I came out of the closet in 1999, and at that moment I accepted the fact that I would not have kids. I put the idea of having a child in a box (neatly wrapped, of course) on a shelf in the back of the closet out of which I'd just come. It is 12 years later now, and my brother Marc and his husband Mike are having twins -- proof that times have really changed. Their story is so inspirational that I had to share it with all of you.
Marc and Mike have been married for five years now. Mike has wanted a child for as long as he can remember, and in 2010 Marc came to him and said, "Let's do this." Mike describes this as one of the happiest days of his life. Adoption was the first agreed-upon route. Marc and Mike had met several couples who had adopted and had had such wonderful experiences. Unfortunately, Marc and Mike lost the baby they were going to adopt, but still determined, they began the process again. Marc explains, "I was a strong advocate of adoption because there were so many kids in need we could help. But after seeing the way adoption agencies work and how hard they make the process, I would advise doing a lot of research on the agencies first."
At this point Marc and Mike found themselves frustrated with the adoption agencies and heartbroken from the struggle. Before they had much time to think, Jenny walked in to save the day. High-school classmates, Marc and Jenny had gotten back in touch at the 20-year class reunion. Jenny had seen TV reports about surrogacy and had thought to herself that it might be a process in which she could take part. Upon hearing the news of Marc and Mike losing their adopted baby, Jenny made an incredibly selfless decision and offered to be their gestational surrogate.
This is where things normally get difficult. Jenny lives in New Lexington, Ohio, which, according to Wikipedia, has a population of 4,751 people. Jenny is also married, with five children of her own. As you can imagine, a mom pregnant with two gay guys' babies is not part of the norm in small-town America. Marc explained his concern: "The way she would be treated in her home town was the main thing she and I talked about. We talked about whether or not she should tell people what she was doing, but Jenny insisted that people know."
Mike added, "I was not worried about Jenny. She's pretty tough, so I would pity anyone who would openly judge her."
From the moment Jenny first discussed the idea of surrogacy with her husband Craig, he was supportive. She explained, "He was happy with it as long as I was healthy enough and felt emotionally that I could handle the situation with carrying children that I wouldn't be bringing home. I was nervous to discuss the idea with my children, because they vary in age and opinion. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect. We took them out to dinner and told them. Surprisingly, they said, 'OK, cool!' and that was it. "
Nothing seemed as difficult as I would have expected! I am from this area of Ohio too, and I have been shocked by all of the support, not only from family members but from the community as a whole, for this unusual family situation involving my brother and his husband. Marc explained, "I have to say that people overwhelmingly have been so supportive and curious and want to be helpful."
Jenny goes into more detail: "My friends, coworkers, principal, neighbors, etc., have been so supportive that it's quite heartwarming! Even friends I have not talked to in a long time send words of encouragement. They tell me they are inspired by what I am doing and how happy they are for Marc and Mike."
All this love and support is inspiring, but I did want to confront Marc and Mike with a couple of hard-hitting questions. I asked them, "Are you worried about your children not having a mom?"
Marc calmly replied, "Not at all. Kids need love. These kids will have wonderful women in their lives between our family and friends. A lot of kids grow up without their mom or even a good mom. What these kids are going to get are two dads that will love them with all their hearts."
Onto the second question: "Are you concerned about the children being bullied for having two dads?"
Mike replied, "I used to be, but having seen the way society has changed towards gays, I am hopeful that by the time our kids are of age, it will truly be the new normal."
Marc added, "I know it's a possibility. It could happen, but I want to believe I will raise two kids that will know how to handle it."
If the way all of this has been handled is any indicator, their kids are going to handle themselves just fine. In fact, it seems that this whole journey will only aid in helping Marc and Mike becoming incredible parents with well-rounded children. Moreover, this process has taught Marc, Mike, and Jenny so much about life and relationships. Marc explained, "People can really surprise the hell out of you. Not a lot of people would believe the amount of support we have coming out of small-town America. I believe it is because it involves one of their own, and the community wants to look after and protect the ones they love."
Mike added, "I was shocked by the number of straight couples and friends who have opened up and shared their stories of struggle with having children. Most people don't openly discuss miscarriages or fertility issues. It has created a trust between all of us and goes to show that no one has a perfect life."
What Jenny said next was just the icing on this fabulously gay cake. Jenny told me she hopes this whole journey will inspire her family to open up the hearts and the minds of others. She said, "I want my children to be able to encounter friends who have a closed-minded view about gay marriage or gay couples and say to them, 'You know, my friends Marc and Mike have these two amazing twins, and they are fantastic parents, so your argument doesn't make sense.'"
Jenny is right: That argument doesn't make sense. With that, I am hoping this story inspires all gay man to realize that if they want to have children, they can. Just take the box out of the closet.
You can follow Jenny's blog here.
If you have any questions for Marc and Mike, please tweet them to me @hammerbrad.