Thursday, September 06, 2007

Gay Dads Meet Kindred Spirits

By Stephanie M. Caballero
By Lornet Turnbull
Seattle Times staff reporter

Some men rocked and cradled young babies; others pushed gleeful toddlers high on the playground swings.

Among them were fathers still getting used to maladies like colic and diaper rash and others gearing up for back to school.

And all of them were gay -- dads of children ages 3 months to 10 years, who gathered for a picnic at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill on Sunday to share stories of child rearing and offer each other support.

They included new dads such as Peter de Zoete and Frans Middendorff, originally from the Netherlands, who, hoping for twins, began making arrangements two years ago to have children through surrogacy -- and who, four months ago, brought home a baby boy and girl.

And Reade Cook and Kris Winkler, who arranged through private adoption to become parents to Markus, born in New York 18 months ago.

The fathers are members of Feather Boa Fathers, a support group for gay men who either already have children or are thinking about doing so, whether through adoption, foster parenting or some form of surrogacy.

It's a way, they say, for their children to get to know others growing up in families like their own.

Larry Nicholas, a psychotherapist from Capitol Hill who formed the idea for the group eight months ago, before his 4-month-old daughter, Orly, was born, said, "There's room in the Puget Sound for groups like this -- and there's a need."

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 19 percent of same-sex male couples in Washington -- about 1,423 couples -- are raising children younger than 18.

Nicholas arranged the group's first get-together through meetup.com, an online community that helps people with shared interests plan events and form online clubs.

About 53 people -- gay men and their children -- attended Sunday's picnic in the children's section of the park. Some laid blankets on the lawn and watched as their children romped about. Others stood by as their kids explored the jungle gym.

Nicholas, 41, said he and his partner, Tom Underhill, began talking about having children on their second date.

"We have different clocks," he said, joking he didn't want to be raising children later in life.

The men were at the hospital when his daughter was born four months ago -- in the next room behind a curtain, he said.

"Fatherhood has been great," he said, adding, "We have a great support system."

Cook, 36, and Winkler, 45, have been partners for 10 years and about two years ago began adding children to their family.

Cook said the couple have a regular cohort of close friends -- also gay fathers -- in whom they find support, sharing baby-sitting duties and swapping tips.

Middendorff, 30, and de Zoete, 40, had been discussing having children for 10 years. But while they could marry in their native Netherlands, laws there prohibit surrogacy, in which a woman agrees to carry and bear a child that others would raise.

The men, partners for 14 years, were living in Hong Kong in 2005 when they first began making plans to have children through surrogacy. Twins Coco and her brother Jonas were born in Ohio in March.

"We were shocked at how many gay families we've met in the few months we've been in Seattle. Today, this is amazing," Middendorff said.

Added de Zoete, "It's good for kids to see other families with gay dads."

2 comments:

Joshua Kreais said...

I know this article is a little dated, but my partner and I are hoping to use surrogacy to have a child(ren) added to our family. We've been together since Summer of '06 and we went to Canada to get married July '08. We have a 6 month old puppy named Ollie and we'd like our family to be just a bit bigger!

We know it's possible, but we're kind of at a lost as to what the first step is. We were hoping we could get some advice to get this ball rolling.

Thanks!
Joshua Kreais

Stephanie Caballero said...

Joshua,

You didn't leave an email or any contact information so please contact my office so I can talk to you about your next steps in surrogacy. It's very exciting to be at the point where you can take that next step, but it can seem daunting too.

Thank you.

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