Double Dads: Gay dads in NYC mark Father's Day
Every day is Father's Day for gay men who have fought for the right to raise children.
About 8,100 of the same-sex couples in New York City raising children are gay men, according to the Williams Institute, a UCLA Law School think tank that specializes in LGBT issues.
NYC's gay dads differ from those nationally, said Gary J. Gates, a distinguished scholar at Williams and expert on the LGBT community. In socially conservative areas, men come out later in life and are more likely to be raising kids created during prior relationships with women. In urban areas such as New York City, though, “social acceptance is likely associated with higher proportions of LGBT parents having adopted children or deciding to have children using assisted reproductive technologies,” Gates said.
Here are some of the city’s double-dad families:
Chris Boudewyns and Carl Byrd and Harper, 3, the Financial District
Gay dads “don't have children by accident," said Boudewyns, 46. "We put a lot of thought into becoming parents. It's very deliberate parenting. I taught school for 20 years,” but he and his husband, Carl Byrd, 47, who owns and runs an eponymous advertising agency, "made a plan that I would quit to stay home," for Harper before she was born. Harper's birth mom, who had a gay step brother, preferred that a gay couple adopt her baby.
All parents want "healthy, happy, thriving children," but gay parents, especially, are "highly aware of diversity and issues of fairness and social awareness," and try to teach their children to be similarly sensitive, explained Boudewyns, who is also a photographer.
Harper has an intense schedule of soccer games, gymnastics, music and art classes and pretend play involving Rapunzel and princesses.
Gabriel Blau and Dylan Stein and Elijah, 5, Washington Heights
"Gay men are really attractive as adoptive parents," to some birth moms, observed Gabriel Blau, 33, who privately adopted Elijah, 5, with his husband, acupuncturist Dylan Stein, 33 after attending Elijah's birth in Illinois to a woman they met via networking. That's because some birth moms harbor the stereotype that all gay men are "wealthy, well educated, clean, neat and upstanding citizens. We're not wealthy, but we are all those other things," said Blau.
Blau is a deputy director at the Family Equality Council, an organization the supports the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act” — legislation eliminating laws and policies that permit the discrimination of potential foster and adoptive parents by marital status, gender identity or sexual orientation. Of the 400,000 kids in foster care in the U.S., ”more than 100,000 of them are eligible for adoption" - a number that would be lower higher?RL if discrimination were made illegal everywhere, said Blau.
The dads encourage all the myriad interests of their dinosaur-obsessed son, who is provisionally planning a triple career as a paleontologist, midwife and aquarium worker.
"We just want (Elijah) to be happy with himself, to find value in community and to be a part of the world around him," said Blau.
Dr. Estevan Garcia and William Sherr and Jared, 12, Miles, 10 and Bette, 4, Windsor Terrace
Dr. Estevan Garcia, 44, a pediatrician and hospital administrator and his husband, William Sherr, 40, a former kindergarten teacher who is now a stay-at-home dad, have fostered more than 20 children since they became a couple 13 years ago. Undergoing both a holy and civil union in 2001 before marrying in Canada in 2002, they brought Jared, 12, Miles, 10, and Bette, 4, into their family via foster care and private adoptions.
The couple wanted "to give a home to those who need a home," explained Sherr, who nurtures Bette's interest in gymnastics, Jared's football career and Miles interest in computers and drama while running outbabynyc.com.
It would help gay parents if the federal government recognized same sex marriage as does New York state, Garcia said. When Garcia changed jobs, "I didn't qualify to be covered under his COBRA benefits because it's a federal benefit," Sherr recalled. Nor can they file their federal taxes jointly. "We pay more in taxes," as a result. ”That's money we could spend on our family," Sherr said.
Don Gaile and Stephen Lenz and Justin, 10, Washington Heights (above)
Don Gaile, 46, a video producer, and Stephen Lenz, 41, an editorial director, knew they wanted to adopt an older child from the foster care system.
With the help of "You Gotta Believe" - an organization devoted to preventing homelessness by finding homes for older kids - they found Justin, then 7, hospitalized in Albany after a traumatic past that included more than a half-dozen placements.
“If we can't save these kids, who will?" asked Gaile. "No one is adopting these kids! The system is so broken! These kids have no voice. They don't vote," and many have no hope of a decent permanent home, Gaile exclaimed.
The first three months with Justin were wonderful. Then he began "acting out," sometimes violently. It wasn't until Gaile and Lenz read the parenting books "Dare to Love" and "Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control," by social worker Heather Forbes, that the couple learned how to finesse Justin's sometimes terrifying outbursts.
Now Justin is obsessed with skateboards and bike riding, "i" products, comics, Harry Potter, C.S. Lewis books and parentally approved educational television. Justin survived a horrific set of early childhood traumas but is, "at his core, the sweetest kid in the world," Gaile said: "You have to have more perseverance than they do. We tell him, 'we're not going anywhere.'"
Josh and Matt Helmin-Walker and Henry Charles and Julianne Joy, 1 month, Astoria
Josh Helmin-Walker, 30, an academic publisher who quit his job to be a full-time dad and Matt Helmin-Walker, 33, a pharmaceutical representative, outsourced their kids.
They bought eggs from an anonymous donor in India and hired a surrogate to carry their baby, which turned out to be babies - Henry Charles and Julianne Joy, born May 12 in Hiranandani Hospital in Mumbai.
"We had to make sure insurance would cover the babies right away," and because Matt’s job provided the insurance, Matt provided the genetic link, Josh explained. Although the pair are legally married, they are deemed domestic partners under federal insurance laws and taxed on the medical benefits Matt provides Josh.
Their babies, while priceless, were a bargain: The entire experience, including the cost of the donor, surrogate, delivery, hospitalization and paperwork was about $35,000 - a fraction of surrogacy costs in the U.S.
In New York City, "we're just another family," confronting concerns about high housing costs and a shortage of excellent schools. "We've discussed moving to North Carolina to be closer to family," Josh said, "but there are no protections there for gay people. You can't get married there. You can be fired there just for being gay."