing male and female parents in its example. But I suppose that's the key – we need to move with the times. For example, the term 'woman' is thankfully now broadening to become 'cisgender woman' and 'transgender woman'. Of course there are still people, mostly the older generation, who would unfortunately say that a transgender woman is not a 'real woman', but we need to be steadfast in our inclusive ideas and the use of our language in order to promote progress. Besides, I personally should be open to a broader definition of family, not only because I'm now a parent, but because members of the gay community have traditionally had to find their own family after having been shunned by those they grew up with.

So… what makes a family?

I suppose the answer involves adjusting our interpretations of these traditional concepts. In other words, I think my instinct was right – the people we love, and who love us in return, are our family.

Show Comments ()
Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Sponsored

The Most Important Woman a Gay Man Will Ever Date

Kristin Marsoli of Circle Surrogacy gives some tips and tricks for getting to know your surrogate once matched

It's time to fine tune your dating skills because you're about to enter into the most important courtship you'll encounter. And it all starts with the biggest first date of your life.

And it's with a woman.

This woman is your gestational carrier; the woman who will carry and care for your baby until she delivers this little bundle of joy right into your arms.

Matching with a gestational carrier – or surrogate – is one of the most exciting milestones in your journey to parenthood through surrogacy. However, it can also be the most nerve wracking. Chances are you've seen a profile about your potential surrogate match so you know a little bit about her and her family. But before you commit to this woman, you'll need to meet her first – either in person or via video. And this is one first meeting you've probably never prepared for!

Circle Surrogacy has been matching surrogates and gay dads for almost 25 years. Here are tried and true tips and tricks to getting to know your surrogate...and keeping the relationship alive during pregnancy and after birth!

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

"Daddy, Which Belly Did I Come From?"

How do gay dads talk to their kids about the women that helped bring them into the world?

When you tell your kids the story of how they came to be, is the woman who delivered them identified by a face and a name? That's a decision that every gay dad has to make when it comes to having kids through surrogacy or adoption. In this episode we explored two ways of keeping in touch with the birthmother (for adoptive kids) or the gestational surrogate (for IVF and surrogacy) as part of gay dads' children's birth story.Some adoptive parents choose to have an 'open adoption,' where the child gets to meet the birthmother. Parents who go through surrogacy sometimes keep in touch with the surrogate and have their kids meet her when they are old enough.

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Working:​ One Father's Plea for Gun Reform

One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control

My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.

Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.

How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics

Gay Russian Dads Forced to Flee Moscow

Fearing the Russian government might take their adopted kids into custody because of their sexual orientation, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev fled Moscow

A married couple in Russia, with two adopted children, were just forced the flee their home in Moscow for fear that the authorities would take their children away, according to German news site Deutsche Welle.

Trouble started last month after investigators in Russia opened a criminal inquiry into the proceedings that had allowed the gay couple, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, to legally adopt the two boys —adoption by LGBTQ people in Russia has typically not been recognized. The government became aware of the adoption proceedings after the gay couple brought their 12-year-old son to the hospital, who was complaining of a stomachache. The boy was fine, but after he mentioned offhand that he was adopted and lived with two fathers, the doctor called the police.

Andrei and Yevgeny granted an interview with Deutsche Welle after escaping Moscow, but on the advice of their lawyers have yet to disclose where they are currently located. Here is a quick recap of that conversation:

"In connection with the 'propaganda of non-traditional values,' the state representatives are accused of having neglected their duty of supervision," Andrei said, when asked to explain on what basis the Russian government might take his children into custody. "This means that lesbian couples could even have their biological children taken away because, through their lifestyle choices, they propagate "certain values."

Yevgeny also explained the events that led to the couple's harrowing escape "I was alone in Moscow at that time. A week after Andrei and the children had left the country, there was a knock on my door, but nobody called 'police, open up.' After half an hour the violent knocking stopped. My parents' home was searched. They were looking for the children and our Danish marriage certificate because we got married in Denmark in 2016. My friends then got me out of the country."

Read the full interview here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

This Couple is Using 'Wheel of Fortune' Winnings to Help Fund Their Adoption

Need to raise money for your adoption fund? Why not try your luck on Wheel of Fortune like these guys!

Doug and Nick Roberts connected three and a half years ago via a dating app, and on their first date, the two immediately felt a connection. Doug, a psychologist, and Nick, a neuroscientist, were married 18 months later. Today the couple live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and they're ready to start their next exciting adventure together: fatherhood.

The husbands would like to have children, and Nick has always wanted to adopt. "We considered surrogacy, and may consider it in the future as we expand our family," said Doug, "but right now, it is cost-prohibitive. Adoption was easily the right choice for us as we begin to grow our family.

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

4 Tips for Using Instagram to Connect with Gay Dads Offline

We asked gay dads who have successfully met up with other LGBTQ families offline for some of their tips

Last week, we ran a story about several gay dads who did the unthinkable: meet other gay dads IRL after connecting on Instagram! We get MANY questions from gay dads wondering how they can meet up with others in their area, so we decided to dig a bit deeper this week to get their advice. What can gay dads do to meet others off the 'gram?

1. Be kind — share others' excitement in parenting!


From @twinlifedads Ben and Andy:

"Be kind. That is absolutely it. Be kind to each other and don't be afraid to reach out. Respond to each other when you can. Share in excitement for each other. There is no reason to bring someone else down who might be excited about how they are parenting."

2. Drop a couple comments and likes before reaching out!

From @brisvegasdad Tim and Nic:

"I think drop comments now and then on their posts and instastories and see where things land. Chances are, if you're commenting on a post and it is a heartfelt response, they'll click through to your account, look at your photos and connect with you. And that's when the magic happens - you can introduce yourself, talk about your lives and how things are being a parent... and after a while, if you're in the same neighbourhood, you meet up and grow your friendship organically. That being said, I'm obsessed with Bobby Berk from Queer Eye and his husband Dewey Do - if they ever had kids, I'd probably be completely unsubtle and leave strange awkward comments on their instaposts saying, 'GAY DADS MEET UPSSSSS'."

3. Go in with no expectations

From @stevecsmith Steve and Ben:

"I always try to reach out without any expectations – mostly just to provide a positive comment. I like to leave it up to the other parents to comment or message back before suggesting meeting up or a playdate. Every family is different, so how each person is going to respond is different too."

4. Keep trying!

From @theconways13 Ricky and Jeff:

"Reach out to other families, start a light friendly conversation. Get to know each other and let conversations happen organically. If they lead to a play date great! Our first experience in meeting another lgbt family (not through ig/gwk) was very awkward cause there wasn't a whole lot of conversation happening before hand. The conversations leading up to the play date will help make the first play date with the family go a lot smoother and fun. Don't be afraid of not connecting with the other families. If it isn't successful the first time, continue reaching out to to other families- don't let it deter you from reaching out to others."

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse