Updated: Jun 3
Needs. Wants. We all have ‘em. I was no different to the rest. I wanted to be a parent. I am no different than you or her or him or them. I made a choice for my future family and headed toward that outcome.
Here’s another choice I made. I was fortunate enough to have contributed to an all-party parliamentary group presentation on surrogacy law reform last month, when a video clip of my contribution (alongside my fellow contributors) was posted on Twitter. I have done much media around surrogacy in the past in the hopes of raising awareness and have always known that being visible has a downside where haters are concerned. The uploaded, 2 minute clip proceeded to gather much negative attention from critics of surrogacy who saw me, a single gay man, over and above any other contributor (a surrogate who told her story, a mother who told her story) as a hangman for the self-obsessed, and narcissistic toxicity that they believe is eroding society’s value of women and the idea of ‘mother’ through the entitlement of parenthood via surrogacy.
Now it is not to say that my other contributor friends who shared their stories suffer any less from these attacks, (we are a community first and foremost and we feel the stings of others‘ cuts) and I have certainly been vilified before in the press for my decision to be a dad (‘how dare he?’ etc) but the comments on Twitter specifically under my video reached for me today a new nadir when a ‘nun’ called me a selfish bastard. I laughed it off yesterday but it moved me to blog about it. I wanted to examine the furore of the hate that came my way. I wanted to lay it out, placing each comment side, cut loose from the thread, isolated for each person to read. But more importantly, always and forever the conciliatory gentleman, (and somewhat inured against criticism from total strangers) I wanted to address why Sister Augustine’s ‘selfish bastard‘ comment is actually in some ways (partly) true..
I went into surrogacy for selfish reasons it’s true. I desperately wanted to be father. I did not go into surrogacy because I wanted to save the world, or raise the second coming, or inspire others to do the same (although I later made this a goal) or to father a child that might one day ‘give back’ (though I would be proud if he did). I went into surrogacy because I wanted children. Simple. Much the same as the normal, standard, natural feelings with which most people arrive at parenthood. In my experience of friends who were mums or dads, being a parent was always about fulfilling an internal need, about creating a child through love, of fostering bonds with an infant that satisfy the desire for a connected family - and whilst these are deeply personal inward looking feelings they are not selfish (or at least not in the negative sense of that word). For how many would be parents sit down before a child is conceived and chart out how the infant is to contribute to society? You mainly think about the immediacy of your *own* family, what having a child means to *you*. And what being a parent would mean to *your* child, not what it would mean to other people.
But when this parenthood conversation is framed in the context of surrogacy it is seen as selfish - and when the desire is a man’s desire to be a father, it is seen as dangerous, destabilising, narcissistic and cruel. I do wonder if I had a partner and ‘I’ was replaced by ‘we’, whether this would soften the hard edges around the shape I have created for myself in this world with my son. But regardless... single, male, gay and now a father. This is who I am. And for the anti-surrogacy brigade, you really couldn’t get a better intersection of identities to fashion the devil of the issue upon.
There is certainly no hierarchy of prejudice when it comes to the abuse received by intended parents and surrogates in the surrogacy community, I am not the first or will be the last to receive such hate. And despite specific targeting of individuals (surrogates and intended parents alike) and the more general aim of these people to upset and cause hurt in the wider surrogacy community, if anyone is going to get it in the neck, you can guarantee that the single gay intended father sits near the top of the list. I would argue that there is perhaps one other more in line for disgust and derision by these people and that is the single heterosexual intended father - the supposed exclusion of a mother in that configuration even less ’excusable’ and perhaps the reason why we have not publicly heard of many.
Single gay men who have children have broken the mould on so many counts that their mere existence as parents seems to the fearful as emblematic of a world gone mad: a particular wicked subset of the patriarchy that seeks to turn upside down and invert in the most preposterous way the sanctity of motherhood. I broke my programming you see, or at least the rules of their game. This causes distress with some people because it makes their understanding of the world less predictable. For some it causes actual physical reactions. Like verbal diarrhoea or stomach regurgitation.
As a gay, I wasn’t supposed to reproduce, but I reproduced. As a male, I wasn’t supposed to feel the biological clock or want to bond with my offspring, but I did and I have (before he was born actually). As a single, I couldn’t/shouldn’t possibly raise a kid outside of a loving duo, but he *is* being raised in a one parent family... and raised WELL goddamit .. so far appearing well-adjusted, confident and full of spirit.
I broke the code. The natural order of things. How dare he think he can raise a child? How dare any of us who were childless think that surrogacy is ok?! We were ordered to “Desist!” As if we were marching across the metaphorical battleground of assisted reproduction, raising our surrogacy banners against the rights of the woman, against the concept of the mother, against the children born of our wicked desires. My selfish desire. ‘Selfish bastard!’, the angry nun cries. Think of the children we were warned and reprimanded for not adopting.
I was warned. I was told not to use woman as cattle or ”brood mares”. Their terminology not mine. They reasoned that the combination of my gender and sexuality created a creature that considered females disposable. And so this crowbar of sexism and homophobia was used to leverage their arguments, to more easily prize open my defences - using a surrogate was one thing but when a gay man did it was particularly cruel- how could a homosexual possibly understand the rights of a woman when he was incapable of ever truly loving one? How could a single homosexual know what love was when he couldn’t even love one of his own kind? We would surely only make our children gay anyway right? Now consider those homosexuals with gay sons - we would be breeding our own future intended parents, more homosexuals who would need to use surrogates when they are able to reproduce - generations of gay men using generations of women as cattle, over and over and over and over again with each gay son born a chance to continue the surrogacy agenda. It sounds insane right, but for the anti surrogacy brigade this is the fear of the future.
As a gay man in the surrogacy world I am often considered wealthy (I’m not), with money to burn (I’m on benefits) and so the inevitable comparisons with gay celebrities were used to dissect a more common theme around gender selection which has cropped up on other comment threads. I have previously been accused of gender-selecting (is that a verb?) my son - the assumption being that I couldn‘t possibly want to raise a girl. What could I contribute to her upbringing it was suggested, having been so far removed from the female perspective? That gender selection is illegal in the UK is an example of how poorly these critics research the issues.
Awful isn’t it, that when most other parents are posting pics of their 10 month old babies, the once intended parents of surrogacy have to defend their child’s existence against accusations of misogyny, commodification of babies and cruel science. Yet we still post pics of our 10month old babies, and our smiles are wider for it.
These ejaculations of hatred almost have a whiff of paranoid psychosis about them. I want to sit down with these people and tell them it will be ok. I genuinely feel for their crisis of mind. I want them to see the world as it is and not what the fictionalised serialisation of dystopia that the Handmaid’s Tale tells them it is.
Yesterday online I have been called narcissistic, selfish, misogynistic, renter of wombs, commissioner of souls, arch male of the third order of hell, illustrious flayer of skins, demigod soul eater of disenfranchised women, exploiter of need, a big bastard man who dared to dream of fatherhood etc etc. I’m getting creative here of course but the sentiments of the comments were the same. The abuse wasn’t limited to that particular thread either but continued on over 27 retweets of my video and still remains curiously (held up against other videos from contributors to the APPG) as the main target of abuse. In fact just as I write this, I see a retweet suggesting indirectly I be put to death for my choices. As if the writing wasn’t already on the wall!
They levy these accusations at me but they affect all in the surrogacy community with no thought for their words or care for their hurt and all in the name of ‘good conscience’. This is the ugly side of the surrogacy debate, where anti-surrogacy campaigner’s slate and cut down men, women and children in their quest to uphold morality and decency. The irony is not lost on us, though it is almost always lost on them.
Their arguments against us becoming parents are more fantastical and the insults thrown so egregiously vile that they exploit our feelings for the love of our children by regurgitating any defence we have for our basic human rights as narcissistic fantasies. The insults get worse, the comparisons of surrogacy to misery and human suffering so gross that I don’t wish to repeat them here. Comparing surrogacy to rape and child abuse is common for these people. They don’t hold back. There is an utter hypocrisy of these so-called ‘feminists’ who champion women’s rights by abusing women (and their partners) , and telling women what to do with their bodies, just as they venerate the holiness of the ‘mother’ whilst seeking to deny women the right of becoming mums themselves. *They* decide who should and should not be a parent.
And of the more ‘milder’ criticisms of my brazen attempt at Dad-happiness :
I have been accused of commissioning a womb. I did not commission a womb. I hung around a bunch of lovely people who all wanted to be parents until a kind family offered to help me. I was asked. I did not ask.
I have been accused of using a woman as an incubator. I did not use a woman as an incubator. Miles (my son) stuck his thumb out on the astral highway and Faye picked him and agreed to give him a lift home.
But most wicked of all, I was accused of being a ‘gross neckbeard’ : a perjorative term for a man who grows patchy facial hair. Whilst I admit I looked utterly dishevelled in the video it is simply because I haven't slept for 10months. I am exhausted. I’m a single parent of a baby ok? And he isn’t sleeping through, that’s 10months of multiple night wakings (and I am back at work!). I suppose it was only a matter of time before I was criticised for not only being a single dad, for not looking handsome enough, or glamorous enough or maintaining the appropriate grooming whilst doing it. Well, finally at least we have equality folks ! Mothers have been putting up with this shit for years.
(Fun Fact: a ‘mgtow’ for those not in the know stands for ‘men that go their own way’ Not entirely an insult in my book, really rather more of a compliment.)
I continue to be a proud and loving father entirely grateful and cognisant of what I have. I don’t respond to critics like this on social media because it gives their ideations oxygen and there are far greater social media warriors than I prepared to wage that war (and wage it more successfully I might add). I may be preaching to the converted here on my own blog (though it is public) but I also want people to know that we have so much more to fight for, that this is the state of play. Thankfully though these trolls are not the majority.
So ‘Sister Augustine’, I guess I was selfish after all, but isn't every parent when we create our children?
Having children can alway start as a ‘selfish’ act (if we have to use that word) but as any parent knows, it quickly turns into a *selfless* act.
I have considered my needs first when planning for parenthood. I designed and constructed the oxygen mask that would fit over my face before I even conceived of my son (I had to consider my needs so I could better consider his.)
But I can absolutely tell you that my boy has had me wrapped around his little finger, since his first cell division and onwards ..
.... parenthood is selfless because I would do anything for him....
.... because I haven’t slept for almost a year!😭😭😭...
..... because I give to him everything I have to give ...
....because he is rightfully always and forever the centre of my world ....
... because it’s ABOUT HIM and NOT ME!
And so every once in a while, an angry stranger under the guise of a charitable nun will come along to remind you that what your doing is right; that the rage and hatred your love provokes says more about them than you or what you’ve done; that the love for your child is the best thing that ever happened to the both of you and will be tarnished by no one; and that whilst there will always be haters, there will always and forever be ethical surrogacy making many many families happy.
(You can follow the vitriol in the original post here)
For a more cheerier read you can follow my full journey to Dadness, and read my Dad.Be blog here
and follow the story of me and Miles on Instagram @the_dadness
and these are only *some* of the highlights
Much love xxx