More Gay Men Choose Surrogacy to Have Children

Tom Ford — the 45-year-old Gucci designer who has cooed over the prospect of having a baby — may soon join the Pop Luck Club.

"I'm going to have a kid in 2008," Ford recently told Fantastic Man, the Gentleman's Style journal. "I've always wanted kids. I don't want to get to be 75 years old and just have made a lot of dresses, done some houses."

Ford is part of what appears to be a shift in attitude among gay men in their 30s and 40s, who hadn't traditionally been all that keen on becoming parents.

But now, according to medical experts and men in the gay community, neither gender, nor sexual orientation, nor age is an impediment to having babies. And in one of the last breakthroughs of the gay pride movement, more male same-sex couples are now embracing gestational surrogacy to have a biological child.

In Ford's case, Richard Buckley, former fashion photographer and Ford's 20-year-partner, has said in the past he wanted nothing to do with babies. In 2005, Buckley retired as editor-in-chief of Vogues Hommes International and moved to Italy after being treated for cancer.

The "who's-your-daddy" debate within the Ford-Buckley relationship underscores the generation gap within the male gay community when it comes to accepting fatherhood.

"When I was in my 20s, it was unheard of for gay men to want babies to begin with," said David, a 45-year-old gay writer from California, who preferred not to use his full name. "It wasn't a reality. Society said 'no way.' Society is slowly changing and there is [a] whole other level of coming out. Before, we worried about being gay and living with someone else."

Adoption Difficult

By the time David was in his 30s, men with financial means considered adoption, but "it was still difficult. A lot of my older friends had come out of marriages and already have children — men who had come out of divorces when they finally accepted or confronted the fact that they were gay.

"Parenthood is now an option," he said. "Men are realizing that with all this support, 'I don't want to adopt a child, I can have some of my own genetic material.'"

Giving gay men the opportunity to have children also unites families, according to the Center for Surrogate Parenting, which has clinics in California and Maryland.

"Most men who fell in love with another man thought they would never have a family," said Karen Synesious, center director. "Through surrogacy, they could not only love each other, but raise a child together.

"Just because your son is gay, doesn't mean you can't be a grandparent," she added. "Families see it's not the end of the line just because their son is in love with a man. Now it's easier to accept."

In the 1990s, lesbians pioneered gay parenthood using artificial insemination from donor sperm. Rock singer Melissa Etheridge revealed that her two children with partner Julie Cypher had been sired with sperm from the "sixty-ish," "balding" and "overweight" David Crosby, according to a 2005 article in Rolling Stone magazine. "Though not the traits most women would look for in a donor profile," Etheridge apparently admired his musical ability.

But for gay men who want to raise a child from infancy, adoption is not always an option because there are so few available, domestically. Of the 135,000 annual adoptions, more than half are within a family, according to Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

Another 20,000 children are adopted each year from overseas, but many countries — like China — won't allow gay couples to be parents. And only about 15,000 infants are available for adoption in the U.S. each year, not counting foster children.

"Birth parents choose the new parents, and so usually they do not knowingly choose a gay couple," Pertman said. "Most heterosexual couples are not necessarily homophobic, but if they go with the odds, they wait a long time."

Therefore, the largest number of children available is through foster care — about 50,000, most of whom are older. "These children desperately need homes," Pertman said. "When gay men adopt them, they expand resources for these children, and you have a solution that serves everyone."

But many gay men, like lesbians and some single women, want a biological connection to their child.

It wasn't until the last decade that gay men have found not only the cultural acceptance of gay parenthood, but the availability of gay community centers and support networks.

When the Los Angeles-based Pop Luck Club started in 1998, it had only nine members. Today, the group has 260 families, 45 percent of whom have adopted and 24 percent who underwent gestational surrogacy.

Another 20 percent of the couples have foster children who were later adopted, and about 8 percent share parenting with a lesbian couple or from a former heterosexual marriage.

"Oh my god have we grown," said board member Mark Brown, a 52-year-old father of an adopted girl and boy. "We provide camaraderie and support, a place to bring your children and see families that look like you, so the children know we are part of the norm."

The club provides a mentoring program for couples thinking of having children, provides a news chat group and holds a monthly "pot luck" dinner for families.

The gay parenting culture has so quickly changed that at the last gay march in Washington, D.C., observers marveled at all the play pens and day care options available on the mall. Many of the same-sex parents were men.

$150,000 a Year for 'Journey'

Today, men with the financial means — surrogate births run up to $150,000 a year for a two-year process — can access new technologies that allow them to have babies.

"As people realize it is possible, more are pursuing it worldwide," said Gail Taylor, co-founder of Growing Generations, which provided the first surrogacy program for men in 1994. "People like the opportunity to be involved in the process from start to finish. They are so happy they can participate in the decisions."

Growing Generations receives thousands of calls each year from 20 countries and takes on 250 to 300 clients. About 98 percent of the couples use in vitro fertilization with a donor. The average couple can expect a pregnancy in two attempts; about 60 percent are "pregnant" on the first embryo.

If the couple wants more than one child, partners alternate whose sperm will be used with a donor egg. Others choose to mix their sperm and leave the rest to nature.

Growing Generations CEO Stuart Miller, 42, and his 33-year-old partner helped deliver their son, Quentin, just three weeks ago.

"It's incredible to go through the process of our own pregnancy," said Stuart. "It has been so special to have a relationship with the surrogate and to be there to hold her legs and to be joyous at the birth."

On their first date, the couple discussed having a child. Miller, who is white, and his partner, who is African American, chose to use a white egg donor with his partner's sperm. Through photos and video, they carefully selected a donor whose physical and personality characteristics matched Miller's.

"Our donor seemed happy, and we are happy people, a gift our parents gave to us genetically," Stuart said, noting that he cried at the birth.

The surrogate was a 23-year-old lesbian who had a 2-year-old son. She agreed to breast feed Quentin and will have a continuing relationship with the Miller family.

The egg donor, also a young woman in her 20s, signed a contract that would allow Quentin to contact his biological mother at the age of 18.

Since the birth, Quentin has been surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles and a female nanny, who will help the Millers after their paternity leave ends. The couple said they might consider another child, perhaps with Miller's sperm next time.

"We explain to gay couples that they are only one-third of the equation," according to Dr. Richard Paulson, chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Southern California. "In traditional surrogacy it's just a woman and the sperm."

"Now, for legal and emotional reasons, gestation is not genetically involved with the baby," said Paulson, director of USC Fertility. Egg donors are often college-age women in their 20s and, through in vitro fertilization, the egg is placed in the uterus of a 30-something woman.

"The surrogates have completed their child rearing and are stay-at-home mothers," said Paulson. "The kind of person you want is someone who likes being pregnant, feels good and likes everything about it. She might be too old to be an egg donor. But it's simpler that way."

Surrogate agencies around the country now provide "one-stop" services where gay men can find an egg donor and a woman to carry the child. One such couple — a research doctor and his partner — have just conceived their first child, according to Paulson.

For David, who flirted with becoming a parent, but eventually decided against it, gay men are the ultimate parents. "Gay men go through so many hoops to have kids," said David. "They really want them, unlike mothers like Britney Spears who don't care about their kids."

The American Psychiatric Association, as well as a dozen other other major medical and social organizations, are firm in their position that homosexuality is "neither a disorder to be treated nor a disease to be cured."

The APA goes even further with regard to gay parenting, arguing that there are no developmental differences between children raised by homosexuals or heterosexuals, "in intelligence, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, popularity with friends, development of social sex role identity or development of sexual orientation."

New York University psychologist April Martin, a lesbian who has three children through donor insemination, said children of gay parents have a "broader awareness of gender issues and greater sense of permission to be themselves."

Some critics argue that children of gay parents have more difficulty in schools, but Martin said the onus should be on the schools to make sure they are supportive of all children.

"Schools have to be sensitized and speak inclusively about varieties of families. They need to provide structures to protect those who are teased, which is bad, whether it's about two moms or wearing eyeglasses."

Martin, the author of "Lesbian and Gay Parenting," said research shows that even sexual identification is not compromised in children of gay parents.

"Kids are going to be who they are," she said. "They will have role models and they don't have to be in the family. I know many sons raised by lesbians who grow up to be men who identify with men."

Meanwhile, Ford credits his mother with his designer eye and professional success. His fan club wryly reports that he was "raised by a colorful southern lady who had six husbands and a cupboard full of Courreges suits. She taught him that being badly dressed was disrespectful of others. He spent most of his childhood worrying about how he looked. At 12, she bought him a pair of Gucci loafers."

Still, Ford says what he really wants is a baby.

"Richard knows I've wanted this for a long time," he told Fantastic Man. "He's just resisted it. He would be a spectacular father. It's going to give his life new meaning. It will be biologically mine. I mean, I'm a lot younger. If things follow their natural order, [Richard will] probably leave the planet ahead of me, and I can't not have had something I've wanted forever."