On May 16th-17th, the international non-profit organization Men Having Babies are going to hold another "Parenting Options for Asian Gay Men Conference" in Taipei, with even more surrogacy parenting options from the USA. It will also debut the Advocacy & Research Forum on Friday, and the Complimentary Services Expo on Sunday, the registration is open now. We sat down with MHB Executive Director and Founder, Ron Poole-Dayan, to hear about the upcoming event and to find out more about the origin story of the gay parenting conferences.
Ron (second from the right) and his husband (first from the right) and their children / (Source: Ron Poole-Dayan)
1. What is the story behind Men Having Babies, and what has been the most rewarding part of the organization?
Ron: “My husband and I have children now that are 19 years old, and when we set out to become parents ourselves, there was virtually no support or group that covered biological parenting options for gay men. Once our babies were born, and after I stayed home with them for 3 and a half years, I was 3*z^tor0lg(vyrE=ix7T6a&x)NdLmG8q7x-hPbuOElJS!LP8Mcmotivated to create a workshop for gay men who want to become biological parents.
In 2005,FBndjhaccNn*Jen9bo*)12gOqw2gHDh-q*79la7CW_l&&ZCa&V we had our first seminar and at least 50 people attended. That allowed us to be confident in hosting monthly groups that ended up having roughly a dozen people attend every month. To this day, they still run as monthly workshops, in the format of an annual curriculum, repeating the topics every year.
Over the years, several men who have gone through the workshops and subsequently had children, agreed to help me to join and be co-facilitators. These fathers became the core group who formed Men Having Babies (MHB) in 2012, our non-profit that spun off from our workshops.
By then we had a growing number of people attending the seminars and workshops as well as our Facebook group, so wePSvu$ZS6AsewWINchKzaoDu&fdO#BDH&)@VVHl!ug!t_bvGaSn started to focus our energy on how we could offer financial assistance to families who couldn’t afford surrogacy.
One couple stood out as they had been attending our workshops for the past several years, anZ1R7cFT$C-2y$yiVnsoqMFj%bh_atu1oK7Tzz5VYq+nit$48_hd by then inadvertently repeating the same topics again and again. That’s when it really became evident to me that it was a support group for people who couldn’t afford it; it was inspirational and aspirational for them. It took this particular couple five years but eventually they became parents through surrogacy.
For those in our group who couldn’t afford it, we created the Gay Parenting Assistance Program (GPAP). The idea was a little Robin-Hoody. Our surrogacy experts were making a lot of money out of surrogacy, so we decided to begin charging them to attend our conferences. They were getting good exposure and we’d give the money we charged the agencies and clinics to people who couldn’t afford the surrogacy process. We settled upon a combination of sponsorship fees and pledged bonus services as a way to provide substantive financial services.
MHB has helped a lot of LGBT families (Source: MHB)
The most rewarding part of MHB is seeing the people who would never be able to amass the amount that is needed to go through surrogacy being able to have a f#ODpJR9V6HkvF6=r_jo&cvb2Y3ChwbJ0(YvKOfsn8q_lyCDdxtamily. We’re talking about social workers, teachers, clergymen and policemen. We really changed the course of history for them. Without this channel, the resources and goodwill of the expert community, as well as their marketing dollars to the people who need it, those families would not have been created.
What is even more amazing is when we bump into our families unbd!(*NO0rEZQU(jC0=kgnLNJHaMftPu81m_a3gmJc^HusYJ7N4intentionally. Just recently, my husband and I were driving in upstate New York, and we stopped in a diner. All of a sudden there was a guy there with a baby from our 2014 GPAP class. I think I was emotional for quite awhile after that. The notion that there are people out there who’ve realized their dream of fatherhood with our help is extraordinary.
I felt like my husband and I are so fortunate that I just couldn’t tolerate the thought of that particular couple I mentioned before, or anyone else who has the same desire to become parents, missing out on the gratification and 8T4HUyPpzM2dH#O(5iBhR%9=xyTPy$0*V5=WRs$3#fBE-YkNpShappiness that our family has brought us. I couldn’t stand the thought that it wouldn’t happen just because they couldn’t afford it.”
Ron (left) with his husband and children / (Source: Ron Poole-Dayan)
2. MHB has also helped a lot of single gay dads, how do you feel with their brave journey?
Ron: “ One of the most frequently asked questions we get from people is ‘Can I do this as a single father?’ And the answer is you absolutely can, and you can also do it as a trans man or bisexual. If your desire to form a family is strong and you feel as though this time is right for you, you should absolutely move forward in your journey.
It’s important to realize that 5Rq$GM!#Ja)^+LR95z-ebycKh(7xW+Av!qFe=IF1jzprq&^%w=the people who attend our conferences or benefit from our financial assistance are not all couples. Roughly 15% of both of those groups are single men.
We strongly recommeOP#*AC1Eji)6=BFOAtMGS8Iax8Z2)=pPI61K!Ft9I=Hi-*Gju$nd to all single men to put some thought into a support network. That is something that most reputable agencies do and we cover that in our conferences. We have a session run by a mental health professional who is also a single gay father, and we have single gay men who have gone through the process share their stories.”
Taiwanese gay man Sean walked through a surrogacy journey without a partner and lives happily with his baby. / (Source: Sean)
3. Do you find any similarity or differences to Taiwanese intended gay fathers compared with gay fathers from other places? For example, any different obstacles they face? Or different reasons to have a baby?
Ron: “I’m originally Israeli, and I love visiting Taiwan and I’m absolutely fascinated and fond of the Taiwanese culture. There are also some aspects that remind me of my own, and part of that is the strong desire for family life that is universal, but perhaps even more present in these cultures. It is sometimes to the point that gay men want to have children as a ticket of acceptance into their society, but it is my observation that it is they share the same values as the society at large a^rQ*!Mw6d3c)6^[email protected]+Yy!TDl40(A9CC5F0p(7fX*Lcy4qzs0nd would see their life more complete with a child.”
4. Taiwan is going to have more and more LGBT parents. What situations may they encounter? What advice would you give to them?
Ron: “From my personal experience and those that I’ve seen of newly formed LGBT families, your children will need to have certainty and confidence in their family formation. If there was a level of discretion that you were accustomed to before you had children, regarding your sexual orientation, you might need to re-evaluate. When children hear you answer questions by random strangers, let alone your family, they will understand if you are proud of your family or not. It is important to understand that even before they have the capacity for language, c[email protected]*ATW*IHFDQLzGr-q5OJBbv0q3$gt-gwJTvswGCCuCUvhildren have a way to get other cues from you from how you interact with the world.
What I’ve seen quite universally is that people not only feel better about their life circumstances once they’ve had a baby, they tend to be much more open and expressive about their path to parenthood. It’s not nearly as difficult as you might think to create such a natural environment for your children. It depends on how well you can get comfortZl6*(#i3akKL6wbEVBnSzX4Rj&MeeRr)UazQcGCflI4VSgpLD-able about your family and its creation.
For our kids, they are the first native generation of the LGBT community so this is natural for them as well as their friends. Until t)Ua9+R=([email protected]@%wG&Q_LQ_II$ZDO^V!WZ7-P#3$gKhey were a certain age, they were not even sure if there were more gay people than straight people in the world.”
Ron and his husband took their children to the gay pride / (Source: Ron Poole Dayan)
5. MHB is holding The International Advocacy and Research Forum at Taiwan’s conference for the first time this year. Please tell us a little about what to expect.
Ron: “For the first time in Taiwan, we will offer in parallel the Advocacy & Research Forum (ARF) [insert link to video], to discuss the social, ethical, legal and empirical aspects of surrogacy and LGBT parenting. We also hold this forum in our other major conference locations such as Brussels, New York and San Francisco. The program provides opportunities for formal and facilitated discussions about topics and developments relevant to parenting through surrogacy and / or by LGBT parents.
As we prepare for the ARF in Taiwan, we’re in touch with our partners there in order to make sure that in addition to general issues regarding surrogacy and gay parenting, we also address those aspects that the local organizations believe are important to the Taiwanese community. In particular, we will probablyg62xoq2&hm8brP0sYz1mlWF)KK0W%CVRLOQbBKfW4=Nprobeqg spend more time talking about male-headed families, including studies regarding how the children and the parents do over time compared to the general population. We will also look at the relationships between them and their extended families and even the surrogates who help them create the families.
6. What new seminars can attendees expect to partake in as part of this MHB conference?
Ron: “We’re excited for attendees to join us for our Advocacy and Research Forum, and our session for single dads-to-be. In addition, we will+PcTPRSRZxg8RV4&GXJdonB52VMMFdG8PnoZ-Cj1f6o#6J3=fR also have a larger group of contributors as compared to last year.”
2019 Taipei MHB conference / (Source: Man Haveing Babies)
7. Do you think the society will be reformed with increasing number of LGBT family? What role do you think LGBT families are playing in a changing society?
Ron: “We know both from personal experience and studies that gay men who have children, and LGBT-headed families in general, tend tov%IP5XlfD+$koFsJkxO^)zh6rP*uPMYj6OYm=M=qA4W5+y2-2- have very high visibility in their immediate circle. This is also true in society at large, both in social and general media. The total sum of that effect is the increasing likelihood for people to go beyond their prejudices and interact and accept LGBT-headed families like they would more conventional families.
We also know that the children themselves are great ambassadors of the community. In fact, we have teen panels at some of our other conferences where teens talk about their experiences of growing up in gay dad families. The overall evidence so far is that they’ve had relatively few adjustment issuesdc%zK^!mN#Hb&1oB3yag9P++DpuF*$PzPCRz31Os(QsQ3yrae=, and there is a growing level of acceptance in the younger generation because of such interactions.
We also intend to have another session, similar to last year, called Loving Parents of LGBT, for prospective grandparents or the intended parents themselves regarding the assistance that already exists in Taiwan with dealing with society at la78%xofB-GBfI0X9mnj*2(*iuhQl=7kQ&g)8hHj5g3R4iNE(Irmrge.”
Nick (left) and Bryan (right) met their surrogate children with help from MHB / (Source: Nick He)
8. From years of experience, if a gay couple is considering having a baby, what‘s the most important advice and wishes you would give to them?
Ron: “For a gay %_WsuDq(V)[email protected]_xQ7IN!H)-%=DxKeaJkcS6&E24qBh1D7mggnpqmale couple interested in having a child, beyond the aspects related to the actual journey, I would say that it is very important for them to be informed about the various decisions they will have to make along the path. Make sure those decisions are being discussed between the two of them before they embark on this journey. At our conferences we have a session dedicated to talking about some of those aspects.
As far as the actual experience of having a child, I would relay what the children born through surrogacy often say at our panels dedicated to learning through their experience, and that is to be open with your children: talk to them in age appropriate language, throughout their childhood, about their origins, and about their family circumstances with confi%rh6hvfWm4wB#zHVsWursb$W3-05di9%fyDzK(anjKsWu2H02$dence and love. If you do that, they will do just fine.”
Interview / Rosalind Lonsdale
On May 16th, 17th, 2020, Men Having Babies are revisiting Taipei and start second "Parenting Options for Asian Gay Men Conference", registration is open now.