Last December TV personality Andy Cohen announced that he was expecting a child through surrogacy: “Family means everything to me, and having one of my own is something I’ve wanted in my heart for my entire life,” the 50-year old Cohen said, “and though it’s taken me longer than most to get there, I cannot wait for what I envision will be the most rewarding chapter yet.”
Cohen’s son was born February 4 and was named Benjamin Allen Cohen after Andy’s grandfather. Like every other parent, Andy Cohen soon discovered that his life was transformed by the joys and responsibilities of having a child. “I’m in love. And I’m speechless,” Cohen told TODAY show hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb (both moms). “I look at him the way I used to look at Instagram. I just sit and stare at him. I’m like, ‘Well, this is more interesting than a bunch of hot guys on my feed.’” Unlike previous generations of gay dads, Cohen did not have to go back in the closet, marry a woman, or even have a male partner in order to raise a kid.
Andy Cohen’s parenting experience is part of a veritable “baby boom” among gay men everywhere. Some of the gay dads are celebrities - Nate Berkus, Matt Bomer, Neil Patrick Harris, Perez Hilton, Alec Mapa, Ricky Martin and Dan Savage, among others - while others are ordinary folk. They became parents in various ways, including via heterosexual intercourse, co-parenting, adoption, donor insemination, reciprocal IVF and surrogacy. Like Cohen, these men are out and proud and have no problem being openly gay fathers.
And while most people’s idea of a gay man is that of a childless bachelor, according to the 2000 census no less than 22 percent of male couples have raised at least one child. This movement towards gay parenthood has increased in recent years: A recent survey by the Family Equality Council found that 63 percent of gay millennials are considering expanding their families.
In pre-Stonewall days, most men who were not yet openly gay were married to women and had children as a matter of course. Even today many older gay men, though since out, have children who are the product of previous heterosexual marriages. Younger men, those of us who came out after Stonewall, accepted the newfangled idea, though sometimes reluctantly, that gay men should remain childless. In this we differ from our homosexual fathers, who had children with their wives, and many of our queer sons, who have kids with their gay husbands. Many gay baby boomers never had an opportunity to parent, since they died from AIDS complications before they could decide such a move.
Like most of my gay contemporaries, I never had a child; nor do I expect to have one in the years that I have left. In a sense, it is probably a good thing; I probably would not have made a good parent. In any case being childless allowed me the time, funds and opportunity to do many of the things I have done in my life. Children are not cheap; and it is easy for a wealthy celebrity like Andy Cohen, who has servants and nannies at his disposal, to raise a son than it is for those of us who are less fortunate.
Like other childless men and women, we who are not parents have channeled our parenting and nurturing energies into teaching, social work, missionary work and other endeavors designed to help the children of today and tomorrow. On the other hand, I have nothing but respect and admiration for those gay men who have gone out of their way to perform the difficult task of having and raising children. Unlike straight men, who often have kids by accident, gay dads have children because they want to. And theirs is a choice that we should celebrate.