Tuesday, July 14, 2009

MCV – “Gay Dads - Andrew Shaw talks to two gay men who are happy to be in the family way”



A family affair: Stephen (left) and James with children (from left) Talin, Remy and India.

James and Steve are pin-ups for the ‘Gay Dad’ movement. Here they talk frankly about their family, which so far consists of three children – soon to be five through co-parenting – and how the experience has affected their lives.

S: We met 12 years ago at work. I was married. James seduced me.

J: Oh bullshit, I did not.

S: I left my wife not long after that and we’ve been living together ever since. We were together six years or so before we had our first co-parenting child. We always both wanted to be parents, but we didn’t go into it until about six years into our relationship and after our eldest son was born through co-parenting we then wanted to progress to surrogacy given that the co-parenting didn’t work for us as well as we wanted. And that surrogacy was becoming more publicised as an option.

J: There are lots of options around surrogacy these days. We only knew one option. Had we known more options it would have been a much cheaper and—

S: India hadn’t taken off, so really there was surrogacy through the States, which was where 99.9 per cent of the guys from Melbourne were going. There were a couple of other options, Canada, then India—

J: There were cheaper options in the US.

S: But not through an agency.

J: Our option was closer to $150,000 to $200,000 versus $100,000 with some of the other guys. There are different versions of agency as well. And with some agencies you didn’t have to get insurance, you could use the surrogate’s insurance. Our agency you had to take out insurance, and that was $30,000 to $40,000.

In surrogacy cases, how important is the personality of the surrogate mother?

J: We wanted someone who reflected our values and beliefs. We wanted the children to have the opportunity to have a birth mum. A lot of surrogates are simply surrogates with little or no contact with the children they birth, and egg donors tend to want to be anonymous. Luckily with Stacey, our [American] surrogate mother, she was happy to be quite involved and we will see each other at least every year and we talk monthly. And that’s exactly what we wanted.

If this was The L Word, after a couple of episodes Stacey would move to Melbourne and demand parental rights. In reality, what rights does she have?

J: In American law, none. We were the first couple to get parenting orders by consent. That meant it wasn’t a disputed case. If she moved here, she may have some rights. If she put an application in the judge would have to look at a set of facts. She birthed the children, she breastfed them, she has a once a year visit. I should imagine the judge would keep that continuing.

S: But certainly Australian law doesn’t recognise the contracts we have in the States and she does have some recourse here because of that.

J: The judge stated very clearly when we got our parenting orders that if she was to come here and make an application, he would have to hear that and look at what that meant for the children. The children’s rights are paramount.

S: But the chances of that happening are a million to one. She has a family in the States, a life, a job, parents. The chances of her coming here to live and then demanding access to a surrogate child are pretty slim.

J: But if we cut [the child] out of her life—

S: Uproot her whole life? And come here for the sake—

J: No, no, the children might have to go there. There are lots of arrangements made around overseas contact.

Are there gay dads who do not reference a mother?

J: Oh yes. The women, i.e. surrogates, aren’t referred to as mother. There’s no mother, she’s a surrogate and there’s an egg donor.

Who is the father on the children’s birth certificates?

J: With the three children of which we are parents, it will be either one of us. In Australia we co-parent so we have a child that one of us is the biological father for that child. The two others that we have through surrogacy, given the state that we were in in the US, only one father could be put on. In some states like California you can put both fathers on. But in the state where our children were born it’s only one father. The [as yet unborn twins] that we’re having now, we’re not the day-to-day parents, so it’s still a question whether we’ll be put on the birth certificate or not.

Do you have high hopes for the children after spending so much time and money?

S: Beyond the process of getting the kids, which is very time consuming and can be very expensive, when they’re here they’re just your kids. You hope and dream for them no more or less than any other parent that they live a happy, healthy life. There is a part of me that would like to see them as a doctor or a lawyer—

J: Or a pilot.

S: Or a pilot.

J: Because you give planes to them.

S: I had given them those three choices as a joke. You can be one of three things... (laughs). But at the end of the day, if they’re happy being an alternative musician...

How much have you sacrificed of your own lives to have the kids?

J: We’re coming out of that a little bit. I think in the early days you live... not vicariously, but you live an alternate life. I think you grow and evolve as much as they do. Their innocence, naiveté, are relearning opportunities for you. We did a lot of travel, we were well set up financially before we had them. Probably we could do with a little bit more of our time—

S: Personal time is what goes. I enjoy having an afternoon off just in my own space and that disappears. I have found myself ducking down to Safeway and taking that little bit longer... It’s your time, and I miss that.

J: Your restaurants change—

S: You move from a lovely restaurant to a pub with a built-in child’s play area and meals that are either chicken or beef.

J: Which he thinks is hideous—

S: It is hideous. But it’s either that or you don’t go out anywhere, so we choose that.

J: You don’t miss out, you gain: parks, museums, the zoo – I never went to the zoo.

S: We’re also tapping into baby sitters now so we can go out with friends. I think that’s important for your relationship.

Would you get married if you legally could?

S: No, we’re not really interested in marriage. We had a commitment ceremony in Italy before Remy was born. But I certainly think people should have the right to get married if they want to.

J: I’m in favour of something more fabulous than marriage, we could make something better and bigger. I think it’s more important to have adoption rights.

S: I know a number of gay guys going through surrogacy who say exactly the same thing. They were initially more interested in adoption, but because we can’t, surrogacy became the option for them. I would like to have considered adoption.

For information on gay dads group The Meeting Place, which meets at the Drummond Street Relationship Centre, 193 Drummond St, Carlton, contact James 0410 548 613 or join the email group via: gaydadsvic-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

[Link: Orginal Article]

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