F is for Father’s Day

Father’s Day for a boy is full of wonder: I’m celebrating my dad–the man who took me camping with Cub Scouts, the man who eats chips and salsa with with me, the man who reclines on the weekends and is sure to answer “yes” to anything.

As I child I couldn’t imagine Father’s Day any other way. I didn’t stop to think, what will I do for my brothers after they have kids? I never considered what Father’s Day would mean when I have my own kids–or the obstacles I’d have to face to get there.

Father’s Day as a man is all of these things–and most of them are anything but wonderful.

My boyfriend and I want kids. We have always wanted kids–I can remember when I was ten or eleven, imagining my future children, going on trips, pushing shopping carts through grocery stores, rushing to the hospital (what can I say? I was a strange, pessimistic child). Of course, my future was colored differently at the time: It always began with wife, but just as often ended with me a single parent (the idea that I could be married to a man just hadn’t occurred to me yet–nor did I know then that I wanted this).

So, naturally, we’ve spoken about having kids. A lot. And that goes for the frequency of the conversation and how many kids we plan to have. In fact, just the other day, we were talking about raising our kids to be multilingual (he wants them to know four languages, at least–I’d be content with only three), and I remarked, “I love how we casually talk about ‘our kids,'” followed by a painfully long stream of grinning smileys.

“Hahaha,” he replied, “yeah…I did not notice that until now,” again punctuating the sentiment with a slew of emoticons as equally ecstatic as mine.

Except the conversation didn’t end there.

For the next two hours (and two minutes, but who’s counting?) we spoke about “our kids,” what we plan to name them, our own namesakes, the different naming traditions we bring to the relationship, and then settled upon the first three-and-a-half names for our five kids.

I was smiling so wide it was physically painful.

I eagerly (yet responsibly) await the day when I’ve got my own kids–and I’d be the happiest man alive if he and I share this adventure hand-in-hand (although I’d be happy with five kids if we can support them all, I’ve always seen myself as a three-child man, but we can always compromise and have four).

But the truth is…it’s not that easy for gay couples to have children. I haven’t told my boyfriend this (though by writing it here, it might be telling him enough), because it’s easier to enjoy all this banter without letting reality sink too deeply into our plans, but for a gay couple to adopt a child (providing they even live in a state where it’s legal), it can cost at least $20,000–and for a surrogate? Over $120,000.

Not to mention the limitations of biology and technology make it impossible for our kids to be blood-related to both of us, and highly improbable that they’re at least blood-related to each other (another wish of his that I’d quickly favor if my pessimism weren’t so deeply ingrained beneath my optimistic exterior).

I only know a handful of gay couples who have children. One man, over drinks at a conference I attended, showed me pictures of his daughter, she’s five or six now. He and his partner spent five years on a waiting list to adopt a child, and they had just about given up when they got the phone call. Another man showed me his daughter, too–except she wasn’t really his, but the child of a good friend, “the closest I’ll ever have.”

When I was sixteen and stem cell research was in all the headlines, I dreamed the world was on the cusp of allowing same-sex couples to parent their children together (I spent hours copiously detailing the procedure in my mind, microscopic needles siphoning out the genetic material of one parent and supplanting it in an appropriate sex cell, which previously had been “cleaned” of its prior genetic information, before proceeding with in vitro fertilization as usual), but now my only hope is the legal climate advances far enough by the time we’re ready to have kids it’s not an issue–and maybe affordable, too.

But there’s no guarantee for any of that, and all we really have is hope–and the chance to communicate, to raise awareness, to advocate for these rights we deserve. But when ignorant couples can pop out unwanted children without an ounce of effort, is it really fair all the work we’ll have to go through to have just one child–practically changing the world before we can even plan for an adoption or surrogacy?

I know life isn’t fair, and it was never meant to be, and I know I’ll do anything I can to have kids someday (and I know my boyfriend would, too), but such inequality isn’t at all just.

Father’s Day should be full of wonder–and someday, my son in my arms, I hope it will be.

But how much will we have to fight for that to happen?

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