B.J. Holt always wanted to be a dad. As he approached 40, with no life partner in sight, he felt a version of the ticking biological clock.
“The ‘having the children thing’ started to overwhelm the desire to have the relationship first,” Holt says. “They sort of switched on me.”
So Holt decided to go it alone. A few years ago, he used an egg donor and a surrogate to create a family of his own.
First came Christina, now 4, a strawberry-blond bundle of energy who loves to stage ballet performances in the living room of their New York City apartment.
Little brother Payson is 2, and dissolves into giggles when daddy swings him up to his shoulder for a bounce.
When Holt decided to have kids, he didn’t know any other single dad by choice. But family and friends were ecstatic and supportive.
As for strangers, Holt has gotten used to their assumptions about his family. He laughs as he recalls driving through a toll booth on a recent weekend.
If a guy gets called because his kid is sick and he has to leave, it’s like, ‘Where’s your wife?’
- Brian Tessier, founder of a hotline for prospective single fathers
“There I was, in the car with my two kids in the backseat,” he says, “and I was fumbling for the money. And [the woman in the tollbooth] said, ‘Take your time, take your time. Daddy’s without the mom today!’ ” Holt says he just smiled and drove on.
Holt is gay. Steve Majors, communications director for the same-sex advocacy group Family Equality Council, says many young gay men once believed living openly gay meant not having children.
“Either you were in a heterosexual relationship and having children, or you were gay,” Majors says. “You couldn’t have both.”
But with the rise of same-sex marriage, gay men have pioneered the use of reproductive technology to have children. Majors says single gay men now email him or show up at parenting seminars, wanting to learn more about starting a family.
At the same time, gender roles for straight men are evolving. With more stay-at-home dads, and fathers generally spending more time caring for kids, advocates say men are realizing they don’t necessarily need a wife to be a parent.
Brian Tessier recently started 411-4-DAD, a hotline for prospective single fathers. “I think we probably right now are up to about 30 calls a month,” he says.
Tessier adopted two boys through foster care. He’s gay, but he says half the calls he gets are from straight men. Many believe they can’t legally adopt on their own, he says.
Tessier assures them that’s not true, though they may well face stigma and suspicion.
“I think that it’s a bias on the part of the agencies and the system itself that questions men’s ability and their intentions of why they would want to be a single father,” he says.
Tessier also sees lingering sexism in the workplace.
“If a mom is in a meeting and all of a sudden she gets called because her kid is sick, nobody raises an eyebrow,” he says. “But if a guy gets called because his kid is sick and he has to leave, it’s kind of like, ‘Where’s your wife?’ “
‘I Will Always Be There To Love Them’
The Williams Institute, a think-tank on same-sex issues at the University of California, Los Angeles, finds there were more than one million never-married men — both gay and straight — raising children in 2010.
Gary Gates, a demographer with the institute, says that’s three times more than two decades ago. The census doesn’t ask how many of those men are raising children alone versus with an unmarried partner, or if they are single fathers by choice, but adoption and surrogacy agencies say they are seeing more such dads — and not just in the U.S.
Avi Brecher, an Israeli, has traveled the globe to create a family. Speaking one evening via Skype, he was holding 3-month-old Ariel, born this spring to a surrogate in Minnesota. Daniel, 6, adopted from Guatemala, was at his side.
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Surrogate Charity Lovas has given birth to eight children; three of them are her own.
Brecher says his dream from his mid-20s was “to have a family with three children and a dog.” He was married briefly, but it didn’t work out. He’d still love to find a wife, he says, but as a pediatrician, he’s confident he can raise his kids well on his own.
Still, he makes sure the children spend time with women, including his mother and a nurse who baby-sits them.
“If it’s female friends of mine,” Brecher says, “I let them hold Ariel so she can feel the touch of a female, which I believe is different from a male.”
Back in New York, B.J. Holt keeps a photo of a smiling, pregnant woman on a table right by the front door. She’s the surrogate who carried both of his kids. He calls her their “special friend,” and she has already visited twice. Holt says he knows his kids will eventually have questions about their family.
“Even though I’m going to have a struggle of getting them to understand why we don’t have a mommy in our picture, they will always know that I’m there to care for them,” he says. “I will always be there to love them. And that’s all that ultimately matters.”
Why Is It Easier For White Gay Celebrities To Come Out Of The Closet Than Black Gay & Lesbian Stars?
Entertainment Weekly’s new issue this week is about celebrities coming out of the closet. The pop culture magazine examines the changing attitudes society has about gay and lesbian stars coming out of the closet. Is this really progress? A quick glance at the cover of Entertainment Weekly and the majority of gay stars on the cover are white gay males. Only two lesbians are on the cover Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch. The only non white person on the cover of this week’s Entertainment Weekly is comedian Wanda Sykes.
Fifteen years ago, when Ellen Degeneres came out she was on the cover of Time Magazine. It is true that North American culture is more accepting of celebrities coming out but only if they are white. Now Ellen Degeneres has a hit talk show and has made millions of dollars after coming out. Can anyone imagine an A list black gay or lesbian celebrity come out of the closet and actually acquire more fame just like Degeneres after coming out?
Degeneres received support from the mainstream white heterosexual and gay media after she decided to come out in 1997. Degeneres white skin privilege allowed her to navigate the terrain of coming out as a lesbian. Degeneres whiteness was her bargining chip to minimize the collateral damage of coming out.
Since the white image is still viewed as natural in society, Degeneres whiteness made it easier for her to declare she is a lesbian. Degeneres didn’t have to deal with any racial issues when she came out of the closet. Since whiteness is still constructed out of dominance in North America, Degeneres being gay wasn’t seen as a threat to mainstream white American society.
The paucity of black gay and lesbian stars coming out is because being gay in North American generally means being white not black.
The television shows such as Modern Family, Will & Grace, movies such as Brokeback Mountain and The Kids Are All Right all have the same white image about homosexuality. Entertainment Weekly’s cover about coming out reinforces the white gay image.
Hollywood just like mainstream society is still racially stratified. Heterosexual black actors complain about not obtaining decent film roles like their white counterparts. The entertainment industry does not have a level playing field for people of colour. Black gay actors probably fear coming out will destroy their careers.
It is easier for a white gay celebrity to come out than a black gay and lesbian star. There is a paucity of African American stars coming out of the closet.
Although the mainstream media promotes coming out as a magical, wonderful, moment in a gay person’s life this is not always the case.
In the black community, black gay stars fear criticism by the black media and their fans if they come out.
The black media also has a propensity to ignore queer black stars for a number of reasons. There is an attitude in the black community that homosexuality is a white issue and not a concern to blacks. There is also a don’t ask don’t tell attitude in the black community about homosexuality. Of course, black people already are cognizant Wanda Sykes is a lesbian but homosexuality is considered a private matter. Homosexuality is still a taboo topic to discuss in the African Diaspora.
Sykes was courageous in coming out because she is one of the few black celebrities to declare she is a lesbian. However, the mainstream white culture reinforces the subliminal message is gay people are generally white not black, Asian, Native American, or Hispanic. Of course, there are people of colour who are gay the question is why are most lesbian and gay stars of colour still in the closet?
Gay people of colour are marginalized not just because they are gay but also due to race and identity politics. Last year, the only high profile black celebrity to come out of the closet was CNN journalist Don Lemon. However, most black people yawned and didn’t care that Lemon came out because he’s not a real star he’s a journalist.
The black media only briefly mentioned Don Lemon’s decision to come out but he was generally ignored. The real big black gay and lesbian celebrities are unwilling to come out because they have already built their brand and audiences. If or when a higher profile black queer star comes out of the closet then the black press will pay attention.
There is a reason Queen Latifah, Tyler Perry, Tracy Chapman, Missy Elliott and the rest of the high profile black gay and lesbian stars are not out. Tracy Chapman is a multi platinum and Grammy award winning artist she chooses to not announce she is a lesbian because she believes it is a private matter. Chapman probably wants the general public to focus on her music and not on her sexual orientation.
Queen Latifah has high profile endorsements with Cover Girl cosmetics, Tyler Perry has a huge following in the African American Christian community, and Missy Elliott is a well respected rapper. Tyler Perry’s new movie Madea Witness Protection comes out this week Friday. Perry’s core audience are black Christians he can’t just come out of the closet and declare he is a gay black man. Perry is fearful if he does come out he will lose the audience he has worked so hard to reach.
For an A list black star to come out as gay and lesbian is still considered a form of career suicide. After coming out of the closet who will support the openly gay or lesbian black star?
One of the dilemmas some queers of colour experience is the struggle between coming out of the closet and losing respect from their race and cultural community. It might be difficult for a person that is not of colour to truly understand this point. We live in a white centered world despite the progress of the civil rights, feminist, and gay movements. The mainstream white culture is the dominant culture, but for people of colour there is a private sphere beyond the public realm.
Another issue that tends to be ignored is the fact that the gay media in North America is controlled by white people. Remember four years ago the controversy over proposition 8 in the state of California? Dan Savage the white gay activist blamed the black community for voting in favour of banning gay marriage. Even though, blacks account for about 4% of California’s total population.
Dan Savage’s racism and anger towards blacks underscored the racial tension and friction between white gays and blacks. Savage was condemned by black gay activists for his anti black racism.
On this blog, I have discussed numerous times the issue of racism within the gay and lesbian community. In North America there are even separate gay pride events for blacks and whites. In major American cities such as Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York City, black gay pride is popular among black gays and lesbians. The reason African Americans decided to create black gay pride is due to the fact blacks wanted to claim their own space. Black gays and lesbians were aware that the mainstream gay community did not provide a safe space for them.
Across North American the lesbian communities have created their own Dyke March because they are cognizant of the sexism of gay men. Lesbians realized they needed their own space separate from male homosexuals to celebrate being lesbian.
Some black gay stars are reticent to come out to the gay media because they don’t trust the mainstream white gay media.
Some black gay stars don’t see any benefit in coming out. The mainstream white gay publications Out Magazine, Instinct, and Advocate, are geared towards a white queer audience. The white gay media’s attention is focused on white queer culture not black queer culture.
More must be done in the mainstream society and queer communities so that real progress can take place and that black gay stars can come out and be successful.