TOP STORIES Three single gay fathers reflect on fatherhood and surrogacy

Three single gay fathers reflect on fatherhood and surrogacy

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Cenk Bulbul, a single father by choice, with his youngest daughter Gaia Bulbul in New York, NY. Both of Cenk’s daughters were born to the same surrogate mother, using donated eggs and his sperm to create implanted embryos.

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Cenk Bulbul, a single father by choice, with his youngest daughter Gaia Bulbul in New York, NY. Both of Cenk’s daughters were born to the same surrogate mother, using donated eggs and his sperm to create implanted embryos.

Jackie Molloy for NPR

Fatherhood comes in many different forms, from fathers who are by your side from the first steps to those you meet later in life.

NPR spoke to three gay single fathers who chose to become fathers through surrogacy after years of coming to terms with their identities, their families and the technological advances that made such travel possible.

TSENK BULBUL

Cenk Bulbul is from Turkey. He came to the United States in 1994, in the early days of a tool that would help him and countless others understand emotions they didn’t yet have words for: the World Wide Web.

“Things that I felt when I was young, but I didn’t know what it was because there were no public examples when I lived in Turkey and even at Carnegie Mellon. [University]Bulbul says of his time online while completing his master’s degree in Pennsylvania.

“At that time, in 1994, you didn’t see many gay people. [on] campus. So I realized that I was gay, but I was scared, confused.”

Although he was finally able to label his romantic feelings, he still felt lost. So he returned home to Turkey and completed his mandatory military service before returning to the United States—this time to New York—where he completed his Ph.D.

“Here I am, like, 20 years later.”

Cenk Bulbul, a single father by choice, with his daughters Amy and Gaia. Cenk’s mother, Norton Bulbul, also came to the city from Turkey, where he was born.

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Journey to fatherhood

Bulbul always dreamed of becoming a father. In his youth, he imagined himself in 2000 – 28 years old – married to a woman, with two small children.

“Then I came out in 2002,” he says. “There were no examples of same-sex parents or single parents by choice around me, not even such as adoption circles.

“And then as the decades went by, more and more, as I became more comfortable with who I am, I started to see examples, and, you know, then the legislation started to change, and that also began to attract more families of different backgrounds. surface. And this childhood dream of mine began to nag me.

Cenk takes Amy shopping and then puts her to bed. Both of Cenk’s daughters were born to the same surrogate mother, using donated eggs and his sperm to create implanted embryos.

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Initially, they wanted to adopt Bulbul. But the process for single people, especially relatively older gay men, he says, has been difficult.

“If I’m going to be a parent, I should just try to find the short cut at this point because, you know, it’s not fair to kids that they have an aging parent. I wanted to be there,” he says. .

In 2017, his first daughter, Amy Jules, was born by a surrogate mother. In 2021, in the throes of COVID, Bulbul welcomed his second daughter, Gaia Mein, with the same surrogate partner.

“Her name, Gaia, means Mother Earth. And for me, it was very appropriate for a child who is just about to grow up on a warmer planet whose future is at stake. So I thought that she would be the future president. he says with a laugh.

Dr. Diarra K. Lamar, MD, a single father by choice, with his daughter Archie Madeleine Lamar in a park in New York, NY.

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DIARRA LAMAR

At 2.5 years old, Archie is a precocious toddler with colorful bows adorning her hair and a vocabulary that belies her age.

“It’s a special language,” says her father, Diarra Lamar. “I speak Archie. Are you talking papa? he asks, turning to the kid in sunglasses next to him.

Archie replies “yes” before asking his father if he remembers “Wheels on the Bus” and reminding him that she likes vanilla.

Lamar, who now calls New York City his home, grew up in Mobile, Alabama. Black, gay and overweight in the South, he was raised by a single mother in a family of single mothers.

“Despite what one would expect, given these characteristics – this geography, these circumstances – who I am as a person has made me seem to be oblivious to these supposed limitations,” he says.

“Yes, you know, people said derisive things about me, but I didn’t care,” he says. “And the reason I didn’t care was because my mom loved me and my grandma loved me.”

It was because of the love he felt in his family and the strength of the women around him that he says he felt it was his duty to bring a child into this world.

“My mother is a phenomenal woman,” he says. “My grandmother was a phenomenal woman. My aunt is a phenomenal woman. My uncle is a brilliant creative person. My great grandfather was a giant. The world needs to see the next generation.”

And so in 2016, he began the process of giving birth to Archie.

Dr. Diarra K. Lamar, MD, at home with her daughter, Archie Madeleine Lamar.

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Journey to fatherhood

A three-time Harvard-educated medical professional, Lamar speaks with clinical detachment about obtaining viable embryos and finding a surrogate mother.

“My mom said in a couple of our conversations… ‘Oh, if only I was there,’” Lamar recalls. “And we never talked about the fact that I have children, but it was in the context of other things. And when she said that, I thought, “Oh, well, I really have to go.”

“It was a very long journey,” he says.

There were several bumps in the road, including one of his potential surrogates having to apologize because her husband had attempted suicide, and another had a major car accident right before the implantation was scheduled.

But in January 2020, Archie was born, named after her late great-grandfather.

“But we [Lamar, his mother and newborn Archie] got off the train at Pennsylvania Station and immediately went home. And since then, my mother has not left.”

In her early months, Archie lived with her grandmother in an apartment Lamar bought for her, just minutes away from his own rent-regulated apartment in the West Village.

“I did my job during the day, at 5:30 or so, I would come and make dinner for us to eat, play with Archie and, you know, do everything else,” he says, “put her down around ten or around since [late-night feeding] at midnight. And then I would come home at midnight, wash my face and repeat.”

Now the three live in a bright three-bedroom apartment six blocks from Archie’s Montessori school.

“I think Archie is special,” Lamar says. “I believe she deserves a disproportionate share of the good and a disproportionate share of the bad. And I consider it my honor, task, job, privilege to make this happen without regret. ”

“I know it was meant for me,” he says. “I was meant for her.”

Dustin Ling, single father by choice, with his son Spencer Kai Ling.

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Dustin Ling

“Sometimes the gay community looks like a funny guy who is always about fashion or always about travel,” says Dustin Ling.

“Fathers – homosexual fathers and mothers – come in many forms, not just a one-to-one identity. We can be different things and you can be those things and also be a parent.”

Raised on the island of Aruba to Asian parents, Ling says there weren’t many gay people around.

“When you belong to an underrepresented minority, you don’t understand what is possible,” he says.

Journey to fatherhood

Son Ling was born in May 2021 after a difficult search for surrogacy.

“You have to sell yourself, right. And surrogates, maybe some surrogates want to help straight parents. Some surrogates only want to help couples,” says Ling. “Some surrogates want to help a single mom who wants to have a baby because she can’t. And then you are like a colored person or a single father. So it took a while to even just find a surrogate.”

The rosy-cheeked 13-month-old baby is named after Ling’s brother, who committed suicide in 2015.

“His name is Spencer, after my brother,” Ling says. “His middle name is Kai, which actually means ocean since we’re from the Caribbean.”

As a new parent during COVID, Ling has had her own challenges.

“Birth is like that moment where you want to celebrate and you want to have a family, you want to have friends,” Ling says. “And the first year was like, ‘Actually, no thanks, don’t come by yet’ because we want to protect Spencer from any exposure.”

Dustin Ling, single father by choice, with his son Spencer Kai Ling.

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The couple contracted COVID in April, making childcare difficult as Ling’s parents often travel from Aruba to help with the baby.

“The parents you kind of care about, too, because they are intimately connected to my son’s life,” he says. “You worry about your elders, the elders in the family, given that they are in their seventies. And you’re worried about Spencer, who you know doesn’t have a vaccine.”

But while they’re together, exacerbated by the pandemic’s lockdown, Ling says he and Spencer spent time learning about each other.

“He has an amazing will,” says Ling.

It is this determination that unites the two of them. Despite the difficulties of living as a single gay father in New York, Ling remains an optimist.

He said he still hopes to find romantic love and plans to start a new surrogacy in a few months.

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