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How children have become a ‘status symbol’ for gay men: Filmmaker claims there’s a ‘pressure’

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A filmmaker has claimed that children have become a ‘status symbol’ for gay men amid a rise in same-sex couples welcoming babies.

Israeli director Yuval Hudadi, whose latest feature explores the breakdown of an affluent gay couple’s relationship when one partner decides he wants to become a father, told Air Mail there is ‘pressure and expectation’ for gay men to welcome children.

He explained: ‘Children have in a way become a status symbol among many gay men. They signify a certain level of time, money, and ambition.’ 

His comments come after a host of famous fathers welcomed children into their brood in recent years include Sir Elton John and David Furnish, Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black and Anderson Cooper.

However Yuval’s comments were criticised by Michael Johnson-Ellis, co-founder of TwoDads UK an organisation supporting British Intended Parents, who called the comments ‘discouraging’, adding: ‘No parent, gay or straight, goes into a surrogacy journey, which is often lengthy, emotional and occasionally complex viewing it as buying the latest Rolex, or Bentley.’ 

Filmmaker Yuval Hadadi has called children a ‘status symbol among many gay men’ and said there is now a rising ‘pressure and expectation’ for men to become fathers (pictured, Sir Elton John, 72, and David Furnish, 56, with their children Zachary, 8, and Elijah, 6, who were born by the same surrogate in California) 

Michael, who has two children  Talulah, three, and Duke, one, with his partner Wes and is founder of The Modern Family Show, explained: ‘Firstly I find the article quite discouraging, objectifying children is never healthy or positive is it really? 

‘Viewing family building as a status symbol – whether that’s adoption, which can also be costly in the US, or, like in our case, surrogacy – is not fair on the child.

‘The urge to create your family as a gay man is no different to that of our straight colleagues, that’s where the comparison ends sadly.’

He continued: ‘Legally heterosexuals have been allowed to become fathers via surrogacy for over 30 years in the UK. 

The director’s comments come months after Anderson Cooper, 53, welcomed his first child Wyatt via surrogate in April of this year. The journalist co-parents his son with his ex Benjamin Maisani, 47. He called the process ‘incredibly expensive,’ as well as difficult and ‘time-consuming.’

‘Gay men have been allowed to use Surrogacy as a route to parenthood legally since 2010, via the parental order route. 

‘There are still countries that don’t allow gay men to become fathers through Surrogacy. 

He added: ‘We should celebrating paths to parenthood, not judging them.’

Meanwhile Michael explained that becoming a father was ‘a gift’, saying: ‘For some people in the LGBTQ and heterosexual ‘Trying to conceive’ community, surrogacy is not obtainable at all, which adds additional stresses to either infertility or creates financial infertility, something many gay US men are faced with due to the increased costs of surrogacy.’ 

‘Becoming a father in the UK via surrogacy is more challenging than the US, due to the surrogacy laws here, however I, or anyone I’ve ever met with, have never viewed parenthood as a status symbol, more as an absolute gift.

Diver Tom Daley and filmmaker Dustin Lance Black welcomed their first son Robert in 2018. The couple both donated sperm to their egg donor and had their baby via a surrogate. At the time, they said they don’t want to know who is the biological father of their surrogate baby son

‘Everyone deserves the right to be a parent, free of criticism and judgement.’

Celebrity gay icons including Sir Elton John and David Furnish, as well as Anderson Cooper have welcomed children in recent years.

The son of the late fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt revealed in April that ever since he realized he was gay at age 12, he thought he could never become a father which was heartbreaking for him. And now that he has a child, he says it is a ‘dream come true.’  

Ron Poole-Dayan, executive director of Men Having Babies, explained that expectations surrounding parenthood have shifted between generations.

Celebrity couples who have welcomed children via surrogate

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka 

Neil Patrick Harris, 47, welcomed twins Harper and Gideon with his husband, David Burtka, via surrogate in 2010 

Neil Patrick Harris, 47, has twins Harper and Gideon with his husband, David Burtka.

The children were born via a surrogate from eggs fertilised by sperm donated by Neil and David in 2010.

In 2014, Neil told Barbara Walters that he still has ‘no interest’ in learning which twin is his biological child. 

‘I have no interest in [finding out]. We are their parents and I love them implicitly,’ Neil explained on the subject of paternity.

‘We inserted one of my sperm and one of David’s sperm into two eggs with the hope that they would both take, just because we both wanted to be dads biologically,’ Neil said of the babies’ conception. 

Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent  

Nate Berkus and his partner Jeremiah Brent have two children, Poppy, six, and Oskar, two

Nate Berkus and his partner Jeremiah Brent announced they were expecting a baby girl via a surrogate mother in 2014.

The duo welcomed Poppy, now six, before announcing the birth of their son Oskar in 2018. 

Berkus told USA Today they formed ‘lovely relationships’ with both surrogates and would be ‘thanking them forever’ for ‘completing our family.’ 

Andy Cohen  

Andy Cohen, 51, made headlines in February 2019 when he introduced son Benjamin Allen, born via surrogate and now almost two years old

Andy Cohen, 51, made headlines in February 2019  when he introduced son Benjamin Allen, born via surrogate and now almost two years old

Cohen has also been offering support to pal Anderson Cooper who became a dad himself via surrogacy in late April, welcoming a baby boy he named Wyatt.

Cooper has hired the nanny that cared for Benjamin during his first year and Cohen has spoken publicly about his delight at the CNN anchor joining him in fatherhood.

‘I’m so happy for Anderson,’ Cohen said on his SiriusXM show. ‘We’ve been talking about this for a long time and I have been really enjoying Anderson coming over. His visits with Ben have taken on a special significance since we both knew for a while that Anderson was planning on [becoming a dad] himself.’

He said for older members of the community, gay men may have ‘got a pass’ when it came to children but that a rise in famous fathers such as Anderson Cooper had meant this is ‘no longer the case.’

However the pricetag for fatherhood can be extremely expensive and inaccessible to the average person.

Ross and Chris Muller, who are believed to be the first same-sex couple to have IVF treatment on the NHS, revealed a surrogacy journey could have cost them ‘about £45,000.’ 

The couple, who are from Edinburgh, spoke out in May ahead of welcoming a baby boy via surrogate. 

Ross, 33, a primary teacher, said: ‘We knew we were doing the right thing and we just know the joy children can bring and we wanted to have some of that and to be part of it.’

Edinburgh based Ross (L) and Chris Muller a same sex male couple who are having a baby via surrogacy in late July/early August 2020

‘I think a lot of same-sex couples, male and female, don’t know that this exists, like we didn’t until we found out about it.’

The NHS has until recently refused to give gay male couples such treatment because of a blanket ban on using surrogate mothers.

The Scottish Government changed that policy two years ago so any couple, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, is eligible for free fertility treatment.

That decision marked the biggest shift since 2013, when NHS guidance across Scotland, England and Wales made IVF available to same-sex couples and single women with fertility problems.

But because of the ban on surrogates, in practice same-sex couples meant only women. 

They had to demonstrate their infertility by showing they had failed to get pregnant after several attempts with artificial insemination.

Where is surrogacy legal?  

Where is commercial surrogacy legal?

Places where it is legal for women to be paid to carry a child for a foreigner include Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and parts of the United States, where the practice is regulated at state rather than federal level.

Thailand and Cambodia used to be hubs for overseas commercial surrogacy, particularly for prospective parents from China, until it was banned in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Some forms of altruistic surrogacy are allowed in Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Britain and Australia (except for the Northern Territory which has no laws on the matter), but for-profit surrogacy is banned.

Countries including Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain outlaw all forms of surrogacy.

Where is LGBT+ surrogacy allowed?

Gay couples will soon be able to access surrogacy in Israel, after the country’s top court ruled against a law that excludes them in February, giving the government a year to pass a new one.

Tens of thousands of people protested against the law, which gave single and infertile women access to state support for surrogacy, when it was passed in 2018.

Taiwan bans all surrogacy. But since same-sex marriage was legalised in May 2019, commercial surrogacy agencies from the United States have marketed their services to gay couples on the island, including from Asian countries like China.

Gay couples are banned from surrogacy in countries including Nigeria and Russia, which also banned foreign same-sex couples from adopting children in the country in 2013.

India, where gay sex has been legal since 2018 but same-sex marriage remains illegal, restricted the use of surrogate mothers to married couples and single women in February.

Nepal, another former commercial surrogacy destination, now only allows infertile Nepali married couples to access it. But it excludes couples where one or more person is transgender and same-sex marriage is also not legal in the Himalayan state.

Which LGBT+ celebrities have used surrogate mothers?

Gay celebrities who have fathered children through surrogates in California include popstar Elton John and his husband David Furnish.

Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, whose son Robbie with his British Olympic diver husband Tom Daley was born in 2018, said the U.S. state was ‘the safest place’ to have a surrogate child.

Andy Cohen, a U.S. presenter and close friend of Cooper’s, welcomed his surrogate son, Benjamin Allen Cohen, in February 2019, while other gay fathers through surrogacy include U.S. actor Neil Patrick Harris and Latino popstar Ricky Martin.

It is thought there have been no cases of IVF treatment for a gay male couple being funded by the NHS in England.

In Wales, fertility treatment for gay couples is in theory available on the NHS, although its policy states that ‘surrogacy IVF will only be provided where no other fertility treatment options are available’ and strictly for ‘medical reasons’. 

Ross said: ‘Before we knew we could get it on the NHS we looked privately and the surrogacy journey is about £45,000. After we contacted the NHS, they initially said they wouldn’t look at us.’

‘We had to keep pushing on that door and it was new to the hospital so they hadn’t done this before. 

‘That’s when they told us that we would be the first in Scotland to go through this.’ 

A surrogate mother, from Cambridge, was hired through a private company. 

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