I Just Wanted a Baby, But Surrogacy Gave Me So Much More

When I started telling people I was having a baby with a gestational surrogate, the responses ranged from awkwardly supportive to just awkward.

A woman at a party congratulated me, praised me for being so clever, so ahead of the times. “Ugh, you’re brilliant,” she told me. I’d have someone else do the dirty work of motherhood for me. Genius.compassionate surrogacy

Others wanted me to know I was in good company: Kim Kardashian had just been through the process. So had Gabrielle Union. And Andy Cohen. And now me!

My traditional Indian mother, fiercely private and surprisingly sneaky, had another idea. She thought it might be better if we made up a story that the baby was adopted. “People aren’t going to understand this,” she said.

Misguided, to be sure, but my mother (as usual) had a point: There is still an incredible amount of secrecy around the gestational surrogacy process. And wherever there is silence, stigma isn’t far behind. It’s for rich people, it’s immoral, it’s dystopian, it’s exploitative…

I know that these are just a few of the thoughts swirling in people’s heads when I tell them that this month a woman named Amber in Kansas will deliver my son. For me, and for countless other families who struggle with fertility, surrogacy isn’t a luxury or shortcut: It’s the light at the end of a very long and lonely tunnel.

The first time I got pregnant, I had just started running for Public Advocate in New York City. It was unexpected, but welcome news. My husband, Nihal, and I were so excited. We told family and friends with abandon (12-week rule be damned!). We changed our destination wedding date so I wouldn’t have to travel in the third trimester. That was almost eight years ago, and we were blissfully, naively unaware of what was ahead of us.

I remember fantasizing about being pregnant while running for office. I imagined how I would march my big fat, swollen feet all over the five boroughs knocking on doors. I would be a symbol of feminine power on the campaign trail: a knocked-up Rosie the Riveter. My baby would be a born public servant, just like me.

When we went to the doctor for our first appointment and saw the solemn look on her face, we didn’t understand. We were no strangers to failure. I had publicly bombed a race for Congress two years before. Nihal, an entrepreneur, had learned resilience from running start-ups. But this was supposed to be easy. Isn’t this what we were born to do? We were shocked that something like this could happen, that we could lose our baby.

Two nights later I put on a brave face and got on stage to introduce President Obama at a fundraiser. It should have been the best night of my life, but I was dying inside, literally, the entire time.

Six months later I miscarried again, hours before I was slated to give a huge pitch for my nonprofit to the “who’s who” of New York City. My job was to be dazzling. I felt so much rage knowing it was easier to betray myself and go through the motions than to admit why I couldn’t.

Vogue.com by Resma Saujani, January 24, 2020

Click here to read the entire article.

Kindergartner Invites His Entire Class to His Adoption Hearing

Nearly two dozen kindergartners gave testimonials in a Michigan courtroom about how much they loved the soon-to-be-adopted boy.

The 5-year-old boy, wearing a blue vest and a maroon bow tie, sat on a swivel chair in front of a judge as his kindergarten classmates filled two rows of courtroom seats behind him. The students held rulers adorned with paper hearts — the theme being “love rules.”Open Adoption

The boy, Michael Clark Jr., was one of 36 children to be adopted on Thursday during Kent County’s 23rd annual adoption day in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Twenty-one kindergartners and several parents, teachers and school administrators attended Michael’s hearing, said Carlye Allen, the principal of Wealthy Elementary School, where Michael is a student.

He invited his teacher and classmates to the ceremony because, he said, he wanted his whole family to be there on his special day, Ms. Allen said.

Judge Patricia Gardner, the presiding judge of the 17th Circuit Court’s family division and founder of the county’s adoption day, asked all the people in the courtroom to stand up and say what they loved or appreciated about Michael, Ms. Allen said.

One boy declared, “Michael is my best friend.”

Another child stood and said, “I love Michael.”

David Eaton, Michael’s adoptive father, said he started tearing up listening to the children’s testimonials. Michael seemed touched too, though it was hard to tell with a child that age, he said.

“He was in his swivel chair up front, swiveling around and facing his classmates,” Mr. Eaton said. “He felt like a king of a castle on that day, just loving it.”

After the official documents were signed, the kindergartners waved their handmade heart signs in the air. They were bumping in their seats with excitement, and all the adults were “extremely emotional,” Ms. Allen said.

“I think he understands that this means he has a permanent home now,” Mr. Eaton said. “He’s not going to be taken away.”

NYTimes.com by Maria Padilla, December 7, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

 

Anthony M. Brown Featured on the Podcast, The Mentor Esq.

The Mentor Esq., a new legal podcast, recently featured Anthony M. Brown, founder of Time For Families Law, PLLC.

The Mentor EsqThe Mentor Esq. was founded by Andrew J. Smiley, the famed personal injury attorney in New York City, to help younger attorneys, and seasoned attorneys, to learn more about specific areas of the law and about the profession of law itself.  Episodes of The Mentor Esq. cover such topics as civil rights work to women in the law, as well as the ABCs of trial work, from opening statements to cross examination.

This is the first season of The Mentor Esq. and Andrew is currently planning for season 2.  While there are numerous areas of the law, and attorneys, that he could focus on, I am grateful that Andrew allowed me to tell my story and share my concerns for the future of LGBTQ law in New York, as well as in the Country.

Anthony’s Start in The Law

Andrew reached out to Anthony to join The Mentor, Esq. podcast to discuss two separate issues.  On episode four of the podcast, Anthony discusses how he came to the law after a career as an actor and a medical massage therapist.  Andrew asked Anthony about how he started his practice and who guided him along the way.  Click here to listen to Anthony talking about his pathway to the law.   Younger attorneys will find this episode particularly interesting because Anthony discusses new ways to look at your career, especially at its inception, by thinking outside of the box and planning ahead for what you want your legal practice to focus on and how it intersects with your personal life.

LGBTQ Family Law

Andrew asked Anthony back to the podcast to discuss more specific topics such as LGBTQ family formation and the current state of surrogacy in New York.  With current legislation in New York up for a vote very soon, Anthony discusses the specifics off The Child Parent Security Act – the pending law which would legalize compensated surrogacy and provide for parentage orders, which would allow for lesbian couples with known sperm donors to avoid the second parent adoption process altogether.  The Child Parent Security Act would bring New York’s family law into the 21st century.

If these issues mean something to you, it is definitely worth your time to check out The Mentor Esq.  A full episode list can be found here.

Anthony M. Brown, November 26, 2019

For more information, please email anthony@timeforfamilies.com.

K-pop star Holland on coming out and providing a voice for LGBTQ people in South Korea

K-pop star Holland is walking the path less travelled with pride.

The South Korean singer, commonly referred to as the ‘first gay K-pop star Holland idol’ in the media, made a massive step for queer representation in his home country when he emerged onto the music scene last year as an out and proud artist, putting his sexuality (and his heart) on the line as he sang about discrimination and wanting to escape to a place where he can love freely on debut single Neverland.K-pop star Holland

The music video featured a same-sex kiss, which disappointingly gained it a 19+ rating in South Korea. Despite this, it still managed to rack up over one million views in under 24 hours, and received a mostly positive response from music fans. Since then, he’s dropped his first mini album, the self-titled Holland, and continues to provide a voice for South Korea’s queer community.

“LGBTQ rights in Korea are still not very progressive in comparison to some other countries,” he explains. “Even the fact I debuted [as an openly gay singer] in Korea gained lots of attention here. I want to be a person of good influence by sharing my story and music with the public, and by interacting with fans.”

As he prepares for his upcoming full-length album – which we’re promised is coming soon – we caught up with Holland to talk about life for the LGBTQ community in South Korea, why it’s so important for him to highlight same-sex romance in his music despite the potential for backlash, and what his experience has been like as an openly gay man in the K-pop industry. 

Congratulations on releasing your first mini album Holland! How does it feel to know that people are listening to it and enjoying it?
I am just so amazed, and I feel so loved, way more than I ever thought I deserved. I also do feel a sense of responsibility and pressure to do better and work harder. I want to be able to reach a point where lots of people accept that I am indeed worthy of love and respect. I am also so grateful for the fans who fully understand what I was trying to say with this album. 

Where did you get your inspiration from when creating the mini album?
It’s a combination of my past relationship history and the messages I’ve wanted to tell my fans. It’s 100% my story, and my story only. I really tried to put all my raw emotions that I have felt over the past year – both before and after my debut. In the end, it’s ultimately myself that inspires my own music. 

daytimes.co.uk, November 11, 2019 by Daniel Megarry

Click here to read the entire article. 

“This is Quite Gay” – Gay Shame

Social media has become a space where my own family and friends have turned into censors, denigrating me for being gay from thousands of miles away casting gay shame.

On the quiet, promising first morning of June, I received a text message from my brother in Abuja, Nigeria. “Please, refrain from all these shameful acts,” he wrote.  Gay shame.   “Everyone is tired of you. Mummy is crying, Daddy is crying. If you don’t value relationships, we do!”gay shame

My brother had written after I had posted a picture on Facebook that showed me hugging a male friend. A mixture of anger, sadness and fatigue erupted in my body. “Block me if you are tired of my shameful acts,” I replied. “I won’t be the first or last person to be rejected by his family.”

I had the audacity to start a queer publication in Nigeria and was disowned by my country as a gay man, writer and activist. After a vicious homophobic attack in Akwanga, my hometown in central Nigeria, I moved to the United States and sought asylum here in the summer of 2018.

In a certain public rendering I could come across as a brave activist. But I have lived with intense private pain and discomfort after homophobic shaming from people like my own brother.

Social media can be a delightful way to connect with loved ones far away, but for me it has also become a space where my own family and friends have turned into censors, distorting my life, denigrating my being gay from thousands of miles away.

In Nigeria, I lived with the knowledge that my secret life as a gay man would eventually crumble under the weight of parental expectations. I could see clearly how it would pan out: After turning 30, I would have to marry a woman who might know I am gay but would prefer marrying me to being unmarried at a certain age. We would have three children in quick succession, as procreation is a duty I would be expected to fulfill promptly, duty being the bedrock of familial relationships.

My wife and I would suffer dutifully and receive the blessings of our parents. On seeing my wife and me in matching outfits, my father’s expressionless face would break into a rare, full smile. He would present us to his friends and colleagues at parties. My mother would carry around my children and make her friends, whose children were yet to bear them grandchildren, look on in envy.

But I walked out the door. I chose safety and freedom over years of pain and trauma that would come with such societal and parental approval. In Washington, where I live on the little that is left of my savings, the homophobia of my home and family follows me through social media, through emails and text messages.

There are days when I forget I am gay; those days are my happiest. I hang out with friends, not as a gay man hanging out with other gay men, but as friends having a good time. I return to my apartment with beautiful pictures in my phone.

Yet when I am about to post my pictures on social media, I examine them through the searching eyes of my staunchly evangelical Christian parents, through the prying eyes of my childhood friends who still remember me as the boy who would recite chapters of the Bible. I swipe through my pictures. “This is very gay!” “This is super gay!” “This is quite gay!” I judge my own images and delete the pictures. I am my own censor.

A few days after the exchange with my brother, a cousin sent me a message: “Jesus loves you, bro! Come back to him. He is ready to forgive you and take you back as his lovely child.”

I climbed back in bed and rolled myself into a ball as my heart sank into the hollow of my gut. My stomach gave a loud, nervous growl. I longed for death. These messages pull me back to the existential orbit I am always trying to escape. I ask myself, “Is this really worth losing loved ones over? ”  All this gay shame.

I should relish the freedom America offers me, but it feels like I am running in the middle of a busy highway or breathing under water. Hiding in the closet is all I have known.

Some days ago, I was at a pride event for gay Africans in Washington, in a West African basement restaurant. I was chatting with a few Nigerians when a charming photographer raised his camera toward us. They instinctively ducked as if dodging a bullet. “You can never tell where those pictures will end up,” someone said. I nodded in agreement.

NYTimes.com, July 6, 2019 by Richard Akuson

Click here to read the entire article.

Memories of That Night at the Stonewall Inn, From Those Who Were There

Few people are still around who were really at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village on that summer evening 50 years ago, when a raid by the police led to a violent uprising. Just this month, the New York Police Department apologized. Here are recollections of that night from three men who were there.

In February 1969, Martin Boyce moved into the Manhattan apartment where he would live for the next 50 years. At the time, Mr. Boyce, then a 21-year-old history student at Hunter College, was living with his family. Most nights, however, he traded the East Side for the West Village, where the Stonewall Inn resides.

“Christopher Street was our turf,” he said in a recent interview at his home.Stonewall Inn

Mr. Boyce and some of his friends liked to dress in “scare drag,” a looser style of gender-bending that, he recalled, some drag queens derided as “lazy” and “no ambition.”

But the point was “to confuse someone for just a few moments,” he explained. In any case, one of his personal philosophies of scare drag had a practical benefit.

“Never wear heels, because you had to run,” he said.

Evading police harassment was a fact of life for gay people like Mr. Boyce. Many of the unwanted interactions were predicated on a criminal statute allowing for the arrest of anyone not wearing at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing. (“And socks didn’t count,” Mr. Boyce said.)

While allowing that the officers “generally” followed the rules, he said that “it was all their whim to make our lives miserable.”

According to Mr. Boyce, the routine police stops, regular attempts at entrapment and raids of establishments frequented by gays all contributed to an atmosphere in which being gay meant feeling hunted.

“We all had our lists in our heads of friends who were beaten, maimed, thrown out of their house, informed on by the cops — tragic stories,” he said. “But there was nothing you could do about it.”

The Stonewall Inn, a seedy gay bar on Christopher Street, was different things to different people. Many resented the Mafia’s control of the bar, which manifested in ways ranging from police payoffs to what Mr. Boyce described as a sign-in book at the entrance. (“I can’t tell you how many times Judy Garland was there,” he said wryly. “Not one real name.”)

But Mark Segal, a Philadelphia native who, at 18, arrived in New York City in the spring of 1969, was more than happy to overlook the overpriced and watered-down drinks.

“It was a safe place for us,” he said. “When you walked in the door of Stonewall,” he added, “you could hold hands, you could kiss and, more importantly, you could dance.”

The bar also drew an unusually diverse crowd. “Stonewall was like a Noah’s ark,” Mr. Boyce said. Its patrons exhibited “degrees of loudness,” he explained, “going from drag queens down to professionals.”

To avoid alienating any particular demographic and ensure that the clientele remained mixed, Mr. Boyce said, the bar’s various Mafia front men performed a crude calculus at the door: “Not too many whites, it’ll tip to white; not too many blacks, it’ll tip to black.”

Still, “it wasn’t the only gay bar in the neighborhood,” Jim Fouratt pointed out in a recent interview. Mr. Fouratt turned 28 in the summer of 1969, when he was working for CBS Records, giving the label cool-kid credibility in meetings with bands. He preferred a bar at the nearby Cherry Lane Theater, he said.

“Most of the customers were closeted married men,” he said of the Stonewall. In his 1993 book “Stonewall,” the historian Martin Duberman quoted a description of the bar by Mr. Fouratt that pulled exactly zero punches: “a real dive, an awful, sleazy place set up by the Mob for hustlers.”

anytime.com, by louis Lucero II, June 16, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

David Strah Shares His Experiences Raising a Trans Son on Latest Episode of Daddy Square

Author David Strah sat down with the Daddy Square guys to talk about fatherhood, his book, and experiences raising a trans son.

Here’s a fact: gay parents are much more attentive to their kids’ gender expressions than heterosexual parents. Just from the nature of growing up different, sometimes in an unwelcoming environment, we don’t want our kids to suffer the emotional pain that we went through.David Strah

This is a partial explanation for an amazing growing phenomenon, where gay couples step forward and adopt transgender youth who were thrown out of their homes. In this episode of Daddy Squared we brought on David Strah, a family therapist from Los Angeles who specializes in LGBTQ issues. David is also a father of a transgender boy, and shares from his own personal experience.

“It’s sort of a myth that trans people or trans kids come out and say ‘this is the way I am’ at age 2,” David explains. “There are normally a few things that happen or that show up, and sometimes it means that they are going to be trans and sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it means that they’re going to be somewhere in the middle. I think it’s about educating ourselves, about being sensitive, about creating a household that’s trans friendly, talking about things, really getting in front of the issues, talking about the gender spectrum – all the differences, and how it is a spectrum and you don’t have to be one way or the other. You can be somewhere in between or you can lean towards being a boy or lean towards being a girl and then another day you can decide to do something different.”

David thinks it’s really important to listen to our kids and if they’re saying something very clearly, to really respond to that and cooperate with them.

“I think that when my younger son, when he was a girl, probably at around 5 or 6, he definitely wanted to wear boys underwear, briefs,” David shares. “So we went out to the Gap and bought boys’ briefs and we were absolutely fine with that. We didn’t really know what it meant but we felt that he was directing that and that’s something he wanted to do so we did it, and at that time, to be perfectly honest, we thought, well, he’s got two dads and a big brother so he probably wants to wear underwear like he sees on other people in his family.

“There was another time, around Rosh Hashanah, and she needed a new dress. She absolutely refused to wear a dress, she wanted a suit, so we said okay, and went to J. Crew and bought a suit and we said ‘but you have to wear a flower on the lapelle – which was kinda silly in retrospect on our part—but that was a compromise, she was very happy and she looked very chic.”

Click here to listen to the Daddy Squared Podcast.

GaysWithKids.com by Yanir Dekel, May 29, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

Desperately Seeking a Black Sperm Donor

Nikki and I did something often considered too good to be true. We stumbled across each other in a humid, dark, loud nightclub in West Hollywood during the 2014 Los Angeles Pride weekend; it was love at first sight. 

anonymous sperm donorsFast forward to 2018, when we got married and bought a house within the same week. But our dream wouldn’t be complete without one more miracle: motherhood. The medical recommendation is that women have children before the age of 35, so we decided that Nikki should carry first since she’s 33 and I’m 28. But like many folks who seek out fertility help, we had no idea how difficult it would be to find the perfect sperm donor, let alone a black sperm donor.

Nikki is an extrovert who works as a global partnership senior manager for a top technology company. If her perfect smile and big hair don’t blow you away, her optimism and ambition will take you around the universe and back. Nikki would describe me as a super creative, solutions-oriented introvert. I’m the person everyone comes to for advice, but I was at a loss when it came to finding a suitable sperm donor for our needs.

Even before we started looking, I was under the impression that there was a limited supply of black donors. Maybe that’s because I don’t know any black donors. Maybe it’s because buying sperm or conceiving a baby in this fashion isn’t considered a “black thing.” As it turns out, I was correct. Though private sperm banks are not required to share the ethnic origins of their donors publicly, as we started our search we found the number of black donors to be vanishingly small.

Below is a conversation between Nikki and me about the start of our journey to motherhood. It has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Nikki: I searched for a gay-friendly sperm bank, because I figured that sperm banks function like most institutions or companies.

B.A.: How do most institutions function? Are you saying that you expected sperm banks to be less prepared to assist customers who weren’t white, straight and married?

Nikki: Yes, potentially. So, I felt like I needed to specify gay-friendly sperm banks. I came across a blog that listed about 10 sperm banks with each bank’s contact information, a little blurb on why to choose that bank and how they accommodated LGBTQAI+ families. The bank we ultimately decided on offered extensive genetic testing and data, and the website had a little rainbow heart confirming their support for families like ours.

NYTimes.com, by B.A. Williams, May 6, 2019

Click here to read the entire article about seeking a black sperm donor.

I Wanted to Change the World for Gay Black People. Starting With Myself. Queer Love In Color

I’m working on a book based on my Times article, “Queer Love in Color,” a celebration of the joy and romance that queer couples and families of color share. Here’s how it came about — and how you can help.

queer love in color

Last year, I published an article that changed my life.

I was a few weeks into my job at The New York Times when I realized I was never taught how to love another gay, black man.

I mean, I’d done it. I’ve had fulfilling relationships and I’ve said “I love you” and meant it. But did I really know what I was doing? Did any of us? It’s hard to do something you’ve never seen. For most of my life, the most visible queer couples in media have been white. I’d always been aware of this, but I didn’t realize what it was doing to my head.

So I made a list of all the things in my life I started to question soon after working here.

  • The truth is hard. So hard that The Times, where I’m a digital storytelling and training editor, built an entire advertising campaignaround it. Is it too hard for me? Do I even know how to do journalism? Do I have a basic grasp of the English language?
  • How do I single-handedly reverse over a century of problematic representation and erasure of minority communities by the media? Will it make me Twitter-famous? 
  • How do I learn to love other gay men? When I figure this out, how do I teach the rest of the gay community? 

I got to thinking.

Six months earlier, I had been in Orlando, at a gay bar with a young man named Josean, whose two best friends were murdered in the Pulse Nightclub shooting 357 days earlier. We were searching for Khia, rapper of “My Neck, My Back” fame, who was performing a benefit show for survivors of the shooting and their families. (We never found her.)

Late that evening, I met another young man, who, upon learning I was a journalist, lamented the media’s coverage of the Pulse shooting and its aftermath, and the focus on bloodshed and tragedy over the community’s continuing story of strength and triumph.

I was emotionally overwhelmed by both that story and that moment and felt a clarity of mission that I’d never felt before.

I remember wishing I had someone to talk to. Or alcohol. Or tacos. (There are great tacos in Orlando.)

Instead, back at my hotel, I cried and watched TV and eventually I was no longer awake.

About a year after crying myself to sleep in that Orlando hotel room, I wrote and photographed an article called “Queer Love in Color” for The New York Times. That was a life-changing experience, too, in the literal sense. I grew more optimistic about love, the queer community and our ability to honestly represent the two in our reporting. 

NYTimes.com, April 6, 2019 by Jamal Jordan

Click here to read the entire article.

The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting

Raising children has become significantly more time-consuming and expensive, amid a sense that opportunity has grown more elusive.

Parenthood in the United States has become much more demanding than it used to be.

Over just a couple of generations, parents have greatly increased the amount of time, attention and money they put into raising children. Mothers who juggle jobs outside the home spend just as much time tending to their children as stay-at-home mothers did in the 1970s.

The amount of money parents spend on children, which used to peak when they were in high school, is now highest when they are under 6 and over 18 and into their mid-20s.

Renée Sentilles enrolled her son Isaac in lessons beginning when he was an infant. Even now that he’s 12, she rarely has him out of sight when he is home.

“I read all the child-care books,” said Ms. Sentilles, a professor in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. “I enrolled him in piano at 5. I took him to soccer practices at 4. We tried track; we did all the swimming lessons, martial arts. I did everything. Of course I did.”

While this kind of intensive parenting — constantly teaching and monitoring children — has been the norm for upper-middle-class parents since the 1990s, new research shows that people across class divides now consider it the best way to raise children, even if they don’t have the resources to enact it.

There are signs of a backlash, led by so-called free-range parents, but social scientists say the relentlessness of modern-day parenting has a powerful motivation: economic anxiety. For the first time, it’s as likely as not that American children will be less prosperous than their parents. For parents, giving children the best start in life has come to mean doing everything they can to ensure that their children can climb to a higher class, or at least not fall out of the one they were born into.

“As the gap between rich and poor increases, the cost of screwing up increases,” said Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who studies families and inequality. “The fear is they’ll end up on the other side of the divide.”

But it also stokes economic anxiety, because even as more parents say they want to raise childrenthis way, it’s the richest ones who are most able to do so.

New York Times by Claire Cain Miller, March 26, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.