Gay Dads and Stigmas

A new study finds that families with gay dads still face discrimination and stigma, especially in states and settings that offer fewer legal and social protections.

LGBTQ families

Public acceptance for gay marriage in America has grown since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions in 2013. By May 2015, a Gallup poll reported that 60 percent of Americans approved of gay marriage.

Despite that shift in attitudes, though, a recent Tufts study found that gay fathers still feel the brunt of stigma, experiences that the researchers linked to states with fewer legal and social protections for gays and their families.  

The study, a collaboration between Ellen Pinderhughes, professor of child study and human development at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, and Ellen Perrin, professor of pediatrics emerita at the School of Medicine, analyzed survey responses from 732 men in forty-seven states, revealing how social contexts shape personal experiences of stigmatization. It was published last month in the journal Pediatrics.

“The key takeaway is that states’ legal protections do matter,” Pinderhughes said. “In states that provide more protections, the dads are experiencing less stigma.”

Pinderhughes said the most striking finding was that about 63 percent of respondents reported that they had experienced stigma based on being a gay father in at least one aspect of their lives. Half also reported that they had avoided situations out of fear of stigma in the past year. Forty percent of those who attempted to adopt a child said they faced barriers on their pathway to fatherhood.

More than 30 percent reported stigma in religious environments, and about one-fourth reported experiencing stigma in the past year from family members, neighbors, gay friends, and/or service providers such as waiters, service providers, and salespeople.

These encounters in settings “that are traditionally expected to be sources of support and nurturing is particularly troubling,” reported the researchers. “It is important for pediatricians caring for these families to help families understand and cope successfully with potentially stigmatizing experiences.”

To understand the influence of the social environment on responses, the Tufts researches used equality ratings that reflect each state’s lawsfor protection of LGBT families. They also used rankings of religious groups based on the explicit beliefs of each group regarding homosexuality and marriage equality.  

Among fathers who identified with a particular religion, the likelihood of having experienced stigma in a religious context was directly associated with the tolerance ranking of the religious group with which they affiliated. Almost one-third of respondents affiliated with a religious community had avoided such contexts in anticipation of stigma.

Pinderhughes said that the research also has implications on how to support gay fathers and their children. Increasing evidence, she said, links feeling stigmatized “with reduced well-being of children and adults,” including psychiatric problems.

Potentially harmful to families and children, stigma must be recognized and called out, she said. “We all have biases, and we must own them,” she said. And if one feels stigmatized, “you must resist it and learn how to arm yourself and your children against it.”

The Big Picture for Families

Pinderhughes and Perrin have been working together for more than ten years on their shared interest in sexual minority parents.

by Laura Ferguson, tufts.now.edu, March 11, 2019

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Gay parenting ‘boot camp’ moves to Asia to meet growing demand from China


The world’s largest “boot camp” to help gay men become parents will stage its first Asia event next month to address growing demand for surrogates from China and the region, organizers said on Thursday.

Men Having Babies
Men Having Babies Chairman Emeritus, Anthony M. Brown, speaks
at the New York City Gay Parenting Conference.

New York-based non-profit Men Having Babies (MHB) stages events across the world to provide advice and support to all LGBT+ people who want to become parents and plans to stage its first annual Asian event on March 9-10 in Taipei, Taiwan.

“We have been witnessing over the last three years, a growing interest from Asia – mostly Chinese – intended parents coming to the United States for surrogacy,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, founder and executive director at MHB.

Socially conservative attitudes prevail across most of Asia where Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei outlaw sexual relations between men, and Indonesia has seen an increase in raids targeting LGBT+ people.

But changes are happening, with India moving to scrap Section 377 outlawing same-sex relations last year, and Taiwan this week proposing a draft law to allow same-sex marriage.

The issue of lesbian and gay couples having access to medically-assisted reproductive treatments like IVF has stirred political debate recently in several countries.

Many countries, including Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, and Britain, ban for-profit surrogacy, although they allow some form of surrogacy if no payment is involved. In the United States, the legality of surrogacy is determined by each state.

Gay couples are banned from applying for surrogacy in countries such as Nigeria and Russia.

Poole-Dayan, who has 18-year-old twins with his husband, began MHB in 2005 with monthly workshops giving advice to gay men interested in becoming biological parents and now holds about seven conferences a year.

The two-day events, which are held across the United States, Europe, Canada and Israel, have made MHB the largest “boot camp” for gay parenting in the world, said Poole-Dayan.

He said the internet was flooded with people trying to push surrogacy information but it was hard to know where to start so the two-day events involved surrogate mothers and egg donors, doctors, lawyers and local clinic representatives.

“Our conferences are not meant to persuade to become parents … they are meant for people who already want to become parents (and) to make the process more accessible and easier,” Poole-Dayan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“People are starting to realize .. the fact that they’re gay doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be able to have a full life including starting a family and having children.”

Reuters.com, by Michael Taylor, February 21, 2019

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The Gay History of America’s Classic Children’s Books

From “Frog and Toad” to “Where the Wild Things Are,” many of the most enduring 20th-century titles share a secret language of queer compassion.

gay children's books

IN 1998, WHEN my sons were still too young to read by themselves, my partner and I gave them a picture book called “Lucy Goes to the Country.” It’s about a cat who lives with two gay men; you can tell by the tchotchkes.

The book, then just published, was evidently meant to help normalize already boringly normal families like ours by using the traditional substitution of animals for people in order to illustrate how much fun having gay dads can be. But the plot rang no bells for us as it built to its crisis: When the “big guys” give a party for colorful friends at their weekend house, a beehive ends up in the baba ghanouj, Lucy winds up in a tree and a hunky fireman comes to the rescue.

“The Hunky Fireman” would be a fine title for a very different kind of picture book, but his presence in this one made me wonder about the intended readership. (So did the name of a town en route to the country: Peckerwood.) And if you stopped to think about it, “Lucy” seemed to argue that the gay dads, however full of fun, were inadequate: When the pita chips were down, they needed rescuing, too.

Maybe that’s why my boys didn’t love it. Among gay-themed children’s stories, they preferred “Frog and Toad.” No, I know: “Frog and Toad” — a series of four picture books by Arnold Lobel, originally published between 1970 and 1979 — is not gay-themed. But it’s not not gay-themed either. The title characters are best friends, both male, who essentially spend their lives together. Toad, shorter and wartier, is a worrier. Frog, sleeker and greener, is an ameliorator. They wear tight pants, collarless jackets and no shirts: outfits that would surely look great on the hunky fireman.

But Lobel is careful to make Frog and Toad entirely nonsexual. They sleep apart, and Toad even dons a modest Edwardian bathing suit when he swims. Instead of innate animal passion, they model the elements of love that have to be discovered and cultivated: companionship, compromise, acceptance, good humor. They get into scrapes separately but get out of them together, which is not a bad definition of marriage.

Our boys loved the stories, as did we — but not because Lobel was gay. We didn’t even know that at the time; indeed, when he started writing the series, Lobel may not have known it himself. Not until 1974, after “Frog and Toad Are Friends” and “Frog and Toad Together” had been published, did he come out to his wife, the illustrator Anita Lobel, and their children. They continued to make books together for years: a Frog and Toad tale if ever there was one.

Still, Lobel’s gayness, when I learned of it much later, seemed like something I should have known all along; it lurked everywhere in his words and pictures. I don’t know how any parent, reading the stories aloud, uttering phrases like “Come back, Frog. I will be lonely!” in a heartsick, croaky voice, could avoid being forced into intimate sympathy with the animal and thus the author. Which is not to say Frog and Toad could turn you gay. But in their gentleness, their sensitivity to small gestures and their haze of slowly dispersing sadness, the stories were part of the literature of otherness that had been a central theme of adult fiction forever, if only more recently of children’s. They suggested, no less to us as gay parents than to our sons with their polar personalities, how separateness could become solidarity and oddness accommodation. Nor did Lobel neglect to show how much work it takes to achieve those victories, and how tenuous they can be; he died, in 1987, of complications from AIDS.

New York Times, February 7, 2019 by Jesse Green

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It’s easier now for gay men to adopt. But they still face lots of pushback, and weird questions.

Ten years ago in the United States, a couple of gay men hoping to become fathers may have considered their dream too outsized or even impossible.

Until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act by 2015, many states did not recognize marriage between same-sex partners — levying a major strike against a couple of men seeking to adopt or match with a surrogate.

gay dads

Now, they are on the cover of Parents MagazineA recent report from ReWire.News suggests that becoming fathers is easier than it once was for gay men. But the evidence is largely anecdotal. There is no clearinghouse, for example, that reports on the clientele of private adoption and surrogacy agencies, heterosexual or otherwise, or how long couples wait to become parents. And there is still plenty of resistance to gay parents, as the petition by One Million Moms against the cover of Shaun T and husband Scott Blokker in Parents Magazine attests.

On Parenting spoke with four gay men who had all entered fatherhood in the past 10 years through different means. One adopted through foster care, and another had an open adoption through a private agency. Another worked with a surrogate in the United States, and one worked with a surrogate overseas. Their experiences and geographies were varied, but several themes emerged. The road toward fatherhood may be more smoothly paved than it was 10 years ago, but there are still significant challenges.

Money in the bank

Jared Gertner of Los Angeles said he often hears a particular encouragement to would-be parents: “Everyone tells you, ‘No one is ever ready to have a child, so just go for it!’ But as a gay man, the opposite is true.”

For men who want to become fathers in the United States without a female sexual partner, there are options. They invariably require a lot of paperwork, and often a lot of money and a long time waiting.

This due process isn’t a bad thing, said Julian Chang of San Diego, who adopted his son four years ago with his husband, Wade Estey. “If everyone had to be fingerprinted and produce their tax records in order to become parents, there would be a lot more wanted children in this world,” Chang said.

With the exception of adoption through foster care, though, the financial costs are often tantamount to buying a car or even a house outright.

By Kendra Lee Stanton, WashingtonPost.com, January 25, 2019

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Gay Dads Cover ‘Parents’ Magazine; Christian Group Launches Petition

A Christian group opposed to LGBT rights has launched a petition in response to a gay dads being featured on the cover of Parents magazine.

Gay dads Shaun T. and Scott Blokker and their one-year-old twins cover the February issue ofParents, making them the first same-sex couple to appear on the magazine’s cover in its nearly 100-year history.

One Million Moms condemned the magazine’s decision to feature a gay couple on its cover, saying that it was promoting a “pro-homosexual lifestyle.”

Parents is using its magazine as a platform to promote the pro-homosexual lifestyle,” the group said. “Even if families do not personally subscribe to the publication, they should be warned that it could be displayed in waiting rooms of dentist and doctor offices, where children could easily be subjected to the glorification of same-sex parents, particularly gay dads. Many families subscribe to Parents and should be aware of the upcoming change of content in this magazine. After all, most conservative and Christian families will disagree morally with the magazine’s decision, and subsequently, will not want to support its content.”

“Mothers and fathers are seeing more and more similar examples of children being indoctrinated to perceive same-sex couples as normal, especially in the media. Likewise, the magazine’s website, Parents.com, and their other social media pages also push pro-homosexual content. Parents is the latest print media company to abandon what it does best in order to force a lifestyle on the American public that the medical community identifies as unhealthy. Rather than focusing on parenting tips, the publication shames Americans into embracing such a lifestyle,” the group continued.

ontopmag.com, January 22, 2019, by Carlos Santoscoy

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Insanity Founder Shaun T Opens Up about Twin Life After 12 Pregnancy Attempts With 5 Surrogates

Shaun T

Aside from trying to get the world physically fit, Shaun T and Scott Blokker are raising baby twins. Easy, right?!

Six years ago, fitness trainer Shaun T, creator of the Insanity workout and the new Transform :20 program, was ready to start a family with his husband and business partner, Scott Blokker. But the journey wasn’t easy. “We went through all the things that couples struggling with fertility go through: tests, doubt, grief, not knowing, waiting,” Scott says.

Twelve attempts, six egg donors, five surrogates, two doctors, one miscarriage, and thousands of dollars later, their two adorable sons, Silas Rhys and Sander Vaughn, arrived. Though they share the same egg donor, Sander is from Shaun’s sperm and Silas is from Scott’s sperm. Their surrogate delivered them two minutes apart. “Ask all the questions you want,” Shaun says when people wonder how the boys came to be. Adds Scott, “It blows my mind how much I’ve learned.”

The boys turned 1 in November, and their dads could not be more proud, especially after all they’ve been through. The babies were born at 32 weeks and spent the first three weeks in the NICU. “On their last night there, we had no monitors, no nurses, just us,” says Shaun. “I remember thinking, ‘This will be a piece of cake.’ I was so wrong. They cried nonstop!”

Well, guys, welcome to parenthood! Scott and Shaun speak of the first four months of parenting twins as an almost comically dark time in their lives. “It was terrible,” says Shaun, laughing. “We got into more fights than we’d ever had in our entire relationship.” Scott adds, “I even questioned whether we’d ruined our marriage by having kids, but it wasn’t the kids. It was the not sleeping!”

Two preemies meant both parents doing every feeding around the clock. “No more than two hours of sleep at a time for weeks in a row is killer,” says Scott. Meanwhile, Sander wouldn’t eat, or if he did, he’d spit up. “We felt bad, but at 3 a.m. it was, ‘Okay, who wants Sander?’ ” Shaun says.

Eventually, the babies started to sleep through the night, and so did Shaun and Scott. Like magic, conflicts abated. They divided and conquered. Scott says he’s the family manager, while Shaun is the cruise director. “I do all the planning—babysitters, shopping, doctors—and Shaun brings the fun.”

Non-gender specific birth certificates to be used for same-sex couples in Ireland

The current options of ‘Mother’ or Father’ pose problems for same-sex couples

birth certificate

Same-sex couples who are parents in Ireland will be able to list themselves as ‘parent’ on their child’s birth certificate.

This amendment to the law is designed to accommodate to same-sex couples, allowing both partners to register on their child’s birth certificate.

Under the current system, birth certificates only include the categories ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’.

Birth certificates for donor-assisted children born to same-sex couples currently only allow one mother to be listed.

‘Introduced as soon as possible’

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said that allowing to the option of ‘parent’ would resolve such issues, saying implementing the bill would be prioritized.

‘While the changes proposed will affect a relatively small number of people, they touch on matters that are very sensitive and of great importance to those families affected,’ Doherty said.

‘I have met with and spoken to many affected by this issue and I am now very pleased to be able to bring these changes forward as a priority to ensure that they can be introduced as soon as possible.’

The case had been raised in the Dáil (the Lower House of the Irish parliament) last year, according to TheJournal.ie.

Politician Richard Boyd Barrett said that a pregnant woman had contacted him with concerns about her wife not being able to register on their child’s birth certificate.

The completed bill will go before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the spring.

GayStarNews.com by Calum Stuart, January 12, 2019

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Gay parents challenge stereotypes in China

An Hui, a gay parent and member of the ruling Communist Party, said it’s time for China to rethink traditional views of family and marriage.

gay parent china

Heads turn when An Hui and Ye Jianbin walk down a street in the Chinese city of Shenzhen with their triplets, who were conceived with help from a human egg donor and a surrogate mother.

People are mostly curious about their unconventional family, said An, adding that it was not always the case in China where gay couples have long battled conservative Confucian values.

“I’m lucky because I was born in China during a period of rapid change. Today’s society is far more tolerant,” the investment manager told Reuters at his office in Shenzhen’s financial district.

“If I had been born during the Cultural Revolution, I would be dead,” said An, 33, who met his partner Ye in 2008.

The two men wanted a family and began exploring the option of in vitro fertilization (IVF), with help from a human egg donor and a surrogate mother.

In 2014, a Thai woman gave birth in Hong Kong to three boys — An Zhizhong, An Zhiya and An Zhifei — who were conceived using human eggs provided by a German fashion model, according to An.

He declined to identify the women or the surrogacy company that organized the procedures.

The issue of lesbian and gay couples having access to medically assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF has stirred political debate in several countries, including more recently in France and Israel.

China’s government has not stated a clear position on the country’s LGBTQ community, said Yanzi Peng, director of LGBT Rights Advocacy China, a group based in Guangzhou.

“The best word to describe the attitude of the Chinese government is ‘ignore,’” said Peng.

“It’s hard to gauge their exact attitude. They don’t outright object to the LGBT community because that would really go against international attitudes on this issue,” Peng added.

by Reuters, December 21, 2018

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Kentucky Appellate Court Rejects Lesbian Co-Parent Custody/Visitation Claim, Reversing Family Court

kentucky
Not So Welcome

Adopting a narrow construction of the Kentucky Supreme Court’s historic same-sex co-parent ruling, Mullins v. Picklesimer, 317 S.W.3d 569 (Ky. 2010), a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky, ruling on November 30, reversed a decision by Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Deana D. McDonald, and ruled that Teri Whitehouse, the former union partner of Tammie Delaney, is not entitled to joint custody and parenting time with a child born to Delaney during the women’s relationship.  From comments in concurring opinions, it seems clear that this Kentucky Court of Appeals panel deems the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015), to require a bright-line test, under which it will be extremely difficult for unmarried partners to claim parental rights.  The opinion confirms the fears of some critics of the marriage equality movement who predicted that achieving same-sex marriage could undermine the interests of LGBT parents who chose not to marry.

The case is Delaney v. Whitehouse, 2018 WL 6266774, 2018 Ky. App. Unpub. LEXIS 844 (Ky. Ct. App., Nov. 30, 2018).  The court designated the opinion as “not to be published,” which means it is not supposed to be cited and argued as precedent for any other case, although Kentucky court rules say that an “unpublished” decision may be cited for consideration by a court if there is no published opinion that would adequately address the issue before the court.  The whole idea of “unpublished” decisions is archaic, of course, when such opinions are released and published in full text in on-line legal services such as Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law, and readily available to practicing lawyers and the courts.

The opinion for the panel by Judge Robert G. Johnson (whose term expired after he wrote the opinion but before it was released by the court) accepts Judge McDonald’s factual findings, but disputes their legal significance.  McDonald found that the parties were in a romantic relationship and participated jointly in the decision to have a child, including the insemination process.  “The parties treated each other as equal partners and clearly intended to create a parent-like relationship” between Whitehead and the child, found Judge McDonald, who also found that “they held themselves out as the parents of this child since before conception.  They engaged in the process of selecting a [sperm] donor together, they attended appointments prior to insemination together, [Whitehouse] was present for the birth, and she has been known to the child as Momma.  The parties participated in a union ceremony, after the birth of the child, and they held themselves out as a family unit with friends and family.”

by Art Leonard, artleonardobservation.com, December 8, 2018

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Sam Thoron, former PFLAG president, dies at 79

Sam Thoron sold insurance and raced sports cars — but he was better known for changing the lives of thousands of straight families with gay children.

His decades of work and eventual national presidency of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, began on the day in 1990 when his 19-year-old daughter, Liz Thoron, came home from college on vacation and told him she was gay.sam thoron

“I realized our daughter had not changed but that we needed support in integrating this new information into our lives,” Thoron said in an essay he wrote in 2007. “We found that support with PFLAG. I became deeply committed to the principle that my daughter deserves to be treated, in every aspect of her life, with the same respect and dignity as seems to flow so naturally to her two brothers.”

Thoron, who served for four years as national board president of PFLAG, died Nov. 17 of esophageal cancer in his San Francisco home at the age of 79.

Current PFLAG president Kathy Godwin said Thoron’s leadership was “personal, caring, thoughtful and filled with passion — but mostly it was about the right to love, to be authentic, and to share one’s life in joy and dignity.”

“He was the embodiment of what PFLAG stands for,” said Liz Owen, the group’s communications director. “Warm, loving, with a shoulder for everyone. A strong parental voice for equal rights, not just for his own child but for everyone’s.”

A native of Washington, D.C., Thoron was a 1964 graduate of Harvard University and a U.S. Army veteran who had a brief stint as an amateur race car driver in New England until his wife persuaded him, after an accident, to knock it off.

by Steve Rubenstein, sfchronicle.com, November 30, 2018

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