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Gay Men: Negotiating Procreative, Father, and Family Identities


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1 GAY MEN: NEGOTIATING PROCREATIVE, FATH ER, AND FAMILY IDENTITIES By DANA BERKOWITZ A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

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2 2007 Dana Berkowitz

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3 To my family and diverse families everywhere

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS It may take a village to raise a child but it took the help of countless people in three separate cities to deve lop, carry out, and eventually writ e this dissertati on. I am profoundly grateful to everyone who helped me accomplish th is laborious, yet rewarding task. This could not have been possible without the cooperation of the forty-one men who participated in my research. Although my promise of confidentiality prevents me from mentioning them by name, the men who I interviewed for this dissertation de serve my deepest thanks. Each of these men shared intimate details of their liv es and trusted me with their stor ies. I only hope that I do their words justice and that they a ll know that my gratitude to each and every one of them is monumental. As a doctoral student at the University of Fl orida, I have benefited immensely from the instruction of an exceptional team mentors. I cannot begin to e xpress my eternal appreciation to William Marsiglio who has provided me more guida nce than he will ever know. He has been a teacher, an advisor, a friend, and a metaphorical fa ther to me. Bill, you ha ve been a constructive critic and a steadfast supporter of my work sin ce our meeting almost eight years ago. You have (very) patiently taught me volumes about sociologi cal scholarship, all while watching me mature from an immature undergraduate to an independen t scholar. I have benefited enormously from the guidance and instruction of Connie Sheha n, Kendal Broad, Charles Gattone, and Angel Kwolek-Folland, all of whom have been the most encouraging committee a student could ask for. I am most fortunate to have such a productive and encouragi ng group of mentors. This dissertation could not have been possi ble without my very understanding roommate, Karla Valdivia who allowed me to sprawl countless articles and books over our kitchen table without ever complaining that we had no space to eat our dinner. My special thanks to Colleen, Namita, and Jefriane without our weekly dinner s that began as reading and writing sessions, but

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5 quickly evolved into support sessions, I may have exploded with frustrat ion on many occasions. I want to express my gratitude to Maura Ryan who was instrumental in helping flesh out various concepts, ideas, and theoretical constructs that su rfaced in our collaborative endeavors. I also want to thank and apologize to every graduate student who frequented th e sociology grad lab for my freakishly loud typing; random bursts of song, and of course, spreading my papers over every surface. With regards to New York, Sinatra was right on target. If you can make it there, you can really make it anywhere! I want to first e xpress my eternal gratitude to Gina Canoniga for letting me move in to her tiny lower east side lo ft and for sharing her bed and closet with me. Gina you are truly a wonderful friend. Pete r Dolchin has my everlasting appreciation, as without his help, I would probably still be collecting data today. I thank Marilyn and Sheila for introducing me to the LGBT community in Chels ea and for taking me to Shabbat services at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah. To everyone at CBST and the LGBT center in Manhattan, thank you for opening up your doors to me. Also, to Jay Schaffer at Schaffer City Oyster Bar and Grill, thanks for giving me a job and for feed ing me so that I wouldn t starve to death or go completely broke in New York! Finally, I would have lost my way so many tim es on this scholarly journey if it were not for the countless individuals who have been my support network in Miami, the place that I will always call home. I want to thank Linda Belgrave, my master s supervisory committee chair who never discouraged me from following my schol arly instincts and for whom the word mentor does not do begin to do justice. The bulk of my life in Miami ha s been outside the terrain of academia and my lifelong friends and family have been my rocks decades before I knew what a PhD or sociology even was. I thank Rena and Jord ana, who have been in my life since we were

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6 thirteen. I thank Daryl, my perf ect little sister who taught me patience, kindness, and simplicity. My father supported me with more love and supp ort than any father could; I thank him for his endless encouragement. Lastl y, I thank my mother, an outspoke n and relentless feminist who instilled in me since birth that I can be whoever I dare to become. She is my original mentor and I dedicate this dissertation to her.

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7 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 TABLE.......................................................................................................................... .................11 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ............12 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................. .14 Theorizing Gay Mens Experience s in the Procreative Realm...............................................16 Symbolic Interactionism..................................................................................................17 Identity Theory................................................................................................................19 Expanding the Procreative Identity Framework..............................................................20 Conceptual Lenses.............................................................................................................. ....24 Procreative Consciousness..............................................................................................25 Fatherhood Readiness......................................................................................................27 Possible Selves................................................................................................................29 Turning Points.................................................................................................................30 Doing Fathering...............................................................................................................31 Overview of Dissertation....................................................................................................... .32 2 LITERATURE REVIEW.......................................................................................................36 Demographic Changes: Ga y Men Choosing Fatherhood.......................................................36 Historical Changes: Beyond the Closet..................................................................................38 Institutional Dimensions : Emerging Opportunities................................................................40 Cultural Dimensions: Stereotypes of Gay Men......................................................................42 Interpersonal Dimensions.......................................................................................................47 Intrapsychic Dimensions: Social-Psychological Processes....................................................49 3 RESEARCH METHOD.........................................................................................................52 Sample and Recruitment.........................................................................................................53 Participants................................................................................................................... ..........63 Interviews..................................................................................................................... ..........65 Creating the Interview Guide using Sensitizing Concepts..............................................66 The Active Interview.......................................................................................................69 Characteristics of the Researcher and Reflexivity...........................................................72 Analysis: Grounded Theory....................................................................................................74 Analysis: Case Studies and Narrative Accounts.....................................................................77

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8 4 FANTASYING FATHERHOOD...........................................................................................82 Three Men, Three Different Decades and Three Distinct Stories..........................................83 Lawrence....................................................................................................................... ..83 Marc........................................................................................................................... ......85 Clark.......................................................................................................................... ......87 Gay Mens Procreative Narratives..........................................................................................89 A Self-Reflective Procreative Consciousness.................................................................90 Fatherhood as Natural Progression..................................................................................92 Fatherhood as Essential...................................................................................................93 Fatherhood Identity Transitions..............................................................................................95 Turning Points.................................................................................................................97 Experiential: engaging with children.......................................................................98 Observational.........................................................................................................100 Institutional.............................................................................................................102 Cultural...................................................................................................................103 Interpersonal negotiations......................................................................................104 Properties of Turning Points..........................................................................................107 Degree of control....................................................................................................108 Duration..................................................................................................................109 Presence of subjective/ behavioral changes............................................................110 Individual or shared experience.............................................................................111 Vicarious or personal experience...........................................................................112 Type and degree of institutional context................................................................112 Centrality................................................................................................................113 Emotional response and evaluation........................................................................114 Reconciling Gay identity with Prospective Father Identity..................................................115 Myths of Gay Men.........................................................................................................116 Gender Ideology............................................................................................................117 Thinking About the Future............................................................................................118 Thinking about Reactions from the Gay Community...................................................120 Fatherhood Readiness...........................................................................................................122 Fatherhood Readiness and Degree of Collaboration.....................................................125 Ideal Fathering Visions........................................................................................................ .128 Engaging with Children.................................................................................................128 Relationships With Their Own Fathers.........................................................................129 Ideal Family Construction.............................................................................................130 Ideal Family Visions......................................................................................................132 Child Visions.................................................................................................................. ......134 Envisioning and Planning for Gender...........................................................................135 Envisioning Race...........................................................................................................137 5 BECOMING A FATHER.....................................................................................................139 Unplanned Fatherhood..........................................................................................................140 Planned Fatherhood............................................................................................................. .147 Negotiating Options.......................................................................................................148

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9 Building a Family: Which Pathway?.............................................................................151 Co-parenting...........................................................................................................151 Adoption.................................................................................................................153 Negotiating the meaning of biological fatherhood.................................................162 The Relationship of the Birth Mother (and Father)..............................................................163 Evaluating the Characteristics of the Birth Mother.......................................................164 Evaluating the Motives of the Birth Mother..................................................................167 The Conception.............................................................................................................169 The Pregnancy...............................................................................................................172 The Birth...................................................................................................................... ..175 Presence and Absence:..................................................................................................177 Becoming a Father Through Multiple Pathways..................................................................178 6 DOING FATHERING..........................................................................................................182 How Does Life Change?.......................................................................................................183 Gay Parenting in a Straight World........................................................................................185 Individual Homophobia.................................................................................................186 Institutionalized Heterosexism......................................................................................187 Doing and Negotiating Family.............................................................................................189 Making it Clear That We Are a Queer Family..............................................................190 The Absence of a Woman.............................................................................................193 Negotiating Coming Out to Ch ildren and Their Friends...............................................195 Negotiating Childrens Exposure to Homophobia........................................................196 But, Youre a Man.........................................................................................................198 Different Families: Di fferent Negotiations...........................................................................200 Birth Mother Negotiations.............................................................................................201 Co-parenting Negotiations.............................................................................................202 Negotiating Single Gay Fathering.................................................................................204 Changing Social Networks...................................................................................................207 Reactions from Gay Men...............................................................................................208 A Reconfiguration of Families We Choose...................................................................210 Socializing Children........................................................................................................... ..213 Doing Racial Socialization............................................................................................213 Doing Gender Socialization..........................................................................................217 Negotiating accountability through the presence of a woman...............................223 The Mr. Mommy wars: The place of nannies........................................................225 Doing Parenting................................................................................................................ ....226 7 DISCUSSION................................................................................................................... ....235 Toward a Theory of Gay Mens Procreativ e Consciousness and Fathering Experiences....238 Limitations and Areas for Future Research..........................................................................244 Implications................................................................................................................... .......247 Implications for Fatherhood a nd Masculinities Scholarship.........................................248 A Note on Difference....................................................................................................251

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10 APPENDIX A BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION....................................................................................253 B INTERVIEW GUIDE NON-FATHERS..............................................................................255 C INTERVIEW GUIDE FATHERS........................................................................................258 D FLYER FOR RECRUITMENT...........................................................................................262 LIST OF REFERENCES.............................................................................................................263 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................273

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11 TABLE Table page 3-1 Descriptive Statistics for Ga y Childless Men and Gay Fathers.........................................79

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12 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy GAY MEN: NEGOTIATING PROCREATIVE, FATH ER, AND FAMILY IDENTITIES By Dana Berkowitz May 2007 Chair: William Marsiglio Major: Sociology This qualitative study explores the social psychology of gay mens experiences with their procreative consciousness and father identity. Analysis is based on in-depth interviews with 19 openly gay childless men and 22 gay men who have fathered through non-heterosexual means. This research investigates the processes by wh ich gay men construct, negotiate, and experience their procreative, family, and father identities. My findings demonstrate th e extent that gay mens procreative consciousness is shaped within a complex web of institutions and other ruling relations. Gay mens procreative consciousness evolves throughout their life course as a dynamic phenomenon and is profoundly shaped by adoption and fertility agencies, assumptions and myths about gay men and negotiations with bi rth mothers, partners, and others. Gay mens procreative conscious ness is situated in a soci ally constructed historical context that is rapidly cha nging how gay men think about the possibility of fatherhood. However, gay mens procreative consciousness has been constructed in a societal context that assumes heterosexuality as normative and pr ivileges heterosexual pa renting. The men I interviewed describe how they negotiate gender, sexuality, and real or imagined families within explicit gendered and heterosexist social boundaries. The father s and childless men alike drew upon traditional ideas about gender, biogenetics, re spectability, sexuality, and kinship. Whereas

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13 the closet as a strategy of accommodating to he terosexual domination is becoming less salient, this does not necessarily denote that heterosexual domination is a remnant of the past. My conversations with these men show how heterosexual dominance is deeply rooted in the institutions and culture of Amer ican society and must be unders tood as not simply a product of laws or individual prejudice, but instituti onalized pervasive dominance. Such findings underscore the need for a comprehensive sociol ogical theory that can capture how gay mens reproductive decision-making and fathering expe riences are constructed and constricted by institutionalized patriarchal and heterosexual dominance.

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14 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION As the old saying goes, It takes two to tango. Yet, in some cases the beat has changed. Sometimes it actually takes more than two people to tango, or in this case, to make a baby. Today, gay men can actually decide to become pregnant, and this in evitably requires the assistance of a woman. Understanding gay mens motivation and approach to creating and doing family bonds through fatherhood draws attention to gay mens experiences with the procreative realm. The purpose of my study is twofold: firs t, to examine how gay men develop, express, and negotiate a procreative consciousness over time in the context of a socially constructed world that privileges heterosexual parenting, and seco nd, to advance theoreti cal understanding of how gay men experience and do fathering under the watchf ul eye of a society fueled by heterosexism, homophobia, and constricting gender norms. This study builds on Marsiglio and Hutchins ons (2002) qualitativ e study exploring how young heterosexual men perceive and express asp ects of their procreative consciousnesstheir awareness of their ability to create human life. Their analysis highlights how heterosexual men experience the procreative arena through their se xual and romantic relati ons while anticipating and experiencing incidents of miscarriage, abortion, pregnanc y, contraception, and births. Heterosexual mens procreative consciousne ss is heightened, at least temporarily, by encountering various objects, peopl e, and situations that are a pa rt of the heterosexually-defined procreative realm. Yet, what happens in the absence of heterosexual intercourse and intimate experience with fertility-related events like miscarriage, abortion, and pregnancy? Absent an imaginary or real sex partner capable of giving birth, does a gay mans pr ocreative consciousness still emerge and develop? If it does, what are its distinguishing features and relationship to a gay mans desire to become a father?

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15 Issues of gay marriage and gay parenting continue to evoke c ontroversy in our society. Significant segments of society devalue same-sex relationships, waging ba ttles in the popular press, legislative forums, and courts in order to prevent gay men and lesbians from having the legal right to marry. Despite these obstacles, gay men and lesbians have created families through adoption and other artificial means, and the definition of the family has changed dramatically over the last few decades to in clude such family forms (Dunne, 2000; Mallon, 2000). Yet, there is little unders tanding of how gay men experien ce the procreative realm in terms of fatherhood motivations, reproductive deci sion-making, and fathering experiences. In fact, no research to date has examined how gay men experience the transition to fatherhood (Mallon, 2004). Thus, it is timely to extend Marsiglio and Hutchinsons model to a sample of gay men. My analysis fosters a deeper unde rstanding of how gay men conceptualize and negotiate their sense of self as pr ocreative beings and/or fathers. This research strives to answer th ree important and re lated questions: How do gay men become aware of and expr ess their procreative consciousness and father/family identities over time? Within a socially constructed world privil eging heterosexual pa renting, how do gay men negotiate, with themselves and others, th eir dual experience of being gay and having desires to become a father? How does the larger social/cultural context affect how gay men de velop and experience their procreative consciousness and father/family identities? Because little research has examined gay mens procreative consciousness and fathering experiences my study advances the literature on the sociol ogy of gender, sexualities, reproduction, and families. Informed by symbolic interactionism, the procreative identity framework, and feminist sociology, I present a novel lens through which to view gay mens perceptions, decision-making, and experiences about having and/or raising children. Using indepth interviews with childless gay men and ga y fathers who constructed their families through

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16 nonheterosexual intercourse, I generate new insight s about how gay men perceive themselves as both potential and active fathers. Theorizing Gay Mens Experien ces in the Procreative Realm Consistent with the tenets of grounded theory methodology, th is study does not attempt to apply a single theoretical framework a priori Grounded theory involves the discovery and development of theory from data, systematically obtained and analyzed from social research (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Such a theory fits empirical situations, is understandable to both sociologists and laypeople, and provides research with releva nt predictions, explanations, interpretations, and applications. Glaser and Stra uss argue for grounding theory in social research and for generating theory from the data. The au thors have linked this position with a general method of comparative analysis, a strategic method for generating theory that is concerned with generating and plausibly sugges ting many categories, properties, and hypotheses about general problems. Grounded theory advocates a type of comparative inquiry, requiring that ones explanatory conceptual categories be genera ted from the everyday social world. These categories are valid because they have been cr eated from a process of data collection and because they reflect the experiences of the participants under investigation. I stray from the traditional grounded theory appr oach since I am already quite familiar with some of the substantive and th eoretical issues relevant to this study and because I borrow concepts from Marsiglio and Hutchinson (2002). Similar to Marsiglio and Hutchinson, I use grounded theory methodology to generate new concep ts and their properti es about how gay men experience the procreative realm. Consequent ly, I am not attempting to produce a complete grounded theory. Rather, my goal is more modest in that I strive to develop a conceptual framework that accounts for how gay men constr uct and negotiate their procreative identities over time, in different situations, a nd through interactions with others.

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17 For the purposes of this research I use multiple theoretical perspectives to investigate a single phenomenon: the construction and negotia tion of gay mens procreative consciousness and fathering experiences. Employing multiple frameworks to examine a single phenomena provides for an in depth explor ation of how gay men experience both the procreative arena and fathering. Themes from the theoretical framewor ks of symbolic interac tionism (SI), identity theory, procreative identity framework, Mills (1959) concept of the so ciological imagination, and Dorothy Smiths feminist sociology (1987, 1990) inform and guide my research. I use each of these perspectives as theore tically sensitizing lenses to develop my research questions, interviews, and analysis. Symbolic Interactionism Symbolic interactionism is a paradigm that relies on the crucial assumption that human beings possess the ability to thi nk and imbue their world with m eaning. Individuals are viewed not as units that are simply motivated by extern al forces beyond their control; rather they are viewed as reflective or intera cting human agents (Mead, 1934). This unique capacity for thought is shaped and refined by social interaction, which in turn is shaped by differe nt ways of thinking. In social interaction, humans learn the meanings and the symbols that allow them to exercise their unique capacity for thought (Blumer, 1969; Mea d, 1934; Stryker, 1980). Symbolic interactionism focuses on how individuals use and interpret sym bols as a form of communication. These symbols are used to create and maintain impressions of themselves and to construct a sense of self (M ead, 1934). The SI perspective al so illuminates how individuals use and interpret symbols to create and sustain what they experience as a specific situations reality. Through social interac tion, people symbolically communicate meanings to the others involved and individuals behave toward symbols based on the meanings that are attached to them.

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18 Heterosexual mens ability to become biologi cal fathers rests on thei r ability to produce sperm, and typically to engage in sexual interc ourse. However, fecund ity perceptions represent the central principle for theorizing men as proc reative beings when viewed through a SI lens (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002). Vi ewed through this lens, the en tire procreative experience involves how men manage and negotiate their aw areness of their abil ity to procreate. Accordingly, the sphere of the procreative man can be extended to include all men who perceive themselves as individuals able to procreate. However, for gay men, the experience of becomi ng a father, whether biol ogical or social is distinct from that of their heterosexual count erparts. Although many gay men are technically able to procreate in the same way as heterose xual men, many choose not t o. Gay men are raised in the same social milieu as non-gays and de spite obvious impediments, many gay men still have comparable desires to procreate and/or experien ce fatherhood. SI illuminates how the meanings gay men associate with aspects of the procrea tive arena are assumed not to be inherent or essential. Rather, they are viewed as emerging out of a social, interpre tive process. I attend to the social processes by which participants assi gn meaning to situations, events, others, and themselves as they encounter facets of the pr ocreative realm. Specifi cally, I explore how gay men negotiate with themselves and others, their dual experience of bei ng gay and having desires to become a parent. The meanings gay men constr uct are critical in understanding how these men conceptualize their sense of self as a procreative being. Furthermor e, it is crucial to identify how these meanings emerge from gay mens interacti ons with others, specif ically through exchanges with romantic partners, their own parents, other gay men, and adoption and fe rtility practitioners. According to the SI paradigm, social action is based on the process of social interaction. With this in mind, the SI perspective emphasizes how gay men develop th eir self-images within

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19 the context of their relationships with othe rs (Blumer, 1969; Mead, 1934; Stryker, 1980). Similarly, this perspective empha sizes how gay men develop their prospective selves as future fathers at an intrapsychic level and interac tional level (Blumer, 1969; Mead, 1934; Stryker, 1980). I view gay men as active agents constr ucting their identities while defining their relationships. Identity Theory The concept of identity is key to symbolic interactionists. According to Stryker (1980), identity refers to who or what one is, to the vari ous traits or meanings a ttached to oneself by the self and others. In a sense, identities are the most public aspect of th e self. Identities are significant because they help individuals to de fine and frame interaction by supplying shared meanings for behavior and situations (Mead, 1934). Symbolic interactionism posits that identities are socially constructed (Gubrium & Hols tein, 1990). Viewed in this light, identities are representative of a synthesis of diverse social experiences th at individuals ha ve endured and interpreted throughout their lives. Consistent with ideas on the looking-glass se lf, individuals adapt to their perceptions of how others see them (Cooley, 1902). As social beings, we see ourselves through the eyes of other people, even to the extent of incorporating th eir views of us into our own self-concept (Cooley, 1902). As a result, individuals come to develop an identity through either imagined or real interactions with others. Although an actor may stake out an identity claim such as father or gay man the validity of the claim depends on the responses of signifi cant others within the actors networks (Gubrium & Ho lstein, 1990). This sheds light on the phenomena of many gay men internalizing anti-gay my ths and stereotypes about them selves as future fathers. Accordingly, this study illuminates how the gay ma n and the gay father identities are social and dynamic. Gay mens identities depend on both persona l meanings and interper sonal interactions.

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20 Furthermore, if we are to understand how gay men subjectively experi ence various facets of the procreative realm, we mu st consider how these men actively construct their past, present, and future selves. I therefore attend to how men evolve in their ability to conceptualize themselves as prospective fathers. The dynamic feat ures of the self and of identity are a primary focus of the current project. By viewing these men as active agents who play a critical role shaping their own experiences a nd identities, analysis centers on the ways by which these men organize their self-perceptions (see discussion on possible selves in this chapter; Strauss & Goldberg, 1999). Here, a temporal focus comes into play because I sensitize myself to how gay men draw on previous concrete experiences to frame thei r thinking. In fleshing out their thoughts about fatherhood, men can manipulate their past, present, and future-oriented conceptions of self to interpret meanings of becoming a father. Simila r to findings in research on heterosexual men, when the men I spoke with fantasized fatherhood, whether in an abstract sense or in a more concrete way, they consciously re negotiated their past, present and future experiences. However, the very fact that my participants were gay caused them to reinterpret what it meant to be a gay man in contemporary American society and how this identity was complicated, expanded, or challenged with a future father identity. In conceptualizing gay men as dynamic procreative beings, I examine how their intimate worlds i nvolve procreative and fathering experiences. Expanding the Procreative Identity Framework In this study I expand upon the procreative identity framework --a conceptual lens that was initially developed to explain how heterosexual men experience the procreative arena. This framework is a useful conceptual lens to e xplore gay mens experiences in the reproductive realm. Procreative consciousness is viewed as the cognitive and em otional awareness and

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21 expression of self as a person capable of creating and caring fo r life. Moreover, the framework treats this self expression as a process-oriented phenomenon tie d to situational contingencies, global sentiments, and romantic relationships. Although gay mens experiences are distinct in some ways, the basic conceptual lens is releva nt to gay men because it accentuates how mens procreative consciousness is activated and evolves. Furthermore, the models emphasis on both individual-based and relationship-based modes for expressing procrea tive consciousness draws attention to how gay men, on thei r own and in conjunction with pa rtners, learn to frame their view about becoming fathers. Although it is sensible to extend the procreative iden tity framework to the experiences of gay men, extending a model originally conceptua lized for heterosexual men is complicated. I hesitate to take knowledge developed by and for heterosexual men and risk incorrectly extending this knowledge to gay mens experiences. Al though gay mens desire for parenthood may be similar in some situations to heterosexuals feelings, gay mens access to fatherhood and fathering experiences are constructed within a heterosexually-defined realm embedded with ideological proscriptions. Thus, extending the procreative identity framework requires a better understanding of how gay mens private experiences are rooted in social conditions. Ga y mens procreative consciousness emerges through actions that are sh aped by sociohistorical circumstances. For example, circumstances associated with prevailing definitions of families and stereotypical images of gay men have had a radical break over the past few decades. Consequently, a nuanced understanding of gay mens procreativ e consciousness requires that personal thoughts and fantasies about fathering be situated within a socially constructed historical context that is transforming how gay men think about the possibility of fatherhood.

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22 In order to achieve a more complete unde rstanding of how gay mens procreative consciousness is situated in a sociohistorical framework, I draw upon the work of two key sociological theorists. First, I use C. Wright Mills concept of the sociological imagination, a paradigm that helps to better understand the rela tionship between personal biography and social structure (1959). Mills key premise is that individual experien ce is situated in specific social and historical environments. These environments shape not only what our experience might be, but also how we think about th ese experiences. Mills framework is useful here because it details how gay mens reproducti ve decision-making processes a nd fathering experiences are highly influenced by aspects related to a specific cultural and social context. I also draw upon the theoretical contributions of feminist sociologist, Dorothy Smith. Smith maintains that womens consciousness ha s been created by men occupying positions of power (1987, 1990). I borrow from and expand on this framework positing that gay mens procreative consciousness has been constructed within a world th at has traditionally assumed heterosexuality and continues to privilege he terosexual parenting. Smith maintains that consciousness is not merely something going on in peoples heads, rather it is produced by people and it is a social product (Smith, 1990). Thus, in order to more completely understand gay mens procreative consciousness and their possi ble fantasies of fathering, there is a necessity to link this consciousness with the institutions that create, maintain, challenge, and eventually change how gay men have historically imagin ed fatherhood and families. This study is an analysis of gay mens procreative consciousness and fathering experience s that anchors personal thoughts, decisions, and experiences to the political, historical, ec onomic, and social process that shapes them.

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23 Smiths feminist sociology is also a useful a ddition to this conceptual framework because a detailed analysis of gay mens fatherhood mo tivations and experiences must move beyond individual motivations and take a closer look at how various institutions shape and construct these processes (1987, 1990). Smiths theoretical paradigm highlights how certain institutions and ruling relations, such as adoption and fertility agencies, and the institutionalization of both fatherhood and the gay subculture shape the processes by which gay men contemplate and experience fatherhood. For example, even t hough gay mens desire for parenthood may be similar in some situations to heterosexuals fe elings, gay mens access to adoption and assisted reproductive technologies is mediated by a bureauc ratic apparatus that affects the conditions under which they can father (Lewin, 2006). This is especially important for this study because the majority of data were collected in Florida a nd New York. The former is currently one of the only states with explicit statutes prohibiting adoption by gay men and lesbians and in the latter state all use of surrogate mo thers is illegal (Horowitz & Maruyama, 1995; Mallon, 2004; Weltman, 2005). Smiths feminist sociology expands our understanding of how consciousness is a social product. However, consciousness is itself biographically framed. Thus, the body is not only an object, it is also that through which our consciousness re aches out toward and acts upon the world (Williams, 1984, p. 197). I do not treat consciousness merely as a social product, but one that emerges through gendered and sexualized bodies. The connection between gay mens awareness of themselves as procreative beings is limited due to their gendered bodies and gay identities. It is the absence of this mind-body intersection more so than its presence that shapes how men view themselves as potential father s (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002). Gay mens procreative consciousness is a social accomplishm ent in that it is condi tioned by their gendered

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24 and sexualized identities. Thus certain gendered and sexual pro cesses fashion the opportunities [gay] men have to give meaning to their pe rsonal experiences in the procreative realm (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2004, p. 14). Although thes e processes exist for all men regardless of their sexual orientation, the experience of sex for gay men is disconnected with reproduction. The question of how gay men improvise sexual sc ripts when reproduction is not an issue is fascinating in and of itself, but beyond the scope of this study. Thus, I do not attend to how gay men experience sex and other intimate relations. I ndeed, when I asked my participants if they ever thought about reproduction during sex, all un animously replied no. My starting point for this research moves beyond sexual acts and focuse s on how gay mens procreative consciousness manifests itself outside the pr ivacy of the bedroom. Even when sex and reproduction are disconnected, a procreative consciousness emerges. The procreative and fathering stories that surface in this study constitute a highly unique expression of the interrelationship between bodies, self, and society. Conceptual Lenses Seeing as my study is based on Marsiglios conceptual model for heterosexual men discussed at length in Procreative Man (1998) and in Sex, Men, and Babies: Stories of Awareness and Responsibility (2002), I employ many of the con cepts and properties he either employed or developed as a flexible analytical framework to better understand the experiences of gay men as they navigate various facets of procreative and fathering worlds. Because the experiences and social-psychol ogical negotiations of gay me n are quite different from heterosexual men, I modify some of these c oncepts to better correspond with gay mens subjectivities. Further, because Marsiglios re search is limited to so cial-psychological thoughts about fathering, I supplement his framework with an analysis of how the gay fathers in my study actually did fathering. I detail below some of the broad theoretical concepts that guided every

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25 phase of my research process: procreative c onsciousness, fatherhood readiness, possible selves, turning points, and doing fathering. Although I integrate various concepts into my analysis, these five frame my project. As further discussed in chapter 3, I use these conceptual tools as se nsitizing concepts to provide a general sense of refere nce and orientation without over ly restricting new avenues for theoretical discovery. Employing these concepts as guiding tools allowed me to refine and expand analyses of how gay men traverse path ways to fatherhood and actively do fathering. Procreative Consciousness Consciousness, by definition refers to an indivi duals awareness of or attentiveness to his or her experience at a given moment (Schutz, 1970) When consciousness is contextualized with regards to procreation, it captures the multifaceted emotions, thoughts, and experiences associated with reproduction and fathering. A ccording to Marsiglio, procreative consciousness refers to mens ideas, perceptions, feelings, a nd impressions of themselves as they pertain to various aspects of procreation (1998, p. 16). This concept de scribes some of the crucial dimensions of mens procreative experiences. Mens procreative consciousness has both an ep hemeral and enduring quality, and as such, Marsiglio distinguishes between mens situated and global procre ative consciousness (Marsiglio, 1998; Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002). On some occasions, during involvement in a specific activity, in a conversation, or as a result of various procreative triggers, men actively attend to their procreative selves and pot ential abilities for a fleeting moment, an experience Marsiglio refers to as situated procrea tive consciousness. Men are also likely to possess more permanent and stable thoughts about themselves as persons capable of birthi ng and fathering human life, an experience referred to as globa l procreative consciousness.

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26 When this concept and its respective propert ies are situated in the current study with respect to gay men, they illuminate the distinct processes by which participants experienced procreative fantasies. For exam ple, some men I interviewed s poke about experiences caring for or interacting with children as moments when they became aware of their fatherhood abilities and desires whereas others spoke of a more enduring effect thes e experiences with children had on their sense of a future father ing identity. Zack is a 34-year-o ld Chinese-American restaurant manager who once a month during the school year participates in an af ter-school program for neighborhood grade school children. During th ese few hours each month, he reflects on the possibility of becoming a father. He explained that he relishes the opportun ity to be a role model for these children and that these precious, infreq uent moments in his hectic schedule remind him of what his distant future might entail. Howeve r, a short time later, Zack leaves this innocent world of children and re-enters the crazed life of a high-end restaurant manager once again. On the flip side of the coin, lets consider Franks experiences with children. Frank is a 28-year-old graduate student who at one time was considering a career in childcare. Frank worked at a daycare center when he was betwee n the ages of 15 and 20 and again following his college graduation. He recalled many of these ex periences quite fondly and referred to them as preparation to be a good father. For Frank, these childcare experiences were more enduring than were Zacks, in that they formed the basis of his prevailing perspective on becoming a father. Yet, later in our conve rsation, Frank divulged that one specific incident within this context of childcare actually activ ated his desire to be an eter nally childless openly gay man. Frank ceased to work in childcare following an incident where a young boys mother accused him of touching him in an inappropriate manner. Despite Franks assertion that nothing of the sort ever occurred, this traumatic incident heig htened his awareness of the public scrutiny and

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27 surveillance surrounding gay men and young boys. Im mediately following this confrontation, Frank swore that he would never become a father and bring another human life into this world. Franks experience highlights how gay mens gl obal procreative consciousness is built upon and shaped by their various situationa l experiences (Marsiglio, 1998, p. 17). Franks experiences emphasize how gay men s procreative consci ousness and thoughts about fathering are distinct from that of their heterosexual coun terparts. Gay men may not have nearly as many instances that generate their procreative consciousness because they are not engaging in sex that could produ ce a pregnancy. Yet, whereas he terosexual mens procreative consciousness tends to be more short-lived and dispersed, the marginalized status of gay men enables them (or rather, forces them) to be ove rly conscious of their views and feelings in relation to the procreative and fa thering realms. Because ideology subsumes the reality of lived experience, lived experience is mediated through ideology. Hence, ones lived experiences are only understood through the filter of ideology (Smith, 1990). Guided by ideologies that stereotype gay men as pedophiles, overly promis cuous and irresponsible caregivers, gay men are likely to interpret experiences with the multidimensional procreative realm by drawing upon a complex set of politicized ideas and images that are distinct from the mosaic of beliefs that structure heterosexual mens experiences. Fatherhood Readiness The fatherhood readiness concep t captures features of how well prepared gay men believe they are to assume responsibilities associated with being a father (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002). When asked about their thoughts on fath erhood, many childless part icipants spoke of future sacrifices, in terms of finances, time, and leisure. Many of the men had vivid visions about their future experiences with fatherhood, what type of sacrifices they would need to make, and the type of father that they would be. A co mmon theme that emerged was that in order to be

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28 an ideal father, one would need to sacrifice a large part of them selves, specifically with regards to their career aspirations and leisure activities. Aiden, a White college aged man contemplating fatherhood illustrates this pe rfectly when he said: Its a lot of time and commitments that you have to be willing to put into this kid. Youre going to have to be sacrificing a lot. Some in stances, maybe a little bi t of your career. Even just like little things that you might consider that youre mi ssing out on, like, I might not be able to travel as much, which is something that I do want to do, and ev en if I did travel, I would have to make things okay for the kid. And I also have to look at the stress. You know, just worrying, Am I doing a good job? Similar to some of the men Marsiglio and Hutchi nson spoke with, Aiden r ecognized that in order to be an ideal father, he would eventually have to surrender various luxu ries that he now takes for granted. As discussed in greater detail in chapter four, more is at stake than simply sacrificing career, time, leisure, and the financial respons ibility typically associ ated with fatherhood. Furthermore, for many gay men who cannot simp ly accidentally become pregnant, fatherhood readiness may begin to be experi enced years before one actually decides to become a father. Regardless of which fatherhood pathway is chos en, the substantial planning, navigating, and structure that many gay men experien ce is tied to fatherhood readiness. In chapter four I also attend to the degree to which and how gay men collaborate with a partner or assess their state of readiness independently. Gay men vary in how certain they feel they are to have a child at this point in their life, in general or with a particular partner. Accordingly, mens perception of an ideal fathering situation is inextricably intertwined with how they perceive the type of relationship th ey want, their relationshi p and experiences with their own father, and their financ ial situation. For men mulling ove r fathering possibilities, they must also consider their own personal character istics, the availability and composition of their social networks, and for gay men, their perceptions about their place in part icular gay networks.

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29 Possible Selves Researchers who explore any prospective id entity have drawn upon the discourse of possible selves to capture the not ion that individuals can project themselves into the future. Possible selves represent the cognitive expression of long-lasting goals, as pirations, and fears. This concept provides the connection between on es self and ones future motives (Strauss & Goldberg, 1999). Consistent with the symbolic in teractionist perspective the self is a dynamic and multifaceted fusion of various social experien ces in an individuals life. Accordingly, the self has reflexive abilities, as individuals can an d often do express themselv es as both subject and object. As individuals mentally c onstruct images of their future they juxtapose these against their past and present self-images. Thus, as gay men think about themselves as future fathers, they mentally traverse their previous and projec ted life course to express their subjectivity and assign meaning to their self (Mar siglio & Hutchinson, 2002, p. 12). In order to get at a richer understanding of how gay men subjectively experien ce the procreative realm, we must attend to how men work with a past, present, and future self. Because my research draws on two distin ct subsamples, the multiplicity of time dimensions emerged as a critical construct. As discussed above, the concep t of possible selves is useful to grasp how the childless men conceived of their future. However, because talking about their family usually paved the way for a chronolo gical order of narrative events, the fathers I spoke with frequently reflected upon their possible past selves. Events and experiences were reconstructed in such a way in which the vantag e point of the interview determined the telling and as such, the present and future were sh adowed backwards (Nelson, 2006). As men spoke about transitions to fatherhood, th ey discursively reconstructed their past, present and future selves. Spencer is a father who I intervie wed who became a father through two different scenarios--first, by co-parenti ng with a lesbian woman and s econd, by adopting a special needs

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30 child almost a decade later. When I asked him how he pictured his future prior to having his children, he expressed forlornly that it was a sad thing to th ink about if I didnt have a [romantic] partner who was younger than me, who would be sitting by my bed when I was dying. It was a source of some sadness. Im not sure if back then I said to myself all I need to do is have children, it was just sort of a sadness. The present realities of the me n I spoke with were continge nt upon choices involving self, identity, and kinship (Nelson, 2006). My reli ance on two subsamples of childless men and fathers illuminates how gay male identities and fa ther identities are discursively merged through talk of time. As the childless men fantasized th eir future, they fused the possibility of fatherhood within their possible self-concept. As the fa thers told me their stories and touched on the alternative future they could eas ily be living, their possible selves emerged as a present construct of the future with a different past. Throughout th is study, we will see past, present, and future selves become entangled in a complex web of ta lk, as the men narrate th eir selves through time. Turning Points The turning point concept was useful for Ma rsiglio and Hutchinson (2002) and is of similar use to my research because of the dyna mic aspect of mens careers in the procreative realm (25). A situation, experience, or incident may be regarded as a tu rning point if it prompts an individual to experience a break in consci ousness and motivate them to become something different than they were before. As the tu rning point process unfol ds, individuals become exposed to their possible selves. Whereas some turning points may be discrete events that are direct triggers to mens procreative conscious ness, others may be more gradual transitions typical of emerging adulthood. In chapter 4, I discuss turning points at length. I attend to th e ways that transitions take many forms, referring to these as observational, institutional, cultural, interactional, and gradual

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31 turning points. In th e context of my discussion of turn ing points, I emphasize how gay mens procreative thoughts are dynamic and how these transitions in consciousness emerge through their gendered and sexu al identities. Doing Fathering I draw upon the concept of doing fathering to show how the men in my study engage in fathering actions, behaviors, and processes. Th is concept emerges from West and Zimmermans construct of doing gender (1987). The metaphor of doing gender was one of the first to reconceptualize gender as not so much a set of tr aits residing with indivi duals, but as something people do in their social in teractions. A persons gender is not simply an aspect of what one is, but more fundamentally, it is some thing that one does, recurrentl y, in interaction with others (West and Zimmerman, 1987, p. 126). By using this doing concept in my research, fa thering and more broadly, family is viewed as situated accomplishments of my participants and when fathering and family are viewed as such, the focus of analysis moves from matters in ternal to the individual to interactional and eventually institutional arenas. Thus, one is not only a father but one does fathering. The concept of accountability is of primary significance here because gi ven that much of society still defines family as a heterosexual two-parent nucl ear structure, the families in my study came to be held accountable for every action each member performed. Accountability is relevant to both those actions that conform and deviate from prevailing normative conceptions about family. I stress that while individuals are the ones who do fathering and family, the process of rendering something accountable is both interactional and institutional. In chapter 6, I draw extensively upon the framework of the doing fathering and family perspective, highlighting how my participants who had ch ildren navigated playgrounds, neighborhoods, schools, and their families of origi n. I also attend to the various ways by which

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32 men narrated concerns and expe riences with gender, sexualit y, fathering, and family. The concept of accountability becomes critical as I move into a theoreti cal discussion of how heterosexual domination influences ho w gay men do fathering and family. Overview of Dissertation I organize my project in accord ance with the typical chronolog ical processes involved in how many of the gay men I spoke with became fa thers. The chapters entitled, fantasying fathering, becoming a father, and doing fathering describe the processual development of what ultimately becomes the culmination of a gay father identity. Where I could have organized my final product according to emergent themes, such as the awareness of barriers, sociohistorical changes, changing social networks, and thought s and negotiations about engendering of their children, I opted to structure this project as if I were telling the reader a chronological story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. However, these themes appear in every phase of the procreative and fathering process. Chapter two offers readers an in-depth overvie w of the existing research on gay fathers. The possibility of openly gay men choosing fa therhood is a result of various demographic, historical, social, institutional, and cultural change s. As such, I discuss eac h of these separately within my review of the litera ture. In chapter three I summar ize methodological approaches and strategies I used and I explore how my awaren ess of my heterosexual privilege unexpectedly surfaced through the course of studying gay me ns procreative consciousness and fathering experiences. Chapter four details mens fathering fantas ies and explores how the dual experience of being a gay man is reconciled with possible desires to father in the future. In this chapter, I begin with narratives of three participants who came of age indifferent decades. By deconstructing their stories I captu re their procreative experiences and illustrate how major social

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33 and historical changes shape how gay men conceive of themselves as father s. I then explore the various turning points that my participants experienced. Some of these turning points are cognitive transitions in their desires to parent, wh ile others are mental rea lizations that they are able to parent. Within this discussion of fantasying fatherhood, I discuss how gay mens procreative consciousness is intimately tied to their ideal fath ering visions, their child visions, their awareness of emerging re productive opportunities and looming constraints, and their fatherhood readiness. I also sp ecify how gay mens procreativ e consciousness and decisions about fatherhood are shaped within a socially co nstructed world that assumes heterosexuality, privileges heterosexuality, and has irrational and homophobic beliefs about gay men in general and gay men with children in particular. In chapter five I discuss the process by which the fathers in my sample became parents. Where almost all of the men I interviewed metic ulously planned fatherhood, we will hear more about one father, Andrew who became a father ra ther accidentally when his partner discovered a newborn baby abandoned on a subway platform. We will learn about another man, Aaron ,whose partner passed away at the tail end of their preg nancy and he is now pare nting in very different familial arrangement than he had imagined. Interestingly, some men I interviewed did not identify as fathers, but had prolonged fathering experiences that left lasting impressions on their selves as men capable of fa thering human life. For the major ity of fathers in my sample,the journey to fatherhood was complete with twists and turns as they navigated their way through attorneys, adoption agencies, surrogacy agencies, hospital staff, and variou s other institutions. Here, I discuss in great detail how the identity of the birth parents, in part icular, the birth mother becomes intertwined with mens father and fa mily identities. Fina lly, I expound on how some

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34 men become fathers through multiple procreative path ways at different times in their lives, an experience which had a distinct influence in sh aping how they saw themselves as fathers. Chapter six centers on doing fathering and family and the life changes these men experienced when they entered into fatherhood. As gay fathers in a heterosexist society, these men had to contend with their dual status as ope nly gay men who also happen to be fathers. Some men spoke of how having children closets th em, while others spoke of the closet as a revolving door in that their paradoxi cal identity forced them to come out of the closet again and again to strangers on the street new social networks, and vari ous persons involved in their childrens lives. As their soci al world changed from gay bars, opera clubs and urban gay ghettos to suburban houses, playgroups, and PTA meeti ngs, men spoke of the paradox of how their identities simultaneously shifted but also very much stayed the same. Men spoke of both, negative discrimination and positiv e feedback and reinforcement. For men, the specific family form they were able to construct conditioned their psychological and physical negotiations. Men who co-parented with lesbian women had very di fferent daily negotiations than those men who adopted. More obviously, single fathers had diffe rent experiences than coupled fathers. Regardless of their family arrangement, all fath ers had to negotiate issues associated with socialization, negotiating gender a nd sexuality and some also had to navigate matters of race and ethnicity. I conclude this chap ter with a look into the debate of whether gay planned families open the door to new familial possibilities or if they simply reconstruct traditional familial norms. The final chapter revisits the research questions that informed this study. The bulk of this chapter proposes a theory of ga y mens procreative, father, and family identities grounded in the data. My original extension of the procreativ e identity framework w ith Mills sociological

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35 imagination (1959) and Smiths feminist soci ology of knowledge (1987, 1990) helped to frame an initial analysis of how gay men develop and negotiate their pr ocreative, father, and family discourses, identities, and experiences. However, in a more nuanced attempt to bridge social structure and process, I borrow dimensions from a Foucaultian discipline and punish framework (1975) to propose a novel lens to conceptualize queer parenting. I conc lude by detailing the limitations of my work, recommending ideas for fu ture research and disc ussing the implications of my study.

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36 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW For many, the term gay father might set off two distinct alarms. The first is related to ingrained heterosexism. The concepts of hete rosexuality and parenthood are so inextricably intertwined in society that the mere suggestion of gay fatherhood appears strange, abnormal, and even impossible (Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989; Mallon, 2004; Strah, 2003). The second alarm is related to sexism and the perpetual belief that parenting is womens natural domain. Even in contemporary America, fathers are viewed as se condary, rather than primary parents (Mallon, 2004). Men as sole parental figures in reari ng a young child are historically an unfamiliar phenomenon. Although families headed by single men are increasing (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1998), traditional gender scripts still regard the female as the primary parental figure. Accordingly, gay men who choose to parent, either as a couple or singly, mu st cope with the fact that they will be challenging societal notions regarding the ob vious absence of a woman as the primary caregiver (Mallon, 2000). Under th is assumption, many men, both gay and non-gay, will struggle with questions concerning their abilit y to parent based solely on their exposure to traditional gender scripts. Even more, the very existence of gay fathers and even gay men who want to be fathers challenges traditional assu mptions about gender, sexualities, and families. Demographic Changes: Gay Men Choosing Fatherhood Although the social construction of the homosexua l-heterosexual binary is a fairly recent phenomenon, it is likely that men who would now define themselves as gay have fathered children since ancient times (Bozett, 1989). Various dimensions of gay fathers experiences are well-documented (Barret & Robinson, 2000; Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989; Bozett, 1985, 1987; Lewin, 2004; Mallon, 2004; Miller, 1979; Stacey 2006; Strah, 2003). Gay men can become fathers in a variety of ways. The majority of gay men who are fathers probably experienced a

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37 delayed coming-out process because of the negati ve stigmas associated with homosexuality put forward by our heterosexist cultu re. This group of gay fathers once were in a heterosexual union, became fathers with their female partners, and sin ce then have divorced. This particular group of fathers has received the bulk of academic attenti on. Consequently, most of the work examining gay fathers centers on the experiences of ga y men who parented through the course of heterosexual marriages and other heteronorma tive relationships (Barret & Robinson, 2000; Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989; Boze tt, 1985, 1987; Miller, 1979). However, today, it is openly gay, more so th an closeted or married gay men who are becoming fathers. Furthermore, since the mid1980s, gay men have fathered children through a myriad of non-traditional ways (Lemon, 2004). Some gay men have fathered with a surrogate mother (Lev, 2006; Strah, 2003), others conceived and raised children join tly with a woman or women with whom they were emotionally bu t not sexually involved. Another group became fathers through foster parenting, adoption, and the development of kinship ties (Mallon, 2004; Savage, 1999; Strah, 2003). Although accurate statistics on most aspect s of homosexuality are impossible to obtain, rough estimates of the number of gay fathers can be made. The Kinsey studies based on a nonrandom sample (Kinsey, Pommeroy, & Martin, 1 948) suggested that 10% of men in the United States were homosexual, and this figure was considered the refere nce point for years. However, recent research with more representative sample s estimates that approximately five percent of men in the U.S. are gay (Gagnon, Laumann, Michael & Michaels, 1994). Furthermore, it is estimated that 20 to 25% of se lf-identified gay men are father s (Bigner, 1999; Bozett, 1989; Miller, 1979). According to Ma llon (2004) the United States is home to between one to two

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38 million gay fathers. However, because many gay men remain closeted, the actual number of gay fathers is most likely higher than these numbers suggest (Mallon, 2004). In one national survey of gay male couples one-third of respondent s younger than the age of 35 were either planning to have children or considering the idea of doing so (Bryant & Demian, 1994). Another smaller-scale study cond ucted among gay men in New York found that a majority of gay men who were not fathers woul d like to raise a child, an d those who said they wanted children were younger than those who di d not (Sbordone, 1993). Furthermore, research shows that since the early to mid-1980s the number of gay men forming their own families through adoption, foster parenting, and kinship relationships has risen dramatically (Barret & Robinson, 2000; Mallon, 2004; Patterson, 1995; St acey, 2006; Strah, 2003). A very recent analysis of the National Survey of Family Gr owth found that roughly 52 % of gay-identified men between the ages of 15 and 44 want to have a child (or another child) (Jeffries, 2006, Unpublished paper. Sociology Department. Un iversity of Florida) Thus, the social phenomenon of men who openly identify as gay, who lead publicly gay lives, and then decide to create a family, is an emerging trend that warrants attention. Historical Changes: Beyond the Closet In order to understand comple tely how the social phenomenon of openly gay men choosing fatherhood has emerged, I briefly desc ribe the historical changes that have shaped what it means to be a gay man in contemporary America. These historical transformations are part of a larger and multifaceted GLBT movement including revo lutions in identity politics of gay men, lesbians, transgender persons, and even heterose xuals. Although the historical comparisons of these socially constructed groups are beyond th e scope of this study, I acknowledge that the history of gay mens identity politics has not occurred in isolation from these other categories.

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39 Historical analyses of gay identity politics detail how the notion of the closet took shape in response to a culture that tainted homosexua lity and regulated behavior by stigmatizing gender and sexual nonconformity as a sign of homosexual ity. Through the repressi ve practices of the state, the homosexual was ostraci zed from public life and by th e 1950s; the closet had become the defining reality for many young gay Amer icans as a strategy of accommodating to heterosexual domination (Seidman, 2004). The hist oric and now monument al Stonewall victory in 1969 when gay bar patrons suc cessfully rebelled ag ainst the violent prac tices of the police birthed a novel time for gay men. Homosexualit y emerged not as a pathological desire or impulse, but instead, as a core signifier of an out and proud identity. Co nsequently, the general gay mens agenda post-Stonewall saw the rise of national movement that championed this core gay identity. Currently, however, as a result of myriad co ntemporary social and cu ltural changes, there has been a cultural transformation in the place of gays in America. As gay and lesbian political agendas move beyond the post-Stonewall expectati ons of tolerance, a pu sh for acceptance is emerging and such acceptance includes the accepta nce of families. A social dialogue that focuses on coming out of the closet, advocating a core gay identity a nd gay pride, and the migration to gay urban enclaves are less explanatory of gay life today than they were years ago (Seidman, 2004). According to Seidman, the gay generation after 1980 is the first to come of age in a social setting more friendly than the pr evious one, in that these gay mens parents were baby boomers, a generation who are typically view ed as somewhat liberal, tolerant, and to a lesser extent, accepting of gay rights (2004). As suc h, there is a drastic social change in the political agenda of gay men, wherei n the stereotype of gays as anti -family is being challenged. Increasingly, gay men expect to be recognized as members of families, and today, many gay men

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40 not are unwilling to surrender strong family ties as the price for living a satisfying and open gay life. As a result, the family has become a meta phorical war zone in the conflict over the meaning and place of gays in America, and a battl e is being waged over th e meaning of family. For a very long time, American cu lture has assumed that gays are not supposed to be in or have families. However, as gays demand recognition of their own families, the war over the family becomes an institutional, interpersonal, and in trapsychic struggle whereby this deeply intimate personal sphere has become a highly charge d political battleground (Seidman, 2004, p.97). Institutional Dimensions: Emerging Opportunities The trend of openly gay men beginning to achieve fatherhood speaks to larger developments in postmodern transformations of kinship in that we ar e currently witnessing a reconfiguration of what we have always termed the family (Stacey, 1996). As we begin the new millennium we can clearly see how families are in a constant state of flux, with individuals constructing and creating novel type s of kinship arrangements othe r than the dominant traditional nuclear family popularized in the 1950s (Coontz, 2000). Many discussions of family transformations have placed gay and lesbian pa rents on the frontier, deeming them postmodern family pioneers (Stacey 2006). Yet, despite the pioneering status gay and lesbian families have been ascribed, many resist identifying as such, longing to normalize their familial constructions as much as possible (Clarke, 2002a). Even more, gay and lesbian families are simply a small part of a broader process of so cial and cultural changes that in clude varying forms of emerging family constellations (Nelson, 2006). Particular forms of gay fathers were litera lly inconceivable before recent groundbreaking developments in reproductive technology and cha nging legalities in the adoption system (Stacey, 1996). Although the field of foster care and adoption remains one in which homophobic

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41 discourses and practices frequently surface (H icks, 2006a; 2006b), 39 percent of all adoption agencies in the United States reported placing a child with gay or le sbian adopters in 1999-2000 (Brodzinsky, et al ., 2003). Even more, Growing Generations, an agency that specializes in surrogacy arrangements explicitly for gay men was founded in 1996 and has since worked with approximately 500 families, birthing 230 babies (Lev, 2006). The gradually increasing legal tolerance of gay planned families coupled with GLBT family rights campaigns has piloted the emergence of novel familial pathways that at one time were virtually nonexistent. The narratives of the younger childless men in my sample illustrate how as novel opportunities surface for gay men to construct families and father children, fatherhood and childlessness become voluntary cons tructs rather than compulsory ways of life. Gay mens lens into the future has shifted from an imagined lif e of childlessness to a life with new potentialities that include many familial possibilities, some of which involve becoming a parent and some of which do not. Clearly, as more men come out of the closet, they create more choice about how to be a gay man (Seidman, 2004). As gay men across America broaden their psyches to the idea of fatherhood outside heterosexual intercourse, they challenge proscripti ons that have traditionally banned them from parenting (Dunne, 1999). Over the past two decad es, some gay men have turned the adoption world on its head while others are taking char ge of their own physiolo gical capabilities and employing the assistance of surrogate mothers in unprecedented numbers (Lev, 2006, p. 73). By using these emerging opportunities and creating planned families gay men challenge normative definitions of family, fatherhood, and even established gender and sexual norms of the mainstream gay subculture. Stereotypical c onstructions of gay men as being sexually

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42 promiscuous, anti-family, and having few financia l obligations are gradually being contested as they increasingly traverse the paths to fatherhood (Stacey, 2006). Cultural Dimensions: Stereotypes of Gay Men For many, the very idea of a gay man as th e primary nurturing figure rearing children is still implausible. Many laypersons, professionals and practitioners cling to a belief system grounded in negative myths and stereotypes a bout gay men (Mallon, 2004). Many of these myths and stereotypes emerged because of the dearth of scientific studies on gay fathers. These myths have persisted largely unchallenged because few gay fathers have a significant political voice and emergent research is politicized (B arret & Robinson, 2000; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). In the past three decades, researchers have begu n to realize the critical role fathers play in their childrens development. Furthermore, the advent of second wave feminism, changing gender norms, and the greater acceptance of homos exuality among professional and scientific organizations has prompted a new conversation. The age of gay parenthood has surfaced from the closet and phrases like gayby boom ar e becoming more commonplace (Barret & Robinson, 2000). Researchers are debunking common myths a nd stereotypes about gay fathers shedding light on the irrationality of these misconceptions. I discuss each myth to show clearly through scientific evidence how each is unjustified and irrational. The child will become gay as a result of having a gay parental role model A prevailing belief about gay fathers is that interactions between th ese men and their children will lead to transmission of homosexualit y. In other words, children of gay fathers will turn out to be gay themselves (Barret & Robinson, 2000). Howeve r, the vast majority of children of gay men and lesbian women actually turn out to be heterosexual (Cramer, 1986). Millers (1979) groundbreaking study of gay fathers assessed the se xual orientation of 37 daughters and 21 sons, ranging in age from 14 33 of 40 gay fathers aged 24 64 from metropolitan locations across the

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43 United States and Canada, and found that only eight percent of the children were gay (one of the sons and three of the daughters). Although Mille rs study can be challenged for not employing a random sample, the fact that he uncovere d very few instances of second generation homosexuality is still a significant conclusion. Another study of 702 parents of gay men and women indicated that 90% of the parents were heterosexual, 4% were bisexual, and only 6% identified as completely homosexual (R obinson, Walters, & Skeen, 1989). Another study showed that only approximately 10% of children of gay and lesbian parents develop homosexual identities (Bailey, Bobrow, Wolfe, & Mikach, 1995). Each of the above statistics is only slightly above the prevailing estimates that roughly 2 5% percent of men in the U.S. are gay, regardless of parental sexual orientation (Ga gnon, Laumann, Michael, & Michaels, 1994). The above studies indicate that the homophobi c myth that children will be gay simply because they have gay fathers is unsubstantiated. However, recently, Stacey and Biblarz (2001) have dissected much of this prio r research on children raised by gay and lesbian parents and have pointed out that while these childr en do not become gay per se, they are more likely to engage in same-gender experimentation. Rather than se arching for sameness or difference in these children, the larger question should focus on why homosexuality has become so devalued in contemporary American society. Gay men are more likely than hete rosexual men to molest children The stereotype of gay men as child molesters remains so ingrained in to the psyche of the ma jority of the population (including social service profe ssionals) that the idea of gay men as parents seems dangerous (Mallon, 2004). This myth stems from the idea th at men in general, and gay men in particular, are sexual predators unable to control themselves sexually (M allon, 2004). However, Millers research (1979) uncovered that ga y fathers seldom exploit their children. Moreover, according to

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44 police statistics, 90% of sexual abuse of ch ildren is committed by a man who identifies as heterosexual (Voeller & Walters, 1978). Similarly, of the cases studied in volving molestation of a boy by a man, 74% of the molesters were or had been involved in a heterosexual relationship with the boys mother or another female relativ e of the child (Jenny, Roesler, & Poyer, 1994). Hence, all the legitimate scientific evidence supp orts the assertion that there is no connection between homosexuality and molestation. Gay men do not have stable relationships and thus would not know how to be good parents. Gay men are viewed as having fleeting and s uperficial relationships and are regarded as completely incapable of having a lasti ng and committed relations hip (Barret & Robinson, 2000). There is a widespread belief that gay men cannot sustain relationships with men, and thus, must not be able to commit to the idea of fatherhood. If one were to buy into this myth, then it is understandable how a gay mans commit ment to his children would seem unusual. But, similar to many adults in this country, the majo rity of gay men are in fact involved in committed relationships (Mallon, 2004). A ll the empirical eviden ce debunks this myth and highlights the notion that gay men can and do make good pare nts. In 1995, the American Psychological Association reported that not a single study had found that childr en of gay and lesbian parents were disadvantaged in any way that differs from those children raised by heterosexual individuals. This same report concluded that, home environments provided by gay parents are as likely as those provided by he terosexual parents to support and enable ch ildrens psychosocial growth. Furthermore, the Child Welfare Lea gue of America and the North American Council on Adoptable Children assert that gays and lesbians seeking to adopt should be evaluated the same way as any other adoptive applicant, regardless of their se xuality (Mallon, 2004).

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45 Children need a mother and a father to have proper male and female role models. Many people, especially those who draw from religious passages condemning homosexuality, assert that a child will not devel op their gender id entity fully if they are without a mother and a father as role models (Clarke, 2002; Clarke & Ki tzinger, 2005). Similarl y, functionalist views of the family maintain that a primary function of the family is to socialize children. Although sociology has abandoned much of its functionalist unde rpinnings, we still cling to the belief that a principle function of families is to socialize children. Moreover, proscriptions of family socialization include the importa nce of socializing children to act in accordance with normative gendered standards of behavior. Through the assistance of gendered toys, books, clothing, and communication patterns, parents are expected to teach children to behave in ways that are synonymous with being a proper male or female. One of the major reasons why gay and lesbian families are viewed as such a threat to the normativ e family is their perceived lack of ability to properly socialize children with appropriate gend er norms. Yet, academics and laypersons alike might want to first ask, what is so good a bout the way girls and boys are currently being socialized in heterosexual nuclear families? A critical feminist exploration into gay and le sbian families reveals that children raised in these families are being taught not to conform to such gender ideals that have traditionally inscribed boys and girls with the separate a nd unequal standards that have fostered gender inequality. Stacey and Biblarz s (2001) review of gay and lesbian headed families exposes a myriad of intriguing findings that tell us a great deal about gender socialization. Lesbian mothers reported that their child ren did not behave in ways that conformed to sex typed cultural norms. For example, 53% of daughters raised by lesbian mothers aspired to such careers as doctors, astronauts, lawyers and engineers as comp ared with only 21% of the daughters raised by

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46 heterosexual mothers (Green, et al 1986 as cited in Stacey and Biblarz, 2001). Similarly, sons raised by lesbian mothers reported lower levels of aggressive behavior and preferred to play with more gender-neutral toys than thos e sons raised by heterosexual single mothers (Green et al 1986 as cited in Stacey and Biblarz, 2001). However, Pattersons review of th e literature in gay and lesbian families reveals that gay fathers were more likely to report encouraging their children to play with gender-typed toys th an were lesbian mothers (Harri s and Turner 1985/1986 as cited in Patterson, 2000). Yet, Patterson s report does not divulge anythi ng about how these practices compare with heterosexual couples. Interestin gly, Dan Savage, satirical columnist and gay father explains that he has a desire for his son to show interest in the masculine-typed toys that he himself never enjoyed (Johnson and Connor, 2002). Thus, although the evidence is unclear, it is safe to assert that gender and sexuality in teract in unique ways to produce distinct child socialization practices. The above myths, stereotypes, and images are a result of an institutionalized heterosexual dominance that affects the work of child welf are professionals. Even worse, gay men have internalized these irrational myths to the extent that many incorporate these into their own selfconcept. In turn, many young gay men are apprehen sive of becoming fathers even if given the opportunity because they are overly concerned with how outsiders would perceive them. Even though all empirical evidence highlights the no tion that ones sexual orientation does not determine ones ability to love and care for a ch ild, such unsubstantiated myths persist, affecting laypersons, social servic e professionals, and even gay men themselves. Clearly, we are moving beyond the closet (S eidman, 2004). Nevertheless, as the notion of the closet becomes less salient, this does not necessarily de note that heterosexual domination is a remnant of the past. Whether it is the 1970s, 80s, 90s, or today, gay men are still

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47 growing up in a world organized by heterose xuality. Although many individuals today can choose to live beyond the closet, they must sti ll reside in a world where most institutions maintain heterosexual domination. The very notion that some gay men have apprehensions about becoming and being fathers because of public sc rutiny illuminates how heterosexual dominance is deeply rooted in the institutions and culture of American society and must be understood as not simply a product of laws or individual prej udice, but institutionali zed pervasive dominance (Seidman, 2004). Interpersonal Dimensions According to Robinson and Barret (1986), the reasons gay men choose to be parents are every bit as diverse as those given by heterosexual men. Similarly, Bigner & Jacobsen (1989) affirm that there is little difference between ga y fathers and non-gay fath ers in their desire for children. They both cite the desire for nurturing children, the constancy of children in their lives, the achievement of some sense of immortality via children, and the sense of family that children help to provide. Gerald Mallon explored the fathering traject ories of 20 openly gay men who have adopted children in New York and the surrounding areas. Mallon (2000; 2004) posits that the desire to parent is unrelated to sexual orientation and a sserts that gay men and lesbians become adoptive parents for some of the same reasons that non-gay persons adopt children. However, unlike their heterosexual counterparts who couple, become pre gnant, and give birth, ga y and lesbian couples who wish to parent must carefully consider a variety of other variab les when contemplating parenthood (Dunne, 2000). Such considerations include the couples decision on how they should go about creating a family; whether it shou ld be through adoption, foster parenting or through Asisted Reproductive Technology (ART). Si milarly, the couple must decide whether to

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48 be honest about their sexual orie ntation and disclose this poten tially damaging information to the respective agency (Barret & Robins on, 2000; Mallon, 2000, 2004; Strah, 2003). For many gay men, coming out as gay is synony mous with the automatic assumption that fatherhood is not an option. In fact, many men view being gay as equivale nt to being childless. Don, an openly gay man and father in Mallons st udy elaborates that the coming-out process for me was not so much about people knowing I was gay as it was more about losing the idea of having children (Mallon, 2004). Si milarly, gay father, Dan Savage elaborates on this when he explains, when I came out in 1980, it didnt occur to me that one day I would adopt a child. I assumed, incorrectly that it was illegal for gay me n to adopt children. Af ter all, gay men didnt have families, we were a threat to families (Savage, 1999, p. 22). How do gay men move from one extreme, rega rding themselves as forever childless to another extreme, eventually fathering children? Mallon (2004) offers insi ght into several turning points that gay men experienced. Many men noted their fatherhood realizations were influenced by meeting lesbian mothers, meeting another gay ma n who chose to be a father, taking care of a friend's child, the death of a partner (usually due to AIDS), and being exposed to adoption organizations. Furthermore, many studies and personal memoirs underscore the significance of institutionalized service agencies organizations, and child welfar e agencies in breaking through organizational biases to promote gay adoption and heighten gay mens awareness of fatherhood opportunities and possibilities (Green, 1999; Mallon, 2000; 2004; Savage, 1999; Strah, 2003). Mallon (2000) illuminates these processes with a narrative de scribing a gay couples journey toward foster care and adoption: We always wanted to be parents but we just assumed that because we were gay that we would be discriminated against and not be perm itted to be parents. At a gay pride event

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49 about two years ago we saw information from GLASS (Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services in Los Angeles). The social worker at the table told us about the foster parenting process and we could not believe that it might be possible for us. We went home and talked about the idea about becoming fost er parentswe did all of our paper work, had our home study completedand waited for a child to be placed with usThe day the adoption was finalized was the greatest day of our lives. If it we rent for GLASS, we never would have been able to have our dream. This narrative is important because it highlight s the significance of so cial service agencies, organizations, and child welfar e agencies in promoting gay adoption while simultaneously heightening gay mens social psyc hological awareness of these possibilities. Thus, a thorough analysis of gay mens procreative consciousne ss and reproductive decision-making requires attention be given to understanding how the incr eased awareness of fath ering opportunities, such as those discussed above, may transform gay mens awareness. Moreover, although this narrative does not go into detail, it undersco res how gay men experi ence specific thought processes when deciding whether or not to father Such dialogue as we always wanted to be parentswe went home and talked about the idea demonstrates how gay men embark on distinct negotiations when contem plating parenting (Mallon, 2000). Intrapsychic Dimensions: Social-Psychological Processes Gay fathers have a unique and more multifaceted social psychological environment than both their heterosexual counterparts and other ga y non-fathers in relation to identity concerns, acceptance of self, and acceptance by other ho mosexuals (Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989). Researchers have expressed the idea that the man w ho is both gay and a father is the victim of a divided personal identity (Bozett, 1981, 1985). Gay fathers are regarded as marginal to the cultural worlds of both heterosexuals and gays alike, because each identity is to some extent viewed as unacceptable to the other way of life. In one of the earliest memoirs on gay men choosing fatherhood, Jesse Green recollects a ga y party in The Hamptons and the negative reaction he received when he showed up with his young son, some [gay partygoers] turned their

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50 backs to block out the interferen ce; others looked over with sour expressions that suggested we were about as welcome as a chaperone at a prom (Green, 1993, p.158). The gay subculture is one that has traditionally been regarded as singles oriented, and gay men are seen as having few longterm commitments to partners and few financial obligations. Similarly, the gay subculture has been ster eotyped as emphasizing personal freedom and autonomy (Bozett, 1981, Mallon, 2004). In contrast the gay father is someone with emotional and financial responsibilities to others, time restrictions, different living arrangements, obligations to others who are dependent on him, and so on (Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989, p. 164). Consequently, research has noted that it is not uncommon for gay fathers to experience rejection and discrimination from their gay peers who are not fathers because of these restrictions to freedom (Bozett, 1981; Mallon 2004). Although the gay subculture is changing and becoming more accepting of children, these changes are gradual strides at best. Gay and lesbian parenti ng support programs are emerging in metropolitan cities, most notably, Center Kids in New York City and Pop Luck in Los Angeles. The 2000 census dispelled the notion that gay men only live in well-known urban centers on both coasts (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco) and revealed that many gay men reside in rural areas, suburban neighborhoods, and small towns (Strah, 2003). Consequently, many gay men do not have access to the recourses and support that the above organi zations provide. In Mallons (2004) research many participants re ported having to reframe their role in the gay community. For these men, th e experience of coming out as fa thers meant dealing with the judgment that they were trying to be too much lik e straights; that they were selling out to the straight way of life. Thus, the experience of fatherhood was characterized by a loss of friends and diminished standing in the gay community (Mallon, 2004). Because gay fathers hold two

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51 social statuses that are to so me degree inconsistent with one another, (Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989; Mallon, 2004) it is reasonable to assume that a gay mans decision-making processes for becoming a father are quite different fr om his heterosexual counterparts. Within a socially constructed world privil eging heterosexual parenting, my research considers how gay men negotiate their dual experience of bei ng gay and having desires to become a father and ultimately become fathers. Because of the combination of sexism, stigmas associated with being gay, myths regarding gay fath ers, and the conflicting identities of being a gay father, gay mens parenting motivations and fathering experiences are quite different from that of their heterosexual counterparts and theref ore require further invest igation. Further, the qualitative approach I propose is uniquely designed to answer the consid erations and research questions that warrant attention. Moreover, this approach gene rates theoretical and practical insights about the social psychological processe s by which gay men experience the procreative arena and fatherhood.

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52 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHOD As I theorize about the men in this study, I aim to advance knowledge of how gay men construct, express, and negotiate their identities as future and/or active fathers. Consequently, my goal is not to estimate how many gay men are fa thers or want to be fathers. Such questions are best left for studies based on large, statistically re presentative samples. Whereas this study is limited in its ability to genera lize results with confidence to all gay men, it is ground breaking because it explores gay mens inner worlds with respect to repr oduction and fatherhood consciousness. Hence, a qualita tive methodological approach is most appropriate to study the processes by which gay men become aware and express their procrea tive consciousness, as qualitative methods are sensitive to the distinct ive quality of different life experiences, the contextual nature of knowledge, the production of meaning, and the inte ractive character of human action. Aside from the concepts borrowed from Sex, Men, and Babies that are discussed in chapter one, the knowledge from this study emerged through interplay between myself and my participants throughout every phase of the research process. Since the methodological strategy was intensive interviews, information emerge d through conversation and dialogue. Consistent with a grounded theory approac h, I treated my project as a lo osely structured and evolving process whereby theoretical id eas were generated from the conversations I had with my participants. My ideas were shaped and reshaped throughout the course of the research through a process of gradual induction a nd gradual deduction and interv iew questions were altered as novel ideas surfaced.

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53 Sample and Recruitment My analysis draws on audiotap ed, in-depth interviews with a sample of 19 childless gay men and 22 gay fathers who have created famili es through nonheterosexual means. I use a purposeful sampling strategy to en sure the selection of information-rich cases for detailed examination. Information-rich cases are those fr om which the researcher can learn a significant amount with regards to issues of central importa nce, depending on the purpose of the researcher (Patton, 1990). The purposeful inclusion of bot h fathers and childless men of varying ages should not be viewed as a stra tegy to compare these two groups of men. Rather it is a methodological tactic I employ to better understand how emerging social structural opportunities, shifting constraints, and historical developments shape the process of gay mens reproductive decision-making and fathering experiences throughout their life course. I recruited through a variety of methods in diverse locales from July 2004 May 2006. Recruitment for the gay childless men began with acquaintances and colleagues of mine who defined themselves as openly gay men and who were childless at the time of the interview. To limit the subsamples homogeneity, participants we re recruited in two ve ry different cities, Gainesville and Miami, Florida. Gainesville is a college town populated with students and academics. Miami is metropolitan city deemed by many as gay-friendly. After speaking with these friends and colleagues, I then posted fl yers (see appendix D) in areas frequented by members of the gay community such as gay community centers, shopping malls, eating and drinking establishments, hair salons, and PRID E unions. The flyers for the recruitment of childless gay men were a broad call for participants who might be interested in discussing their thoughts about fatherhood, without sc reening them for whether they intended to have children. The flyer outlined criteria for involvement as well as my contact information. Upon this initial contact, the potential participant was informed of the nature of th e study and given a brief

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54 screening interview to ensure that the specific participant met the outlined criteria. Following the screening process, the potential participant was asked if he was still interested in partaking in the study. If the potentia l participant agreed, I collected contact information and scheduled an interview for a later date. As I ended each interv iew, I inquired if the participant had any friends or acquaintances that fit the criteria and might be willing to participate in my research. This recruitment strategy of posting flyers and snowball sampling wa s a highly useful tactic for recruiting fifteen childless gay me n in Florida; four others were recruited in New York and New Jersey. Recruitment for the gay fathers took a separa te route and occurred both in Miami and out of the state of Florida. Because the goal of this study was to develop a deeper understanding of openly gay mens procreative consciousness, I on ly recruited gay fathers who became parents through non-heteronormative means. Since Florida is a state where gay adoption is illegal, it was difficult for me to contact men who have fathered through this process. I did speak with a gay man in Miami Beach who recently adopted two children (by adhering to the Dont ask, Dont tell policy). He was gracious enoug h to spread the word about my project to other gay fathers in the Miami area and I was able to interview th ree men who had fathered through nonheterosexual channels, one using the assistan ce of a surrogate mother and tw o (including the previously mentioned man) using domestic adoption. Recruitment for the majority of the gay fa thers took place in New York City and its surrounding areas from June August 2004. After re searching major urban areas that were gayfamily friendly, New York City was the most obvious choice, primarily for financial and networking reasons. My financial motives were si mply that I have a wide range of friends who live in Manhattan who offered me a place to stay in exchange for a relatively small financial

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55 contribution. Prior to going to New York for the summer, I spent many months ensuring valuable contacts for this project. My firs t contact was with Terry Boggis, founder of Center Kids Founded in 1989, Center Kids gives children ongoing opportuni ties to befriend others from similar families, while their parents have a chance to meet, socialize and build their own support network. Center Kids which advocates at state and local levels for the rights of alternative families, has beco me a national and regional model for GLBT family organizing. Currently, more than 2,500 families in the tri-state area utilize Center Kids programs. Before going to New York City, Terry Boggis gave me permission to post flyers in the center and recommended that I volunteer at the GL BT center, the building that houses Center Kids. Another significant contact that I made was w ith Gerald P. Mall on, the author of Gay Men Choosing Parenthood When I arrived in New York, I me t Dr. Mallon and he was kind enough to introduce me to three gay fathers who I ultimately was able to interview. Similarly, I have a cousin who is an active member of the gay community in New York City and she has many gay male friends and acquainta nces that are recent fathers. My cousin is a member of a gay and lesbian religious orga nization in New York City, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST). CBST is New York C itys synagogue for the New York metropolitan areas 200,000 gay, lesbian, bi sexual, and transgender Je ws. Founded in 1973, CBST has become the largest gay synagogue in the world and ar guably one of the most influential. Prior to leaving for New York, I corresponded with Rabb is Kleinbaum and Cohen who agreed to allow me to attend their services and recruit members of their organi zation. In exchange for their kindness, I agreed to volunteer my services to the synagogue. Life in New York City: Reflec tions on heterosexual privilege Prior to leaving for New York, I anticipated that recruitm ent of the gay fathers would be gin with the above contacts and

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56 snowball from there. However, things do not always go as planned, and my three months in New York City were no exception. I arrived in New York June 10, 2004. Less than one week later, Pride week began. My trip began with a slew of mee tings. After meeting Gerald Mallon and the three participants he recruited for me, I was confident enough to brav e the NY subway system and venture out into the gay ghettos of New York City, the areas of Chelsea and the West Village. I spent my first three days in the city putting flye rs in every gay identified area im aginable. I had researched the area thoroughly, and placed flye rs in every religious organi zation, activity center, gym, and bookstore. Next, I went to CBST for a Shabbat service and after years of never attending synagogue for a weekly Shabbat service since I was thirteen, I found myself reciting vaguely familiar prayers with family members I hardly knew and a community of gay and lesbian men I had never met. I then tried to meet with Terry Boggis, the woman who founded Center Kids to find that she was completely booked until the begi nning of July. Yet, I took her advice and registered for a training session to volunteer at the GLBT Center in the West Village, the place that most gay New Yorkers refer to as the Mecca of gay life in NY. I clearly recall walking into the massive sc hool-like building inquiring as to where the orientation met. After receiving directions to walk up the stairs to the right, I entered a room with five other people. I sat, reading the literature I had gathered on my way up the staircase. Within five minutes, a short, skinny man walked in the room and introduced himself as the volunteer coordinator. After a short spiel of how wonderf ul the center is and what amazing contributions we could make by vol unteering, he asked the five of us to introduce ourselves. I went third and plainly explaine d that I was from Florida and was a student working on my dissertation on gay fatherhood. He replied, Well, it is always nice to have an ally with us. I

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57 smiled and wondered, What, how does he know I am not gay? Nobody else said, hi, I am gayI never said I was straight, but nobody else did either. So began the first of what would eventually become hours upon hours of odd discomfort with my sexuality that is discussed more fully below. I left the meeting with the short sk inny man taking my number and telling me that he would get back to me when something came up. This was not the plan. I was under the impression that I could immediatel y infiltrate this organization and find participants for my study. I was disappointed in myself for my nav e optimism and decided that I would flyer the entire building top to bottom with the multi-colored papers I had printed out asking for participants for my study that listed the goals of my project, outlined the criteria for involvement (gay men who had become fathers through nonhe terosexual means) and listed my contact information. With my confidence not yet comple tely shattered, I spent the remainder of the afternoon braving the scorching heat, walking up and down the streets of the West Village posting flyers wherever I could find an empty space. The next night, my aunts partner invited me to go with her to the Garden Party, the kickoff event for PRIDE week. Before I begin expl aining the events of the evening, let me first divulge that I hardly knew my aunt and had literally just met her partner a week before at synagogue the previous Friday evening. So here we were, me and this fifty-something year old woman I had met once walking toward the Huds on River about to embark on my first Pride festivity. Naturally, I was excited, anxious, and ex tremely nervous. We entered the pier onto a scene I will never quite forget. It was like a child stepping into Di sney World for her first time. There was music, dancing, food, a nd thousands and thousands of pe ople. There were booths that lined the entire pier giving out pamphlets, rainbow key chains, brace lets, wristbands, and stickers. The two of us walked up and down the pier grabbing all the fr ee goodies we could. I

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58 decorated myself in my gay Pride gear and felt like I appeared to be fitting in with the crowd. I decided not to flyer at all that evening, and instead began to form a connection (albeit a superficial one) with the massive GLBT community in New York C ity and even with my aunts partner. After a few hours, the two of us exited the pier and spoke about the evening. That night, we spoke about homophobia, heterosexism, femi nism, and she told me how wonderful it was that a heterosexual woman wanted to understand the reproductive decision making of gay men. I felt great. We had bonded, I experienced my fi rst Pride festivity, and I was finally feeling comfortable in the concrete jungle of Manhatta n. We jumped on a cross-town bus and parted ways on 14th and 6th so I could grab the subway to my new residence in the East Village. As I got off the bus, she hollered to me in a matter-of-fact tone, Make sure you take off those stickers and bracelets or people are going to think you are gay. As I headed down the filthy steps toward th e subway, I thought about what this out and proud, 50-year-old feminist lesbian had just said to me: people are going to think you are gay. On that pier I was the other, the outsider, the heterosexual. As soon as we left the safety of that pier, she became the other, the outsider, the le sbian. It was then th at I really began to consciously reflect on my privil eged heterosexual status in a way that I was never able to previously. I thought about how uncomfortable in my own skin I was on that pier, knowing that I didnt quite fit in there and the n, I wondered, beyond the haven of that pier, is this how she felt? Although my privileged consciousness had been temporarily activated for that ten-minute subway ride, it was a short-lived epiphany. Yet, it would be only three more days before the discomfort of my privilege took hold once again. That Sunday was the parade for PRIDE para de. Nobody I knew of wa s marching, let alone even going to the parade, so I jumped on the train at around 10:30 in th e morning to venture

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59 uptown and exited on 42nd and Broadway. I walked up the dark stairs into the one of the most incredible sights I had ever witn essed. The streets were filled with people lining up to march. Once again, the consciousness of my heterosexual ity, that feeling that I didnt quite belong started to overwhelm my body. I decided to stand up straight, swallow my discomfort and simply follow the parade. I walked along the si delines, handing out flye rs and talking to any man I saw with a child. Within only fifteen minu tes of my walk, I saw a man with a baby on his shoulders. I bravely approached him, introduced myself, and explai ned to him the nature of my study. After I completed my spiel, he smiled and cal mly replied, That is great, but I am not gay. I am here to support my brother. I was flus hed with embarrassment, apologize, and handed him a flyer just in case he knew anyone. Oh crap, I thought. Just when I finally worked up the nerve to approach someone and hes straight! Extrem ely embarrassed, but not yet utterly disheartened, I spent the remainder of the af ternoon trekking through the crowds of the parade talking to anyone who would strike up a conversation with me, handing out flyers, braving the 97 degree heat, and mostly, just people-watching. I was constantly aware of this strange sense of uneasiness, of knowing that I was an impos ter who was only there for my own personal academic gain. Every time I would begin to get swept up in the cheering and the chanting, I was reminded that I am not gay, I am not one of them, and I am the other. Where I am an ally of the GLBT community, I was forced to admit that had it not been for my resear ch-driven intentions, I would not be walking over fifty blocks to activ ely support a cause that I could easily dismiss. There it was again, that biting cue that I was different, that I was an outsider. By 5:30, I had given out over 30 flyers, was dripping in sweat, was ashamed of my purpose for being there and was ready for a cocktail I had arranged to meet an old friend of mine from college who had recently come out and was returning from a weekend in the

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60 Hamptons with his new partner and a few of their friends at a Mexican cantina for margaritas at 6:00. Suffice to say, after the day I just had I wa s ready to play catch up with an old friend over chips, salsa, and a margarita. Little did I know that this casual drink meeting would ultimately be the gateway to the success of my summer. I sat with my old friend Peter and his new circle of friends talking about my dissert ation and the strategies I had b een using for recruitment. One of them looked at me and plainly retorted, no offense, but do you real ly think people look at flyers? I mean, I dont especially those cheap looking ones you have ther e. Before I could even get defensive, Peter excitedly screamed out, Dana, I have the best ideafor my new job I have access to all these listserves that might help you. W hy dont you send me a blurb about your work and I will forward it to them. Not really thinking that Peters suggestion would actually work, I agreed to send him something in the next few days. All of a sudden I felt ashamed about my recruitment strategies, my en tire research agenda, th e poor quality of my flyers and my naivet for coming to New York in the first place. That next week, I began my volunteer efforts at the CBST office, and again was the only straight person in the building. Being the only heterosexual in a gay and lesbian populated social setting for three days a week for a two mont h period permitted me the space for my already budding critical reflexivity to burgeon even more I found myself always answering questions about why I was there, what was I doing, why ga y men, why fathers, why was I interested in a population to which I clearly did not belong? Whereas my experiences volunteering at CBST taught me invaluable lessons with regard to my relationship with both my research and my religion, I had been volunteering there almost three weeks and they had yet to put me in c ontact with any particip ants. Also, and not a complete shock to me, (since I was now aware that my flyers were an eyesore that no self-

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61 respecting gay man would pay attent ion to) out of the thirty-somet hing flyers I had given out at the Pride parade and the hundreds I had posted ar ound Chelsea and the West Village, I had not received a single phone call or e-mail from a gay fa ther who would be interested in participating in my study. Fortunately, I had been able to in terview the three men Dr. Mallon had put me in contact with, but this was all I had. I was beginning to freak out. I was running out of money (in New York, every time you leave your apartment, you spend at least $ 20 on absolutely nothing at all!), I had only three participants, I was s till ashamed and feeling that I was exploiting a community I was supposedly trying to help, and I ha d less than six weeks remaining before I had to be back in Florida. Finally, one morning, I awoke to check my email only to find that it was full with interview requests from gay fathers who had hear d about my interview. What the heck had happened? How did I manage to finally catch a break? It certainly was not my poorly constructed flyers or my volunteer efforts at CBST. Rather, these requests were a direct result of my dear old friend Peter. Who would have thought that my afternoon of margaritas would be the ultimate savior to my dissertation! Peter, the man who I had drasti cally underestimated, had saved my life (or at least my summer). It tu rned out that Peters new job was the marketing director at LOGO (the first gay television network, and a division of MTV) and happened to be a very high-status position, privileging him access to various gay and lesbian listserves that could access the personal e-mails of gay men across Ne w York city and its surrounding areas. I was able to interview nine gay fath ers and four more childless men by way of this fortunate e-mail, and these men were able to introduce me to five other men who I ended up interviewing over the telephone after returning to Flor ida. These final five telephon e interviews included men from New York, New Jersey, and Massac husetts. After almost six w eeks, my volunteer efforts at

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62 CBST finally paid off and I recr uited four men through the assist ance of the rabbis and office coordinators. My experience in New York taught me more than I ever imagined. Aside from the obvious lessons I learned about the pitfalls and perils of conducting qual itative research with a population that I am not a member of, I learne d an incredible amount about my heterosexual privilege and myself. Heterosexual privilege refers to unearned civi l rights, social privilege, and advantages granted to individuals based sole ly on their sexual or ientation (Allen, 1995). Examples of my own heterosexual privilege are that I have always been able to freely display pictures of my romantic partners without fear of retribution, I have no fear of harassment or physical violence based on my sexua l orientation, and perhaps most importantly, I never have to answer the question when did you decide you were heterosexual. While I have been aware of these social advantages I am gi ven because of my heterosexual identity, for some time, I now know that heterosexual privilege extends far bey ond these concrete examples. The abstract, but very real sense of uneasiness I felt walking down the street at PRIDE events, sharing an office with all gay men and lesbians, and attending sy nagogue with a mainly GLBT congregation made me aware of what it is like to be different. This sameness that I have alwa ys had as an invisible luxury now was gone. The unearned rights, privil eges, and advantages of being a heterosexual that are often invisible to hetero sexuals, became all too apparent to me. Yet, I will never truly understand what it feels like to liv e in a heterosexist society and not have these privileges because although I became the outsider within these settings, I always had the privilege to get up and leave. However, the very fact that my consciousness was raised and my privilege was challenged speaks to ways by which activists migh t consider facilitating social change, because

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63 the very fact that heterosexual privilege is of ten unseen by the dominant group is the greatest barrier to ending heterosexism. The summer after I lived in New York, I went to visit some friends and family in Southern California. I figured since I was already going to be there, I would try to recruit some more participants for my research. After reading Judith Staceys (2006) ethnographic work in Los Angeles about gay men and kinship, I decided to contact the organization that she based much of her research on, a group similar to Center Kids called Pop Luck The Pop Luck Club is a Los Angeles-based organization of gay dads that, accor ding to their website is the largest known gay father organization in the world, with hundreds of families and continued strong growth. Its mission is to advance the well-bei ng of gay prospective parents, ga y parents, and their children. I sent a brief e-mail to the contact on th eir website and after my experience with Center Kids in New York, honestly wasnt expecting much. N eedless to say, I was quite surprised when only two days later I received an e-mail from a gay couple who was more than happy to speak with me. Two days into my trip on the West coast, I met with this couple and conducted a two and a half hour interview with them. After our convers ation, they immediately offe red to refer me to a mass of other gay headed families in their neighbo rhood. However, my trip was only to last a few short days, and without a car in Los Angeles, it is quite difficult to get around. I decided not to conduct any more interviews in LA while I was there, but I still have their contact information, and if I decide to expand my proj ect, I now know that I have resources on both sides of the country. Participants The group of childless gay men differed substantially from those who chose to become fathers through nonheterosexual means (see Table 1 for detailed subsample descriptions). The demographic data depicted in these tables are ar tifacts of my recruitmen t strategies and should

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64 not be regarded as substantive findings of my re search. The childless gay participants were more racially, ethnically, and economical ly diverse than the fathers. Three of these men were Black, one was Chinese-American, two were Latino, and thirteen were White Non-Latino. Three participants had not completed college, five were enrolled in college with the intentions of graduating, seven had graduated from a four-year university, and four had an advanced graduate degree. Two participants were Jewish, one wa s Presbyterian, three were Christian, four were Catholic, one was Buddhist and Cat holic and eight reported to have no religious affiliation. Six of the participants were students, (five in college and one in gra duate school), five were in the service industry (food and beve rage and cosmetology); three we re employed in the non-profit sector; two were attorneys; one was a professor; and the re maining two were involved in business and the technology industry. Annual income for these men ranged from under $15,000 to over $75,000 annually. Ages of the childless men ranged from 19-45 and the median age was 34. Consistent with other research on gay fa thers (Johnson and Connor, 2002; Mallon, 2004), the gay fathers participating in my research were predominantly white and upper-middle class. All but two of these men earned over $75,000 annua lly, and the remaining two earned between $30,000-$60,000. Additionally, all fathers were White. Fathers ages ranged from 33-55 with a mean age of 43.5. The majority of participants were employed in the professional sector, many as attorneys, physicians, media ex ecutives, and real-estate investor s. Similarly, all participants except two had completed college and eight had an advanced graduate degree Nine participants were Jewish, five were Catholic three were Christian, two were Unitarian, and four claimed to have no religious affiliation. Recal l that recruitment efforts were made at a GLBT synagogue in

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65 NYC. This recruitment strategy coupled with my religious affiliation and social networks led to an unusually large proportion of Jewish men in my sample. One unfortunate aspect of my re search is that it relies on white, fairly affluent fathers experiences. It is especially problematic in terms of gay and lesbian families because according to the 2000 United States census census, we know that forty-four percent of Latina same-sex couples are raising children under the age of eighteen (Cianciotto, 2005) Furthermore, black female same-sex households ar e raising children around the same rates as black heterosexual households (61 vs. 69%) and at a bout twice the rate of white le sbian households (Dang & Frazer, 2004). These rates are somewhat comparable for sa me-sex male couples of color. It should be understood, then, that gay families of color do exist although they are not represented here. Furthermore, my participants pr ocreative, father, and family ne gotiations are not only products of their gay identities, bu t also their whiteness and mi ddle-class status (es). Participants created their families in divers e ways. Four men were known sperm donors to a lesbian couple, although only th ree of the men were co-parenting with the women and defined themselves as fathers in this context. The ot her man was one of five men who fathered through the assistance of a surrogate mother. One coupl e (two fathers) produced a set of twins through the assistance of a gestational surrogate moth er and an egg donor. The remaining twelve became fathers through adoption or foster ing, with two using the public foster care system resulting in legal adoption. Interviews My research methodology enta iled in-depth semi-structu red interviews with the19 childless gay men and 22 gay fathers. Participan ts were encouraged to discuss their thoughts, emotions, experiences, and personal narratives as they relate to their own feelings and conversations with others with re gard to fatherhood decisions.

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66 Interviews took place in a variety of settings depending on the participants convenience. Such settings included part icipants households, or work offices, coffee shops, eating and drinking establishments, in my office, and five were conducted over the te lephone. Interviews were audio-taped and lasted between 45-150 minu tes. Interviews were supplemented with a background survey asking the participants a hand ful of questions focusing on their biographical information, such as age, race/ethnicity, nationa lity, and relationship status (see appendix A). All participants were administered informed consent. Prior to the initiation of each interview, I explained the nature of the project to each par ticipant, conveyed the importance of the study, and requested permission to audiotape the interview. Each participan t was informed of his right to refuse to answer any question he felt was too personal, inappropria te, or uncomfortable. He was also informed of his right to terminate the inte rview at any time if he so desired. None of the forty-one participants refused to answer any ques tion or opted to terminate the interview at any time. Following each interview, I wrote brief memo s to myself detailing the major themes that surfaced in our conversation. I tran scribed 15 of the interviews and a professional transcriptionist transcribed the other 26 verbatim. Creating the Interview Guide using Sensitizing Concepts In order to ensure that all topics of interest were addressed in the interviews, I structured the interview guide (see appe ndices B & C) around various s ensitizing concepts (Van den Hoonard, 1997). Sensitizing concepts are theo retical tools that em phasize the distinctive properties that may be associated with a cla ss of datain this case, gay mens parenting decisions and motivations. These concepts offe r researchers a general sense of reference and orientation without constraining ne w paths for theoretical discovery. Viewed broadly, they also refer to concepts that may have been generated from other research or th eoretical speculation.

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67 The use of such sensitizing concepts should not be confused with definitive concepts, in that sensitizing concepts do not create closure, rath er they provide a general source of guidance. I borrow some sensitizing concepts from Marsiglio and Hutchinsons (2002) work on heterosexual young men including; procreative consciousness, turning points, fatherhood readiness, fatherhood responsibilit y, possible selves, fathering vi sions, and child visions. I expanded these concepts in such a way as to explore how gay mens procreative consciousness is constructed, evolves, and is negotiated. I adva nced the concept of turning points to understand the extent to which they are tied to the coming ou t process. Child visions refer to participants images of children they might eventually sire while fathering visions captures mens mental descriptions of themselves engaged in fath ering. In Marsiglio a nd Hutchinsons book (2002) each of these constructs emerged as propert ies of procreative consciousness and fatherhood readiness, respectively. I elaborate these prope rties to account for how gay mens visions might differ because of the likelihood of inte rracial and interethnic adoption. In addition to borrowing the model devel oped by Marsiglio and Hutchinson (2002), I expand it to the experiences of gay men and extract other sensitizing concepts from relevant literature and preliminary interv iews with 10 gay non-fathers. These novel concepts included the dual marginalization of gay fatherhood, myths su rrounding gay fathers, individual hardships, and institutional constraints. Th ese concepts were used as primary guides for conversation and analysis. Although I used the sensitizing concepts, I was also consciously reflexive in order to avoid the trap of forcing the data into preconc eived categories. These initial categories were conceptual guides to frame my re search without constraining it. Prior to completing the defense of my disse rtation proposal, I conduc ted a pilot study of 10 childless gay men. This pilot study allowed me to test the relevance of the initial formulation of

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68 my interview guide. Initially, I wa s disappointed to find that the fi rst three interviews only lasted approximately 30-50 minutes. However, following these first few interviews, I developed new questions based on participants f eedback and the interviews grew substantially longer. After the fifth interview, the interview guide was signi ficantly altered and by the ninth interview, interviews grew to over 90 minutes in length. Novel issues were introduced by participants, including the importance of the ga y social scene to that particul ar person, images of growing old with or without children, and the presence or absence of a male partner. Throughout the interview process, these issues were added to th e guide. However, the greatest alteration of the interview guide occurred following the fifth intervie w. It was here that I significantly changed the beginning of the interview, and consequently, reformulated the entire conversation. Originally, the interview began by asking, How w ould you define your sexuali ty? I decided to change the guide so that the in itial questions simply stated, A s a gay man can you tell me about your life? and As a gay man can you talk to me about how you see your future? With this simple change in wording emerged an entirely new conversation. Participants first began by telling coming-out stories, contin ued with reactions from parents and friends, and concluded by narrating on how they envision their future. Of the five men who were interviewed using this format, three men mentioned fatherho od in the absence of any direct questioning or probing. Although it is likely that the issue of fatherhood was salient to these men because they had just read the informed consent describing th e nature of the study (a n investigation of gay men and fatherhood); I was surpri sed by the fact that these men mentioned fatherhood so eagerly. This pilot study provided me the opportun ity to assess the relevanc e of my questions to a small sample of gay childless men.

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69 The Active Interview Increasingly, sociological rese archers who rely on interviewing to gather data are coming to the realization that interviews are not neutral and unbiased tool s. Rather, the interview is a setting in which two (or more) persons activel y constructing a unique so cial situation. As assumptions and ideas associated with social constructionism expand throughout the discipline of sociology, new spaces and claims regarding interview settings are emerging. The broad recognition that social realty doe s not exist independent from hu man action lends itself to the implication that within the interview setting, there is conti nuous construction and reconstruction of meaning through a dialectical proc ess (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995). Thus, in my interviews I employed the active interviewing approach (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995). The active interview illumina tes the interplay of the artful ness of construc tivism with the practicality of the interpretive resources at hand. In the active a pproach, the participant is not a passive vessel of knowledge, but is instead so mewhat of a researcher in his own right, consulting repertoires of expe rience and orientations, linking fragments into patterns, and offering theoretically coherent descriptions, acco unts, and explorations (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995,p. 29). The participant is the narrator, or the storyteller of his multi-faceted experience and calls upon different stocks of knowledge depending on which experience or position is activated. The methodological strategy of ac tive interviewing is especially useful here given that the passage of time and sociohistorical dimension wa s consistently intertwined within participants narratives. In the interview setting, the fathers sp oke of constructing their families, an approach which usually paved the way for chronological description. However, inquiring about a participants past does not necessarily invoke an objective and ahistorical discussion of the participants past experiences; rather, the past is intimately linked with the present. In other words, the participant and I we re mutually involved in activat ing different aspects of the

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70 participants stock of knowledge. When I encourag ed a gay father in the interview to discuss thoughts he had about becoming a father prior to having a child, he drew upon these past thoughts as a father with childre n and narrated past experiences and thoughts through his present standpoint as a father. When I spoke with a gay man who is not yet a father and queried what his thoughts are on becoming a father, he anticipate d a vision of the future through his present standpoint as a young gay childless man. The activ e interviewing approach sheds light on how the participants future or history is a future-i nthemaking or a hist oryinthemaking, complexly unfolding in relation to that participants present standpoint (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995). Whether we are talking about visions of a future or recollections of the past, the active approach allowed me to see how these were just as much versions of the present as they were memories and foresights. The active approach to interv iewing also allows me to unde rstand how conceptualizations of the present depend upon the different stocks of knowledge my partic ipants call upon. One particular situation that I recall involved Spencer, a gay man who became a father through donating sperm to a lesbian woman who lived in the same neighborhood as him. Almost eight years following this experience, Spencer became an adoptive father to a mentally handicapped boy who he became involved with through a big-brot her organization. Spencer not only had two very different stories to tell me, but he spoke of these two e xperiences in terms of two very different standpoints; the first as a biologically connected father who saw his child periodically and second as an adoptive father intimately i nvolved in the day to day tasks of raising a handicapped son. By treating the interview as an activ e process I was able to encourage and appreciate Spencers shifting standpoints and had the unique ability to ex plore the distinct and sometimes contradictory stocks of knowledge th at he called upon to explain and understand his

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71 experiences as a gay father. Rather than search ing for one single truth or one answer, the active interview capitalizes on these diverse stories to get a more complete (yet still partial) understanding of how gay men navigate th eir way through the reproductive arena. Within the active interview both the interviewe r and the participant are viewed as actively involved in the construction of knowledge. Accord ingly, it is important to remember that the interviewer does far more than ask questions; she activates narrative production (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995, p. 39). It is the interviewers task to guide and channel the participants narratives to the research at hand. Unlike the positiv ist interviewer, the acti ve interviewer is not reprimanded for invoking a certain vocabulary to gui de the participant to speak in terms of the research at hand. In my interviews, I purposely in voke the language of turning points in order to encourage my participants to imagine certain events in their lives that were central in triggering their fathering fantasies and desires. I am not dictating how my participants lives are to be portrayed, nor am I contaminating my findings. Rather, I recognize th at in my role as collaborator I can guide my participants as to keep our speech on narrative course (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995, p. 50). Also, within the active appr oach, as well as in femi nist and constructivist approaches, reflexivity is paramount. In th e active approach, both, th e interviewer and the participant are mutually engaged in a process of reflexivity (Holstein & G ubrium, 1995). In my interviews, I always inquire as to what else I should be asking regardi ng gay mens experiences in the reproductive arena. My participants have filled me in on aspects of their lives that I would have never imagined to ask or even consider had I been limited to a structured and positivist format. The active interviewing approach also illuminates how the inclusion of multivocality shapes the interview process a nd the subsequent knowledge that emerges from this process

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72 (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995). While in New York and in Los Angeles, I conducted four interviews with committed couples that had fa thered children together Although I count these as eight participants and eight stories, the active approach reminds me that these interviews should be viewed not only as individual experi ences, but also as their story (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995, p. 69). When I spoke with Dr ew and Nico, a couple who had two-year old twins, about their fatherhood expe riences I heard three different narratives: Drews story, Nicos story, and their story of how they separately and collectively experien ced their pathways to fatherhood. The multivocality within the active in terviews allowed new and rich linkages of horizons of meaning to emerge (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995). Such new meanings would not have surfaced in more structured settings that neglect to take advant age of these connected interpretations and constructions. Characteristics of the Researcher and Reflexivity I have already detailed how a more nuanced understanding of my heterosexual privilege emerged throughout various stages of the recruitm ent process. Now, I briefly discuss how my heterosexual identity influenced the interview pr ocess. Unlike race or gender, sexuality does not have to be a blatantly obvious marker. Although I did not purposel y disclose my sexuality to my participants, naturally, many were curious. Two s ituations immediately jump out at me. Before conducting one interview, a particip ant asked, Are you gay? Not that it matters. I replied no, I am not gay, and explained how my interest in gay fathers was a result of the lack of research in this area and my desire to give voice and vi sibility to an understudied group of men, and if applicable, their families. Another time, I wa s conducting an interview in a coffee shop and my participant and I actually caught one another glancing at the same attractive man who was sitting at the counter drinking his latte. Needless to say, he turned to me and with a sly grin announced, So youre not one of us. I responded that no I am not gay and jokingly said, you caught

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73 me! In both of these situations I did not feel as if these men then regarded me as an other to be weary of. I maintain that this is directly related to my ability to make my participants feel at ease and comfortable due to my easygoing and casual demeanor. I now take a moment to briefly touch on the advantages and disadva ntages to studying a population to which one does not belong and addr ess how I negotiated my differential social status and identity in the cont ext of the interview. Because I am not gay, or perhaps, more obviously, not a man, there was always the risk of being an outsider or being regarded as the other by the men I am interviewi ng. I was consciously aware of the possibi lity that these men might not trust me, and because of the sensitive na ture of this study, men might feel as if I am judging them. Thus, to counteract these potential risks, I attempted to make the men as comfortable as possible by using strategies common to qualitative re searchers. First, I tried to conduct interviews in a private a nd comfortable setting. Whereas mo st of these mens interviews took place in private residences or my office, a few also took place in public coffee shops. The interviews that did take place in coffee shops were conducted in al coves or semi-private areas of the establishment. While conducting these interv iews in public spaces, I would always offer the men the opportunity to refuse to answer any question that they did not feel comfortable responding to or encouraged particip ants to speak in a low voice. None of the participants who were interviewed in coffee shops stopped the in terview at any time, although some, at various points in the interview did lower their voices en suring that other patrons did not overhear our conversation. In my attempts to ensure that the interview setting was regarded as a safe space for these men to tell me their stories, all participants, regardless of the interview location were given time to read over informed consent and were en couraged to ask questions about my study. I always provided my participan ts the opportunity to ask me que stions and at the end of the

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74 interview I asked them to share their thoughts with me about their reactions to our conversation. None of the participants replied that they felt uncomfortable talking to me about these issues. When I specifically asked if they would have fe lt more comfortable speaking with an interviewer of a different gender, race, or sexuality none me ntioned that any of my personal characteristics hindered the interview or their disclosure. Intere stingly, three Jewish part icipants responded that my identity as a Jewish woman was helpful in finding a common ground, in that I understood the nuances of Jewish life, from the stereotypical imag e of the Jewish mother and grandmother to the social and religious importan ce of Bar-and Bat-Mitzvahs. A significant advantage of speak ing with participants of a social group that I am not a member of is that I have absolutely no persona l or experiential knowledge of what it is like to experience life as a gay man. Although I will neve r know for sure, I believe that I received a more detailed explanation of these mens lives than a gay male interviewer would have because of my outsider status. Although my gender and sexuality certainly influenced the outcome of my interviews, I believe that this effect was minima l and to some extent, beneficial. Moreover, I maintain that my personal characteristics, in partic ular, my ability to faci litate trust, rapport, and open dialogue in the interviews helped to mitigate my potential status as an other. Analysis: Grounded Theory The initial textual material was analyzed with grounded th eory methodology for qualitative data analysis (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Stra uss & Corbin, 1998). Consistent with the grounded theory approach, data collection and analysis occurred simultaneously. My aim for this study was significantly more modest than what is expe cted in traditional ground ed theory, in that my overarching goal was not the generation of a theory with explicit dimensions and properties. I sought a more nuanced understa nding of gay mens procreativ e consciousness, reproductive decision-making and fatherhood experiences. I employ the process of grounded theory

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75 methodology for the two reasons that Marsiglio (2004, p. 261) mentions in Step dads: Stories of Love, Hope, and Repair First, the process of grounded theo ry analysis allowed me to deepen, expand, integrate, and ground in empirical data previously proposed theoretical notions concerning men as fathers and to generate new theoretical concepts and ideas for the specific experience of gay prospective and active fathers. My aim, then, was not to develop a complete grounded theory, but rather to expand on al ready existing theoretical frameworks for understanding how gay men develop, negotiate, a nd express their fathering identities and fathering experiences in a socially-construct ed world that privilege s heterosexuality and heterosexual parenting. I use the constant comparative process of co mparing incident with incident, category with incident, and category with category. As ideas, te rms, moods, and the li ke surfaced in multiple interviews, they were coded and given tentativ e labels during the open phase of coding. Open coding is a process of comparing concepts found in the text for classification as examples of some phenomenon. As I noticed similarities in experience, pa tterns, and emergent themes, categories of phenomena were labeled in the margin s and entered into a code list. This process of open coding enabled me to create an analytic process for identifying key categories and their properties (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Core or central categories we re the roots that anchored their properties. For example, a central category in my research is nonprocreative turning points in activating fathering desires and indicators that are associated with this category include coping with death of a loved one, moving to suburbia, seeing another gay coupl e with a child, and ultimatum by a partner. This coding scheme allowed me to label cate gories and properties that represent distinct happenings and to describe othe r instances of the phenomena (Str auss & Corbin, 1998). The next

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76 stage of coding involved axial coding, wherein I explored th e relationship between and among concepts and began to constr uct a theoretical explanation of how gay mens procreative consciousness is activated, developed, and negotia ted (LaRossa, 2005). At this point, I typed all the codes up in a Word document and began to cut and paste each code into a list which eventually formed the outline of chapters four through six for my dissertation. Next, I went through my transcripts electroni cally and cut and pasted phras es, sentences, and entire paragraphs into folders with separate documen ts. For example, one folder included various topics, or indicators about changes in families. Indicators in this folder included broad changes in postmodern kinship, the role of assisted re productive technologies an d changing legalities in adoption, families of choice, and children as a choi ce. This folder was then linked with another folder that included indicators about changes in meanings of gay men to a broader category labeled, sociohistorical transformations. Soci ohistorical transformations became the broader category, and changes in families and changes in meanings of gay men were the properties that contributed to broad sociohistoric al transformations that have changed how gay men think about fatherhood. The purpose of axial coding is to answer questions about the phe nomenon in order to give the concept greater expl anatory power (Duchscher & Mo rgan, 2004). The development of axial coding continued as I sought out the proces ses, conditions, and consequences of identified categories throughout the research process. My final stage of se lective codi ng entailed comparing themes identified in this study to the existing literature exploring fathering among both gay and heterosexual men. This final coding phase is where I identified the theoretical contributions that ultimately advance our understanding of procreative consciousness and fathering experiences, as they pertain to both ga y and straight men. Admittedly, despite the urge

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77 to offer readers a step-by step guide of how I an alyzed the data, coding did not occur in distinct phases. Instead, the picture slowly emer ged as a patchwork mosaic (Dey, 2003, p. 86). I realize that grounded theory recently has co me under attack primarily because of the positivist roots of the methodology, its assumptions of a neutral researcher who discovers data, and because it assumes a reality sui generis from its members (Charmaz, 2000, 2002; Dey, 2003; LaRossa, 2005). Similarly LaRossa (2005) argues th at despite their sensit ivities to symbolic interactionism, Glaser, Strauss, and Corbin come extremely close to subscribing to epistemological realism, an orientation closely asso ciated with positivism. Hence, it is of import to note that consistent with th e constructivist and interacti onist approaches, I emphasize how these categories and codes are not factual reali ties. Rather they de note a way of asking and seeing, coupled with participan ts ways of experiencing a nd narrating (Charmaz, 2000, 2002). My categories are not simply products of the data; they emerged through interplay among the mutual construction of the interv iew and coding process. Nonethel ess, the themes derived from this process of mutual construc tion unveil how gay mens procrea tive consciousness is activated, developed, and negotiated and how gay men experien ce fathering in a socially constructed world that privileges heterosexuality. Analysis: Case Studies and Narrative Accounts While grounded theory is advantageous in de veloping an abstract model, it can often miss accounts of how concepts and categor ies are part of a larger story and lived experience. Thus, I supplement grounded theory analysis with the collective case study method. This methodological strategy was chosen because a rich er understanding of specifi c cases can lead to further insight, and ultimately be tter theorizing about a larger co llection of cases (Stake, 2002). I select three cases in chapter four to illustrate the way in which sociohistorical transformations shape the procreative desires of gay men. I detail and compare the narratives of three different

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78 men coming of age in three distinct sociohistoric al contexts to demonstrate how the stories of one man might relate to the st ories of another man, and so on. The narrative accounts I have extracted illuminate how gay men s procreative consciousness is not simply an abstract concept but emerges through a process of telling, whereby the mundane incidents and events of daily life are given some kind of plausible order (Williams, 1984, p. 178). The mens stories about the procreative sphere reveal th e reciprocal relationships between individuals and their social world. The collective narratives of the three me n I focus on accentuate the multifaceted reality of biographical existence as it relates to both self and society (Williams, 1984, p. 178). Consistent with the constructivist orientation, I note that that a re searcher can never tell a whole story, in that a whole story exceeds anyones knowing or anyones telling. Rather, what emerges is ultimately my dressing of a particular story (Stake, 2002).

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79 Table 3-1. Descriptive Statistics fo r Gay Childless Men and Gay Fathers Age Religion Education Occupation Current Relationship Fatherhood Pathway Gay Childless Men Participants from FL Evan 38 Jewish College Nonprofit Partnered na LukeB 28 Christian College Waiter Single na Todd 28 Christian HS Waiter Single na Nick 29 Presbyterian College Waiter Partnered na ZackA 34 Christian/Buddhist College Re staurant manager Single na Frank 30 Catholic College Student Single na Clark 20 Atheist HS Student Single na Aiden 20 Christian HS Student Single na Taylor 23 Roman Catholic HS Student Single na AnthonyL 19 None HS Student Single na RossB 35 None College Realtor Single na Blaine 45 Catholic JD Attorney; Business Partnered na Larry 34 Jewish JD Attorney Partnered na Jake 33 None Masters Information technician Partnered na CarlosL 22 Catholic HS Cosmetologist Partnered na Participants from NY Segal 38 Atheist PhD Professor Partnered na CJ 39 None College Nonprofit Single na Noah 22 Agnostic HS Student Single na Participant from NJ Walter B 53 Spiritual College Public health Single na

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80 Table 3-1. Continued. Gay Fathers Age Religion Education Occupation Current Relationship Fatherhood Pathway Participants from CA Simona Theo 53 54 Jewish Catholic College College Television production Actor Partnered Partnered Adopt Adopt Participants from FL Brian 47 Catholic Some college Politician; Realtor Partnered Adopt Parker 37 Jewish College Inform ation technician Partnered Adopt Mark 45 Jewish MD MD Single Surrogacy Participants from NY Andrew 37 None College Graphic artist Partnered Adopt (foster) Craig 34 None College Full-time homemaker dad Partnered Adopt (foster) Laurence 51 None; Ethical Humanist Masters Statistician Partnered Adopt Tommy 36 Catholic PhD Psychologist Partnered Adopt Randy 47 Unitarian Some college Realtor Single Adopt Drewb 35 Jewish College Televi sion production Partnered Surrogacy and sperm donor Nicob 33 Catholic College Full-time homemaker dad Partnered Surrogacy Ethan 55 Jewish Masters Teacher Partnered Adopt Eliotc 37 Jewish MD MD Partnered Surrogacy (gestational) Billyc 47 Catholic College Even t coordinator Partnered Surrogacy (gestational) Artd 48 Jewish JD Party decorator Partnered Adopt Rickd 53 Jewish Masters Hospital administrator Partnered Adopt

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81 Table 3-1. Continued. Age Religion Education Occupation Current Relationship Fatherhood Pathway Participants from NJ Guse 48 Episcopalian Masters Consultant Partnered Coparent Robine 45 Christian College Information technician Partnered Coparent Aaron 45 Catholic College Realtor Single Coparent Participants from MA Leonard 43 Jewish College Information technician Single Coparent Spencer 47 Unitarian Universalist College Headhunter Single Coparent & foster Note: I employ pseudonyms and have altered identifying details to protect the privacy of my participants. All participants are White unless noted by the following subscripts: A = Asian, B = Black, L = Latino Participants with the same lower-case subscripts are members of the same couple

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82 CHAPTER 4 FANTASYING FATHERHOOD Understanding gay mens motivation and approach to creating family bonds through fatherhood draws attention to gay mens experiences w ith the procreative realm. In this chapter, I examine how gay men develop and express a procreative consciousness over time in the context of a socially constructed world that pr ivileges heterosexual pa renting. First I draw upon the collective case study method to detail three di fferent mens procreative fantasies that have come of age in three different sociohistorical contexts with the inten tion of highlighting how emergent social transformations shape how gay men fantasy fatherhood. I then explore how gay mens procreative consciousness is highly self -reflective due to a combination of their reproductive physiology and legal ba rriers that shape how they ar e able to imagine fatherhood. Nevertheless, for some men, fathering fantasies a nd desires are both natura lized and essentialized as a result of traditional gender and family socialization and life course patterns. I discuss how after coming out to themselves and to the world as gay men, many men undergo life changes that height en and activate thei r respective procreat ive consciousness and fathering desires. Yet, as this social psyc hological process evolves, many men become aware that their desires to father ar e mediated and even constraine d by structural and institutional barriers. Here, I address these considerations. First, I touch u pon the various turning points the gay men experienced with regard to activating their fathering desires. Next, I discuss how discriminatory beliefs about gay mens gender and sexuality interact to create barriers for how these men think about fatherhood. I then examine how institutional and financial barriers shape gay mens procreative consciousness. Finally, I discus how gay mens fantasies regarding a readiness to father, visions of an ideal father ing experience, and child visions are constructed within a socially constructed world that privileges heterosexuality.

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83 Three Men, Three Different Decades and Three Distinct Stories As is detailed in chapter thr ee, I supplement grounded theory analysis with the collective case study method (Stake, 2002). I se lected these three cases to demonstrate the way in which sociohistorical transformations sh ape the procreative desires of ga y men. The first story I tell is Lawrences, a gay man in New York who became a father through adoption in the 1980s. Next I describe the experiences of Marc, a recent father who constructed his fam ily with the assistance of a surrogate mother in South Florida only five years ago. I conclude th is chapter with Clarks story, a college-aged man living in North Cent ral Florida who is not yet a father but who ultimately wants to be. I deconstruct each of three mens stories, detailing how the sociohistorical context frames how they describe their past, discuss their present, and envision their futures with regards to fatherhood. Lawrence Lawrence was fifty-two years old when I firs t met him at his house tucked away in a middle-class suburb in Queens, New York. He is now the proud father of two teenage boys who he adopted with his ex-partner in the late 1980s. As we sat in his backyard having a light snack, I asked him to tell me about how he became a fa ther. He remembers that it all began in 1984 when his nephew was born. After he announced th e news to his partner he was shocked that instead of finding him smiling, with joy he was in complete distressit just kind of hit him in a wave, [he said] you know Ive chosen to follow my natural gay feelings and this means now I can never have kids. For Lawrence, this is how his long and arduous trek to fatherhood was set into motion. Lawrence never really considered th e idea of having children, as it simply did not seem like a feasible reality to him. Nevert heless, he calmed his pa rtner by explaining that maybe its possible, there may be some way we can have a child. As they began to consider seriously becoming gay fathers in the mid-1980s, they started to look for options, resources and

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84 leads. Although they came across a decent amount of gay and lesbian parents in the New York area, he recalled nobody could give us a straight answer as to how to do it. Even more, as they began to examine various pathways to fatherhood they decided to share their plans with their circle of friends, the majority of whom were also gay men appr oaching their 30s. Lawrence explained to me the difficulty his friends had w ith him and his ex-partners news: they would say why do you want this kind of life? Why do y ou want to be heterosexuals? He continued the conversation highlighting the lack of a welcom ing attitude from his friends attributing it to internalizing their own homophobia and soci etys homophobianot even realizing itjust assuming that as a gay person you cant have kidsyou just internalize it and you dont even question it, especially back then. Ultimately, in 1988, after years of effort, La wrence and his partner finally found an adoption agency willing to work with them. Ye t, in 1988 in New York State, only one of the men could legally adopt and the other man had to remain hidden. Although the social worker that agreed to work with them was well aware that they were a gay couple, she made it clear that I will be filling out your answers, but only as if one of you were an sweringIll ignore the other person, he will be invisibl e. When the agency representatives finally brought their son to their home, Lawrence had to go upstairs and hide. Lawrence and his former partner did achieve fatherhood a second time only a few years la ter and despite having fewer boundaries to overcome, it still was no easy feat. Lawrence explains that until hi s partner mentioned the possibility of fatherhood on the day his nephew was born, he had never imagined a lif e with children In fact, when I asked Lawrence how his thoughts about fatherhood cha nged once he came out as gay, he proclaims that he never needed to have ch ildren to have a full life to begin with. Without the influence of

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85 his former partner and the subter fuge of the social worker, Lawrence might never have fathered the two boys that are now such an enormous part of his life. Marc Marc was one of the first fathers I spoke with during the course of my interview process. Marc is a single gay man living in South Florida w ho became a father five years earlier to a little girl. Because of legalities prohibiting gay adop tion in Florida, Marc de cided to construct his family with the assistance of a surrogate mother Marc had a unique comi ng out story because at the same time he disclosed his sexua lity to his entire family, he told them he was leaving the next day for Massachusetts to meet a potential surrogate mother. Marc was well into his late thirties when he came out to his family and his friends a bout his sexuality. He explains that he remained in the closet for so long but to some extent always knew in the back of my mind that I was gay, but hoped that I could find the right person and go off in a conventio nal route, get married, and have a family. Marcs narrative is reminisc ent of the stories of ga y men who experienced a delayed coming-out process because of the trad itionally negative stigmas associated with homosexuality in American culture. This group of gay fathers once were in a heterosexual union, became fathers with their female partners, and la ter divorced. In recent years, however, gay men like Marc have been exposed to fatherhood possib ilities through channels other than heterosexual intercourse (Dunne, 1999). When I asked Marc ho w his fantasies about fatherhood might have changed as he was coming to terms w ith his sexuality, he asserts that: I mean before, in my early 30s or 20s, or when I knew I was gay, Id just assume that Id never have children. That was one of my big disappointments. I just thought well, Ill be childless for life. It wasnt until later on that I considered it, that I sa id wait a minute. At that age, fortunately, I had fina ncial means, I dont need to be childless, so I was pleasantly surprised to myself when I realized that I could change that situation without, but for a good long stretch there, I just assume d that I would never have children.

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86 Marc dismantles the dominant ideology that if one chooses to live in accordance with ones sexual preference one automa tically chooses not to have ch ildren. His narrative begins with a discursive link between coming out and no t having children. Initially, Marcs future is one that he constructs as being eternally childless; however, we th en hear a turning point in his narrative whereby an alte rnative reality is discursively created (Nelson, 2006) and Marcs imagined future shifts from a predestined childless life to a reality made possible due to societal and cultural changes. Moreover, as a relativ ely well-off physician, Marc had the resources necessary to bypass Floridas discriminatory le gal prohibitions on adoption and construct his family through the assistance of a surrogacy agen cy. As opposed to Lawrences experiences in the procreative realm, only slightly more than a decade earlier, Marc explains that his process of finding the necessary resources only took a few s hort months. Yet, although Marc is a single father he did not venture on his pathway to fath erhood alone. Marc benefited from the assistance of a network of professional ac quaintances that could legally guide him through the procreative process. Thus, Marcs financial status coupled with a greater abundan ce of lawyers and other professionals well versed in gay adoption and surrog acy policies contributed to him being able to navigate the procreative realm with far fewer obstacles than Lawrence. A comparison of Lawrence and Marcs stories illustrates how a wide array of societal shifts both trigger and shape gay mens thoughts about fatherhood and their ability to pursue fathering. Recall that prior to his former pa rtners declaration of wanting children, Lawrence never even pondered the possibili ty of fatherhood and thus his procreative consciousness could be deemed inactive. Marc, on the other hand struggl ed to reconcile his desire for children and a traditional family with his choice to follow his gay feelings, a time where his procreative consciousness could be viewed as in flux. While Lawrence narrates his past comfortably

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87 identifying as a gay and eternally childless man, Marc, in the cont ext of being a present father, explains that he never felt at ease with the possible future of childlessness. These transformations in the procreative consciousness of gay men are inextric ably intertwined with major sociohistorical changes in contemporary American society. Clark The final narrative I detail is that of Clar k, who was a twenty -year old college student when I spoke with him almost two years ago. He is a self-proclaimed activist and is well known among the LGBT community on his campus. As I read over our interview, it dawned on me that I was hearing something very different from what I had heard from the older men I spoke with. I began the interview by asking him to describe ho w he envisioned his future. Clark immediately proclaims that he was raised in a traditional fam ily and prior to coming out at age sixteen he had always planned to have a wife and 2.5 kids just like my parents had and their parents before them. Following his coming out experience, he simp ly stated that he wanted to keep his plans as intact as possible, you know, maybe have a husband and 2.5 kids. Now that he is in college however, he questions whether he wants to fo llow his fantasies of becoming a father and construct a novel twist on the traditional family arrangement or whether he would rather go the career route. Clark is well awar e of the financial and emotiona l complications involved in the pursuit and experience of fatherhood, and is begi nning to ponder if it is all worth it. The following narrative is an excerpt from Clark, whereby he consid ers the costs a nd benefits of contemporary parenting: It was just sort of an expectation that I w ould be a father throughout most of my life and it wasnt really until college that I started to question that a nd you know started to think that being a father is a time-consumi ng, fiscally consuming lifestyle. And so I really have been considering whether it is really important that I take care of a child a nd rear a child to exist in this society that we have set up for ourselv es. I started to question whether I would be happier with my time and my m oney and the ability to spend more time with a partner.

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88 And so, I really havent come to a strong decisi on yet, but Ill feel like I will probably end up deciding that I want kids. Within Clarks narrative, we can see how he wa vers between two very distinct futures; the first as a gay father with familial responsibilit ies and the other as a childless gay man with substantial monetary assets a nd unlimited free time. Although even as an openly identified gay man he had always pictured his future with chil dren in it, with college came the knowledge that a child requires self sacrifice. Clearly, Clark is like many colle ge students (regardless of their sexuality) coping with the impe nding responsibility of adulthood. Later in the interview I asked Clark to reflect on the experience when he first came out as gay and how his thoughts about fatherhood were impacted or altered by this coming out experience. He recalls, I actually think that once I found out I was gay, I definitely wanted kidsI almost wanted to normalize it as much as I couldor maybe to prove them [society] wrong. Unlike Lawrence and Marc, Clark does not ever question his ab ility to overcome relational fertility (Murphy, 2001). Interestingly, for Clark, whether or not to have children as an openly gay man is a choice rather than the fo rced reality it was for the other men who came of age only a few decades earlier. Nevertheless, Clar k is well aware of the difficulties involved in pursuing fatherhood, as he listed with great detail the discriminatory policies that pl ague paths to gay fatherhood both nationally and lo cally, specifically attending to the unfair policies in Florida (the state in which he currently resides). Despite these obstacles and despite his relatively young age, he was very much aware of his fathering ab ilities. In fact, Clark even spoke about fleeting conversations he had on dates with men about th e possibilities of fatherhood. As we concluded the interview, I asked Clark for any final though ts. He predicts that as homosexuality becomes increasingly tolerated and even accepted in cont emporary Western society, we will have a lot of

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89 younger gay men who will say to themselves, I do s till want kids and I can have kidswe will be seeing a lot of growth in th ese groups of gay men who want and will try to have children. Lawrence, Marc, and Clark are three very di fferent men who came of age in separate decades marked by distinct sociohistorical changes. Nevertheless, each of their stories resists dominant assumptions that presume that coming out as gay inevitably resu lts in a life without children (Nelson, 2006). Clark s concluding remark, however, challenges the dominant notion of a gay identity as incompatible with parenthoo d more so than Lawrence or Marc. His final comment also elucidates how the imagined familial futures of gay men coming of age in contemporary society are much more fluid and flexible than their older counterparts. A critical analysis of how ga y men construct and act on thei r self-awareness of being both gay and capable of creating and/or fathering human life must be situated within a sociohistorical framework that addresses larger social and cultura l changes. I employed part icipants excerpts to illustrate micro-level examples of how each i ndividual experience was shaped by distinct opportunities, proposing that this de notes large scale or macro-level social change. I suggest that a mutual and reciprocal relati onship exists between gay men s procreative consciousness and broader sociohistorical transfor mations. While gay mens fantasies about fatherhood and family are constructed within distinct social and cultural changes, gay men themselves are at the forefront of instigating these changes. Gay Mens Procreative Narratives Three key themes surfaced in how men narrated their procreative desires. First, and consistent with research expl oring gay mens fathering traject ories (Stacey, 2006), participants spoke of their procreative cons ciousness as emerging through a hi ghly self-reflective process. Second, and consistent with research on heterose xual men, some participants especially those who were under the age of 30, talked about fa therhood as a natural life course transition

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90 (Marsiglio, 1995; Marsiglio & Hu tchinson, 2002). Finally and pe rhaps most intriguing is how some men narrated their procreative desires in ways that were consistent with biological essentialism and gender traditionalism. A Self-Reflective Procreative Consciousness Regardless of ones sexuality, parenthood has be come a reflective process in contemporary Western society. Paths to pa renthood no longer appear natural, obligatory, or uniform, but are necessarily reflexive, uncertain, self-fashioning, plural, and politically embattled (Stacey, 2006, p. 28). Children have moved from an economic asset to an economic responsibility and even a liability. Thus, an emotional ra ther than economic calculus governs the pursuit of parenthood (Stacey, 2006, p.28). Openly identified gay men w ho seek fatherhood face these dimensions of postmodern parenting in an exaggerated way. Fu rthermore, it has been documented that the thought processes that gay men undergo to beco me fathers are quite different from those experienced by their heterosexual counterparts (Barret & Robinson, 2000; Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989; Mallon, 2004). Many of the men I spoke with were well aware of emerging legal and reproductive opportunities that made their once outlandish daydreams of becoming a father now a viable reality. Yet, they also were well awar e of how structural and institutional constraints shaped their experiences in the procreative real m. Taylor, a shy and soft-spoken college student explains how a gay mans jour ney to fatherhood is much more purposeful than the often spontaneous and even accidental proce ss of fatherhood for heterosexual men: Its business likeyou gotta find who. You gotta pick a date. You know, its so, its so organized. Its not, like, its not romantic. Its not anything. Its not accidental. Its, you gotta sit down, discuss, plan, pi ck everything out. Li ke, its kind of stru ctured. Its overly structured that it kind of ma kes it more difficult, like, to actually make every decision. Taylors narrative underscores the absence of spontaneity in many gay mens passage to fatherhood. Admittedly, Taylors co mments may only be applicable to the experience of White

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91 middle-class relatively privileged gay men who ar e not closeted. Nonetheless, his narrative further emphasizes the idea that, unlike hete rosexual men who may get a woman pregnant accidentally, a gay man who desires a child by m eans other than heterosexual reproduction must undertake a substantial amount of research and preparation. Similarly, Evan, a childless man explains th at as he has grown older, and started considering the possibility of fatherhood, he has become: Daunted by the challenge of it, its ve ry expensive. A gay man cant you know accidentally have a child no matter whatI feel the unfairness of it all in that regard, but it is what it is. So you know, Ive paid atten tion and done some research to you know what the options are, and there all very expens ive, no matter how you look at it.One of the aspects of being gay is that youre forced to be more aware of th ings, you have to think about them more because they dont just happen by accident. Youre different in societyand so if forces one to be more introspective about parenting. Evan emphasizes that because of their repr oductive physiology and legal obstacles, openly gay men fantasying fatherhood are much more in trospective and reflex ive than are their heterosexual counterparts. These narratives underscore how a gay mans journey to fatherhood is shaped by a variety of mediating factors. In addition to the men acknowledging the planning, structure, financial sacrifices, and possible homophobic prejudice and disc rimination involved in becoming a father, they discussed the various le gal obstacles involved. Some participants in Florida recognized their place of residence was the only state in the entire country with statutes explicitly prohibiting adoption by gay men and lesbians (Mall on, 2004). Clark, a childless man was the most knowledgeable part icipant on the legal status of Florida. He explains: Im in Florida. So, um, reading this stuff a bout what I can and can t do in the country was just, uh, I really thought to myself this was never going to happen unl ess I get out of the country...but, I mean, more and more, the country is becoming a little more accepting [of gay parenting]. Theres, you know, Mass achusetts, New York, and California.

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92 Clark is quick to comment that he currently re sides in a state that overtly forbids adoption by gays and lesbians. Yet, as an active memb er of a university GLBT student group, Clark increasingly realizes the options av ailable to him in this country. Other men were critical about the discriminato ry legalities of adoption, especially in Florida. Segal is a gay childless man consid ering fatherhood. Segal was one of the more outspoken men I spoke with, as he is a sociologist well versed on gender and sexual politics. When I told him I was from Florida, we spoke at length about the discrimi natory policies of gay adoption in Florida. He maintains that: I find it ironic that perhaps thos e who are constructed to be th e best parents in our society are those that are most handicapped from being able to take care of the mistakes that heterosexuals make... Heterosexuals are irres ponsibleAnd when gays and lesbians come along like in the state of Florida, where th eres whatever, 3500 kids that want adoption, and theres more than 3500 gay couples who wa nt to adopt them, then when queers come along and say, well take care of the mess you made they refuse to let queers do it. Fatherhood as Natural Progression Clearly, many gay men choosing fatherhood are highly reflective about their fathering desires and quite critical about th e barriers that make it difficult fo r them to make their fantasies into a reality. However, for some men, the tr ansition to fatherhood was one that was simply a natural and a logical part of one s life course. For example, recall Clarks assertion above of wanting a husband and 2.5 kids. In some wa ys, his fatherhood fantasies were a simple and normal part of his adult life. While men were fully aware of potential barriers to achieving fatherhood, their fantasies of fathering were al so part of a broader process of individual maturation and growth. Similar to the hete rosexual men Palkovitz interviewed (2002); fatherhood is described by some gay men as an in evitable and logical step and part of their development into adulthood. There is a sense of c ontinuity apparent in me ns perception of this

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93 step. Men in this category always imagined th at their futures would in clude children; the only uncertainty was when this would happ en, not if this would happen. Similarly, many men spoke about how their families of origin influenced their desires to father. For example, Evan proclaims that he wan ts to have a connection to people that are mine. And my own family is very small and you know w ont necessarily be around for my old age. And so I cherish the connectiveness of them. Evans desire to have children of his own was augmented by the fact that his family was very small and only consisted of his mother and his grandmother. His desire to have someone to ca re for him in his old age was a significant reason as to why Evan desperately wanted children. So mewhat differently, Larry a childless attorney asserts that his tight knit family was of tremendous value to him. As the youngest in a family of four kids, when he watched his br others and sisters children play in his parents yard, he would become upset at the fact that he had not yet cont ributed grandchildren to his aging parents. He referred to his parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews frequently thr oughout the interview and it was clear that family meant a great deal to Larry Larry, like Evan was clear that he wanted children in his future. Although the sizes of Larry and Evans families of origin differed, they both cite their strong familial bonds as critical in shaping their present desires to want to become fathers. For each of these men, fatherhood is simultaneously a normal life course expectation and an anomalous desire. Fatherhood as Essential Some men explained that their desire to beco me a father was actually augmented once they came to terms with their gay identity. Nic k, a soft-spoken 26-year old who moved from the Midwest to Miami Beach only one year ago eloquently discusses his burning desire to father as equivalent to a womans natural drive to mother:

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94 Because I was always gay and I did have some maternal instinct. Maybe at the time that I first started thinking I want to have a childt he older I got the more I considered it the same way of finding Mr. Rightt his very important thing that would complete me. The only thing that coul d [complete me]. Nick cites identifying as gay as being tantamount to having a maternal urge. Further, he recognizes that as a human being, the only thing that would fully complete him was creating a family of his own. Ross, a childless single man ec hoes Nicks sentiments regarding a desire to father. He asserts that father hood is the greatest thing that so mebody can do. I think it enriches your lifeyou can give back to someone your good experiences, so they can become a good person. That men discussed their procreative fantasie s in terms of having a maternal instinct, the greatest thing that somebody can do and needing something to complete me clearly speaks to our contemporary pronatalist milieu. It also touches on the notion of generativity, or the nurturing quality in individuals whereby th ey seek to create and guide younger generations (Marsiglio, 1995, p. 84). While some refer to gay men choosing fatherhood as postmodern pioneers (Stacey, 2006), the yearning to procreat e, father, nurture, and have someone depend on you is a particularly modern characteristic. What is unique about this desire is only that it is being articulated by gay men, a population who becau se of gender and heterosexist norms are not expected to have these yearnings. Clearly, b ecause gay men are raised within a socially constructed society that stress es pronatalism and generativity, their procrea tive desires and discourses are not so different from their heterosexual counterparts. However, when we listen to how gay men ne gotiate these modern desires for fatherhood with their gay identity, essential ideologies asso ciated with gender and sexuality surface. For example, while Luke wanted children in his future, he maintains that:

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95 Gay men were not meant to be that way, if it was meant to be that way then two people would have stood beside each other and had a ba by. Obviously there is a reason that our bodies are built to procreate and for a woman to go through that process. Luke describes his procreative urges within the constraints of a heteronormative discourse. If we take Lukes statement and juxtapose it against those of Nick a nd Ross it illuminates how gay mens reliance on dominant familial, hete rosexual, and gender discourse underscores the need for a more inclusive way of talking about pa renting. Furthermore, because we live in a society that conflates and confuses gender and sexuality, gay mens proc reative fantasies are narrated within the constraining framework of We stern conceptions of ge nder and sexuality. Yet, while many of the men describe their procreativ e desires within a gende red and heteronormative context, there were a few exceptions. Not surp risingly, one of these ex ceptions surfaced in my conversation with Segal, a fellow sociologist w ho is a leading scholar on gender and sexuality. He actually mentioned that my study should criti cally examine how heterosexism hinders and hurts gay men. This reliance upon dominant gend er and familial discou rse is a theme that surfaced more than I would have ever imagin ed and confirms Segals statement of how heterosexism constrains gay mens narrative abilities. Fatherhood Identity Transitions I now look at the processes by which gay men un dergo meaningful shifts in the way they reflect and behave with regards to their future father identity. I emphasize the subjective and fluid nature of gay mens procreative consciousness and fatherhood fantasies while simultaneously highlighting how the gendered and heteronormative nature of the procreative ream affects gay mens identity related transition s. Such social psychological transitions are qualitative changes that reorganize the inner social psychological wo rld and the external behavior of an individual (Hawkins, Christiansen, Sargent, & Hill, 1993).

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96 For many of the men, their procreative consci ousness was triggered by specific moments, experiences, or social processes. Consistent with other studies and personal memoirs (Mallon, 2000, 2004; Savage, 1999; Strah, 2003), gay men note that their procreative consciousness was either heightened or activated through taking care of a child or children, interacting with lesbian mothers, encountering another gay man or men w ho chose to father, the death of a partner or family member, and being exposed to adoption a nd/or surrogacy organizations. For other men, transitions were not sudden or crit ical shifts in their consciousne ss, but occurred rather gradually and subtly. Father identity transitions for childless men a nd fathers differed substantially in the types of responses they triggered. These responses were inextricably tied to th e sociohistorical context by which men came of age. Consistent with Cl arks experience described above, childless men and younger aged fathers, for the most part, did no t experience identity transitions that activated their awareness of their ability to father. Rather these men experienced transitions that activated their desire to father, as most were well aware of their non-traditional procreative abilities. Anthony s experiences with children discusse d below underscores how simply because gay men are aware of their available reproductive op tions does not necessarily mean that they will desire to father a child in the future. Moreove r, Franks story that I detail in chapter one highlights gay mens complex negotiations of their fathering desires in a world that privileges heterosexuality and scrutinizes gay mens intimat e interactions with ch ildren. Although these younger gay men were more likely than their older counterparts to experien ce identity transitions in their fathering desires rather than their fathering awarene ss, not all young men responded to these transitions with subsequent plans to eventually sire a child.

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97 Nonetheless, these father identity transitions are quite different from those of the older fathers in my sample. Older men typically report ed specific moments or processes that activated their awareness of procreative possibilities. Clearly, th is opposing response to father identity transitions highlights the influence that social and historical changes have had in shaping gay mens procreative consciousness. Art and Ricks chance encounter with a gay couple at a grocery store in Fire Island discussed in more detail below illuminates how even though many older men are cognizant of their desires to father, their awareness of the r eproductive options available to them is limited. Attention to the nature of the cognitive responses transitions trigger in gay mens procreative and father identities clarifies the comp lex nature of the meanings men attach to such events and how these meanings are intertwined wi th larger social, cultu ral, and technological transformations. Turning Points Where every man in my sample experienced an identity transition with respect to fatherhood, not all men experienced distinct tu rning points in activa ting their procreative consciousness and fathering desires. Turning poi nts are instrumental transitional moments in mens lives when men come to see themselves in a new light or to adopt a significantly different perspective on some aspect of life (Marsig lio & Hutchinson, 2002, p. 111). Turning points can be distinguished from identity transitions in that the the individual is aware on some level that these events and related processes have altered his or her identity and perspective (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002, p. 25). I use Strauss (1969) typology of turning points and Marsiglio and Hutchinsons (2002) variations of his framework to organize my analysis of the processes by which gay men experience significant change in th e way they think, feel, and act in regards to the procreative realm. The insights I generate advance theoretical understanding of the events

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98 and situations that gay men iden tify as turning points that tri gger their awareness of both, their knowledge of their ability to father children and their desire to father children. Marsiglio and Hutchinson (2002) differentiate procreative tu rning points from those that occur in the nonprocreative realm. Because gay men are less likely to engage in heterosexual intercourse, they are not f aced with events or situations in th e procreative realm (pregnancy scares, miscarriages, abortions) as often as their heterosexual counterparts Thus, the vast majority of turning points discussed here ar e nonprocreative. Note that wh ile I explore these turning points separately, I also stress that many men experien ced multiple turning points in their procreative fantasies. For example, I discuss how Drew and Nico experienced turning points that were institutional as they became exposed to a gay-or iented surrogacy agency, and interpersonal, when Nico gave Drew an ultimatum. Experiential: engaging with children Many of the men discuss both prior and current experiences with children as critical episodes in activating their desi res to one day become a father. For the majority, experiences with children were formative events in construc ting their identity as a prospective father. Many, fathers and childless alike, discuss experiences wi th nieces, nephews, and cousins. Others speak about working at a camp, working or volunteering at daycare, and partaking in various mentoring programs. For example, Luke, a Black childless man from New Zealand, talks about his yearlong experience raising and mentor ing his nephew. In a convers ation about experiences with children, he cites this particular year as a highly signi ficant time in his life: he [my brother] was a slack-ass and it was important for me to be a good role-model for him [my nephew]he became like my side-kickfor some reason he list ened to me. The year he cared for his nephew was one of the most influential periods in shaping Lukes prospective father identity. Recognizing the importance of becoming a decent role model for his nephew when his brother

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99 failed heightened Lukes awareness of his fath ering ability. Likewise Evan, a childless man living in Manhattan who was raised in Kansas Ci ty, Missouri remembers that he was interested in becoming a parent from a pretty early age, and I actually think it ties back to my early relationship with a cousinI cant say I helped raise him, but I did a lot of things that are associated with parenting. Evan explains th at his relationship with his cousin sparked his awareness to the idea of having a child. Yet, experiencing a heightened procreativ e consciousness based on interactions with children does not necessarily mean participants will desire to become a father someday. Anthonys experiences with chil dren actually confirmed his or iginal decision not to have children of his own. A career dr iven theater major and a child less gay man, Anthony is adamant about not ever having kids. He explains some of his previous encounters with children: I guess when I approach kids, Im kind of like a little too grown up because I cant be like, Hi kids! Like, I cant be all happy and smile y and, like, childlike, like, I just cant do that. I worked at a daycare cen ter for a few weeks, and, like, there were these three little kids that would just, like, climb up my leg, wh ich was cute. But, for the most part, like, kids just kind of like keep their distance from me. Similarly, recall Franks story from chapter on e. Frank worked at a daycare center and recalled many of these experiences quite fondly, often referring to them as preparation to be a good father and fatherhood training. Yet, Fr ank stopped working in childcare following an incident where a young boys mother accused him of touching him in an inappropriate manner. This traumatic incident heightened Franks awar eness of the public scrutiny and surveillance surrounding gay men and young boys. Immediately fo llowing this confrontation, Frank swore that he would never become a father and bring another human life into th is world. Frank and Anthony cite their prior experiences with children as confirmation that they did not desire children in the future. Nevertheless, for the majority of men, experien ces with children were

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100 influential in heightening their procreative consciousness and shap ing their identities as future gay fathers. Observational Consistent with previous research, participants shared that seeing other gay fathers, lesbian mothers or even other adoptive parents triggered their fatherh ood fantasies (Mallon, 2000, 2004). Ross, a childless man living in Miami Beach explai ns that his gay mentor, the person who gave him the confidence to come out, recently adopted two children. Ross describes his mentor as the father I never had, and a grea t role model to me. Watching this man adopt children was a turning point in Ross procreative consciousness that triggered his desires that he too wanted to father children one day. Most of the time, however, men reported not previously knowi ng the persons who prompted their fathering desires. Lawrence e xplains, My ex had met somebody at the gym who knew somebody who knew a gay man who adopted a kid. Eventually, this man escorted Lawrence and his former partner to a picnic of gay prospective fathers who he describes as hungry wolves wanting to know everything possibl e about how to naviga te the legalities of adoption. Art and Rick, a couple who created their fam ily four years ago by adopting a son explain how they almost abandoned their fantasies of becoming fathers because of the continuous difficulties they experienced with agencies and attorneys. A chance encounter at a grocery store in Fire Island changed everythi ng. Art explains how he saw tw o men and the most beautiful baby you wanted to see exiting the store. He appr oached them with a mout hful of questions and later that afternoon, the four men spoke for eight hours detailing the adopt ion process. For Art and Rick, this chance encounter wa s a turning point in th eir forming father identities. Like other

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101 men I interviewed, they were actively contempl ating fatherhood, but their enthusiasm required the direction that th is couple provided. Daryl, a single gay father who adopted his boys in the 1980s owned and operated a natural food store. One day, a woman came in asking a bout natural baby formulas and he replied that the healthiest and most natural thing was to breas tfeed. She retorted that this was not an option because she was adopting. When he replied, but I thought you were single. She explained that she was a single woman adopting. Daryl immediat ely followed with do they let single gay men adopt? She lowered her voice and said, wel l, there are two guys in our group, New York Singles Adopting Children (NYSAC), and I dont know for sure, but they both appear to be gay. Needless to say, Daryl was at the very next meeting for NYSAC and met these men who ultimately guided him through the adoption process. For Daryl, Art, Rick, and Lawrence, exposure to gay parents and adoptiv e parents served as turning point s that either heightened or activated their desires to become fathers themse lves. Whereas Lawrence, Art, and Rick were already contemplating fatherhood and simply n eeded an extra push, Daryl had never even imagined fatherhood until that chance occurrence at his shop. An observational turning point does not have to occur in person. C.J. is a 39-year-old childless man living in Manhattan. He remembers his turning point quite vividly. He explains that he had read a story in People magazine in 1987 that told the story of a young girl in India who was going to be put to death in her village because she had a discoloration on her face and the villagers thought she was possessed by the dev il. The story continued with a heartwarming account of how a gay man in San Francisco adopte d her even though the vill agers said that God was going to condemn him. C.J. still had the article and e-mailed it to me prior to the interview. This article was brought up several times throughout our conversation and clearly struck a cord

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102 in his procreative desires. Reading this article was a turning point that generated a lasting desire in C.J. to adopt children one day. Institutional As discussed in detail in chapter two, the trend of openly gay men beginning to successfully achieve fatherhood spea ks to larger developments in postmodern transformations of kinship (Stacey, 1996). Furthermore, particular fo rms of gay fathers were literally inconceivable before recent groundbreaking developments in re productive technology and changing legalities in the adoption system (Stacey, 199 6). Many of the fathers in my sample spoke about exposure to these emerging opportunities as events in their lives that tr iggered their fatherhood awareness and desires. Recall that Nico desperately wanted children of his own and was attempting to persuade Drew into constructing a family via surr ogacy. Drew was assigned to write a series of articles on reproductive issues for gay families for a magazine and read about Growing Generations, the surrogacy agency discussed in ch apter two that caters sp ecifically to the needs of gay prospective fathers. This realization was enough to inflate Nicos already heightened fathering desires, and ultimatel y, Drew and Nico fathered a set of twins only two years later. Likewise, three participants, Evan, Segal, a nd Spencer, participated in the Big Brother organization. Spencer discusses the impact that the Big Brother organi zation had on shaping his identity as a future father. Because the organization does not us ually place a child who is free for adoption with a brother, and his son, Reggie, was free, Spencer maintains that the odds were already in his favor. Further, the woman who was placing him with Reggie described him as having this problem and that problemhe was livi ng in a childrens residential facility and has no relationships with anyone if you really dont want this kid we can keep looking. Rather than scare Spencer away, he immediately asked to meet Reggie. After they were matched up Spencers life changed dramatically and for the ne xt two years he was his big brother, and then

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103 eventually became his adoptive father. Alt hough Spencer was a known donor to a lesbian and father to a daughter, like Drew, he was not an ac tive participant in the day-to-day child-rearing activities of her life. Spencer explains that hi s experience with Big Brother was a turning point that triggered both, his desires to be an active father and his awaren ess that he could indeed be a full-time dad. Cultural Cultural turning points included September 11, media influences, commitment ceremonies, and realizations that one could be a part of ones religion. The media is a large part of American culture and both shapes and reac ts to our cultural landscape. Many men spoke about media influences in shaping their awareness and desires to father. The summer that I conducted most of my interviews was the final season of Six Feet Under a sitcom on HBO. The series ended with one of the main characters, a white gay ma n named David and his African American partner Keith, adopting two young African American brothe rs. This became a topic of conversation amongst my participants, childless and fathers alike. It wa s not uncommon for men to refer to David and Keith in our conversation. For example, Tommy, a psychologist who recently became an adoptive father used examples from Six Feet Under as an image he weaved throughout our conversation. Simi larly, Noah, a childless man, repeatedly referred to this television show throughout hi s interview. His constant referen ce to the show and its characters served to prove to him that fatherhood could in fact be a possibility in his future. While Six Feet Under for Tommy and Noah did not necessarily serve as a turning point per se, it did highlight for these men the visibility of gay planned fam ilies and shaped how they viewed their social landscape as well as how they structured the interview. A cultural milestone represents an inciden t that hammers home a message to men that they have experienced some type of change and de veloped a new perspective. It enables them to

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104 see that they are in another pla ce in life and have different id eas (Marsiglio, 2002, p. 112). This shift in identity and consciousne ss may be a result of acquiring a new status. Separate, but related to the idea of cultural milestones, is a ceremonial announcement, whereby men make a public proclamation or are acknowledged for acqui ring a new role in an institutional setting (Marsiglio, 2002, p. 112). Commitmen t ceremonies for gay men are both a cultural milestone and a ceremonial announcement. Not surprising ly, participants spoke about how commitment ceremonies sanctified their relationships and prompt ed them to want to take the next step in forming a life together. Many times, this next step entailed having children. Numerous cultural milestones in American so ciety are religious in nature. Thus, it was not unexpected that some men invok ed religious experiences as turn ing points in activating their fatherhood identities. Ethan, a 55 year-old father of a young teenage girl explains that once he came out in college, the two aspect s of his life he felt he had aba ndoned were his Jewish heritage and his desire to have a family. For Ethan, th e choice to follow his same -gender attractions and lead a gay lifestyle was always darkened by th e feeling that he woul d never have these two essential aspects in his life. He describes his experience of finding a gay synagogue when he was in his early 30s as a critical event that act ivated his procreative c onsciousness. With the discovery of this organization, Etha n realized that if he could part icipate as an openly gay man in the synagogue and retain his Jewish identity, th en what was to stop him from having the family he had always fantasized about. The above examples illustrate how gay mens procreative identities are embedded within a cultural web of nonprocreative in fluences that include but are not limited to media representations, secula r rites of passage, and organized religion. Interpersonal negotiations Whereas some men experienced their turning points mostly on their own, others negotiated their turning points with others. Many times, this other person involved was their romantic

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105 partner. Nico had always wanted children a nd was ecstatic when he met Drew, a gay man who had served as a known sperm donor to a lesbian couple in another state. Although they lived a three-and-a-half hour drive away from the couple, the friends saw each other somewhat regularly. For Drew, the experience of having kids without having kids was enough to satiate his familial desires. But Nico yearned for children of his own and periodically broached the subject of fathering with his l ong-time partner. After much deliberation, Nico gave Drew an ultimatum: if you dont want to do this, then ma ybe this relationship isnt going to work out because this is something I really want. Drew claims he had to go back to the mental drawing board and seriously consider if he could liv e his life without Nicos companionship and intimacy. Although Drew was already a biological fa ther, he did not see himself as a prospective social father who would be engaged in the day-to -day activities of his children. It was this conversation and Nicos ultimatum that finally pr ompted Drew to begin to integrate a physically and intimately involved father id entity into his sense of self. Another interpersonal tu rning point that Drew and Nico e xperienced together was the death of Drews father. They explained that they contracted with the surrogacy agent a month after he [Drews father] passed away. It was kind of a kick in the a ss, you know, like life is short, lets go do it. Although Nicos ultimatum cause d them to seriously begin to contemplate becoming fathers sometime in the future, the deat h of Drews father hurried the process along. Losing Drews father after a lengt hy battle with cancer prompted their desire to create a family and in essence, sped up th e reproductive process. Consistent with previous research on all procreative identities regardless of sexuality, coping with death and illness emer ged as turning points among men whose procreative identities were in flux (Mallon, 2000; Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002). Both Daryl and Leonard

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106 experienced the deaths of their partners and in different ways; their experiences with death prompted a desire to father. Leonard and his partner, Ariel had been in a committed, but open relationship for five years. In these five years, Ariel was diagnosed with HIV. The two of them and two lesbian women eventually decided to have a child together. It was a well-known fact that Ariel was sick, but the four were optimistic a nd chose not to think the worst. At the tail end of the pregnancy, Ariel fell very ill and passed aw ay. While death was no t necessarily a turning point for Leonard, the impending passi ng of his partner served to pus h him to create a legacy of he and Ariels relationship. On the other ha nd, Daryls partner fell i ll and passed away in October and he became a father to his first son in December. He reflects, Im sure there is a connection there. Im unconsciously and consciously aware that my son sort of filled in for a partner, you know, somehow filled the void. The d eath of a loved one, whether it be a romantic partner or a father is a centra l dimension of ones sense of se lf. These changes in how men perceive themselves following death or during grav e illness serve as central turning points in mens procreative identities and father desires. We have already seen how a partners ultima tum can serve as a tu rning point prompting fatherhood and how a partners death or illness can trigger fathering desires. However, in some cases, a man and his romantic partners unresolved disagreement as to wh ether to have children can also serve as a turning point. Spencers former partner was adamant about never having children. So, when Spencer was approached by a lesbian woman wanting a known donor, Spencer thought it was the perfect arrangement; he could have a child in his life and his romantic relationship could continue as plan ned. However, his life as a dist ant father, or kindly uncle was not enough to satiate his fatherly desires. Sp encer decided to enroll in the Big Brother organization and met Reggie who he began spending much of his time with. So, when Spencer

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107 was a big brother to Reggie for the two years pr ior to adopting, he was also living with his partner of many years. However, his intimate relationship with Reggie began to cause a rift between them. Spencer remembers: Part of the reason my partner left was because of Big Brother and I sort of abandoned him for Reggie. We couldnt have kids because of my partnerhe never had the ability to express his emotionshe shied away from physical affectionsall of a sudden with Reggie I had an intimate relationship in a ve ry different way, but it was so much more satisfying than wishing things would be more intimate with my part ner and I. So Reggie pretty much got all of my atte ntion because he gave me back so much and that may be part of the reason my partner left. But its a good thing. For Spencer, Reggie filled the void in his ro mantic relationship. Spencer had always wanted children and rather than sacrifice his fatherhood desires for an abysmal romance, he opted to choose Reggie over his partner and live his life as a single gay father. The multiplicity of interaction and coll aboration (or in some cases, lack thereof) involved in gay mens procreative turning points illuminates how procreative and father identities are intimately interwoven with othe r relationships. Properties of Turning Points Now that I have identified some of the key tu rning points that partic ipants experienced, I turn to a brief analysis of the properties di fferentiating their featur es. By identifying such properties, I am able to attend to the conceptu al intricacies associated with turning point experiences relevant to gay men s procreative identities. In th eir analysis of young heterosexual men, Marsiglio and Hutchinson (2002) identify eight properties of turning points: 1) degree of control, 2) duration, 3) presence of subjective or behavioral changes, 4) individual or shared experience, 5) vicarious or personal experience, 6) type and degree of institutional context, 7) centrality, and 8) emotional response and eval uation. I draw selectiv ely upon the types of turning points I mentioned above and other rele vant examples that participants invoked to illustrate briefly how these properties relate to gay men. Similar to the types of turning points

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108 discussed previously, these prope rties are often interrelated an d overlap. As I discuss the properties, note that the symbolic meanings associated with mens experiences are social constructions that emerge within a value-lade n social and cultural context (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002, p. 127). Where these experiences are indeed subjective, they are embedded within and shaped by a larger social, cultural, and historical milieu. Degree of control For young heterosexual men, turning points varied in the degree to which men were able to plan and control them. Many men in Marsiglio and Hutchinsons (2002) sample believed they did not have substantial control over the onset and evolution of their proc reative turning points. Two of my participants dealt with unplanned pregnancies that serv ed as turning po ints triggering their awareness of their proc reative consciousness. One of these unplanned pregnancies ultimately resulted in an abortion and the other se rved as an impetus to get married. Both men reported they were not in any position to contro l these processes; yet, similar to the men in Sex, Men, and Babies, each was able to have some say in the outcome. Luke and his girlfriend at the time mutually decided to terminate the pregnancy and Robin whose experience is detailed further at the end of chapter five hurried into marrying the mother of his child. However, because openly gay mens reproductive physiology largely constrains them from accidentally getting pregnant, gay men, especia lly the men in my study, typically plan their families. An indirect consequence of this necessity to engage thoroughly in reproductive and family planning is that to an extent, gay men have more control over th eir experiences in the procreative realm than do heterosexual men becau se they generally are not faced with unplanned pregnancies. Yet, because their father iden tities are contingent upon other individuals and institutional dimensions, they simultaneously have less control. Similar to their heterosexual counterparts, gay men still have to cope with th e uncertainty of miscarriages. But their gay

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109 identities add an extra layer of co mplexity to their lack of control. Men in my sample also had to cope with agencies and birth mothers refusals to work with them and with birth mothers last minute decisions to keep their children (phenom ena further detailed in the following chapter). Duration Where some turning points can be traced back to specific moments, others present themselves in the form of unfolding processes. Unlike the sudden turn ing points discussed at length above, I now detail those th at were more gradual and subtle in nature. Ricks experience highlights a gradual, natural shift that represents a different quality of change. Rick, a 53-yearold Jewish man with a 4year-old boy disc usses how thinking about fatherhood simply progressed as the next logical step in his life. He elabor ates, Well, settling down, buying a home, having the space to do it, knowing that you have a school system here to work withbeing part of suburbia. For Rick, the de fining realization that he was becoming an adult heightened his awareness that he was also ready to embark on a new stage in his life. Relocating to a suburban area that included families with children helped to shape his identity as a prospective gay father. Ricks narrative reveals much about th e place of family, fatherhood, and children in American culture. Although gay fa milies are marginalized from mainstream definitions of American families, Ricks procreat ive consciousness is still very much influenced by heterosexual assumptions and prescriptions of what defines a family and where such families should reside. Parker also spoke about a gradual shift in his procreative consciousness, and one that coincided with him and his partner growing out of the stereotypical gay circuit in Miami Beach. He asserts that he does not want to think of it so much as gr owing up, but simply as a growing out of the gay club scene. He humorously articulat es that he decided to trim the fat from his life and to stop hanging out with the people we see at night and dont call during the day. This

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110 trimming the fat and growi ng out simply happened to corr espond with him and his partner beginning to research fatherhood possibilities. Participants also referenced their biological cl ock or the notion that they did not want to become old fathers. Elliot and Nico both separately reference the fact that their biological clocks were ticking. The reference to a real and esse ntial biological clock wa s somewhat shocking. For women, the time of the body is more culturally appare nt than that of their male counterparts, in that as a woman, I am constantly made aware of my ongoing menstrual cycle and the eventual finitude of my fertility in middle age. Howe ver, for men, we do not hear about the endogenous body time, that is the time which is governed in the body (Nelson, 2006). For gay men, a sense of inevitability is present in their narratives and mens bodily time emerged as a principal theme when they discussed their procreative identities and prospective futures. Another component of the durat ion property concerns the long evity of the consequences associated with the turning point. Franks st ory about a mothers accusing him of touching her child in an inappropriate way ha d a lasting effect on his father id entity. Prior to this event, Franks future included children; however, following this encounter Frank vowed to never father a child. Thus, this turning point was not only monumental in shaping Franks procreative and fathering identities, it also left a permanent impre ssion in how he mentally constructed his future. Presence of subjective/behavioral changes By definition, turning points bring about transf ormations in how men perceive themselves. However, turning point experiences can trigger bo th subjective and behavi oral changes. Some young heterosexual men that Marsiglio and Hutchi nson (2002) interviewed reported how certain turning points triggered behavioral changes. Such behavi oral transformations were usually triggered by experiences in the heterosexual procreative realm. For my participants who typically did not engage in hete rosexual intercourse, behavioral changes were rare. Because

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111 participants were faced with th e reality of meticulous plannin g, transformations in behavior typically occurred prior to or in conjunction with turning points in father identities. For example, Parkers gradual disengagement from the gay club circuit in Miami B each that preceded his fathering experience involved dras tic behavioral shifts. He expl ained that he stopped going out every night, stopped partyingI was sick of always wonderi ng where the next bump [of cocaine] was coming from and what I was going to wear that night. During this unfolding transitional experience, Parker began to imagine his life as a father, infusing this identity into his sense of self. These behavioral changes were accompanied by a gradual shift in the way he thought about himself as a man capable of creating and caring for human life. Individual or shared experience Some participants experien ced turning points on their ow n, promoting an identity transformation with their own self -reflection. Marc, for example, discussed how he came to the realization that in his financial state, there was little reason why he coul d not pursue his fathering fantasies. Some men, like Drew had to labor th rough their turning points with the assistance or even a push from others. Drew admitted that he was content having children without having children, in that his fathering identity prior to Nicos ultimatum was constructed solely in the context of being a distant, and known sperm donor to a lesbian couple. In realizing that his future life with Nico depended on his ability to take on a more residential and active fathering role, his fathering identity dramatically shifted to accept this possibility. Thus, Drews turning point that triggered his desires to father was facilitated by his discussi ons with his intimate partner. Clearly the impetus for his change in pe rspective incorporated vi sions of a shared life together with Nico.

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112 Vicarious or personal experience Witnessing friends or acquaintances become pa rents was a formidable experience for some participants. Ross, a childless man expressed that his close friend and gay mentor recently adopted two children from Guatemala. He drew upon his gay mentors experiences, asserting that when he decided to have chil dren he wanted to be just as financially secure as this man was, so that he can have a live in nanny and the s upport he needs financiallyso that he has time with his kids and less outside stressors. Becau se this man was a mentor for Ross, his emerging identity as a father was being shaped to mirror those of his role model. While some men did speak of vicarious experiences in triggering their procreative consciousness, for most men, it was their own experiences (dis cussed at length above) that had an enduring effect on the formation of their procreative and father identities. Type and degree of institutional context In stark contrast to the heterosexual men in Marsiglio and Hutchinsons (2002) sample, many of the experiences that my participants re garded as critical turning points in their procreative and father identities occurred with in institutional dimensions. Recall that Evan, Segal, and Spencer participated in the Big Br other organization and vi ewed this institutional context as a crucial factor in sh aping their identities as future fa thers. Furthermore, exposure to adoption and surrogacy agencies that were willing to work with gay men were critical in forging the father identities of both Daryl and Drew. B ecause many of my participants who were fathers constructed their families via the help of ins titutions (adoption surrogacy agencies, fertility clinics), the degree of institutional context was substantially higher for gay men than for their heterosexual counterparts. Furthermore, while gay men are clearly active in shifting their own iden tities to choose, or at least consider the possibility of fatherhood, th ese identity transformati ons are surfacing within

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113 broader sociohistorical changes. One of these ma jor changes concerns the growing visibility and the changing imagery of gay men. Segal explains: Culturally and institutionally as a gay man, weve gone from being, Ive gone personally from being the pariah of mens lives to now being esteemedAt least in an urban, metropolitan settings, so being an openly gay man now is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful blessing. Whereas before I thought, you know, I was suicidal in high school because I couldnt you know I couldnt deal with it. If things continue to go about the way they are, despite the current administrations backlash, things are ge tting better, and better, and better, so, Im rather optimistic about my personal future and the future of gay men in society in general. Zack echoes Segals position when he discusse d the decline in the marginalization of gay men from heterosexual society, I think that I live in relatively liberal times, and it seems like more and more, even in the last 5 years, being gay is not as much as a stigma as it was 5 years ago. To an extent, the gay male subcultu re has become institutionalized to symbol a brotherhood of sexual promiscuity and freedom However as more gay men slowly embrace fatherhood they transform the dominant imagery a nd stereotypes of gay men. Specifically, gay mens procreative and fathering identity trans itions are surfacing within a social milieu where gay men are becoming increasingly tolerated. Thus, much more th an their heterosexual counterparts, gay mens turning po ints in their procrea tive consciousness and fathering identities transpire within the contexts of inst itutions and other social structures. Centrality As Marsiglio and Hutchinson (2002) assert, not a ll turning points are similar in the effect they have on mens lives. For young heterosexua l men, their perception of their procreative ability was significantly less important that was their sexual identity for how they defined themselves. Yet, for my participants, it was thei r lack of ability to reproduce via heterosexual intercourse that was central to their sense of self. Thus, when turning points triggered participants awareness that they could indeed become fathers through non-heterosexual

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114 channels, this was significantly more central to their sense of self than when turning points prompted mens desires to become fathers. This is because such turning points tapped into an already significant feature of th eir procreative consciousness; th ese men already desired children, they simply thought they could not merge the dua l identities of gay father (without engaging in heterosexual intercourse). Fatherhood for these men was already a highly salient and positive identity; it was simply one that was unable to be meshed with their gay identities prior to their turning points. Spencers story about his partic ipation in the Big Brother or ganization was fundamental in transforming his procreative cons ciousness and fathering identities. He had wanted to be a father, but his romantic relations hip constrained him from fulfilli ng these fantasies. When his participation in the organization began, it served as a substitute and escape from his emotionally empty life. However, time progressed and his re lationship with the child deepened. When he was notified that adoption was indeed a viable op tion, he began to adjust his everyday life to embrace the prospect of fatherhood. This example highlights how turning points were more central to mens sense of self when they aw akened their latent procreative desires. Emotional response and evaluation Because turning points motivate individuals to see themselves in new ways, they frequently correspond with emotional responses. When men became aware that their futures could indeed include children, they often experi enced some kind of emotion. Franks emotional response to being accused of improperly touching a child clearly evoked an emotional response that coincided with his awareness of the publ ic scrutiny and surveillance surrounding gay men and young boys. He expressed that he felt hurt and damaged that he was singled out in the day care center for this inappropriate (and illegal ) behavior. Similarly, when Art and Rick came across a gay couple in Fire Island that could tell them what they needed to know about gay men

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115 navigating New Yorks complex adoption system, they were overwhelmed with joy and relief. It is not at all shocking, then th at these were the turning points that men drew upon in the context of our conversations. The emotional intensity of a response is a crucial factor in determining whether men perceive a particular event as a turning point (Marsig lio and Hutchinson, 2002). The mens stories underscore the importance of turning points, whether sudden or gradual, in activating their fathering visi ons and desires to father some day. These men all experienced some sort of change in their life that triggered their awareness of either their desire to become fathers or their awareness th at fatherhood was possible. Neve rtheless, gay mens fathering desires are mediated by myriad social and inst itutional factors. The majority of men do not simply become fathers immediatel y following this realization. Rath er, there are various twists and turns in the months and sometimes years to follow. Reconciling Gay identity with Prospective Father Identity Judith Stacey maintains that we are living in a transitional and cont ested period of family history so that gay men are buffeted in thei r procreative deliberations by contradictory influences at the same time (Stacey, 1990, p. 18) Although Luke, a black immigrant identifies as openly gay, when I asked him ho w he envisioned his future w ith regards to fatherhood, he maintains that its kind of stra ngein the back of my mind, I st ill only see a wife and kidsI guess it is just my mental state clashing with the way I live my life and the values I was raised with. Lukes explanation illustrates how his desi re to live as an openly gay man with a family of children contradicts the trad itional family values he was raised with as a boy growing up abroad. Yet, my interviews detail how it is not only young gay men of color or immigrant men who have clashing values, desires, and experiences. Nick is a childless twenty-six yearold who I met in Florida, but spent the bu lk of his life growing up in smal l-town Arkansas. He eloquently explains his apprehensions about bringi ng a child into contemporary society:

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116 I guess before you have a child, regardless of who you areyou have to consider the environment that the child will be brought in to. If you were in a country waging war, it seems you might hesitate, and if you were in a country that ostracized a child because his father was gay, you might hesitate with that too. Although these younger gay men in my sample ar e aware of possibilitie s allowing them to contemplate parenthood outside of heterosexual relationships their privat e procreative consciousness is still cons tructed within the constr aints of public prescrip tions and proscriptions. These younger mens procreative consciousness is em erging in the midst of a cultural battle with respect to family. On one end, they are being exposed to a wide array of right-wing political discourse that refuses to acknowle dge the rights of gay parents. On the opposite end they are hearing and learning about varying opportunitie s permitting them parenthood. What results is that gay men end up mentally juggling contradict ory ideological discourses as they construct fantasies about their future families. Myths of Gay Men For some of these men, being socialized in to a world that stereotypes gay men as pedophiles constrained their ability to envision themselves as future fathers. Luke explains, when people see a single gay man with a kid, th ey think, you need to watch himwhat is he doing with that child in there? [Thinking] ar e you a pedophile? Similarly, Aiden, the politically active college student, discusses how he was genuine ly worried that society would look at him as someone who would want to father simply to raise a gay child: What if I do raise my kid to be gay? I just think that theres a lot of fears that society, you know, puts on, you know, um, like, the gay community having kidsThey might actually want to replicate this kind of lifestyle because they thi nk, you know, thats the gay way to be. Many laypersons and even child-welfare professi onals cling to a belief system grounded in negative myths and stereotypes about gay men (M allon, 2004). Even worse, as both Luke and Aiden express, it is not uncommon for gay men to incorporate these heterosexist myths and

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117 irrational stereotypes into their own self-concept. Consistent with idea s on the looking-glass self individuals adapt to their perc eptions of how others see them (Cooley, 1902). Like Luke and Aiden, many young childless gay men are apprehensive about becoming fathers because they are overly concerned with how outsiders would perc eive them. Even though empirical evidence confirms that ones sexual orie ntation does not determine ones ability to love and care for a child, nor is it linked empirically to child abus e, the unsubstantiated myths persist, affecting laypersons, social service prof essionals, and even gay men themselves. (Barret & Robinson, 2000; Mallon, 2004). Gender Ideology While fatherhood can be a rewarding experien ce for men, the status of fatherhood does not achieve the status of motherhood, in that men ar e not defined by their parenting status in the same way women are. Since the beginning to mi d 1900s, there has been a call for men to be more involved as parents (Pleck and Pleck, 1997 ). Yet, despite thes e changing ideals of fatherhood, the primary responsibility of fathers is still that of the familys provider and fathers for the most part are often a shadowy figure at best, difficult to unde rstand and typically unavailable (Daly, 1995:21). Some men I spoke w ith were weary of societal assumptions that distinguish men as incapable of being primary careg ivers. Evan expresses that Men in society are not expected to be parent s. Certainly not involved pa rents. Correspondingly, Segal articulates, I dont want to generalize to all heterosexual fathers, butmen make horrible parents. As gay fathers fantasize about creating families of choice, they continuously negotiate and challenge prevailing assumptions about men and fath ers. Further, they also contend with the absence of a woman as the primary caregiver. For example, Evan tells me that he has read:

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118 Plenty of stories of either single gay, or ga y couples dads walking down the street or you know, going to a store or getting on an airpla ne and being asked, oh what a cute child, wheres the mother and things like that Ive r ead that gay parents have to always have the childs birth certificate with th em and you know proof of parenthood. Thoughts about the absence of a fe male presence in the lives of their child were not only reduced to how outsiders would view their families. Later, as I move to an analysis of child visions, I highlight how particip ants also speak of how this absence of a female presence influences how they think about raising a girl. Similarly, in chapter six I detail how gay fathers negotiate the gendering of thei r female children and how the notion of a female presence becomes a paramount concern. Thinking About the Future Many childless men talked about their poten tial childrens futures in dealing with hardships, discrimination, and teasing. Clark wants children in his fu ture but voices concern about his future childs possible experiences in school. Theyll be picked on at school. What will the children tell the neighbors a nd their teachers? What will they tell their friends? The truth is, kids and teachers can be really cruel. Clar k recognizes the ignorance and discrimination that would possibly plague his pros pective childrens lives and consciously mulls over these impending hardships. The fathers in this study seldom report actual discrimination from schools, neighbors, and other parents. Nevertheless, prior to becoming fathers, they too were fearful that their childrens futures would be overwhelmed with adversity, primarily based on others criticism and discouragement. Art and Rick, th e Jewish couple residi ng in suburban New York, explain that when they told Ricks mother about their plans to have a chil d, she retorted what is all this bullshitnobody is going to give you guys a baby. Desp ite harsh censure from others, men such as Art and Rick had lives similar to th ose of many other parents, and rather than their days being filled with the discrimination and ha rdship that many anticipated, they were filled

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119 with the mundane tasks of childrearing. Neve rtheless, images of ho mophobic discrimination surfaced for every childless man I spoke with. Todd expresses that while fatherhood is a possi bility in his future, he worries about how his children might be tr eated in society: I see society and I see that it is possible but I see what the reperc ussions are of having childrenI see how people are and how kids are going to be treatedhow ignorant some people are, and these are going to be the parents of the kids my kids are going to be with. The fact that my son or daughter wont be able to sleep over at thei r friends home or that they wouldnt be able to sleep at my house becau se of the fear that there is a gay parent or that he is a child molester. To me that is not fair. Likewise, Noah envisions the possible hardships of his fu ture children: I definitely understand like you know there would be some hostility or there would be some you know maybe name calling or something like that because its not, its not that kosher to be gay stillso theres always going to be like the one kid or like several kids that you know are going to poke fun only because you have two dads. Not only did prospective fathers mull over the di scrimination of their future children, they also speculated about how they w ould eventually explain to their children that their family was different from the normative heterosexual family. Noah wonders, when I would tell them, you know, hey you know daddy and daddy, were gay, you know, homosexuals, this is what being gay is or like you know, when they start to wond er like you know wheres mommy. For men, it was not only the absence of a mother that was an issue, but more so than this absence was the distinct presence of another man. Thus, consistent with the literature, gay me n experience distinct thought processes when deciding whether to become fathers (Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989; Mallon, 2000, 2004). Even though gay men might be conscious of their procreat ive abilities and oppo rtunities to become fathers, they are simultaneously aware that much of society devalues them as human beings, especially as parents. Evan articulates pr ospective parental concerns when he says:

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120 I mean it really does take a speci al person to want to be a gay parent because as individuals we already face discrimination and hatred in our society and by becoming a parent were taking on additional challenges. Were taki ng on additional likelihood of discrimination against our family, against our child, our ch ildrenIm not trying to pat myself on the back, Im, I guess Im looking with admiration of other people whove already done it. That men were genuinely concerned about future hardships of their children speaks to the teasing and sometimes brutality that they them selves experienced during their childhood. They remember with disdain the experiences of their youths and are apprehen sive about purposefully exposing another generation to this discriminatio n and bigotry. DAugell i indicates that up to half of gay men and lesbian women have experienced some form of bullying in their school-aged years (1998). Furthermore, homophobic bullyi ng is frequently used as an argument in opposition to same-gender parenting. While there is no denial that these men were bullied and teased in their youth and that their future chil dren may indeed experience taunting because of their families, it is of import to mention that it is a socially constructed he terosexist ideology that problematizes these families, it is not the identi ties and practices of the families themselves that is the social problem. Thinking about Reactions from the Gay Community Early literature and personal me moirs by gay fathers report that it is not infrequent for them to experience rejection and discrimination from their gay peers who are not fathers because children restrict freedom (Boze tt, 1981; Greene, 1993; Mallon, 2004) Some childless men that I interviewed actually brought th is issue up on their own when I asked how their experiences would be different from a heterosexual father. Tom, an Italian-American man who recently got over a difficult break-up discusses this, It is differe nt in this society to be a gay fatherbecause it is harder. If you are going to be a good father and you have a child you need to give up more of a social life than straight men. Tom acknowle dges that the gay lifestyle, more so than the straight lifestyle is one that is characterized by independence and autonomy. He argues that

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121 children are viewed as an interruption to this lifestyle, and simply dont quite fit in. Hence, according to Tom, a gay man would have to sacrifi ce more of his social life than a straight man would in a similar pa renting situation. Nick, a young man who recently moved to Miami, explains how children basically dont fit into the gay way of life in the urban community th at he currently lives in, it is a great place to live if you are single. As far as children are conc erned, I guess it is not. If there is one rule to South Beach, it is not to procreate. Even those gay men who are not yet father s have a significant understanding of the ramifications that a child brings into the gay co mmunity. Whether it is th at a child disrupts the stereotypical gay independent lifest yle, interferes with a gay mans social life, or gets in the way of dating opportunities, prospect ive gay fathers consider the unique consequences of having children. The procreative consciousne ss of the younger childless men is emerging in a time where they have visible openly gay fathers to m odel after who in their everyday actions are transforming what it means to be a gay man. Sim ilarly, their fatherhood desires are emerging in a time where gay men are becoming increasingly tole rated. Yet, these mens narrative fragments suggest that tolerance is simp ly not enough. Clearly, heterosexi st society has some serious catching up to do with the procr eative consciousness of gay men. Even the youngest gay men in my sample developed and negotiated their proc reative consciousness within a heterosexist society that tolerates gay men as long as this does not entail imagining them as possible parents. By conceptualizing gay men as pedophiles, or persons looking to repr oduce homosexuality, or by constructing gay men as sexually promiscuous a nd irresponsible, heterosexism infiltrates gay

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122 mens procreative consciousness in devastating ways. Such homophobic st ereotypes constrained some of the younger gay mens ability to envision themselves as future fathers. Fatherhood Readiness Participants reflected on the nature of their readiness to become fathers and assume the everyday tasks of fathering. A dominant theme a ssociated with fatherhood readiness (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002) was financial r eadiness. When Craig and hi s partner talked about having children, his partner laid down the law. He explains, he had all of these requisiteswe have to own our house, we have to have $20, 000 in the bank in our savings account. Likewise, other men spoke about assuring security in their relationship. Before Billy and Elliot began researching fatherhood options, they agreed that they would have to live in their apartment together for a full two years. These financia l and relational negotiati ons highlight how gay mens preparation for fatherhood occurs years before one is actually ready to take on the tasks of parenting. Many of the childless men had vivid visions about their future experiences with fatherhood, what type of sacrifices they would need to make, and the type of father that they would be. A common theme that emerged was that in order to be a re sponsible and prepared father, one would need to sacrifice a large part of themselves, specifically with regards to their career aspirations, leisure activities, and sense of gay identity. Luke clearly articulates that while he wants children in the future, right now is simply not the time for him to assume the responsibilities of fatherhood. He remarks, Im too focused on myself right now, leading the life I want to live and being comfortableI dont want to share my life right nowthat is why I had the abortion. Luke is one of the few ch ildless men I spoke with who had heterosexual experiences in the procreative re alm. While he viewed this time in his life with sadness, explaining that he had somewhat forcibly urged his then girlfrie nd to terminate her pregnancy, he

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123 does not regret his actions. He recognizes th e connection between his personal maturation and his future fathering abilities. He ended our conversation by stating, Figure out yourself before you figure out if you want to be a father. If you dont figure out yourself how are you going to be able to raise a child? As is discussed in Marsiglio and Hutchinson s research, when men come face-to-face with a pregnancy scare, this turning point can trigger some men to look more closely at their life and construc t a sense of fatherhood readiness as a part of the attempt to acclimate themselves to a possible emergent father identity (2002). However, it is possible for young childless men to realize this conn ection between their individual development and their future with rega rds to fathering even if they have never had a pregnancy scare or any experiences in the hete rosexually-defined procre ative arena. Aiden illustrates the notion that his present identity as a young man wanting to focus on his personal life is at odds with his future father identity when he says: Its a lot of time and commitments that you ha ve to be willing, you know to put into this kid. Youre going to have to be sacrificing a lo t. Um, some instances, maybe a little bit of your career. I might not be able to travel as much, which is something that I do want to do. Um, and even if I did travel, you know, I would have to make things, you know, okay for the kid, you know. And I also have to look at the stress, you know. You know, just worrying, Am I doing a good job? Similar to some of the men that Marsiglio and Hutchinson spoke with, Aiden recognizes that in order to be an ideal fath er, he would eventually have to surrender various luxuries that he now takes for granted. In his descriptions of what his life would be like as a father, it seems that Aiden is well aware of the responsibility and co mmitment that the role of fatherhood entails. An interesting description of fatherhood readiness su rfaced in my conversation with Zack. Zack, a high-end restaurant manager in Miami Beach explai ns that when his sister went away for six months to China she asked him to take care of her two dogs. Zack immediately refused to take on the responsibility of caring for her pets. Zack talked about his inability to care for dogs at this

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124 point in his life and made the connection that this example clearly underscored what he claimed as an obvious inability to care for a child. While caring for a dog is certainly not the same as caring for a child, for Zack this entailed a comparative sacrifice of time and energy that he was simply not ready for. The above narratives show how in organizing their thoughts about fa therhood readiness, men reveal a complex manipulation of past, present, and future selves as a strategy to unravel the meanings of becoming a father. As Marsiglio an d Hutchinson maintain, when they anchor their assessment in their image of a former or curren t self, they implicitly or explicitly convey an understanding of what the future would hold for them. (2002, p. 193). Men interweave images from past, present, and future selves into thei r fatherhood fantasies and th e subsequent narratives that surface as they mentally and discursive ly construct their sense of readiness. Other men discussed fatherhood readiness in a di fferent way, as something they needed to emotionally prepare for, as something that enta iled much more than simply career and leisure sacrifice. Nick, the soft-spoke n Midwesterner explained: The responsibility to a child would be, shoul d be, more then having an accessory. It requires a very stable and loving environment. That we would want the child to have as much attention as possible, and that it would be something that we would do very seriously, not just because it was cute. For Nick, the experience of fathering require d additional responsibilities than the obvious career and social life sacrifice that other men spoke about. It appe ars that Nick is able to see beyond the traditional father-as-provider role and view his future experi ence as one that would involve love, attenti on, and nurturance. The very idea of gay fathers challenges tr aditional assumptions a nd images of gay men (Stacey, 2006). Stereotypes of gay men as ha ving few financial obligations and familial responsibilities are gradually being contes ted as more and more young gay men embrace

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125 fatherhood into their future constructions of se lf. However, not all young childless men were willing to intertwine fathering identities into thei r future selves. Carlos maintains I dont want any childrenI just dont have time for itWhen am I going to have time for a child? I would rather be traveling and working hard for what I want and being able to go wherever I want. At only twenty-two years old, Carlos was one of th e younger participants in my sample. However, other men his age and even younger discussed in-depth about how having a child would definitely be in their future. That some gay me n do not want to have children is not at all surprising, given that not every young man wants a ch ild. However, what should be noted is that these men do not want to father; they have clear knowledge that they can have children, but they simply do not want them. Presently, gay men have a diversity of conduits by which to form their families of choice. Whether these families will ultimately include children or not is now just beginning to be placed in the hands of the men themselves. Fatherhood Readiness and Degree of Collaboration Some men in my study acknowle dged their sense of readin ess by reflecting on it alone, while others assessed readiness within interactive negotiations with partners or parents. Many of the men reported at least fl eeting conversations w ith others about their sense of fatherhood readiness. Some of these conversations tended to reinforce the mens or ientations to fatherhood discussed above. However, others tapped into proc reative desires that some of these men did not necessarily have. Recall Lawrence s story from the beginning of this chapter. While he had never fantasized about having children, his partners sudden realization that he had wanted kids triggered Lawrence to begin imagining a life with children in it. Sim ilarly, one of the main reasons Nico reported falling so hard for Drew was because he assumed he wanted more children (recall Drew had two children as a known sperm donor). Where Drew maintains he was content

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126 with his current status as a father who saw hi s kids from time to time, Nico urged Drew to consider thinking about fatherhood in th e context of their relationship. Interestingly, some of the men I spoke with, especially the fathers, formed relationships based on whether or not their pr ospective partner wanted childre n. Craig and his partner Darrell spoke about fatherhood on their very first date. Craig explains, I just wanted to put it out there. He continues by saying, I was basica lly like I want to have kidsyou dont have to have a second date with me. Similarly, ot her men discuss evaluati ng the status of their relationships based on whether the other pers on was willing to consider fatherhood. Elliot explains that when he and Billy were dating for approximately three months, he was approached with an important conversation: The gist of the conversation was I have always wanted to have children. I feel like you an I are getting more serious and I want to know where you stand with children, if you would consider having them. Because if you cant, if that is not something you want, then we cannot go forward. The examples above illustrate how men can collaborate with partners to fashion and develop their sense of fatherhood readiness. Nonethel ess, it is not always a partner that heightens readiness to become fathers. Mens real or imagined convers ations with their own parents sometimes can trigger an introspective analysis of their procreative desires. In the early phases of their coming out process, men discussed how the r ealization that they mi ght never have children would affect their parents. Clar k expressed that while he is very much aware of his reproductive options, and has been for some time, his early str uggles with his gay identity were fueled by guilt for his parents. He laments, my parents are never going to be grandpare ntsa lot of this guilt was rooted in my parents expectationswha t would my parents think? You know, my mom really wants grandkids. This is horrible for her. Cl arks concerns were entr enched in his parents desire to one day become grandparents and it was this parental guilt that pervaded Clarks coming

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127 out experience. Similarly, Drew told me that the night he confided in his father that he was gay, his father cried to him expressing a sorrow that he would never have the opportunity to be a father. This made Drew realize that a consequence of choosing to follow his same-gender desires was that he would never have children. Bi lly echoes this when he says, p arents in particular look with disappointment at their gay childrens lives becau se they think they wont have childrenthey feel a loss for their children. When men came out a dominant theme was ove rwhelming guilt that their parents would be disappointed at the inevitable ab sence of grandchildren. However, as some men aged and time passed the relationship of their mo thers guilt with their conceptu alizations of themselves as fathers shifted drastically. As broad social, cu ltural, and technological tr ansformations surfaced that heightened mens parents awareness of thei r sons reproductive abili ties, this guilt shifted to some parents urging their sons to hurry up and get pregnant. Evan articulates the trend of mens mothers frequently harp ing on wanting grandchildren when he talks about his own mother: [She is always saying] When is my grandchild coming, when are you having my grandchild? In fact, it was very funny, once I came back to her, came back at her and I said, do you think that I should have the child just for you, like when its right for you. And she said, yes. And I dont think she was kidding. While quite humorous, Evans example of his mothers desire for grandchildren was not uncommon. Evan later exclaims that he is not ye t ready for children, and every time his mother asks, he is reminded of how much he is not ready to be a father. He jokes th at he should just have children for her, because she is ready to embrace he r role as a grandmother. One of the reasons Evan claims not to be ready for children is be cause he is not yet i nvolved in a romantic relationship whereby he could im agine himself constructing a fam ily, a theme further discussed in the following section. Whether they trigger the guilt of a childless future or the guilt

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128 associated with pronatalist family values, mens parents are crucial in c onstructing their sense of fatherhood readiness. Ideal Fathering Visions Mens sense of fatherhood readiness is intert wined with their ideas about how men should ideally express themselves as fathers. I now de tail how participants narrate their ideal fathering experience, their fantasies of how they will act as fathers, and how they want to construct their ideal family arrangement. I consider these me ns mental constructions of engaging with their future children, their relationships with their ow n fathers, how they imag ine their ideal family pathway, what their family and fathering experien ces look like, and how a pa rtner fits into these visions. Engaging with Children Generally speaking when I asked men how th ey envisioned their fathering experiences, their focus immediately shifted to direct forms of inte raction with their children. Men engaging in fun activities typically characterized such interactions. Taylor joyfully described playing with his future children, just like playinglike a wrestling type thing. You know, like, kids laughing and stuff like that. Evan expressed that he wants his ch ild to do things that I already like to do, which means going to amusement parks or you know helping the kid appreciate different things in life, be it ar t, be it travel, or you know, again all things that I already like. Taylor and Evan both imagined themselves play ing with their future children and engaging in activities that they as fathers also saw themse lves enjoying. Such findings are consistent with young heterosexual mens fantasies (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002) and with findings on heterosexual fathers behaviors (Coltrane, 1995; Hawkins, Christiansen, Sargent, & Hill, 1995; Lamb, 1987).

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129 Relationships With Their Own Fathers Most men expressed fond and loving relations hips with their own fathers. Many times it was these positive experiences that set the stage for their fatherhood fantasies. For example, Drew maintains that his father was a kind and loving manwe could talk about anything. Later he spoke about how he strive s to be the kind of dad that his father was to him. Drew s images of a good father are modeled after those qualities that he saw in his own father (Allen & Doherty, 1996; Daly, 1995; Mars iglio & Hutchinson, 2002). However, on the other side of the spectru m, some men spoke about their strained relationships with their fathers and how from their fathers, they learned what type of parents not to be. Taylor divulges intimate details about his experiences with his fath er growing up and the effect these had on his own fath ering visions. He explains: He [father] was very, just he wa snt really there as much as I would have wanted him to beLike, he was just more authoritative, lik e, administrativeOh, I think Id let my kid or kids be more, Id wait for them to make th eir own decisions. Like, Id try, Id give them many options, but Id never force a lot of things upon them. While Taylor spoke about not wanting to replicat e his father, he still wanted children in his future. Other men looked back at their strained childhood relationship with their fathers and in their determination not to repeat these patterns, vowed not to ha ve children themselves. Anthony said his experience growing up with a distant father was an identi fiable factor in why he never wants to have children. Anthony remembers: My father is a very selfish man.if I were a father, Id want to be there emotionally for my children also, and Id want to, you know, Id wa nt to come to their performances. Id want to, you know, be there when theyre getting a certain award. Id want to be there when theyre graduating from high school. Like, all these things that my dad just never did, and I will never understand, like, Id be the total opposite because I cant imagine what, like, even something as

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130 simple as all this work. Like, you had this ki d. Look how much money you put into it. And then youre not going to go see him, like, reach these milestones? Its like you almost deserve it. Like, you need to be there because you made this investment But, in that respect, I definitely would be completely opposite from my father. Um, but I thi nk I did inherit that kind of, you know, um, not self-centered but, like, that kind of self-interest from him. But, unlike him, Im deciding not to have kids so I dont screw up another life. Later in the conversation, Anthony explained to me that his father was in prison for most of his formative years. However, even afte r his father was releas ed from prison, their relationship continued to be stra ined. Thus, Anthonys negative e xperiences with his own absent and distant father played a large role in shap ing his desires to remain eternally childless. Regardless of whether men wanted children or c hose to remain childless, for each and every participant, fatherhood was not something that wa s taken lightly; rather it was a status that entailed a great degree of responsibility, care, and intimacy. Ideal Family Construction Participants ideal fathering visions were co ntingent upon how they envisioned their ideal familial pathway. Men diverged in whether they desired a child who was biologically related to them. Some men explained that they preferre d a child who would have blood ties to them, whereas others talked about wanti ng to adopt their future child. Zach, a childless 33-year-old Chinese-American restaurant manager confesses that the only way he would have a child was if that child wa s biologically related to him. He elaborates: I would love more then anything to have a ch ild. My own as wellIf I am going to have a child, I want it to be a part of meI want it to have some of my characteristics... I want to have a little piece of meI think that if anything, that is really what drives all of it. I do want to have someone, a little piece of me out there doing a l ittle something to contribute to the world.

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131 Zach is one of the few childless persons so e xplicit in his desire fo r a biological child. A handful of other childless men cl aim that although a bi ological tie is pref erred, adoption would be a second option. Taylor, also childless, expl ains, adoption would just be the second option, like a fall backId rather conceive a child with someone I know and trustI guess I would rather have my ownbut if thats not an opt ion, adoption wouldnt ch ange anything. Although Taylor and a few other men ideally preferred a biological relation between themselves and their child, as gay men and as prospective fathers, th ey realized their options were quite limited. Many other men, both childless and fathers, questione d their ability to feel the same level of affection for a child not biologically related to th em as compared to a ge netically related child. Evan expresses that he wants a physical relationship to my offspring. When I asked him to clarify what he meant by physical, he answers: A biological relationship that I can saythats my family and thats my trait It seems trivial on the one hand and important on the othe r. While its something that a lot of people would say that they want, its hard to explain why you want it. However, like Taylor, Evan is becoming more and more open to the idea of adoption. He explains: Ive started to be a little more open perhaps to the idea of adoption because the, well first of all the inherent challenges to start with and the expense is very great on the biological relationship options. And philosophically, Id like to say adoption is better because there is already plenty of children in the world who are unloved, or have no parent. The tail end of Evans narrative fragment foreshadows the rationa le many men drew upon to justify why they would opt for adoption. Sega l, the sociologist, was quite vocal about why he would construct his family via adoption. In hi s narrative, he employs a clever metaphor of abandoned dogs to construct a so cial criticism of the privilegi ng of biological relatedness: I find it ironic that most Americans are much more willing to go to the pound to adopt a pound puppy, a dog that needs a home, and they rather find it disgusting that people spend an incredible amounts of money to make a pur e bred dog, when there s all these poor little doggies that need a home. Yet, when it comes to adopting children, it s just the opposite,

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132 they all want to run and spend their money to make a kid, when theres all these poor kids with wide eyes who need a home, and I find th at rather ironic and ra ther sad. I find it a rather sad state of affairs of Americans notions of responsibility for your own children only. While Segals metaphorical commentary stood out as a creative way to discuss his rationale for adoption, his percep tion of employing women to concei ve and carry a child was not anomalous. As is further detailed in the followi ng chapter, those fathers who opted to construct their families via adoption had similar remarks re garding the elevated status of biologically related families in American society. Other men looked at surrogacy and other as sisted reproductive technologies with skepticism, equating this with a scientific a nd commodified way to construct a family. For example, when I asked Luke about assisted repr oductive technologies, he re torts, You are kind of making a baby into a scientif ic projectit becomes less about them and more about what you wantits really crappy to stick a tube in so meone just to have a baby. Similarly, Todd expresses, I dont think I would pay someone to have my kid, th at is too unnaturalit feels too much like you are getting fast food. Its like l ooking for the mother and paying for it, and too scientific for me. Although we live in a social ly constructed world that privileges biological relatedness and adoption is often stigmatized as a last resort, many men viewed assisted reproductive technology with more cynicism that adoption. Ideal Family Visions As alluded to above in my discussion of fath erhood readiness, particip ants pictured their ideal families and fathering experiences with a visu al portrait of what exactly their family would look like. For some men, this included whether their ideal experience woul d include a partner or whether they thought they were able to take on the task of parenting alone. Todd, a childless man who just experienced a trauma tic break-up with his partner of four year s conveys that he

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133 doesnt see it as feasible that he would find a man who would be willing and able to take on the tasks of parenting. He expresses cynicism at gay men in general, when he says, There are a lot of gay men that are selfish, a nd I dont think thats their fault. I think society made them like that because they aren t allowed to have marriage, and kids, and you have no other choice then to be self ish. I think its b een bred in them. Todds words illuminate how the dominance of heterosexism influences the procreative consciousness and fathering fantasies of young gay men. Specific to his me ntal picture of his future family, this statement indicates how he envisions his future as a single father. Yet, most of the men I spoke with perceive d their futures as residing in an intimate partnership raising children. Noah articulates that, I know that thats going to be the only way for me to have a kid, but I would like to, I woul d like to provide that child with more of a structured family than just a single parent. Walter echoes Noahs sentiments when he explains, Im not religious, but I think God made it so th at two people have to create a child because it usually takes two people to parent a child. In an ideal family, most men see themselves raising children in a (post)modern nuclear family: two men, two children, a pet, a suburban style house and a white picket fence. While gay men are marg inalized from traditional family arrangements, my participants narratives unders core that their ideal visions of family and fatherhood are forged within a dominant understanding of normativ e images of family. More, mens visions of an ideal family are fashioned with the dominan t mother-as-nurturer/father-as-provider family ideology. Noah fantasizes that his ideal parenting expe rience entails: I definitely see myself being the quintessent ial little housewife, if a gay man can be a housewife. I very much take on the maternal role in the family, and in a relationship, Im very much the little wife. And Im always cooking and cleaning for them, and taking care of them, and so I think its, when I think of myself having kids, I very much think of myself being the soccer momI think about where we would live and like our family and Id have my Volvo Sedan, my Seda n, my Volvo SUV with my SLK hardtop convertible, for when I want to have mommy time, and be the soccer mom.

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134 Noahs ideal fathering, or rather, mothering vi sions take place within a 1950s glorified and somewhat postmodern conception of a Leave it to Beaver -esque family. The reliance by so many men on a dominant gender and family disc ourse points to a very uninclusive way of speaking about family. That Noah envisions his parenting roles as a caret aker and nurturer and automatically equates these roles with taki ng on the role of a soccer mom speaks to the insidiousness of socially cons tructed gender norms within the family. The way that Noah envisions his ideal family is both at odds with an d consistent with how some fathers spoke about how they actually did parenting in their families, a theme discussed in great detail in chapter six. Child Visions A final theme that surfaced in fantasying fath erhood involved mens visions of their future children. The visions most relevant to fatherhoo d fantasies are the images that participants mentally constructed of thes e children. Other men like Clark invoke imagery of personality characteristics, our kids would just be the most brilliant, polite, clean little children possible. Similarly, Clark attempts to visualize the physical characteristics, personality attributes, gender, and even sexuality of his future children: I used to always want to have a girl and have that child be daddys girlshed be my little princess or something but I could now easily see myself doing that with a boy tooI always pictured that I would have a blonde girl. Like, she would be blonde, um; she would be like athletic, too. Um, and then for the boy, li ke, I always picture that he would be, like, um, I guess I could say metro sexual. He would be straight. But, I know that both of them would have to be prim and proper because, li ke, Ive always been that way. Um, and I definitely would want intelligence in both, we ll, looks I guess. I guess Ive always pictured them to be good-looking kids. That participants envisioned what their prospe ctive children might look is consistent with how the heterosexual men in Sex, Men, and Babies spoke about their child visions (2002). However, what surfaced as a fascinating them e is how men narrated the racial and gender characteristics of their children.

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135 Envisioning and Planning for Gender Many of the gay mens narratives underscore d uncertainty with regards to how they envisioned coping with public ba throom issues, menstruation, brashopping, and the first dates of their future daughters. A vast majority of gay fa thers painted a mental pi cture of a menstruating, bra-shopping, sexually active teenag er and I heard constant concer n from these men inquiring if two dads could adequately deal with the harsh realities of a thirteen-year-old girls pubescent phase. Rick spoke about how he a nd Art fantasized about the chal lenges of having a little girl because, we knew boy issues; we knew what to expectwe also thought girls were more difficult in terms of later on, with puberty and all th at. Both Rick and Ar t question if two dads could adequately deal with the harsh realities of a 13-year-old girls pube scent phase, as they envisioned images of a menstr uating, bra shopping teenager. When envisioning raising a girl child, many men discussed the importance of securing a suitable role model for her, particularly during her pubescen t phase. Noah explains: I like to think that like my mother or my part ners mother or my fe male friends would be there and that they wouldlike help her out and like if shes having like maybe, if I had a daughter and shes 12 years old, and shes got her period, and lik e Id like to have help with that, but I understand where she would feel uncomfortable coming to me, so, I see that you know the presence of like other wo men or a mother or someone whod be involved is beneficial. When men envision taking up the tasks of rais ing a girl, preparation and planning become critical. Such planning always includes guaranteeing a suitable role model for their female children to assist with such m ilestones as menstruation. The incl usion of a female role model further surfaces as an important theme in chapter six when I detail the nuances associated with how men actively engage in fathering young girls. Social meanings associated with raising a gi rl include experiencing important and critical milestones in her life. Such milestones include her first menstruation, her first date, and of

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136 course, her wedding. Gus, a gay father co-par enting with his partne r and a lesbian couple describes his apprehension when he discovered he was having a baby girl. He explains he was overwhelmed with emotion and could not help but fantasize about various milestones in his future daughters life. When I inquired furthe r as to what he meant by these milestones, Gus responds with, Her wedding day, of all stupid things. Me walking her down the aisle. Something I never, ever fantasi zed about because I never thought Id be a parentI find myself getting angry about her first boyfriend. Within Gus narrative, the fatherly pride associated with his daughters wedding day is juxtaposed against protective a nger he anticipates feeling at her first boyfriend. Thus, there is this notion of a fatherly desire to protect young girls from societal influences until she ready to be handed over to new protector-her husband. If I were to follow a folk logic, it makes sense that two men woul d have anxiety about raising a girl child becau se in their minds, their own experien ces would not easily parallel hers. However, some participants wondered how th eir gender and sexuality would interact to negatively affect their b oy childs future socialization. Marc the proud single father of a fouryear-old girl explains, if I have a boy, will I be as good as a role model? You know, dads take their sons to ball games and things like that, wh ich I am just not intoif I had a boy, it might be somewhat difficult to do that macho role mode l. Because Marc was never the stereotypical masculine athlete, he questioned whether he could participate with his imagined son in normal male-bonding activities. In most cases, it is take n for granted that some one can appropriately raise a child of the same gender, but in some cas es, like in that of Marc his own gender atypical behavior is cited as a reason fo r him not being a suitable parent to raise children of the same gender. Hence, the mens perceptions of their future childrens gender so cialization help forge the mens child and fathering visions as well as their procreative and father identities.

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137 Envisioning Race Few men conjured up actual visu al portraits of what their children might look like. However, various men discussed th at they would most likely have children that did not look like them. In fact, two men explicitly mentioned that their future children would probably be Asian due to popular images of transnational adoption. Clark remarks that his children would probably be little Chinese children. Aiden on the other hand discusses at length that his visions of having a blonde, athletic girl and a metro sexual are most likely an ephemeral vision rather than a reality. He talks about the like lihood that he will adopt transnati onally and the ramifications this might have on his child visions, Ive always pi ctured my kids to look like me, you know, to have those basic features, which if I went and Chinese adoption they obviously wouldnt because Im white. Similar to Aiden, C.J. expresses that: I used to baby sit and there wa s this one kid that looked like almost like me when I was littleAnd people always thought th at he was mine, and so I al ways thought that he would look like me, you knowLike, I mean it would be unrealistic because I know that I would probably end up with some ethnic baby just because ethnic kids are just easier to adopt, you know. Men seemed to be mentally juggling two very di fferent visions of their future children, one picture resembled them as children and the othe r, seemingly more realistic one resembled the children displayed in commercials and advertisements for needy children. Interestingly, Noah, a childless White man who had recently ended a long-term relationship with a Black man mentioned that he envisioned his future with a fam ily of at least like two kids, two little Mulatto kids. When I inquired further as to why he envisioned fathering mix-race children, he responds, I dont know, my only like reall y, really serious rela tionship, like Ive had a couple serious, but like the most serious one I had was with a Blac k male. He concludes by explaining, Everyone is going to be a mutt one day. Sooner or later, we re all just going to be mutts. Although Noah

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138 and his former partner could not physically conc eive a mixed-race child, his mental portrait of his future children was shaped by his only serious relationship. These narratives emphasize the notion that some gay men are activ ely constructing their identities as future gay fathers with an acute awareness of increasing opportunities asso ciated with transrac ial and transnational adoption. In an era of Internet-based circulat ion of information and the publicity of Angelina Jolie and now, Madonna adopting children from impoverished and war-torn nations, gay men are able to mentally construct child visions that ment ally resemble those they are exposed to in the media. Now that I have generated a nuanced understa nding of how gay men fantasy fatherhood, I turn to an analysis of the co mplex ways by which gay men navi gate the procreative realm and eventually become fathers. The subsequent chap ter details how gay father s negotiate the various institutional hurdles of the nonhe terosexual procreative arena.

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139 CHAPTER 5 BECOMING A FATHER The process of becoming a father can take ma ny paths for gay men. The majority of my participants families were carefully planned. N onetheless, some families were not meticulously constructed and some men even became father s though multiple pathways. In this chapter I elaborate on how gay mens pr ocreative and father identitie s are developed and negotiated throughout various phases and processes of becomi ng a father. First I detail the story of a participant who became a father almost instantl y via a chance occurren ce on a subway ramp and discuss the fathering experiences of two other men who had children thrust into their lives almost overnight. Next, I move to an in depth discus sion of planned fatherhood, from co-parenting to adoption to surrogacy. I begin with a brief discussion of the participants who constructed families via co-parenting arrangements and explor e why they chose to become fathers in this way. I then discuss the adop tion process in all its phases, attending specifically to why participants opted to use this route and it can be both time cons uming and financially draining. I move toward an analysis of w hy biological relatedness surfaces as an important construct for some men and not others and how assumptions a ssociated with genetics shape what procreative pathways men choose. I then discuss the ways by which father and family identities are intertwined with the identity of the birth mother regardless of which arrangement is chosen. I conclude this chapter with a discussion of how and why some of my par ticipants became fathers through multiple pathways and how ones father identity is contingent upon sociohistorical changes and transformations. Regardless of how men become fathers, the journey preceding fatherhood is a fascinating process abundant with contradictory opportunities and constraints.

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140 Unplanned Fatherhood Twenty-one out of 22 fathers I interviewed meticulously planned how they would become fathers. Whether through co-par enting with lesbian women, the assi stance of a surrogate mother, or public or private adoption, the path to fath erhood was one embedded with structure, and for many, a lack of spontaneity. For gay men planni ng fatherhood, it is quite difficult for them to get pregnant by accident. However, accidents do happen and Andrews story illuminates how an accidental pregnancy though quite rare, can indeed occur for gay men. I chose to use Andrews own words to tell this story, as any atte mpt I make to summarize his words or retell his tale will not compare to the feeli ngs that arise when you hear him te ll it. So, sit back and absorb Andrews story of how he, his partner Carey, and his son Lucas became the family they are today. Andrews Story: Carey [Andrews partner] was coming to stay with me that night, August 28th, and he got out of the subway at 15th Street and 8th Avenue. He starts to exit, hes going up the steps, and looks down at the gr ound, and he sees it sort of befo re he walks out and its sort of an isolated exit, not a lot of people, nobody can enter, at that time nobody can enter through there because there werent Metro cards. There wasn t a Metro card entran ce; you have to go to a token booth to get through. So th ere was only an exit, it was an ex it only, and not a lot of people were using it. He saw legs sticking out of th is sweatshirt. He thought, oh somebody left their doll on the ground. He kept walking and he got to like the first step and he looked back and he saw the legs moving. And he went down and he loosened up the sweatsh irt and there was the baby in the sweatshirt, wrapped up, and didnt, wa snt crying. Just sort of was there and wiggling around a little bit. Carey was trying to scream at people in side the subway to help him, and I guess they thought he was a crazy person. Everyone just ignored him, and for like 15

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141 minutes, 20 minutes, nobody used that exit. He di dnt want to touch the baby because he didnt know whether it was hurt or injured or just di dnt want to cause any more harm to the baby. So, he didnt have, we didnt have a cell phone back then. He ran up the stairs to the telephone booth thats at the subway, called 9-11, went back down and waited. I guess to him it seemed liked 9-1-1 was taking a really long time to come, so he ran back up and called me. And said, you wont believe it, I just found a baby, come down here, a nd flag down a police officer or somebody on the street while I wait with the bab y. First of all, I was like WHAT. Youre kidding me. I ran down there, ran down one bloc k, and by the time I got down there, the police had arrived, and they were carrying the baby, Lucas up the stairs. And it was really, it was interesting because sort of in that moment, I ta lk about it now with Carey, but I didnt tell him then, I said, well actually I did sa y then, I said youre going to ha ve a bond with the child for the rest of your life, you know that. Internally, I said, T hats our son. I dont know why I thought that; I had no idea why I thought that because we went on with our lives for the next three months. We didnt pursue anything except for th at Carey tried to find out a little bit in the hospital, about how the baby was, and nobody woul d tell him anything because he wasnt the relative. And we had heard a rumor from someb ody, a friend of a friend of a friend, who worked at the hospital that the biologi cal grandparent had come forward to claim the child. That never happened. Later we found out that didnt happen. Went on with our lives, we said OK, the babys in good hands, its with a relativ e. We went on with our lives. Three months later, Carey gets a telephone call from the legal aid society or someone working the court with the judge, and says, the judge wants to hear from the hero that found the baby, can you come down to the co urt and tell them your story. Th ey wanted to hear the story. You know, Careys like well I t hought someone came forward, and they said no, no one came

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142 forward, theyre in the process of terminating the biological parental rights so they can place him in a permanent situation. So Carey goes down and he testifies, tells the st ory to the judge how he found Lucas, just like I told you a nd says, I really need to get back to work, how much longer do you think this is going to take. And she sa ys, I think you should stick around to the end of the hearing. And then he said, I really ne ed to get back to work, you know how much longer do you think its going to take. And she goes, it s not going to take long, usually in these cases, she explains to him we try to pl ace the child in a home, blah blah blah. A police officer testifies and she turns to Carey after the hearing and sa ys, Would you be interested in adopting this baby. And Careys like, yes I would be, but I k now its not easy, its not that easy. And she said, Well it can be. And she started barking off court orders and di rectives to like set up a home visit with us with Carey, and just doing all this stuff to start the home study of us, get people in here to make sure our home was safe, everything. He called me from the subway stati on after the courthouse. And Im at work, and he says youre never going to believe this. And I said, what, but I knew I had a feeling. The judge asked me if I want ed to adopt. And I said, No, you dont, go back there and tell her no. You know, I was, you know we werent financially set for a child, we hadnt even emotionally; we were just not prepar ed for a child. He got home that night and we said to each other, well lets ju st go ahead with the process, we dont have to go through with it, we can, maybe well get prepared, maybe itll be six months before hes placed with us, maybe well have time, all that stuff, but we wont say yes. That just ends it right then and there, you know. So what happened was, they started th e home study, somebody comes like 3, 4 nights in a week and interviews you for hours, pretty intensel y and we went up to visit him in the home he was in, and we said, we cant le t the condition of the home hes in affect our decision. Well, it

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143 did, it did. It was disgusting. It was filthy, th ere was wires, there were cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. There were 3 or 4 ot her kids, 3 biological kids, and 2 or 3 other adopted kids, or foster kids in the home. The parents were bot h unemployed. The father actually answered the door in his underwear when we got there. I m ean the social workers coming over; he knows the social worker is coming over. If you answer the door like that, it just does nt make any sense to me. Lucas was bug eyed. When we held him, he let us hold him. He di dnt blink. It was clear to us that he wasnt getting ki nd of affection or attention. And he probably just sat in the bouncy seat, stewing in his own diaper for days watching TV. So when we finally did get him, like a week later, he had diaper rash that was like fr om mid thigh up to here. I mean literally right above, right by his belly button to his mid thigh, and than all around. He was not being taken care of. So anyway, after we visited we said, yes well do this. We went back to court, it was December 20th, 21st, 20th, I forget the date. It was a We dnesday, and we had to declare our intentions to the judge that we would want to go ahead with becoming his foster parents leading to adoption. And we thought that the process woul d take, like I said, another, at least until the beginning of the year, February, March of the fo llowing year. The judge said, well how about, how about a holiday visit. You can take hi m home with you this weekend. So that was Wednesday night, and we got him on Friday morning. We just had nothing; you know no crib, nothing. Like my whole family went shopping. Everyone just did, everyone just pulled together and got us ever ything we needed. And we were supposed to bring him back the day after Christma s. Christmas was a Monday that year, so we picked him up on Friday, had him Saturday, Sund ay, Monday, I was supposed to bring him back to the agency on Tuesday to go back to that fami ly. Well, we had been treating his diaper rash

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144 and taking care of him. And the whole weekend, I was like playing with him, he was lifting up his arms, and so he was starting to, he was la ughing a lot, and his diaper rash was going away, we were treating it regularly, a nd we were changing his diaper regularly. And we said, hes going to be our son, there is no way hes going back to that family; absolutely no way. So I never brought him back on that Tuesday and th e agency called me on We dnesday, and said, you know you were supposed to bring him back yester day. I said, oh well the judge said you know we can have it for the holiday visit. I told the caseworker, I said, she said holiday visit and New Years is coming up. I just assumed that m eant through the beginni ng of the year. And they were like well, youre security, your finger prints havent come back from Albany yet, clearance, you know. I said, oh, and she sa id, Well let me see what I can do. Keep him today and you know youre going to have to br ing him back tomorrow, on Thursday. She called me later on Wednesday, and this is betw een Christmas and New Year, she said, weve just gotten the mail, your clearance, you can keep him. Basically and definitely. So, thats it, it was sort of like we just became like almost instant parents, and we, by the time Carey first went to court and she asked, he was with us two weeks later, two or three weeks later. It was just instant; it was almost instant, shockingly instant. Andrews story illuminates how gay fatherhood is not always meticulously planned. With a chance occurrence on a subway ramp, Andrew and Carey became instant fathers. Two other men I spoke with had similar experiences with children falling into their lives practically overnight. Yet, while Andrew re gards himself as a father to Lu cas, these other two men did not consider themselves fathers per se, for diffe ring reasons. Thus, I di scuss Walter and Ross stories as fathering experiences; as each of these men had extended times in their lives when they cared for children as if they were their own.

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145 One afternoon almost ten years prior to our in terview, Ross was driving in the car with his mother and they received a telephone call. It wa s his sister. Her abusive ex-husband had entered their home on a violent rampage and was holdi ng her youngest son, Joseph hostage at gunpoint. Somehow, she and her other two children had mana ged to escape the house. She explained to Ross that the SWAT team was surrounding her home and they needed to get there quick! Ross and his mother drove twelve hours to reach them and when they had arrived, they waited over a full day until Joseph was finally released. Th at day, Ross packed up a moving truck with all three of the childrens things a nd moved them home with he and his partner while his sister stayed at her home to wait until things settle d down. Eight months went by before Rosss sister returned to her children. During thes e eight months, Ross and his partner opened their two-bedroom beach condo to three young children. Wh en I asked Ross, if he felt like a father to these children, he replied, No, I would say I am their friend. When I inquired further as to why he considered himself a friend and not a father, he expressed that only eight months of their relationship occurred within a shar ed residence. Further, now that the children are in their late teens, he partakes in certain recreational activities with them that are usually reserved for friendships (i.e., drinki ng, and sex-talk). Walter, the second man with fath ering experiences had a slightly different, and sadder tale to tell than did Ross. Walter a nd his partner were involved in an interracial relationship, he was African American and his partner was White. Th ey had been living toge ther for three short months when their lives s uddenly took an interesting turn. Walter explains: The day before Thanksgiving, 1982, his wife came by. He had been married previously, had 3 adopted children by the previous marriage, and I had met the kids, seen the kids, and didnt get along with the wife because she thought that I was the reason he was gay. She brought the kids over with all of their clothes and toys and announced that she was tired of parenting. And he always told her that if that happened, she would not give the kids up to the adoption agency. That she should bring them to him. So we became instant parents of a

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146 3, 5 and 7 year old. It was a marvelous expe rience for me. We we re gay parents, an interracial couple with 3 black children. Most people assumed the children were mine by a previous marriage and thought it was generous of me to give them his last name. We eventually ended up in court and him assu ming custody. The social workers all knew the truth and listed me on the court papers as the live-in tutor, be cause there was no gay adoption in Illinois at that time. Walter and his partner assumed parenting responsi bilities for these child ren for four years. For these four years, Walter expressed that he was a father to these children. However, like many couples, Walter and his partner began to fall out of love and ultimately broke up. They attempted to maintain an amicable relationship following the break-up and this arrangement did work for a short time. But, people move on and Walter began to date another man. Fueled by jealousy, in 1986, Walters ex-partner moved the children far away from their home in Chicago and forbade Walter from ever seeing them agai n. When I asked Walter how he felt when he realized he would never see these children again, he replied, When I look at my life and when I try to deal with things in life, I dont know anything that ha s ever brought me more pain. I describe it as having broken up with 4 peopl e at once instead of one. Walters story underscores the need for legal interventions in gay families that can accommodate situations when such families experience separation. W ith the privilege of marriage also comes the privilege of divorce and Walters story is onl y one example of the many gay families with children that dissolve. With proper legal protec tion Walters painful experience could have been alleviated at least in some small ways. Despite the diversity of these mens stories, their experiences can help to deconstruct the prevailing images of fatherhood in contemporary Am erica in myriad ways. While all of these men did not explicitly plan to construct families with children, both Andrew and Walter, more so than Ross felt fatherly bonds to the children that instantly became a part of their lives. These stories and others throughout this study illumina te how fatherhood can be a social identity more

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147 so than a biological one. When I began this paper, I was prepared to deconstruct dominant definitions of sexuality. However, what surprise d me more was that in the context of these specific families, fatherhood more so than sexuali ty became the focus of deconstruction. Walter, Ross, and to a lesser extent Andrew show how a father is a loosel y defined identity that extends far beyond biological conceptualizations and is dependent on and emerges through shared experiences and interactions. Planned Fatherhood Where the stories above illustra te how gay men might in fact get pregnant by accident, for the majority of my participants, the road to fatherhood was a highly structured and planned endeavor. As is discussed in detail in the prev ious chapter, participan ts, and both fathers and childless alike were well aware of the planning that would be invol ved for them in their journey to fatherhood. For these men, this planning was the most significant aspect of their families that distinguished them from the pr ocreative experiences of hetero sexual men and women. When I asked Parker, an adoptive father how his procreat ive or fathering experiences were any different from that of heterosexuals, he expresses that: I think that the biggest difference between ga y and straight people is like gay people that want kids are not like straight people th at sayoops, Im pregnantLike I said, you want kids and so you will do anything in your power to get kids straight couples that want to have kids, can normally just have kids. Consistent with Parker, Drew, a 35-year-old recent father concl udes that the rigorous planning and ability to negotiate the logistical and discrimina tory challenges might benefit families created by gay men: I think the biggest difference between us and stra ight dads is that there arent any mistakes or unwanted childrenit is really a conscious decision that you have to jump through hoops to accomplish, either financially or lega llywe might not be able to trace exactly when we thought about it, but once you do d ecide, it is like a mission to get it done.

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148 A critical analysis of Drews and to a le sser extent, of Parkers narrative indicates a somewhat hierarchal pattern to how families ar e perceived (Hicks, 2006a). Parker and Drews comparison of their families with that of heterose xuals and closeted or married gays and lesbians emerge as simplistic and rather categorical st atements about gay parents who have undergone such extensive planning (Hicks, 2006a). With such comments as there arent any mistakes or unwanted children, you will do anything in your power to get kids, and it is really a conscious decision, Parker and Drew distance th emselves and gay-planned families from other familial arrangements and practices that are ge nerally formed through less privileged and structured means, such as the ones discussed above. Such glowing discourses tend to raise certain gay families to a romanticized pedestal of responsibility and choice. Although some gay families, such as the majority of those discussed in this dissertation, are formed through such conscious planning, many others ar e not. The kinship arrangements discussed in this section can be respected without treating them as privileged. Negotiating Options When men decided that they wanted to beco me fathers, many were unsure how to begin, where to go, and what to do. Lawrence, one of the pioneering fathers of the 1980s remembers his experience in the mid-1980s when he was first exposed to the possibility of adoption: So there were all these people at this adop tion conference, you know talking about all the different ways of adopting, you could do dome stic adoption, but domestic had two ways, you could do public or private. You could do your own private adoption with a lawyer, you can go to these, also these places like Frie nd of Adoption or just facilitators; you could do international adoption. There were just all these options, and we came home and we were like exhausted because we had all these things to think about. And it just seemed overwhelming. Recall that Lawrences experiences occurred in a time when assisted reproductive technologies were not as easily obt ainable as they are now. For Lawrence, adoption was his best possible option to becoming a father, yet he stil l found himself overwhelmed with every different

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149 type of adoption prospect. Unlike Lawrence, Parker was not set on adoption and pondered various fatherhood pathways, ranging from surrog acy to adoption. He reflects on the time he and his partner researched fatherhood possibilities: There are so many options, but we did it, look, we bought books, lots of books on adoption, on different forms, what, how, IVF, we researched a lot. We took like a good like 2 years doing just research. And Im not talking about every day, Im talking about like on the weekends we would like we w ould sit down and talk about it and you know, figure it out. Parker and his partner did eventually decide to use the adoption route to create their family. However, Parker lives in Florida, one of the onl y states that prohibit sa me-gender adoption. This posed another obstacle for Parker and he describes how he navigate d the discriminatory legalities in his state of residence: My partner is the adoptive fa ther and they hold his last name and thats you know, fineIts one of those things that if you live in Florida, you, there ar e sacrifices that you make and there are things that you know, you do to get to where you want to be. Brian, another adoptive father explains how he and his partner went about navigating legal barriers in Florida: We looked at a couple adoption agencies here in Florida and also around the country. The lawyers in Florida were saying that one of us could adopt and dont say youre gay and then the other can eventually be a guardia n, but we said no, that wont work we looked at some other states and we ended up settling with the state of Vermont where we adopted our daughter which recognized both of us as pa rents. We are both on the birth certificate and Florida is forced to recognize it. Legal discrimination was not reserved to those men who lived in Florida. Even in a more liberal state such as New York, participants ex tensive research and preparation is followed by overt or covert discrimination by the respective agency with wh om they decide to work. Lawrence remembers his experience with agencies and attorneys over 17 years ago when he and his former partner adopted thei r first son. He explains: This is what you get, you know when youre ga y, it was like the last bastion of a place where people could be prejudiced and biased and not be reprimanded, not be punished for

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150 itthey were allowed to kind of push you as ideif you wanted a child, you had to put up with this. Although I would like to report that much has changed since Lawrence became a father, changes are slight and gradual at best in the United States. On a positive note, in 1999 2000 nearly 60 % of all adoption agencies in the Un ited States reported that they had accepted applications from self-identified ga y men and lesbian women (Brodzinsky et al., 2003; Lev, 2006). But only 39 % of these agencies had actually placed a child with gay or lesbian adopters (Brodzinsky et al., 2003; Hicks, 2006a). Clearly, contemporary adoption agencies still serve as a ruling relation wherein underlyi ng homophobic practices regularl y surface and shape how gay men approach the transition to fatherhood and even manipulate their self-p resentations to those persons in power (Hicks, 2006b). Fortunately, La wrence, Brian and Parker are men in the upper echelon of society and were able to afford the luxur y of an attorney to help them navigate their way through these legal barriers. Because it ta kes substantial financial resources to overcome these bureaucratic obstacles, the above storie s illuminate how opportuni ties associated with middle-class status and privilege mediate fa mily formation for some gay men planning fatherhood. Nevertheless, these narratives underscore how a gay mans journey to fatherhood is shaped by a variety of mediating factors, including interactions with the agency, attorneys, and even the state. In addition to the me n acknowledging the planning, stru cture, and possible homophobic prejudice and discrimination involved in becomi ng a father, they discussed the various legal obstacles involved. Similarly, men in New York had to cope with the issue that surrogacy is illegal in their state. Billy and Elliot are a uni que couple who had the financial means to hire both an egg donor and a gestational surrogate mother in order to create their three-week-old twins. Because of

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151 various legal barriers, th ey hired an egg donor from one state, a surrogate mother from another state, a surrogate agency in anothe r state, the paternity clinic in a fourth state, and [we] were in a fifth state. Although Billy and El liot were the only men who empl oyed the assistance of an egg donor and a gestational surrogate, the substant ial amount of effort, travel, and monetary resources these men invested in creati ng their family was not atypical. Gay mens desires and pathways to parenthood are inextricably tied to legalities mandated by both local and national government. So even though gay mens struggles are similar in some respects to heterosexuals stressful, time-c onsuming efforts to achieve parenthood through adoption or by using assisted reproductive technologies, ga ys are further burdened by heterosexist norms a bout family building. Building a Family: Which Pathway? The mens procreative, father, and family identi ties are contingent on the type of pathway they chose to construct their family arrangement. No te that while co-parenting can imply a variety of arrangements, I use the term to refer explicitly to those men who share pa renting responsibilities with a lesbian woman or women. I employ the language of co-fathering to designate those men who are in a parenting dyad with another gay man. Those men who formed families through coparenting had very different expe riences than those that chose adoption or surrogacy. Thus, I take the time to elaborate each path in detail. Co-parenting Six of the men in my study became fathers th rough co-parenting with a lesbian woman or women. However, for Spencer, Drew, and Robi n also became fathers later through adoption, surrogacy, and heterosexual relations. During the interview, for Drew and Spencer-more so than for Robin, it was these other fathering experiences that were salient rather than the experiences and identities that were constructed via thei r co-parenting arrangement s a phenomenon that is

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152 discussed in further detail toward s the end of this chap ter. Gus, Robins partner, and Aaron and Leonard, two single fathers, are all men whose fathering identitie s and procreative experiences were forged solely via co-parenting arrangements. Interestingly, for all these men, fatherhood wa s not their idea. Rather, while many were casually pondering the possibility of having chil dren one day, women who wanted a known and somewhat involved donor approached them all. Gus explains that when Arlene and Shelley approached him and Robin with the possibility of having childr en, Robin was ready to go, he had always wanted more kids. But, Gus, on the other hand always said I would never have kids living with us, and I still to this day dont. Co-parenting arrangements for Gus and other men emerged as the opportunity of having kids without having kids. While the level of involvement of men who co-parented ranged from seeing their children once every few months, as in the case of Drew and Spencer, every few da ys as with Aaron, or every day as with Robin and Gus, each of these men did not partake in th e day to day tasks of child-rearing. In fact, Aaron maintains that he never even changed a di aper for his daughter, a point I elaborate on in chapter six. However, all of these men maintain that they are indeed fathers to their children. Many of these fathers spoke about the importance of biolog ical relatedness in their families, especially Gus and Robin who each biologically fathered a ch ild one with Arlene and one with Shelley. Yet, social and legal ties were never taken for granted. Both Gus and Robin expressed almost tearfully that after their children were born the most painful experience was when they each had to relinquish their parental rights to Arlene and Shelley. Robin re members the day that he had to relinquish the legal rights to hi s son, I cried the day they I had to give him upand I warned Gus ahead of time about this and I told him it was a horrible feeling, I felt like I was going

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153 through a divorce again. Similarly, Aaron a nd Leonard spoke extensively of the everyday struggles of negotiating their social ties to th eir children as they desc ribed conflicts involving time and activity decision-making with their co -mothers, a discussion that surfaces more in chapter six. Where the processes to becoming a father and the experien ces involving fatherhood were different for each of these men, the common thread linking their proc reative experience is that fatherhood was not necessarily their idea, and if it were not for the women they currently coparent with, their lives might be very different from what they are now. Adoption The adoption process varied widely for th e men. For some, it occurred without any obstacles and rather quickly, while for others it was plagued with discrimination, uncertainty about the birth mother, and took years to comple te. Here, I detail the various phases of the adoption process. I begin with the mental ne gotiations involved in the decision to adopt and move through an analysis of how men navigated the processes a ssociated with adoption. Such processes include the home st udy, choosing the child, and negotia ting the risks of adoption. Of the men I interviewed who adopted; all chos e domestic public or private adoption. For those men who chose adoption, many were quite vocal as to why they decided to go the specific route they did. Spencer defends the importance of gay men having the legal right to adopt when he argues that: My son was 10, he was 8 when I met him, a nd he was 10 when he moved in and 10 is deemed the point of no return because when a boy turns 10 he is not going to be adopted. You know I think its funny that people who are opposed to gay parentingI say well who's going to adopt these very hard to adopt kids?...Its the gay people because you folks certainly are not doing it. Spencer continued to assert: I think it's really fantastic that people adopt internationally because every child that does not have a family needs a family, but I persona lly just have this emotional draw to the

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154 "DSS" (department of social services) kids most of whom have you know been abused and traumatized and so forth and ha ve lots of challenges. Spencer criticizes public and legal discourses that ban gays from adopting, and maintains that while he is not critical of those gay men who choose to adopt abroad he himself is simply drawn to those children who are unwanted here in the United States. Yet, not all men I spoke with were this forgiving. Craig and his part ner are an interracial couple who also adopted through the public foster care system. Craig was well-read on the politics of adoption and was significantly more vocal and critical than Sp encer regarding the tre nd of gay men adopting abroad: Some people go to Guatemala or you know Hondur as or whatever to adopt babies and I think again, it kind of gives them a false sense of security about what kind of treatment you know the mother may have had or you know, make sure theyre not somehow handicapped in some way or other. But theyre much more reluctant to get an African American or Latino American child. I talked to some guys last week about their adoption in Ecuador. It took them 6 months to get th eir kid home. 6 months. One of them had to live there for 3 monthsand Im thinking, people dont want to go through the public system because of the bureaucracy, but their willi ng to go get a yellow child in Ecuador, give up 6 months of their lives. Craigs take on transnational adoption is s ynonymous with Rothmans analysis in her authoethnographic book, Weaving a Family: Untangling Race and Adoption. Both Craig and Barbara Katz Rothman (who both coincidentally reside in Brooklyn) maintain that the enticement of transnationa l adoption is the availab ility of almost-White children. The world of transnational adoption offers some interesting insights into how people can create the kind of baby they want to raise. While to some extent, all adoptive children are devalued; transnationally adopted children are at least no t racially devalued (R othman, 2005). They are what Rothman terms, a discreet shade of White not White perhaps, but assuredly not Black (2005, p. 49).

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155 Craig was not only critical of transnationa l adoption, but was also outspoken about gay men constructing families via surrogacy: Surrogacy is a strange choice, honestly, but to each his own...I just never felt any need to be biologically connected to my child. That just, that just wasnt a priority. The priority was just having a child. Men like Crai g and Spencer who opted to construct their families via adoption claimed that biology is not what makes a family; rather family for them was defined as the symbolic soci al ties that encompass the daily activities of child-rearing. Men who chose adoption focused on the connections that were being formed in the everyday interactions in their families. For these men who did not have the physiological means to reproduce, adoptive children served as a resource by which they could construct their families of choice. Whereas adoptive families are sometimes viewed as second best because of the stigmas surrounding illegitimacy a nd infertility, these men were quick to assert that the social ties in their families were of equal or even more importance than were biological ties. Ethan is the adoptive father of a thirteen year old girl who eloquently summed up how many of my participants spoke about their bonds to their adoptive children: I feel that before you adopt, you ask a questi on that you never ask af ter you adopt. The question was am I going to feel the same a bout an adopted child as I would about a biological child...Once you hold your child, I mean, I couldnt feel more attached to my daughter if I carried her in my own belly fo r 9 months and theres no, its like a strange feeling of that there was no ques tion that I am her father, and I was meant to be her father, and she was meant to be my daughter. Thus, a consistent theme amongst adoptive fathers wa s that love makes a family, not genetics. The adoption process Once gay men decide that they will go through the adoption route, sometimes a substantial amount of time and energy is required to navigate the adoption process. Da ryl, an adoptive father who like Lawrence became a father in New York in the 1980s remembered that his experience with adopting his first ch ild was very different than that of his second child. With his first son,

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156 the adoption process happened surprisingly quickly and he only had to wait 3-4 weeks for the application. Yet, two years late r, with his second son, the ap plication process lasted 7 long months. When I asked him why there was such a marked difference in hi s adoption experiences, he maintained, It was just a very different proc ess, which is true of adoption, but every year, every month, every day, it seems like the laws ha ve changed. When I asked for further description of his experiences w ith social workers and his home study, he explained the process involved in his first home study: The social worker that did the home study, I wa s open with her. She was from Long Island and she had a brother that was gay and she wa s friendly. But when I first called, then you know Im applying, she said, oh Im not doing any more home studies with gay men. I dont want to get in trouble, youre going to have to wait, because you see, she thought she was going to end up in the cover of New York Times like too many gay adoptionsI didnt take no for an answer, so I just we nt full speed ahead so she had to do the home study, which kind of pissed her off, but she di d it anywaySo I was open to her. But at no point on the application does it have your sexual status. Howe ver, there is in the form, who lives in your house and whats their relations hips. But as a single parent, I didnt have to lie about it. Despite the visible obstacles involved in gay adoption in th e 1980s, Daryl had the financial and community resources available to navi gate the adoption and home study process. Furthermore, because Daryl was a single gay man pursuing adoption, unlike Lawrence, he never had to conceal his gay identity. The process of constructing a family through adoption takes a substa ntial amount of time and money. Brian, the man in Florida who adopted in Vermont explained th at he and his partner had to rent an apartment in Vermont for two y ears in order to estab lish residency and were required to make monthly visits to confer with the social worker and the adoption agency. When I commented to Brian that the adoption for him required a substantial fi nancial contribution, he declared, No, it didnt cost too mu ch. We flew Jet Blue and rent in Vermont is more reasonable than in South Florida. Needle ss to say, Brian was somewhat jade d by his privileged status and

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157 was completely unaware that the majority of gay men choosing fatherhood do not have the ability to make monthly flights and additional housing payments. While Brian was not consciousness of his privileged st atus in relation to other gay men, his experience illuminates how many gay planned families require substantial financial resources in order to navigate the complex legal barriers that exist in many states. It is not just being a gay man that shapes the adoption process for gay men; fina ncial and racial elements are crucial elements of how potential parents, regardless of their sexual status negotia te the adoption system. Men with high incomes can circumvent discriminatory practices in a doption by traveling to other parts of the United States to locate more supportiv e agencies and lawyers. Even for those men who can adopt within thei r state of residence and choose the public system, adoption can still be a costly and time-consuming endeavor. Spencer remembers the lengthy process: Well the first thing I had to do was to take an 8 week parenting course and it was specifically for people adopting from DSS a nd the parenting is taught is essentially parenting traumatized kids who have attachme nt issues and behavior problems and so forthI do think they design it for people who woul d just not be able to handle it. But for meit convinced me to go ahead and do it. Then you're committed to the adopting process and you go through a home study. The social worker came to my house I think four times, they look for cleanliness, safety h azards, they look for 16 beer bottles behind the house, I passed that with flying colors, I had identified a bedroom for him and there was ample play and closet space and a decent bathroom. Then the time came for him to transition into my house. Although Spencer receives a monthly stipend fr om the state of $600.00, his sons status as a DSS child forced him to quit his high paying jo b at his firm where he had been employed for over a decade and become a privat e consultant; resulting in a substantial decrease in his annual income. Thus, although gay men choosing father hood have many options that are not as costly as some assisted reproductive technologies, it seems that the pathway to fatherhood is still a financially draining endeavor that requires a significan t amount of time and energy.

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158 Nonetheless, although the adoption process is rife with complications, barriers, and obstacles, many saw this process as a blessing in disguise. Sim on sums it up perfectly when he asserts, unfortunately in the real world any bonehead can make a baby and not be responsible for it, but in the adoption world they make you very responsible, which is a good thing. Simons concluding statement underscores that while these mens procreative stories are constructed within their relatively privileged status, their experien ces illuminate that the efforts involved in becoming a father en sure a readiness to parent. Choosing your child A common theme amongst gay men choosing father hood is the aspect of a choice involved in selecting their future child. In fact, Rothma n states that, adoption be comes an exercise in thoughtful comparative shopping (2005, p. 52). While this might conjure up images of an assembly line of prospective children waiti ng to be adopted, consider the notion that heterosexuals have the unearned privilege of choice all the time. To an ex tent, the selection of an intimate partner and for those who have class privilege, the advent of genetic testing, allows heterosexuals to control the type of child they wa nt to bring into this world. However, for the most part, the ability to choose a child remains unrecognized for heterosexuals. This aspect of choice surfaced as a way for fath ers to negotiate within themselves and with their partners and what kind of child they were prepared to raise. Lawrence reflects on the decision-making processes involved in he and his partners convers ations about adopting a child: We also had to think about, you know do I want a child who has disabilities, if so, what kind of disabilities, you know. What about race, you had to be really honest with yourself. Do I want a child whos Black, do I want a child whos WhiteYou had to be completely honest about what you wanted. It couldnt be like, oh yes, wouldnt it be nice to adopt a Black child and not really mean it, you know. Wouldnt it be nice to adopt a child whos mentally retarded and not really mean, you had to say, you had to say to really express to each other what you want, and what you could live with.

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159 Parker echoed Lawrences point when he clai med, I did not want to deal with severe retardation or Downs Syndromebecause were ta lking my first kid and I was not prepared to deal with thatBut you have a choicethats one of the great things about adoption. Choosing a child based on racial characteristi cs and a disability was not uncommon for these men. In America, we define responsible behavior as informed behavior and we value knowing what we are getting into and controlling our present and future experiences (Rothman, 2005). Further, we live in the age of information, of market ing, of excess knowledge, and of genetics. It is not shocking, ther efore, that this language of c hoice emerged in discussions about adoption. Through the lens of genetics and choice, the ability to hand pick a child does not seem that odd when we think about itbut should it? Is it simply responsib le family formation or is it more than this? While many of these intriguing questions ar e beyond the scope of this study, pieces of this discussion will furt her surface throughout this chapter. As I move to a detailed discussion of surrogacy and open ad option in just a few short page s, it becomes more lucid how this choice is based not simply on the child, but also on the characteristic s of the birth mother. Negotiating the Risk of Adoption: Gay men who adopt or employ surrogate mother s have the distinct dilemma of negotiating bonds with their future children when another part y could decide to back out of the pre-birth agreement of their adoption. Often, because of th ese considerations, gay fathers-to-be discover innovative ways of securing their emotional investment. Craig and Darrel, an interra cial couple who became fath ers of their two young girls through fostering by use of the public adoption system discussed the risks invol ved in this route. Because of legal privilege to the biological mother, Craig and Darrel did not have any lawbinding tie to their first daughter un til after they fathered her for two years a nd still do not have

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160 legal rights to their second daughter who they have only been father ing for two and a half months. They choose to deal w ith the impending risk of the birt h mother returning to claim her children, yet navigated their way through the foster care system in a highly cognizant and careful manner. Their first daughter was the eighth ch ild in succession given up for adoption by her mother and their second child is the third. By co nsciously choosing to fost er daughters who have mothers that have relinquished their other ch ildren, these men minimize the chances of having their family taken from them. Cr aig and Darrel realized that in order to completely invest their love into these children, the risk of the biolog ical mother coming back must be as slim as possible. Simon and Theo, a couple living in Los Ange les adopted two children from two separate birth mothers. As they were in the process of adopting their second ch ild, the original birth mother changed her mind and decided to keep her child. Following this distressing setback, they continued in their quest for a s econd child and the agency they wo rked with gave them the option of two new birth mothers from which to choose. As they weighed their options, they too strategically evaluated which of these two women to place their faith. Simon explained the decision-making processes he and Theo underw ent as they decided between an African American birth mother and a White birth mother: We were told by an African American friend of ours that its risky, she said African American women dont give up their babies. Th ey find someone in their families to take care of them or they take car e of them themselves, but they dont generally give up their babies. And whether it is tr ue or not across the board, it was certainly true in this casewhen push came to shove, she couldnt do it. Rather than risk another upset in their path to fathering, Simon and Theo trusted the words of a reliable insider who could offer them information on familial trends within African-American communities.

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161 Where Simon, Theo, and Craig all chose to take their chances with adoption, others viewed these impending risks with much more caution. Drew and Nico di scussed their apprehensions of creating a family through adoption because of th e risks of the birth mother returning: The thing about adoption isthat even though th at child or those ch ildren are legally yours, they are never your childr en. And that is very frighten ing to me. That [we] would have this wonderful child or children thr ough adoption and then at some point, something could happen, either through the co urts or a change of the bi rth mothers mindit is very unsettling to me and scared me. It scared me that the family we would create would be shaken by the birth mother or the genetic fath er coming back into our lives or the babys life. For Drew and Nico, the impending fear of the biological mother or father returning to claim their children was simply too much for them to handle. Rather than deal with this risk on a regular basis, the couple chose to construct thei r family through using a surrogate mother. With the authenticity of a blood-ti e, nobody could deny the legitimacy of their family allowing Drew and Nico to invest the entirety of their affection into their childr en without concern that it could one day be taken from them. All future parents must invest in expected bonds with their future children. However, gay mens emotional investments in their future children are distinct from the assumed nature of such investments in conventional heterosexual families because of the conscious efforts to juggle the limitations of physiology and discriminatory legal practices. The gay headed families in this study are for the most part carefully planned. Th erefore, investment in these future families began months, even years, before pregnancy. Nevertheless, there is a heightened negotiation with this investment that becomes paramount as we turn to a discussion of surrogacy. Before analyzing surrogacy negotiations, I briefly elaborate on mens narra tives regarding their decision to construct their families via surrogacy arrangements.

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162 Negotiating the meaning of biological fatherhood The formation of a father identity for some of the men is mediated by the anticipated or actual presence of biological tie s. For all the men who chose to construct their families through surrogacy, the presence of biologica l ties was of critical importanc e. As I listened to Drew and Nico converse about the negotiations that ma nifested during their fatherhood quest, the significance of how biological relatedness influen ces the legitimacy of family dawned on me. Drew explained that: What it came down to was that he wanted biol ogical children and I had that experience, and I didnt care whether our kids were biologically mine or not This is why I wanted to adopt in the first place. Nico had some issues whether or not he could feel a bond with an adoptive childI understood his urge to want to see what his own biological children would be like so we found out a way to do it. The presence of biological ties was so important to some of my participants, and for some, it didnt matter whether these ties were real or simply imagined. An unusual story illustrates how gay men sometimes negotiate their biological relatedness. Billy and Elliot, romantic partners and fathers of three-week-old twins, decided to mix their sperm before inseminating their chosen egg donor. At presen t, it is unknown which of them is actually the biological father of the three-week-old twins. They maintain that because there are two children and two fathers, each man is the biol ogical father of a twin. Alt hough these men are uncertain about their biological pa ternity status for each twin, their stor y illustrates how m eanings associated with aspects of the procreative arena emerge out of a social and interpretive process. Billy and Elliots negotiations of their procreative identi ties show how some gay men assign meanings to situations, events, others, and themselves as they construct their father identities in nontraditional scenarios. Interestingly, there was only one man worth mentioning who chose surrogacy that maintained that a genetic tie wa s not what prompted him to use surrogacy. Rather, Marc, a man

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163 living in Florida saw surrogacy as his only viable option to having a child. He maintained that because of legalities in Florida, a surrogacy arrangement was his best option to constructing his desired family. The meanings that gay fathers assign to interp ersonal ties not rooted in shared biology are often embedded in a rather loosely defined web developed through social rather than biological means. Many of the narratives discussed above however, illuminate how the men I spoke with still greatly value biogenetic tie s. Although there was a great deal of creative negotiation within these families, it is significant to recognize that these negotiati ons were regulated with the conventional privileging of biol ogical relatedness at the fore front of many of these mens procreative consciousness. The Relationship of the Birth Mother (and Father) When gay men become fathers they do not do so as individual entities. Rather, their procreative and fathering identities are constructed through va rious negotiations with others. Whether it is through conversations with their intimate partners or th rough struggles with agencies, lawyers, and other legal bodies, gay me ns fathering identities are characterized by a dynamic and interactional process. Recall that sometimes it actua lly takes more than two people to tango. Where today, gay men can actually decide to create families of their own, this inevitably requires the assistance of a woman. As the procreative stories of the fathers I spoke with unfolded, one of the focuses of my res earch became to better understand the nuances by which gay mens procreative and fathering identiti es become intertwined with the identity of the childs birth mother. Gay men pursuing fatherhoo d via surrogacy, open-ad option, or co-parenting (with a lesbian woman or women) develop and ne gotiate relationships w ith these individuals who become indispensable entities in the construction of their family.

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164 Evaluating the Characteristics of the Birth Mother Many men spoke of evaluating the birth mo ther in terms of such biographical characteristics as age, race, physic al attractiveness, medical histor y, intelligence, athleticism, and artistic ability. For example, Drew and Nico spoke to me about the conversations that occurred as they navigated their surrogacy agency of choices website th at depicted hundreds of potential surrogate mothers. Drew explains: Well on the website a lot of the women were 4 foot 2, Guatemalan women, it just wasnt going to work for uswe wanted to find a surro gate who was white and like get rid of one other problem that thes e children, or child would have to deal with, you know, to be mixed raceWe wanted someone who was fairly young, who had done it before and who was remotely attractive. Drews narrative fragment emphasizes his desi re for a racially homogomous family. For these fathers, the difficulties of two gay me n raising a child was enough without adding in another complication surfacing from the childs mixed-race identity or unattractive looks. Drew and Nico spoke about the importance of a white ch ild and although they neve r explicitly said that they wanted their children to physically resemb le them, their childs whiteness would in fact make them appear more like a normal family. Similarly, Billy spoke about how he and his partner, Elliot, evaluated a series of egg donors from a catalog. He explains Its funny how you can read th ese profiles. After you read a couple of them, you sort of re ally hear the voice of the personit was like a yearbook. You know, a photograph with a site description. When I inquired further as to what Billy and Elliot looked for in the physical characteristics of the ge netic contribution to th eir future child, they declare that: We both sort of went with education, health, physical attributes, that were similar to our families, you know we are both Mediterranean, in a sense that we dont have blond hair and blue eyes we had a lot of conversations about height, hair color and eye color and athletic prowess, and intelligence.

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165 Billy and Elliot eventually went with an e gg donor that was a little bit artsy, a little bit athletic, you know she had a little bit of academ ic background too, so we pictured a balanced person. Similar to lesbian mothers who choose sperm donors and infertile couples who evaluate the genetic tie to th eir child, gay men choosing fath erhood make conscious decisions about how they want their future child to look, an d what physical abilities they want their child to possess. Although it is clear how gay mens ev aluation of the birth mother or egg donor to their child is similar to lesbian women and infertile couples, it is less obvious how this phenomenon is parallel to what heterosexual me n and women sometimes indirectly do in the context of romantic relationshi ps. As heterosexual women and men become intimately involved with one another, there is a c onscious evaluation of what char acteristics or qualities the other might bring to the relationship (Kerckhoff & Davis, 1962; Murste in, 1970). To an extent, the merging of these qualities is what ultimately c onstructs the physique and personality of their potential child (pending they deci de to engage in reproduction th rough heterosexual intercourse). This phenomenon becomes more apparent when we examine the experiences of Aaron, a gay father who is currently raising a daughter with two lesbian women. Whereas Billy and Elliot and Drew and Nico somewhat blindly began to evaluate the genetic tie to their child, Aaron had the ability to conduct an initial eval uation in person. Aaron, a single gay father co-parenting with two lesbian women was set up on a blind date with Raquel and Abby, the two women who he would ultimate ly conceive and rear his daughter. He explained the dinner: Well at the dinner, we were rea lly just socially getting to know one another and realized that we all come from very similar backgr oundsI grew up in New Jersey and the others were from Connecticut and Long Island, sort of middle and upper middle class families, private schoolthey have simila r interests in music, classical musicsimilar in age, race, economic background, social background.

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166 Quite like the above examples, Aaron was assessi ng this couple in terms of ensuring a family with similarities in class and ra cial background and one that could participate in si milar activities with one another. Regardless of whether this evaluation proce ss occurs from a distance through a catalog or website, or in pe rson at a casual dinner meeti ng, the significance of forming a homogeneous family was a critical consideration for many of the men. Interestingly, some men spoke of how this process was not one sided. Simon and Theo explained that their first childs birth mother wa s very involved in the selection process because this way, she feels like shes, you know, chosen a family for her kid, she feels better about giving it away. Similarly, Art and Rick spoke of courting the birth mother of their adopted son and spoke about how they sent her balloons, flowers, and other gifts in orde r to influence her into choosing them to be her ch ilds adoptive family. Gus, a partnered man co-parenting with two wo men explained that whil e he and his partner were sizing up the potential mothers of their child, the women were simultaneously assessing them. Although they had informally broached the subject of raising a ch ild together for a few short weeks, when the time came to seriously consider co-par enting, the women had a heap of questions for Gus and his part ner, Robin. Gus elaborated on their concerns: Wed only known each other less than a year They didnt know us about monogamy, about being tested for AIDS recently, how much involvement we were looking to have, if we were willing to sign off on the legal aspect of the childrenthings like that. So it was more of a technical interview. Clearly, Aaron and Gus relationship with th e women who are the bi ological link to their children is more enduring and permanent than th at of Billy, Elliot, Drew, and Nico. As is described in detail in the following chapter, thes e mens relationship with their co-parents is an ongoing negotiation; yet the identity work that manifests within thes e families begins with this process of assessing one anothers physical and personal characteristics. However, Drew and

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167 Nico and Billy and Elliots narrative fragments hi ghlight that even if th e biological mother has very little contact with her ch ild following the actual birth, sh e cannot simply be reduced to a carrier or a womb. As these men evaluate the iden tity of the birth mother (and vice versa) prior to their selection, they forge the beginnings of a convoluted relationship that persists throughout the course of conception, pregnancy, birth, a nd sometimes even through childrearing, wherein an interconnected web of familial iden tities and relationships emerges. In the following chapter, I address how this relationship influences the ways men narrate the presence of a mother and connect their child to her identity. These evalua tions forge the beginnings of the challenges gay fathers face in crafting an image and identity of the mother for their children (Hertz, 2002). Presumably, gay men who create families thro ugh adoption would value the characteristics of the birth mother and the biological father, but few mentioned the exis tence of the biological father. For the few men who di d mention characteristics of th e biological father, he was a shadowy figure at most. Regrettably, I never as ked men specifically about their relationships with the biological father; nonethel ess, when men did speak of th e father, it was in terms of a guessing game attempting to assess his raci al and ethnic background. Although, I do not know for sure, I speculate that adoptive fathers may a void discussing the biologi cal father to somehow legitimize the authenticity of their own father identities. Evaluating the Motives of the Birth Mother In the specific case of men w ho became fathers via surrogacy, and to a lesser extent, open adoption, there was a concern as to why the birth mother was relinquishing her child. Men evaluated the potential birth mother in terms of how likely she was to carry out the agreement of parting with her birth child. So, alongside an evaluation of the birth mothers biographical characteristics of age, race, phys ical attractiveness, medical hist ory, intelligence, athleticism and artistic ability, gay men also ask themselves what motives a birth mother has in her endeavor.

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168 They questioned, for instance, whether prospec tive birth mothers were entering into this agreement solely for financial purposes, or because they genuinely wanted to help people in general or gay men in particular. Billy and Elliot reflected upon the intentions of their birth mother and spoke of why they chose to employ the assistance of their surrogate mother, she was very gentle and you could tell that her heart was in the right place. Her motives were very trueShe didnt want a family of her own, but she wanted to help other people w ho wanted to have families. As Ragone (1994) suggests, people desiring childre n through surrogacy must grapple with whether the birth mother is motivated purely by financial means or by an in clination to help people in need of children; gay men, having few other options in acquiring ch ildren, may be especially worried about this motivation. Some men considered if the birth mother ha d been a surrogate mother prior to working with them because this would c onfirm that she was stable, and that she had the ability to relinquish another child. Marc, a single gay fath er who became a dad through the assistance of a surrogate mother discusses why he decided to c hoose this particular woman as the birth mother of his future child: She was in college, actually, and she herself was a lesbian. What I liked about her most of all was that she was in college, so I figur ed you know obviously shes smart enough to be in college... and the reason she was doing this was not financial, because she actually was quite wealthy herself, but she wanted to help a gay man have a child. Marcs narrative illuminates the various cons iderations men go through when selecting the woman who will carry their baby to term and ultimately be a biologi cal connection to their child. Like Marcs story, some men spoke of how thei r birth mothers actually sought out gay men who wanted to become fathers because they specificall y wanted to work with same-gender couples or individuals. Brian, an adoptive fa ther explained that the birth mo ther he worked with chose he

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169 and his partner out of a photo book because she wanted her child to have a strong male influence because she didnt have it when she was growing up. Drew and Nico discussed that their surrogate mother also preferred to work with a gay couple because in her previous surrogacy arrangement, she had met a lot of other surrogates who were working with gay couples, and they were saying how great it was. When I asked them what was so great about working with a gay couple, Nico replied, Because there is no baggage[it was not] we couldnt get pregnant and this is our last ditch, which is really what it is for a lot of heterosexual couples. They bring kind of a little bit of sadness along with them. Interestingly, despite reported instances of homophobic prejudice and discri mination surfacing in adoption and surrogacy agencies (Lev, 2006), men reported individual women as willing and eager to work with prospective gay fathers. Thus, when gay men evaluate the birth mother, her physical characteristics, biographical background, and pe rsonality are important. Yet, her motive for relinquishing her child and her idea s about who to give up her child to played a critical role in their decision as to whether she was to become a member of the tangled web of their future family. The Conception Even for very fertile heterosexuals, planned pregnancies sometimes take a while to actually come into fruition. The conception stories of the men I spoke with took various forms; some took advantage of modern reproductive tec hnology, while others were more old-fashioned and employed an at-home approach to getting pregnant. Regardless of the pathway used to create their child, the process of conception was one filled with apprehension, excitement, and anxiety for both the men and the birth mother. Dr ew and Nico used artificial insemination and a surrogate mother to get pregnant When I asked them if they could speak to me about the pregnancy, Drew jumped in with:

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170 She actually got pregnant, in retrospect, pretty quickly. It felt like fore ver. The first cycle didnt work. She didnt produce a viable egg, but we had flown out anyway, because she thought she did and it turned out to be a cyst So a few weeks later, we flew back outit was actually 5 or 6 days on a roller coasterIt was awful. And were out there, neither of us have jobs, spending all this time and mone y to fly out there. Shes bummed out, she wants to get pregnantyou know, shes also invested in it, and shes upset her bodys not working the right way. After waiting barely a week, Drew and Nicos surrogate mother found out that she was pregnant. Only two weeks after learning she wa s pregnant, she went to get her first ultrasound and discovered that she was ind eed pregnant with twins. Dr ew delightedly expressed, We jumped up and down, oh my God, no one could be lieve it. I kind of had a vision of having twins. Although Drew and Nicos conception pro cess was rather quick, for them it felt like an eternitya very pricy eternity at that. Drew divulged that one of the reasons he was hesitant to go through with surrogacy was the fear of havi ng an only child and as a self-proclaimed cheapskate who would not employ the services of a surrogate mother a second time, he was thrilled to literally get two ba bies for the price of one. Other men attempted to use assisted reproduc tive technology but were not as fortunate to get pregnant as quickly and easily as Drew a nd Nicos surrogate mother. Raquel, the woman Aaron conceived and raises his daughter with did not have as easy of a time with the insemination process. First, th e clinic who was faci litating the conception warned Raquel about using Aarons sperm because they were a clinic that primarily assisted infertile heterosexual married couples or were impregnating lesbian women, but only with anonymous donors. But to bring a known donor like me into it with my unknowns, my unknown health history, longterm health history, stability things, and generally just a hug e dose of homophobia. However, they were a persistent team and insisted that th e health clinic permit them to go through with the insemination process. They tried for months in the setting of the clinic and after many failures and financial setbacks they deci ded to undertake the task at th e comfort of Raquels home.

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171 Raquel and her partner, Abby would monitor he r ovulation cycle, Aaron would come over and do my business and then they would do their in semination in the bedroom. When I inquired further as to how the insemi nation actually took place, Aaron, rather half-jokingly responded, with a crazy straw and an empty baby food jar. Not thinking I had heard him correctly, I asked him to repeat himself and he laughed, Well, they used something like that. They actually took a small syringe and they you know crazy glued a straw, a straw like with a curly cue to it, that they attached that to the end of it to you know to draw in the liquid, and then they would use that. Aaron, Raquel, and Abby relied on this home in semination remedy for the better part of two years, until finally, Raquel did indeed get pregnant. Aaron was not the only father who got pregna nt at home. Recall Leon ards story from the previous chapter. When he, his partner Ar iel, and two women embarked on a co-parenting agreement together, the first step in the pro cess was a known-donor insemination process at the neighborhood sperm bank. Leonard remembered th at he was escorted into a small room and given a Playboy magazine as a visual aid to assi st him in the masturbation process. He laughed at the heteronormativity of the entire process and managed to find his own way of filling the plastic cup. However, after completing this proce ss, he was requested to fill out a form about his personal, family, and sexual history. On the ve ry last page, was a quest ion that read, have you ever had sex with a man? And might you ever have been exposed to a person with AIDS? He was honest on the application and the very next da y his application was deni ed. What previously had been regarded as a simple heteronorma tive gesture now became blatant homophobia and discrimination. Leonard had tested negative for HIV multiple times. So, the foursome took matters into their own hands and employed hom egrown insemination. Pregnancy occurred on only the second try.

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172 A final example of an at-home insemination is when rather romantically, Gus and Robin actually conceived their child on Va lentines Day on their very first attempt. Recall that Gus and Robin lived across the yard from Arlene and Sh elley, the co-parents of their children. If an onlooker were to observe that yard that particular February night, they would see none other than Robin running across the snowy b ackyard with a jar of Gus semen under his arm. Gus remembers that night clearly: We thought it was a joke because we thought, first of all, how long can semen live running it across the yard February unde r your armpit? And we thought this isnt going to work, this is stupid. Ten days later she did the old pink test and there it wa s. And then right at that moment when she called us over and announced, Im pregnant, it was like, oh my god, we really did pull this off! Even though gay men who choose fatherhood do not have the ability to have all the spontaneity of an unplanned pregnancy, some stil l have the advantage a nd comfort associated with home conceptions. It is rather fascinating that even with every medical advance associated with reproductive assistance; th e comfort of an at-home insemi nation for some men and women is still the preferred way to get pregnant. Most importantly, regardless if men used the clinical setting or an at-home setting, th e conception process was much mo re than an asexual encounter. Instead it was a night, a series of weeks, or even years filled with the intimacy of creating a family. The Pregnancy Although some of the gay men w ho were interviewed were ne ver privy to the pregnancy experiences of birth mothers, those who had access to the bi rth mothers of their children discussed living vicariously through their pregnancies. Drew and Nico, fathers of two year old twins, Samantha and Oliver, became fathers thro ugh the assistance of a surrogate mother. During the pregnancy they decided to document their expe rience and gave their su rrogate mother a video camera that was kept on often. Similarly, so me participants made creative booklets and

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173 scrapbooks as evidence of their journey, while ot hers took advantage of modern technology to stay in touch continuously with th eir birth mothers who lived out of the state. Some men used email to keep up-to-date with the most recent ultrasound pictures. Billy and Elliot spoke of scheduling web-cam dates with their birth mother so that we could see her belly grow. She would sit at her desk chair with her top rolled up so that we coul d see her belly get bigger. For the most part, men explained how they were intimate ly involved in the lives of the birth mothers. For example, Drew described his involvement in the nine months of pregnancy: If anything happened we got a call. If she got a cramp a nd she went to the doctor, we knew about it. For men who co-parented with a lesbian woma n or women, the experi ence of pregnancy was one they were intimately a part. When I asked Gus about his experiences with his comothers pregnancy, he explained that she was open about sharing with me any changes and sonograms [asking] do you want to go to this with me ? So I was very much a part of it. I then explained that some men I spoke with who had hired surrogate mothers or used open adoption talked about living vicariously through the pregna ncy. He laughed and expressed that he lived so vicariously through the pregnancy th at he actually had significant weight gain. He replied, I definitely had weight gain and I actually had to kind of keep in check because I could kind of tell I was gaining weight. I was eating a lot more, I dont know. She was eating everything in sight. She gained 75 lbs. She was enormous, enormous . Gus experience during his co-mothers pregnancy is synonymous with what anthropologists have referred to as the couvade syndrome. The couvade represent the i nvoluntary and unconscious bodily symptoms some men report experiencing in conjunction with their pa rtners pregnancy (M arsiglio, 1998, p. 113). According to Brown, (1988), when a couple become s pregnant, both partners often gain weight, feel nauseas and experience othe r gastric problems. Like Gus, men also experience increased

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174 appetites and gain weight during pregnancy. Es timates based on research in the U.S. and the U.K range from 11-79%, depending on the inclus ion criteria and methodol ogy (Marsiglio, 1998). While men experiencing the couvade are well documented (Klein, 1991), this syndrome has yet to be reported in the context of gay men who are experiencing pregnanc y with a lesbian woman who reside in completely separate households. Following the act of concepti on, conventional Westernized me dical models of pregnancy and birth often downplay mens role in procrea tion. For this reason, Reed (2005) urges us to view couvade as a social, constructive and intera ctive experience. Concep tualizing couvade as a social ritual, rather than an anom alous behavior of an individual elucidates how the experience of pregnancy for men is also a time when they come to terms with transformations in their identities. In the absence of social boding ri tuals that bond men to pregnancy, the couvade might serve to define mens role as a father to so ciety and secure his re lationship to the child, functioning as a ritualisti c experience to facilitate mens inner changes in becoming a father. Further, gay mens somewhat creative negotiatio ns during pregnancy can serve as personal and social rites of passage for these unlikely candidate s to bridge their former gay childless selves with their new identity of father. Participants stories illumina te how a conscious recognition of the uniqueness of their family arrangements becomes heightened duri ng the crucial nine months of pregnancy. The biological connection is hardly evident for heterosexual men, let alone for gay men. While Reed argues that dimensions of the couvade serve as social bonding rituals for heterosexual men, gay men must be a bit more creative in their ritualistic attempts to legitimize their social ties to their child. As they experience weight gain or engage in other emotional, bodily, and even

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175 technological processes, they are to an extent expressing changes in the fabric of their social ties with their family, their community, a nd their nation (Reed, 2005, p. 57). Clearly pregnancy is a critical stage of formi ng familial identities regardless of the type of familial arrangements that exist prior to pregnancy. Still, the uniqueness of gay family formations can be seen at the time of pregna ncy through the ways in which they attempt to manage the schism between dominant understandings of pregnancy and their experiences of it. Gay men had to place themselves in an experien ce that would not traditionally include either partner. Hence, in their ev eryday experiences with pregnanc y, gay men are navigating the dual realities of normative ideologies surrounding pre gnancy (e.g. loving a child before birth) and challenging the assumed framework of the family (e.g. creating a model of two male parents). The Birth Many men were in the birthing room and were able to witness thei r child being brought into this world. Tommy, a professor in Ma nhattan who adopted his son using open adoption, said when he and his partner witnessed the birth of his son, the doctor held him and when I got to cut the umbilical cord it was like that defining moment [of my life] had finally arrived. Being in the birthing room and cutting the umbilical co rd for Tommy were symbolic turning points that consummated his emergent father identity. Art and Rick, adoptive fathers of a 3-year old boy remember that their birth mother was due to give birth on May 2nd. So, they flew in to Seattle from New York and were told that their birth mo ther still had a few days to go. Rick recalled, we sent her home to have sex with her boyfrien d to try and make the baby come out. Finally on May 9th after various false alarms and some supe rficial bonding over meal s and doctors visits, it was time for her to give birth. Art reflected on the birthing experience, We were there when her water broke over breakfast at Dennys and we we re in the birthing room and we cut the cord.

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176 She started screaming, get the baby out of here ! And they moved us allshe never saw him, never held him. Yet, many fathers were not permitted in birt hing rooms for reasons ranging from lengthy travel distances, or from requests of the birth mother. Gus explaine d that for the birth of both of his children, he and Robin drove the two women to the hospital a nd stayed in the birthing room for some of the labor. However, when it came time for the actual birth, there was an understanding that it was to be a private affair with only the wo men present in the room. He reflects on this experience and maintained that he did not mind one bit that he was not able to witness the actual moment of childbirth. For the first birth, he remembers that Emily, the woman giving birth to their daughter, was: A beast that day and not that much fun to be around. She was in labor since morning and now it was dinner-time. It was a horror st ory, 24 hours of pushing and nothing happening. They finally did a C-Section on her. I rea lly would not have wanted to be around her honestly. I met my daughter when she was 20 minutes old. Gus in fact considered himself quite fortunate that he was permitted to be excused from the majority of Emilys lengthy childbirth. Gus ab sence from the childbirth experience and his respective reaction serves to foreshadow the multiplicity of ways that the women and men involved in co-parenting arrangemen ts facilitate their re spective involvement with each other and with their children. Brian and his partner were also not in the bi rthing room, but remembers that we gave the first bottle, changed the first diap er, we wanted to have that e xperience and the birth mother was pretty cool with that. Thus, simply because fathers were not permitted in the birthing room did not necessarily negate them from forming bonds with their children immediately following the birth. The stories of many of these men unders core the importance of forming bonds with their future children through the physical experiences of conception, pregnancy, and birth. For many

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177 gay fathers who had contact with a birth mother, she became much more than simply a carrier of their future child. She became an integral part of their lives, and her identity was woven into their elaborate web of procreative, father, and family identities. Presence and Absence: Whereas some men knew or eventually met the birth mothers of their children, other men never got to meet, see, or even speak with the bi ological mothers of their children. In these cases gay fathers struggled with the paradox of the bi rth mother being both real and imaginary at the same time. Ethan, an adoptive father of a thir teen year-old girl, opted for a closed adoption where he and his partner, and the birth moth er had no contact with one another and their relationship was completely mediated by the agen cy. He remembers that during her pregnancy, he thought about requesting a phot o of the birth mother. When the agency refused, he was forced to reconsider and explains now that, i t was [just] as well th at we didnt exchange photosbecause, now I never have to feel if I see a woman walking down the street, oh she looks like the picture, maybe that s the birth motherit was better that way. Ethans struggle with the identity of the birth mother illustrates th e need to see her as real (in the request for a photograph of her) and the need to keep her imag inary (in his eventual admission that it would be better to not know what she looks like). For him, as long as the identity of the birth mother was imagined and not real, the intrusion on his da ily life was minimal. Without having to really know what the birth mother of his child looks like, he does not have to imagine happening upon her in the street and engaging in conversati on with a woman who some would see as more closely linked to his child than he or his partner is because of her biological connection to her. When people adopt use closed-adoption, their ch ild appears to come from an orphanage rather than from a mother, thus contributing to what Rothman has referred to as the erasure of the birth mother (2005). While this phenomenon typically occurs with transnational adoption, it

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178 clearly can occur within closed adoption as well Rothman asserts that fo r some individuals who construct their families through closed-adoption, rat her than thinking of the child as a person in a web of relationships, with families by birth and by adoption, we make the child into an isolated object, a property that belongs to someone (2005 p. 47). Yet, as is evident from the mens stories that used surrogacy and open-adoption, the birth mother became an intricate part of their tangled familial web. Thus, it might be safe to say that open forms of adoption, while they require complex negotiations, may be more benefici al to the building of families than are closedadoptions. The experiences of gay fathers show the c ontradictory status of the birth mothers relationship to the family as a simultaneously present and absent figure. For some families, the birth mother is present in the recognition of th e important contribution of her genetic material, her physical body, and her contribution to their family. But she can be absent in terms of a conventional social relationship to their kin; a phenomenon especia lly relevant in families that use closed-adoption. Although the paradoxical noti on of presence and absence can be expected in any family arrangement that relies on assisted reproduction or adoption, it is especially evident in gay headed families because of the constant societal reminder that this third party of a different gender was a necessity in creating their fa milies. In the following chapter, I turn to how fathers ultimately decided to portray this woman to their children. Becoming a Father Through Multiple Pathways The procreative consciousness and fatheri ng identities of the men I interviewed was constructed and negotiated within a societal context whereby a transformation of familial arrangements was taking place. Currently we are witnessing a reconfiguration of what we have always termed the family. The traditional nuclear family form has emerged as the minority with most peoples family life departing in so me way from this model (Gubrium & Holstein,

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179 1990). Yet, the very idea of lesbian and gay pl anned parenting is a re cent invention and has involved major struggles over the meaning of kinship and sexuality. Many of the older men I spoke with discussed how their fatherhood fantasies were constrained by homophobic be liefs. In the language of the curre nt study, this denotes that their procreative consciousness was c onstructed within a heteronorm ative context that assumed a singular type of family. Consequently it was not uncommon for these men to conceal their same-sex attractions in order to create their id eal families. At forty-eight, Art was one of the older gay fathers I spoke with. As we discusse d distinct periods in his life when he thought about fatherhood, he admitted that at one ti me he was contemplating going through heterosexual channels to have ki d. Art was even engaged to a woman, explaining that this was his fundamental strategy to father children. He explained that, this wa s Gods plan for me to have kidsIll have kids and then Ill get divorce d and at least Ill have a kid. But it came time to write the invitations and I just broke it off. Ultimately, Art could not go through with concealing his homosexual identity long enough to wed a woman and father children with her. Similarly, Elliot, a recent fath er of twins divulged that: I was actually bisexual for, actually, I was stra ight, then I was bisexual, then I became the way I am now. It was a really huge issue for meI felt really strongly that I should be a father. I felt that that was a part of who I wa s going to be. So when I was in therapy, I had a huge problem coming to terms with my sexua lity because I really wanted to have a family, and something that therapy helped with was to communicate that as a possibility. The therapist said, I th ink that you or anyone should feel blessed to have the options and the finances, you know, the research is avai lable. This made my transition, you know, made me respect my sexuality easier, and made me realize if I really do want a family, then I can have one. The lives of the gay men I spoke with were contingent upon choices i nvolving identity and kinship (Nelson, 2006). Both of these men could have easily lived a different life than the life they are currently living. Yet, each made a c onscious decision to resist the dominant assumption that being an openly gay man was synonymous w ith being eternally childless. With time,

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180 financial resources, and emerging opportunities associated with ch anging legalities in adoption and revolutions in reproductive technology, both Art and Elliot were able to create their desired families in the context of gay-identified relations hips. Thus, the choices and options that were eventually made available to them were made possible through societal and historical changes associated with meanings and definitions of family. As the novel familial opportunities discussed above emerged for the gay men I spoke with, so did their consciousness and id entities with respect to father hood. Thus, it was not unusual for the fathers I spoke with to become parents throug h two different scenarios. Drews experience highlights how the emergence and negotiation of gay mens procreative consciousness and imagined pathways to fatherhood are conditional upon a sociohistorical context. Recall that Drew is a thirty-five year old gay man who has four children, two through a co-parenting arrangement with a lesbian couple and two twins with hi s current partner, Nico. Drew not only had two very different stories to tell me, but he spoke of these two experiences in terms of two very different standpoints; th e first as a known donor who saw his children periodically and second as a father intimately involve d in the day to day tasks of rais ing a set of twin s. Similarly, in chapter 3, I touched on Spencers experiences as a father in two separate contexts. First, in the 1990s he became a known donor to a lesbian wo man who resided in the same neighborhood as him. Recently, he adopted a mentally challenge d eight-year -old boy through his involvement in Big Brother organization. Finally, Robin, a man co-parenting with his pa rtner Gus, and two lesbian women is not only the father of his two children in this family arrangement, but is also the father of a twentyone year old daughter con ceived in a heterosexual relationship that led to a short-lived marriage ending in divorce. When his girlfriend at the time found out she was pregnant and was

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181 contemplating abortion, Robin was adamant about k eeping this child. When I asked him why he thought he was so adamant, he expressed, I guess deep in my heart I always wanted to have a kid. But with all the complications, I just ruled it outI was just thinking I want to be a father and I wasnt thinking about being a husband, a fam ily. Robin admitted that he had experienced same-gender intimacies prior to this relationship a nd had even joked with his then girlfriend that he thought he was gay. However, when the unexp ected pregnancy occurred, this event triggered his procreative consciousness and fatherhood desire s, leading him to persuade his girlfriend to keep the child. Not long after their daughter wa s born, Robin and his wi fe divorced and Robin proceeded to live his life as an openly-identified gay man. More than ten years after the birth of his first daughter, Robin became the father of two children that he co-parents with Gus, Arlene and Shelley. The stories of how men became fathers and cons truct their emergent fathering identities deconstructs how fatherhood is constructed in We stern culture. Ones fa ther identity is not simply mediated by biological tie s. Rather, fatherhood is a flui d and interactive process. A deeper appreciation of how men infu se their emerging father identities with their identities as gay men must be understood in the process of how me n do fathering. Hence, I now turn to an indepth analysis of how men negotia te their dual identities of gay fathers in the context of the everyday activities in their families and in their communities.

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182 CHAPTER 6 DOING FATHERING Understanding gay mens experiences of doing fathering advances theoretical knowledge on the social matrix of mens intimate relationships with children. The act of doing fathering for gay men causes a break in their consciousness wherei n the stereotypical gay lens into the future shifts from an imagined life of childlessness to a life with new possibilitie s. In this chapter, I detail how when gay men engage in fathering an d family, they do so in a socially constructed society that assumes a dominant type of family. Through individualized homophobia and institutionalized heterosexism, I explore how gay men navigate fathering and family in a heteronormative world. I move to an analys is of how fathering and family are social constructions that are actively created, maintaine d, and modified in specific situations. Here, I detail how fathers cope with th e paradoxical task of making thei r families appear ordinary and making it known that they are unique. However, all gay families do not fit the same mold, and while each father negotiates family in a socially constructed world plagued by heterosexist and gender norms, their specific and everyday negotiations are contingent upon the type of familial arrangement they are situated. I move to a discussion of gay fathers experi ence of changing social networks, attending to the complex reconfiguration of gay identities within the domain of kinship and friendship networks. I then explore the so cialization practices, experience, and discourses of fathers, specifically detailing how they negotiate racial and gender so cialization. Embedded in my analysis of gender socialization is a discussion of the inclusion of female role models to negotiate accountability. Finally, I discu ss how planned gay fatherhood can sometimes open spaces for innovative and creative parenting. Ho wever, much of the time, innovations are

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183 significantly limited by the institu tionalization of patriarchy, hete rosexism, and the ideological code of the Standard North American Family (h ereafter referred to as SNAF) (Smith, 1993). How Does Life Change? Having children, regardless of ones gender or sexuality can be a lif e-altering experience. Researchers exploring transitions to fatherhood have accentuated how fathers experience a shift in their relations with others and perceptions, often substantially altering their life course and development (Marsiglio, 1995; Palkovitz, 2002). As men adjust to fath erhood, negotiating their identities along the way, they reor ganize their sense of self (Marsiglio, 1995). The emergence of a father identity is the result of changes in mens multifaceted selves in response to shifting demands (Palkovitz, 2002). All of my participants who were fathers agreed that their lives were busier, more structured, and in many cases, more complete. Life course transitions involve the adoption of novel statuses and roles, like father and (for some), the elimination of others, such as gay man. Yet, for gay men embracing fatherhood, the transition from childless man to parent is more complex than a simple life-course transformation that accelerates their trans ition out of adolescence (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002, p. 115). Recall that Stacey (2006) maintained that as ope nly gay men increasingly traverse pathways to fatherhood they are deconstructing what it has traditionally meant to be a gay man. When I asked the fathers in the interview to describe their current daily experiences, the answers I received were we are pretty boring, w eve settled down, we are done with the club scene and we are just like you know, normal dads. However, in the context of my interviews I did see more than a simple and abstract deconstruction of trad itional gay male stereotypes. Rather, when men became fathers they consciously renegotiated their past, present and future experiences of what it meant to be a gay man in contemporary American society.

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184 For example, when I asked Lawrence how his life as a gay man has changed since becoming a father, he maintained that a gay pers on without children is like the greatest uncle in the world, you know because they have all this time and money and now thats changed! He continued by detailing how his once imagined future and his present reality are now contradictory experiences, I imagined spendi ng time with my nieces and nephews, but as soon as I had kids, you know, they are secondary to meT raditionally that was th e role of gay people, you would take care of other family members, you know. So, and Im not that kind of uncle now. Like many of the other fathers, Lawrences present reality as a father was conflicting with his prior imagined future as the stereotypica l gay man enacting the ki ndly uncle role. Similarly, when I asked Andrew how he pictured his future before he became a father, he explained that: I see growing old much more traditionally now, wher eas I used to see it as, I guess more through the gay lens, like you gr ow old and youll have, maybe some nephews and nieces, never kids, but mostly just pr obably have friends around you that might help take care of you if you need help at all and youll help your friends who are older, too. I see it much more family oriented now. Spencer echoes Lawrence and Andrews sentimen ts when he forlornly expresses that it was a sad thing to think about if I didnt have a partner who was younger than me, who would be sitting by my bed when I was dying. It was a source of some sadness. Im not sure if back then I said to myself all I need to do is have children, it was just sort of a sadne ss. Lawrence, Andrew, and Spencer each spoke about a future that coul d have been quite different had they not had children. This imagined future of being clos e with nieces and nephews, a tight-knit group of friends and dying alone is cons istent with how the life of a gay man was stereotypically constructed until very recently. Recall how the narratives of the younger childless men illustrate how as novel opportunities surface for gay men to construct families and father children, fatherhood and

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185 childlessness become voluntary constr ucts rather than compulsory wa ys of life. Furthermore, the so-called gay lens into the future has shifted from an imagined life of childlessness to a life with new potentialities that include many familial po ssibilities, some of which involve becoming a parent and some of which do not. Clearly, as more men come out of the closet, they create more choice about how to be a gay man (Seidman, 2004). Whereas the closet as a strategy of ac commodating to heterosexual domination is becoming less salient, this does not necessarily denote th at heterosexual domination is a remnant of the past. The experiences of my participants who are fath ers demonstrate that gay men do fathering in the context of a socially constructed society that assumes and privileges heterosexuality. Although many i ndividuals today can choose to live beyond the closet, they must still exist in a world where most institutions uphold hetero sexual domination. My conversations with gay men about their fath ering experiences furt her illuminate how heterosexual dominance is deeply rooted in the institutions and culture of American society (Seidman, 2004). Gay Parenting in a Straight World Hereafter I advance unde rstanding on how when gay men en gage in fathering and family, they do so in a heteronormative society. Cons equently, they cope w ith individual homophobia and institutionalized heterosexism that manife st from heteronormative assumptions. The earlier discussion in chapter four detailed how childless gay men imagined their futures as gay fathers plagued with everyday hardships and discriminati on. Rather than the fathers days being filled with the discrimination and hardship that many an ticipated, their lives were predominantly filled with the mundane tasks of childrearing. Yet, di scrimination did occur, a nd fathers were always prepared to encounter discrimina tory instances, or at least we re prepared to answer prying questions about their families and had rehearsed explanations readily available. Spencer explains

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186 that while he has never enc ountered overt prejudice, he was actually hoping that someone would say something so that I c ould practice what I have been sa ying in my head. Similarly, Marc, who has a three-year-old daughter, has been anticipating having to answer questions about the absence of a wife or other female caregiver: When I go to birthday parties with my da ughter, I meet all her friends parents.Im amazed that they dont seem to ask too many questions. Every time I go I keep expecting them to say wheres your wife.but nothing has happened, maybe they just knowbut everyone has been wonderful. Although neither Marc nor Spencer encountered ove rt discrimination, inappr opriate questions, or obtrusive stares, other fathers who I spoke with did share thes e stories with me. Individual Homophobia Lawrence explains that he and his former partner were forced to relocate from their old neighborhood to a new one in Queens because there were bigoted neighbors down below us, they said, we dont know how th ey got this child and were goi ng to investigat e. While no investigation actually en sued, the discomfort of having dist rustful and scrutinizing neighbors was enough to initiate Lawrence and his family to mo ve to another neighborhood. Similarly, Art and Rick remember instances of discrimination in th eir sons daycare center where the facilitator did not approve of them or their family and was taking out her homophobic beliefs on their son in subtle ways, like not changing his diaper in a timel y matter. However, stories of overt instances of homophobia by individual pers ons were few and far between among my participants. The most common experience of discrimination was not directed to fathers and their children by homophobic individuals, but rather was manifested th rough more subtle forms of social control. Some fathers noted that these actions were actually carried out by their own families of origin. Although all the fathers for the most pa rt felt supported by their ascribed families, in some cases when there was an absence of biolog ical ties, fathers had reservations about how

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187 their own parents treated their children (for a similar discussion on heterosexual stepfathers see Marsiglio, 2004, 2005). Spencer, the father of tw o boys, one via biological ties (through sperm donation) and the other through adoption explains that his mother, the childrens grandmother, always sends cards to his biologi cal son that read, To my gra ndson, love Grandma. However, to his adopted son who lives with him full time, she sends cards th at are addressed simply to his name from her name. A similar situation surfaced in my conversation with Gus and Robin when Gus gave the example of how whenever it was time for a family photo, Guss mother would line them up so that the biological parents (man and woman) were placed directly behind their biological offspring. He says, Theyll put us in a traditional sense. Theyll arrange us and were very aware of it that theyre doing it. Although I cannot say with cer tainty whether these are re al or imagined acts of discrimination, these narrative fragments do illust rate how meanings associated with gay mens fathering experiences surface from a social and in terpretive process. A hierarchical relationship exists in that biogenetic ties c onstitute a gold standard by which all other kinship formations are compared and deemed less desirable and less vali d, a process similar to comparing heterosexual and gay families. As they construct their fath er identities in nontraditional scenarios, gay men assign meanings to situations, events, others, a nd themselves. With these family hierarchies salient in their minds, gay men may perceive actions that might not be intentionally discriminatory as subtle forms of enforcing dominant family values. Institutionalized Heterosexism As Seidman maintains, gay life today is de fined by a contradiction: many individuals can choose to live beyond the closet but they must still live in a world where most institutions maintain heterosexual domination (2004, p. 7). No t surprisingly, and consis tent with Seidmans assertion, numerous participants had stories of how following hospitalization of their children

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188 due to a fall or minor accident, t hose men who were not biologically related to their children or had no legal ties due to state-mandated discrimina tory laws prohibiting same-sex second parent adoption were not permitted to enter hospital rooms. Lawrence, one of the pioneering fathers in my sample recalls a time when his oldest son cu t his head open after a fall. He remembers his son holding on to him in the emergency room an d being taken out of his arms by a nurse and escorted through the swinging double doors. His former partner, and legal father to the child was the only person who could accompany the boy past th e waiting room. He recalls that he wasnt even permitted to check on his son in the xray room. Even after overcoming the various obstacles discussed at length in earlier chapters that make it challenging for gay men to fulfill their fathering fantasies, Lawrences experien ce illuminates how following childbirth these same institutionalized barriers shape how particip ants experience their everyday social realities as gay fathers. Lawrences story highlights how gay fathers can be forced to navigate institutionalized arenas that fail to recognize the validity of their families. Although the fathers in my sample certainly define their families as real and valid, others in particular those who are in power, do not. Further, the scenarios for gay fathers identity construction and fathering experiences include physical, spatial, and soci al dimensions. When gay fathers are in their own home or in another safe space, they are free to express them selves in fatherly ways and construct their identities as legitimate parents. The physical space of the hospital and the legalities associated with emergency room settings clearly privilege bi ological fathers. As gay fathers move between public and private spaces they find themselves in settings where others question their relationships with their children and their legitim ate claim as fathers (for a similar discussion on heterosexual stepfathers see Marsiglio, 2004, 2005). Like those of heterosexual stepfathers, gay

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189 mens fatherly identities are be ing challenged conti nuously by institutional norms privileging blood ties. Yet, as gay fathers who are neither biologically nor legally tied to their children construct their symbolic and interpersonal worlds they face an added layer of complexity than do heterosexual stepfathers. This example underscores how a more comprehe nsive analysis of gay families must move beyond individual-based theoretical frameworks in order to advance understanding of how institutions shape and define familial processes and arrangements. As American society moves beyond the closet, gay men begin to possess so me of the accompaniments of full equality. However, these stories illuminate how they are still denied all of its benefits (Seidman, 2004). Whether it is through indivi dual homophobic practi ces, interpersonal negotiations, or institutional regulations, gay fa thers and their families experience their everyday worlds in a society infused with heterosexual domination. Doing and Negotiating Family While the solid wall separating gay and strai ght worlds gradually begins to crumble, assumptions about the place of gay men, the place of family, and the relationship between the two continue to govern conventional thought. Domi nant familial discourse and practices still mirror the traditional two-parent heterosexual fa mily. When a family looks like a family should look, no steps need to be taken to ensure that others recognize and treat them like a family. However, when a family does not resemble th e typical SNAF (Smith, 1993), tactics must be undertaken to ensure that outside rs accord them the validation of a family. As alluded to in chapter one, similar to how individuals do ge nder (West and Zimmerman, 1987), individuals do fathering and family. As Rothman asserts in he r analysis of her mixe d race adoptive family, were just doing what normal people do, but we know were doing it (Rothman, 2005, p. 4). If you are an ordinary family (i.e., heterosexual tw o-parent biologically related family), you do not

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190 have to think about presenting yourself. You do not think about how you construct the family, weave the relationships between the various parts, and present the seemingl y solid fabric of your lives to the world (Rothman, 2005, p. 5). Yet, for gay fathers and their children, it is not obvious and these families are called upon to account for themselves. If you differ from the SNAF you have the paradoxical task of demonstrating you are ind eed an ordinary family, and making it known that your family is different. Fathering and family become an accomplishment that entail a heightened awareness of what ot her ordinary families take for granted. This accomplishment does not represent an objective mate rial reality. Rather, like gender, fathering and family are social constructions that are act ively being created, maintained, and amended in specific situations. Regardless of how gay men construct their families of choice they are not perceived as an ordinary family. The fathers I spoke with lear ned various little tricks, so to speak, to make others perceive them as a family. First, they became skilled at negotiating public spaces in such a way as to clarify that they are a queer family. They vied with outsiders asking them to explain their family arrangement and became well versed in ways to navigate the inquiries regarding the absence of a mother. Furthermore men were in constant negotiation of how to traverse the revolving door of the closet. Such considera tions included dealing w ith coming out to their children and their childrens friends and copi ng with inevitable instances of homophobia. Finally fathers spoke about how they were held acc ountable for their gender just as much as their sexuality. Making it Clear That We Are a Queer Family We live in a complex world where things are not always as they seem. Thus, we make sense of multifaceted input by using schemas, or cognitive structures that we develop through interactional processes. Used as templates, schemas help us or ganize and process information,

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191 enabling us to discern patterns (Plante, 2006). While schemas ar e useful, they can prevent us from integrating new information that does not f it within our previously constructed template. Because people generally have broad socially constructed schemas that capture what families look like, when gay men and women who are in a co-parenting relati onship navigate public space, people automatically assume that they are a standard heterosexual nuclear family. Consequently, as gay fathers traverse public sp aces, they negotiate how to make the vague obvious, and the ambiguous, unambiguous. Specificall y, they contend with how to make it clear that their families are queer. Participants explain that the experience of ha ving children and doing fa mily conceals their identities as gay men and presents a heterosexual front. For example, Aaron explains that when he and one of the women he is co-parenting with are walking down the street with their children they look like a typical heterosexua l two-parent family. However, as one of the more politically active families I spoke with, they devised tactics to make others aware that they are a queer family. For example, they would make a point to speak very loudly to people, and making it really clear that were not ma rried and you know theres another person in the relationship. Even for fathers in an intimate partnershi p who are not co-parenting with a woman or women, the accomplishment of appearing as a queer fa mily can be difficult. Craig explains that when he and his partner are together, especially when they are traveli ng with their mixed-race family outside of New York, outsiders automati cally assume that the two men are friends. Because their children are dark-skinned and therefore resemble Craigs partner much more than him, onlookers presume that Craig is a friend of the family. Duri ng one of their vacations, they were at an airport ready to board a flight when their daughters di aper required a quick change. Craig offered to change her and overheard remark s like, oh youre such, youre a good friend.

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192 Craig quickly announced that he responded with what I am not a friend, Im like her mommy, you know! While some men try to normalize thei r family arrangements as much as possible by not responding to outsiders comments or stares, others, like Aaron and Craig wanted to make it visibly clear that their family is queer. Negotiating family for gay fathers may be a paradoxical experience. Some men, like those described above, spoke of how children made th em appear like a heterosexual family, whereas others like Drew and Nico spoke of how nothing outs you like havi ng a child. Drew and Nico resided in a large cooperative building in lower Manhattan that had the amenities of a spacious playground and grassy area for children to pla y. When they accompanied their two-year-old twins to this space, they were the only coupled men with children. Every setting, no matter how informal has a negotiated normative order associated with it defined by the presence and status of those individuals who freque nt it. As the only coupled me n, Drew and Nico may have felt that their gay identiti es became obvious or known to bystanders and as such, they negotiated their parenting practices to account for the presen ce of others. This notion that nothing outs you like having kids highlights how c oncerns about the legitimacy of gay fathering identities might affect the extent that Drew and Nico pay attentio n to others perceptions of them while they are on the playground or the large patches of grass th at line their brick bu ilding (Marsiglio, 2004; Marsiglio, Roy, & Fox, 2005). This consciousness of being a different family than the others on the playground has meaningful consequences fo r how gay fathers construct their fathering identities in public and private spaces. Regardless of whether fathers were called upon to accomplish family in such a way as to clarify that their families were queer or if they asserted th at nothing outs you like a having a child these mens individual presentations were always held acc ountable through their

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193 interactions with others. Even though it is individuals who do fa mily, the process of rendering a family accountable is interpersona l and ultimately institutional. The Absence of a Woman In chapter four, I elaborated on how childless participants worried if in their future experiences as fathers they would have to cope with the continuous question of where the mother of their child was. Because the SNAF of a mother, a father, and children has emerged as a schematic ideological code (Smith, 1993), this was an issue that fathers had to cope with quite frequently. Simon and Theo express that whil e Los Angeles is somewhat of a haven for gay men and has even been referred to as Gay el-l ay (Stacey, 2006), the moment they step out of this comfort zone, they begin to feel the omnipresent heterosexual gaze. Simon and Theo elaborate on experiences at the airport as rela tively uncomfortable spaces for their families. Simon explains: Wed be in the airport ready for a flight and you could just watch the people who are sitting all around us trying to figure it outare you two brothers, or thats nice two dads came down with their kids and left the wive s at home.or you must be the father and you the grandfather because you are older. Theo chimes in that most people, after final ly figuring it out actually respond with praise. However, even when outsiders respond with acc laim it is still a double edge sword, because while an observer might maintain that they approv e of their familial arrangement, its like, I am glad they think that, but I dont need your a pproval really because I dont even know you. It is somewhat captivating th at so many of mens experiences having to account for their families occurred either in airports or on airplane s. The very day that Art and Rick were flying home with their newborn baby, they had their fi rst of what would be many encounters with curious onlookers. Rick explains how a woman who kept staring at them throughout the entirety

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194 of the flight walked past them to use the rest room, stopped and inquired w here is the mommy? The rest of the encounter ensued as follows: We said there is no mommy, there are two da ds. She goes well, what do you mean there is no mommy. Two dads, I dont understand. She ran back to her se at and sat there for like a half an hour and finally she got up and said I am sorry for my reaction, I was absolutely flabbergasted. I think it is absolutely wonde rful what you two are doing. I congratulate both of you. Unlike Simon and Theo who were offended and annoyed by the gawks of onlookers, Art and Rick were smiling when they shared their experience with me and explained that they enjoyed it when strangers would praise them a nd their family. Regardless of whether fathers wanted to normalize their families or become de-facto rainbow family activists, all participants spoke about others excessive curiosity regarding the absence of a woman. These inquiries concerning the la ck of a visible mother not only came from outsiders, but also surfaced in interactions within their ch ildrens social networks. Randy remembers this happening often when his sons were younger. He recalls a time in the context of a playgroup when a child pointed and asked, How did you ge t him when there is no mommy? Robin has a similar story. He shared that a little girl in his neighborhood once asked, Why do the two moms live in one house and the two dads live in th e other house? Where men were well prepared to address these questions, and even expected them, they also claime d that such inquiries created awkward atmospheres when in a group situatio n. Randy remembers how following the little girls remark, all the parents in the room stared at him with curiosity as to how he was going to handle the situation. These examples highlight how gay fathers negotiations of accountability emerge through everyday interactions wherein the absence of a woman or mother is called into question.

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195 Negotiating Coming Out to Children and Their Friends Because of the frequency of such inquiries, father s taught their children at very early ages that their families were special and slightly dive rgent from the SNAF. Some men spoke about exposing their children to other diverse familie s as a strategy to foster their childrens understanding of family diversity. Others mentioned the importanc e of telling their children the story of their birth as an importa nt socializing technique that prep ared them to manage questions. All families narrate stories to their children abou t where they came from and these early stories fashion significant memories th at children incorporate into th eir self account s (Hertz, 2002). Gay fathers who have an absent mother must c onstruct stories about who these women are and to help the children create self-ima ges that enable them to pin down the self (Strauss, 1959, p. 3334, as cited in Hertz, 2002, p. 6). The childs sense of self develops and is negotiated though these carefully crafted narratives. For example, Andrew kept a scrapbook of all the newspaper clippings covering the story of how his partner found a child on the subway. He read these to his son often as a bedtime story. Consequently, he was well suited to answer questions about his fam ily when he was asked at the school lunch table. Simon and Theo employed an agency that facilitated an open adoption so that their children would have intentional mean ingful contact with thei r birth mothers throughout their lives. A teacher once told them how she overheard a conve rsation between their daughter and her friends that ensued, Wheres your mom I dont have one; I have two dadswell your grandma must be your mom. No shes not, my mom lives in Pitt sburgh. Suffice it to say that the teacher was highly impressed. Hert z asserts that such customs illuminate how the paper mother may enter the social and interper sonal worlds of the fath er(s) and child (Hertz, 2002, p. 675).

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196 The above stories point to how gay fathers ne gotiate family when their children are young. Yet, children grow up, as all ch ildren do and with age ensues increased exposure to homophobia and other prejudices. Howeve r, not all adolescents adhere to homophobic ideologies and practices. Lawrence, one of only two men in my sa mple with teenage sons, spoke at length about coming out to his sons friends: Its funny, you assume they know because they come here all the time, they know Gene and I are together, and I think they know we sleep in the same room, but you get these funny reactionswe took one of his [son] frie nds on vacation last year, and the kid was talking to Gene about being gay and the ki d said to Gene, you need a boyfriend, or something and Gene said, I have a boyfrie nd. And the kid said, Who? and he said Lawrence. And he said, Lawrence is gay? Although the young boys were completely okay w ith it, this situati on sheds light on how for gay men who choose fatherhood the closet be comes somewhat of a revolving door. The process of coming out is a continuous negotiation re gardless of whether one has children or not. However, the experience of parenting for gay men fosters complex negotiations involving the coming out of the closet as a processual phe nomenon that involves mu ltiple situations and multiple persons. Negotiating Childrens Exposure to Homophobia In chapter four, I highlighted how another concern of childless participants was how to manage the inevitable bullying and teasing of th eir future children. According to Stacey and Biblarz (2001), there is some credible evidence that children with gay and lesbian parents, especially adolescent children face homophobic teasing and ridicule (p. 171-2). Other researchers maintain that children in lesbian and gay families are no more likely to experience bullying and teasing than are children from heterosexual single parent or stepfamily backgrounds (Tasker & Golombok, 1997, pp. 89-90). Rega rdless of which of these assertions is true is of little concern here a nd did not surface as an experientia l theme of the fathers. Rather,

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197 what fathers did mention was not explicit teasing and bullying, but their childrens exposure to what Pascoe terms as fag talk (2005). Fathers, especially thos e with boys touched on the issue of fag talk frequently. Pascoe (2005) argues that fag talk and fag imitations serve as a discourse with which boys discipline themselves and each other through jo king relationships (p. 330). The specific masculine nature of fag discourse has as much to do with failing at hegemonic masculinity than with actually being gay, insinuating that to be homosexual is to be un-masculine. Such discourse is consistent with Kimmels masculinity as homophobia (1994), or the notion that anything remotely equated with femininity be renounced. R obin explains that the word faggot or gay is heard 25 times a day, and my kids hear it every si ngle day. Note that th e disciplinary effect of fag talk does not necessarily have to do with hom osexuality, rather it is more closely tied to creating Foucaultian docile bodies inscribed wi th hegemonic masculine norms. If hegemonic masculinity links gender and sexuality, and asse rts that what is masculine is distinctly heterosexual, how might this discourse a ffect adolescent boys with gay fathers? Randys boys are active in sports and it is well known that the arena of athletics is one wherein homophobic discourses and practices regularly surface (MacKay, Messner, & Sabo, 2000). He recalls one of many incidents when hi s son was on the field when fag talk surfaced Its summer, and hes having a hard time br eathing because its hot, and some kid goes, oh dont be such a faggot, get back on the field. . I wanted to kill that kid. My son is like having a hard time breathing, and he looks up at me, and you know I caught his eye, I didnt say anything, he didnt say anything. Although Randy wanted to kill that kid gay fathers must navigate when and where to pick their battles with homophobi a. After telling me this story, Randy comments that he does speak up when encountering homop hobia, but it depends on the circumstanceswhen kids are

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198 in my house, and they say dont be so gay. I say, we dont use that in this household. And my kids know that. Im not going to have it in my own house. Randys story illustrates how physical and spa tial issues shape family and fathering (Marsiglio, 2007; Marsiglio, Roy, & Fox, 2005). The public/private divide highlights how fathering can occur differently in different environments. The processes and practices of doing fathering illuminates how some spaces can be mo re heterosexist and homophobic than others. Gay fathers are especially marginalized in such sites as sporting events where there are blatant homophobic displays. The public behavior and creation of privat e meaning in response to such homophobic remarks are at the hub of how ga y men construct their fathering practices and identities (Marsiglio, Roy, & Fox, 2005, p. 12). The hyper-masculine atmosphere of a sporting event is not a safe environment for Randy to risk him and his sons welfare. The safety of his home, however, provides Randy the physical and soci al space to project his fathering identity while simultaneously wearing his gay identity proudly. But, Youre a Man Where fathers in my sample experienced discrimination and homophobia because they were gay, they faced further prejudice because th ey were a visible anomaly; they were their childs primary parents. Many of the events and settings that fathers frequented were gendered social spaces. Mens perceptions of fathering si tes are shaped by the ways and the degrees that they perceive these spaces as gendered (Marsi glio, Roy, & Fox, 2005). Quite often, gay fathers often found themselves in spaces dominated by wo men, specifically mothers. Drew and Nico spoke about how Nico attended an event called The New Moms Stroll where new parents got together and did an organized walking tour of various sights in Manhattan. Nico was the only father present at the event. The name of the event was altered to reflect a more inclusive representation of families and because of his pr esence; The New Moms Stroll was changed to

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199 The New Parents Stroll. Similarly, Marc shared that he is usually the only father present at Gymboree when he accompanies his daughter to pl ay there. These experiences highlight the pervasiveness of the gendered division of ch ildcare labor. These examples are not overly surprising given what we know about gender di visions of household and childcare labor. However, what was shocking to me was the subtle institutionalization of these norms that many times go unnoticed. As a woman who never steps foot in mens re strooms, I wondered if mens restrooms were equipped with the same baby-changing stations I of ten see in ladies rooms. Most men shared that many of the more upscale restaurants do have baby-changing stations in the mens restrooms; however, most public spaces do not o ffer these built-in amenities for fathers. For those men who do not have the financial luxuries to frequent upscale restau rants or rely on hired female assistance to change their childrens di apers, the experience of navigating public space with infants and toddlers who were not potty -trained was made difficult by these subtle institutionalized gender norms. Even more, countless fathers expressed that women would often stop them and offer them constructive criticism for not handling their children, especially th eir infants, in a proper manner. Randy says that twice, once at a market and once at his sons nursery school, women have stopped him to tell him he was mishandling his ba bys neck. While Randy hinted that this was sometimes quite irritating, Craig, a more outspok en man, displayed far more annoyance and even resentment to such women: They walk right up to you and tell you youre doing something wrong...once, my daughter was just learning to walk, and she didnt ha ve any walking shoes on, she had sandals, but she insisted, so were walking down the street and this woman literally came up to us and said, I work with kids, I just need to let you know that thos e shoes are not good for walking we knew they werent good for walk ing but what, were going to tell our 13 month old kid. You know like she wants to walk fuck it, whatever, its not going to break

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200 her ankles What right does this woman have its like me saying, I m a personal trainer and your big fat ass is in my wa y or I work with hair and yo ur hair is a fucking mess. Like she felt totally justified, like I work with children so its okay th at Im telling you this. And I was looking at her like, it s really not okay th at youre telling me this. She kept saying, It has nothing to do with you. But it was clear that she saw two guys and you know, and she thought we were incapable. The theme of women approaching gay fathers in public spaces is one voiced by many participants. Because women are socialized to be primary caregiver, nurturers, and the like, they may feel it is their responsibility to volunt eer their innate abilities to men who are simply not naturally able to undertake the task of car ing for children. If we juxtapose these individual and interactional experiences against the subtle institutionalization of gender norms (i.e., no baby-changing stations in mens restrooms), it hi ghlights how gay fathers are held accountable for their gender just as much as their se xuality in the contex t of parenting. Different Families: Different Negotiations The familial negotiations that men experienced were contingent upon the way by which they constructed their family. The negotia tions of families formed through adoption and surrogacy were unique from those formed through co -parenting due to the (in) visibility of a birth mother. Furthermore, the management of mens sexual and familial identities as single fathers was distinct from those in coupled arrangement s. The primary way the negotiations differed between those families that were formed t hough adoption and surrogacy and those through coparenting was in the management of the identity of the birth mother. Th e diverse nego tiations in these families speak to the unique situations a nd contexts for familial identity development. Note that the specific negotiation of gay coupled parenting, or co-fatheri ng, is detailed in a separate section at the end of this chapter.

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201 Birth Mother Negotiations Those men who used a surrogate mother or an adoptive mother expresse d very real concerns about the management of this woman in the lives of their children. These fathers were faced with the difficult challenge of cr afting an image and identity of the birth mother for their children (Hertz, 2002). Ethan employed an adoption agency that facilitated closed adoptions to construct his family. He explains that he tells his thirteen-year-old daughter frequently that: When youre grown up, when youre 18, you can I said if you decide you want to, Ill give you all the details, and I said, you know there are peop le like private investigators who can find a person for you. I said nowadays w ith the Internet, its probably easy to find her. I tell her that will be your decision. And I let her know, and that has nothing to do with me. I said, it doesnt mean, oh you dont love me because you want to find your birth mother. Ethan is well aware of the social stigmatiza tion of children born out of wedlock and the shame of their biological mothers (Wegar, 2000). By keeping his daughter informed about her history, the existence of her birth mother and by enabling her to find her birth mother, Ethan instills in his daughter ideologi es that directly counteract th e disparaging images of adopted children and their birth mothers. Marc has a very different relationship with his daughters birth mother than does Ethan. Marc knows the identity of the birth mother and further, he keeps in contact with her, communicating with her regularly. He explains th at he wanted his daughter to know who her mother is rather than just talk about her. So we stay in touchmy daughter knows her. She doesnt call her mom, but she knows that is her biological moth er and this way there is no mystery. Neither of these situations is better or worse than the other; however, I highlight these two examples to accentuate the diversity of gay father s familial experiences and negotiations. Hicks (2006a) urges scholars to generate theoretical understanding about the differences in gay

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202 families, arguing that there is nothing inherent about gay planned families. A useful starting point for conceptualizing these differences lies in understanding these varying negotiations. Because gay men can choose to form their familie s through various conduits, the negotiations of these families are mediated by these constructions. Thus, while each family negotiates parenting in a social landscape inundated with heterosexi st and gender norms, their specific and everyday negotiations differ depending on the pathway they employ. Co-parenting Negotiations Recall from the previous chap ter that five men (Drew, Spencer, Aaron, Gus and Robin) constructed families via being known sperm donors to lesbian wo men. Yet, Drew and Spencer ultimately become fathers through other conduits and their most salient fathering identities emerged through these other contexts. In this section, I detail how Aaron, Gus, and Robin negotiate their fathering experiences as they co-parent with lesbian women who they are intimately but not romantically involved. Co-parenting arrangements between lesbian women and gay men are somewhat of a living laboratory, fostering opportunities to understand changing kinship networks, the nature of relationship dynamics and social change within fa milies. Where the possibility for inventiveness in such arrangements is clear, Aaron, Gus, a nd Robin expressed that although the negotiations involved were creative, they were complex, and at times highly problematic. These men spoke about their family negotiations as forays into uncharted territory where the absence of cultural and social guideposts to mark the journey engendered apprehensi on and exhilaration. For Aaron, Gus, and Robin, their very first father ly rite of passage wa s to legally relinquish their parental rights. Where all these men did so eagerly in orde r to guarantee the legal rights of the non-biological mother, this was not done wi thout extreme sorrow and uncertainty. Gus conveys this sadness when he says, and I cried th e day they adopted our son. I had to give him

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203 up, and I literally criedit was a horrible feel ing, I felt like I was going through a divorce again. He continued to express the uncertainty that plagues his pare nting experience, the biggest issue is control. We have absolute ly nothing. No law behind us, nothing, so they [mothers] could easily walk away, just disregard us. Similarly, Aaron expre sses that his mother and many of his friends were apprehensive of him entering in this somewhat experimental parenting arrangement because of all the legal ambiguity involved. He says It was a huge objection on the part of a lot of my friends and family who were freaking outyou have no rights, no legal protection. It is difficult to paint a comprehensiv e portrait of which states allow second-parent adoptions, since th ey are approved by local family court judges (Cooper & Cates, 2006). However, it is clear that as I write this, no states lega lly protect informal co-parenting arrangements. Such stories illuminate the ex clusivity of family policy, the heterosexist assumptions underlying family law, and how ru ling relations constrict gay mens fathering identities and experiences. Simply because thes e men perceived themselves as fathers, legally, they were not regarded as such; once again underscoring the need for a more comprehensive theory of fathering and family that account s for institutional regulations and power. Following the surrendering of their rights, Aaron, Gus, and Robin embarked on a new journey as they attempted to navigate an uncha rted terrain of family construction. As such, many were in constant negotiation of their status as fathers. Aaron articulates that when he entered into this agreement he understood that the women were to be the primary parents and that the day today decisions of parenting were at their discre tion. Yet, as time and familiarity progressed, he began to see how incredibly controlling and overpro tective they are as parents. This has produced an awkward role for Aaron as a father because early on he agreed to allow the women to make those decisions, a nd now maintains, Theres not re ally room for me to become

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204 involved. Aarons experience illu strates how for some gay fathers, their abilitie s to construct their fathering identities and experiences in co-parenting arrangements are contingent upon the final say of the co-mothers. Because social and historical represen tations of emphasized femininity (Connell, 1987) render women as natu ral caregivers, gay fathers in co-parenting arrangements are viewed as secondary, regardless of thei r level of involvement. Robin and Gus echo this sentiment when Robi n tells me, We dont re ally have a say in the day-to-day activitiesthey call us babysitters sometimes, and we say, were not babysitters, were dads, you know? The kids know us as dads. Robin and Gus role in their childrens lives was clearly tricky to negotiate given the contradi ctory messages they receive from the mothers, their children, and outsiders. Gay fathers co -parenting with lesbian women navigate an unexplored terrain with few normative guidelines to follow. These negotiations were unique to these three men and did not occur for any of the men in other familial arrangements. While this experience was at times difficult to negotiate, recall that many of the men who were in coparenting arrangements (including Drew and Spence r) saw this as a perfec t opportunity to have kids without having kids. As Robin so el oquently pointed out, co-parenting with lesbian women is a way to have the joy of parenting without the fulltime responsibility. As is discussed in further detail later, many men in co -parenting situations did partake in the joys of parenting without evenly sharing in the responsib ility of childcare. Negotiating Single Gay Fathering In chapter four, I wrote about how most par ticipants pictured their ideal families and fathering experiences as occurring with a partner. Despite their visions of a partnered future, there were five men out of the twenty-two father s who for various reasons were fathering alone. The experience of being a single father can be an isolating experience for gay men because they are marginalized from heterosexual society, th ey do not quite fit with the mainstream gay

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205 subculture, and they are without the comfort of an intimate partner to help buffer these experiences. Although there are gay parenti ng support groups, many of the men who attend these groups are partnered themselves. June La pidus (2004) discusses how during Family Week in Provincetown, Massachusetts, (a week-long retreat for gay a nd lesbian pare nts and their children), amidst the hundreds of t-shirts, baby bibs and coffee mugs that read I love my two moms, she could not find a single item for sale that read I love my lesbian mom. Marc echoes Lapidus experience when he talks about being one of very few single fathers in his Family Pride group in Miami. However, because of societal stereotype s of women as natural caregivers and nurturers, and gay men as irresponsible and self -involved, single gay fathers are more likely than lesbian single mothers to be se en as anomalous. Single gay fathers are at the intersection of gay men ra ising children, often in coupled rela tionships, and heterosexual single men raising children. They attempt to straddle these two worlds but are often invisible in both (Lapidus, 2004, p. 229). Divorced heterosexual custodial fathers have reported that the demands of full-parenting limited their abilities to forge romantic rela tionships with women (Chang & Deinard, 1982; Gasser & Taylor, 1976; Hamer & Marchioro, 2002; Orthner, Brown, & Fergusen, 1976). Like these men, Marc, as a single father, encounters cons iderable difficulties trying to find a romantic partner: I guess any single parent, finding a mate is di fficult, although its worse in the gay world, just because a single woman at least is looki ng for a man who may consider a family at some point, whereas Im dealing with men who dont want childrenIt makes it harder but I wasnt going to give up the chance of havi ng a child just so that my dating life would be clear. But you know a lot of people w ould give that up and I understand why because you know they want a better chance of finding a pa rtner. But Im willing to risk having a harder time of it as long as I had my daughter with me. However, as a middle-class gay man, his experien ces are unique from those of his heterosexual counterparts, because research shows that divor ced custodial fathers who are middle-class are

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206 more likely to date, reside with intimate partners and remarry than are custodial mothers (Hamer & Marchioro, 2002). Thus, Marcs experiences as a single gay father are unlike those of heterosexual men and women raising children a nd unlike those of single lesbian mothers. Nonetheless, Marcs disappointment at his inab ility to find a romantic partner was clearly overshadowed by the joy he gets from raising his daughter. In a society that to some extent stereotypes gay men as promiscuous and incapable of commitment, Marcs experiences with his daughter complete his sear ch for enduring intimacy. Where Marc has a difficult time navigating the singles scene as a gay father, other men like Randy found ways to reconcile thei r desire for intimacy with their identity as a single gay father by escaping the confines of suburbia to the mo re urban landscape of noncommittal sex. For Randy escaping to Manhattan was a tactic he employe d to distinguish his social world as a father from his personal world of a man with sexual de sires without permitting the two to converge. By keeping these worlds separate, Randy is able to keep his family intact and not disrupt the comfort of his home. Aaron too recognized the difficultie s of integrating a man into his family. Yet, his family was more complex than Marc or Randy becau se he not only had a daughter, but also was parenting with two co-mothers. When his daughter was younger, he still attempted to navigate the dating world in the same wa y he did prior to her birth: I was still trying to satisfy the need of companionship but not so much looking to the futureI was also still kind of letting go of my former social self and then I just kind of thought, well I dont know that I really want to bring anybody else into all this ju st yet. Aarons narrative fragment illuminates how the gay father, especially the single gay father, is the victim of a divided personal identity, to rn between two worlds. As Aaron becomes more and more committed to his identity as a fath er, his need for romantic companionship is overshadowed by his familial responsibilities. Although heterosexual single-fathers may have

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207 similar experiences, Aarons gay identity adds an additional gradation of complexity to the equation. Gay single fathers struggle to reconc ile their family respons ibilities with their romantic and sexual desires within a cultural di scourse advocating a soci ally carefree, sexually experimental, brotherhood of margin alized men (Marsiglio, 2007, p. 23). An intriguing theme amongst the three father s who parented by themselves without the assistance of a co-mother was the praise and utmost respect for single mothers. Marc says it best when he claims: So I have all new respect, more respect fo r single mothersespecially those who are divorced they cant rely on his income lik e they once did, so and theyre raising children, keeping their jobs, a nd going home and taking care of these kidsat least I can afford for someone to come to my house and take care of her. The experience of single fatherhood has heighten ed Marcs awareness of the plight of countless single mothers raising chil dren without the help of a part ner or a nanny. The life of a single gay father is isolating in terms of fitting in with other gay men and other families, but it can simultaneously heighten mens awareness of their class and ge nder privilege. Changing Social Networks Revolutions in kinship arrange ments have allowed gay men to develop their fatherhood identities in a more liberated so cietal context than ever before. Similarly, many of the gay men I spoke with cited non-traditional family arrangeme nts as a rationale for why their own families did not appear anomalous. Parker became a father at the turn of the new millennium. When I inquired about any experiences his family might have had with discrimination or homophobia, he retorted, its 2005, you know and its different now, [It is] such a different place the world. He followed with a detailed description of the families in his neighborhood: This neighborhood, you know theyre hip to itthey know that were gayYou know they know families with two daddies, two mommies, whatever, one daddy, one mommy, you know daddy in prison, mommy in prison, whatev er. Like theres, you know theres so

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208 many different scenarios, its not the same thing anymore, its not, and you know, there are so many different families. Although it is clear that Parker lives amongs t a diverse collection of families, his description of what characterizes the families in his neighborhood is still somewhat consistent with a dominant discourse of families. Interestin gly, while Parker lists various family forms he does not give validation to those families that lack children. In her an thropological account of lesbians and gay men in San Francisco, Kath Weston (1991) details how by grouping friends together with lovers and children, lesbians and ga y men complicated dominant views of kinship. Many of Westons particip ants conveyed that these chosen fa milies were substitutes for blood ties lost through outright rejection or the distance introduced into relationships by remaining in the closet. (1991, p. 116). Thus, families we choose were tight-knit friendship networks that replaced rather than succeeded their biological families. Since my conversation with Parker was one of my first interviews w ith a gay father, I wondered whether Westons families we choose was becoming a thing of the past and actively prob ed for this theme thereafter. Specifically, in an era beyond the closet how do gay men c hoosing fatherhood sustain or challenge the practices and ideologies associat ed with families we choose? An adequate explanation for such a question requires an understanding of how gay fathers shifti ng identities and lives influence their social standing within their gay-identified community Reactions from Gay Men Recall in chapter four I spoke at length about how childless pa rticipants worried about how their relationship to the mainstream gay subcul ture might be transformed if and when they ultimately decided to become fathers. Suffice it to say, these concerns were not amiss, as some fathers spoke about how they experienced prejudi ce from their friends a nd acquaintances within their gay social networks. When I asked Sim on about any encounters he had ever had with

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209 discrimination, he maintained the only time he had ever encountered hos tility was from gay people. Gus said we definitely had a situa tion where a friend of ours called it freakish. Spencer expressed that he had one gay friend who was appalled th at I would give up my social life for a child and hes not my friend anymore. Like all men and women making the life course transition from childfree to parent gay men experience a shift in the circles of people they socialize. Wh ile some of these shifts are intentional like those discussed above by Simon and Spencer, much of the time, these changes are simply a gradual shift resulting from increas ing responsibility and decreased spare time that was once used to attend gallery ope nings, operas, and ski trips. La wrence expresses this clearly when he says, The negative attitude came from gay peopl eI think it was because gay people are so pushed away from childrenTheres this world, this childless gay world, like you do adult things, and you go dancing, and you go to rest aurants and you go to clubs and you go to museums, and theres never a child involved, and children are demanding. They need, and they cry and they wet, and they need attenti on. And all of a sudden we were in this world, and you know it wasnt about talking about fabulous restaurants and clubsand it was about diapers, play date s and screaming children. Transformations in the definitions of family and changes in the meanings and imagery of gay men have played a critical role in construc ting how gay men see themse lves as potential or active fathers. These gay men who choose to navigate the proc reative realm are forging new meanings of families and deconstructing prevaili ng meanings of gay men. Yet, it is still common for gay fathers to experience rejection and discrimination from their gay peers who are not fathers as a result of rest rictions to freedom (Bozett, 1981; Mallon 2004). Spencer articulates that gay men have such a distinct culture and introducing pare nthood into that culture is very different than introducing it into the le sbian culture. Because of the intersection of gender and sexual mores, gay men choosing fatherhood experience a transformation in their social networks distinct from hetero sexual parents and le sbian mothers.

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210 A Reconfiguration of Families We Choose For most men, the shift in their social networks was a gradual transition. Spencer states that his friends did not simply abandon him one da y, its just that I cant keep up with them anymore so theyve stopped inviting mes o now, Im hanging out with parents. Ellen Lewin notes that fatherhood for gay men constitutes an indicator of entitlement and full citizenship, a mark that they have been able to become members of communities not necessarily limited by being gay. As such gayne ss becomes reconfigured as one set of daily practices replaced by another, the new set more child-oriented and rooted in domesticity (2006, p. 22). On one end of the spectrum, the experi ence of fatherhood bridge s the gap between gay and straight, between men and women, wherei n gay men who have children forge new relationships with other parents, regardless of their gender or se xuality. Simon and Theo express that our closest friends are heterosexual coupl esour lives become dictated by who our kids friends parents are. In his st udy of heterosexual fathers, Pal kovitz found that children often play the role of social matchmaker by ini tiating relationships with other parents whose children participate in sim ilar activities and who go to the same school (2002, p. 208). While the trend of gay fathers running in circ les with other (mostly heterosexual) parents connects men with women, gay with straight, it si multaneously deconstructs those social support networks popularized by Weston in the late 1980s. The socia lly constructed opposition between families with children and those without reaffi rms the straight/gay boundary. Randy expresses this border construction when he says: Some of my gay friends bit the dustbut Im definitely socializing in a much more straight world nowTonight I m going to go for a glass a wine with neighbors, tomorrow Ill be with a bunch of straight women, b ecause theyre parenting. Theyre primary parents, and Im socializing with primary pare nts, we talk about pa renting, we talk about the teenage years.

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211 While some may say that these transitions a nd transformations represent assimilation into heterosexual culture, I maintain that this is a mo re complex reconfiguratio n of the gay straight distinction within the kinship domain. Such experiences co mplicate understandings of gay community for gay mens identity. Gayness and fathering become meshed in unexpected ways; a phenomena that manifests itself through these so cial networks. Parenting connects these men to goals that supersede at least for the time being, those that charac terize stereotypical gay identities. Yet, as fatherhood becomes more and more of a possibility for gay men, organized opportunities for such men are becoming more co mmon place and serve as spaces to form new and creative friendship networks base d on a different kind of family. Center kids Pop luck and South Florida Family Pride are just a few of the existing s upport networks for gay men choosing fatherhood and are used by men to forge relations hips with other fathers or other gay men choosing fatherhood. Furthermore, such stereotypical vacation spots like Fire Island are quickly becoming replaced with attractions like Family Week in P-Town (Provincetown, Rhode Island) for gay men and their families that include children. Thus, the trend of gay men choosing fatherhood offers new opportunities to form innova tive networks and support systems divergent from those in Westons families we choose. Me n relied on these kinship networks for support, encouragement, and guidance. Spencer asserts th at he is in a support group for gay and lesbian adoptive parents, not because I have problems a nd need helpit is about sharing things about life, parenting stories and advice. However, not all men embrace opportuniti es to interact with other gay fathers in the contexts of these groups. Parker contends that the support and parental networking group in his town has p icnics and stuff, but, its a littl e touchy. I mean just because people are gay does not mean I have to be friends with them. Parkers excerpt underscores how

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212 a gay identity is no more of a common bond as is a woman identity or a black identity. This is not to say that gay men are just like heterosexua l men, but simply that all gay men or gay fathers for that matter do not inherently share common b onds and interests. More, gay families bring together not only issues of gende r and sexuality, but also issues of race and class stratification. Andrew articulates the complexities of this wh en he says, we seem to have a lot more in common with straight people with younger ki dsprobably because were going public route, and I think most gay men have enough money to go the private route. We dont have money. Andrews reflection on how the public schooling of his son places him in a network of lower socio-economically advantaged parents than most gay fathers underscores the need to address how race and class limit or make available partic ular kinds of interpersonal resources for gay fathers. Because the emerging opportunities for openly identified gay men to pursue fatherhood were more salient in the development of the youn ger, childless mens procreative consciousness, I wondered if emerging opportunities would serve to dismantle the ki nship practice of friends as families. Yet, consistent with the growth of alte rnatives to the traditional family form, this was not the case. Aiden was consciously waveri ng between the idea of having children and remaining childless. He expressed that there is more [to life] than just having kids, you know. Like, I could do things other than having kids and just be conten t with my lifeI always picture myself as having a tight circle of friends, and I think that would replace a lot of that [having children]. Thus, even for younger men who have novel opportunities to become fathers, the symbolic idea of families of friends is not necessarily a forgotten practice. When gay men form families with children, th ere are no roles or re lational prescriptions for these family constellations. Hence, th e process of developing their own personally

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213 constructed family of creation system opens up a host of creative possi bilities wherein friends can emerge as a support network and as a sym bolic extended family (Johnson & Colucci, 1999, p. 354). As sociohistorical developments transform how gay men experience family, the postmodern practice of chosen relationships that once took place underground in gay ghettos is slowly becoming integrated with these very m odern, almost suburban-style gay-headed families with children. Clearly, families of choice are being reconfigured to include families both with and without children. Yet, rather than surpassi ng these families of choice, children are being added into the complex web of gay family arrangements and practices. Socializing Children Socialization is a recurrent pr ocess of learning and doing. It is the ways we learn to perceive our world and how to know what it means to be black or white, male or female, gay or straight. Socialization does not take place in a vacuum. Social cl ass, race, gender, and sexuality are all significant features of how cultural information and ideology are learned. Such information and ideologies are re plicated through indi vidual socialization practices. In this section, I explore the ways gay fa thers socialize their children. Sp ecifically, I attend to the ways by which fathers negotiate racial and gender iden tity and ideology and how these are manifested through socializing practices. I conclude this s ection by discussing how the inclusion of a female presence enables men to negotiate their accountab ility for raising children in a society that maintains children need a male and a female role model to grow up to become normal adults. Doing Racial Socialization The experience of family merges sexual iden tity with other type s of identifications, including race and class (Weston, 1991). Many fathers, specifical ly those who constructed their families via adoption, had children who were ra cially or ethnically mixed. Although the majority of fathers hinted that the black-white divide in America was simply too difficult to

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214 traverse, three men, Craig, Simon and Theo all had children who were either black or of partial African ancestry. These men spoke at length ab out the ways they negotiated Americas complex and insidious racial structure (Note that Lawren ce, Randy, Art and Rick all had children of color who they identified as Latino or biracial but the men did not speak about race as a critical axis that shaped their familial experiences in the same ways as Craig, Simon, and Theo). Previous research in African American fam ilies has drawn attention to how such families have developed distinct socializ ation strategies to offset soci etal pressures by exposing their children to accurate and positive representations of African American people and history as well as warning them of the dangers of being a pers on of color in a racist society (Bradley & Hawkins-Leon, 2002). Because the situation of white gay men raising children of color is one that has been prevalent since the mid-1980s (M allon, 2000), workshops and seminars designed to deal with the above issues ha ve been developed specifically for such families. Craig has attended some of these seminars and reflects on them with disappointment: I was so mad because we did all these exercise s where we have to share our experiences, and it just sounded like a bunch of defensive wh ite people trying to make it sound like they were really open and had no probl em with black people kind of thing. And its like, thats not the issue, you know, like take it a step fu rther, do you know what it feels like to be a black person, do you understand what it means to be a black person. Would you, if you were shown a situation where there was very subtle racism, would you identify it, would you be able to see it, would you even know inst itutionalized racism if it walked across your face? Craig described in depth how he has read up on racial politics and th e necessities that a white parent needs in order to so cialize a child of color properly: Ive done a lot of reading about it, an d you know theres a great book called, Im chocolate, youre vanilla, and its about raising black kids, and you know one of the things you do is you really just sort of instil l a sense of confidence around issues of color, you know Im prepared for the questions wh en they start to come up, like why are you white and stuff like that. You know because Ive taken the time to read about that.

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215 Craigs dialogue illuminates how race isnt just something we talk about, its something we live (Rothman, 2005, p. 92). By educating hi mself on racial discrimination, and preparing to deal with future hardships, Craig simultane ously invests in creating a connection with his dark-skinned daughter, while cons tructing a bond based on his unders tanding of white privilege. In this way, when the process of doing family a nd fathering is not based on sameness, especially where the relationship between a parent and ch ild is obviously not genetically linked, the accomplishment of doing family becomes a more ch allenging endeavor. In these cases, more mental labor, such as familiarizing ones self w ith literature on racial politics must occur. Simon and Theo deliberately employed an adopt ion agency that specializes in biracial adoptions. Like Craig, they were well versed in the politics of race. However, while Craig had two daughters of color, Simon and Theo had both a daughter and son of color and detailed how race and gender socialization intersect with one a nother. When talking about their daughter, they emphasized the need for a positive racial role model who their daughter could identify with and look up to. Unlike the other, mostly white ch ildren in their neighborhood, their daughter was described as not bone-skinny and th ick boned. As fathers trying to instill their daughter with a positive body image, both men described the importa nce of including other women of color into their daughters life who would be representative of real rather than ideal (and white) female bodies. The rationale behind Sim on and Theos desire to expose their non-white daughter to other women of color resembles a discussion I had with Craig about the need to familiarize himself and eventually his daughter w ith the politics of black hair. However, when it came time to discuss engaging in racial socialization with their son, a different conversation ensued. Theo expresses how there are built in prej udices in society about black menblack boys, you know are always viewed with suspicionand I just think he is

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216 going to have a harder time. Simon then interjec ts with a long list of examples told to him by an African American friend who has a son, summing up with, when anything goes wrong in school, heads always turn to his son first. When all fathers spoke of soci alizing their sons, there was always an underlying discourse highlighting the need to prepare young boys for the trials of life. However, with black and even dark-skinne d boys, this discourse of preparation was further expanded to address socially constructed stereo types of black men as dangerous and unruly. A final theme that emerged in my analysis of white gay men raising children of color is how the reactions from outsiders varied dependi ng on the space that fathering occurred. Craig details how when he walks down the street in Chelsea or the West Village in Manhattan he receives either dismissive looks or longing looks, like oh I want to be a gay dad. Because these areas are regarded as gay ghettos, the presence of a white man and a non-white child trigger automatic assumptions that this is a gay father with his adopted child. However, when Craig and his child(ren) walk dow n the street in his neighborhood in Brooklyn, he explains that: Its sort of this confused a rrangement people try to figure out Especially when Im alone with Morgan (daughter), I get a lot of some what negative energy, mostly from people of colorlike, whats this white guy doing with this black baby. Whereas if my partner and I are walking together and I have Morgan stra pped onto me, people would look at me like, whats going on, whats he doing, you know. And then wed stop in a store and wed switch and hed take the baby. All the bl ack women would look at him and smile, and like, oh hes taking care of his own, and so its totally completely, different reactions. Craigs narrative fragment emphasizes the s ituatedness in gay fathering, illustrating how the racial and sexual composition of the neighborhood constructs experiences of doing fathering and family. Physical and social spaces critically shape the way by which gay men do fathering; a finding that is unmistakable in the specific case of Craigs multi racial family. Further, Craigs processes and practices of doing fathering are mediated by the cultural conditions that surround him and his family. Social and cultural constr uctions about black families shape how white gay men raising black children experience fatherhood Because definitions of physical space are

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217 infused with differing constructions of power, racial privilege st ructures the ways that Craig and his partner do fathering and the subseque nt reactions they perceive. Focusing on relationships between physical space and symbolic processes generates further understanding of the complexities influencing how gay men do fa thering (Marsiglio 2007; Marsiglio, Roy, & Fox, 2007). In a socially constructed terrain that privileges not only heterosexuality, but also whiteness, gay mens familial identities and experi ences are woven into an interlocking system of privilege and oppression. Each of the white me n raising children of colo r recognize that their parental identity could not be separated from either their gay identities or from the reality of their mixed-race family. Doing Gender Socialization Research has revealed that children raised in gay and lesbian families are less likely to conform to such gender ideologies that have traditionally in scribed boys and girls with the separate and unequal standards th at have fostered gender inequa lity (Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). While there is substantial resear ch on the outcomes of children of gay and lesbian parents with regards to sexual preference, so cial conformity, and gendered outcomes, there is a paucity of data that specifically attends to the intentions and experiences of the gay parents themselves. With this in mind, I now explore how gay father s experiences raising children simultaneously sustain, reinforce, and challenge assumptions about gender, sexuality, and families. Even before babies are born, they begin the gendering process, where girls are dressed in pink onesies and boys in blue. Like many pare nts regardless of sexuality, some of the gay fathers I spoke with conformed to these rigid mark ers of gender. Brian remembers when he flew to Vermont from Miami to pick up his new baby. He and his partner were originally told that they were having a boy. However, they were wrongly informed and they ended up having a baby girl. He explains we had 70 pounds of boy clothing with uswe had to return all the

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218 clothes to the store and switch them to pink. Br ian and his partner wanted to ensure that their newborn baby girl was dressed in th e appropriate feminine garb on th eir flight back to Miami. However, the ways by which gay fathers ne gotiate engendering their children are not always as clear-cut and simple as a pink versus blue issue. Before children are born, parents generally decide on a name for their child. Name s reflect not only parental preferences, but can ultimately end up reflecting and symbolizing the characteristics of a person and even their parents. The issue of gendered names surfaced in my conversations with Gus and Robin, two men who are raising their daughter and son with two lesbian wo men. Gus says, I love the name Julian for a boy. But, I think they we re afraid the child would have four gay parents to begin with and thats definitely a prissier name. So, we we nt with Nathan. While the images that are conjured up by names like Julian and Nathan are ce rtainly subjective and debatable, the symbolic meanings that these parents associated with th e name Julian were simply too feminine. By calling their son Nathan, a more masculine name th an Julian, these four parents maneuvered their way through a complex social landscape that is embedded with gender, heteronormative, and familial proscriptions. Whether through gendered co lored clothing or something as subjective as a name, gay fathers (and these lesb ian mothers) are in constant ne gotiation of how to traverse societal gender norms. Sanctions against gay men for doing gender inco rrectly are rampant in our heterosexist society. These sanctions are expounded in the case of gay fathers, in that they have a unique type of surveillance surrounding their own normative gendered behavior as well as their childrens gendered actions and attitudes. Beca use the heterosexual nuclear family has become institutionalized as an ideological code (Smit h, 1993), gay fathers are held accountable for the gendered outcomes of their child ren. Thus, the panoptic gaze of th e heterosexual eye serves as a

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219 surveillance mechanism that commands these fathers to engage in self-monitoring their childrens gendered actions to become to a certa in extent, in Foucaultian terms (1977), docile bodies inscribed with normative gender standards. This surveillance becomes evident when we explore how men spoke about how they fathered boys. Lawrence has two teenage sons and himself never doubted his own ability to instill his teenage boys with proper masculine id eals. Nevertheless, he recalls a scenario when an outsider who happened to be in close proximity to he and his son scrutinized his fathering skills: I remember once Isaac [older son] was cryi ng, he was like 3 years old, and he hurt himself and he was crying, and there was this painter in the house, and the painter kept saying, be a man, be a man. And my instinct is to hug him and wait until he stopped crying, and let him sit there and calm down, you know. But this mans thing was be a man which is I think what many people would saySo, I just t ook him away, and I didnt say anymore. Gender scholars have argued that normative de finitions such as No Sissy Stuff, The Big Wheel, The Sturdy Oak, and Giveem Hell give men an outline for how to live their lives (Brannon as cited in Connell, 1995). As an adult gay man reared with these gendered blueprints, Lawrence is acutely aware of the rigid definitions of masculinity in contemporary society. As such, he is keenly attentive to the pressures of raising a man in a socially constructed world that defines masculinity in such strict terms. In c ontemporary society, raising a boy to be a proper and suitable man is simultaneous with preparing him to fit into the historically and socially constructed version of hegemonic masculinity that is culturally domin ant (Connell, 1995). Later in the interview, Lawrence elaborates on another time when an outsider commented on his sons masculine development. Many years prior to the interview, Lawrence was with his two young sons at a local playground. He rememb ers another father approach his younger son who was recently wounded, and wailing at the pain. The man exclaimed oh stop crying, youre acting like a girl, to the young boy. Although Lawrence was tempted to retort back what is

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220 wrong with being a girl? he quickly stopped himself from succumbing to his immediate response and simply picked his boy up and walked away. Lawrence explained that he was uncomfortable with having another grown man fill his sons head with stereotypical masculine ideals. At the same time, Lawrence clearly did no t want to get in a verbal argument with this man in the middle of a public playground. Furt hermore, Lawrence is in somewhat of a paradoxical dilemma: he does not want his son to have to act in accordance with hegemonic ideals of masculinity, ye t he understands that in order to survive as a man in contemporary society one needs to adapt to cert ain normative gender standards. Recall the discussion of child visions in chapter four when I detailed how many men displayed uncertainty with regards to how they would negotiate the ch allenges of fathering a menstruating, bra-shopping, sexually active teenager. Embedded in mens child visions were rigid stereotypical constr uctions of gender. To some extent these rigid gender constructions surfaced in mens narratives describing how th ey engaged in doing fathering and negotiating gender. Ethan, the proud father of a thir teen year-old girl explains that: It is easier with a girl, and why Im glad I have a daughter is sometimes shes your typical teenager, dont embarrass me, dont go near me but other times, out of the blue she is spontaneously very affectionate will put her head on my s houlder, or give me a hug or things like that.I give her a lot of touchy and huggy and kiss, when she lets meand so I feel there is that closeness that you would not have with teen boys. In tune with the public sc rutiny surrounding men as preda tory creatures targeting children (Marsiglio, 2007, p. 7), and because gay men disproportionately feel these repercussions, the theme of ga y mens affective public displays is an important matter. However, Ethan is the only father who expre ssed aspects related to the public and private affection of his children. Thus, regrettably, I am unable to speak to the uniqueness of gay fathers experiences with respect to this public, affective dimensi on of parenting. An important consideration for future researchers in gay pa renting is advancing understanding about how gay

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221 fathers in comparison to heterosexual fathers ne gotiate publicly displaying affection to their children and if such displays diffe r according to the childs gender. Nonetheless, Ethans descripti on of him and his teenage daught ers reciprocal displays of affection are framed within an essentialized fr amework of gender. Within this essentialist framework of gender, girls are naturally or i nnately nurturing, loving, and caring and teenage boys are incapable of displaying affection to their fathers. Throughout many of my interviews with gay men I heard such essentialized connotations associated with stereotypical femininity. Howe ver, these connotations were often closely followed with a complex cultural noti on of what it means to raise a girl in a socially constructed society that devalues them, e ndangers them, forces them into adulthood at earlier and earlier ages, and sexually ob jectifies them. For example, later in Ethans interview, he goes into a detailed explanation of how he and his partne r are coping with the pube scent phase of their daughters life: Before she was going to menstruate, we went to Barnes and Noble, there are a lot of sex education books, but they had things in it that I dont know about. I found the perfect book. Theres one book called Period, which is all about menstruation. And we read it together, chapter by chapter, you know we read the chap ter, Pads versus Tampons and the whole thing, and I presented menstruation to her as a very positive thing, it means your body is healthy, it means that you can be a mother someday, you know we understood it, believe me, I didnt want her head filled with nonsense. While Ethans previous commen ts point at the essentialized assumptions of femininity associated with caregiving and affection, his later comments suggest so me contradictory views about the cultural construction of puberty and in particular, me nstruation, which deserve further exploration. Ethan maintains that two men can easily prepare their da ughter for menstruation by using proper resources such as coming-of-age b ooks that teach young girls to deal with their monthly cycles. With the assistance of these resources, Ethan recognizes that anyone can teach a young girl to use a pad or a tampon. However, in a socially constructed society that regards such

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222 an incredible milestone as menstruation as a female problem, it is significantly more difficult for two men (or even two women) to teach their dau ghter positive images of what this milestone means for their body. Thus, the issue at hand is not the physiological dimension of female puberty per se. Rather, the principal matter lies in the socially constructed nature of this pubescent phase and how it has historically evolve d into a peculiar, misunderstood, and devalued stage of development. This theme further surfaced in my conversation with Simon a nd Theo. Earlier I mentioned how they expressed that their daughter was not bone-thin and did not closely resemble the other rail-like girls in her neighborhood or the em aciated women depicted in the media. Both men were concerned that she might not deve lop a healthy and positive body image. Simon reflects on a recent event when in school she drew her self-portrait and they were supposed to write something about their body, and she wrote I lik e every part of my body. Theo interjects that I want to put it upon th e wall and say just look at this everyday when you get older and remember how you felt. Simon and Theo were well aware of the cu lture of thinness surrounding young girls today and made conscious efforts to instill a positive sense of self into their young daughter. Like Ethan, Simon and Theo fashioned tactics to negotiate carefully raising a young girl in a socially constructed society that devalues and objectifies women and girls. Although the gender preferences discussed in ch apter four would suggest otherwise, the gay fathers that I conversed with rarely imposed stereotypical gendered expectations on their children. They were uniquely aware of the heterosexist and gendered assumptions surrounding their chosen families, their parenting, and the que stionable outcomes of their children. Yet, they made conscious efforts to allow their children to explore their gendere d identity as they

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223 themselves chose to do. I speculate that perm itting their children to play outside the gender box may be a result of their own childhood experiences and their compulsory conformity to stereotypical standards of masculinity. Parker explains how his young son has an affinity for what would be termed girly-toys. He elaborates, All he wants to do is play with Barb ies dress up computer game, and Im like, well, let him playgive him a break. Parker continue s to explain that his son enjoys playing dressup, a childhood game that would be considered a st ereotypical feminine ac tivity. He discusses, somewhat surprised that the other children don t mind and are not put off or scared by it. Parkers son is still a child and sanctions agai nst young children are certainl y not as harsh as for older ones. It is not clear how others will react to these atypical gender processes as he ages or if Parker and his partner will be held accountab le for this non-normative gender play. However, as is discussed in the following section, Parker and other fathers devised a strategy to negotiate their accountability as same-gender parents; the inclusion of a female role-model. Negotiating accountability through the presence of a woman The inclusion of women in childr ens lives is a theme that em erged in my interviews with all fathers. Many gay fathers that were intervie wed discussed in detail the efforts they went through to include a female presence in their child rens lives, regardless of whether the child was a girl or a boy. However, the necessity of th is inclusion was augmented substantially if the father(s) were raising a female child. This fi nding is similar to Hamer and Marchioros (2002) finding wherein low income Afri can-American custodial dads explained that they found it necessary that their children have an accessible adult woman with whom they could share their problems and communicate. For many gay fathers, grandmothers became active participants in the rearing of their grandchildren. Likewise, fe male friends of the family were invited over frequently to partake in the joys of playing with, reading to, a nd just plain hanging out with the

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224 kids. Yet, the most common form of female inte raction with children of gay fathers emanated from contact with hired help. Many participants were of upper-middle class status and had incomes well over six-figure salaries. Because of this disposable income, many fathers were able to hire outside assistance to help care for their children. In every case, this outside helper was a fe male, a finding not at all inconsistent with the gendered characteristic s of domestic labor (E hrenreich & Hochschild, 2002). Nonetheless, even in some of the cases of coupled fathers where one man stayed home and cared for the child(ren), they still opted to hire outside female assistance. Parker explains that he ensures that there are plenty of female influences in his childrens lives. Their nanny, Vivian, is with the children fi ve days a week and his mother, the childs grandmother, actively participat es in rearing his children. Si milarly, Simon and Theo, explain how their nanny (although they mainta ined that they despise calling her that) is a principle figure in their seven year-old daughter and three year-old sons lives. The inclusion of a female domestic worker who participates in the reari ng and care of children emerged as a primary theme in the interviews with gay men so much that I simply began to expect it. Yet, as with all generalizations, there are exceptions and it was only after one couple maintained their refusal to hire a nanny that I paused to ask myself the underlying meaning as to why so many other fathers found it necessary to seek outside female assist ance with the rearing of their children. Simon expresses that he felt very strongl y that she [daughter] needed female role models. Where Art and Rick maintain we definitely needed female contact, which is just how we felt. Why were these men so adamant about including a female pres ence in their childrens lives? I maintain that it is a manifestation of their accountability to mainstream heterosexual society. Because these families are held so uniqu ely accountable, in that they are expected to

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225 produce children who are different and to some extent not normal the inclusion of a female role model might be a strategy they employ to negotiate this accountability. Whether they believe they can appropriately raise children, is not the issue. The point here is simply that others, in particular, others in positions of power do not. T hus, the inclusion of a female presence for children, and the specific inclusion of a gender role model for their girl children is a tactic fathers use to manage heterosexual domination. The Mr. Mommy wars: The place of nannies Fathers hired nannies to enable them to conti nue their career path, avoid the second-shift, and have spare time to spend with their families. A built-in bonus of employing domestics was the opportunity to include a female presence in their childrens lives Even some men who were short-term stay at home dads relied on domestics to clean their home and fulfill the mundane tasks of childrearing. While some men were eager to hire outside help, capitalizing off the incorporated luxury of a female role-model, other men in my sample were highly critical of this choice. In fact, this argument occurred so often in the Pop Luck organizations website chat room that Judith Stacey referred to it as the Mr. Mommy Wars (2006). Men who were critical of employing nannies po inted to the effort, time and money that were necessary to create their family and quest ioned why other gay fathers would want to miss a single moment of childrearing. Brian explains, We wanted a child, so she should be raised by us, not the nanny. Likewise, Ethan maintains, we decided we werent going to have a child and to hire strangers to raise our child. Such comments highli ght the disapproval that many of my participants voiced at having anot her person (woman) raise their child. An additional critique raised by men was that fathers who relied on nannies were selfproclaimed super-dads who were undeserving of such a title. It is no wonder that such exchanges were termed Mr. Mommy Wars as they are reminiscent of heated discourses

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226 publicized by the verbal attacks of (white middle-class) stay-a t-home mothers to their employed counterparts. Andrews assessment of gay me n employing domestic and childrearing illustrates this clearly: We know lots of guys, who the nannys go on vacations with them, and its like well, whos raising your child, your nanny or you. I mean yes, I wont begrudge anybody their ability to have that. But I think sometimes th ey rely way too heavily on that, and then they act like they are supe r dads of the world. Recall that Andrews family was the only one in my sample that was unplanned and he and his partner did not have the fina ncial resources that so many other men in my sample did. A critical analysis of domestic la bor reveals a complex web of r ace, class, nationality, and of course, gender relations. However, an ove rlooked and relatively new dimension of the globalization of childcare is the role of sexuality While these men are marginalized for their sexual identities, their race, a nd more clearly, their class pr ivilege, offers them similar opportunities to other middle-class fa thers -the ability to avoid ch ildcare and domestic duties. Where heterosexual fathers can rely on their wive s to complete the dirty work of keeping house and caring for children, gay fathers who have the financial resources can extend this gender exploitation beyond the confines of their family and employ migrant women, women of color, or poor women to perform the trad itional duties of the wife. Doing Parenting Recall my earlier discussion of how the specif ic negotiations that occur in gay planned families are contingent upon the type of family pathway they pursue. Because the majority of my participants were involved in coupled relationships, I devote substantial time to discuss their specific negotiations. Hereafter I detail how co upled men, or men in co-fathering arrangements manage their household labor and childrearing res ponsibilities.

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227 One of the central tasks that couples face in parenting is the division of household labor. Studies of time use have consistently revealed differences between working husbands and wives in the total number of hours worked when paid labor, child-care, and domestic duties are combined (Coltrane, 2004). Arlie Ru ssell Hochschilds now historical study, The Second Shift uncovered that employed husbands worked between ten to twenty fewer hours per week than their employed wives (1989). More recent research has shown a di fferent picture, with men and women spending approximately equal amounts of time on housework and paid labor, but that specific domestic tasks continue to be overw helmingly done by women. Furthermore, mens contribution to housework is still viewed by both, husbands and wives as helping. Although many men and women profess an egal itarian gender ideology, the beha vioral reality is that only 2.5% of men in the labor for ce are the primary caregivers of a child under age fourteen (Townsend, 2002). This stands in comparison to the 60% of women with children under 6 years and 77% of women with children between the ages of 6 and 17 years that are in the workforce and define themselves as primary parents (H eymann, Penrose, & Earle, 2006; U.S. Census Bureau, 2004). LaRossa argues that there is a culture of fa therhood, or a set of shared norms, values and beliefs surrounding mens parent ing (1988, p. 451). Consistent w ith Pleck and Plecks (1997) overview of historical ideals on fatherhood, the cu lture of fatherhood explores how the role of men in families has shifted from the stern patria rch of colonial times to the distant breadwinner from 1830 to 1900 to the genial dad and sex-role model of much of th e 1900s to the current ideal of the co-parent who shares equally with hi s wife in the care of their children. The current culture of fatherhood encompasses ideologies of the androgynous father (Rotundo, 1985), or the modern, new nurturant, involved fa ther that shares equally in housework and childrearing. The

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228 expectations of men as parents has changed dramati cally over time and is modified to reflect and adjust to prevailing social, economic, and cultural contexts. While transformations in the culture of fatherhood are more than obvious in contemporar y Western society, LaRossa argues that there are little changes in the conduc t of fatherhood (1988). Furtherm ore, Lupton and Barclay (1997) assert that while fathers today no longer resemble the image of the stern patriarch, they have not developed a new identity either. In both La Rossa and LaRossas research (1981) and Lambs (1987) work, fathers levels of engagement, acce ssibility, and responsibility were only a very small proportion of mothers. Thus, although we woul d like to believe that heterosexual men are participating significantly more in domestic and child rearing task s, the stark reality is that changes are gradual and minimal at best. More recent research, however, has shown a slightly more positive picture. Using time diaries from a national representative sample, Sandberg and Hofferth (2001) concluded that for all fathers in heterosexual two-parent familie s with a child under 13, both engagement and accessibility time increased between 1981 and 1997. Similarly, Bianchi (2000) compared data on married heterosexual fathers reports of thei r time with children in 1998 to data from 19651966 Americans Use of Time study and found signifi cant increases in fathers engagement and accessibility. Another analysis based on national time-diary data collected in 1997 reported that the relative time fathers in intact families were engaged with children was 67% that of mothers during the week and 87% that of mothers on weekends (Yeung, Sandberg, Davis-Kean, Hofferth, 2001). Yet, this same study highlighted that despite this incr ease in time spent with children, fathers still made rela tively minimal contributions to household tasks, caring for infants, and reading and studying with children.

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229 Research with men who extensively engage in childcare suggests that men are just as capable as women of assuming the nurturing ro le and do so in ways consistent with the archetypal maternal role (Lupton & Barclay, 1997). In her book about changing fatherhood, Kathleen Gerson (1993) reports th at heterosexual men can become mothers when they do not have wives to do it for them. Moreover, she f ound that when mens capacity for nurturing is activated when the child is an infant, men continue to feel competent to be involved in their childrens lives. Similarly, Gr bichs (1995) study of Australia n men who had who had taken on the primary care-giving role of their young children while their female partners worked full-time found that mens interactions w ith their children were openly caring and sensitive to their childrens needs, in ways that typically are expected of moth ers. DeMaris and Greif (1992) assert that men are equally as capable of providi ng for their childrens social and emotional wellbeing as women. Furthermore, when assessing some of the stereotypical roles and practices associated with mothering, such as housek eeping and childrearing, Greif (1985) found that divorced heterosexual custodial fathers are able to accommodate fruitfully their families and households. Clearly it is not natu re, or biology that holds men back from assuming the status of primary parent, but rather, the grip of centuries old economic a nd social arrangements acting on our emotions (Carter & McGoldrick, 2005, p. 256). An exploration of gay fathers generates further understanding of mens engagement in prim ary parental processes. Such research can deconstruct presuppositions that me n are not natural caregivers. The majority of gay and lesbian headed families subscribe to egalitarian ideals and desire an equal balance of power (Patterson, 2000). Although all gay and lesbian families do not achieve such equality, there is convincing eviden ce that such families exhibit higher levels of equality than their heterosexual counterparts. As early as 1978, Bell and Weinberg reported that

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230 most lesbians and gay men in their sample shared domestic tasks equally. More recently, studies have described similar findings on gay and lesbian couples both with and w ithout children (for a comprehensive review see Patterson, 2000). Simila rly, Stacey and Biblarz (2001) maintain that the research on lesbian headed hous eholds consistently shows more egalitarian divisions of child care than in heterosexual couples and assert that gender and sexua lity interact to create new kinds of family processes. Dunnes research on lesbian mothers revealed that that these wome n engaged in a joint responsibility of housework sin ce they were less subject to the tyranny of the traditional gendered division of household labor that is pres upposed in the ideological code of the family (2000). Interestingly, Dunne al so reported that it was not uncommon for the woman who was the higher wage earner to reduce time at work, thus undermining the prevailing assumption that caregiving and domestic work is inferior to paid labor (2000). Research on gay fathers is significantly slimmer than that of lesbian mothers. Mallons (2004) research reveals that the men in his sample used paid labor as a means to support their families and engaged in family and caregiving tasks equally. My own conversations with gay couples raising children expose paradoxical findings. Like th e women in Dunnes research, some men in my study who were the higher earners le ft their jobs to become stay at home dads. Further, many men I spoke with simply clai med that they divide d child-care duties and household tasks depending on what each one was skille d. For example, if one man was better at cooking, he prepared meals and if one man was more of a disciplinarian, he undertook the responsibility of disciplining and punishing their children. Ethan expresses that the primary way his parenting arrangement differs from traditional heterosexual arrangements is simply that:

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231 We didnt have any prescribed role models of who does what, and we kind of did what we do best.Weve been able to divide household chores and pa renting chores based on what works best as opposed to any gender defined kind of role. Rather than viewing their families as imitations or derivatives of their ascribed families, many men alluded to the excitement of constructing families in contrast to these models. In describing his family, Andrew maintains that: Neither of us is the mother and neither of us is the father. Were both his parentswe assume all the duties and respons ibilities that a t ypical mother would assume and the ones that the father would have ta ken on.I see with my parent s, the gender roles, gender norms and its actually very liberating to not ha ve to deal with any of that. We have no strict template to follow or to live up to. Sort of, its really freeing in that way. Almost better parents than what my parents were becau se were free to, were not confined to any roles. Where it may be liberating not to have confined gender scripts to play in such families, this creativity in parenting does not necessarily come easy. Lawr ence articulates how making your own rules and not being on automatic pilot can be strenuous. He ela borates, theres more arguing, more working outbut in the end Id much ra ther have freedom. Th is lack of rigidity is not only liberating for parents, but accordi ng to these men, it can be a way to impart nontraditional gender socialization on their childr en that paves the way for a new generation of families not succumbing to rigid gender divisions of labor. Because of the dominant schema of the SNAF and the pervasiveness of gender scripts, certain norms are expected of women and of men in the context of families. Hence, outsiders frequently inquire as to who the mother is a nd who the father is in same-gender families. Consider a remark by Mark Grover, a columnist for the Boston Ledger: It may be my ignorance, but I cant help but wonder what a ch ild would do whose parents are two males; are they both referred to as Daddy? Or does the child learn to re fer to one of them as Mom? (Weston, 1991, p. 173). As irritating as this ques tion is for gay men rais ing children (and even those simply in intimate partnerships) it speak volumes about a Western bi nary categorization of

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232 gender and sexuality. In his uneasiness with gay fathering, Grover points to the inevitable consequence of a system of mutu ally exclusive gender categories, one man would have to be the father, leaving the mother as the only status v acant for the remaining partner to fill (Weston, 1991). Such statements and inquiries often forc e gay men to conceptua lize and describe their familial roles within the constraints of such la nguage. Simon and Theo express that we have a strong sense that you have to be both parents to the kidyou are just more aware of your maternal instincts and the things you traditionally think of as a mothers role. While these men reject the rigidity of traditiona l gender divisions of household labor, they still fall in to the trap of relying on dominant gender discou rse (i.e., maternal instincts). Furthermore, when I asked the men who had more of the disciplin arian role, they responded that Th eo is the disciplinarian and Simon is definitely more of the mom figure. Hes he one they come to if they fall down, they run to him. Simply because Simon is the parent who cares for scraped knees and wounded elbows, the men automatically equate him with the role of the mother. In a society that holds firmly to gender divisions of childcare and househol d labor, the ability to move past these roles can be an arduous task. Simon, Theo, and other men invoked cultural associations that linked parenting and procreation to gendered difference, and not just any sort of gende r difference, but one constituted through a heterosexual relationship (West on, 1991, p. 174). While some of these fathers actively tried to bypass normative family/gender cons trictions, they were li mited in their ability to express this because of ideological and linguistic constraints. Thus, despite Simon and Theos desire to achieve a more flexible pa renting environment, there is little way to communicate their experiences without relying on dominant language.

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233 In a socially-constructed society that offers little possibility for gender maneuvering, the ability to bypass rigid norms and roles is difficult Surprisingly, Craig, one of the more critical fathers in my sample regarding racism, classism, and heterosexism was quite traditional is how he described he and his pa rtners familial roles: [Im] in charge of the childcare, Im the mom basically. I have definitely taken on the role of the mother at homein some ways we ki nd of entered into the situation with that understandinghe even said before we had ki ds like, well you have to be the mommy kind of thing like, he didnt want to be he wanted me to be the nurturer. Where others attempted to evade stereotypica l gender norms associated with heterosexual families, Craig and his partner consciously planne d to act in accordance with such traditional roles. Craig and his partner were not the onl y men who conformed to such gender scripts. Where co-parenting arrangements surfaced as a setting to create novel family and gender behaviors, they simultaneously fostered more ri gid divisions of househol d and childcare labor. For example, Aaron divulges that he never ev en changed a diaper when his daughter was young. Aarons comment makes me wonder if in the case where there is more than one man or woman parenting with one another, how do traditional gender scripts construct and constrict gendered parenting? While this question is beyond the sc ope of my research and cannot be discerned by the relatively small number of me n I spoke with in such relationshi ps, such explorations can shed light on the situations that facili tate creative, non-gendered parent ing. Furthermore, while these men clearly regard themselves as fathers, it is unclear how their lesbia n co-parents might view them; are they fathers to these women, or ar e they uncles, friends, or baby-sitters? Gay kinship ideologies can be seen as trans formations rather than derivatives of other sorts of kinship relations (Weston, 1991, p. 106). Th ese emergent ideologies represent variants modeled on a more generalized American kinship to the extent that they draw upon dominant symbols, discourses, and practices. However, th ere is clearly symbolic and very real innovation

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234 occurring within these families. Gay headed families do not passively reflect or imitate the dominant heterosexual two-parent family. An analysis of th ese gay families reveals that beyond the confines of the heteronormative assumptions that pervade the ideol ogical code of SNAF there are unique spaces for constructing parenting arrangements with more equitable divisions of household labor and childcare. However, the social and historical constructi on of the ideological code of SNAF is so inflexible that it renders other assumptions and discourses invisible. Where there certainly are new spaces for creativity and new possibilities for parenting, the same old patterns sometimes surface and to be blunt, old habits of middle-clas s men die hard. The ordinary activities of gay fathers as they navigate their way through the familial sphere can pose significant challenges to the heteronormative status quo th rough their prioritiza tion on egalitarianism (Dunne, 2000). Yet, while gay fathers might be termed postmodern pioneers (Stacey, 2006), many yield to very modern gendered divisions of household labor with in their partnerships and some even depend on hired women to complete the traditional female tasks. To be clear, I do not fault those individual fathers who succumb to dominant fami ly and gender norms, rather, I maintain that the spaces for gay parents to forge new possibilities ar e simply not large enough as a direct result of the institutionalization of patriarchy, heterose xism, and the ideological code of SNAF.

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235 CHAPTER 7 DISCUSSION Relying on theoretical perspectives accentuating the meaning-making aspects of social life, and extending a conceptual framework of proc reative identity designed for heterosexuals (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002), I stress how the gay men in my study cons truct and act on their self-awareness of being both gay and capable of creating and/or fathering human life. My qualitative analysis, based on a combined purposiv e sample of childless gay men and gay fathers who became fathers through nonheterosexual means, e xplores timely issues related to the ways gay men develop and orient toward their procreat ive consciousness. Moreover, it reveals how a select group of relatively privil eged men navigate the complicated procreative realm to become fathers either through adoption, surrogacy, or sp erm donation to a lesbian couple and experience fathering. Despite standing outside the traditi onal family building path, gay men appear to develop a procreative consciousness somewhat sim ilar to their heterosexu al counterparts. But because gay men cannot biologically reproduce with one another, th ey construct, negotiate, and express their procreative consciousness and father identities in unique ways. Given the realities of reproductive physio logy, gay men, unlike their heterosexual male counterparts, are not confronted with the immedi ate prospects of paternity during their romantic and sexual relationships. Thus, ga y mens procreative consciousness is not activated as often or in as many ways. I therefore decided to recruit both childless gay men and gay fathers to capture as fully as possible the wide spectrum of gay mens experiences over the life course. Including younger and childless men enabled me to interv iew those more apt to recall their early experiences with coming out as gay and how their procreative cons ciousness was expressed during this period. Interestingly, although th e childless subsample was relatively less economically privileged, none of them spoke of how financial considerations or concealing their

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236 gay identity from friends and family might u ltimately shape their future experiences in the procreative sphere. I maintain that a comprehensive analysis of gay mens procreative consciousness and fathering experiences must be situated within a sociohistorical framework that addresses larger social and cultural changes. In the beginning of chapter four, I employed participants excerpts to illustrate micro-level examples of how each individual experience was shaped by distinct opportunities, proposing that this de notes large scale or macro-level social change. I suggest that a mutual and reciprocal relati onship exists between gay men s procreative consciousness and broader sociohistorical transf ormations. While gay mens thoughts about fatherhood and family are constructed in a context affect ed by distinct social and cultur al changes, gay men themselves are at the forefront of instigating these changes. Transformations in the definitions of family and what it means to be a gay man are occurring as gay men increasingly traverse pathways to fatherhood. These very changes simultaneously shape how gay men are developing, negotiating, and experiencing their procreative consciousness. Although familial transformations are occurr ing all around us, American culture still largely assumes that gays are not supposed to be in or have families. However, as gay men demand recognition of their own families, the private sphere of the home and family surfaces as a public issue (Mills, 1959). Gay men exert agency by negotiating, ignoring, and modifying socializing influences. The emerging phenom enon of gay fathering by choice is one demonstration of agency in the development of novel family arrangements and practices. Gay mens procreative consciousness, fathering, and fa mily identities arise out of many contextual influences: psychological, social historical, and inst itutional. As demographic and social institutions change over time, i ndividuals adapt to such transfor mations and resulting identities

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237 and experiences are shaped by these changes. Thus, while gay men are clearly agentic in transforming the social landscape, most social in stitutions operate as is the traditional married heterosexual two-parent family is the only family form. As such, this is the norm to which others are compared. Such normative constructions place the burdens and stigma on other family forms, such as gay headed families, resu lting in these families being viewed as deficient and not simply different. Hence, the subsequent discourses, identities, and experiences that surface should be viewed as responsive to such claims. In chapter four I detail how similar to thei r heterosexual counterparts, gay men experience turning points in their identitie s that activate their possible selv es as men who are capable of and/or desire to father and care for children. However, throughout the course of these social psychological processes, many par ticipants became aware that th eir procreative and fathering fantasies were constricted and constrained by st ructural and institutional barriers. Homophobic stereotypes about gay mens gende r and sexual identity and institu tional and financial barriers intersect to construct obstacles for how these men think about fatherhood. Participants discussion of fatherhood readiness, visions of an ideal fathering experience, and child visions are laced with hetero-patriarchal discourses. In chapter five I discuss how gay mens procreative and father identities are cultivated and negotiated throughout distinct stages and processe s of becoming a father. All but three of my participants families were meticulously planned. Embedded in my analysis of planned gay parenting is a nuanced analysis of how procreative, fa ther, and family identities are constructed within the various family arrangements gay men pursue. I discuss how and why the presence of blood ties surfaces as critical for some men and not for others. Regardless of which family pathway is chosen, father and family identities become entangled with th e identity of the birth

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238 mother. I also explore the reasons behind some of my participants becoming fathers through multiple pathways and how ones father identity is conditional upon sociohistorical changes. Chapter six illustrates how when gay men do fath ering and family, they do so in a socially constructed society wrought with hetero-patriarchal ideol ogies that manifest through individualized homophobia and inst itutionalized heterosexism. I show how fathering and family are situated, dynamic practices that are actively cr eated and tailored in sp ecific situations. Because all gay families are uniqu e, their particular and mundane negotiations are mediated by their specific familial arrangement. When gay men become fathers, they experience changing social networks. Consequently, th eir identities as gay men and as fathers are reconfigured within these contexts. Gay men were faced with the tasks of socializing their children in a racist, sexist, and heterosexist societ y. Men drew upon various strategi es, practices, and discourses to negotiate the process of gender a nd racial socialization. A criti cal component that emerged was how men employed female role models to nego tiate the accountability of raising children with appropriate gender norms. I conclude the chap ter with a discussion of how gay fathers can sometimes open spaces to creative parenting th at do not rely on ge ndered restrictions. Nonetheless, these spaces for creativity are quite narrow because of hetero-patriarchal dominance and the ideological code of SNAF (Smith, 1993). Although these men are redefining practices associated with families, they ulti mately end up reaffirming dominant notions of kinship instead of challenging them. Clearly thes e men are active agents in their own lives. However, they lack significant power to transf orm the SNAF by themselves (Hertz, 2002). Toward a Theory of Gay Mens Procreative Consciousness and Fathering Experiences Having advanced a more nuanced understandi ng of how gay men beco me aware of their procreative options and how they traverse pathways to parenthood, I can move to a more critical analysis of queer parenting as our academic co lleagues abroad have (Clarke, 2006; Hicks, 2006a;

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239 Nelson, 2006). Aside from a deeper understanding of how class and race privilege interact to form certain types of familial arrangements and di scourses, there is a need to grapple with the question of why queer families sometimes draw upon and use traditional ideas about gender, biogenetics, respectability, sexual ity, and kinship (Hicks, 2006a). Mo reover a critical analysis of gay family formation needs to move beyond the so cial and structural c onstraints in attaining fatherhood to distinguish what type of father iden tities and families are produced in these distinct settings. There is a need to advance theoreti cal understanding on how gay men discursively construct their procreative consciousness and father ing experiences. I maintain that attention to such discourse opens doors to new understand ings of how societal surveillance fueled by heterosexism, homophobia, and constricting gender norms shap es gay mens fathering thoughts and experiences. Consistent with these ideas, I now propos e a theory of gay mens procreative consciousness and fathering experiences that is grounded in my conversations with 41 gay men. This theory expands and integrates the procrea tive identity framework (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002) with Mills sociological im agination (1959) and Smiths femi nist sociology of knowledge. By doing so, I anchor gay mens personal though ts and experiences about fatherhood within social institutions and processes. However, because participants described how they negotiate gender, sexuality, and real or imagined families w ithin explicit gendered and heterosexist social boundaries, these theoretical perspectives do not adequately explain why gay men ultimately reified certain conventional discour ses, rather than subve rting or at least tr ansgressing them. I argue that because these men and their fam ilies are under extreme surveillance and public scrutiny, they are forced to draw upon the very discourses that many family scholars (myself

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240 included) expect them to reject. Note that such discourses do not merely reflect gay mens identities and experiences, but si multaneously influence these iden tities and experiences as well. Like West and Zimmerman (1987), I stress th at while individuals are the ones who do gender, or fathering, or family, the process of rendering something accountable is both interactional and institutional. A ccountability is of primary importa nce in the specific context of gay and lesbian headed families. The cultural apparatus of homophobia and heterosexism spark fear and misconceptions with respect to gay men in general and gay fathers in particular. Gay fathers are consistently viewed with suspic ion because of myths surrounding issues of pedophilia, a desire to replicate their lifestyle, and a perceived inability to socialize children properly and inscribe them with stereotypical gendered norms. Underlying these views is the assumption that gay male performance of mascul inity is different from heterosexual mens and that gay male sexuality is represented as m asculinity out of contro l (Clarke, 2006, p. 22). Because of these assumptions, gay men who are fathers or thinking about fatherhood are more than simply held accountable; rather, they ar e positioned under the panoptic watchful eye of heteronormative surveillance. A theory of gay mens procreativ e consciousness, father and family identities grounded in the data must account for heterosexual power, surveillance, and sanctions. Thus, I advance the procreative identity framework by including dimensions borrowed from Foucaults discip line/punish framework (1975). In his seminal work, Discipline and Punish: Th e Birth of the Prison (1975), Foucault expands upon Jeremy Benthams panoptic prison. The key dimension of the Panopticon was that it was specifically designed so that the pris oner could never be sure whether she was being observed or not. This uncertainty of surveillance caused the intern alization of es tablished norms and the docile bodies necessary to maintain a pr ison. A prisoner or anybody for that matter is

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241 much less likely to break the rules if he believes he is being watched, even if he is not. Foucault argues that discipline in (post) modernity cr eates "docile bodies," bodi es which function to produce those results optimal for capitalism, de mocracy, and the military industrial complex. Discipline through surveillance constructs docile bodi es that conform to ri gid categorizations of gender, heterosexist norms, and those bodies th at lend themselves to the reproduction of the traditional nuclear family. According to Foucau lt, discipline in contemporary society operates without excessive force through this careful observation, or su rveillance and the subsequent molding of bodies into the established form through this observation. When Foucaults framework is applied to the current research it i lluminates why gay men sometimes reify dominant gender norms, family values, and hetero-pat riarchy. Coming out and the decreasing salience of the closet does no t release gay men from the effects of power; they simply step into a new web of power relatio ns. Tangentially, the fact that some gay men can now form families with children does not nece ssarily spare them fr om the clutches of heterosexual domination. Because gay headed families are so closely scrutinized, the actions of a few, or even only one can get over-generalized to represent the character and soul of the many (Plante, 2006, p. 233). The social control of gay families operates via the pervasive notion of the accountability: you are going to ruin it fo r the rest of us if you screw up in even the smallest way. Steven Hicks (2006) maintains that there ar e a series of empty spaces that gays and lesbians must go about filling in their own ways, wherein they can create new relational possibilities and opportunities. Wh ile lesbian and gay families cl early push the boundaries of the Standard North American Family it is pertinent to keep in mind that gay and lesbian familial identities and experiences do not occur in isola tion. Gay headed families are resisting dominant

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242 constructions of family by their very existence. However, the larger social processes that surround us, independent of our own individual will construct our knowledge and how we view the world. The political structure, capita lism, the binary categorization of gender, heteronormativity, and the Standard North Ameri can Family compose these larger processes. The complex ways that these sociocultural institutions maintain society, persist and are perpetuated independently of speci fic individuals or processes are critical in shaping gay mens procreative consciousness, reprodu ctive decision-making, and father ing experiences. Gay fathers or even gay men who contemplate fatherhood come to understand their desires and experiences through the filters of social and institutional definitions and con ceptualizations of the Standard North American Family, dominant gender norms, and heterosexual dominance. Even more, they are compelled to explain and confess these experiences through the only discourses readily available (Foucault, 1978). Thus, gay families have little room to resist the dominant sociocultural order. As evidenced by my interview data, creativity does take place within gay mens families, yet these experiences and identities are regula ted by a heteronormative field defining gayness as perverse, dangerous, and a threat to children a nd family (Hicks, 2006). Hence, it is quite common to come across claims that gay and lesbian families are inherently radical and also contrasting claims that these families are assimila tionsist. My data illustrates how gay men draw upon conformity claims about family and gender as much as they do rebellion ones. Themes of traditionalist ideas about family surfaced in ma ny of my conversations, demonstrating how gay mens narratives can draw upon and reinfor ce conventional views of kinship, gender, responsibility, and even heterono rmativity (Hicks, 2005a, 2006). Gay families are not inherently subversive nor do they enact direct challe nges to hetero-patriarchy (Riggs, 2005).

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243 I do not want to ignore or overshadow the fact that in these familial arrangements we do indeed see fluidity, creativity, contempt for being limited and typ ecast by labels, and an interest in self-determination. Yet, we also see a desi re to normalize familial experience and to fit in with a familiar mold. However, these normality cl aims must be viewed in light of a larger heteronormative context that is su spicious of gay men and skeptical of their ability to construct successful families. As such, Hicks (2005b) argues that we need to consider narrative claims about family as having a set of contexts, purposes, or motivations that need to be analyzed and that such claims by gay men are attempts to achie ve meaning rather than as simplistic statements of fact. For example, Victoria Clarke is a lesbian woman who researches the experiences of lesbian mothers. The interviews she conducted high light the extent to which her participants felt compelled to defend their parenting and their family (2006). Given what we know about the surveillance and public scrutiny surrounding gay head ed families I can only imagine the complex discursive negotiations that may have occurred within the contex t of my conversations. Even though my appearance is anything but threatening, I am still a researcher and the power structure of the interview setting is such that my status as a researcher gives me a certain degree of power. Furthermore, when asked, I came out as heterosexual and I hail from the state of Florida, the single state in the nation that prohibits gay and lesbian adoption. Thus, if we juxtapose Foucaults discipline/punish framework with a more nuanced understandi ng of the sociocultural context in which gay families are surfacing, we can come to a more complete understanding of how such normality claims made by my participants might function to counter any suggestion that their current or future children will suffer sexual abuse, gender damage, and stigma (Hicks, 2005a).

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244 Limitations and Areas for Future Research The process of becoming a gay father through nonheterosexual means is often economically costly. These financial costs coupled with my recruitment strategies resulted in the fathers who participated in my study to be pr imarily of the professional class, and white. Regrettably, I am unable to speak to how minor ity men and gay men of more limited financial means may experience the process of becoming fath ers. While a sociohistorical framework and a nuanced understanding of heterosexual domina tion foster deeper understandings of how gay men develop and negotiate their procreative consci ousness, attention also needs to be given to how other axes of oppression shape how these men form their procreative consciousness, father desires, and family identities. A critical analysis of gay fam ily formation needs to consider seriously the type of father identities and families that are produced in the context of practices that privilege a certain type of gay man, not ably, the White, upper-middle class gay man. The exclusionary policies in adoption, foster care, and assisted reproductive technol ogies construct very class-privileged families. Further research is needed to explore how gay mens procreative consciousness develops and evolve s absent the necessary financial resources to navigate these agencies. Attention should be devoted to incorp orating an intersectional ity lens to gay mens procreative consciousness that explores how the matrix of race, class, gender, and sexuality shapes how gay men perceive and construct their procreative, father, and family identities. A major limitation of this study is the lack of racial and ethnic minorities that are able to speak to the influences of such factors in shaping gay mens fathering e xperiences. Regardless of ones sexual preference, to be a man of color in this society is to be continuously scrutinized for signs of sexual immorality. There is more intense su rveillance of black and Latino male sexualities, compared to white men. Thus, it might be that ga y men of color engage in more behavioral self-

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245 surveillance, monitoring their desires, experiences, and disc ourses with respect to fatherhood accordingly. Pursuing a few more obvious avenues of res earch with gays (and lesbians) will help broaden and deepen the literature on how individuals express themse lves in the procreative realm and construct parental and family identities. First, comparisons are needed exploring how gay men and lesbians construct their procreative id entities and the gendered ways they negotiate parenting desires as part of th e larger sociohistorical context. Second, analyses are needed directly comparing similarly aged gay and heterosexual men from similar communities/states to better deconstruct how larger so cial and historical changes in tersect with heteronormativity. Attention should be devoted to understanding how facets of gay mens family/friendship networks affect their perceptions and strategies for incorporating father ing visions into their personal and relationship trajectorie s. Also, every man in my sa mple resided in an urban or suburban environment where they had the comforts and luxuries of city -life such as support groups, gay pride parades, and gay parenting ne tworks. Future stud ies investigating the procreative, father, and family identities of gay men should expand this analysis to men who reside in a rural context. We know very little about the physical and spatial contexts of fathering in general (Marsiglio, 2007; Marsiglio & Cohan, 2000) and n early nothing about how such considerations shape the fathering experiences of gay men. Attention to gay fathers and gay men who are thinking about fatherhood in rural enviro nments will illuminate how physical, spatial, and organizational aspects influence emerging iden tities, discourses, and experiences. Focusing on the relationship between such spatial considerations and social processes and practices will advance theoretical and empirical knowledge on the fluid, negotia ted aspects of mens behavior and identity work as father s (Marsiglio, 2007, p. 6).

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246 Furthermore, another limitation of my study is that it relies solely on interview data. I have no way of triangulating whether the discour ses that surfaced in my interviews are representative of gay mens experiences. While I recognize that discourses emerge as contextually based meaning-making strategies it would still enhance my study if I had ethnographic data to supplement with my intervie w narratives. With th is limitation in mind, the next logical step for my research agenda is to detail how institutions shape the construction of gay planned families and the subsequent narrat ives that emerge. Conducting an institutional ethnography involving the stakehol ders shaping gay mens procreative consciousness, such as surrogacy agencies, adoption agencies, lawyers, and policy makers will help to disentangle the meanings of the emerging discourses in my pa rticipants narratives. Similarly, future ethnographic work should explore the cultural na rratives of community and parenting support groups and how such discourses shape gay mens approaches to fatherhood and negotiations of procreative, father, and family identities. Future research needs to ask how and why ho mophobic discourses produce the idea that gay and lesbian parents are essent ially different, and how this notion of difference is used to maintain sexuality and parenting hierarchies (Hicks, 2005a, p. 89). To build on Hicks (2005a, 2005b, 2006) suggestions, we need to ask how family discourses work, how we assert or achieve the idea of family, and to whom this refers? Moreover, a discursive analysis of gay mens procreative and fathering experi ences should be applied to more fully understand how gay men construct their iden tities as fathers through their narratives. What do these discourses try to achieve? What part does morality, subjectivity, or power play? Furthermore, we need to challenge current dominant discourses and cons tructions of gender, sexuality, family, and parenting, because in the existing framework, gay fathers will only be inauthentic, deficient, or

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247 lacking in some way. Once these become suffici ently deconstructed, we can move to a more critical analysis of what types of gay fath ers are produced in diffe rent settings (Hicks, 2000, 2006). This expanded research agenda will illumi nate how all gay and lesbian families are not inherently anything, and in agreem ent with Hicks, I think we need to pay more attention to the contradictions and complexities within queer fam ilies rather than suggesting all are challenging the gender or sexual order (2006, p. 95). Implications Today the choice of having a child is avai lable to those gay men who are able to financially and interpersonally navigate the bur eaucratic apparatus of surrogacy, adoption and fostering agencies, or who choose to traverse co-parenting arrangements with a lesbian woman or women. This research demonstrates how some of these men negotiate this choice. Gay men can make the choice to father alone or with a partner, but their choi ces and their respective identities and experiences are faci litated to a large extent by soci al institutions. In a socially constructed world dominated by powerful institu tions that continue to speak of a traditional family consisting of a married man and a woman with a male as dominant breadwinner it is useful to give voice to and integrate into our understanding of contemporary family life the stories of gay men who are c onsciously constructing their own novel family arrangements (Mannis, 1999, p. 126). While the experiences an d stories of the 41 men I interviewed form a collective story of a narr ow social group, this is a category of men who are often marginalized, ignored, and even silenced with respect to their familial experiences. The emergence of planned gay fatherhood (and lesbian motherhood) is part of a broader process of social change that involves myriad forms of inventive family constellations (Nelson, 2006). Currently, increasing numbers of individual s, regardless of their sexual preference, are questioning and rejecting conven tional forms of family life. Thus, examining nonheterosexual

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248 experiences provides an important opportunity to consider alte rnative models of parenting, gender, and relations across a nd within gender categories (Dunne, 1999, p. 4). Although gay men and lesbians may never be viewed as part of the procreative and pa renting mainstream, the paths they pursue will likely represent reflexive and innovative models for the diversity of family arrangements and practices in America and abroad. My findings should be viewed against the dynam ic backdrop of GLBT identity politics and the cultural, social, and legal di mensions of family building in the United States. As time passes more gay men and lesbians are likely to blaze the trail to parenting outside a heterosexual relationship, and assisted reproductive tec hnologies may become more commonplace and accessible to a wider range of individuals, including a broader mix of gays and lesbians. At this writing, it is plausible that a more conser vative U.S. Supreme Court might overturn Roe V. Wade (1973) leading to more babies being placed for a doption while future state and federal legislation might institutionalize legal civil unions for gays and lesbians. As American culture slowly embraces gays and lesbiansincluding their rights to form families, young gay men, both rich and poor, are likely to develop their gay identities with a clearer expectati on that they, like their heterosexual counterparts, can someday incorporat e parenting into their family life course. Implications for Fatherhood and Masculinities Scholarship Researchers have increasingly recognized th e demographic diversity of fatherhood and the varying dimensions of fathering (Hofferth, Pl eck, Stueve, Bianchi, & Sayer, 2002; Marsiglio, 2007; Marsiglio & Pleck, 2005). Attention to the pr ocreative desires and fa ther identities of gay men extends understanding of how gender and se xuality intersect to construct subjective experiences involving thoughts a bout fathering, the process of becoming a father, and the practices of doing fathering. Understanding fatherhood in contemporary society requires awareness of the historical, social, and cultural web in which it is embedded. Since the beginning

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249 to mid 1900s, there has been a call for men to be more involved as parents (Pleck and Pleck, 1997). Yet, despite these changing ideals of fath erhood, the primary responsib ility of fathers is still that of the familys provider and fathers for the most part are often a shadowy figure at best, difficult to understand and typi cally unavailable (Daly, 1995, p. 21). Also, although more people are moving toward the idea that fathers should be more involved with children; demographic, economic, a nd societal changes have resulted in fathers being less involved with their chil dren than at any time in U.S. history (Arendall, 2000). Despite images of the new nurturant father who is emoti onally attuned to his chil dren, survey research using large representative samples reveals that in creases in average time fathers spend with their children are actually quite small (C oltrane, 1995). The ideal of the father as co-parent and the modern nurturing father are in fact quite myt hological. Fathers are spending more time with their children, but such time usually entails fun activities and fathers share of responsibility for their children is still substantially lower than that of mothers (Pl eck & Pleck, 1997; Townsend, 2002). Furthermore, Furstenberg (1988) disti nguishes between good dads and bad dads. Good dads refers to the image of new nurtura nt father, while bad dads are those who are physically, emotionally, and financially absent from their families (Coltrane, 1995, p. 257). According to Coltrane (1995), fathers in Ameri ca today are simultaneously present and absent, because there are almost as many deadbeat dads as there are new fathers. When subcultural groups are singled out for attenti on with regards to the debate on fatherhood, they are frequently positioned as negative comparisons to the new nurturant father, as absent or bad fathers. Fatherhood is a continuously changing ontologica l state, a site of competing discourses and desires that can never be fully and neatly sh aped into a single identity and that involves oscillation back and forth between various m odes of subject positions (Lupton & Barclay, 1997,

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250 p. 16). Turning the spotlight on gay fathers and young gay men who are fantasying fatherhood can help to deconstruct the prev ailing and contradictory images of fatherhood in contemporary America in myriad ways. Gay men who choose to create families challenge societal notions about fatherhood even more so than lesbian mothers because the desire to father is not seen as biologically intrinsic to men. Furthermore, traditional heterosexual masculinity, or hegemonic masculinity is conceptualized as anti-femini ne and non-nurturing (Lewin, 2006). Where gay men may never quite attain hegemonic masculine st atus (Connell, 1987), their experiences in the procreative and fathering realms elucidate how dominant constructi ons of masculinity enable and constrict their subjective expe riences and the social and public perceptions of these subjectivities. Gay men may strive to achieve stat uses that they believe to be consistent with hegemonic constructions of masculinity, such as securing a biological attachment to their children or relying on nannies or co -mothers to do stereotypical wo mens work. As is elucidated by my research, gay fathers embody a series of contradictions with respect to gender and family norms. However, masculinities evolve and ca tegories of men can adapt their individual experiences to approxim ate the hegemonic mold. So too, hegemonic masculinity is a dynamic and fluid construction, it sometimes shifts to embrace alternative mascul inities, forging what Demetriou (2001) has termed hybrid masculinities. Attention to gay fathers fosters awareness of the public/private duality of fathering (Marsiglio, 2007). Much of fathering takes place in the space of a home ; however, a large and often overlooked amount of father ing occurs outside the home and is experienced on the streets, in playgrounds, and in schools. Whether it is in p ublic or in private, all men, to some extent are viewed with suspicion when it comes to their intima te interactions with children. However, as is evinced by my research, such imagery and conse quences are exacerbated in the specific case of

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251 gay men. Yet, I cant help but wonder if as more and more gay men choose fatherhood, will their normality challenge such disproportionate scrutiny? Will imagery of those gay men who are legitimate fathers overshadow images of ga y men as sexual predators and pedophiles? Further understanding of this interplay of gender, sexuality, and familial processes will help draw attention to and explicate the flui dity of both masculinity and fathering. A Note on Difference Finally, a critical implication of any research on queer families is the underlying idea of difference. Underscoring political and social discourses about queer parenting suggests gay and lesbian families are somehow different from norma tive heterosexual families. Why is it that the question of difference has become so central in debates about gay fatherhood? Underlying this debate are three critical assumptions: gay me n are different from heterosexual men, these differences are passed on to their children, and children exhibit gende r and sexuality outcomes differently from those who live with heterosexua l parents (Hicks, 2005a). However, the idea of difference needs to be evaluated. According to Hicks, in order for this debate to occur at all, sexuality and gender have to be seen as obvious entities that can be isol ated and tested, rather than very complex and socially constructed sets of ideas (2005a, p. 160). Difference is the effect of a range of discourses th at locate, define, and maintain the very idea of the gay man and his family as different, subordinate, and even subv ersive. Difference is not a set of essential characteristics, since behind these assertions of difference rests standards against which these are determined: heteronormative assumptions that cons truct lesbians and gay me n as the other. I am not maintaining that there is no such a thing as difference; however, this difference is socially constructed as a result of the surveillance of dominated groups by dominant ones. Society organizes sexual discourse to construct hierarch ies in which traditional and heteronormative family forms are dominant; a construc tion that is reinforced by textua l, legal, and social practices

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252 (Clarke, 2002; Hicks, 2005a). The result is th at this very idea of difference shapes our knowledge, discourse, assumptions, and practices a ssociated with reality. Deconstructing these socially constructed ideologies of sameness and difference in queer families should reveal nuanced understandings of how pow er and social control operate to shape family, gender, and sexualities scholarship and subjectivities.

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253 APPENDIX A BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION What year were you born?_____________ Where were you born?__________________ What is your religion?___________________ What would you describe your ethnic ity as? (Check all that apply) _____White Non-Hispanic _____African-American _____Latino --If Latino, Please Check Below: ____Cuban ____Puerto Rican ____Mexican ____Colombian ____Argentine ____Venezuelan ____Other _____Asian --If Asian Please Check Below ____Chinese ____Japanese ____Korean ____Vietnamese ____Thai ____Other ____American Indian ____Other (please specify) How many years of formal education have you completed? _____Did not complete high school _____Completed high school _____Some college _____College degree _____Masters degree or equivalent _____Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. What is your primary occupation or main source of income?____________

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254 What is your personal annual income? (please check one) ____under 15,000 ____15,000-29,999 ____30,000-44,999 ____45,000-59,999 ____60,000-74,999 ____75,000 or more Please check your heterosexual relationship history in one or more of the categories below: ____Never Married ____Divorced ____Separated ____Married Please check your current relationship history in one or more of the categories below: ____Single ____In an intimate/partnered relationship

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255 APPENDIX B INTERVIEW GUIDE NON-FATHERS As a gay man, tell me about your life and how you see your future. I want to talk a littl e about your sexuality. To what extent are you open about your sexuality? To what extent are you open about your se xuality to your family? Friends? Work colleagues? I want to discuss your experiences with your own parents What was your experience like with your parents? What was your relationshi p like with your father? Now, I want to discuss some of your experiences with children To what extent do you have any close friends, family members or work colleagues who have children? How much time would you say you spend with children? In what type of context(s)? Can you tell me about some of your experiences with children? Do you have any gay friends or acquaintances that have children? Can you tell me about some of their expe riences? How has the rest of the gay community reacted to them? Do they have children from former heterosexua l relationships or from relations with gay partners? If they have children from gay partnershi ps, how did they obtain these children? What do you think about their experiences? Now, I am going to ask you some questions about yourself Can you talk to me about how you learne d about your ability to procreate? Can you talk to me about what this ability meant to you?

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256 How often do you think about this ability? Can you talk to me about any thoughts you have had about becoming a father? What sorts of things influence these thoughts? Can you talk to me about a time wh en you first thought about fatherhood? Can you tell me about some of these thoughts? To what extent have these thoughts change d with your sexuality once you discovered or declared your sexual orientation? Are you involved in a romantic relationship at the present time? To what extent do you think about fatherhood in the context of this relationship? To what extent do you discuss fatherhood with your romantic partner? How was this conversation initiated? How did this make you feel? What kind of issues come up? To what extent have conversations about fa therhood come up in any other relationships? Gay relationships? Hete rosexual relationships? If you do want a child, how would you go about obtaining him or her? What are your thoughts on be ing a biological father? What are your thoughts on adoption? What are your thoughts on modern techniques such as surrogacy, sperm donation, in vitro fertilization and others that allow individuals to have children without having sex? To what extent have you ever contemplated either of these? How do you think your experien ce as a father might be diffe rent from a heterosexual couple or a single parent? To what extent can you picture grow ing old without a child or children? I am going to ask you a bit more about children. How do you picture your ch ild? Boy or girl?

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257 What do they look like? How comfortable in general did you feel discussing these issues with me? Would you feel more comfortable talking to another intervie wer with different characteristics (age, sexual ity, race, and gender)? Why? There is not a lot of research in this area a nd what I am doing is very exploratory. I am hoping I am asking the right questions, but since I am not a gay man, you should know better than I know. So I want to ask you, what other kinds of things should I be asking?

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258 APPENDIX C INTERVIEW GUIDE FATHERS As a gay man, tell me about your life and how you see your future. I want to talk a littl e about your sexuality. To what extent are you open about your sexuality? To what extent are you open about your se xuality to your family? Friends? Work colleagues? I want to discuss your experiences with your own parents What was your experience like with your parents? What was your relationshi p like with your father? Now, I want to discuss some of your experien ces with children before you became a father. To what extent do you have any close friends family members or work colleagues who have children? How much time would you say you spent w ith children prior to becoming a father? In what type of context(s)? Can you tell me about some of th ese experiences with children? Do you have any gay friends or ac quaintances that have children? Can you tell me about some of their expe riences? How has the rest of the gay community reacted to them? Do they have children from former heterosexua l relationships or from relations with gay partners? If they have children from gay partnershi ps, how did they obtain these children? What do you think about their experiences?

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259 Now, I am going to ask you some questions about yourself Can you talk to me about how you learne d about your ability to procreate? Can you talk to me about what this ability meant to you? How often do you think about this ability? Before you became a father, to what extent could you picture growing old without a child or children? I am going to ask you a bit more about children. Before you became a father, how did you pi cture your child? Boy or girl? What did they look like? To what extent have your visions or ideas changed with fatherhood? Can you talk to me about any thoughts you had about becoming a father prior to your parenting experiences? What sorts of things influenced these thoughts? Can you talk to me about a time wh en you first thought about fatherhood? Can you tell me about some of these thoughts? To what extent did these thoughts change d with your sexuality once you discovered or declared your sexual orientation? Are you involved in a romantic relationship at the present time? Is this the relationship you were in when you decided to father? What role does fatherhood currently play in the context of this relationship? To what extent did you or do you discuss fatherhood with your romantic partner? How was this conversation initiated? How did this make you feel?

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260 What kind of issues come up? To what extent have conversations about fa therhood come up in any other relationships? Gay relationships? Hete rosexual relationships? Can you talk to me about your experience s that led you to becoming a father? What are or were your thoughts on being a biological father? What are or were your thoughts on adoption? What are or were your thoughts on modern techniques such as surrogacy, sperm donation, in vitro fertilization a nd others that allow individu als to have children without having sex? To what extent have you ever contemplated either of these? To what extent did you use any of these means to become a father? If you do want another child, how woul d you go about obtaining him or her? To what extent do you think your experience as a father is different from the experience of a heterosexual couple or a single-parent raising a child? As a gay father, can you talk to me about so me of the reactions you have received from others? Parents? Other family members? Gay friends? Non-gay friends? Work colleagues? How do these reactions make you feel?

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261 How comfortable in general did you feel discussing these issues with me? Would you feel more comfortable talking to another intervie wer with different characteristics (age, sexual ity, race, and gender)? Why? There is not a lot of research in this area a nd what I am doing is very exploratory. I am hoping I am asking the right questions, but since I am not a gay man, you should know better than I know. So I want to ask you, what other kinds of things should I be asking?

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262 APPENDIX D FLYER FOR RECRUITMENT *******Interviews******* Wanted For University of Florida Study Gay Men and Their Parenting Motivations Who Is Eligible? Non-Fathers --Gay men between the ages of 18-50 --Either single or in a committed relationship --Do not need to be thinking about fatherhood! Fathers --Gay men who have father ed through adoption or some other means than heterosexual intercourse What is the Study About? Gay men will be asked questions about thei r reproductive decision-making and fatherhood motivations in a f ace-to-face interview How to Arrange an Interview? If you are eligible and would like to participate, please call or email the study director to discuss the possibility of scheduling an interview. Please leave your name, phone number(s), e-mail address, and the best time to call you: Dana Berkowitz, M.A., Sociology Depa rtment, University of Florida Personal Mobile Phone: 352-246-1108 Office phone: 352-392-1065 ext. 241 E-Mail: dberk@ufl.edu

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PAGE 273

273 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Dana Berkowitz is a Ph.D. candidate in the sociology department at The University of Florida. Her primary research and teaching interests include sociology of gender, sexualities, families, queer studies, qualitative methodology and feminist theories and methods. She has recently accepted a position at Louisiana Stat e University joint appointed in sociology and womens and gender studies.


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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0019663/00001

Material Information

Title: Gay Men: Negotiating Procreative, Father, and Family Identities
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0019663:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0019663/00001

Material Information

Title: Gay Men: Negotiating Procreative, Father, and Family Identities
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0019663:00001


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GAY MEN:
NEGOTIATING PROCREATIVE, FATHER, AND FAMILY IDENTITIES























By

DANA BERKOWITZ


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007



































2007 Dana Berkowitz

































To my family and diverse families everywhere









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

It may take a village to raise a child but it took the help of countless people in three

separate cities to develop, carry out, and eventually write this dissertation. I am profoundly

grateful to everyone who helped me accomplish this laborious, yet rewarding task. This could

not have been possible without the cooperation of the forty-one men who participated in my

research. Although my promise of confidentiality prevents me from mentioning them by name,

the men who I interviewed for this dissertation deserve my deepest thanks. Each of these men

shared intimate details of their lives and trusted me with their stories. I only hope that I do their

words justice and that they all know that my gratitude to each and every one of them is

monumental.

As a doctoral student at the University of Florida, I have benefited immensely from the

instruction of an exceptional team mentors. I cannot begin to express my eternal appreciation to

William Marsiglio who has provided me more guidance than he will ever know. He has been a

teacher, an advisor, a friend, and a metaphorical father to me. Bill, you have been a constructive

critic and a steadfast supporter of my work since our meeting almost eight years ago. You have

(very) patiently taught me volumes about sociological scholarship, all while watching me mature

from an immature undergraduate to an independent scholar. I have benefited enormously from

the guidance and instruction of Connie Shehan, Kendal Broad, Charles Gattone, and Angel

Kwolek-Folland, all of whom have been the most encouraging committee a student could ask

for. I am most fortunate to have such a productive and encouraging group of mentors.

This dissertation could not have been possible without my very understanding roommate,

Karla Valdivia who allowed me to sprawl countless articles and books over our kitchen table

without ever complaining that we had no space to eat our dinner. My special thanks to Colleen,

Namita, and Jefriane without our weekly dinners that began as reading and writing sessions, but









quickly evolved into support sessions, I may have exploded with frustration on many occasions.

I want to express my gratitude to Maura Ryan who was instrumental in helping flesh out various

concepts, ideas, and theoretical constructs that surfaced in our collaborative endeavors. I also

want to thank and apologize to every graduate student who frequented the sociology grad lab for

my freakishly loud typing; random bursts of song, and of course, spreading my papers over every

surface.

With regards to New York, Sinatra was right on target. If you can make it there, you can

really make it anywhere! I want to first express my eternal gratitude to Gina Canoniga for

letting me move in to her tiny lower east side loft and for sharing her bed and closet with me.

Gina you are truly a wonderful friend. Peter Dolchin has my everlasting appreciation, as

without his help, I would probably still be collecting data today. I thank Marilyn and Sheila for

introducing me to the LGBT community in Chelsea and for taking me to Shabbat services at

Congregation Beth Simchat Torah. To everyone at CBST and the LGBT center in Manhattan,

thank you for opening up your doors to me. Also, to Jay Schaffer at Schaffer City Oyster Bar

and Grill, thanks for giving me a job and for feeding me so that I wouldn't starve to death or go

completely broke in New York!

Finally, I would have lost my way so many times on this scholarly journey if it were not

for the countless individuals who have been my support network in Miami, the place that I will

always call home. I want to thank Linda Belgrave, my masters' supervisory committee chair

who never discouraged me from following my scholarly instincts and for whom the word mentor

does not do begin to do justice. The bulk of my life in Miami has been outside the terrain of

academia and my lifelong friends and family have been my rocks decades before I knew what a

PhD or sociology even was. I thank Rena and Jordana, who have been in my life since we were









thirteen. I thank Daryl, my perfect little sister who taught me patience, kindness, and simplicity.

My father supported me with more love and support than any father could; I thank him for his

endless encouragement. Lastly, I thank my mother, an outspoken and relentless feminist who

instilled in me since birth that I can be whoever I dare to become. She is my original mentor and

I dedicate this dissertation to her.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

ACKNOWLEDGMENT S .............. ................4
AC K N O W L ED G M ENTBL E ...................... ..........................................................................................


ABSTRAC T ..................................................... 12

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ............... ................. ........... .............................. 14

Theorizing Gay Men's Experiences in the Procreative Realm.............................................16
Sym b olic Interactionism ......................................................................... ................... 17
Identity Theory ................................... ... ................ .............. ........... 19
Expanding the Procreative Identity Framework...........................................................20
Conceptual Lenses ................................................................ .... ...... ........ 24
Procreative C consciousness ........................................... .................. ............... 25
Fatherhood Readiness .................. ....................................................... 27
P o ssib le S elv es ................................................................2 9
T u rn in g P o in ts ........................................................................................................... 3 0
D o in g F ath e rin g ..................................................................................................... 3 1
O overview of D issertation ......... .........................................................................32

2 L IT E R A T U R E R E V IE W ............................ ................................................ .....................36

Demographic Changes: Gay Men Choosing Fatherhood...................................................36
Historical Changes: Beyond the Closet....................... .................... ..................38
Institutional Dimensions: Emerging Opportunities ....... ...........................................40
Cultural Dimensions: Stereotypes of Gay Men.................... ..... ...............42
Interpersonal D im tensions ............................................................................................... 47
Intrapsychic Dimensions: Social-Psychological Processes.................................................49

3 R E SE A R C H M E TH O D .............................................................................. ..................... 52

Sam ple and R ecruitm ent................ ....... ........ ........ .. ........... .. ............ .53
P artic ip an ts .........................................................................6 3
Interviews ................. ....... .. .. .. ....... .. ............ ............ 65
Creating the Interview Guide using Sensitizing Concepts.............. ... ........... 66
The Active Interview............................ ... ................. 69
Characteristics of the Researcher and Reflexivity.........................................................72
A analysis: G rounded Theory.................. ..................................... ................................. 74
Analysis: Case Studies and Narrative Accounts................................... ...................... 77









4 FANTASYING FATHERHOOD .............................................. ...... ......................... 82

Three Men, Three Different Decades and Three Distinct Stories .......................................83
L a w re n c e ................................................................................................................... 8 3
M a rc ................... ...................8...................5..........
C la rk ............... .................................................................... ... ......... ......................... 8 7
G ay M en's P rocreative N arratives............................................ ........................................ 89
A Self-Reflective Procreative Consciousness ...................................... ............... 90
Fatherhood as N natural Progression........................................... ........................... 92
F atherhood as E essential ......................................................................... ....................93
F atherhood Identity T ransitions................................................................... .....................95
Turning Points ............................. ...........................97
Experiential: engaging w ith children ............................................ ............... 98
O b serve action al ...............................................................10 0
In stitu tio n a l ....................................................................................................... 1 0 2
C u ltu ra l ......................................................................................................1 0 3
Interpersonal negotiations ................................................................................ 104
Properties of Turning Points ............................................................... .. ......107
Degree of control ................................................................. .. ......... 108
Duration .......................................................... .................... 109
Presence of subj ective/behavioral changes ........................................................... 110
Individual or shared experience ................................................................ ....... 111
Vicarious or personal experience ................................................................. 112
Type and degree of institutional context ....................................................... 112
C e n tra lity ....................... ....... ................................... ..... ................................. 1 1 3
Emotional response and evaluation ............................. .................................114
Reconciling Gay identity with Prospective Father Identity .................................................115
M yths of G ay M en .................................... ........................................... ....... 116
G en d er Id eo lo g y ................................................................................................. 17
Thinking A bout the Future............................................................. ................... 118
Thinking about Reactions from the Gay Community ...................................... 120
Fatherhood R readiness ......................................................................... ............... 122
Fatherhood Readiness and Degree of Collaboration ....................................................125
Ideal F gathering V visions ......................................................... .............................. 128
Engaging with Children......................................... 128
R relationships W ith Their Ow n Fathers ...................................................................... 129
Ideal Fam ily Construction ................................. ................................... 130
Ideal Fam ily V isions..................................... .. .. .. ....... .......132
C h ild V isio n s ...................... ...................................................................................... 1 3 4
Envisioning and Planning for Gender ........................................ ... ........ 135
E envisioning R ace ............................................................................. 137

5 BECOMING A FATHER ..................................... .................................... 139

U planned Fatherhood............................................................................ ............... 140
P lann ed F ath erh ood ..................................................................................................14 7
N eg otiating O option s.......................................................... ..................................... 14 8


8









Building a Fam ily: W which Pathw ay?................................... ........................... ......... 151
C o-parenting ............................................................................................. ........15 1
A adoption ..................... ............................................................153
Negotiating the meaning of biological fatherhood................................................162
The Relationship of the Birth Mother (and Father)................... ................................ 163
Evaluating the Characteristics of the Birth M other................................................... 164
Evaluating the M otives of the Birth M other.............................................................. 167
T he C conception ................................................................ 169
T h e P reg n an cy ......................................................................................................17 2
T h e B irth .................................................................................................................. 1 7 5
P resen ce an d A b sen ce: ..................................................................................177
Becoming a Father Through M multiple Pathways .............................................................. 178

6 DOING FATHERING ......................................................................182

How Does Life Change? ................................................................... ........ 183
Gay Parenting in a Straight W world .............................................................. ............. 185
In div idu al H om oph ob ia ........................................................................................... 186
Institutionalized Heterosexism .............................. ........... ...........187
D going and N negotiating Fam ily .............. ....................................... .................. ..189
Making it Clear That We Are a Queer Family ..................................... 190
The Absence of a W oman ..................... .. ...... .. ......... ..................... 193
Negotiating Coming Out to Children and Their Friends.............................................195
Negotiating Children's Exposure to Homophobia .............................................. 196
B ut, Y ou 're a M an ............................ ................... ..................... ......................... 198
Different Families: Different Negotiations ............................................................200
Birth M other N negotiations ............................................................................ ........201
C o-parenting N negotiations ............... .................. ................... ...... .............202
N negotiating Single Gay Fathering ................................................... ...... ......204
Changing Social N etw works .................................................. ... ......207
R actions from G ay M en........................ ...................................... ...... 208
A Reconfiguration of Families We Choose ...................... ........................... 210
S o cializin g C h ildren .................................................................................................2 13
D going Racial Socialization................................................................ ........ ......213
Doing Gender Socialization ...................................................217
Negotiating accountability through the presence of a woman .............................. 223
The M r. M ommy wars: The place of nannies ..................................................... ..225
D going P renting ................................................................... ...................................22 6

7 D ISCU SSION ............ ......................................... .. .................. 235

Toward a Theory of Gay Men's Procreative Consciousness and Fathering Experiences....238
Limitations and Areas for Future Research...................................................... ... ....... 244
Im p licatio n s ...................... .. .. .... ..................................................................... ......2 4 7
Implications for Fatherhood and Masculinities Scholarship......................................248
A N ote on D difference .............................................................................. 251




9









APPENDIX

A BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION.......................................................... ............. 253

B INTERVIEW GUIDE NON-FATHERS................................................................ ........ 255

C INTERVIEW GUIDE FATHERS.......................................................... ...............258

D FLY ER FO R RECRU ITM EN T ........................................ ............................................262

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ............................................................................. ..........................263

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ............................................................................. ....................273










































10









TABLE


Table page

3-1 Descriptive Statistics for Gay Childless Men and Gay Fathers....................................79









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

GAY MEN:
NEGOTIATING PROCREATIVE, FATHER, AND FAMILY IDENTITIES

By

Dana Berkowitz

May 2007

Chair: William Marsiglio
Major: Sociology

This qualitative study explores the social psychology of gay men's experiences with their

procreative consciousness and father identity. Analysis is based on in-depth interviews with 19

openly gay childless men and 22 gay men who have fathered through non-heterosexual means.

This research investigates the processes by which gay men construct, negotiate, and experience

their procreative, family, and father identities. My findings demonstrate the extent that gay men's

procreative consciousness is shaped within a complex web of institutions and other ruling

relations. Gay men's procreative consciousness evolves throughout their life course as a dynamic

phenomenon and is profoundly shaped by adoption and fertility agencies, assumptions and myths

about gay men and negotiations with birth mothers, partners, and others.

Gay men's procreative consciousness is situated in a socially constructed historical

context that is rapidly changing how gay men think about the possibility of fatherhood.

However, gay men's procreative consciousness has been constructed in a societal context that

assumes heterosexuality as normative and privileges heterosexual parenting. The men I

interviewed describe how they negotiate gender, sexuality, and real or imagined families within

explicit gendered and heterosexist social boundaries. The fathers and childless men alike drew

upon traditional ideas about gender, biogenetics, respectability, sexuality, and kinship. Whereas









the closet as a strategy of accommodating to heterosexual domination is becoming less salient,

this does not necessarily denote that heterosexual domination is a remnant of the past. My

conversations with these men show how heterosexual dominance is deeply rooted in the

institutions and culture of American society and must be understood as not simply a product of

laws or individual prejudice, but institutionalized pervasive dominance. Such findings

underscore the need for a comprehensive sociological theory that can capture how gay men's

reproductive decision-making and fathering experiences are constructed and constricted by

institutionalized patriarchal and heterosexual dominance.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

As the old saying goes, "It takes two to tango." Yet, in some cases the beat has changed.

Sometimes it actually takes more than two people to "tango," or in this case, to make a baby.

Today, gay men can actually decide to become "pregnant," and this inevitably requires the

assistance of a woman. Understanding gay men's motivation and approach to creating and doing

family bonds through fatherhood draws attention to gay men's experiences with the procreative

realm. The purpose of my study is twofold: first, to examine how gay men develop, express, and

negotiate a procreative consciousness over time in the context of a socially constructed world

that privileges heterosexual parenting, and second, to advance theoretical understanding of how

gay men experience and do fathering under the watchful eye of a society fueled by heterosexism,

homophobia, and constricting gender norms.

This study builds on Marsiglio and Hutchinson's (2002) qualitative study exploring how

young heterosexual men perceive and express aspects of their procreative consciousness-their

awareness of their ability to create human life. Their analysis highlights how heterosexual men

experience the procreative arena through their sexual and romantic relations while anticipating

and experiencing incidents of miscarriage, abortion, pregnancy, contraception, and births.

Heterosexual men's procreative consciousness is heightened, at least temporarily, by

encountering various objects, people, and situations that are a part of the heterosexually-defined

procreative realm. Yet, what happens in the absence of heterosexual intercourse and intimate

experience with fertility-related events like miscarriage, abortion, and pregnancy? Absent an

imaginary or real sex partner capable of giving birth, does a gay man's procreative consciousness

still emerge and develop? If it does, what are its distinguishing features and relationship to a gay

man's desire to become a father?









Issues of gay marriage and gay parenting continue to evoke controversy in our society.

Significant segments of society devalue same-sex relationships, waging battles in the popular

press, legislative forums, and courts in order to prevent gay men and lesbians from having the

legal right to marry. Despite these obstacles, gay men and lesbians have created families

through adoption and other artificial means, and the definition of "the family" has changed

dramatically over the last few decades to include such family forms (Dunne, 2000; Mallon,

2000). Yet, there is little understanding of how gay men experience the procreative realm in

terms of fatherhood motivations, reproductive decision-making, and fathering experiences. In

fact, no research to date has examined how gay men experience the transition to fatherhood

(Mallon, 2004). Thus, it is timely to extend Marsiglio and Hutchinson's model to a sample of

gay men. My analysis fosters a deeper understanding of how gay men conceptualize and

negotiate their sense of self as procreative beings and/or fathers.

This research strives to answer three important and related questions:

* How do gay men become aware of and express their procreative consciousness and
father/family identities over time?

* Within a socially constructed world privileging heterosexual parenting, how do gay men
negotiate, with themselves and others, their dual experience of being gay and having
desires to become a father?

* How does the larger social/cultural context affect how gay men develop and experience
their procreative consciousness and father/family identities?

Because little research has examined gay men's procreative consciousness and fathering

experiences my study advances the literature on the sociology of gender, sexualities,

reproduction, and families. Informed by symbolic interactionism, the procreative identity

framework, and feminist sociology, I present a novel lens through which to view gay men's

perceptions, decision-making, and experiences about having and/or raising children. Using in-

depth interviews with childless gay men and gay fathers who constructed their families through









nonheterosexual intercourse, I generate new insights about how gay men perceive themselves as

both potential and active fathers.

Theorizing Gay Men's Experiences in the Procreative Realm

Consistent with the tenets of grounded theory methodology, this study does not attempt to

apply a single theoretical framework a priori. Grounded theory involves the discovery and

development of theory from data, systematically obtained and analyzed from social research

(Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Such a theory fits empirical situations, is understandable to both

sociologists and laypeople, and provides research with relevant predictions, explanations,

interpretations, and applications. Glaser and Strauss argue for grounding theory in social research

and for generating theory from the data. The authors have linked this position with a general

method of comparative analysis, a strategic method for generating theory that is concerned with

generating and plausibly suggesting many categories, properties, and hypotheses about general

problems. Grounded theory advocates a type of comparative inquiry, requiring that one's

explanatory conceptual categories be generated from the everyday social world. These

categories are valid because they have been created from a process of data collection and

because they reflect the experiences of the participants under investigation.

I stray from the traditional grounded theory approach since I am already quite familiar with

some of the substantive and theoretical issues relevant to this study and because I borrow

concepts from Marsiglio and Hutchinson (2002). Similar to Marsiglio and Hutchinson, I use

grounded theory methodology to generate new concepts and their properties about how gay men

experience the procreative realm. Consequently, I am not attempting to produce a complete

grounded theory. Rather, my goal is more modest in that I strive to develop a conceptual

framework that accounts for how gay men construct and negotiate their procreative identities

over time, in different situations, and through interactions with others.









For the purposes of this research I use multiple theoretical perspectives to investigate a

single phenomenon: the construction and negotiation of gay men's procreative consciousness

and fathering experiences. Employing multiple frameworks to examine a single phenomena

provides for an in depth exploration of how gay men experience both the procreative arena and

fathering. Themes from the theoretical frameworks of symbolic interactionism (SI), identity

theory, procreative identity framework, Mills' (1959) concept of the sociological imagination,

and Dorothy Smith's feminist sociology (1987, 1990) inform and guide my research. I use each

of these perspectives as theoretically sensitizing lenses to develop my research questions,

interviews, and analysis.

Symbolic Interactionism

Symbolic interactionism is a paradigm that relies on the crucial assumption that human

beings possess the ability to think and imbue their world with meaning. Individuals are viewed

not as units that are simply motivated by external forces beyond their control; rather they are

viewed as reflective or interacting human agents (Mead, 1934). This unique capacity for thought

is shaped and refined by social interaction, which in turn is shaped by different ways of thinking.

In social interaction, humans learn the meanings and the symbols that allow them to

exercise their unique capacity for thought (Blumer, 1969; Mead, 1934; Stryker, 1980). Symbolic

interactionism focuses on how individuals use and interpret symbols as a form of

communication. These symbols are used to create and maintain impressions of themselves and

to construct a sense of self (Mead, 1934). The SI perspective also illuminates how individuals

use and interpret symbols to create and sustain what they experience as a specific situation's

reality. Through social interaction, people symbolically communicate meanings to the others

involved and individuals behave toward symbols based on the meanings that are attached to

them.









Heterosexual men's ability to become biological fathers rests on their ability to produce

sperm, and typically to engage in sexual intercourse. However, fecundity perceptions represent

the central principle for theorizing men as procreative beings when viewed through a SI lens

(Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002). Viewed through this lens, the entire procreative experience

involves how men manage and negotiate their awareness of their ability to procreate.

Accordingly, the sphere of the procreative man can be extended to include all men who perceive

themselves as individuals able to procreate.

However, for gay men, the experience of becoming a father, whether biological or social is

distinct from that of their heterosexual counterparts. Although many gay men are technically

able to procreate in the same way as heterosexual men, many choose not to. Gay men are raised

in the same social milieu as non-gays and despite obvious impediments, many gay men still have

comparable desires to procreate and/or experience fatherhood. SI illuminates how the meanings

gay men associate with aspects of the procreative arena are assumed not to be inherent or

essential. Rather, they are viewed as emerging out of a social, interpretive process. I attend to

the social processes by which participants assign meaning to situations, events, others, and

themselves as they encounter facets of the procreative realm. Specifically, I explore how gay

men negotiate with themselves and others, their dual experience of being gay and having desires

to become a parent. The meanings gay men construct are critical in understanding how these men

conceptualize their sense of self as a procreative being. Furthermore, it is crucial to identify how

these meanings emerge from gay men's interactions with others, specifically through exchanges

with romantic partners, their own parents, other gay men, and adoption and fertility practitioners.

According to the SI paradigm, social action is based on the process of social interaction.

With this in mind, the SI perspective emphasizes how gay men develop their self-images within









the context of their relationships with others (Blumer, 1969; Mead, 1934; Stryker, 1980).

Similarly, this perspective emphasizes how gay men develop their prospective selves as future

fathers at an intrapsychic level and interactional level (Blumer, 1969; Mead, 1934; Stryker,

1980). I view gay men as active agents constructing their identities while defining their

relationships.

Identity Theory

The concept of identity is key to symbolic interactionists. According to Stryker (1980),

identity refers to who or what one is, to the various traits or meanings attached to oneself by the

self and others. In a sense, identities are the most public aspect of the self. Identities are

significant because they help individuals to define and frame interaction by supplying shared

meanings for behavior and situations (Mead, 1934). Symbolic interactionism posits that

identities are socially constructed (Gubrium & Holstein, 1990). Viewed in this light, identities

are representative of a synthesis of diverse social experiences that individuals have endured and

interpreted throughout their lives.

Consistent with ideas on the looking-glass self, individuals adapt to their perceptions of

how others see them (Cooley, 1902). As social beings, we see ourselves through the eyes of

other people, even to the extent of incorporating their views of us into our own self-concept

(Cooley, 1902). As a result, individuals come to develop an identity through either imagined or

real interactions with others. Although an actor may stake out an identity claim such as "father"

or "gay man" the validity of the claim depends on the responses of significant others within the

actor's networks (Gubrium & Holstein, 1990). This sheds light on the phenomena of many gay

men internalizing anti-gay myths and stereotypes about themselves as future fathers.

Accordingly, this study illuminates how the gay man and the gay father identities are social and

dynamic. Gay men's identities depend on both personal meanings and interpersonal interactions.









Furthermore, if we are to understand how gay men subjectively experience various facets

of the procreative realm, we must consider how these men actively construct their past, present,

and future selves. I therefore attend to how men evolve in their ability to conceptualize

themselves as prospective fathers. The dynamic features of the self and of identity are a primary

focus of the current project. By viewing these men as active agents who play a critical role

shaping their own experiences and identities, analysis centers on the ways by which these men

organize their self-perceptions (see discussion on possible selves in this chapter; Strauss &

Goldberg, 1999).

Here, a temporal focus comes into play because I sensitize myself to how gay men draw on

previous concrete experiences to frame their thinking. In fleshing out their thoughts about

fatherhood, men can manipulate their past, present, and future-oriented conceptions of self to

interpret meanings of becoming a father. Similar to findings in research on heterosexual men,

when the men I spoke with fantasized fatherhood, whether in an abstract sense or in a more

concrete way, they consciously renegotiated their past, present and future experiences. However,

the very fact that my participants were gay caused them to reinterpret what it meant to be a gay

man in contemporary American society and how this identity was complicated, expanded, or

challenged with a future father identity. In conceptualizing gay men as dynamic procreative

beings, I examine how their intimate worlds involve procreative and fathering experiences.



Expanding the Procreative Identity Framework

In this study I expand upon the procreative identity framework--a conceptual lens that was

initially developed to explain how heterosexual men experience the procreative arena. This

framework is a useful conceptual lens to explore gay men's experiences in the reproductive

realm. Procreative consciousness is viewed as the cognitive and emotional awareness and









expression of self as a person capable of creating and caring for life. Moreover, the framework

treats this self expression as a process-oriented phenomenon tied to situational contingencies,

global sentiments, and romantic relationships. Although gay men's experiences are distinct in

some ways, the basic conceptual lens is relevant to gay men because it accentuates how men's

procreative consciousness is activated and evolves. Furthermore, the model's emphasis on both

individual-based and relationship-based modes for expressing procreative consciousness draws

attention to how gay men, on their own and in conjunction with partners, learn to frame their

view about becoming fathers.

Although it is sensible to extend the procreative identity framework to the experiences of

gay men, extending a model originally conceptualized for heterosexual men is complicated. I

hesitate to take knowledge developed by and for heterosexual men and risk incorrectly extending

this knowledge to gay men's experiences. Although gay men's desire for parenthood may be

similar in some situations to heterosexuals' feelings, gay men's access to fatherhood and

fathering experiences are constructed within a heterosexually-defined realm embedded with

ideological proscriptions.

Thus, extending the procreative identity framework requires a better understanding of how

gay men's private experiences are rooted in social conditions. Gay men's procreative

consciousness emerges through actions that are shaped by sociohistorical circumstances. For

example, circumstances associated with prevailing definitions of families and stereotypical

images of gay men have had a radical 'break' over the past few decades. Consequently, a

nuanced understanding of gay men's procreative consciousness requires that personal thoughts

and fantasies about fathering be situated within a socially constructed historical context that is

transforming how gay men think about the possibility of fatherhood.









In order to achieve a more complete understanding of how gay men's procreative

consciousness is situated in a sociohistorical framework, I draw upon the work of two key

sociological theorists. First, I use C. Wright Mills' concept of the sociological imagination, a

paradigm that helps to better understand the relationship between personal biography and social

structure (1959). Mills' key premise is that individual experience is situated in specific social

and historical environments. These environments shape not only what our experience might be,

but also how we think about these experiences. Mills' framework is useful here because it

details how gay men's reproductive decision-making processes and fathering experiences are

highly influenced by aspects related to a specific cultural and social context.

I also draw upon the theoretical contributions of feminist sociologist, Dorothy Smith.

Smith maintains that women's consciousness has been created by men occupying positions of

power (1987, 1990). I borrow from and expand on this framework positing that gay men's

procreative consciousness has been constructed within a world that has traditionally assumed

heterosexuality and continues to privilege heterosexual parenting. Smith maintains that

consciousness is not merely something going on in people's heads, rather it is produced by

people and it is a social product (Smith, 1990). Thus, in order to more completely understand

gay men's procreative consciousness and their possible fantasies of fathering, there is a necessity

to link this consciousness with the institutions that create, maintain, challenge, and eventually

change how gay men have historically imagined fatherhood and families. This study is an

analysis of gay men's procreative consciousness and fathering experiences that anchors personal

thoughts, decisions, and experiences to the political, historical, economic, and social process that

shapes them.









Smith's feminist sociology is also a useful addition to this conceptual framework because a

detailed analysis of gay men's fatherhood motivations and experiences must move beyond

individual motivations and take a closer look at how various institutions shape and construct

these processes (1987, 1990). Smith's theoretical paradigm highlights how certain institutions

and ruling relations, such as adoption and fertility agencies, and the institutionalization of both

fatherhood and the gay subculture shape the processes by which gay men contemplate and

experience fatherhood. For example, even though gay men's desire for parenthood may be

similar in some situations to heterosexuals' feelings, gay men's access to adoption and assisted

reproductive technologies is mediated by a bureaucratic apparatus that affects the conditions

under which they can father (Lewin, 2006). This is especially important for this study because

the majority of data were collected in Florida and New York. The former is currently one of the

only states with explicit statutes prohibiting adoption by gay men and lesbians and in the latter

state all use of surrogate mothers is illegal (Horowitz & Maruyama, 1995; Mallon, 2004;

Weltman, 2005).

Smith's feminist sociology expands our understanding of how consciousness is a social

product. However, consciousness is itself biographically framed. Thus, the body is not only an

object, "it is also that through which our consciousness reaches out toward and acts upon the

world" (Williams, 1984, p. 197). I do not treat consciousness merely as a social product, but one

that emerges through gendered and sexualized bodies. The connection between gay men's

awareness of themselves as procreative beings is limited due to their gendered bodies and gay

identities. It is the absence of this mind-body intersection more so than its presence that shapes

how men view themselves as potential fathers (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002). Gay men's

procreative consciousness is a social accomplishment in that it is conditioned by their gendered









and sexualized identities. Thus, certain gendered and sexual processes "fashion the opportunities

[gay] men have to give meaning to their personal experiences in the procreative realm"

(Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2004, p. 14). Although these processes exist for all men regardless of

their sexual orientation, the experience of sex for gay men is disconnected with reproduction.

The question of how gay men improvise sexual scripts when reproduction is not an issue is

fascinating in and of itself, but beyond the scope of this study. Thus, I do not attend to how gay

men experience sex and other intimate relations. Indeed, when I asked my participants if they

ever thought about reproduction during sex, all unanimously replied no. My starting point for

this research moves beyond sexual acts and focuses on how gay men's procreative consciousness

manifests itself outside the privacy of the bedroom. Even when sex and reproduction are

disconnected, a procreative consciousness emerges. The procreative and fathering stories that

surface in this study constitute a highly unique expression of the interrelationship between

bodies, self, and society.

Conceptual Lenses

Seeing as my study is based on Marsiglio's conceptual model for heterosexual men

discussed at length in Procreative Man (1998) and in Sex, Men, and Babies: Stories of

Awareness and Responsibility (2002), I employ many of the concepts and properties he either

employed or developed as a flexible analytical framework to better understand the experiences of

gay men as they navigate various facets of procreative and fathering worlds. Because the

experiences and social-psychological negotiations of gay men are quite different from

heterosexual men, I modify some of these concepts to better correspond with gay men's

subjectivities. Further, because Marsiglio's research is limited to social-psychological thoughts

about fathering, I supplement his framework with an analysis of how the gay fathers in my study

actually did fathering. I detail below some of the broad theoretical concepts that guided every









phase of my research process: procreative consciousness, fatherhood readiness, possible selves,

turning points, and doing fathering. Although I integrate various concepts into my analysis,

these five frame my project.

As further discussed in chapter 3, I use these conceptual tools as sensitizing concepts to

provide a general sense of reference and orientation without overly restricting new avenues for

theoretical discovery. Employing these concepts as guiding tools allowed me to refine and

expand analyses of how gay men traverse pathways to fatherhood and actively do fathering.

Procreative Consciousness

Consciousness, by definition refers to an individual's awareness of or attentiveness to his

or her experience at a given moment (Schutz, 1970). When consciousness is contextualized with

regards to procreation, it captures the multi-faceted emotions, thoughts, and experiences

associated with reproduction and fathering. According to Marsiglio, procreative consciousness

refers to "men's ideas, perceptions, feelings, and impressions of themselves as they pertain to

various aspects of procreation" (1998, p. 16). This concept describes some of the crucial

dimensions of men's procreative experiences.

Men's procreative consciousness has both an ephemeral and enduring quality, and as such,

Marsiglio distinguishes between men's situated and global procreative consciousness (Marsiglio,

1998; Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002). On some occasions, during involvement in a specific

activity, in a conversation, or as a result of various procreative triggers, men actively attend to

their procreative selves and potential abilities for a fleeting moment, an experience Marsiglio

refers to as situated procreative consciousness. Men are also likely to possess more permanent

and stable thoughts about themselves as persons capable of birthing and fathering human life, an

experience referred to as global procreative consciousness.









When this concept and its respective properties are situated in the current study with

respect to gay men, they illuminate the distinct processes by which participants' experienced

procreative fantasies. For example, some men I interviewed spoke about experiences caring for

or interacting with children as moments when they became aware of their fatherhood abilities

and desires whereas others spoke of a more enduring effect these experiences with children had

on their sense of a future fathering identity. Zack is a 34-year-old Chinese-American restaurant

manager who once a month during the school year participates in an after-school program for

neighborhood grade school children. During these few hours each month, he reflects on the

possibility of becoming a father. He explained that he relishes the opportunity to be a role model

for these children and that these precious, infrequent moments in his hectic schedule remind him

of what his distant future might entail. However, a short time later, Zack leaves this innocent

world of children and re-enters the crazed life of a high-end restaurant manager once again.

On the flip side of the coin, let's consider Frank's experiences with children. Frank is a

28-year-old graduate student who at one time was considering a career in childcare. Frank

worked at a daycare center when he was between the ages of 15 and 20 and again following his

college graduation. He recalled many of these experiences quite fondly and referred to them as

"preparation to be a good father." For Frank, these childcare experiences were more enduring

than were Zack's, in that they formed the basis of his prevailing perspective on becoming a

father. Yet, later in our conversation, Frank divulged that one specific incident within this

context of childcare actually activated his desire to be an eternally childless openly gay man.

Frank ceased to work in childcare following an incident where a young boy's mother accused

him of "touching him in an inappropriate manner." Despite Frank's assertion that nothing of the

sort ever occurred, this traumatic incident heightened his awareness of the public scrutiny and









surveillance surrounding gay men and young boys. Immediately following this confrontation,

Frank swore that he would never become a father and bring another human life into this world.

Frank's experience highlights how gay men's global procreative consciousness is "built upon

and shaped by their various situational experiences" (Marsiglio, 1998, p. 17).

Frank's experiences emphasize how gay men's procreative consciousness and thoughts

about fathering are distinct from that of their heterosexual counterparts. Gay men may not have

nearly as many instances that generate their procreative consciousness because they are not

engaging in sex that could produce a pregnancy. Yet, whereas heterosexual men's procreative

consciousness tends to be more short-lived and dispersed, the marginalized status of gay men

enables them (or rather, forces them) to be overly conscious of their views and feelings in

relation to the procreative and fathering realms. Because ideology subsumes the reality of lived

experience, lived experience is mediated through ideology. Hence, one's lived experiences are

only understood through the filter of ideology (Smith, 1990). Guided by ideologies that

stereotype gay men as pedophiles, overly promiscuous and irresponsible caregivers, gay men are

likely to interpret experiences with the multi-dimensional procreative realm by drawing upon a

complex set of politicized ideas and images that are distinct from the mosaic of beliefs that

structure heterosexual men's experiences.

Fatherhood Readiness

The fatherhood readiness concept captures features of how well prepared gay men believe

they are to assume responsibilities associated with being a father (Marsiglio & Hutchinson,

2002). When asked about their thoughts on fatherhood, many childless participants spoke of

future sacrifices, in terms of finances, time, and leisure. Many of the men had vivid visions

about their future experiences with fatherhood, what type of sacrifices they would need to make,

and the type of father that they would be. A common theme that emerged was that in order to be









an ideal father, one would need to sacrifice a large part of themselves, specifically with regards

to their career aspirations and leisure activities. Aiden, a White college aged man contemplating

fatherhood illustrates this perfectly when he said:

It's a lot of time and commitments that you have to be willing to put into this kid. You're
going to have to be sacrificing a lot. Some instances, maybe a little bit of your career. Even
just like little things that you might consider that you're missing out on, like, I might not be
able to travel as much, which is something that I do want to do, and even if I did travel, I
would have to make things okay for the kid. And I also have to look at the stress. You
know, just worrying, "Am I doing a good job?"

Similar to some of the men Marsiglio and Hutchinson spoke with, Aiden recognized that in order

to be an ideal father, he would eventually have to surrender various luxuries that he now takes

for granted.

As discussed in greater detail in chapter four, more is at stake than simply sacrificing

career, time, leisure, and the financial responsibility typically associated with fatherhood.

Furthermore, for many gay men who cannot simply accidentally become pregnant, fatherhood

readiness may begin to be experienced years before one actually decides to become a father.

Regardless of which fatherhood pathway is chosen, the substantial planning, navigating, and

structure that many gay men experience is tied to fatherhood readiness.

In chapter four I also attend to the degree to which and how gay men collaborate with a

partner or assess their state of readiness independently. Gay men vary in how certain they feel

they are to have a child at this point in their life, in general or with a particular partner.

Accordingly, men's perception of an ideal fathering situation is inextricably intertwined with

how they perceive the type of relationship they want, their relationship and experiences with

their own father, and their financial situation. For men mulling over fathering possibilities, they

must also consider their own personal characteristics, the availability and composition of their

social networks, and for gay men, their perceptions about their place in particular gay networks.









Possible Selves

Researchers who explore any prospective identity have drawn upon the discourse of

possible selves to capture the notion that individuals can project themselves into the future.

Possible selves represent the cognitive expression of long-lasting goals, aspirations, and fears.

This concept provides the connection between one's self and one's future motives (Strauss &

Goldberg, 1999). Consistent with the symbolic interactionist perspective the self is a dynamic

and multifaceted fusion of various social experiences in an individual's life. Accordingly, the

self has reflexive abilities, as individuals can and often do express themselves as both subject and

object. As individuals mentally construct images of their future, they juxtapose these against

their past and present self-images. Thus, as gay men think about themselves as future fathers,

they "mentally traverse their previous and projected life course to express their subjectivity and

assign meaning to their self' (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002, p. 12). In order to get at a richer

understanding of how gay men subjectively experience the procreative realm, we must attend to

how men work with a past, present, and future self.

Because my research draws on two distinct subsamples, the multiplicity of time

dimensions emerged as a critical construct. As discussed above, the concept of possible selves is

useful to grasp how the childless men conceived of their future. However, because talking about

their family usually paved the way for a chronological order of narrative events, the fathers I

spoke with frequently reflected upon their possible past selves. Events and experiences were

reconstructed in such a way in which the vantage point of the interview determined the telling

and as such, the present and future were shadowed backwards (Nelson, 2006). As men spoke

about transitions to fatherhood, they discursively reconstructed their past, present and future

selves. Spencer is a father who I interviewed who became a father through two different

scenarios--first, by co-parenting with a lesbian woman and second, by adopting a special needs









child almost a decade later. When I asked him how he pictured his future prior to having his

children, he expressed forlornly that "it was a sad thing to think about if I didn't have a

[romantic] partner who was younger than me, who would be sitting by my bed when I was

dying. It was a source of some sadness. I'm not sure if back then I said to myself all I need to

do is have children, it was just sort of a sadness."

The present realities of the men I spoke with were contingent upon choices involving self,

identity, and kinship (Nelson, 2006). My reliance on two subsamples of childless men and

fathers illuminates how gay male identities and father identities are discursively merged through

talk of time. As the childless men fantasized their future, they fused the possibility of fatherhood

within their possible self-concept. As the fathers told me their stories and touched on the

alternative future they could easily be living, their possible selves emerged as a present construct

of the future with a different past. Throughout this study, we will see past, present, and future

selves become entangled in a complex web of talk, as the men narrate their selves through time.

Turning Points

The turning point concept was useful for Marsiglio and Hutchinson (2002) and is of

similar use to my research because of the "dynamic aspect of men's careers in the procreative

realm" (25). A situation, experience, or incident may be regarded as a turning point if it prompts

an individual to experience a break in consciousness and motivate them to become something

different than they were before. As the turning point process unfolds, individuals become

exposed to their possible selves. Whereas some turning points may be discrete events that are

direct triggers to men's procreative consciousness, others may be more gradual transitions

typical of emerging adulthood.

In chapter 4, I discuss turning points at length. I attend to the ways that transitions take

many forms, referring to these as observational, institutional, cultural, interactional, and gradual









turning points. In the context of my discussion of turning points, I emphasize how gay men's

procreative thoughts are dynamic and how these transitions in consciousness emerge through

their gendered and sexual identities.

Doing Fathering

I draw upon the concept of doing fathering to show how the men in my study engage in

fathering actions, behaviors, and processes. This concept emerges from West and Zimmerman's

construct of doing gender (1987). The metaphor of doing gender was one of the first to

reconceptualize gender as not so much a set of traits residing with individuals, but as something

people do in their social interactions. "A person's gender is not simply an aspect of what one is,

but more fundamentally, it is something that one does, recurrently, in interaction with others"

(West and Zimmerman, 1987, p. 126).

By using this doing concept in my research, fathering and more broadly, family is viewed

as situated accomplishments of my participants, and when fathering and family are viewed as

such, the focus of analysis moves from matters internal to the individual to interactional and

eventually institutional arenas. Thus, one is not only a father but one does fathering. The

concept of accountability is of primary significance here because given that much of society still

defines family as a heterosexual two-parent nuclear structure, the families in my study came to

be held accountable for every action each member performed. Accountability is relevant to both

those actions that conform and deviate from prevailing normative conceptions about family. I

stress that while individuals are the ones who do fathering and family, the process of rendering

something accountable is both interactional and institutional.

In chapter 6, I draw extensively upon the framework of the doing fathering and family

perspective, highlighting how my participants who had children navigated playgrounds,

neighborhoods, schools, and their families of origin. I also attend to the various ways by which









men narrated concerns and experiences with gender, sexuality, fathering, and family. The

concept of accountability becomes critical as I move into a theoretical discussion of how

heterosexual domination influences how gay men do fathering and family.

Overview of Dissertation

I organize my project in accordance with the typical chronological processes involved in

how many of the gay men I spoke with became fathers. The chapters entitled, "fantasying

fathering," "becoming a father," and "doing fathering" describe the processual development of

what ultimately becomes the culmination of a gay father identity. Where I could have organized

my final product according to emergent themes, such as the awareness of barriers, sociohistorical

changes, changing social networks, and thoughts and negotiations about engendering of their

children, I opted to structure this project as if I were telling the reader a chronological story, with

a beginning, a middle, and an end. However, these themes appear in every phase of the

procreative and fathering process.

Chapter two offers readers an in-depth overview of the existing research on gay fathers.

The possibility of openly gay men choosing fatherhood is a result of various demographic,

historical, social, institutional, and cultural changes. As such, I discuss each of these separately

within my review of the literature. In chapter three I summarize methodological approaches and

strategies I used and I explore how my awareness of my heterosexual privilege unexpectedly

surfaced through the course of studying gay men's procreative consciousness and fathering

experiences.

Chapter four details men's fathering fantasies and explores how the dual experience of

being a gay man is reconciled with possible desires to father in the future. In this chapter, I

begin with narratives of three participants who came of age indifferent decades. By

deconstructing their stories I capture their procreative experiences and illustrate how major social









and historical changes shape how gay men conceive of themselves as fathers. I then explore the

various turning points that my participants experienced. Some of these turning points are

cognitive transitions in their desires to parent, while others are mental realizations that they are

able to parent. Within this discussion of fantasying fatherhood, I discuss how gay men's

procreative consciousness is intimately tied to their ideal fathering visions, their child visions,

their awareness of emerging reproductive opportunities and looming constraints, and their

fatherhood readiness. I also specify how gay men's procreative consciousness and decisions

about fatherhood are shaped within a socially constructed world that assumes heterosexuality,

privileges heterosexuality, and has irrational and homophobic beliefs about gay men in general

and gay men with children in particular.

In chapter five I discuss the process by which the fathers in my sample became parents.

Where almost all of the men I interviewed meticulously planned fatherhood, we will hear more

about one father, Andrew who became a father rather accidentally when his partner discovered a

newborn baby abandoned on a subway platform. We will learn about another man, Aaron ,whose

partner passed away at the tail end of their pregnancy and he is now parenting in very different

familial arrangement than he had imagined. Interestingly, some men I interviewed did not

identify as fathers, but had prolonged "fathering" experiences that left lasting impressions on

their selves as men capable of fathering human life. For the majority of fathers in my sample,the

journey to fatherhood was complete with twists and turns as they navigated their way through

attorneys, adoption agencies, surrogacy agencies, hospital staff, and various other institutions.

Here, I discuss in great detail how the identity of the birth parents, in particular, the birth mother

becomes intertwined with men's father and family identities. Finally, I expound on how some









men become fathers through multiple procreative pathways at different times in their lives, an

experience which had a distinct influence in shaping how they saw themselves as fathers.

Chapter six centers on doing fathering and family and the life changes these men

experienced when they entered into fatherhood. As gay fathers in a heterosexist society, these

men had to contend with their dual status as openly gay men who also happen to be fathers.

Some men spoke of how having children closets them, while others spoke of the closet as a

revolving door in that their paradoxical identity forced them to come out of the closet again and

again to strangers on the street, new social networks, and various persons involved in their

children's lives. As their social world changed from gay bars, opera clubs and urban gay ghettos

to suburban houses, playgroups, and PTA meetings, men spoke of the paradox of how their

identities simultaneously shifted but also very much stayed the same. Men spoke of both,

negative discrimination and positive feedback and reinforcement. For men, the specific family

form they were able to construct conditioned their psychological and physical negotiations. Men

who co-parented with lesbian women had very different daily negotiations than those men who

adopted. More obviously, single fathers had different experiences than coupled fathers.

Regardless of their family arrangement, all fathers had to negotiate issues associated with

socialization, negotiating gender and sexuality and some also had to navigate matters of race and

ethnicity. I conclude this chapter with a look into the debate of whether gay planned families

open the door to new familial possibilities or if they simply reconstruct traditional familial

norms.

The final chapter revisits the research questions that informed this study. The bulk of this

chapter proposes a theory of gay men's procreative, father, and family identities grounded in the

data. My original extension of the procreative identity framework with Mills' sociological









imagination (1959) and Smith's feminist sociology of knowledge (1987, 1990) helped to frame

an initial analysis of how gay men develop and negotiate their procreative, father, and family

discourses, identities, and experiences. However, in a more nuanced attempt to bridge social

structure and process, I borrow dimensions from a Foucaultian discipline and punish framework

(1975) to propose a novel lens to conceptualize queer parenting. I conclude by detailing the

limitations of my work, recommending ideas for future research and discussing the implications

of my study.









CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW

For many, the term gay father might set off two distinct alarms. The first is related to

ingrained heterosexism. The concepts of heterosexuality and parenthood are so inextricably

intertwined in society that the mere suggestion of gay fatherhood appears strange, abnormal, and

even impossible (Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989; Mallon, 2004; Strah, 2003). The second alarm is

related to sexism and the perpetual belief that parenting is women's natural domain. Even in

contemporary America, fathers are viewed as secondary, rather than primary parents (Mallon,

2004). Men as sole parental figures in rearing a young child are historically an unfamiliar

phenomenon. Although families headed by single men are increasing (U.S. Bureau of the

Census, 1998), traditional gender scripts still regard the female as the primary parental figure.

Accordingly, gay men who choose to parent, either as a couple or singly, must cope with the fact

that they will be challenging societal notions regarding the obvious absence of a woman as the

primary caregiver (Mallon, 2000). Under this assumption, many men, both gay and non-gay,

will struggle with questions concerning their ability to parent based solely on their exposure to

traditional gender scripts. Even more, the very existence of gay fathers and even gay men who

want to be fathers challenges traditional assumptions about gender, sexualities, and families.

Demographic Changes: Gay Men Choosing Fatherhood

Although the social construction of the homosexual-heterosexual binary is a fairly recent

phenomenon, it is likely that men who would now define themselves as gay have fathered

children since ancient times (Bozett, 1989). Various dimensions of gay fathers' experiences are

well-documented (Barret & Robinson, 2000; Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989; Bozett, 1985, 1987;

Lewin, 2004; Mallon, 2004; Miller, 1979; Stacey, 2006; Strah, 2003). Gay men can become

fathers in a variety of ways. The majority of gay men who are fathers probably experienced a









delayed coming-out process because of the negative stigmas associated with homosexuality put

forward by our heterosexist culture. This group of gay fathers once were in a heterosexual union,

became fathers with their female partners, and since then have divorced. This particular group of

fathers has received the bulk of academic attention. Consequently, most of the work examining

gay fathers centers on the experiences of gay men who parented through the course of

heterosexual marriages and other heteronormative relationships (Barret & Robinson, 2000;

Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989; Bozett, 1985, 1987; Miller, 1979).

However, today, it is openly gay, more so than closeted or married gay men who are

becoming fathers. Furthermore, since the mid-1980's, gay men have fathered children through a

myriad of "non-traditional" ways (Lemon, 2004). Some gay men have fathered with a surrogate

mother (Lev, 2006; Strah, 2003), others conceived and raised children jointly with a woman or

women with whom they were emotionally but not sexually involved. Another group became

fathers through foster parenting, adoption, and the development of kinship ties (Mallon, 2004;

Savage, 1999; Strah, 2003).

Although accurate statistics on most aspects of homosexuality are impossible to obtain,

rough estimates of the number of gay fathers can be made. The Kinsey studies based on a non-

random sample (Kinsey, Pommeroy, & Martin, 1948) suggested that 10% of men in the United

States were homosexual, and this figure was considered the reference point for years. However,

recent research with more representative samples estimates that approximately five percent of

men in the U.S. are gay (Gagnon, Laumann, Michael, & Michaels, 1994). Furthermore, it is

estimated that 20 to 25% of self-identified gay men are fathers (Bigner, 1999; Bozett, 1989;

Miller, 1979). According to Mallon (2004) the United States is home to between one to two









million gay fathers. However, because many gay men remain closeted, the actual number of gay

fathers is most likely higher than these numbers suggest (Mallon, 2004).

In one national survey of gay male couples, one-third of respondents younger than the age

of 35 were either planning to have children or considering the idea of doing so (Bryant &

Demian, 1994). Another smaller-scale study conducted among gay men in New York found that

a majority of gay men who were not fathers would like to raise a child, and those who said they

wanted children were younger than those who did not (Sbordone, 1993). Furthermore, research

shows that since the early to mid-1980s the number of gay men forming their own families

through adoption, foster parenting, and kinship relationships has risen dramatically (Barret &

Robinson, 2000; Mallon, 2004; Patterson, 1995; Stacey, 2006; Strah, 2003). A very recent

analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth found that roughly 52% of gay-identified men

between the ages of 15 and 44 want to have a child (or another child) (Jeffries,

2006, Unpublished paper. Sociology Department. University of Florida). Thus, the social

phenomenon of men who openly identify as gay, who lead publicly gay lives, and then decide to

create a family, is an emerging trend that warrants attention.

Historical Changes: Beyond the Closet

In order to understand completely how the social phenomenon of openly gay men choosing

fatherhood has emerged, I briefly describe the historical changes that have shaped what it means

to be a gay man in contemporary America. These historical transformations are part of a larger

and multifaceted GLBT movement including revolutions in identity politics of gay men,

lesbians, transgender persons, and even heterosexuals. Although the historical comparisons of

these socially constructed groups are beyond the scope of this study, I acknowledge that the

history of gay men's identity politics has not occurred in isolation from these other categories.









Historical analyses of gay identity politics detail how the notion of the "closet" took shape

in response to a culture that tainted homosexuality and regulated behavior by stigmatizing gender

and sexual nonconformity as a sign of homosexuality. Through the repressive practices of the

state, the homosexual was ostracized from public life and by the 1950s; the closet had become

the defining reality for many young gay Americans as a strategy of accommodating to

heterosexual domination (Seidman, 2004). The historic and now monumental Stonewall victory

in 1969 when gay bar patrons successfully rebelled against the violent practices of the police

birthed a novel time for gay men. Homosexuality emerged not as a pathological desire or

impulse, but instead, as a core signifier of an "out" and proud identity. Consequently, the general

gay men's agenda post-Stonewall saw the rise of national movement that championed this core

gay identity.

Currently, however, as a result of myriad contemporary social and cultural changes, there

has been a cultural transformation in the place of gays in America. As gay and lesbian political

agendas move beyond the post-Stonewall expectations of tolerance, a push for acceptance is

emerging and such acceptance includes the acceptance of families. A social dialogue that

focuses on coming out of the closet, advocating a core gay identity and gay pride, and the

migration to gay urban enclaves are less explanatory of gay life today than they were years ago

(Seidman, 2004). According to Seidman, the gay generation after 1980 is the first to come of

age in a social setting more friendly than the previous one, in that these gay men's parents were

baby boomers, a generation who are typically viewed as somewhat liberal, tolerant, and to a

lesser extent, accepting of gay rights (2004). As such, there is a drastic social change in the

political agenda of gay men, wherein the stereotype of gays as anti-family is being challenged.

Increasingly, gay men expect to be recognized as members of families, and today, many gay men









not are unwilling to surrender strong family ties as the price for living a satisfying and open gay

life.

As a result, the family has become a metaphorical war zone in the conflict over the

meaning and place of gays in America, and a battle is being waged over the meaning of family.

For a very long time, American culture has assumed that gays are not supposed to be in or have

families. However, as gays demand recognition of their own families, the war over the family

becomes an institutional, interpersonal, and intrapsychic struggle whereby "this deeply intimate

personal sphere has become a highly charged political battleground" (Seidman, 2004, p.97).

Institutional Dimensions: Emerging Opportunities

The trend of openly gay men beginning to achieve fatherhood speaks to larger

developments in postmodern transformations of kinship in that we are currently witnessing a

reconfiguration of what we have always termed "the family" (Stacey, 1996). As we begin the

new millennium we can clearly see how families are in a constant state of flux, with individuals

constructing and creating novel types of kinship arrangements other than the dominant traditional

nuclear family popularized in the 1950's (Coontz, 2000). Many discussions of family

transformations have placed gay and lesbian parents on the frontier, deeming them postmodern

family pioneers (Stacey 2006). Yet, despite the pioneering status gay and lesbian families have

been ascribed, many resist identifying as such, longing to normalize their familial constructions

as much as possible (Clarke, 2002a). Even more, gay and lesbian families are simply a small

part of a broader process of social and cultural changes that include varying forms of emerging

family constellations (Nelson, 2006).

Particular forms of gay fathers were literally inconceivable before recent groundbreaking

developments in reproductive technology and changing legalities in the adoption system (Stacey,

1996). Although the field of foster care and adoption remains one in which homophobic









discourses and practices frequently surface (Hicks, 2006a; 2006b), 39 percent of all adoption

agencies in the United States reported placing a child with gay or lesbian adopters in 1999-2000

(Brodzinsky, et al., 2003). Even more, Growing Generations, an agency that specializes in

surrogacy arrangements explicitly for gay men was founded in 1996 and has since worked with

approximately 500 families, birthing 230 babies (Lev, 2006). The gradually increasing legal

tolerance of gay planned families coupled with GLBT family rights campaigns has piloted the

emergence of novel familial pathways that at one time were virtually nonexistent.

The narratives of the younger childless men in my sample illustrate how as novel

opportunities surface for gay men to construct families and father children, fatherhood and

childlessness become voluntary constructs rather than compulsory ways of life. Gay men's lens

into the future has shifted from an imagined life of childlessness to a life with new potentialities

that include many familial possibilities, some of which involve becoming a parent and some of

which do not. Clearly, as more men come out of the closet, they create more choice about how

to be a gay man (Seidman, 2004).

As gay men across America broaden their psyches to the idea of fatherhood outside

heterosexual intercourse, they challenge proscriptions that have traditionally banned them from

parenting (Dunne, 1999). Over the past two decades, some gay men have "turned the adoption

world on its head" while others are taking charge of their own physiological capabilities and

employing the assistance of surrogate mothers in unprecedented numbers (Lev, 2006, p. 73). By

using these emerging opportunities and creating planned families, gay men challenge normative

definitions of family, fatherhood, and even established gender and sexual norms of the

mainstream gay subculture. Stereotypical constructions of gay men as being sexually









promiscuous, anti-family, and having few financial obligations are gradually being contested as

they increasingly traverse the paths to fatherhood (Stacey, 2006).

Cultural Dimensions: Stereotypes of Gay Men

For many, the very idea of a gay man as the primary nurturing figure rearing children is

still implausible. Many laypersons, professionals, and practitioners cling to a belief system

grounded in negative myths and stereotypes about gay men (Mallon, 2004). Many of these

myths and stereotypes emerged because of the dearth of scientific studies on gay fathers. These

myths have persisted largely unchallenged because few gay fathers have a significant political

voice and emergent research is politicized (Barret & Robinson, 2000; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001).

In the past three decades, researchers have begun to realize the critical role fathers play in

their children's development. Furthermore, the advent of second wave feminism, changing

gender norms, and the greater acceptance of homosexuality among professional and scientific

organizations has prompted a new conversation. The age of gay parenthood has surfaced from

the closet and phrases like "gayby boom" are becoming more commonplace (Barret & Robinson,

2000). Researchers are debunking common myths and stereotypes about gay fathers shedding

light on the irrationality of these misconceptions. I discuss each myth to show clearly through

scientific evidence how each is unjustified and irrational.

The child will become gay as a result of having a gay parental role model. A

prevailing belief about gay fathers is that interactions between these men and their children will

lead to transmission of homosexuality. In other words, children of gay fathers will turn out to be

gay themselves (Barret & Robinson, 2000). However, the vast majority of children of gay men

and lesbian women actually turn out to be heterosexual (Cramer, 1986). Miller's (1979)

groundbreaking study of gay fathers assessed the sexual orientation of 37 daughters and 21 sons,

ranging in age from 14 33 of 40 gay fathers aged 24 64 from metropolitan locations across the









United States and Canada, and found that only eight percent of the children were gay (one of the

sons and three of the daughters). Although Miller's study can be challenged for not employing a

random sample, the fact that he uncovered very few instances of second generation

homosexuality is still a significant conclusion. Another study of 702 parents of gay men and

women indicated that 90% of the parents were heterosexual, 4% were bisexual, and only 6%

identified as completely homosexual (Robinson, Walters, & Skeen, 1989). Another study

showed that only approximately 10% of children of gay and lesbian parents develop homosexual

identities (Bailey, Bobrow, Wolfe, & Mikach, 1995). Each of the above statistics is only slightly

above the prevailing estimates that roughly 2 5% percent of men in the U.S. are gay, regardless

of parental sexual orientation (Gagnon, Laumann, Michael, & Michaels, 1994).

The above studies indicate that the homophobic myth that children will be gay simply

because they have gay fathers is unsubstantiated. However, recently, Stacey and Biblarz (2001)

have dissected much of this prior research on children raised by gay and lesbian parents and have

pointed out that while these children do not become gay per se, they are more likely to engage in

same-gender experimentation. Rather than searching for sameness or difference in these

children, the larger question should focus on why homosexuality has become so devalued in

contemporary American society.

Gay men are more likely than heterosexual men to molest children. The stereotype of

gay men as child molesters remains so ingrained into the psyche of the majority of the population

(including social service professionals) that the idea of gay men as parents seems dangerous

(Mallon, 2004). This myth stems from the idea that men in general, and gay men in particular,

are sexual predators unable to control themselves sexually (Mallon, 2004). However, Miller's

research (1979) uncovered that gay fathers seldom exploit their children. Moreover, according to









police statistics, 90% of sexual abuse of children is committed by a man who identifies as

heterosexual (Voeller & Walters, 1978). Similarly, of the cases studied involving molestation of

a boy by a man, 74% of the molesters were or had been involved in a heterosexual relationship

with the boy's mother or another female relative of the child (Jenny, Roesler, & Poyer, 1994).

Hence, all the legitimate scientific evidence supports the assertion that there is no connection

between homosexuality and molestation.

Gay men do not have stable relationships and thus would not know how to be good

parents. Gay men are viewed as having fleeting and superficial relationships and are regarded

as completely incapable of having a lasting and committed relationship (Barret & Robinson,

2000). There is a widespread belief that gay men cannot sustain relationships with men, and

thus, must not be able to commit to the idea of fatherhood. If one were to buy into this myth,

then it is understandable how a gay man's commitment to his children would seem unusual. But,

similar to many adults in this country, the majority of gay men are in fact involved in committed

relationships (Mallon, 2004). All the empirical evidence debunks this myth and highlights the

notion that gay men can and do make good parents. In 1995, the American Psychological

Association reported that not a single study had found that children of gay and lesbian parents

were disadvantaged in any way that differs from those children raised by heterosexual

individuals. This same report concluded that, "home environments provided by gay parents are

as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children's psychosocial

growth." Furthermore, the Child Welfare League of America and the North American Council

on Adoptable Children assert that gays and lesbians seeking to adopt should be evaluated the

same way as any other adoptive applicant, regardless of their sexuality (Mallon, 2004).









Children need a mother and a father to have proper male and female role models.

Many people, especially those who draw from religious passages condemning homosexuality,

assert that a child will not develop their gender identity fully if they are without a mother and a

father as role models (Clarke, 2002; Clarke & Kitzinger, 2005). Similarly, functionalist views of

the family maintain that a primary function of the family is to socialize children. Although

sociology has abandoned much of its functionalist underpinnings, we still cling to the belief that

a principle function of families is to socialize children. Moreover, proscriptions of family

socialization include the importance of socializing children to act in accordance with normative

gendered standards of behavior. Through the assistance of gendered toys, books, clothing, and

communication patterns, parents are expected to teach children to behave in ways that are

synonymous with being a proper male or female. One of the major reasons why gay and lesbian

families are viewed as such a threat to the normative family is their perceived lack of ability to

properly socialize children with appropriate gender norms. Yet, academics and laypersons alike

might want to first ask, what is so good about the way girls and boys are currently being

socialized in heterosexual nuclear families?

A critical feminist exploration into gay and lesbian families reveals that children raised in

these families are being taught not to conform to such gender ideals that have traditionally

inscribed boys and girls with the separate and unequal standards that have fostered gender

inequality. Stacey and Biblarz's (2001) review of gay and lesbian headed families exposes a

myriad of intriguing findings that tell us a great deal about gender socialization. Lesbian

mothers reported that their children did not behave in ways that conformed to sex typed cultural

norms. For example, 53% of daughters raised by lesbian mothers aspired to such careers as

doctors, astronauts, lawyers and engineers as compared with only 21% of the daughters raised by









heterosexual mothers (Green, et al 1986 as cited in Stacey and Biblarz, 2001). Similarly, sons

raised by lesbian mothers reported lower levels of aggressive behavior and preferred to play with

more gender-neutral toys than those sons raised by heterosexual single mothers (Green et al 1986

as cited in Stacey and Biblarz, 2001). However, Patterson's review of the literature in gay and

lesbian families reveals that gay fathers were more likely to report encouraging their children to

play with gender-typed toys than were lesbian mothers (Harris and Turner 1985/1986 as cited in

Patterson, 2000). Yet, Patterson's report does not divulge anything about how these practices

compare with heterosexual couples. Interestingly, Dan Savage, satirical columnist and gay

father explains that he has a desire for his son to show interest in the masculine-typed toys that

he himself never enjoyed (Johnson and Connor, 2002). Thus, although the evidence is unclear, it

is safe to assert that gender and sexuality interact in unique ways to produce distinct child

socialization practices.

The above myths, stereotypes, and images are a result of an institutionalized heterosexual

dominance that affects the work of child welfare professionals. Even worse, gay men have

internalized these irrational myths to the extent that many incorporate these into their own self-

concept. In turn, many young gay men are apprehensive of becoming fathers even if given the

opportunity because they are overly concerned with how outsiders would perceive them. Even

though all empirical evidence highlights the notion that one's sexual orientation does not

determine one's ability to love and care for a child, such unsubstantiated myths persist, affecting

laypersons, social service professionals, and even gay men themselves.

Clearly, we are moving "beyond the closet" (Seidman, 2004). Nevertheless, as the notion

of the "closet" becomes less salient, this does not necessarily denote that heterosexual

domination is a remnant of the past. Whether it is the 1970s, 80s, 90s, or today, gay men are still









growing up in a world organized by heterosexuality. Although many individuals today can

choose to live beyond the closet, they must still reside in a world where most institutions

maintain heterosexual domination. The very notion that some gay men have apprehensions about

becoming and being fathers because of public scrutiny illuminates how heterosexual dominance

is deeply rooted in the institutions and culture of American society and must be understood as

not simply a product of laws or individual prejudice, but institutionalized pervasive dominance

(Seidman, 2004).

Interpersonal Dimensions

According to Robinson and Barret (1986), the reasons gay men choose to be parents are

every bit as diverse as those given by heterosexual men. Similarly, Bigner & Jacobsen (1989)

affirm that there is little difference between gay fathers and non-gay fathers in their desire for

children. They both cite the desire for nurturing children, the constancy of children in their lives,

the achievement of some sense of immortality via children, and the sense of family that children

help to provide.

Gerald Mallon explored the fathering trajectories of 20 openly gay men who have adopted

children in New York and the surrounding areas. Mallon (2000; 2004) posits that the desire to

parent is unrelated to sexual orientation and asserts that gay men and lesbians become adoptive

parents for some of the same reasons that non-gay persons adopt children. However, unlike their

heterosexual counterparts who couple, become pregnant, and give birth, gay and lesbian couples

who wish to parent must carefully consider a variety of other variables when contemplating

parenthood (Dunne, 2000). Such considerations include the couple's decision on how they

should go about creating a family; whether it should be through adoption, foster parenting or

through Asisted Reproductive Technology (ART). Similarly, the couple must decide whether to









be honest about their sexual orientation and disclose this potentially damaging information to the

respective agency (Barret & Robinson, 2000; Mallon, 2000, 2004; Strah, 2003).

For many gay men, coming out as gay is synonymous with the automatic assumption that

fatherhood is not an option. In fact, many men view being gay as equivalent to being childless.

Don, an openly gay man and father in Mallon's study elaborates that "the coming-out process for

me was not so much about people knowing I was gay as it was more about losing the idea of

having children" (Mallon, 2004). Similarly, gay father, Dan Savage elaborates on this when he

explains, "when I came out in 1980, it didn't occur to me that one day I would adopt a child. I

assumed, incorrectly that it was illegal for gay men to adopt children. After all, gay men didn't

have families, we were a threat to families" (Savage, 1999, p. 22).

How do gay men move from one extreme, regarding themselves as forever childless to

another extreme, eventually fathering children? Mallon (2004) offers insight into several turning

points that gay men experienced. Many men noted their fatherhood realizations were influenced

by meeting lesbian mothers, meeting another gay man who chose to be a father, taking care of a

friend's child, the death of a partner (usually due to AIDS), and being exposed to adoption

organizations.

Furthermore, many studies and personal memoirs underscore the significance of

institutionalized service agencies, organizations, and child welfare agencies in breaking through

organizational biases to promote gay adoption and heighten gay men's awareness of fatherhood

opportunities and possibilities (Green, 1999; Mallon, 2000; 2004; Savage, 1999; Strah, 2003).

Mallon (2000) illuminates these processes with a narrative describing a gay couple's journey

toward foster care and adoption:

We always wanted to be parents but we just assumed that because we were gay that we
would be discriminated against and not be permitted to be parents. At a gay pride event









about two years ago we saw information from GLASS (Gay and Lesbian Adolescent
Social Services in Los Angeles). The social worker at the table told us about the foster
parenting process and we could not believe that it might be possible for us. We went home
and talked about the idea about becoming foster parents...we did all of our paper work,
had our home study completed... and waited for a child to be placed with us... The day the
adoption was finalized was the greatest day of our lives. If it weren't for GLASS, we
never would have been able to have our dream.

This narrative is important because it highlights the significance of social service agencies,

organizations, and child welfare agencies in promoting gay adoption while simultaneously

heightening gay men's social psychological awareness of these possibilities. Thus, a thorough

analysis of gay men's procreative consciousness and reproductive decision-making requires

attention be given to understanding how the increased awareness of fathering opportunities, such

as those discussed above, may transform gay men's awareness. Moreover, although this

narrative does not go into detail, it underscores how gay men experience specific thought

processes when deciding whether or not to father. Such dialogue as "we always wanted to be

parents...we went home and talked about the idea" demonstrates how gay men embark on

distinct negotiations when contemplating parenting (Mallon, 2000).

Intrapsychic Dimensions: Social-Psychological Processes

Gay fathers have a unique and more multifaceted social psychological environment than

both their heterosexual counterparts and other gay non-fathers in relation to identity concerns,

acceptance of self, and acceptance by other homosexuals (Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989).

Researchers have expressed the idea that the man who is both gay and a father is the victim of a

divided personal identity (Bozett, 1981, 1985). Gay fathers are regarded as marginal to the

cultural worlds of both heterosexuals and gays alike, because each identity is to some extent

viewed as unacceptable to the other way of life. In one of the earliest memoirs on gay men

choosing fatherhood, Jesse Green recollects a gay party in The Hamptons and the negative

reaction he received when he showed up with his young son, "some [gay partygoers] turned their









backs to block out the interference; others looked over with sour expressions that suggested we

were about as welcome as a chaperone at a prom" (Green, 1993, p.158).

The gay subculture is one that has traditionally been regarded as singles oriented, and gay

men are seen as having few long-term commitments to partners and few financial obligations.

Similarly, the gay subculture has been stereotyped as emphasizing personal freedom and

autonomy (Bozett, 1981, Mallon, 2004). In contrast, the gay father is someone with "emotional

and financial responsibilities to others, time restrictions, different living arrangements,

obligations to others who are dependent on him, and so on" (Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989, p. 164).

Consequently, research has noted that it is not uncommon for gay fathers to experience rejection

and discrimination from their gay peers who are not fathers because of these restrictions to

freedom (Bozett, 1981; Mallon 2004).

Although the gay subculture is changing and becoming more accepting of children, these

changes are gradual strides at best. Gay and lesbian parenting support programs are emerging in

metropolitan cities, most notably, Center Kids in New York City and Pop Luck in Los Angeles.

The 2000 census dispelled the notion that gay men only live in well-known urban centers on both

coasts (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco) and revealed that many gay men reside in rural

areas, suburban neighborhoods, and small towns (Strah, 2003). Consequently, many gay men do

not have access to the recourses and support that the above organizations provide.

In Mallon's (2004) research many participants reported having to reframe their role in the

gay community. For these men, the experience of coming out as fathers meant dealing with the

judgment that they were trying to be too much like straights; that they were selling out to the

straight way of life. Thus, the experience of fatherhood was characterized by a loss of friends

and diminished standing in the gay community (Mallon, 2004). Because gay fathers hold two









social statuses that are to some degree inconsistent with one another, (Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989;

Mallon, 2004) it is reasonable to assume that a gay man's decision-making processes for

becoming a father are quite different from his heterosexual counterparts.

Within a socially constructed world privileging heterosexual parenting, my research

considers how gay men negotiate their dual experience of being gay and having desires to

become a father and ultimately become fathers. Because of the combination of sexism, stigmas

associated with being gay, myths regarding gay fathers, and the conflicting identities of being a

gay father, gay men's parenting motivations and fathering experiences are quite different from

that of their heterosexual counterparts and therefore require further investigation. Further, the

qualitative approach I propose is uniquely designed to answer the considerations and research

questions that warrant attention. Moreover, this approach generates theoretical and practical

insights about the social psychological processes by which gay men experience the procreative

arena and fatherhood.









CHAPTER 3
RESEARCH METHOD

As I theorize about the men in this study, I aim to advance knowledge of how gay men

construct, express, and negotiate their identities as future and/or active fathers. Consequently,

my goal is not to estimate how many gay men are fathers or want to be fathers. Such questions

are best left for studies based on large, statistically representative samples. Whereas this study is

limited in its ability to generalize results with confidence to all gay men, it is ground breaking

because it explores gay men's inner worlds with respect to reproduction and fatherhood

consciousness. Hence, a qualitative methodological approach is most appropriate to study the

processes by which gay men become aware and express their procreative consciousness, as

qualitative methods are sensitive to the distinctive quality of different life experiences, the

contextual nature of knowledge, the production of meaning, and the interactive character of

human action.

Aside from the concepts borrowed from Sex, Men, andBabies that are discussed in chapter

one, the knowledge from this study emerged through interplay between myself and my

participants throughout every phase of the research process. Since the methodological strategy

was intensive interviews, information emerged through conversation and dialogue. Consistent

with a grounded theory approach, I treated my project as a loosely structured and evolving

process whereby theoretical ideas were generated from the conversations I had with my

participants. My ideas were shaped and reshaped throughout the course of the research through a

process of "gradual induction" and "gradual deduction" and interview questions were altered as

novel ideas surfaced.









Sample and Recruitment

My analysis draws on audiotaped, in-depth interviews with a sample of 19 childless gay

men and 22 gay fathers who have created families through nonheterosexual means. I use a

purposeful sampling strategy to ensure the selection of information-rich cases for detailed

examination. Information-rich cases are those from which the researcher can learn a significant

amount with regards to issues of central importance, depending on the purpose of the researcher

(Patton, 1990). The purposeful inclusion of both fathers and childless men of varying ages

should not be viewed as a strategy to compare these two groups of men. Rather it is a

methodological tactic I employ to better understand how emerging social structural

opportunities, shifting constraints, and historical developments shape the process of gay men's

reproductive decision-making and fathering experiences throughout their life course.

I recruited through a variety of methods in diverse locales from July 2004 May 2006.

Recruitment for the gay childless men began with acquaintances and colleagues of mine who

defined themselves as openly gay men and who were childless at the time of the interview. To

limit the subsample's homogeneity, participants were recruited in two very different cities,

Gainesville and Miami, Florida. Gainesville is a college town populated with students and

academics. Miami is metropolitan city deemed by many as gay-friendly. After speaking with

these friends and colleagues, I then posted flyers (see appendix D) in areas frequented by

members of the gay community such as gay community centers, shopping malls, eating and

drinking establishments, hair salons, and PRIDE unions. The flyers for the recruitment of

childless gay men were a broad call for participants who might be interested in discussing their

thoughts about fatherhood, without screening them for whether they intended to have children.

The flyer outlined criteria for involvement as well as my contact information. Upon this initial

contact, the potential participant was informed of the nature of the study and given a brief









screening interview to ensure that the specific participant met the outlined criteria. Following

the screening process, the potential participant was asked if he was still interested in partaking in

the study. If the potential participant agreed, I collected contact information and scheduled an

interview for a later date. As I ended each interview, I inquired if the participant had any friends

or acquaintances that fit the criteria and might be willing to participate in my research. This

recruitment strategy of posting flyers and snowball sampling was a highly useful tactic for

recruiting fifteen childless gay men in Florida; four others were recruited in New York and New

Jersey.

Recruitment for the gay fathers took a separate route and occurred both in Miami and out

of the state of Florida. Because the goal of this study was to develop a deeper understanding of

openly gay men's procreative consciousness, I only recruited gay fathers who became parents

through non-heteronormative means. Since Florida is a state where gay adoption is illegal, it was

difficult for me to contact men who have fathered through this process. I did speak with a gay

man in Miami Beach who recently adopted two children (by adhering to the 'Don't ask, Don't

tell' policy). He was gracious enough to spread the word about my project to other gay fathers in

the Miami area and I was able to interview three men who had fathered through nonheterosexual

channels, one using the assistance of a surrogate mother and two (including the previously

mentioned man) using domestic adoption.

Recruitment for the majority of the gay fathers took place in New York City and its

surrounding areas from June August 2004. After researching major urban areas that were gay-

family friendly, New York City was the most obvious choice, primarily for financial and

networking reasons. My financial motives were simply that I have a wide range of friends who

live in Manhattan who offered me a place to stay in exchange for a relatively small financial









contribution. Prior to going to New York for the summer, I spent many months ensuring

valuable contacts for this project. My first contact was with Terry Boggis, founder of Center

Kids. Founded in 1989, Center Kids gives children ongoing opportunities to befriend others

from similar families, while their parents have a chance to meet, socialize and build their own

support network. Center Kids, which advocates at state and local levels for the rights of

alternative families, has become a national and regional model for GLBT family organizing.

Currently, more than 2,500 families in the tri-state area utilize Center Kids programs. Before

going to New York City, Terry Boggis gave me permission to post flyers in the center and

recommended that I volunteer at the GLBT center, the building that houses Center Kids. Another

significant contact that I made was with Gerald P. Mallon, the author of Gay Men Choosing

Parenthood. When I arrived in New York, I met Dr. Mallon and he was kind enough to

introduce me to three gay fathers who I ultimately was able to interview.

Similarly, I have a cousin who is an active member of the gay community in New York

City and she has many gay male friends and acquaintances that are recent fathers. My cousin is

a member of a gay and lesbian religious organization in New York City, Congregation Beth

Simchat Torah (CBST). CBST is New York City's synagogue for the New York metropolitan

area's 200,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews. Founded in 1973, CBST has

become the largest gay synagogue in the world and arguably one of the most influential. Prior to

leaving for New York, I corresponded with Rabbis Kleinbaum and Cohen who agreed to allow

me to attend their services and recruit members of their organization. In exchange for their

kindness, I agreed to volunteer my services to the synagogue.

Life in New York City: Reflections on heterosexual privilege. Prior to leaving for New

York, I anticipated that recruitment of the gay fathers would begin with the above contacts and









snowball from there. However, things do not always go as planned, and my three months in

New York City were no exception.

I arrived in New York June 10, 2004. Less than one week later, Pride week began. My

trip began with a slew of meetings. After meeting Gerald Mallon and the three participants he

recruited for me, I was confident enough to brave the NY subway system and venture out into

the gay ghettos of New York City, the areas of Chelsea and the West Village. I spent my first

three days in the city putting flyers in every gay identified area imaginable. I had researched the

area thoroughly, and placed flyers in every religious organization, activity center, gym, and

bookstore. Next, I went to CBST for a Shabbat service and after years of never attending

synagogue for a weekly Shabbat service since I was thirteen, I found myself reciting vaguely

familiar prayers with family members I hardly knew and a community of gay and lesbian men I

had never met. I then tried to meet with Terry Boggis, the woman who founded Center Kids, to

find that she was completely booked until the beginning of July. Yet, I took her advice and

registered for a training session to volunteer at the GLBT Center in the West Village, the place

that most gay New Yorker's refer to as the Mecca of gay life in NY.

I clearly recall walking into the massive school-like building inquiring as to where the

orientation met. After receiving directions to walk up the stairs to the right, I entered a room

with five other people. I sat, reading the literature I had gathered on my way up the staircase.

Within five minutes, a short, skinny man walked in the room and introduced himself as the

volunteer coordinator. After a short spiel of how wonderful the center is and what amazing

contributions we could make by volunteering, he asked the five of us to introduce ourselves. I

went third and plainly explained that I was from Florida and was a student working on my

dissertation on gay fatherhood. He replied, "Well, it is always nice to have an ally with us." I









smiled and wondered, "What, how does he know I am not gay? Nobody else said, hi, I am

gay... I never said I was straight, but nobody else did either." So began the first of what would

eventually become hours upon hours of odd discomfort with my sexuality that is discussed more

fully below. I left the meeting with the short skinny man taking my number and telling me that

he would get back to me when something came up. This was not the plan. I was under the

impression that I could immediately infiltrate this organization and find participants for my

study. I was disappointed in myself for my naive optimism and decided that I would flyer the

entire building top to bottom with the multi-colored papers I had printed out asking for

participants for my study that listed the goals of my project, outlined the criteria for involvement

(gay men who had become fathers through nonheterosexual means) and listed my contact

information. With my confidence not yet completely shattered, I spent the remainder of the

afternoon braving the scorching heat, walking up and down the streets of the West Village

posting flyers wherever I could find an empty space.

The next night, my aunt's partner invited me to go with her to the Garden Party, the

kickoff event for PRIDE week. Before I begin explaining the events of the evening, let me first

divulge that I hardly knew my aunt and had literally just met her partner a week before at

synagogue the previous Friday evening. So here we were, me and this fifty-something year old

woman I had met once walking toward the Hudson River about to embark on my first Pride

festivity. Naturally, I was excited, anxious, and extremely nervous. We entered the pier onto a

scene I will never quite forget. It was like a child stepping into Disney World for her first time.

There was music, dancing, food, and thousands and thousands of people. There were booths that

lined the entire pier giving out pamphlets, rainbow key chains, bracelets, wristbands, and

stickers. The two of us walked up and down the pier grabbing all the free goodies we could. I









decorated myself in my gay Pride gear and felt like I appeared to be fitting in with the crowd. I

decided not to flyer at all that evening, and instead began to form a connection (albeit a

superficial one) with the massive GLBT community in New York City and even with my aunt' s

partner. After a few hours, the two of us exited the pier and spoke about the evening. That night,

we spoke about homophobia, heterosexism, feminism, and she told me how wonderful it was

that a heterosexual woman wanted to understand the reproductive decision making of gay men. I

felt great. We had bonded, I experienced my first Pride festivity, and I was finally feeling

comfortable in the concrete jungle of Manhattan. We jumped on a cross-town bus and parted

ways on 14th and 6th so I could grab the subway to my new residence in the East Village. As I

got off the bus, she hollered to me in a matter-of-fact tone, "Make sure you take off those

stickers and bracelets or people are going to think you are gay."

As I headed down the filthy steps toward the subway, I thought about what this out and

proud, 50-year-old feminist lesbian had just said to me: "people are going to think you are gay."

On that pier I was the other, the outsider, the heterosexual. As soon as we left the safety of that

pier, she became the other, the outsider, the lesbian. It was then that I really began to

consciously reflect on my privileged heterosexual status in a way that I was never able to

previously. I thought about how uncomfortable in my own skin I was on that pier, knowing that

I didn't quite fit in there and then, I wondered, beyond the haven of that pier, is this how she felt?

Although my privileged consciousness had been temporarily activated for that ten-minute

subway ride, it was a short-lived epiphany. Yet, it would be only three more days before the

discomfort of my privilege took hold once again.

That Sunday was the parade for PRIDE parade. Nobody I knew of was marching, let alone

even going to the parade, so I jumped on the train at around 10:30 in the morning to venture









uptown and exited on 42nd and Broadway. I walked up the dark stairs into the one of the most

incredible sights I had ever witnessed. The streets were filled with people lining up to march.

Once again, the consciousness of my heterosexuality, that feeling that I didn't quite belong

started to overwhelm my body. I decided to stand up straight, swallow my discomfort and

simply follow the parade. I walked along the sidelines, handing out flyers and talking to any

man I saw with a child. Within only fifteen minutes of my walk, I saw a man with a baby on his

shoulders. I bravely approached him, introduced myself, and explained to him the nature of my

study. After I completed my spiel, he smiled and calmly replied, "That is great, but I am not gay.

I am here to support my brother." I was flushed with embarrassment, apologize, and handed him

a flyer just in case he knew anyone. Oh crap, I thought. Just when I finally worked up the nerve

to approach someone and he's straight! Extremely embarrassed, but not yet utterly disheartened,

I spent the remainder of the afternoon trekking through the crowds of the parade talking to

anyone who would strike up a conversation with me, handing out flyers, braving the 97 degree

heat, and mostly, just people-watching. I was constantly aware of this strange sense of

uneasiness, of knowing that I was an imposter who was only there for my own personal

academic gain. Every time I would begin to get swept up in the cheering and the chanting, I was

reminded that I am not gay, I am not one of them, and I am the other. Where I am an ally of the

GLBT community, I was forced to admit that had it not been for my research-driven intentions, I

would not be walking over fifty blocks to actively support a cause that I could easily dismiss.

There it was again, that biting cue that I was different, that I was an outsider.

By 5:30, I had given out over 30 flyers, was dripping in sweat, was ashamed of my

purpose for being there and was ready for a cocktail. I had arranged to meet an old friend of

mine from college who had recently come out and was returning from a weekend in the









Hamptons with his new partner and a few of their friends at a Mexican cantina for margaritas at

6:00. Suffice to say, after the day Ijust had I was ready to play catch up with an old friend over

chips, salsa, and a margarita. Little did I know that this casual drink meeting would ultimately

be the gateway to the success of my summer. I sat with my old friend Peter and his new circle

of friends talking about my dissertation and the strategies I had been using for recruitment. One

of them looked at me and plainly retorted, "no offense, but do you really think people look at

flyers? I mean, I don't especially those cheap looking ones you have there." Before I could

even get defensive, Peter excitedly screamed out, "Dana, I have the best idea-for my new job I

have access to all these listserves that might help you. Why don't you send me a blurb about

your work and I will forward it to them." Not really thinking that Peter's suggestion would

actually work, I agreed to send him something in the next few days. All of a sudden I felt

ashamed about my recruitment strategies, my entire research agenda, the poor quality of my

flyers and my naivete for coming to New York in the first place.

That next week, I began my volunteer efforts at the CBST office, and again was the only

straight person in the building. Being the only heterosexual in a gay and lesbian populated social

setting for three days a week for a two month period permitted me the space for my already

budding critical reflexivity to burgeon even more. I found myself always answering questions

about why I was there, what was I doing, why gay men, why fathers, why was I interested in a

population to which I clearly did not belong?

Whereas my experiences volunteering at CBST taught me invaluable lessons with regard

to my relationship with both my research and my religion, I had been volunteering there almost

three weeks and they had yet to put me in contact with any participants. Also, and not a

complete shock to me, (since I was now aware that my flyers were an eyesore that no self-









respecting gay man would pay attention to) out of the thirty-something flyers I had given out at

the Pride parade and the hundreds I had posted around Chelsea and the West Village, I had not

received a single phone call or e-mail from a gay father who would be interested in participating

in my study. Fortunately, I had been able to interview the three men Dr. Mallon had put me in

contact with, but this was all I had. I was beginning to freak out. I was running out of money (in

New York, every time you leave your apartment, you spend at least $ 20 on absolutely nothing at

all!), I had only three participants, I was still ashamed and feeling that I was exploiting a

community I was supposedly trying to help, and I had less than six weeks remaining before I had

to be back in Florida.

Finally, one morning, I awoke to check my e-mail only to find that it was full with

interview requests from gay fathers who had heard about my interview. What the heck had

happened? How did I manage to finally catch a break? It certainly was not my poorly

constructed flyers or my volunteer efforts at CBST. Rather, these requests were a direct result

of my dear old friend Peter. Who would have thought that my afternoon of margaritas would be

the ultimate savior to my dissertation! Peter, the man who I had drastically underestimated, had

saved my life (or at least my summer). It turned out that Peter's new job was the marketing

director at LOGO (the first gay television network, and a division of MTV) and happened to be a

very high-status position, privileging him access to various gay and lesbian listserves that could

access the personal e-mails of gay men across New York city and its surrounding areas. I was

able to interview nine gay fathers and four more childless men by way of this fortunate e-mail,

and these men were able to introduce me to five other men who I ended up interviewing over the

telephone after returning to Florida. These final five telephone interviews included men from

New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. After almost six weeks, my volunteer efforts at









CBST finally paid off and I recruited four men through the assistance of the rabbis and office

coordinators.

My experience in New York taught me more than I ever imagined. Aside from the

obvious lessons I learned about the pitfalls and perils of conducting qualitative research with a

population that I am not a member of, I learned an incredible amount about my heterosexual

privilege and myself. Heterosexual privilege refers to unearned civil rights, social privilege, and

advantages granted to individuals based solely on their sexual orientation (Allen, 1995).

Examples of my own heterosexual privilege are that I have always been able to freely display

pictures of my romantic partners without fear of retribution, I have no fear of harassment or

physical violence based on my sexual orientation, and perhaps most importantly, I never have to

answer the question when did you decide you were heterosexual. While I have been aware of

these social advantages I am given because of my heterosexual identity, for some time, I now

know that heterosexual privilege extends far beyond these concrete examples. The abstract, but

very real sense of uneasiness I felt walking down the street at PRIDE events, sharing an office

with all gay men and lesbians, and attending synagogue with a mainly GLBT congregation made

me aware of what it is like to be different. This sameness that I have always had as an invisible

luxury now was gone. The unearned rights, privileges, and advantages of being a heterosexual

that are often invisible to heterosexuals, became all too apparent to me. Yet, I will never truly

understand what it feels like to live in a heterosexist society and not have these privileges

because although I became the outsider within these settings, I always had the privilege to get up

and leave. However, the very fact that my consciousness was raised and my privilege was

challenged speaks to ways by which activists might consider facilitating social change, because









the very fact that heterosexual privilege is often unseen by the dominant group is the greatest

barrier to ending heterosexism.

The summer after I lived in New York, I went to visit some friends and family in Southern

California. I figured since I was already going to be there, I would try to recruit some more

participants for my research. After reading Judith Stacey's (2006) ethnographic work in Los

Angeles about gay men and kinship, I decided to contact the organization that she based much of

her research on, a group similar to Center Kids, called Pop Luck. The Pop Luck Club is a Los

Angeles-based organization of gay dads that, according to their website is the largest known gay

father organization in the world, with hundreds of families and continued strong growth. Its

mission is to advance the well-being of gay prospective parents, gay parents, and their children.

I sent a brief e-mail to the contact on their website and after my experience with Center Kids in

New York, honestly wasn't expecting much. Needless to say, I was quite surprised when only

two days later I received an e-mail from a gay couple who was more than happy to speak with

me. Two days into my trip on the West coast, I met with this couple and conducted a two and a

half hour interview with them. After our conversation, they immediately offered to refer me to a

mass of other gay headed families in their neighborhood. However, my trip was only to last a

few short days, and without a car in Los Angeles, it is quite difficult to get around. I decided not

to conduct any more interviews in LA while I was there, but I still have their contact

information, and if I decide to expand my project, I now know that I have resources on both sides

of the country.

Participants

The group of childless gay men differed substantially from those who chose to become

fathers through nonheterosexual means (see Table 1 for detailed subsample descriptions). The

demographic data depicted in these tables are artifacts of my recruitment strategies and should









not be regarded as substantive findings of my research. The childless gay participants were more

racially, ethnically, and economically diverse than the fathers. Three of these men were Black,

one was Chinese-American, two were Latino, and thirteen were White Non-Latino. Three

participants had not completed college, five were enrolled in college with the intentions of

graduating, seven had graduated from a four-year university, and four had an advanced graduate

degree. Two participants were Jewish, one was Presbyterian, three were Christian, four were

Catholic, one was Buddhist and Catholic and eight reported to have no religious affiliation. Six

of the participants were students, (five in college and one in graduate school), five were in the

service industry (food and beverage and cosmetology); three were employed in the non-profit

sector; two were attorneys; one was a professor; and the remaining two were involved in

business and the technology industry. Annual income for these men ranged from under $15,000

to over $75,000 annually. Ages of the childless men ranged from 19-45 and the median age was

34.

Consistent with other research on gay fathers (Johnson and Connor, 2002; Mallon, 2004),

the gay fathers participating in my research were predominantly white and upper-middle class.

All but two of these men earned over $75,000 annually, and the remaining two earned between

$30,000-$60,000. Additionally, all fathers were White. Fathers' ages ranged from 33-55 with a

mean age of 43.5. The majority of participants were employed in the professional sector, many

as attorneys, physicians, media executives, and real-estate investors. Similarly, all participants

except two had completed college and eight had an advanced graduate degree. Nine participants

were Jewish, five were Catholic, three were Christian, two were Unitarian, and four claimed to

have no religious affiliation. Recall that recruitment efforts were made at a GLBT synagogue in









NYC. This recruitment strategy coupled with my religious affiliation and social networks led to

an unusually large proportion of Jewish men in my sample.

One unfortunate aspect of my research is that it relies on white, fairly affluent fathers'

experiences. It is especially problematic in terms of gay and lesbian families because according

to the 2000 United States census census, we know that forty-four percent of Latina same-sex

couples are raising children under the age of eighteen (Cianciotto, 2005). Furthermore, black

female same-sex households are raising children around the same rates as black heterosexual

households (61 vs. 69%) and at about twice the rate of white lesbian households (Dang & Frazer,

2004). These rates are somewhat comparable for same-sex male couples of color. It should be

understood, then, that gay families of color do exist although they are not represented here.

Furthermore, my participants' procreative, father, and family negotiations are not only products

of their gay identities, but also their whiteness and middle-class status (es).

Participants created their families in diverse ways. Four men were known sperm donors to

a lesbian couple, although only three of the men were co-parenting with the women and defined

themselves as fathers in this context. The other man was one of five men who fathered through

the assistance of a surrogate mother. One couple (two fathers) produced a set of twins through

the assistance of a gestational surrogate mother and an egg donor. The remaining twelve became

fathers through adoption or fostering, with two using the public foster care system resulting in

legal adoption.

Interviews

My research methodology entailed in-depth semi-structured interviews with thel9

childless gay men and 22 gay fathers. Participants were encouraged to discuss their thoughts,

emotions, experiences, and personal narratives as they relate to their own feelings and

conversations with others with regard to fatherhood decisions.









Interviews took place in a variety of settings, depending on the participant's convenience.

Such settings included participants' households, or work offices, coffee shops, eating and

drinking establishments, in my office, and five were conducted over the telephone. Interviews

were audio-taped and lasted between 45-150 minutes. Interviews were supplemented with a

background survey asking the participants a handful of questions focusing on their biographical

information, such as age, race/ethnicity, nationality, and relationship status (see appendix A).

All participants were administered informed consent. Prior to the initiation of each interview, I

explained the nature of the project to each participant, conveyed the importance of the study, and

requested permission to audiotape the interview. Each participant was informed of his right to

refuse to answer any question he felt was too personal, inappropriate, or uncomfortable. He was

also informed of his right to terminate the interview at any time if he so desired. None of the

forty-one participants refused to answer any question or opted to terminate the interview at any

time. Following each interview, I wrote brief memos to myself detailing the major themes that

surfaced in our conversation. I transcribed 15 of the interviews and a professional transcriptionist

transcribed the other 26 verbatim.

Creating the Interview Guide using Sensitizing Concepts

In order to ensure that all topics of interest were addressed in the interviews, I structured

the interview guide (see appendices B & C) around various "sensitizing concepts" (Van den

Hoonard, 1997). Sensitizing concepts are theoretical tools that emphasize the distinctive

properties that may be associated with a class of data-in this case, gay men's parenting

decisions and motivations. These concepts offer researchers a general sense of reference and

orientation without constraining new paths for theoretical discovery. Viewed broadly, they also

refer to concepts that may have been generated from other research or theoretical speculation.









The use of such sensitizing concepts should not be confused with definitive concepts, in that

sensitizing concepts do not create closure, rather they provide a general source of guidance.

I borrow some sensitizing concepts from Marsiglio and Hutchinson's (2002) work on

heterosexual young men including; procreative consciousness, turning points, fatherhood

readiness, fatherhood responsibility, possible selves, fathering visions, and child visions. I

expanded these concepts in such a way as to explore how gay men's procreative consciousness is

constructed, evolves, and is negotiated. I advanced the concept of turning points to understand

the extent to which they are tied to the coming out process. Child visions refer to participants'

images of children they might eventually sire, while fathering visions captures men's mental

descriptions of themselves engaged in fathering. In Marsiglio and Hutchinson's book (2002)

each of these constructs emerged as properties of procreative consciousness and fatherhood

readiness, respectively. I elaborate these properties to account for how gay men's visions might

differ because of the likelihood of interracial and interethnic adoption.

In addition to borrowing the model developed by Marsiglio and Hutchinson (2002), I

expand it to the experiences of gay men and extract other sensitizing concepts from relevant

literature and preliminary interviews with 10 gay non-fathers. These novel concepts included the

dual marginalization of gay fatherhood, myths surrounding gay fathers, individual hardships, and

institutional constraints. These concepts were used as primary guides for conversation and

analysis. Although I used the sensitizing concepts, I was also consciously reflexive in order to

avoid the trap of forcing the data into preconceived categories. These initial categories were

conceptual guides to frame my research without constraining it.

Prior to completing the defense of my dissertation proposal, I conducted a pilot study of 10

childless gay men. This pilot study allowed me to test the relevance of the initial formulation of









my interview guide. Initially, I was disappointed to find that the first three interviews only lasted

approximately 30-50 minutes. However, following these first few interviews, I developed new

questions based on participants' feedback and the interviews grew substantially longer. After the

fifth interview, the interview guide was significantly altered and by the ninth interview,

interviews grew to over 90 minutes in length. Novel issues were introduced by participants,

including the importance of the gay social scene to that particular person, images of growing old

with or without children, and the presence or absence of a male partner. Throughout the

interview process, these issues were added to the guide. However, the greatest alteration of the

interview guide occurred following the fifth interview. It was here that I significantly changed

the beginning of the interview, and consequently, reformulated the entire conversation.

Originally, the interview began by asking, "How would you define your sexuality?" I decided to

change the guide so that the initial questions simply stated, "As a gay man can you tell me about

your life?" and "As a gay man can you talk to me about how you see your future?"

With this simple change in wording emerged an entirely new conversation. Participants

first began by telling coming-out stories, continued with reactions from parents and friends, and

concluded by narrating on how they envision their future. Of the five men who were interviewed

using this format, three men mentioned fatherhood in the absence of any direct questioning or

probing. Although it is likely that the issue of fatherhood was salient to these men because they

had just read the informed consent describing the nature of the study (an investigation of gay

men and fatherhood); I was surprised by the fact that these men mentioned fatherhood so

eagerly. This pilot study provided me the opportunity to assess the relevance of my questions to

a small sample of gay childless men.









The Active Interview

Increasingly, sociological researchers who rely on interviewing to gather data are coming

to the realization that interviews are not neutral and unbiased tools. Rather, the interview is a

setting in which two (or more) persons actively constructing a unique social situation. As

assumptions and ideas associated with social constructionism expand throughout the discipline

of sociology, new spaces and claims regarding interview settings are emerging. The broad

recognition that social realty does not exist independent from human action lends itself to the

implication that within the interview setting, there is continuous construction and reconstruction

of meaning through a dialectical process (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995).

Thus, in my interviews I employed the active interviewing approach (Holstein & Gubrium,

1995). The active interview illuminates the interplay of the artfulness of constructivism with the

practicality of the interpretive resources at hand. In the active approach, the participant is not a

passive vessel of knowledge, but is instead somewhat of a researcher in his own right, "

consulting repertoires of experience and orientations, linking fragments into patterns, and

offering theoretically coherent descriptions, accounts, and explorations" (Holstein & Gubrium,

1995,p. 29). The participant is the narrator, or the storyteller of his multi-faceted experience and

calls upon different stocks of knowledge depending on which experience or position is activated.

The methodological strategy of active interviewing is especially useful here given that the

passage of time and sociohistorical dimension was consistently intertwined within participants'

narratives. In the interview setting, the fathers spoke of constructing their families, an approach

which usually paved the way for chronological description. However, inquiring about a

participant's past does not necessarily invoke an objective and ahistorical discussion of the

participant's past experiences; rather, the past is intimately linked with the present. In other

words, the participant and I were mutually involved in activating different aspects of the









participant's stock of knowledge. When I encouraged a gay father in the interview to discuss

thoughts he had about becoming a father prior to having a child, he drew upon these past

thoughts as a father with children and narrated past experiences and thoughts through his present

standpoint as a father. When I spoke with a gay man who is not yet a father and queried what his

thoughts are on becoming a father, he anticipated a vision of the future through his present

standpoint as a young gay childless man. The active interviewing approach sheds light on how

the participant's future or history is a future-in- the- making or a history- in- the- making,

complexly unfolding in relation to that participant's present standpoint (Holstein & Gubrium,

1995). Whether we are talking about visions of a future or recollections of the past, the active

approach allowed me to see how these were just as much versions of the present as they were

memories and foresights.

The active approach to interviewing also allows me to understand how conceptualizations

of the present depend upon the different stocks of knowledge my participants call upon. One

particular situation that I recall involved Spencer, a gay man who became a father through

donating sperm to a lesbian woman who lived in the same neighborhood as him. Almost eight

years following this experience, Spencer became an adoptive father to a mentally handicapped

boy who he became involved with through a big-brother organization. Spencer not only had two

very different stories to tell me, but he spoke of these two experiences in terms of two very

different standpoints; the first as a biologically connected father who saw his child periodically

and second as an adoptive father intimately involved in the day to day tasks of raising a

handicapped son. By treating the interview as an active process I was able to encourage and

appreciate Spencer's shifting standpoints and had the unique ability to explore the distinct and

sometimes contradictory stocks of knowledge that he called upon to explain and understand his









experiences as a gay father. Rather than searching for one single truth or one answer, the active

interview capitalizes on these diverse stories to get a more complete (yet still partial)

understanding of how gay men navigate their way through the reproductive arena.

Within the active interview both the interviewer and the participant are viewed as actively

involved in the construction of knowledge. Accordingly, it is important to remember that the

interviewer does far more than ask questions; she "activates narrative production" (Holstein &

Gubrium, 1995, p. 39). It is the interviewer's task to guide and channel the participant's

narratives to the research at hand. Unlike the positivist interviewer, the active interviewer is not

reprimanded for invoking a certain vocabulary to guide the participant to speak in terms of the

research at hand. In my interviews, I purposely invoke the language of turning points in order to

encourage my participants to imagine certain events in their lives that were central in triggering

their fathering fantasies and desires. I am not dictating how my participants' lives are to be

portrayed, nor am I contaminating my findings. Rather, I recognize that in my role as

collaborator I can guide my participants as to keep our speech on "narrative course" (Holstein &

Gubrium, 1995, p. 50). Also, within the active approach, as well as in feminist and constructivist

approaches, reflexivity is paramount. In the active approach, both, the interviewer and the

participant are mutually engaged in a process of reflexivity (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995). In my

interviews, I always inquire as to what else I should be asking regarding gay men's experiences

in the reproductive arena. My participants have filled me in on aspects of their lives that I would

have never imagined to ask or even consider had I been limited to a structured and positivist

format.

The active interviewing approach also illuminates how the inclusion of multivocality

shapes the interview process and the subsequent knowledge that emerges from this process









(Holstein & Gubrium, 1995). While in New York and in Los Angeles, I conducted four

interviews with committed couples that had fathered children together. Although I count these

as eight participants and eight stories, the active approach reminds me that these interviews

should be viewed not only as individual experiences, but also as "their story" (Holstein &

Gubrium, 1995, p. 69). When I spoke with Drew and Nico, a couple who had two-year old

twins, about their fatherhood experiences I heard three different narratives: Drew's story, Nico's

story, and 'their story' of how they separately and collectively experienced their pathways to

fatherhood. The multivocality within the active interviews allowed new and rich linkages of

"horizons of meaning" to emerge (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995). Such new meanings would not

have surfaced in more structured settings that neglect to take advantage of these connected

interpretations and constructions.

Characteristics of the Researcher and Reflexivity

I have already detailed how a more nuanced understanding of my heterosexual privilege

emerged throughout various stages of the recruitment process. Now, I briefly discuss how my

heterosexual identity influenced the interview process. Unlike race or gender, sexuality does not

have to be a blatantly obvious marker. Although I did not purposely disclose my sexuality to my

participants, naturally, many were curious. Two situations immediately jump out at me. Before

conducting one interview, a participant asked, "Are you gay? Not that it matters." I replied "no,

I am not gay," and explained how my interest in gay fathers was a result of the lack of research

in this area and my desire to give voice and visibility to an understudied group of men, and if

applicable, their families. Another time, I was conducting an interview in a coffee shop and my

participant and I actually caught one another glancing at the same attractive man who was sitting

at the counter drinking his latte. Needless to say, he turned to me and with a sly grin announced,

"So you're not one of us." I responded that "no I am not gay" and jokingly said, "you caught









me!" In both of these situations I did not feel as if these men then regarded me as an "other" to

be weary of. I maintain that this is directly related to my ability to make my participants feel at

ease and comfortable due to my easygoing and casual demeanor.

I now take a moment to briefly touch on the advantages and disadvantages to studying a

population to which one does not belong and address how I negotiated my differential social

status and identity in the context of the interview. Because I am not gay, or perhaps, more

obviously, not a man, there was always the risk of being an outsider or being regarded as "the

other" by the men I am interviewing. I was consciously aware of the possibility that these men

might not trust me, and because of the sensitive nature of this study, men might feel as if I am

judging them. Thus, to counteract these potential risks, I attempted to make the men as

comfortable as possible by using strategies common to qualitative researchers. First, I tried to

conduct interviews in a private and comfortable setting. Whereas most of these men's interviews

took place in private residences or my office, a few also took place in public coffee shops. The

interviews that did take place in coffee shops were conducted in alcoves or semi-private areas of

the establishment. While conducting these interviews in public spaces, I would always offer the

men the opportunity to refuse to answer any question that they did not feel comfortable

responding to or encouraged participants to speak in a low voice. None of the participants who

were interviewed in coffee shops stopped the interview at any time, although some, at various

points in the interview did lower their voices ensuring that other patrons did not overhear our

conversation. In my attempts to ensure that the interview setting was regarded as a safe space for

these men to tell me their stories, all participants, regardless of the interview location were given

time to read over informed consent and were encouraged to ask questions about my study. I

always provided my participants the opportunity to ask me questions and at the end of the









interview I asked them to share their thoughts with me about their reactions to our conversation.

None of the participants replied that they felt uncomfortable talking to me about these issues.

When I specifically asked if they would have felt more comfortable speaking with an interviewer

of a different gender, race, or sexuality none mentioned that any of my personal characteristics

hindered the interview or their disclosure. Interestingly, three Jewish participants responded that

my identity as a Jewish woman was helpful in finding a common ground, in that I understood the

nuances of Jewish life, from the stereotypical image of the Jewish mother and grandmother to the

social and religious importance of Bar-and Bat-Mitzvahs.

A significant advantage of speaking with participants of a social group that I am not a

member of is that I have absolutely no personal or experiential knowledge of what it is like to

experience life as a gay man. Although I will never know for sure, I believe that I received a

more detailed explanation of these men's lives than a gay male interviewer would have because

of my outsider status. Although my gender and sexuality certainly influenced the outcome of my

interviews, I believe that this effect was minimal and to some extent, beneficial. Moreover, I

maintain that my personal characteristics, in particular, my ability to facilitate trust, rapport, and

open dialogue in the interviews helped to mitigate my potential status as an other.

Analysis: Grounded Theory

The initial textual material was analyzed with grounded theory methodology for qualitative

data analysis (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Consistent with the grounded

theory approach, data collection and analysis occurred simultaneously. My aim for this study

was significantly more modest than what is expected in traditional grounded theory, in that my

overarching goal was not the generation of a theory with explicit dimensions and properties. I

sought a more nuanced understanding of gay men's procreative consciousness, reproductive

decision-making and fatherhood experiences. I employ the process of grounded theory









methodology for the two reasons that Marsiglio (2004, p. 261) mentions in Step dads: Stories of

Love, Hope, andRepair. First, the process of grounded theory analysis allowed me to "deepen,

expand, integrate, and ground in empirical data previously proposed theoretical notions"

concerning men as fathers and to generate new theoretical concepts and ideas for the specific

experience of gay prospective and active fathers. My aim, then, was not to develop a complete

grounded theory, but rather to expand on already existing theoretical frameworks for

understanding how gay men develop, negotiate, and express their fathering identities and

fathering experiences in a socially-constructed world that privileges heterosexuality and

heterosexual parenting.

I use the constant comparative process of comparing incident with incident, category with

incident, and category with category. As ideas, terms, moods, and the like surfaced in multiple

interviews, they were coded and given tentative labels during the open phase of coding. Open

coding is a process of comparing concepts found in the text for classification as examples of

some phenomenon. As I noticed similarities in experience, patterns, and emergent themes,

categories of phenomena were labeled in the margins and entered into a code list. This process

of open coding enabled me to create an analytic process for identifying key categories and their

properties (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Core or central categories were the roots that anchored

their properties. For example, a central category in my research is nonprocreative turning points

in activating fathering desires and indicators that are associated with this category include coping

with death of a loved one, moving to suburbia, seeing another gay couple with a child, and

ultimatum by a partner.

This coding scheme allowed me to label categories and properties that represent distinct

happenings and to describe other instances of the phenomena (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The next









stage of coding involved axial coding, wherein I explored the relationship between and among

concepts and began to construct a theoretical explanation of how gay men's procreative

consciousness is activated, developed, and negotiated (LaRossa, 2005). At this point, I typed all

the codes up in a Word document and began to cut and paste each code into a list which

eventually formed the outline of chapters four through six for my dissertation. Next, I went

through my transcripts electronically and cut and pasted phrases, sentences, and entire

paragraphs into folders with separate documents. For example, one folder included various

topics, or indicators about changes in families. Indicators in this folder included broad changes

in postmodern kinship, the role of assisted reproductive technologies and changing legalities in

adoption, families of choice, and children as a choice. This folder was then linked with another

folder that included indicators about changes in meanings of gay men to a broader category

labeled, sociohistorical transformations. Sociohistorical transformations became the broader

category, and changes in families and changes in meanings of gay men were the properties that

contributed to broad sociohistorical transformations that have changed how gay men think about

fatherhood.

The purpose of axial coding is to answer questions about the phenomenon in order to

give the concept greater explanatory power (Duchscher & Morgan, 2004). The development of

axial coding continued as I sought out the processes, conditions, and consequences of identified

categories throughout the research process. My final stage of selective coding entailed

comparing themes identified in this study to the existing literature exploring fathering among

both gay and heterosexual men. This final coding phase is where I identified the theoretical

contributions that ultimately advance our understanding of procreative consciousness and

fathering experiences, as they pertain to both gay and straight men. Admittedly, despite the urge









to offer readers a step-by step guide of how I analyzed the data, coding did not occur in distinct

phases. Instead, "the picture slowly emerged as a patchwork mosaic" (Dey, 2003, p. 86).

I realize that grounded theory recently has come under attack primarily because of the

positivist roots of the methodology, its assumptions of a neutral researcher who discovers data,

and because it assumes a reality sui generis from its members (Charmaz, 2000, 2002; Dey, 2003;

LaRossa, 2005). Similarly LaRossa (2005) argues that despite their sensitivities to symbolic

interactionism, Glaser, Strauss, and Corbin come extremely close to subscribing to

epistemological realism, an orientation closely associated with positivism. Hence, it is of import

to note that consistent with the constructivist and interactionist approaches, I emphasize how

these categories and codes are not factual realities. Rather they denote a way of asking and

seeing, coupled with participants' ways of experiencing and narrating (Charmaz, 2000, 2002).

My categories are not simply products of the data; they emerged through interplay among the

mutual construction of the interview and coding process. Nonetheless, the themes derived from

this process of mutual construction unveil how gay men's procreative consciousness is activated,

developed, and negotiated and how gay men experience fathering in a socially constructed world

that privileges heterosexuality.

Analysis: Case Studies and Narrative Accounts

While grounded theory is advantageous in developing an abstract model, it can often miss

accounts of how concepts and categories are part of a larger story and lived experience. Thus, I

supplement grounded theory analysis with the collective case study method. This

methodological strategy was chosen because a richer understanding of specific cases can lead to

further insight, and ultimately better theorizing about a larger collection of cases (Stake, 2002). I

select three cases in chapter four to illustrate the way in which sociohistorical transformations

shape the procreative desires of gay men. I detail and compare the narratives of three different









men coming of age in three distinct sociohistorical contexts to demonstrate how the stories of

one man might relate to the stories of another man, and so on. The narrative accounts I have

extracted illuminate how gay men's procreative consciousness is not simply an abstract concept

but emerges through a process of telling, "whereby the mundane incidents and events of daily

life are given some kind of plausible order" (Williams, 1984, p. 178). The men's stories about

the procreative sphere reveal the reciprocal relationships between individuals and their social

world. The collective narratives of the three men I focus on accentuate the multifaceted "reality

of biographical existence as it relates to both self and society" (Williams, 1984, p. 178).

Consistent with the constructivist orientation, I note that that a researcher can never tell a whole

story, in that a whole story exceeds anyone's knowing or anyone's telling. Rather, what emerges

is ultimately my dressing of a particular story (Stake, 2002).












Table 3-1. Descriptive Statistics for Gay Childless Men and Gay Fathers


Occupation


Current
Relationship


Fatherhood
Pathway


Gay Childless Men


Participants from FL
Evan
LukeB
Todd
Nick
ZackA
Frank
Clark
Aiden
Taylor
AnthonyL
ROSSB


Blaine
Larry

Jake
CarlosL
Participants from NY
Segal
CJ
Noah
Participant from NJ
Walter B


Jewish
Christian
Christian
Presbyterian
Christian/Buddhist
Catholic
Atheist
Christian
Roman Catholic
None
None


Catholic
Jewish

None
Catholic

Atheist
None
Agnostic


College
College
HS
College
College
College
HS
HS
HS
HS
College


JD
JD

Masters
HS

PhD
College
HS


Nonprofit
Waiter
Waiter
Waiter
Restaurant manager
Student
Student
Student
Student
Student
Realtor
Attorney;


Business
Attorney
Information
technician
Cosmetologist

Professor
Nonprofit
Student


Sni-ritiial Colee Pulc eat Snlen


Age


Religion


Education


Partnered
Single
Single
Partnered
Single
Single
Single
Single
Single
Single
Single


Partnered
Partnered

Partnered
Partnered

Partnered
Single
Single


SIniritual Collene Public health


Single na











Table 3-1. Continued.


Gay Fathers


Participants from CA
Simona
Theo
Participants from FL
Brian
Parker
Mark
Participants from NY


Andrew


Craig


Laurence
Tommy


Randy


Drewb

Nicob
Ethan

Eliot


Billyc 47
Artd 48
Rick, 53


Religion

Jewish
Catholic

Catholic
Jewish
Jewish


None

None
None; Ethical
Humanist
Catholic


47 Unitarian


Jewish

Catholic
Jewish

Jewish

Catholic
Jewish
Jewish


Education

College
College
Some
college
College
MD


College

College

Masters
PhD
Some
college


Occupation

Television production
Actor

Politician; Realtor
Information technician
MD


Graphic artist
Full-time
homemaker dad

Statistician
Psychologist

Realtor


College Television production
Full-time
College homemaker dad
Masters Teacher


MD

College
JD
Masters


MD

Event coordinator
Party decorator
Hospital administrator


Current
Relationship

Partnered
Partnered

Partnered
Partnered
Single


Partnered

Partnered

Partnered
Partnered

Single


Partnered

Partnered
Partnered

Partnered

Partnered
Partnered
Partnered


Fatherhood
Pathway

Adopt
Adopt

Adopt
Adopt
Surrogacy

Adopt
(foster)
Adopt
(foster)

Adopt
Adopt

Adopt
Surrogacy
and sperm
donor

Surrogacy
Adopt
Surrogacy
(gestational)
Surrogacy
(gestational)
Adopt
Adopt












Table 3-1. Continued.


Age


Religion


Education


Participants from NJ


48 Episcopalian

45 Christian


Catholic


Masters

College

College


Participants from MA


43 Jewish
Unitarian
47 Universalist


College

College


Occupation



Consultant
Information
technician

Realtor


Information
technician

Headhunter


Current
Relationship



Partnered

Partnered

Single


Single

Single


Fatherhood
Pathway


Coparent

Coparent

Coparent


Coparent
Coparent &
foster


Note: I employ pseudonyms and have altered identifying details to protect the privacy of my participants. All participants are White unless noted by the
following subscripts: A = Asian, B = Black, L = Latino. Participants with the same lower-case subscripts are members of the same couple


Guse


Robine

Aaron


Leonard

Spencer









CHAPTER 4
FANTASYING FATHERHOOD

Understanding gay men's motivation and approach to creating family bonds through

fatherhood draws attention to gay men's experiences with the procreative realm. In this chapter,

I examine how gay men develop and express a procreative consciousness over time in the

context of a socially constructed world that privileges heterosexual parenting. First I draw upon

the collective case study method to detail three different men's procreative fantasies that have

come of age in three different sociohistorical contexts with the intention of highlighting how

emergent social transformations shape how gay men fantasy fatherhood. I then explore how gay

men's procreative consciousness is highly self-reflective due to a combination of their

reproductive physiology and legal barriers that shape how they are able to imagine fatherhood.

Nevertheless, for some men, fathering fantasies and desires are both naturalized and essentialized

as a result of traditional gender and family socialization and life course patterns.

I discuss how after coming out to themselves and to the world as gay men, many men

undergo life changes that heighten and activate their respective procreative consciousness and

fathering desires. Yet, as this social psychological process evolves, many men become aware

that their desires to father are mediated and even constrained by structural and institutional

barriers. Here, I address these considerations. First, I touch upon the various turning points the

gay men experienced with regard to activating their fathering desires. Next, I discuss how

discriminatory beliefs about gay men's gender and sexuality interact to create barriers for how

these men think about fatherhood. I then examine how institutional and financial barriers shape

gay men's procreative consciousness. Finally, I discus how gay men's fantasies regarding a

readiness to father, visions of an ideal fathering experience, and child visions are constructed

within a socially constructed world that privileges heterosexuality.









Three Men, Three Different Decades and Three Distinct Stories

As is detailed in chapter three, I supplement grounded theory analysis with the collective

case study method (Stake, 2002). I selected these three cases to demonstrate the way in which

sociohistorical transformations shape the procreative desires of gay men. The first story I tell is

Lawrence's, a gay man in New York who became a father through adoption in the 1980s. Next I

describe the experiences of Marc, a recent father who constructed his family with the assistance

of a surrogate mother in South Florida only five years ago. I conclude this chapter with Clark's

story, a college-aged man living in North Central Florida who is not yet a father but who

ultimately wants to be. I deconstruct each of three men's stories, detailing how the

sociohistorical context frames how they describe their past, discuss their present, and envision

their futures with regards to fatherhood.

Lawrence

Lawrence was fifty-two years old when I first met him at his house tucked away in a

middle-class suburb in Queens, New York. He is now the proud father of two teenage boys who

he adopted with his ex-partner in the late 1980s. As we sat in his backyard having a light snack,

I asked him to tell me about how he became a father. He remembers that it all began in 1984

when his nephew was born. After he announced the news to his partner he was shocked that

instead of finding him smiling, with joy "he was in complete distress.. it just kind of hit him in a

wave, [he said] you know I've chosen to follow my natural gay feelings and this means now I

can never have kids." For Lawrence, this is how his long and arduous trek to fatherhood was set

into motion. Lawrence never really considered the idea of having children, as it simply did not

seem like a feasible reality to him. Nevertheless, he calmed his partner by explaining that

"maybe it's possible, there may be some way we can have a child." As they began to consider

seriously becoming gay fathers in the mid-1980s, they started to look for options, resources and









leads. Although they came across a decent amount of gay and lesbian parents in the New York

area, he recalled "nobody could give us a straight answer as to how to do it." Even more, as they

began to examine various pathways to fatherhood they decided to share their plans with their

circle of friends, the majority of whom were also gay men approaching their 30's. Lawrence

explained to me the difficulty his friends had with him and his ex-partner's news: "they would

say why do you want this kind of life? Why do you want to be heterosexuals?" He continued

the conversation highlighting the lack of a welcoming attitude from his friends attributing it to

"internalizing their own homophobia and society's homophobia.. .not even realizing it...just

assuming that as a gay person you can't have kids...you just internalize it and you don't even

question it, especially back then."

Ultimately, in 1988, after years of effort, Lawrence and his partner finally found an

adoption agency willing to work with them. Yet, in 1988 in New York State, only one of the

men could legally adopt and the other man had to remain hidden. Although the social worker

that agreed to work with them was well aware that they were a gay couple, she made it clear that

"I will be filling out your answers, but only as if one of you were answering...I'll ignore the

other person, he will be invisible." When the agency representatives finally brought their son to

their home, Lawrence had to go upstairs and hide. Lawrence and his former partner did achieve

fatherhood a second time only a few years later and despite having fewer boundaries to

overcome, it still was no easy feat.

Lawrence explains that until his partner mentioned the possibility of fatherhood on the day

his nephew was born, he had never imagined a life with children In fact, when I asked

Lawrence how his thoughts about fatherhood changed once he came out as gay, he proclaims

that he "never needed to have children to have a full life to begin with." Without the influence of









his former partner and the subterfuge of the social worker, Lawrence might never have fathered

the two boys that are now such an enormous part of his life.

Marc

Marc was one of the first fathers I spoke with during the course of my interview process.

Marc is a single gay man living in South Florida who became a father five years earlier to a little

girl. Because of legalities prohibiting gay adoption in Florida, Marc decided to construct his

family with the assistance of a surrogate mother. Marc had a unique coming out story because at

the same time he disclosed his sexuality to his entire family, he told them he was leaving the next

day for Massachusetts to meet a potential surrogate mother. Marc was well into his late thirties

when he came out to his family and his friends about his sexuality. He explains that he remained

in 'the closet' for so long but to some extent "always knew in the back of my mind that I was

gay, but hoped that I could find the right person and go off in a conventional route, get married,

and have a family." Marc's narrative is reminiscent of the stories of gay men who experienced a

delayed coming-out process because of the traditionally negative stigmas associated with

homosexuality in American culture. This group of gay fathers once were in a heterosexual union,

became fathers with their female partners, and later divorced. In recent years, however, gay men

like Marc have been exposed to fatherhood possibilities through channels other than heterosexual

intercourse (Dunne, 1999). When I asked Marc how his fantasies about fatherhood might have

changed as he was coming to terms with his sexuality, he asserts that:

I mean before, in my early 30's or 20's, or when I knew I was gay, I'd just assume that I'd
never have children. That was one of my big disappointments. I just thought well, I'll be
childless for life. It wasn't until later on that I considered it, that I said wait a minute. At
that age, fortunately, I had financial means, I don't need to be childless, so I was pleasantly
surprised to myself when I realized that I could change that situation without, but for a
good long stretch there, I just assumed that I would never have children.









Marc dismantles the dominant ideology that if one chooses to live in accordance with

one's sexual preference one automatically chooses not to have children. His narrative begins

with a discursive link between coming out and not having children. Initially, Marc's future is

one that he constructs as being eternally childless; however, we then hear a turning point in his

narrative whereby an alternative reality is discursively created (Nelson, 2006) and Marc's

imagined future shifts from a predestined childless life to a reality made possible due to societal

and cultural changes. Moreover, as a relatively well-off physician, Marc had the resources

necessary to bypass Florida's discriminatory legal prohibitions on adoption and construct his

family through the assistance of a surrogacy agency. As opposed to Lawrence's experiences in

the procreative realm, only slightly more than a decade earlier, Marc explains that his process of

finding the necessary resources only took a few short months. Yet, although Marc is a single

father he did not venture on his pathway to fatherhood alone. Marc benefited from the assistance

of a network of professional acquaintances that could legally guide him through the procreative

process. Thus, Marc's financial status coupled with a greater abundance of lawyers and other

professionals well versed in gay adoption and surrogacy policies contributed to him being able to

navigate the procreative realm with far fewer obstacles than Lawrence.

A comparison of Lawrence and Marc's stories illustrates how a wide array of societal

shifts both trigger and shape gay men's thoughts about fatherhood and their ability to pursue

fathering. Recall that prior to his former partner's declaration of wanting children, Lawrence

never even pondered the possibility of fatherhood and thus his procreative consciousness could

be deemed inactive. Marc, on the other hand struggled to reconcile his desire for children and a

'traditional family' with his choice to follow his gay feelings, a time where his procreative

consciousness could be viewed as in flux. While Lawrence narrates his past comfortably









identifying as a gay and eternally childless man, Marc, in the context of being a present father,

explains that he never felt at ease with the possible future of childlessness. These

transformations in the procreative consciousness of gay men are inextricably intertwined with

major sociohistorical changes in contemporary American society.

Clark

The final narrative I detail is that of Clark, who was a twenty -year old college student

when I spoke with him almost two years ago. He is a self-proclaimed activist and is well known

among the LGBT community on his campus. As I read over our interview, it dawned on me that

I was hearing something very different from what I had heard from the older men I spoke with. I

began the interview by asking him to describe how he envisioned his future. Clark immediately

proclaims that he was raised in a traditional family and prior to coming out at age sixteen he had

always planned to "have a wife and 2.5 kids just like my parents had and their parents before

them." Following his coming out experience, he simply stated that he wanted to keep his plans

as intact as possible, "you know, maybe have a husband and 2.5 kids." Now that he is in college

however, he questions whether he wants to follow his fantasies of becoming a father and

construct a novel twist on the traditional family arrangement or whether he would rather go the

career route. Clark is well aware of the financial and emotional complications involved in the

pursuit and experience of fatherhood, and is beginning to ponder if it is all worth it. The

following narrative is an excerpt from Clark, whereby he considers the costs and benefits of

contemporary parenting:

It was just sort of an expectation that I would be a father throughout most of my life and it
wasn't really until college that I started to question that and you know started to think that
being a father is a time-consuming, fiscally consuming lifestyle. And so I really have been
considering whether it is really important that I take care of a child and rear a child to exist
in this society that we have set up for ourselves. I started to question whether I would be
happier with my time and my money and the ability to spend more time with a partner.









And so, I really haven't come to a strong decision yet, but I'll feel like I will probably end
up deciding that I want kids.

Within Clark's narrative, we can see how he wavers between two very distinct futures; the

first as a gay father with familial responsibilities and the other as a childless gay man with

substantial monetary assets and unlimited free time. Although even as an openly identified gay

man he had always pictured his future with children in it, with college came the knowledge that a

child requires self- sacrifice. Clearly, Clark is like many college students (regardless of their

sexuality) coping with the impending responsibility of adulthood.

Later in the interview I asked Clark to reflect on the experience when he first came out as

gay and how his thoughts about fatherhood were impacted or altered by this coming out

experience. He recalls, "I actually think that once I found out I was gay, I definitely wanted

kids... I almost wanted to normalize it as much as I could...or maybe to prove them [society]

wrong." Unlike Lawrence and Marc, Clark does not ever question his ability to overcome

"relational fertility" (Murphy, 2001). Interestingly, for Clark, whether or not to have children as

an openly gay man is a choice rather than the forced reality it was for the other men who came of

age only a few decades earlier. Nevertheless, Clark is well aware of the difficulties involved in

pursuing fatherhood, as he listed with great detail the discriminatory policies that plague paths to

gay fatherhood both nationally and locally, specifically attending to the unfair policies in Florida

(the state in which he currently resides). Despite these obstacles, and despite his relatively young

age, he was very much aware of his fathering abilities. In fact, Clark even spoke about fleeting

conversations he had on dates with men about the possibilities of fatherhood. As we concluded

the interview, I asked Clark for any final thoughts. He predicts that as homosexuality becomes

increasingly tolerated and even accepted in contemporary Western society, "we will have a lot of









younger gay men who will say to themselves, I do still want kids and I can have kids...we will

be seeing a lot of growth in these groups of gay men who want and will try to have children."

Lawrence, Marc, and Clark are three very different men who came of age in separate

decades marked by distinct sociohistorical changes. Nevertheless, each of their stories resists

dominant assumptions that presume that coming out as gay inevitably results in a life without

children (Nelson, 2006). Clark's concluding remark, however, challenges the dominant notion

of a gay identity as incompatible with parenthood more so than Lawrence or Marc. His final

comment also elucidates how the imagined familial futures of gay men coming of age in

contemporary society are much more fluid and flexible than their older counterparts.

A critical analysis of how gay men construct and act on their self-awareness of being both

gay and capable of creating and/or fathering human life must be situated within a sociohistorical

framework that addresses larger social and cultural changes. I employed participants' excerpts to

illustrate micro-level examples of how each individual experience was shaped by distinct

opportunities, proposing that this denotes large scale or macro-level social change. I suggest that

a mutual and reciprocal relationship exists between gay men's procreative consciousness and

broader sociohistorical transformations. While gay men's fantasies about fatherhood and family

are constructed within distinct social and cultural changes, gay men themselves are at the

forefront of instigating these changes.

Gay Men's Procreative Narratives

Three key themes surfaced in how men narrated their procreative desires. First, and

consistent with research exploring gay men's fathering trajectories (Stacey, 2006), participants

spoke of their procreative consciousness as emerging through a highly self-reflective process.

Second, and consistent with research on heterosexual men, some participants especially those

who were under the age of 30, talked about fatherhood as a natural life course transition









(Marsiglio, 1995; Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002). Finally and perhaps most intriguing is how

some men narrated their procreative desires in ways that were consistent with biological

essentialism and gender traditionalism.

A Self-Reflective Procreative Consciousness

Regardless of one's sexuality, parenthood has become a reflective process in contemporary

Western society. "Paths to parenthood no longer appear natural, obligatory, or uniform, but are

necessarily reflexive, uncertain, self-fashioning, plural, and politically embattled" (Stacey, 2006,

p. 28). Children have moved from an economic asset to an economic responsibility and even a

liability. Thus, "an emotional rather than economic calculus governs the pursuit of parenthood"

(Stacey, 2006, p.28). Openly identified gay men who seek fatherhood face these dimensions of

postmodern parenting in an exaggerated way. Furthermore, it has been documented that the

thought processes that gay men undergo to become fathers are quite different from those

experienced by their heterosexual counterparts (Barret & Robinson, 2000; Bigner & Jacobsen,

1989; Mallon, 2004). Many of the men I spoke with were well aware of emerging legal and

reproductive opportunities that made their once outlandish daydreams of becoming a father now

a viable reality. Yet, they also were well aware of how structural and institutional constraints

shaped their experiences in the procreative realm. Taylor, a shy and soft-spoken college student

explains how a gay man's journey to fatherhood is much more purposeful than the often

spontaneous and even accidental process of fatherhood for heterosexual men:

It's business like...you gotta find who. You gotta pick a date. You know, it's so, it's so
organized. It's not, like, it's not romantic. It's not anything. It's not accidental. It's, you
gotta sit down, discuss, plan, pick everything out. Like, it's kind of structured. It's overly
structured that it kind of makes it more difficult, like, to actually make every decision.

Taylor's narrative underscores the absence of spontaneity in many gay men's passage to

fatherhood. Admittedly, Taylor's comments may only be applicable to the experience of White









middle-class relatively privileged gay men who are not closeted. Nonetheless, his narrative

further emphasizes the idea that, unlike heterosexual men who may get a woman pregnant

accidentally, a gay man who desires a child by means other than heterosexual reproduction must

undertake a substantial amount of research and preparation.

Similarly, Evan, a childless man explains that as he has grown older, and started

considering the possibility of fatherhood, he has become:

Daunted by the challenge of it, it's very expensive. A gay man can't you know
accidentally have a child no matter what... I feel the unfairness of it all in that regard, but it
is what it is. So you know, I've paid attention and done some research to you know what
the options are, and there all very expensive, no matter how you look at it....One of the
aspects of being gay is that you're forced to be more aware of things, you have to think
about them more because they don't just happen by accident. You're different in
society.., and so if forces one to be more introspective about parenting.

Evan emphasizes that because of their reproductive physiology and legal obstacles, openly

gay men fantasying fatherhood are much more introspective and reflexive than are their

heterosexual counterparts. These narratives underscore how a gay man's journey to fatherhood

is shaped by a variety of mediating factors. In addition to the men acknowledging the planning,

structure, financial sacrifices, and possible homophobic prejudice and discrimination involved in

becoming a father, they discussed the various legal obstacles involved. Some participants in

Florida recognized their place of residence was the only state in the entire country with statutes

explicitly prohibiting adoption by gay men and lesbians (Mallon, 2004). Clark, a childless man

was the most knowledgeable participant on the legal status of Florida. He explains:

I'm in Florida. So, um, reading this stuff about what I can and can't do in the country was
just, uh, I really thought to myself this was never going to happen unless I get out of the
country...but, I mean, more and more, the country is becoming a little more accepting [of
gay parenting]. There's, you know, Massachusetts, New York, and California.









Clark is quick to comment that he currently resides in a state that overtly forbids adoption

by gays and lesbians. Yet, as an active member of a university GLBT student group, Clark

increasingly realizes the options available to him in this country.

Other men were critical about the discriminatory legalities of adoption, especially in

Florida. Segal is a gay childless man considering fatherhood. Segal was one of the more

outspoken men I spoke with, as he is a sociologist well versed on gender and sexual politics.

When I told him I was from Florida, we spoke at length about the discriminatory policies of gay

adoption in Florida. He maintains that:

I find it ironic that perhaps those who are constructed to be the best parents in our society
are those that are most handicapped from being able to take care of the mistakes that
heterosexuals make... Heterosexuals are irresponsible... And when gays and lesbians come
along like in the state of Florida, where there's whatever, 3500 kids that want adoption,
and there's more than 3500 gay couples who want to adopt them, then when queers come
along and say, we'll take care of the mess you made they refuse to let queers do it.

Fatherhood as Natural Progression

Clearly, many gay men choosing fatherhood are highly reflective about their fathering

desires and quite critical about the barriers that make it difficult for them to make their fantasies

into a reality. However, for some men, the transition to fatherhood was one that was simply a

natural and a logical part of one's life course. For example, recall Clark's assertion above of

wanting "a husband and 2.5 kids." In some ways, his fatherhood fantasies were a simple and

normal part of his adult life. While men were fully aware of potential barriers to achieving

fatherhood, their fantasies of fathering were also part of a broader process of individual

maturation and growth. Similar to the heterosexual men Palkovitz interviewed (2002);

fatherhood is described by some gay men as an inevitable and logical step and part of their

development into adulthood. There is a sense of continuity apparent in men's perception of this









step. Men in this category always imagined that their futures would include children; the only

uncertainty was when this would happen, not if this would happen.

Similarly, many men spoke about how their families of origin influenced their desires to

father. For example, Evan proclaims that he "wants to have a connection to people that are mine.

And my own family is very small and you know won't necessarily be around for my old age.

And so I cherish the connectiveness of them." Evan's desire to have children of his own was

augmented by the fact that his family was very small and only consisted of his mother and his

grandmother. His desire to have someone to care for him in his old age was a significant reason

as to why Evan desperately wanted children. Somewhat differently, Larry a childless attorney

asserts that his tight knit family was of tremendous value to him. As the youngest in a family of

four kids, when he watched his brothers' and sister's children play in his parents' yard, he would

become upset at the fact that he had not yet contributed grandchildren to his aging parents. He

referred to his parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews frequently throughout the interview and it

was clear that family meant a great deal to Larry. Larry, like Evan was clear that he wanted

children in his future. Although the sizes of Larry and Evan's families of origin differed, they

both cite their strong familial bonds as critical in shaping their present desires to want to become

fathers. For each of these men, fatherhood is simultaneously a normal life course expectation

and an anomalous desire.

Fatherhood as Essential

Some men explained that their desire to become a father was actually augmented once they

came to terms with their gay identity. Nick, a soft-spoken 26-year old who moved from the

Midwest to Miami Beach only one year ago eloquently discusses his burning desire to father as

equivalent to a woman's natural drive to mother:









Because I was always gay and I did have some maternal instinct. Maybe at the time that I
first started thinking I want to have a child...the older I got the more I considered it the
same way of finding Mr. Right...this very important thing that would complete me. The
only thing that could [complete me].

Nick cites identifying as gay as being tantamount to having a maternal urge. Further, he

recognizes that as a human being, the only thing that would fully complete him was creating a

family of his own. Ross, a childless single man echoes Nick's sentiments regarding a desire to

father. He asserts that fatherhood is "the greatest thing that somebody can do. I think it enriches

your life...you can give back to someone your good experiences, so they can become a good

person."

That men discussed their procreative fantasies in terms of having a "maternal instinct,"

"the greatest thing that somebody can do" and "needing something to complete me" clearly

speaks to our contemporary pronatalist milieu. It also touches on the notion of generativity, or

the nurturing quality in individuals whereby they seek to "create and guide younger generations"

(Marsiglio, 1995, p. 84). While some refer to gay men choosing fatherhood as postmodern

pioneers (Stacey, 2006), the yearning to procreate, father, nurture, and have someone depend on

you is a particularly modern characteristic. What is unique about this desire is only that it is

being articulated by gay men, a population who because of gender and heterosexist norms are not

expected to have these yearnings. Clearly, because gay men are raised within a socially

constructed society that stresses pronatalism and generativity, their procreative desires and

discourses are not so different from their heterosexual counterparts.

However, when we listen to how gay men negotiate these modem desires for fatherhood

with their gay identity, essential ideologies associated with gender and sexuality surface. For

example, while Luke wanted children in his future, he maintains that:









Gay men were not meant to be that way, if it was meant to be that way then two people
would have stood beside each other and had a baby. Obviously there is a reason that our
bodies are built to procreate and for a woman to go through that process.

Luke describes his procreative urges within the constraints of a heteronormative discourse.

If we take Luke's statement and juxtapose it against those of Nick and Ross it illuminates how

gay men's reliance on dominant familial, heterosexual, and gender discourse underscores the

need for a more inclusive way of talking about parenting. Furthermore, because we live in a

society that conflates and confuses gender and sexuality, gay men's procreative fantasies are

narrated within the constraining framework of Western conceptions of gender and sexuality. Yet,

while many of the men describe their procreative desires within a gendered and heteronormative

context, there were a few exceptions. Not surprisingly, one of these exceptions surfaced in my

conversation with Segal, a fellow sociologist who is a leading scholar on gender and sexuality.

He actually mentioned that my study should critically examine how heterosexism "hinders and

hurts gay men." This reliance upon dominant gender and familial discourse is a theme that

surfaced more than I would have ever imagined and confirms Segal's statement of how

heterosexism constrains gay men's narrative abilities.

Fatherhood Identity Transitions

I now look at the processes by which gay men undergo meaningful shifts in the way they

reflect and behave with regards to their future father identity. I emphasize the subjective and

fluid nature of gay men's procreative consciousness and fatherhood fantasies while

simultaneously highlighting how the gendered and heteronormative nature of the procreative

ream affects gay men's identity related transitions. Such social psychological transitions are

qualitative changes that reorganize the inner social psychological world and the external

behavior of an individual (Hawkins, Christiansen, Sargent, & Hill, 1993).









For many of the men, their procreative consciousness was triggered by specific moments,

experiences, or social processes. Consistent with other studies and personal memoirs (Mallon,

2000, 2004; Savage, 1999; Strah, 2003), gay men note that their procreative consciousness was

either heightened or activated through taking care of a child or children, interacting with lesbian

mothers, encountering another gay man or men who chose to father, the death of a partner or

family member, and being exposed to adoption and/or surrogacy organizations. For other men,

transitions were not sudden or critical shifts in their consciousness, but occurred rather gradually

and subtly.

Father identity transitions for childless men and fathers differed substantially in the types

of responses they triggered. These responses were inextricably tied to the sociohistorical context

by which men came of age. Consistent with Clark's experience described above, childless men

and younger aged fathers, for the most part, did not experience identity transitions that activated

their awareness of their ability to father. Rather, these men experienced transitions that activated

their desire to father, as most were well aware of their 'non-traditional' procreative abilities.

Anthony 's experiences with children discussed below underscores how simply because gay men

are aware of their available "reproductive" options does not necessarily mean that they will

desire to father a child in the future. Moreover, Frank's story that I detail in chapter one

highlights gay men's complex negotiations of their fathering desires in a world that privileges

heterosexuality and scrutinizes gay men's intimate interactions with children. Although these

younger gay men were more likely than their older counterparts to experience identity transitions

in their fathering desires rather than their fathering awareness, not all young men responded to

these transitions with subsequent plans to eventually sire a child.









Nonetheless, these father identity transitions are quite different from those of the older

fathers in my sample. Older men typically reported specific moments or processes that activated

their awareness of procreative possibilities. Clearly, this opposing response to father identity

transitions highlights the influence that social and historical changes have had in shaping gay

men's procreative consciousness. Art and Rick's chance encounter with a gay couple at a grocery

store in Fire Island discussed in more detail below illuminates how even though many older men

are cognizant of their desires to father, their awareness of the "reproductive" options available to

them is limited. Attention to the nature of the cognitive responses transitions trigger in gay men's

procreative and father identities clarifies the complex nature of the meanings men attach to such

events and how these meanings are intertwined with larger social, cultural, and technological

transformations.

Turning Points

Where every man in my sample experienced an identity transition with respect to

fatherhood, not all men experienced distinct turning points in activating their procreative

consciousness and fathering desires. Turning points are "instrumental transitional moments in

men's lives when men come to see themselves in a new light or to adopt a significantly different

perspective on some aspect of life" (Marsiglio & Hutchinson, 2002, p. 111). Turning points can

be distinguished from identity transitions in that the "the individual is aware on some level that

these events and related processes have altered his or her identity and perspective" (Marsiglio &

Hutchinson, 2002, p. 25). I use Strauss' (1969) typology of turning points and Marsiglio and

Hutchinson's (2002) variations of his framework to organize my analysis of the processes by

which gay men experience significant change in the way they think, feel, and act in regards to

the procreative realm. The insights I generate advance theoretical understanding of the events









and situations that gay men identify as turning points that trigger their awareness of both, their

knowledge of their ability to father children and their desire to father children.

Marsiglio and Hutchinson (2002) differentiate procreative turning points from those that

occur in the nonprocreative realm. Because gay men are less likely to engage in heterosexual

intercourse, they are not faced with events or situations in the procreative realm (pregnancy scares,

miscarriages, abortions) as often as their heterosexual counterparts. Thus, the vast majority of

turning points discussed here are nonprocreative. Note that while I explore these turning points

separately, I also stress that many men experienced multiple turning points in their procreative

fantasies. For example, I discuss how Drew and Nico experienced turning points that were

institutional as they became exposed to a gay-oriented surrogacy agency, and interpersonal, when

Nico gave Drew an ultimatum.

Experiential: engaging with children

Many of the men discuss both prior and current experiences with children as critical

episodes in activating their desires to one day become a father. For the majority, experiences

with children were formative events in constructing their identity as a prospective father. Many,

fathers and childless alike, discuss experiences with nieces, nephews, and cousins. Others speak

about working at a camp, working or volunteering at daycare, and partaking in various mentoring

programs. For example, Luke, a Black childless man from New Zealand, talks about his year-

long experience raising and mentoring his nephew. In a conversation about experiences with

children, he cites this particular year as a highly significant time in his life: "he [my brother] was

a slack-ass and it was important for me to be a good role-model for him [my nephew].., he

became like my side-kick...for some reason he listened to me." The year he cared for his

nephew was one of the most influential periods in shaping Luke's prospective father identity.

Recognizing the importance of becoming a decent role model for his nephew when his brother









failed heightened Luke's awareness of his fathering ability. Likewise, Evan, a childless man

living in Manhattan who was raised in Kansas City, Missouri remembers that he was interested

in becoming "a parent from a pretty early age, and I actually think it ties back to my early

relationship with a cousin...I can't say I helped raise him, but I did a lot of things that are

associated with parenting." Evan explains that his relationship with his cousin sparked his

awareness to the idea of having a child.

Yet, experiencing a heightened procreative consciousness based on interactions with

children does not necessarily mean participants will desire to become a father someday.

Anthony's experiences with children actually confirmed his original decision not to have

children of his own. A career driven theater major and a childless gay man, Anthony is adamant

about not ever having kids. He explains some of his previous encounters with children:

I guess when I approach kids, I'm kind of like a little too grown up because I can't be like,
"Hi kids!" Like, I can't be all happy and smiley and, like, childlike, like, I just can't do
that. I worked at a daycare center for a few weeks, and, like, there were these three little
kids that would just, like, climb up my leg, which was cute. But, for the most part, like,
kids just kind of like keep their distance from me.

Similarly, recall Frank's story from chapter one. Frank worked at a daycare center and

recalled many of these experiences quite fondly, often referring to them as "preparation to be a

good father" and "fatherhood training." Yet, Frank stopped working in childcare following an

incident where a young boy's mother accused him of "touching him in an inappropriate manner."

This traumatic incident heightened Frank's awareness of the public scrutiny and surveillance

surrounding gay men and young boys. Immediately following this confrontation, Frank swore

that he would never become a father and bring another human life into this world. Frank and

Anthony cite their prior experiences with children as confirmation that they did not desire

children in the future. Nevertheless, for the majority of men, experiences with children were









influential in heightening their procreative consciousness and shaping their identities as future

gay fathers.

Observational

Consistent with previous research, participants shared that seeing other gay fathers, lesbian

mothers or even other adoptive parents triggered their fatherhood fantasies (Mallon, 2000, 2004).

Ross, a childless man living in Miami Beach explains that his gay mentor, the person who gave

him the confidence to come out, recently adopted two children. Ross describes his mentor as "

the father I never had, and a great role model to me." Watching this man adopt children was a

turning point in Ross' procreative consciousness that triggered his desires that he too wanted to

father children one day.

Most of the time, however, men reported not previously knowing the persons who

prompted their fathering desires. Lawrence explains, "My ex had met somebody at the gym who

knew somebody who knew a gay man who adopted a kid." Eventually, this man escorted

Lawrence and his former partner to a picnic of gay prospective fathers who he describes as

"hungry wolves" wanting to know everything possible about how to navigate the legalities of

adoption.

Art and Rick, a couple who created their family four years ago by adopting a son explain

how they almost abandoned their fantasies of becoming fathers because of the continuous

difficulties they experienced with agencies and attorneys. A chance encounter at a grocery store

in Fire Island changed everything. Art explains how he saw two men and "the most beautiful

baby you wanted to see" exiting the store. He approached them with a mouthful of questions and

later that afternoon, the four men spoke for eight hours detailing the adoption process. For Art

and Rick, this chance encounter was a turning point in their forming father identities. Like other