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More Single, Straight Men and Gay Men Becoming Fathers by Choice
by Leigh Ann Woodruff, July 12, 2012
In the not-too-distant past, for gay men or single straight men who just hadn't found the right partner, the idea of being a parent was often a dream they had to give up. That's just no longer true with the advances science has made and the growing awareness among the population about the ways that advanced reproductive technology can help men build families.
In "The Gift of Being Gay and a Dad," a blog in the New York Times, Marcus Mabry, a gay male in his mid-40s, writes:
It was the thing that broke my heart: the feeling that by coming out, I was giving up the one thing I had always wanted since I was a kid – more than any profession or any pursuit – being a dad ...
Then came the revolution. Scientific advances outraced laws (and conservatives’ imaginations), and surrogacy provided a route to parenthood that was unthinkable when my generation of gay men was picturing our futures.
More Men Using Surrogacy and Egg Donation
With in vitro fertilization, the ability to take a donor egg, fertilize it with the man's sperm and transfer it into a gestational surrogate with the hopes for implantation and pregnancy opened up a whole new world for men to have their own biological children without needing a sexual relationship with a female partner. According to The Williams Institute, a national think tank on sexual orientation, gender identity law and public policy at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Law, there were more than 1 million never-married gay and straight men raising children in 2010.
"In the last 15 years, I've done over 2,000 surrogate cycles, and over 1,500 egg donor cycles," says David B. Smotrich, M.D., FACOG, founder and medical director of LaJolla IVF in California, began helping gay male couples with gestational surrogacy and egg donation around 14 years ago. "Today I would say that about 25 to 30 percent of the couples that use surrogacy in my practice are gay males."
The Fertility SOURCE Companies, one of the largest egg donor and surrogacy agencies in the United States has also seen increased interest from men. "On the egg donation side, I would say we have seen an increase in same sex men couples, regardless if they are single or married," says Donna Raidy, Director of Case Management for The Donor SOURCE egg donation program. The same has held true for The Surrogacy SOURCE surrogacy program.
And now, single straight men also appear to be taking notice of the reproductive options available to them. “Twenty years ago it was most common for me to help traditional married couples who needed help having children,” says Michael Doyle, M.D., founder of CT Fertility. “Then over the years I began seeing more and more single women who chose parenthood through sperm donation, rather then hope and wait for Mr. Right. Now in the past ten years I am seeing more and more single men – and increasingly more of them are straight – who are following that same course.”
While the mechanics of egg donation and surrogacy are the same for male/female couples and male/male couples or single males, there are often differences in the choices made. "Heterosexual couples frequently use egg donors that are anonymous," Dr. Smotrich says. "The gay couples generally like to meet the egg donors and have a relationship with them. I think that they want to make sure that they feel 100 percent comfortable with the women they are working with and choosing to help them on their journey to becoming a family.
According to Dr. Doyle, gay male couples often want twins — with embryos created from donor eggs and both of their sperm — so that they will have children biologically related to both of them. "Often they want twins, or if they don't get twins, they want to have enough embrhyos from each dad, so even if they get a single pregnancy the first time, they can go back into the frozen embryos of the seond dad," he explains.
Single men, however, may be more conservative. “Some single dads approach their treatments more conservatively than couples,” says Dr. Doyle, “and often the desire to avoid a twin pregnancy may lead them to choose single embryo transfer, which can sometimess prolong the process.”
Mike Tafet from New York — a single man who turned 40 and decided on surrogacy after hearing about a gay acquaintance who started his family this way — determined that twins would be too much for him to handle. He also put a lot of thought into the selection of the egg donor and used CT Fertility’s unique “known donor” option.
“I wasn't looking for a model but someone who was somewhat attractive, and was happy that I was allowed to meet the candidates," Taflet says. "When I met the first one for lunch, it was initially a bit awkward for the both of us, but we ended up having a good conversation and I found her to be a very nice and sweet person which helped me decide to choose her.” Today he has an adorable baby boy.
The Team Approach
Unlike women, who can simply obtain donor sperm from a sperm bank since they have most of the biology to have a baby, men have to take the team approach to building a family.
"The gay male population or the single male population does not have all the hardware that you need," Dr. Smotrich says. "It takes a village or a team of people to help a male male couple get through this. They need an attorney. It takes a psychologist to evaluate the donor and make sure she's appropriate to go forward, it takes a psychologist to evaluate the surrogate and make sure she's appropriate to go forward. Counseling for the male male couple. They need all the medical things done. They have to make sure they have all the insurance and different things. This has to be a very long and drawn out and thoughtful process. This is not something done on a whim."
While the process is not always easy, it is one that is well worth the effort. "Everyone deserves to have a family if they so desire," Raidy says. "It is heartwarming to see single parents and same sex couples see that this opportunity is available to them and their belief that they too can have a family."