Last month, we reviewed Family Pride, where author Michael Shelton worked to dispel the myth that most or all of LGBT families are headed by out, white, college-educated, professional gay men and lesbians. While he attributed the perpetuation of this misconception to the limitations of current scholastic research, another reason this misperception may persist is that many of the most popular memoirs about gay and lesbian parenting are written by people who largely fit Shelton’s profile. These books may not represent the most typical experiences of lesbian and gay parenting; nonetheless, they represent a segment of our diverse population, and their stories help to shape our imaginations and understandings of what it means to be a family. This month we will focus on gay male adoption stories.
Gay Adoption Stories
Two popular books that follow the adoption process of prospective gay fathers are The Kid: What Happened After my Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant, An Adoption Story by Dan Savage, a popular columnist and co-creator of the It Gets Better Project, and Does this Baby Make Me Look Straight? Confessions of a Gay Dad by Dan Bucatinsky, actor, writer, and producer.
While both texts share a similar comedic tone, they both also capture some of the difficulties gay men face during the open adoption process. For example, both writers detail the struggles they had developing their adoption profiles and writing their letters to the birth mothers.
Open Adoption Paperwork
Savage recalls the copious paperwork that the adoption process entailed. He writes, “And there was quite a lot of paperwork to crack. In addition to a homestudy written by the agency, we would have to fill out application forms, complete health histories, sign releases for financial information, authorize criminal background checks, obtain letters of reference, and write our autobiographies…If our relationship outlasted the paperwork phase of the adoption process, our final act before entering the pool would be to write a “Dear Birthparent…” letter.” Savage remembers that he was warned that writing this letter “would be the hardest part of the paperwork,” a statement that resonates with Bucatinsky’s book.
Bucatinsky writes specifically about the Birth Mother Letter that he penned. He includes “an actual quote from our BML: ‘Dear Birth mom: First of all, we want to thank you. We know there are many couples asking you to consider them and we want to say how much we appreciate you taking the time to read our letter.’”
While he thought they sounded like an ad for an airline, “Thanks for choosing Dan and Don Air!” He recalls that the letter worked: “twice.” In this way, like Savage, Bucatinsky infuses humor into his heartfelt story of forming his family.
Beyond Gay Adoption
While both books delve into the stressful open adoption process, they also catalogue the joys and challenges and parenting, making them engaging reads for any parent or prospective parent. Next month, IntraSpectrum Counseling will review some lesbian mother memoirs.
For the past twelve years, Robin Petrovic has been teaching English Composition, Literature, and Gender & Women Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she infuses Queer Theory into all of her courses. In 2011, Petrovic co-founded Gay4Good: Chicago, an inclusive LGBT volunteer organization that donates its time to social welfare and environmental service projects. As the literature blogger for IntraSpectrum Counseling, she reviews a variety of LGBTQ texts, so readers can easily find materials that match their interests and needs.