Do Genetics Matter?

Earlier this year, a recent advance in stem cell research got a lot of media attention. Researchers at Cambridge University and the Weizmann Institute in Israel were able to program stem cells to become primordial germ cells, the precursors to eggs and sperm. Scientists have been able to create viable baby mice from these cells, and with further study, viable human eggs and sperm may someday be created using stem cells from any human’s skin sample. I think this type of science has tremendous potential to assist male and female individuals suffering from various forms of infertility. However, more public interest seemed to come from the idea that someday same-sex couples may be able to contribute both egg and sperm to create children that are genetically related to both partners.

Reading about this future possibility got me thinking. We are a full house of six and won’t likely be having more children, but if this technology was available when we were going through surrogacy, would we have been interested in having children conceived with egg and sperm from Josh and me? How much do genetics really matter to us?

For us, how our children may be related to us genetically mattered some, but less than and in different ways than people may think. Josh and I are both reasonably proud people with good self esteem, but neither of us have a great desire to create “mini-me” children that carry all our traits and looks. In our initial conversations about becoming parents, adopting children that had no genetic relationship to either of us would have been a serious consideration, but it was not possible in Florida at that time. A surrogacy process where one of us contributed sperm to create children had some legal and social benefits that made it the way to go.

Living in South Florida, we have enjoyed our island of progressive blue in an often red state. We have been acutely aware that much of Florida subscribes to the Deep South mentality. Because of the hostile stance that the Florida state government had toward same-sex parents, we felt that at least one of us having a biological link to each of our children afforded some protection from the nightmare scenario of the state considering us “illegitimate, unfit parents” and trying to take our children away. As an interracial couple, we thought having children with both Caucasian and Asian features meant that if ever one of us was travelling with small babies alone, strangers would be more likely to accept either of us as related to these children. A man alone with small children and no mom in sight still raises eyebrows, and if the kids are clearly not biologically related to the man, some may even jump to conclusions that something inappropriate is taking place.

Thus we set out to have biracial kids. The other half of this genetic equation in current assisted reproductive technology comes from an egg donor. We decided to keep the identity of the egg donor completely secret, because if family or friends knew anything about the background of the egg donor, they could in turn infer which one of us was the sperm donor. The only people who know the genetic details of our family are the ones intimately involved in the process and the kids’ ongoing health. We know, the surrogates know, the lawyers and doctors know. Our families may have thoughts, but their theories have never been confirmed, and this reasonable doubt helps for us to both be treated equally as parents. When the kids are old enough to understand where babies come from (AJ and JJ are fast approaching that day), they will be the first to know about their genetic origins.

When we were considering a second surrogacy process a few years ago, we were presented with the opportunity for the person not genetically involved the first time around to make a contribution. But this was not our primary motivation for considering more children. We wanted AJ and JJ to have little siblings to teach them about responsibility, and help them understand that they are not the center of the universe. We knew that if we were blessed with a girl like DJ, it would bring more balance to our household than thoughts of genetics ever would.

Looking back, Josh and I have learned that genetics may matter for external situations, but within our family, it actually matters very little. Josh and I both love all our children equally no matter the biology. We have proven it to ourselves in a manner that is nearly scientific.

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Surrogacy and Other Paths to Gay Parenthood

In my previous post, I have alluded to discussions I have had with people extremely critical of us as gay parents through surrogacy. My position is that while questionable surrogacy practices do exist, problematic situations can often be avoided by intended parents who proceed with caution, and prevented by government with regulation that better protects the babies, the surrogates, and the intended parents. I believe that surrogacy when done right can be a positive experience for all involved.

With that said, I recognize and respect the many different paths to parenthood, which can be quite varied for LGBT people from adoption to surrogacy to co-parenting. We recently contributed our story to a book about these many paths to gay parenthood. We are pleased to announce that the book has been picked up by a publisher and will be released next year! I encourage any LGBT people considering their many options in becoming parents to check out the Author website at: http://www.ericrosswood.com/

Taking a fair and balanced view of surrogacy is important

Taking a fair and balanced view of surrogacy is important

#BoycottDolceGabbana

Their fashion may be cutting edge, but their opinions are from the dark ages.

Their fashion may be cutting edge, but their opinions are from the dark ages.

Last week, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana gave an interview and made comments that prove gay people can be haters just like anybody else.

“We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one.”

“No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.”

Dolce added that procreation “must be an act of love”, saying: “You are born to a mother and a father – or at least that’s how it should be.
“I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.”

Gabbana added: “The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”

After Elton John started a twitter campaign to #BoycottDolceGabbana over the weekend, now Dolce and Gabbana are trying to walk back there comments claiming that they were just speaking on their own experience and not judging others.

Gabbana said in a statement Sunday that “it was never our intention to judge other people’s choices. We do believe in freedom and love.”

Dolce says he was expressing his view about family based on his experience growing up in a traditional Sicilian family “made up of a mother, a father and children. I am very well aware of the fact that there are other types of families and they are as legitimate as the one I’ve known.”

Dolce said he was expressing his personal views “without judging other people’s choices.”

Guys, don’t bother.  There is no way your global statements last week against gay adoptions, “synthetic” IVF and non-traditional families can be interpreted as non-judgmental.  You called Elton John unintelligent today and you must think there are lots of other stupid people that will accept your feeble explanations.  And no apology will ever reverse the damage that has been done with your offensive statements.  You have lost customers for life.  Just like I have walked past Barilla pasta on sale dozens of times and then paid more for other brands, I will never buy another item from your brand ever again.  Now that you have exercised your right to speak your mind, I will be exercising my rights as a consumer and choose to give my money to better people.  Instead of spending all this energy toward damage control, your time would probably be better spent designing a line for the paragons of fashion NOM staffers that share your philosophy.

NOM Founder Maggie Gallagher dressed like this on national television. Maybe she'll buy D&G

NOM Founder Maggie Gallagher dressed like this on national television. Maybe she’ll buy D&G

Getting the Word Out

Gays With Kids Article

Last week, we had the opportunity to share some of our experiences for an article about long term gay couples that have children after many years together.  Part of the reason we put ourselves out here on the internet is because we hope that our story serves to inspire other LGBT couples and show them that having kids is a real possibility.  I just updated the links section with several other sites that provide other family resources for our community.

Coming soon, we are working with a published author to contribute our story to a collection about same sex couples and the journeys they take to parenthood.  Stay tuned…

…And Some Make Stellar Parents

To offset the depressing article discussed in last week’s post, Josh found this piece about a gay couple that opened their hearts and home to an astounding 14 children.  I really admire people like this.  It goes to show you that just like straight people, some gay people don’t make good parenting decisions, but plenty of others are truly amazing parents!

The Ham Family

The Ham Family