It was a cold February night in suburban New Jersey when two men and their female friend gathered for an artificial insemination at Marsh Hanson and Jay Wilson's 1870s carriage house, which is decorated in what Hanson calls "Pottery Barn gay." Their friend Piper had arrived that day from Massachusetts with her three daughters in tow. "They're all gorgeous," Hanson says, "which was important to Jay and me. We're vain."
Hanson, 38, works in IT for a Manhattan law firm. He put some of his sperm in a syringe and gave it to Piper. The following night, Wilson, 37, a record-label executive, repeated the procedure. Afterward they all drove back to Piper's house in Massachusetts, where the two men alternated the process for another three nights. Hanson and Wilson, who were joined in a civil union in October 2007, know another couple who mixed sperm when making their babies. Those men created a genetic cocktail and waited to see which man won the lottery. But Wilson and Hanson decided to take turns. The big moment came each night at around eleven o'clock.
"We'd hand her the syringe," Hanson recalls. "Then we'd all go to sleep. It wasn't a social event and it wasn't hippie-dippy, with candles and fertility dances. We were kind of straightforward about it."
While Hanson and Wilson's embryo was being created, similar scenes were unfolding around the country. The stereotypical image of the American gay mansingle, fabulous, social, and up for endless anonymous sexis giving way to a new norm, one that has couples and even unattached gay men settling down to raise children. Statistics are hard to come by, but academics, doctors, lawyers, and gay advocacy groups say that there appears to be a boom in homosexual men having babies. And as with many trends, the increase in gay fathers has afforded its own terminology: the gayby boom.
"More and more gay men seem to be having babies," says Charlotte J. Patterson, a University of Virginia psychologist who studies gay families.
"It's definitely happening," says Dan Savage, who writes the syndicated newspaper column "Savage Love" and is himself a gay father (he has a son). "Most of the people I know have adopted, but more and more gay men are opting for surrogacy because it gives you more control, and there are gay men who want that genetic relationship with their children."
Hanson and Wilson decided on surrogacy after being inspired by another gay couple. "Their surrogate is pregnant with their third child," Hanson says, "and their surrogate is friends with our surrogate." These days in vitro fertilization (IVF) (which involves implanting a lab-fertilized egg in a womb) is particularly popular, and increasingly effective. Joe Taravella, 39, and his partner, Brent, 40, who recently took his last name, used IVF to have their daughter two years ago and then tried it again and had fraternal twins (a boy and a girl) last May. Other couples turn to makeshift approaches like the one Hanson and Wilson used. But all these reproductive methods have some things in common: They're faster than adoption, do't involve persuading social workers that you are fit to be a parent, and allow you to pass your genes along to your children. Agencies and law offices that match potential parents with egg donors and surrogate mothers say they're flooded with gay-male candidates. John Weltman, the founder of Circle Surrogacy in Boston, says he had few gay hopefuls when he opened his doors 12 years ago. Today around 90 percent of his clients are gay.