By Brian Andersen
Originally published on Advocate.com August 07 2014 6:00 AM ET
My husband and I welcomed our wonderful, gorgeous daughter this past January via surrogacy. She’s been a precious, magical addition to our lives from day one. While we assumed our roles as parents to a newborn would be an adjustment, we never considered the challenge the social aspect of being same-sex parents would bring.
Socially, it’s the amount of questions we’re asked on the daily that have become the most tiring and irksome part of being a parent. Everywhere we go — and we live in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, one of the gayest neighborhoods in the world — we find ourselves having to explain and clarify our place as parents.
I’ve long since embraced the fact that being an out homosexual is filled with teaching moments, opportunities to educate people on “gay stuff.” And those questions often range from our sex lives, to our gender roles, to why gay men love The Golden Girls so much. Now my usual “gay stuff” questions have morphed to babies, daddies and, well, still gender roles.
I realize and accept that modern LGBT families require parents to be mindful of the ways we navigate parenthood in society. My husband and I strive to be patient and understanding in regard to all the questions we’re asked over and over and over, again and again. But to be honest, we’re human and sometimes we just get tired of repeating ourselves. Even teachable moments can get super annoying.
That’s why I came up with this cheeky list. Mostly to be fun, but also to illustrate the social differences LGBT parents face. Also, my dear 6-month-old daughter, Pence, assists with rating our annoyance level with her oh, so adorable grumpy face; one grumpy baby face equals mild annoyance and five grumpy baby faces means off-the-charts frustration. Thanks for participating, baby girl!
5. “You guys got a baby?”
Before my daughter arrived I’d never, ever, ever heard anyone ever ask anyone this question. “You guys had a baby?” is the traditional way to confirm that a couple recently became parents. Asking a straight couple if they had a baby validates their joint parenthood. Asking my husband and me if we got a baby suggests we stopped by the corner store and picked up an infant on discount.
I realize being two men means we can’t physically carry and deliver a baby, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have her. We had her the moment we held her tiny 5-pound, 10-ounce body in our arms. She was ours and we were hers. Forever.
4. “The surrogate is the mother, right?”
The frequency of this question I attribute to just to general lack of knowledge in the world of surrogacy, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. I understand it’s a fairly foreign, unknown concept to most straight baby-making couples.
But, yeah, the surrogate is not the mother. Our wonderful surrogate was the incubator. She carried our baby girl. But she isn’t the mother. Gestational carriers have no genetic relation to the baby. We paid our surrogate “womb rent” for our baby girl — which, I might add, was twice the amount of our apartment rent and for a fraction of the space.
Surrogacy requires three parties to make it work; the sperm donors, the surrogate, and a third party for the eggs. So technically the egg donor is the mother of our daughter. But in the everyday feeding, changing, cleaning up projectile spit-up, the mother of our baby is both my husband and me. We are both mother and father.
3. “So you’re babysitting today?”
Uh, no, actually, I’m not babysitting my own baby, Miss Starbucks Barista. I’m taking care of my child like any parent would and should do. The underlying implication of this question is that as a man I would be babysitting my child in the middle of the day because I’m not at work. The question suggests that as a male I should be earning the money for my family, not carting my child around in a Baby Bjorn.
I’m not one for gender roles. I feel people are people and should be allowed to live and do as they see fit. It’s 2014 — men actually spend time with their children today and are actively involved in the child=rearing.
2. “Why not adopt instead of doing surrogacy?”
This is a loaded question, which is why I dislike it so much. Not only does it imply a judgment on how we decided to become parents, but there is never a good enough answer. There isn’t a succinct answer that clearly expresses why two adults would decide to become parents in whatever manner they chose.
My answer to why we choose surrogacy is a private and personal one. And it’s not an arrangement we entered into lightly. But basically it boils down to “it’s none of you business.” The fact that we are parents is really all that matters. Not how we achieved parenthood.
1. “Which one of you is the father?”
This is the question my hubby and I are most asked daily. Family members, friends, our barista, my coworkers, random people at the grocery store — everyone we meet and talk to wants to know which of us is the DNA father. Anyone and everyone seems obsessed with figuring out which one of us is the genetic father to our daughter.
The answer is, we are both the father. We both care for her and love her. Except when she poops, then she’s my husband’s child. So whose sperm fertilized the embryo that made it in the womb? The reality is we don’t know. We each fertilized an egg and inserted them into our lovely surrogate. One became our daughter. She’s 6 months old now, and frankly, we have no idea who she looks more like. And frankly we could not care less.
She’s both of ours, equally. Just as much as we love her equally she’s equally ours, regardless of the genetic relation. And we couldn’t be happier being in the dark about her genetic lineage because each day she brings so much light and love into our lives that we’re thrilled to call ourselves her parents.
BRIAN ANDERSEN lives in San Francisco with his husband, his beautiful daughter, and their two fat cats. He also writes his own line of indie gay superhero comics, SoSuperDuper.