John Weltman | Surrogacy | Television | The New Normal

Surrogacy Expert Weighs in on 'The New Normal'



John Weltman is the president and founder of Circle Surrogacy and an expert in assisted reproductive technology law. He and his husband are the fathers of two sons, 18 and 17, through surrogacy.  They were the first in America to have two children through surrogacy, one for each dad through the same surrogate mom. 

Television has come a long way in representing gay characters. In May, Joe Biden said, in discussing marriage equality, that “Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anybody’s ever done so far.”

NBC’s The New Normal, which premiered last night, is the next chapter. The storyline focuses on gay characters becoming parents through surrogacy.

The subject is close to my heart. After seventeen years of helping parents have children through surrogacy, I can tell you that the show gets some things right. And it gets some things very wrong.

In the pilot, we meet David, a football-watching doctor, and Bryan, his fashion-obsessed partner, who want to have a baby. Let’s leave aside discussion of hackneyed gay stereotypes. More dangerously, Bryan’s fondness for nice things is likened to his desire to have a child. “Oh my God, that is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” he gasps at a baby at the mall. “I must have it.”

N_normalOkay, it’s a sitcom and Bryan has some of the funniest lines. But no couple, gay or straight, considers surrogacy because they want “to have baby clothes. And a baby to wear them.” Becoming parents is the biggest step a couple can take together. It requires thoughtful consideration and contemplation.  Anyone who told me they wanted to have a baby for their clothes would be shown the door!

Here’s where The New Normal gets things right: the episode opens on a misty-eyed Bryan speaking to his future child: “This video is to show you … how desperately you were wanted.”

Those who choose surrogacy do so because they want, more than anything, to have a child. Whether they are an infertile straight couple, or a gay couple who have gathered resources for years, there is no question that surrogacy is not something you take lightly. When contrasted with the way generations of parents in Goldie’s family have had children by accident, those who pursue surrogacy for the right reasons will make some of the best parents—in part because it requires such careful thought and planning. 

In the episode, we learn of a simple process of clicking though the “stunning models” in the “platinum” egg donor database and creating a perfect embryo to be implanted into a surrogate. Bryan wants to know if it’s extra for a “skinny blond child who doesn’t cry.”

Again, it’s a sitcom and it relies on tired humor. In doing so, however, it dehumanizes surrogacy and egg donation. Let’s set the record straight. The process by which surrogates, egg donors, and intended parents choose to work together occurs after meticulous consideration of a variety of factors.

Women apply to become surrogates by answering questions about their personal and medical history, what they are looking for in intended parents, what their views are on medical issues, and why they are considering surrogacy. They speak with social workers and partake in screenings. Legal experts weigh in. A match is ultimately a two-way street, with surrogates and egg donors, deciding with intended parents that they want to move forward.

Couples don’t choose egg donors exclusively because they are beautiful or blonde, but because they are healthy and happy and may be open to meeting the child someday. 

When the agency representative asks David and Bryan who is going to be the bio dad, both respond, “I am.” Advances in IVF technology allow us to divide eggs between two potential sperm providers and implant two embryos, one from each  gay dads, so that each man can become a biological father of half siblings at the same time.  Other times, gay couples have one child through surrogacy, and then have a second child through surrogacy using the other father’s sperm.

Whatever the outcome, gay couples who become parents through surrogacy are finding that Bryan’s epiphany rings true: not having a biological tie to a child doesn’t make you any less of a father.

The second episode airs tonight at 9:30 ET. Look forward to another post responding to surrogacy issues raised in future episodes.

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  1. Ryan Murphy trivializes almost everything he touches. I don't want him depicting homosexual male relationships on TV. Is the United States such a small place that we only have Ryan Murphy doing this?

    Where are all the others? Why are we putting our media fate in the hands of someone like Ryan Murphy?

    Posted by: jason | Sep 11, 2012 7:02:24 PM

  2. Jasone -- No one here can help much with your frustation. Take your protest to the headquarter of NBC gurllll.

    Posted by: Malaysian Ho | Sep 11, 2012 7:20:32 PM

  3. Or better yet, produce your own TV show.

    Posted by: Malaysian Ho | Sep 11, 2012 7:21:09 PM

  4. It's not that sitcoms use tired humor. Sitcoms can be funny. The problem is: NBC likes to TRY to make "High Concept" sitcoms. What they always seems to end up with is: glossy, thin, one joke shows that aren't funny.

    I hope CBS attempt at gay sitcom will be better. But, the clips I've seen from it are awful.

    Posted by: Tony | Sep 11, 2012 7:23:47 PM

  5. LOL. I think Mr. Weltman has taken this show a bit to seriously. It. Is. A. Comedy. Do we take shows about serial kills this seriously? No.

    Posted by: Sam In Dallas | Sep 11, 2012 7:24:07 PM

  6. "Let’s leave aside discussion of hackneyed gay stereotypes"

    No, let's not.

    Within the first ten minutes of the pilot episode last night, one of the characters said as he was buying a pair of pants that he "wanted to look like Mary Tyler Moore" and the other later talked about how his father (surprise, surprise) had "screwed his life up". The couple addressed each other as "Honey" or "Sweetie" at least a half-dozen times before the show was even half over....and, of course, the centerpiece of their lives turns out to be a straight woman (straight men are, of course, totally absent from Gay World, as represented by this first episode).

    Oh, and, of course, the two lesbians who made an appearance were both clad in blue jeans and flannel shirts and had short, butchy haircuts.

    The only thing missing was Judy Garland playing in the background throughout the entire 30 minutes.

    A continuation of the depiction of gay men as prissy little missies......but what do you expect from the creator of Glee?

    Particularly disgusting given that the new President of NBC is a gay man, who, you might think would want to introduce at least one series in which gay men can be taken seriously as real human beings and are not reduced to effeminate clowns to be laughed at rather than with.....but I guess not.

    Hopefully, this show tanks in the ratings and is cancelled after just a couple episodes. I damn sure will not watch it again.

    Another opportunity lost. How sad. And how sickening.

    Posted by: Rick | Sep 11, 2012 7:39:38 PM

  7. Rick (I am NOT the same person), I picture you sitting in front of a TV with a bunch of discarded, fly-ridden TV-Dinner trays around you, a cold brewsky and a huge multi-function remote, cursing at the screen and belching every time you see something you don't like-- which is pretty much all the time. What a lovely person you are.

    Posted by: Rick A. | Sep 11, 2012 8:01:29 PM

  8. Man, both Jason AND Rick are out in full force today.

    You two are so fierce! GIIIRRRLLL!

    Posted by: RandySf | Sep 11, 2012 8:07:30 PM

  9. I love the show...anything to get a does us all good.

    Posted by: smuggy | Sep 11, 2012 8:13:51 PM

  10. I thought it was cute.

    Posted by: Jeff NYC | Sep 11, 2012 8:22:54 PM

  11. Rick,

    You are so right. Anybody who subscribes to these rampant gay stereotypes on TV is a tool. I have no use for tools, gay or otherwise.

    Posted by: jason | Sep 11, 2012 8:25:15 PM

  12. "Tool" is a funny word, Jason.

    Posted by: Jeff NYC | Sep 11, 2012 9:01:37 PM

  13. What kind of gay man says the scene took place at the mall when it was shot in Barneys New York Beverly Hills store?
    Seriously the lecture on how surrogacy really works coulda been done without

    Yes, the gay pants really bothed me, and I hate that they did that
    I don't know Ryan Murphy but I do know, slightly, his younger and better looking boyfriend who has hair and looks like Kevin Bacon.
    However it seems that no gay man who is more butch is putting on a TV series for us right now, so take it or leave it.

    Posted by: Bob | Sep 11, 2012 9:23:12 PM

  14. Um... this is a comedy. So, let's stop taking it so seriously.

    Posted by: Kevin | Sep 11, 2012 9:25:46 PM

  15. I always felt that accepting the fact that you would not have children was part and parcel of accepting the fact that you're gay. But, if rich, gay Californians want to spend their money on surrogacy, who am I to object? At least they're not spending teir money on something I'd envy.

    As for the show, it doesn't offend me. Anyone who wants a TV depiction that's dead serious wants a documentary, not a sit com. That said, I do think the show is doomed. Not so much for the stereotyping of the gay charcters but the stereotyping of the villainous, bigoted grandmother. Might cut too close for comfort for middle America. A little too heavy handed.

    Posted by: Bill | Sep 11, 2012 9:26:29 PM

  16. A disgusting blackface-level "comedy" that isn't even remotely funny. May it be cancelled - quickly.

    Posted by: ByTheBay | Sep 11, 2012 9:36:33 PM

  17. Awful...pure and simple stereotypes,bad acting...period!

    Posted by: VDUFFORD | Sep 11, 2012 9:39:58 PM

  18. If only Americans were so smart not to let trivial things like sitcoms fully inform their opinions about important issues.

    Posted by: Jason 2 | Sep 11, 2012 10:13:08 PM

  19. You're [almost] all a bunch of old nasty queens that can't deal with progress any more than homophobes can. One character is effeminate, the other (more) masculine, and this is a reality of the community... summarized in a single cast of a half hour show. Honestly, it was extremely cute and I loved it and look forward to the possibilities it still has.

    Posted by: Glenn | Sep 11, 2012 10:16:08 PM

  20. I watched the pilot and while I don't mind a sassy, effeminate queen, I hated this particular character. Really inspid and annoying. And I agree that it has a trivializing air to it. The Ellen Barkin character is too forced. Just didn't find it funny. Sorry! Glad some others enjoyed it.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Sep 11, 2012 10:34:04 PM

  21. I watched it online when it was linked here a few weeks back. It wasn't terrible (IMO) but it wasn't great either- it depends on where they take it from here and I'm willing to give it a few more episodes to make up my mind.

    They used a LOT of stereotypes, not just for the effeminate, fashion-obsessed partner but his black secretary, the racist granny, and probably a few others I've forgotten. And yeah, the decision to have a kid was quick and shallow, with Bryan seeming to see it more as a fashion accessory. That was balanced somewhat with other, more heartfelt scenes, so maybe it will get better. It is a sit-com after all and they have to get the situation set up and the characters in place quickly and without a lot of hand-wringing.

    Some of you may not remember this, but even though Will & Grace is now being lauded as such a ground-breaking show, maybe even instrumental in acceptance for gay people, the SAME criticism was leveled at that show when it debuted. Jack was an effeminate, moronic, sex-obsessed (particularly at the beginning) twit, and Will was like a sexless maiden aunt instead of a handsome and successful gay man living in NYC. Many people hated Will & Grace for the same reasons The New Normal is being criticized. I was one of them, though it later grew on me some.

    So maybe The New Normal will get better. I hope.

    Posted by: Caliban | Sep 11, 2012 11:13:33 PM

  22. "I always felt that accepting the fact that you would not have children was part and parcel of accepting the fact that you're gay."


    There have been gay parents for decades now - becoming a parent may not be to everyone's taste, but it's patently ridiculous to assume that homosexuality automatically corresponds to being childless.

    As for the show - as much as I support the cause, I found the show as tired and unwatchable as Glee. More power to anyone who does like it though.

    Posted by: Nat | Sep 12, 2012 12:17:28 AM

  23. "Jack was an effeminate, moronic, sex-obsessed (particularly at the beginning) twit, and Will was like a sexless maiden aunt instead of a handsome and successful gay man living in NYC"

    I didn't find Jack as irritating as some, but it was grating and obvious that they were afraid of depicting a non-effeminate gay men with an active romantic life. And Grace was a genuinely terrible person.

    Posted by: Nat | Sep 12, 2012 12:22:58 AM

  24. @ JOHN WELTMAN: Are you aware you're watching prime time television?

    As an adoptive parent, I think surrogacy is a bit rich.

    Posted by: David R. | Sep 12, 2012 12:46:18 AM

  25. Please, Weltman, purchase a sense of humor.

    And the homophobia in some of the reader comments is sadly interesting.

    Posted by: Randy | Sep 12, 2012 12:56:30 AM

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