A Child of My Own

As a young person I wanted to be a parent before I ever knew I was
gay. Like many of you, I suppose, there was a time after coming out
when the thought of being a parent slipped away. It wasn’t that I
knew, then and there, out to the world, that I could no longer be a
parent. Obviously not—the size and strength of the community of
LGBTQ parents attests to that. But there were a few years where
parenting wasn’t in my thoughts. To begin with, how as a gay man
would I bring a child into my life? Would it be too difficult to
navigate that world? Would it be fair to the child?

All questions I’m sure many of you have thought and asked yourself.
The good news is we have the answers:

1) How can I bring a child into my life? So many ways! I can foster
parent. I can adopt. I can co-parent with others. I can conceive a
child through surrogacy. I may even find a partner with a child of
his own, who becomes my child through partnership and family.

2) Would it be too difficult to navigate that world? Difficult,
yes, but certainly not so much that I would deny myself the joys
and responsibilities of being a parent. Each family has its own
trials and tribulations to face. At least in dealing with the
difficulties of being a gay parent, I can know that it’s a
wrongheaded society that’s causing my problem—that it’s no fault
of my own.

3) Would it be fair to the child? So long as I’m a loving, caring
and dedicated parent, yes. We are all complicated human beings, and
at one point or another any child is going to question whether
they’d rather have a gay parent or a single parent or a parent who
goes away on business or a parent with embarrassing hair. Perhaps a
gay child might question whether their situation would be better if
their parents weren’t straight. All any child can really ask for,
though, is to have wonderful, responsible adults in their life,
meeting their needs and guiding them through the world. Don’t we
all realize that as we grow into adulthood, looking back on our
parents with more generous eyes?

But coming to terms with these questions leaves others still and
one in particular I’d like to address. Now, if you’ve met me, you
know I’m not yet a parent, but I do want kids someday. And as I
meet other gay people—especially out in the dating world—the
subject of families comes up. The trouble is I often encounter
young gay men who say, yes, I want children someday but I really
want my own children. To which I reply, What on earth do you mean?
Well, I want a child that’s genetically mine, you know, a child
that’s really mine, they say. To which I say (and while seriously
biting my tongue):

There is no such thing as a child that is more yours than not. If
you have committed to parenting a child, to filling that role for
the rest of their lives, then you are theirs and they are yours.
Parenting is a commitment so profound it truly feels like a
contract of ownership has been signed. You are my child. You are my
parent. And we spend the whole rest of our lives pushing and
pulling the lines of that relationship, but seldom do we sever them
fully. If I adopt a child, that child is as much a part of me and
my family as a child to which I contribute genes. And if I
anonymously donate sperm to help other couples conceive, that child
is not at all my child, not unless I actively commit to being that
child’s parent.

This is hard for a lot of people to swallow, especially many of the
young gay men I meet. We as a community of LGBTQ parents,
prospective parents and allies know we have a great deal of
educational work to do among the larger LGBTQ community as well as
in the world-at-large. But we have to begin with certain
principles, stand by them, and be steadfast in making sure our
voices are heard. No adopted child should ever feel less the family
member because a guest makes a dinner-time comment about one day
having “their own child,” meaning a child that’s biologically
theirs. You don’t have to yell and scream, but you do have to
correct and educate. Love makes a family. Commitment and care make
families. Certainly genes and reproduction are part of the process,
but they do not create the necessary bonds.

I’ve been wanting to get that off my chest for some time now. I
hope it resonates with you out there. If you’ve had similar issues
combating ignorance around this issue with friends, family,
strangers or others, please leave a comment and share. I can’t
stress enough how important it is for all the families out there to
hear from each other on these difficult matters.

To all the loving families out there, keep keeping on. You are an
inspiration to us all.