No matter how you look at it, you are a product of your family. I can’t tell you how many times I have caught myself saying something out loud to my 11-year-old, usually in a moment of tension, and immediately thinking, “That was SO my father!” While we all come from different family experiences, they make us who we are – especially as parents.
I am fortunate. I had a supportive and loving relationship with my family. For me, like many gay men, it took finding my life partner to give me the strength to tell my family. I was nervous about telling my father, so I spoke with my mother first. I will never forget the first two sentences out of her mouth; “Are you happy?” and “Do we have to tell your father?” I answered yes to both questions and planned a trip home to speak with my dad a few weeks later. My mother, sensing the reason for this unplanned visit, told my dad before I had the chance. The first thing he did was pick up the phone and tell me that there was nothing in the world that I could do, say or be that would make him stop loving me. That call changed my life and I tell my son those very words as often as I can. The power of unconditional love is the greatest gift a parent has for their children.
My Road To Family
It was 1989 and I was at a nightclub called Mars in the Meatpacking District of the Village in New York City. This next part is as cliché as it gets. I was on a date with someone who was fantastically attractive, but not fitting the bill. I saw my husband Gary across a crowded dance floor, looked at my beautiful but dull date and said, “That’s him.” Almost 32 years later I still feel that spark. After living together for ten years, we realized that we needed to be a family. Once the decision to have a family through surrogacy and egg donation was made, we experienced a level of support and love from our friends and family that I can only describe as divine. When those you love witness your dreams come true, it creates possibility – for everyone. Remember, many parents dream of being grandparents!
Challenges Gay Men Face Creating Family
It took a lot of planning to have my family, as it does for all gay families. We saved money and made our plan. We researched adoption. We met with lawyers. We tried our best to “dream” our family into being. Then, to our great astonishment, we were the surprise beneficiaries of the Will of a dear friend who we took care of in her old age. And it was only then that we knew we could have our family on our terms, with a known egg donor and a gestational carrier. We met Circle Surrogacy and Egg Donation and they found us the most wonderful women to help our dream come true. We are still close, how could we not be, and I will always be grateful to them for giving us what we had never dreamed possible – our family. And Circle became a part of our family as well.
One of the greatest joys of my work at Circle Surrogacy is meeting with hopeful gay dads who are taking the leap into seriously figuring out how to be a family. For many, until they actually have that all-important consultation meeting, parenting is theoretical. I have the privilege of challenging them to think through the process, offering them opportunities to look at the journey in new realistic ways and ultimately, being in the room with them when they realize that their dream of being parents is possible. Yes, gay men must plan. There are no accidental surrogacies. But the consideration we bring to the process is also indicative of the consideration we bring to parenting. And our children are the beneficiaries of that hard work!
Parenting as a Gay Family Then and Now
When my son Nicholas was first born, a terrifying illness led my husband and me to seek assistance in the least likely of places, the local Walmart. I wrote about that adventure on my website blog. We paid a return visit to that same Walmart when I was home last and I left asking myself, “just how many times am I going to have to come out?”
Coming Out… and Coming Out Again… and Again
Gay dads in parenting relationships all must deal with the reality of repeatedly coming out of the closet, as a family. Particularly when your child is very young, two protective same-sex parents caring for an infant is not your everyday Walmart spectacle. I have never had a problem in West Virginia; I have even been pleasantly surprised by the support my husband and I have received there, but I still get that feeling of having to monitor other people’s understanding of my family and calibrate for the situation.
While shopping this past visit to West Virginia, I could sense people looking at my family, then registering that we were a family with two dads. I have no control over others, but I also seemed to not have control over the feelings that it brought up in me. I was sent back to that unsure and fearful place I lived in just after I came out of the closet in college. Perhaps being a parent and caring for the safety and security of a child has made me hyper-aware. The good news is that I can talk to my husband about these feelings and, as a team, we can come up with strategies for addressing a range of situations. Setting boundaries around what we will share with others is extremely helpful.
I recently saw my mother after 16 months of pandemic isolation and it was the greatest feeling in the world. The hug heard round the world! She lives in West Virginia in a beautiful place with a not so open-minded population. Every time I go home to visit, I am reminded of the just how different West Virginia is from New York City.
More than anything, I want my son to feel the pride I have in him and in our family. Addressing these internal feelings is a part of that journey and a necessary element of being the best parent I can be. While I do often hear my father’s voice coming out of my mouth, I can now smile when it happens and remember him for the amazing father he was. And I will go back to West Virginia every chance I get!