Gay Dad Life

What's the Difference Between a "Dad" and a "Parent"?

Being a dad is awesome. Being a parent is hardcore.

I have already begun to notice a clear distinction between being a dad and being a parent. As a dad, I get to play with my kids, show them love in fun, caring way like smothering them with hugs or performing impromptu singing concerts which fortunately they have no developed the vocal ability to critique. As a dad, I can be the shoulder they cry on, the face that makes them so easily light up, the dude who swings them around, tosses their little body of my shoulder as we embark upon another adventure. Being a dad is unbelievably rewarding and connects me to my twins in a way I know will bond us forever.


So then there is the parent thing. And, I guess, yeah - being a dad is being a parent. Sure, there's that. But I'm a big kid at heart and I don't know if my overly eager, imaginative spirit will ever grow up. And, quite frankly, I don't want it to. So being a parent, for me, is the inevitable grown up side to fatherhood.

Somewhere along the crazy road of surrogacy and welcoming our then newborn twins, an agreement had to be made. It's a decision I never was formally aware of, one I still don't know when or how it happened. But at some point I agreed to being a parent. A serious commitment to do for these two little humans better than I ever did for myself. I agreed to face my demons, my fears, my phobias, my irresponsible and totally self-serving side - face it all head on so I could be the best parent possible for them.

A balance is necessary in fatherhood, the balance of dad and parent - of the mentor and guide. My inner child had to join forces with my inner adult so I could lay a foundation of love and security.

I could play all day, could easily live within my weird little mind and show our kids the world. Open their eyes to art, music, food, nature - the endless opportunity of boundless excitement all within our fingertips. But I also have to provide a feeling of safety, of trust and balance. I can show them that the dark is nothing to fear, even though I may be petrified myself (I'm sure my husband is laughing right now. I have been known to turn all the lights on when he is away on business). I can show them it's OK to cry and feel emotions, that a bump on the head isn't the end of the world (even though I may have had a minor anxiety attack when my son fell face first out his stroller onto a cement floor).

Listen, the sight of full on diarrhea would normally make me want to hurl - but somehow as a parent, a switch is flipped. It's business as usual and I have to handle things I would normally run from - face responsibilities I would otherwise scoff at. Constant cleaning, feeding, scheduling, maintaining, wiping, soothing - all the while still showing them I'm their dad, not just their parent. And vice versa.

While as a person who naturally can dissolve in front of a television or get lost in my own world for hours on end, as a parent I made an agreement to make sure my babes are taken care of in mind, body and spirit. Still making time for my own sanity and balance. But as a dad I want to show them all the magic of getting lost in fantasy and exploring personal freedom without consequence.

It's a tightrope of choice that seems to come so naturally when just realizing one day how grateful I am to be their father. How lucky my husband and I are to show these two baby birds the whole world, while still protecting them from it until they choose to fly on their own.

It has been an eye-opening, soul-searching experience that has only just begun. One that just kind of works itself out if you're willing to be the best you can be. And, honestly, sometimes that means asking for help so you can walk away for a few hours to recharge. Other times that may mean doing three loads of laundry while cleaning 12 bottles, making baby food, walking the dogs, then getting the kids ready for a bath.

But breathe easy, have fun and always remember how freakin' cool your kids are.

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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.

Change the World

New York: It's Time to Legalize Ethical Surrogacy

New York, one of only three states to prohibit compensated surrogacy, is faltering on a bill to legalize the practice in the state

With the Democratic takeover of the State Senate in the 2018 elections, legislators in New York have been busy passing any number of long-held progressive priorities, from a sweeping package of bills strengthening rent regulations to others aimed at expanding and protecting voting access in the state. But as the legislative season comes to a close, another initiative, which looked all but assured to pass just a couple months ago, now stands in limbo: the legalization of gestational surrogacy via the Child-Parent Security Act.

New York is just one of three states that doesn't already permit surrogacy in some form, but we are closer than ever before to finally legalizing this important family-building option for LGBTQ people and those who struggle with infertility. The Child-Parent Security Act has passed the State Senate, and Governor Cuomo has promised to sign it. But the legislation is now stalled in the State Assembly, where a number of legislator and advocates have unfortunately spoken out against it. Assemblywoman Deborah Glick has called the practice "pregnancy for a fee" and the "commodification of women." Gloria Steinem likened the practice to allowing "profiteering from body invasion."

But State Senator Brad Hoylman, the bill's sponsor and himself a gay father of two via surrogacy, is nonetheless pressing ahead. "My two beautiful daughters were born through gestational surrogacy," he wrote via Twitter. "They are everything to me. Every family in NY, whether LGBTQ or struggling with infertility, should have the same opportunity."

We at Gays With Kids couldn't agree more, which is why we've brought you countless stories of gay dads, like Senator Hoylman, who have realized their dream of fatherhood through the incredible medical advancements of the last several decades that make surrogacy possible.

But even more importantly: we've brought you the stories of surrogates themselves — a perspective so often left out of the morality debate surrounding surrogacy — who help illuminate the incredible and diverse set of reasons women decide to become surrogates. The joy many of these women take in helping others realize their dream of parenthood via surrogacy is truly palpable, and couldn't sound more different from the alarmist and coercive reality painted by surrogacy's critics.

Here are just a few of their voices:

  • Shelly Marsh, told us of the urge she felt after becoming a mother herself to help others who can't start families as easily. She subsequently worked with two separate gay couples to do exactly that. "My girls are my life," she told us of her decision to become a surrogate. "If I have the ability to share that love with someone else, that is what I wanted to do."
  • Heather Manojlovic told us about some of the reasons she enjoyed working to make fatherhood a reality for gay intended parents. "The fact that I was able to help someone that may have had to overcome a lot of adversity during his lifetime to fulfill a dream meant so much to me," she wrote.

  • Another surrogate we profiled told us about the experience of working with an HIV positive man, a population of people who once thought biological fatherhood would never be in their future, become a dad through the Special Program for Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) program. "I knew they didn't have the same number of gestational carrier match options that gay men who weren't part of the SPAR program had," she wrote. "It felt even more gratifying for me to be able to be the person who helped make their dreams come true."

To be clear: surrogacy does indeed raise any number of moral and ethical issues that should absolutely be discussed before legalizing it. Abroad, surrogacy is often left unregulated, which creates a system that does in fact take advantage of women and their families who serve as surrogates. And let's face it: surrogacy is expensive, meaning this form of family creation is far too often available to just a privileged few.

But rather than ban the practice completely, why not work to improve these shortcomings?

Many efforts are underway to help tackle surrogacy's hefty price tag. The non-profit organization Men Having Babies has been fighting for years to offset the considerable costs associated with surrogacy for gay men. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who is currently vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President, has suggested insurance companies be required to cover some parts of the process, such as IVF treatments, for LGBTQ couples and others who can't get pregnant independently. And an increasing number of corporations, like Target, are offering benefits to their employees to cover some aspects of surrogacy's costs.

Senator Hoylman has also taken steps to shore up protections for surrogates by including a "Surrogates' Bill of Rights," the first of its kind in the country, as part of the legislation. Under the bill, surrogates will have guaranteed access to legal advice and extended medical benefits. By passing this legislation, New York will finally catch up to the 47 other states that already permit gestational surrogacy in some form, allowing LGBTQ people and others impacted by infertility to realize their dream of parenthood in the state they call home. But we will also have the opportunity to do something arguably more important — set the national standard for the ethical practice of surrogacy.

If you live in New York State, please take a second to send a message to your representative asking them to support the bill.

Gay Dad Life

New Book Explores How Two 'Broken Souls' Met on Craigslist, Fell in Love, and Started a Family

Nick and Bryan had both almost "given up," until they met each other through a Craigslist ad.

Guest post written by Nick He, authors of "Two Dads and Three Girls"

My name is Nick. I am 100% made in China. Growing up in China, being gay was not an option. I was denied a chance to be myself. Thanks to the Chinese education system, I also was not encouraged to seek my true self. Everyday, I was told to study, get a good score, go to a college, and to make my parents proud.

Growing up in Seattle, Bryan's happy family life was shattered by his parent's divorce. He quit college and worked in a local grocery store for 18 years. He knew that he liked boys when he was little, but chose to live a faked straight life.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Do We Have a Biological Right to Fatherhood? Absolutely, Says This Gay Dad

Jay Bostick, a gay foster dad, responds to Kevin Saunders' controversial essay "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children"

Editor's Note: Below is an essay by Jay Bostick who eloquently lays out many of the reasons why he and many other readers were upset by a post we ran yesterday by Kevin Saunders titled, "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children." This post clearly touched a nerve! (Check out the ongoing discussion on our Facebook page.) While some of our readers appreciated Saunders' viewpoint, many others felt slighted by his reasoning for not having children, calling him everything from "self-involved," "selfish," and an "insufferable narcissist." Many other readers rightly questioned why Gays With Kids would even run an essay from a man who does not want children on (of all place) a parenting website.

The former point is a matter of opinion, but I'll offer some clarification on the latter. We agreed to run this post for two reasons. First, Saunders' perspective is unique among many adopted gay men. We have run countless essays on this site featuring adopted gay men who, inspired by their own upbringing, decided to give back by opening up their homes to children who need them. Saunders' experience, however, led him to conscience decision not to have children, a perspective worthy of discussion particularly by anyone who has been touched by adoption in some way. Secondly, as a 52-year-old gay man, Saunders is starting to find himself alienated from many in his LGBTQ peer group for his decision not to have kids. Again, we are so much more familiar with the opposite perspective on our page: when they become parents, many gay men find themselves ostracized from the broader, childless LGBTQ community. That the inverse is also starting to become true is a testament to the increase in LGBTQ parents in the United States, and an interesting dichotomy we believed warranted further exploration.

All that said, Saunders' essay is a matter of opinion, and one our readers (nor we) certainly don't have to agree with. This is why we were thrilled to receive this "counterpoint" to Saunders's essay from Bostick. We, at least, are enjoying the respectful exchange of ideas, and hope you are as well. Give Bostick's essay a read, as well as the original, and then let us know what you think in the comments or at dads@gayswithkids.com.

--David Dodge, Managing Editor

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Adults

Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children

Do we have a biological right to parenthood? Kevin Saunders, a childless 52-year-old gay man, says no.

Guest post written by Kevin Saunders.

Two dear friends of mine, each partnered, capable gay men of relatively sound mind and body, have recently decided to become fathers, and I could not be more unnerved. The expense, the risk, the potential for disappointment, the logistical complexity that they must navigate leave me baffled and at times enraged with the lingering question that I have, out of respect, refrained from asking, "WHY, WHY, WHY do you want to do this?!" These feelings toward what most would consider a happy occasion beg a reciprocal enquiry: "Why do you care?" The answer is rooted in a disposition and a history that has left me skeptical of the innate right to biological parenthood that many, gay or straight, seem to feel entitled to.

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Gay Dad Life

Gays WITHOUT Kids (If Just For a Day...)

Andrew Kohn explains why he decided to leave his kids at home this Pride

I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Antwon and Nate became dads through the foster care system. Nine months after becoming licensed, they received a call on a Tuesday, and two days later, their daughter moved in. "It was very quick," said Nate. "Honestly, it was more just shock and nervousness for me."

As new parents, Nate took unpaid leave for two weeks, before going back to work part-time. Antwon didn't receive any leave.

"It's definitely important to have time off to bond, but it's also important to be financially stable when you do it," said Antwon. "I don't think you should have to choose between staying financially afloat or showing your kid love... and I don't think anyone should have to make that choice."

Only 15% of dads in the U.S. have access to paid paternity leave. We want to change this.

Watch Nate and Antwon's video to find out how:

Sign the pledge: www.dovemencare.com/pledge

Like Antwon and Nate, we're helping Dove Men+Care advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads! Over the next three months, we will be sharing stories of gay dad families and their paternity leave experience. Our goal is to get 100,000 folks to sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Dove Men+Care has collected over 30,000 signatures on the Pledge for Paternity Leave in three short months, in a mission to champion and support new legislation for federally mandated paid leave laws in the U.S. With the conversation growing on Capitol Hill, Dove Men+Care will target key legislators to drive urgency behind paid paternity leave policy and provide a social proof in the form of real dad testimonials, expert research and signature support from families across the country.

Our goal is to help Dove Men+Care bring 100,000 signatures to key policymakers in Washington, D.C. for their Day of Action on the Hill, and drive urgency behind this issue.

If you believe *ALL* dads should receive paid paternity leave, sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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