Dr. Chen-Hayes及其伴侶陳子良，藉由陳子良提供精子、Dr. Chen-Hayes姊妹捐贈卵子並擔任代理孕母的方式，孕育了共同擁有兩人血緣的下一代，以下內文感謝Dr. Chen-Hayes在百忙之中為本季刊撰文，分享他與他的伴侶相識、相愛、成家及生子的過程。
INTRODUCTION—FAMILY LIFE CYCLE APPLIED TO MY FAMILY AND I THROUGH THE LENS OF LBGT IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT
What are the ingredients that make for a happy gay couple and happy gay couple raising a child? When I was asked to write on this topic for the e-journal, I was surprised and honored. My family is diverse by nationality, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, religion, and so forth, so my story needs to be seen in the context of multiple identities. We are only one example, however, and I don’t intend my story as definitive for other couples or families, but more of what has worked for us. I’m not sure I have all the answers—personally or professionally, but I’m willing to share our story if that can help professional counselors, educators, and family professionals see a window into how to affirm, advocate for, and effectively counsel gay men (and lesbians) in couple and family situations over the lifespan. There is a small but growing body of literature in English discussing tips for successful gay dating and relationships as well as gay parenting and can be found in English at websites such as Family Equality Council, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) ,and resources for youth living with gay parents can be fund at Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE) . I have provided the theoretical lens to examine our family using a traditional family life cycle model using an expanfed family life cycle model of stages (McGoldrick, Carter, & Garcia-Prieto, 2010) as well as D’Augelli’s LBG-family centered theoretical model (D’Augelli, 1996).
SINGLE BISEXUAL/GAY CHILD/ADOLESCENT/ADULTS/EXITING HETEROSEXUAL IDENTITY/DEVELOPING PERSONAL AND SOCIAL GAY IDENTITY
I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in suburban Chicago, Illinois in the USA, the son of two USA citizens—my father who was of English ethnicity and had distant relatives who had crossed over on the Mayflower to what is now the USA from England, and my mother of Scottish ethnicity whose parents had family members who had emigrated from Scotland through Canada. My partner, Lance Chen-Hayes, grew up as a citizen of Taiwan in Taichung, the youngest of nine siblings whose parents had fled the Communist revolution in China in the late 1940s. Both of us knew we were attracted to other males very early in our lives but neither of us “came out” until our early 20s. I came out initially as bisexual when I started my first semester of my master’s program in Counseling and Counselor Education at age 21 and soon afterward to my parents and family and friends who were supportive. Lance came out at about the same time to himself when he was in the Taiwanese military service and eventually to friends but waited a number of years before coming out to family. The challenge for both of us as children, adolescents, and young adults was coming to terms with our sexuality as gay or bisexual and then deciding who to tell in our network of friends and family members. Both of us had dated women but only I had had sexual experiences with women. Neither of us had had much dating experience or success in relationships with men during our 20s. Lance decided he could be out more comfortably if he emigrated to the United States and he did so to pursue a master’s in physical therapy moving to New York City in 1991. Stuart worked as a residence hall director and part-time college student affairs counselor for several years at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and then worked as a school counselor and family counselor in southwestern Massachusetts before returning to the Midwest and finishing a doctorate in Counselor Education at Kent State University in the early 1990s.
GAY COUPLEHOOD—FROM DOMESTIC PARTNERS TO CIVIL UNION—COMING OUT TO OTHERS AND COMING OUT TO FAMILY AS GAY OFFSPRING; BUILDING OUR RELATIONSHIP; CREATING LBGT COMMUNITY
We had our first date in subzero freezing cold blocks from Lake Michigan in Chicago, IL on January 22, 1995. Lance had moved to Chicago months before and I had taken a first teaching job in the Chicago suburbs the year prior. On our first date, at a Vietnamese restaurant, we talked about our interests in becoming dads and having a child. It was rare at that time to hear two gay men on a first date discuss their interest and commitment to having a child. The prevailing cultural environment in the United States was fiercely anti-gay and the majority of same-gender couples who were just starting to be open about being parents were mostly lesbians. But Lance and I quickly realized that we had found a very special person in the other. We shared very similar values about honoring traditional ethnic/racial identities and both shared a love of multiple languages. We also were united in our disapproval of the “rice and potato queen” factor. Rice queens are White gay men who are only attracted to Asian gay men (and often due to their ideas of having an exotic, submissive, sex slave boyfriend—similar dynamics can be seen in heterosexual communities). Potato queens are the reverse—gay Asian men only attracted to White gay men who often devalue their own culture and looks as less than European ones. Lance and I found we had common ground because we are attracted to men of all colors/ethnicities and found anything less limiting and full of internalized shame and hatred (racist/colonial oppression). We found we had a shared love and interest in political activism, progressive politics, the arts, design, slow food, taking care of the earth, and anti-oppression work. It was this shared value system that has seen us through our relationship successfully—we value each other and we share a value system that honors our individual differences and celebrates our cultural differences. We also found that we are both intuitive and feeling (if you follow Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and less in our sensation/thinking domains. I am a strong extrovert and Lance is more of an introvert, but we can both move in the other direction at times. Stuart is a strong Perceiver (or dreamer/idealist) and Lance is a strong Judger (focused on details, a place for everything and everything in its place), so we have shared the two inner types and complement each other on the other two types. At times of stress, this has been critical to remember to celebrate the differences or at least acknowledge them when we feel less than celebratory. Another strength for us as a couple was having a large network of friends at the time in Chicago. We were both involved in political issues and professional issues related to equity and diversity and we made many connections with other like-minded souls, which strengthened us as a couple and built a solid support network over time. After a year of dating we decided to move in together and we became engaged—a double ceremony that included one ring being given away at Sun-Moon Lake in Taiwan and the other at the John Hancock building (at the time the second tallest building in the USA)’s top-floor restaurant. A year and a half later, we held our sacred commitment ceremony (what we called it because at the time marriage was not legal in any US state nor anywhere in the world for same-gender couples), and we were supported fully by our family of choice and our family of origin. By that time, I had made two trips to Taiwan and met all of Lance’s family and his parents had made two trips to the United States meeting my family and all went well. Lance eventually chose to come out to his parents but did so in a traditional way by asking permission from his eight siblings in a 24-page letter written in Mandarin. The siblings had a family meeting and supported Lance in who he was but asked that he not share the news overtly with his parents. That made Lance mad, but he knew due to filial piety that he had to comply. Later a sibling was asked by his mom if Lance was gay and she spilled the beans. That had Lance mad, too, but we reframed it as mom now knew and he saved face because he wasn’t the one to tell. Mom was upset for a couple of months but their weekly telephone calls managed to lessen the pain over time and now they are very close.
GAY COUPLE RAISING A YOUNG CHILD
On our first date in Chicago in 1995, we discussed our shared interest in becoming fathers. That was not the norm for most gay men on a first date then or now. But our journey to parenthood took many years to come to fruition. We at first considered national adoption in the USA, but we needed to wait until Lance secured his USA citizenship in 2002 (he retained his Taiwan citizenship so he is a dual national). In the meantime, we also kept hearing stories of how children of adoption often arrived with “surprises.” For us in our early 40s, we wanted to minimize surprises in our life.
We then considered international adoption from China as we wanted to match the child on at least one side with either ethnic/racial/linguistic similarities or by gender. Our friends all assumed we’d be adopting a girl from China but this was at a time when the homophobic Chinese government was cracking down on “single” parent adoptions, i.e., same-gender couples. We had no desire to go back into the closet to have a child. We had narrowed our options away from adoption and decided on surrogacy instead. But we can’t do anything traditionally, so it seems, and that applied for surrogacy as well. We found a gay-friendly surrogacy attorney and as we were in the process, Stuart’s sister made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. Three tries later, she became pregnant with Lance as the donor dad and nine months later, our son was born. Everyone was over the moon with excitement and joy. We were honored to not once but twice cover Gay Parent Magazine with the story of our family and how our child came to be. Lance’s whole family knew the story from the start other than Lance’s dad, who was informed only two weeks before our son’s birth. When he was told he asked, “What took you so long to tell me?” This signaled his full acceptance of our son into the family.
Our major challenge as parents of a child, like any other sexual orientation, is to find quality couple time. For the first 4 years, we had very little time to ourselves. When our son was age 5, Lance decided he wanted to pursue an online doctorate in Physical Therapy, which he completed in the early summer of 2010. This has allowed us to now have regular dads’ nights out and resume the chance for us to have some much-needed couple time after years of putting our son’s needs and the second doctorate in the family as top priorities. We moved to a town in central New Jersey that is primarily Asian and European-American intentionally to give our son the chance to grow up in an environment that celebrates his multiple cultural, ethnic, racial, and linguistic identities.
Our son spent a semester in Taiwan in a Mandarin-language pre-school at age 3 when his fathers were on sabbatical from their jobs in the USA, and when we returned to the USA from Taiwan, he spent the next three years in a Mandarin-immersion dual language school, YingHua International School, and has become completely fluent in English and Mandarin. He continues in a weekend Chinese language school and his Baba Lance speaks Mandarin to him at home and Daddy Stuart speaks English. At his current school, he continues part-time Mandarin and part-time Spanish studies so that he will soon be trilingual. Our priorities in parenting for our son have been the following:
- No violence—Both of us grew up in families where emotional violence was present regularly and both of us were targets of physical violence—one in the home and one by bullies outside the home. One of us was bullied in elementary, middle, and high school with no adult intervention. We made the commitment early on that we would never use physical punishment nor emotional violence in our parenting. We have been perfect on the nonphysical front and usually good at not raising our voices. When we have raised our voices, we’ve made sure to apologize and demonstrate that we have made the error, not our son, when we use a tone of voice that is less than what we seek in both our and his behavior.
- Exposure to social justice and equity issues from an early age—As interracial gay dads in a racist and homophobic world, we have learned to fall in love with difference. That doesn’t mean that everyone else has—by any means. So we have agreed as a family that we want our son to learn about equity and social justice from birth onward. Stuart wasn’t happy with the average children’s picture book literature and spent countless hours searching for children’s books that were fun, creative and filled with social justice and equity images and messages. Our son has few toys but hundreds of books. Stuart and son have created two websites http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/listmania/byauthor/ASC3OHVL4GSSA to share our social justice equity picture book selections as we continue to build our social justice chapter book selections. We have found our son’s teachers and schools very open to including social justice equity issues and lessons as we have shared our stories outside our home. We’ve also made sure to take our son to important places in history on both sides of the family—all over Taiwan and the United States. He’s been to multiple gay pride parades, to various environmentally sensitive habitats, to local farms, to cities teeming with the full range of human diversity—our goal is that he see that he can make a difference in the world for equity and justice from early on. His teachers have commented on multiple occasions that he has a strong sense of fairness and a deep connection to world events and cultures that is well beyond his years.
- Exposure to and support for the arts—Both of us have always been artistic since our childhoods and we were involved in theatre and music—one vocal and one instrumental-- throughout our schooling. We wanted to share an appreciation of the arts with our son and we’ve done so from his earliest days. We both sang for years with the New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus, and our son was a regular attendee at rehearsals and concerts. We took him to Music Together children/parent music classes in his first few years until we had to stop because he was more interested in dancing than singing. He’s taken multiple years of diverse dance classes as he has developed a love for all things related to movement and motion. He has also returned to study of voice and is in a children’s ensemble. This past year he began study of piano. Last, living near New York City, we’ve worked hard to get him to multiple concerts and shows and he shares his dads’ love of Broadway and musical theatre. We’ve also made a commitment to ensure that he continues to be exposed to a rich heritage of Chinese cultural and artistic endeavors such as Cloud Gate Dance and the Hong Kong Symphony.
- Commitment to international experiences and bi-/multilingualism
Lance grew up, like many Taiwanese, trilingual in Mandarin, Taiwanese, and English. He is also strong in Fujienese. Stuart studied French for four years in high school and college and while not fluent, he can hold his own when needed, and he’s also studied two years of Mandarin. Raising our son in the USA, he initially had no exposure to Mandarin until we went on sabbatical in Taiwan when he was 3 years old. But at that time, I chose to speak very little English, and he was truly immersed in Mandarin for six months at pre-school and at his Ama/Agong’s home in Taichung. Lance always said that if our son picked up Mandarin, he would continue to speak it with him afterward. When we returned to the USA, we were beyond lucky when we heard a private Mandarin immersion school had just begun two towns south of where we lived. Our son attended for three solid years and ended first grade fully fluent in both English and Mandarin with a great base to build on future Chinese reading and writing skills. In addition to supporting dual language learning, he is now at a school where he is learning Spanish so that he will emerge trilingual. We keep up regular Sunday Chinese school lessons and he does an hour of Chinese homework nightly to keep pace with his Chinese reading and writing. Lance speaks to our son in Chinese only now so as to continue the immersion experience at home. In addition to language learning, we try to get to Taiwan every other year for a couple of weeks so that our son can stay connected physically to his many adoring cousins, aunts, uncles, and Ama/Agong.
- Age-appropriate sexuality education—Both of us grew up in sex-negative cultures where we didn’t learn what we needed to in terms of sexuality at the time we needed it. We vowed our son would have appropriate educational materials related to sexuality at developmentally appropriate levels as a child and as an adolescent. We’ve ensured he has many books that reflect LBGT family members as well as books that teach sexuality education in appropriate ways for ages 4 and up. We’ve used the Harris & Emberly (1994, 2004, 2006) sexuality education books with great success as early reading books for him and now he reads them on his own as chapter books. We found that pre-schools in general rarely discuss sexuality and that stereotypes abound often in the children attending—so we’ve provided a great base for kids to ask questions and our son has become the fountain of information on accurate body parts for more than one child and staff member. His clarity of information adds to his security and comfort as a child with two dads in what is usually a “one-mom one-dad” world. Our current school has four 2-mom families, so while we continue to be the only dad-dad family, we appreciate other same-gender parents on campus.
- Exposure to multiple cultural identities/rural/urban/suburban experiences—
The town we live in is equal parts European and Asian with a strong Asian Indian presence followed by Chinese and Korean, and some Latino and African-American families. There are many languages and multiple social class identities. But as far as we know we’re the only gay dads, so we work hard to get together with our “family of choice” in other NJ towns and in Philadelphia and NYC regularly so that our son is exposed to a variety of family forms and LBGT families raising children and adolescents. Our families also have multiple religious/spiritual identities, as do we, so we encourage our son to learn about different spiritualities without imposing any on him. Lance’s family has both Buddhist and Christian traditions and Stuart’s family has Hindu, Christian, atheist, and agnostic traditions. Both of us are spiritual but have little use for organized religion due to the continuing heterosexism found in so many religions. Although we will always be city “boys,” currently living in the suburbs we say that you can take the boy out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the boy. But one thing we love about where we live is that we are close to many family-run farms and we like being close to nature so that our son can spend time on farms and see how food is planted, cultivated, and harvested.
- Regular contact with family of origin and family of choice—We both grew up in families of multiple generations living with grandparents under one roof and we’ve done the same for our son. We left the city to move in with Stuart’s parents as they were at an age where they wanted to have assistance. Stuart’s father was living with Alzheimer’s disease and our son had the chance to live with an elder with a disability for a number of years. Since Stuart’s father’s death in 2008, his mom has been a big help in assisting with our son’s many after-school activities when needed. In addition, our son speaks once a week by phone to his Ama/Agong in Taichung in Chinese to keep connections strong. One down side of being parents outside a major city is that we don’t get the chance to see our family of choice (LBGT friends) as often as we’d like. As our son gets older, we look forward to more time to reconnect with LBGT friends and establish new ones as well. Much of the LBGT parenting groups are focused on where families are in the life cycle and we have found in our area that our son is younger than the pioneers whose kids are now in college but older than much of the large group of newer LBGT parents.
- Limiting contact with commercials/advertising as much as possible—Both of us have a strong belief that corporate culture and advertising in general, especially toward children and adolescents, is out of control worldwide-especially in both Taiwan and the USA. Armed with strong research support, we agreed that we would not allow our son to see TV in our home. The exceptions are when he enters his grandmother’s room (and she either has the business channel or weather on—great ways to turn any child off from TV!) or when in Taiwan in his Ama/Agong’s room, his Ama usually has Chinese Soap Operas on; our goal is to keep him in front of those only long enough to practice a little Chinese. What we have instead is a creative critical thinker who isn’t about the newest gadget or toy when we go shopping. We’re not sure how long we can limit this but we will continue to do so as long as possible so that our son has the right to a childhood free of commercial and advertising manipulation.
- No TV and limited computer screen time with strong parent controls and public viewing of the screen at all times—Recent research has shown that more than 2 hours of screen time a day is contributing both to childhood obesity and mental health concerns in the USA. We want our son comfortable with digital-age skills, but at a measured pace. We have his computer in a public area and limit his time on the computer to only an hour or two at most and only on certain days and certain educational channels. He now doesn’t see the computer as a big deal. We also allow him a CD player but screen the CDs for no violence and he uses these on long car trips or for occasional rewards.
- Slow food—With our commitment to challenging over-commercialism and advertising directed at children, we’ve also cultivated a child who loves home-cooked meals. When we travel, we’ve also taught the difference between fast food and slow food. We attempt to eat organic and/or locally sourced food as often as possible as a way to help preserve the Earth’s resources and to model that we can eat well without contributing to the profits of giant corporations who take the money out of our community and rarely invest back in local families. Our son has never been in a McDonald’s for food (one time we had no choice for a diaper change), nor any other fast food restaurant and we have developed a strong relationship with local bakeries, ice cream shops, farmers, farmers’ markets, and grocers who help us help the local economy and enjoy fresh, locally sourced food on a regular basis.
- Educational advocacy and high levels of parent support at our son’s schools—We’ve both been big advocates of high levels of parental involvement in our son’s schools. With one of us a professor of education, it has become a labor of love at the same time. The research is clear that parent involvement correlates strongly with student success. Stuart has spent countless hours reading and listening to pre-schoolers, Lance has shared many experiential hours in schools with students with disabilities on exchanges with our son’s school classes, and we’ve both ensured that LBGT issues are addressed appropriately in each of our son’s schools. For two years, Stuart was president of the Mandarin –immersion private school family association, and spent many hours helping support the school in countless ways. But perhaps the biggest act of advocacy was Stuart’s work to found a Mandarin-immersion public charter school with an International Baccalaureate focus. While he and 11 others were able to get the school ready to go in less than a calendar year, a challenge from high-powered lawyers from two school districts at the 11th hour scuttled the opening of the school for a year. Princeton International Academy Charter School (PIACS) is on target to open in Fall of 2011, and while our son will not be eligible as a student, we look forward to hundreds of students benefitting from Mandarin immersion with our son as living proof of the benefits of so doing.
GAY COUPLE RAISING ADOLESCENTS & LAUNCHING THE NEXT GENERATION
We look forward to raising our son into adolescence and believe that we’ve provided a solid foundation for him to take pride in his multiple cultural identities with nurturing and supportive school environments and family support on both sides of the family. When our son graduates from high school, we look forward to sending him to college in search of furthering his academic and career dreams.
TIPS FOR BEING A HAPPY GAY COUPLE/FAMILY
Beyond the family life cycle model infused with our LBGT identity development, what have we done to maintain harmony and happiness as a couple and family? We both are keen fans of evidence-based practice in our fields and we both like and use the work of Dr. John Gottman (1995), who is one of the few couples counseling researchers who has extensively studied heterosexual as well as lesbian and gay couples. He found clear evidence that gay and lesbian couples have much to teach heterosexual couples, particularly as same-gender couples are less likely to use coercion in relationship disagreements, and same-gender couples are more likely to assign tasks based on personal qualities instead of stale gender roles. Gottman also has identified the four qualities, called the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, that are most likely to tear couples apart: Contempt, Criticism, Stonewalling, and Defensiveness (Gottman, 1995). We have never used contempt, rarely criticize, have only occasionally stonewalled and sometimes can be defensive. But knowing the danger zones and knowing how to repair conflicts through the concept of bidding (verbal and nonverbal ways that we invite the other partner in to our conversations/thoughts/activities) have provided an excellent skill set to practice and refine to ensure the success of our relationship long-term. In addition to Gottman’s work, the following have been guiding principles for us over the course of our relationship:
- Be in it for the long haul—Both of us come from families where our parents stayed in their original marriages for many decades; we both learned the value of hanging in there even in times of relationship challenges and discord.
- There is no perfect relationship or couple or family—We give ourselves and each other permission to be fully human and know that no one person can meet the other person’s needs all the time nor should we expect that. Instead, we look to each other’s strengths and appreciate those strengths and learn to live/accept the areas needing improvement.
- Making time for the relationship and each other daily and weekly—We’ve always tried to check in with each other at least once a day in how our days have gone to keep the emotional connections strong. Now that our schedules permit, we are enjoying weekly date night out—even if it’s only an hour at our favorite local slow-food tea house or ice-cream shop. Regular maintenance is important for couples and cars—but too often our cars get regular-tune ups and couples forget to do that for their relationships.
- Honoring independence and interdependence—We both value our own interests—Lance loves to watch late night television and I hate it; I’d much rather explore things interactively over the internet. So we don’t have to do everything together. At the same time, we enjoy meals together as often as possible as our time to connect as a family. We also spend precious weeks of family vacation with relatives in Taiwan and the USA as often as possible to keep connected with families of origin and our family of choice—our LBGT friends and family.
- A commitment to equity and social justice—When we met in Chicago, we both found a shared love of political and cultural activism that we have maintained as a couple and family. Stuart has been very involved in professional counseling leadership and advocacy positions and has written extensively in LBGT and multicultural/social justice publications. Lance was a co-chair of GAPIC in Chicago and very active with GAPIMNY for many years in New York. We have presented extensively on surrogacy at LBGT parenting conferences and are active in supporting marriage equality and anti-bullying efforts locally, at the state level, nationally, and internationally.
- Humor, fun, and play—We both sang for a number of years with New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus, which gave us much joy and a chance to combine our love of music with social activism. We both have great senses of humor and enjoy the play that comes with raising a child and find some time each week for adult play for ourselves as a couple, too.
- Balancing two career, parenting, take care of elders—Our house is a mess—until company comes over. We don’t do a lot of housework except when we have to. We have too much other stuff going on to have the time for it. We do our best to put relationships and careers first and deal with dust only when we have to. Lance is our cook and laundry person and Stuart does the majority of driving for our son to and from school and his myriad activities and is also the family banker. So our major role responsibilities even out in terms of time spent in those four areas.
We have been together since January of 1995 and are entering our 16th year together. We are honored to have the chance to share what has worked well for us as a couple and family and we look forward to many more years together as a multilingual, dual national, multiracial, gay-headed family.
D’Augelli, A. D. (1994). Identity development and sexual orientation: Toward a model of lesbian, gay, and bisexual development. In E. J. Trickett, R. J. Watts, & D. Birnbaum, (Eds.)., Human diversity: Perspectives on people in context. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Gottman, J. (1995). Why marriages succeed or fail…and how you can make yours last. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Harris, R. H., & Emberly, M. (2004). It’s so amazing: A book about eggs, sperm, birth, babies, and families. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Harris, R. H., & Emberly, M. (2006). It’s not the stork: A book about girls, boys, babies, bodies, families, and friends. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Harris, R. H. & Emberly, M. (1994). It’s perfectly normal: A book about changing bodies, growing up, sex, and sexual health. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
McGoldrick, M., Carter, B., & Garcia-Prieto, N. (2010). The expanded family life cycle: Individual, family, and social perspectives (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
The author would like to thank Chao Shu-Chu for the chance to write in English for the e-journal audience.
Correspondence regarding this article can be sent to Dr. Stuart Chen-Hayes at email@example.com.