“Daddy, I know how to spell boo.”
“That’s close, but not quite. Try again.”
“Daddy, I’m right. Boo is B-I-I.”
“No, Honey. Boo is spelled B-O-O.”
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Read my Biik.
“Daddy, I know how to spell boo.”
“That’s close, but not quite. Try again.”
“Daddy, I’m right. Boo is B-I-I.”
“No, Honey. Boo is spelled B-O-O.”
* * * * *
Read my Biik.
There’s been a lot of negative press about surrogacy lately, and it makes me really sad, because, as I say here all the time, surrogacy changed my life, and everyone involved in our case feels like they gained something wonderful out of the process. I also say all the time that surrogacy is not for everyone, and there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there engaged in the practice. So if you’re considering surrogacy, either as a potential surrogate or intended parent, you really need to educate yourself to make sure you’re doing it the safest and most ethical way possible.
The upcoming Families Through Surrogacy conference in Alexandria, Virginia on September 13, 2014 promises to be a great resource on the topic. They’ve lined up some fantastic speakers for the event, including me! This is the same group that organized the San Francisco conference I appeared in back in March, and they will answer any questions you have, whether you’re gay or straight and whether you’re considering domestic or international surrogacy options. (I’m heavily biased toward domestic and will be happy to share why, but there will also be people who’ve gone the international route on hand to share their experiences.)
Sorry about the lack of posts lately. I hope you’re all enjoying your summer as much as I am. If you’re a parent anywhere in the NY Metro area, as I am, you’ve probably flipped through a copy of NY Metro Parents in one of its many incarnations. (I pick up Westchester Parents at my kids’ summer camp… or their gymnastics class… or their art class… or….) Well, be sure to check out this month’s issue, specifically page 12. That’s me! I’m very flattered to have been able to contribute the August 2014 Voices column.
Those of you outside the area can read my post on their website. I’m really proud of this one. It’s about trying to raise a daughter to be an awesome, self-assured woman without a mom in the family… and the gay dad guilt that sometimes goes with it.
And if that’s not enough for you, maybe it’s time to order my book! (Hint, hint!) That’s enough reading to carry you through Labor Day!
Are you gay? If so, congratulations. It’s a good time to be you. Any poll will tell you that the public is on your side. The Supreme Court is (mostly) looking out for you. Even the Pope thinks you’re pretty cool. Sure, there are still a few crusty old curmudgeons who think you’re causing tsunamis and corrupting children, but they’re quickly dying off and leaving behind more tolerant offspring in their wake. See? Even the Circle of Life is gay-friendly.
As for you straight people, or even the straight-curious, you might find this all a bit overwhelming, and understandably so. None of us were expecting the world to change this fast. Seriously, gay marriage in Utah? Who saw that coming?
Fear not. As a species, we must adapt to survive, but if we all keep a few things in mind, we can handle our new, post-homophobic reality. Herewith, I offer the New Rules of Gay:
“Gay” is a good word. “Fag” is bad.
If you’re one of those people who’s still saying, “That’s so gay!” when you think something is stupid or lame, it’s time to stop. Not so much because it’s offensive as because people are increasingly likely to misunderstand you completely. Gay is good now. When you say, “Those pants are so gay!”, people are going to think, “Oh, gay? Like Neil Patrick Harris? Cool! He must really like those pants! Maybe I’ll buy him a pair for his birthday.”
“Fag” is only going to get more offensive, though, because we gays need our N-word. We’ve all been called “faggot,” and it still stings, so now that we have a teeny bit of power, we’re out for blood. Don’t learn this the hard way, like Isaiah Washington did. GLAAD will so cut you.
Homosexuality is G-rated. No need to hide it from kids.
When you were growing up, you might’ve had a “funny Uncle Tom,” or maybe your parents would sometimes mention, in a hushed tone, “Aunt Jane’s special friend.” That’s if your parents would let you around Uncle Tom or Aunt Jane at all.
Well, Aunt Jane’s special friend has a name, and it’s Aunt Sharon, thank you very much. They’re married, and unless you’re a bigot, you were at their wedding and your three year old daughter was spreading rose petals across the aisle for them. That’s how we roll these days.
We don’t shove people in a closet any more for the sake of children. Instead, we let the kids share fully in the joy of knowing that Uncle Tom isn’t going to die alone.
Treating gay people like they’re R or X-rated only reinforces the notion that there’s something shameful or secretive about being gay. If your kid sees two people of the same sex kissing, be honest, and say things like, “Those ladies are married” or “Those two dudes are each other’s husbands.” Of course, the most important word to use is “love.” What could be more G-rated than that?
Don’t worry, ‘phobes. You don’t have to equate being honest with conveying approval. Once you’ve told your kids the facts, you’re free to interject whatever religious or personal discomfort you may have with those facts, or just to pout discontentedly.
The old jokes don’t work anymore.
You know that caricature of the catty gay guy squealing for Streisand and shuddering at anything even remotely masculine? You’ve seen him in a million movies and TV shows, although they don’t always come right out and say he’s gay, because characters like that aren’t usually allowed by Hollywood to have a love life. The whole concept of guys like that is stereotypical, it’s outdated, it’s ludicrous, and you know what…?
I don’t hate it.
Honestly, there’s some truth to it. There’s a great moment in the documentary “The Celluloid Closet” where a bunch of film historians are discussing the stock Hollywood character commonly referred to as “the sissy”, and Harvey Fierstein guiltily admits, “I liked the sissy!” When he was a kid, he related to that character, and it made him happy to see himself reflected on screen.
So yes, there are guys like that, and they’re awesome. In fact, the reason that caricature began is that, not too many years ago, those were the most visible LGBTQ people, the bravest ones most willing to be themselves, in spite of society’s prejudices. I love those guys, and we all owe them a lot for making the world a better place for all of us. (The same goes for that old stereotype of the butch, no-nonsense lesbian. It’s hardly a complete representation of gay women, but there are ladies like that, and they are 100% awesome.)
That being said, these days, queeny gay guys and butch lesbians are just one part of a very diverse community, and most people know lots of gays and lesbians who don’t fit some convenient mold. So if you rely on easy jokes we’ve all heard before, don’t expect to get the same laughs you used to.
This means anyone creating gay characters has to try a lot harder and flesh them out into full, three-dimensional people. They can still like Streisand, but there had better be more to them than that… and if they don’t have a love interest, they should at least have an interest in finding one. Everybody I know does.
Don’t assume everyone is straight.
It’s hard enough coming out of the closet. Please don’t ask me the second you meet me if I have a wife or if I think Megan Fox is hot. Until you know someone well, be careful to be gender-inclusive. Instead of “Do you have a girlfriend?”, ask “Are you dating anyone?” Thankfully, with gay marriage, this is easier than ever, because even “Are you married?” is a gender-neutral question these days.
Yes, most people you meet will be straight, but no one’s gaydar is 100%, so instead of making assumptions, let people tell you who they are. Most people are happy to do so.
By the same token, don’t get offended if someone dances around your sexuality until they know you better. You don’t have to panic that you’re giving off a gay vibe, and you don’t have to pretend like you don’t know what they’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with responding directly, “Just so you know, I’m straight,” then having a good laugh about it. At that point, you’re free to dance around their sexuality and have even more fun.
It’s still rude to ask people their orientation.
This may seem contradictory. On the one hand, we’ve gotten to the point where a person’s sexual orientation is practically irrelevant, unless you happen to be sexually interested in them. On the other hand, it can still be an awkward subject to raise.
When you ask someone straight out if they’re gay, you’re assuming they’ve figured it out and are comfortable with it. Bias still exists, gay bashers still exist and, sadly, shame still exists, so for that reason, the closet will continue to exist. If you want to know if someone is playing for the same team as you, you’re going to have to wait for them to offer up the information, or at least provide you with some very distinct clues.
You can also check their Facebook, because anything someone posts there is fair game to ask them about, and sometimes you’ll find they’re a lot more of an open book than you thought.
When someone tells you their sexuality, take them at their word.
You know that famous man who’s married to a woman but no one can refer to their marriage without rolling their eyes? Or the friend of yours who you’re convinced would be much happier if they’d just start dating within their own gender? Sure, those people might be gay. As long as there’s a societal cost to being gay, there will be people who aren’t willing to pay it. There will also be others who, bless their hearts, are just hopelessly confused. But you can’t shame people into coming out of the closet, not when shame is what drove them in in the first place.
Mocking and rumor-mongering, fun though they may be, don’t do any favors to people who are surely suffering through their own private Hell. When someone tells you they’re straight, just play along. The best you can do for anyone is to try to make the world a safer place for people to be themselves. Then, just step back.
Besides, if they say they’re straight, there’s a good chance they actually are. Most people are straight, after all, and some straight guys are actually cool enough to realize how awesome showtunes are.
Of course, this only goes for people who are at least claiming to be gay-friendly. An A-list actor who did drag in a movie musical isn’t hurting us, so let’s leave him alone. On the other hand, if you spot Ralph Reed or Tony Perkins in a gay bar stuffing singles in some hunk’s Speedo, then call every tabloid in town. It’s always OK to out people for being hypocrites.
The closet isn’t for gays anymore. It’s for homophobes.
I went to a pretty diverse and fairly progressive high school, but I have a distinct memory of a fellow white kid using the “N-word” one day in the locker room. It just so happened there were no African-American students within earshot at that moment, so he felt comfortable assuming we were all as racist as he was. He was a little surprised when someone called him on it.
Multiply that by a thousand, and that’s about how many times I heard the “F-word” casually thrown around that way in high school. No one realized there was a gay kid in the room, and unlike with the racist kid, no one told him it was uncool to talk that way.
People’s sexuality isn’t as easy to spot as their race, so for a long time homophobes had free reign to gay-bash in virtually any crowd. Not anymore. Straight allies are coming out of the woodwork to shut down the haters, and more importantly, gay people are standing up for themselves, too.
LGBTQ people are done living in fear of being themselves. Now it’s homophobes who live in fear of exposing their hatred in the wrong crowd. If you hate gays, keep it to yourself, because you’re not going to get a lot of fist bumps anymore. You’re going to be confronted by a lot of out and proud gay people who aren’t afraid of you anymore, as well as a lot of straight allies who think you’re a major asshat.
We know you used to be a homophobe, but we forgive you.
I like to imagine that the racist kid from my high school is married to an African-American woman these days. Or maybe an African-American man. Times change, and so do people. Rarely has this change been as swift or as dramatic as on the issue of homosexuality. It was just a couple of years ago that a majority of Americans opposed same-sex marriage, and now, I can’t even name a state where it’s illegal because by the time this piece goes live, it might be outdated.
Sure, there’s still a part of me that remembers every homophobic thing anyone has ever said in my presence, but what matters more is that most of the people who said those things eventually woke the fuck up. Like Barack Obama, they evolved. And like Barack Obama, their evolution influenced other people to do the same.
We haven’t come this far by holding grudges against people who used to be homophobic. And if that’s you, you’re in luck. It doesn’t matter to anyone what you thought about gay people in 1989.
If you still think that way in 2014, on the other hand, then wake the fuck up. It’s time.
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Want to debate any of these points or suggest one of your own? Join the conversation in the comment section below, or better yet, share this post on your social networks using the buttons down there.
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If you like this post, I hope you’ll share it on your social networks. And if you super-like it, then I bet you’ll like my book, too. What book? This one!
My brand-new memoir “Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad” tells all about my hilarious, heartwarming path to parenthood. Publishers Weekly called it “uproarious” and “touching”, and all kinds of people have been saying even nicer things about it on Amazon and GoodReads.
Buy the hardcover so people on the bus will know exactly what you’re laughing at, or buy the eBook to keep ‘em guessing. It’s your choice!
The New York Times ran a feature story on surrogacy on today’s front page, and I’m left wondering, as I often do when this topic makes news, what most people are taking away from the story. The article reminds us repeatedly that “commercial surrogacy” (the term for a pregnancy in which a surrogate is compensated, as opposed to “altruistic surrogacy”, in which she is not) is illegal in most of the world. The writer also references some horrifying stories about intended parents abandoning their surrogates and their offspring or contracting multiple surrogates simultaneously with the intention of giving some of the babies produced up for adoption or aborting whichever fetuses don’t meet their exacting standards. They’re mostly unverified anecdotes, the kind of thing that makes most of us who had wonderful experiences with surrogacy shudder and then think, “Hmmm… really?” But I won’t deny that there are some legitimate horror stories out there.
The problem, in my opinion, isn’t surrogacy itself. Everyone in my situation — my husband and me, our egg donor Susie, our surrogate Tiffany and our kids themselves — benefitted from the experience. No one was exploited and no one has any regrets. (This seems like a good spot for the obligatory shameless plug of my book, “Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad”, which tells my story in full.) Stories like mine are pretty common. The other parents I know who’ve grown their families through surrogacy all have similar experiences to relate.
That doesn’t mean we should ignore the potential for things to go wrong. Surrogacy remains largely unregulated, and as such, it’s conducted on kind of an honor system, the only true regulator being the consciences of those engaged in it. The honor system works because most people are honorable. Most college students know that cheating is wrong, and most people have enough respect for life and women’s bodies to treat surrogacy with the care and moral reverence it deserves.
The big difference between a college honor system and the one around surrogacy comes in the stakes. When college students break the honor system, the fallout is minimal. Now and then a cheater gets an A, but that barely cheapens the hard work of the majority who earned their grades legitimately. The stakes with a pregnancy, though, are much higher. No one wants to see even one woman exploited or one baby abandoned.
It’s time for the honor system surrounding surrogacy to end. The U.S. should be proud of the fact that we’re the destination of choice for people seeking surrogates from overseas, and we should lead the rest of the world by example by showing them how surrogacy should be conducted. There needs to be greater regulation of what’s become a big industry, in order to protect the rights and lay out the responsibilities of intended parents, surrogates, clinics and surrogacy agencies alike.
Just a few thoughts…
Surrogates and egg donors need to be fully informed of the medical and psychological risks they’ll be undertaking. Surrogacy isn’t for everyone, and no one should feel like they’ve been coaxed into it against their will. Likewise, all potential surrogates and egg donors should be screened medically and psychologically to make sure that they’re fit for what the procedures entail.
There should be limits placed on embryo transfers. Intended parents should accept that surrogate pregnancies, like any other, carry certain risks. Just because you’re not carrying a baby yourself, you don’t get off easy when it comes to the big ethical issues that pregnancy sometimes raises.
Surrogates and intended parents should have detailed, enforceable contracts. Before they ever enter into an agreement together, surrogates and intended parents should discuss every potential issue that may arise during pregnancy and make sure they would agree on how to handle it. One of the more common horror stories you hear about surrogacy arises when the fetus develops a birth defect and the intended parents want to terminate the pregnancy, but the surrogate doesn’t. In those cases, the surrogate and the parents should never have gone forward together. This is one of the reasons I highly recommend anyone pursuing surrogacy go through a legitimate agency. In my book, I complain a lot about the agency my husband and I used, but one thing they did right was to make sure our surrogate was a good match for us.
There are people arguing that surrogacy should be made illegal, and that breaks my heart, because I owe my family to the process and to all the people who helped us through it. So many wonderful families are created through surrogacy, and so many women have had their lives enriched by becoming surrogates.
We all know there are unethical people out there on every side of this phenomenon — intended parents, clinics, surrogacy agencies and even surrogates themselves. Exploitation does occur, some stories don’t have happy endings, and it’s only a matter of time before a major horror story leaves us all shaking our heads. Let’s not let that happen.
This is an important issue. Let’s keep talking about it, and let’s acknowledge that if surrogacy is kept safe, legal and regulated, there will be a lot more stories like mine, a lot less cause for concern and a lot less fearmongering, legitimate or otherwise.
I was very honored to be asked to contribute to a recent surrogacy conference in Australia, held by the group Families Through Surrogacy, who also invited me to their San Francisco conference back in March. I’ll be speaking again at their upcoming event in Alexandria, Virginia on September 13, 2014, so if that’s in your neighborhood, come on down!
If you don’t live near any of those places, you’re still in luck, because I’m posting a video of my presentation here for you. This is my first attempt at producing a YouTube video, so don’t expect any technical wizardry, but if you’re looking for information on surrogacy or becoming a gay dad or just a glimpse of yours truly yakking away, then this is for you!
I hear from people all the time who say they like the blog, but they don’t know the whole story about my family. So, in honor of Throwback Thursday, I’m reposting the segment the Today Show did on us. Those of you who’ve been reading for a while may have already seen it, but for plenty of new followers, it’ll give you a good introduction to my funny bunch. Warning: Get your Kleenex ready.
Of course, there’s lots more to the story. Funny stuff and stuff you’ll need Kleenex for, too. You can read it all in my book, “Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad,” which you can buy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or pretty much anywhere you like to buy books.
… and if you’re in the Northern suburbs of NYC, you can come see me read from it tonight, June 19, 2014, at Anderson’s Book Shop in Larchmont, NY. If it’s anything like my other readings, it should be a really fun night… and tonight only, you can meet us all. Me, Drew, Sutton, Bennett… plus Susie and Grace, too! You may even get Sutton & Bennett to autograph your book!
If you’ve ever lived in, visited or heard about Los Angeles, surely you know about the traffic. It’s horrible. Unspeakable. Practically unwriteable, but I’ll try anyway. Los Angeles traffic is especially bad on weeknights around 7pm, when everyone finally gets out of work in order to crawl home in their fuel-efficient vehicles on the freeway. The only thing worse than the traffic in Los Angeles is the parking, which is just never good, ever. Oh, God, the parking. I cringe just typing about it.
You know what’s great about LA, though? The people. I know, they sometimes get a bad rap, but I’m here to tell you that they’re solid, through and through. Among the many reasons I love Angelenos is that they’re willing to brave the traffic and the parking to support a friend.
My reading last Monday night was, simply put, one of the best nights of my life.
It started when I saw this behind the store:
And then there was this, from the store’s flyer for June:
My friend Jessica complimented me on managing to look crazier than John Waters. Oh yes, I’m talking about the Jessica who you may have read about in “Mommy Man“. THE ONE WHO TALKS LIKE THIS! She was there, and so were some of the other very special people I wrote about in the book.
If you don’t know Book Soup, let me tell you a little about it. It’s an old school bookstore, full of books that rise up from the floor and stretch to the ceiling, everywhere you turn. It’s the kind of store where you might sometimes have trouble finding just what you’re looking for, but you’ll always enjoy the search, and along the way, you’ll find a dozen things you didn’t even know you wanted that look just as great. It’s a browser’s bookstore, and it’s in probably the best spot in West Hollywood, right on Sunset Boulevard, very close to where many of your favorite celebrities have been arrested.
They have fantastic taste in books, and even better taste in the events they choose to host, as you can see from at least 2/3 of the flyer above.
I first heard about Book Soup in the mid-90s when I arrived in LA as a starry-eyed kid. I was interning for Scott Rudin, and it seems like almost every day, someone would yell at me to go to Book Soup and pick up a book. I only dreamed that someday, some starry-eyed kid might get yelled at to go there and buy my book.
I just hope that kid didn’t show up last Tuesday, because then, BOOK SOUP WAS SOLD OUT OF “MOMMY MAN.”
There were about ten folding chairs set up when I arrived, and they filled up well before the 7pm starting time. People spilled out into every corner and crevice of a very crevice-y store. Close friends. People I hadn’t seen in years. People I’d never met before. So many people showed up, it was almost 7:20 before I finally began to read. Drew was so astonished, he made a list of everyone who showed, and he counted almost a hundred people.
They bought up every copy of my book and waited ridiculous amounts of time to get me to sign it. Those who couldn’t wait got the next best thing: autographs from my kids.
Yes, after a lot of debate, Drew and I decided to bring the kids, mostly because they really, really wanted to come. They’ve been to Drew’s office many times. It was nice to get a chance to show them what this Daddy does, when he’s not shuttling them back and forth to gymnastics class, at least. And it was one heck of an introduction for them. As you can imagine, they were treated like quite the little celebrities.
They had a great time. They sat in the front row, smiling the whole time, and they were delightfully obsessed over by everyone in attendance. (Thankfully, the reading itself, which I slightly censored in their presence, went well over their heads.)
To say the crowd was supportive would be an understatement. They laughed in all the right places and none of the wrong places. They asked great questions and made me feel like Garrison Keillor for a night. (I hesitate to add this, but — aw, screw humility — the store staff told me my turnout was actually even better than Keillor’s.)
One of my big regrets of the evening is that I didn’t get a picture of Jessica, who seems to be many people’s favorite “character” in the book, but I offer you this instead. It’s Karyn, the amazing nurse I wrote about in the book. She gave us the tear-jerkingly sweet card on page 268, which I reprinted verbatim, so in a way you could say she was my co-writer. (Her real name, which I don’t think she’d mind me sharing, is Katye, and if you ever have a baby, you’d be very lucky to land Katye as your nurse.)
Katye freed up her busy work schedule and drove up to LA from Orange County (which at that time of day takes roughly 100 hours) with some of the other nurses from the hospital where the kids were born. It was truly special to get to see her again and have her reunited with my kids. I was so happy they got to meet her, because she was such a special part of our story and a big chunk of the reason I was in Book Soup in the first place.
There were plenty of gay dads in attendance, including ones Drew and I knew before we became dads (like Jon and Harvey, who proved to us you can get away with having your kids call you both “Dad”) and ones who became dads after us, including Todd and Chris, who brought their gorgeous four-month-old daughter with them in a Baby Bjorn. One guest told me he and his husband were just starting their surrogacy journey, and he asked me to sign his book for their future surrogate.
Afterward, those who could stay came out to a bar across the street, which was the perfect way for me to hang onto this magical experience into the night.
If you’re in New York, I have good news for you. We’re doing it all again — tonight! That’s right, Monday, June 16, 2014 at 7pm at the Barnes and Noble on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (2289 Broadway, at 82nd Street). You can expect even more special guests this time, including Susie herself and my friend Greg, who will be very grateful that I’m not reading the sections about him. Plus Drew, of course. Come for the reading, then hang out with us afterward at a nearby location that serves alcohol (TBD).
For those of you in Westchester County, NY, you’ll get your chance on Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 6:30pm at Anderson’s Book Shop in Larchmont, NY.
If you’re in New York, please come. If you know people in New York, please spread the word. (Don’t tell the bookstores I said this, but I hope you’ll show up even if you’re not planning to buy a copy of the book. Still, I’ll do my best to convince you.)
And if you’re reading this from one of those bookstores, prepare yourself for a big night, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned since moving to New York, it’s that the people here are pretty incredible, too.
Last Monday’s reading was one of those highly infrequent moments as a writer when it all feels worthwhile, where you can see your words in action and interact with the people who are taking them in. One of the many good friends who was there that night was my old buddy Nick. He was the last one left at the end of the night as the bar was closing down, and he also happens to be one of the best writers I know. If there’s ever something I’m trying to say with my writing, I can bet Nick has said it better somewhere himself. So I’m going to let him say this for me, too. This morning, he tweeted this picture with the caption, “Sometimes, rarely, writing feels like this.”
For me, last Monday was one of those nights.
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Can’t make it to my NY readings? Well, here’s the next best thing. Order a copy of my book, scribble “Bennett, Age 4″ in the front and create your own good time by reading it out loud at home. Don’t take my word for it. A complete stranger on GoodReads wrote, “I loved this book. It was really fabulous, incredibly funny in some places, incredibly heart-warming in other places… I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good laugh and enjoys a great, quick read.” So take her word for it, and pick up your own copy in hardcover or e-version!