Jesse Green, 41, lives with his partner of five years in a Brooklyn Heights brownstone, along with their two sons, Erez, now 6, and Lucas, 4. Green's partner, Andy, a 50-year-old high-school guidance counselor, adopted the children through a southern agency specializing in Hispanic birth mothers. Both boys were adopted when they were just a few weeks old.
Dan Savage, 35, and his boyfriend, Terry Miller, 29, live together in a Seattle, Washington, farmhouse with their son, D.J., now 2 years old. The couple gained custody of the child through an open adoption on the day he was born. D.J.'s birth mother, Melissa, was a homeless street kid who chose Savage and his partner from a group of 80 prospective parents profiled by a Washington-based agency. She visits her son several times a year.
When they're not changing diapers, Green and Savage are likely to be at the computer. Green, a journalist and novelist, chronicled his unexpected parenthood in The Velveteen Father, released in paperback this month. Savage writes a widely syndicated sex-advice column which appears in the Village Voice, as well as opinionated pieces on politics and pop culture for a wide range of publications. The Kid, his first-person account of his son's adoption, also comes out in paperback this month. The two men spoke with New York's Maer Roshan about bringing up their boys.
Maer Roshan: So how did two gay guys end up pushing around a pram?
Dan Savage: I'd been seriously thinking about having a child for years. At one point, I was talking to a lesbian couple about being a donor dad; then I met my boyfriend; then, two years later, the lesbians broke up and the donor-dad opportunity went away. So we decided, "Let's adopt." We'd been thinking about becoming parents for so long that we felt we were ready for it.
Jesse Green: I'd always believed that as a gay man I wouldn't have any children, and had come to see that, in some ways, as a benefit of gayness. Then I met a man who had already adopted a child -- a boy then 14 months old. Nine months later, Andy adopted another. He and I have been together five years now, and I'm a parent to these two kids in every way. But I certainly didn't plan on all this. I went out on a date and somehow ended up changing diapers.
M.R.: Did either of you run into any problems when you tried to adopt?
D.S.: In my case, it was pretty easy because we were interested in doing an open adoption. Unlike in closed adoptions, where the birth parents never meet the adoptive parents, D.J.'s mother met with us and knew us, and wanted us to have the baby. She has ongoing contact, and she visits with the kid a few times a year.
J.G.: It will take you a long time if you want a blue-eyed white male with blond hair. Other than that, it's not anywhere near as hard as you might think. Whether you want an open adoption or a closed one, you do need to spend some time looking in the right places. Some agencies won't even consider gay parents, but because of the number of babies needing homes, and the number of people who want children, there's a pretty big informal network in place right now for gay people who want to adopt. My partner, Andy, personally placed half a dozen kids himself. The agency calls him and says, "Do you know anybody? We have a kid who's going to be ready soon, and we don't have anyone."
D.S.: Your chances are a lot better if you're willing to take a baby that straight couples might not think about. We weren't D.J.'s birth mother's first choice. She chose us after two couples rejected her because she drank during the pregnancy. People were afraid to adopt him because they were afraid of fetal alcohol syndrome; they thought he'd be fucked up forever. But it turns out all the terror over FAS is overblown anyway. D.J. turned out perfectly okay.
J.G.: That's interesting, because Andy's first adoption was also sped up by the fact that the birth mother used drugs during the pregnancy, something that wasn't known until she was about to deliver. People warned Andy of all sorts of dire outcomes, none of which have occurred.
D.S.: A lot of gay people who adopt come to the conclusion that they are worthy of adopting only kids that straight people discard. D.G. adoption, damaged goods. We decided early on that we didn't want to do a D.G. adoption.
M.R.: Why not?
D.S.: It sounds horrible, but we didn't want to start at a disadvantage. We didn't want to spend those first two years with our child undoing the damage that the heterosexual parents had done.
J.G.: The fact is, you're already at a disadvantage in society as a gay parent. Why add on yet another hurdle?