John Weltman | Surrogacy | Television | The New Normal

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Surrogacy Expert Weighs in on 'The New Normal'

Newnormal

BY JOHN WELTMAN

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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Comments

  1. "The New Normal" is pretty much the reality of the gay married couple today and this is coming from an openly gay man married to a formerly straight man who, after eight years into a our marriage, has resulted in the birth, through surrogacy, of a now five-year old son.

    There are many similarities and sometimes we wonder if Ryan Murphy isn't looking into our own personal lives. It was a no brainer for me that my husband would be the "bio-dad" because he was the only son while I have five older very straight brothers and an older lesbian sister. Our son is the result of a third party surrogacy, my husband's sperm and my sister's egg but the cost was no where near $35,000 but well over $100,000. We have every intention of having a second child through the same process and the same surrogate with my sperm and his sister's egg. It may be a few more years but we will have that second child.

    Our son was wanted from the getgo. My husband's first marriage resulted in an childless union. Our love grew from the overwhelming love of each other and enhanced by our desire to be remain and grow together and a deep desire to have a family. From my earliest memories, 5 and 6 years old, I dreamed of having my own child and traded trucks, snow-cone machines and easy-bake ovebs with my sister in secret for her Ken and Barbie dolls.

    I am lucky in that I have been gay all of my life and fully supported by my Dad and siblings. All they ever wanted for me was my own happiness and welcomed and encouraged my relationship with Greg from the moment he came over for dinner. I was already in love with him tho' he was much more reserved. Once he sat down to Sunday dinner and met my brothers and Dad he realized his feelings for me could be far more than that of soccer buddies and coaches. I never considered marriage as a reality and months after we had fallen in love with each other, moved in together, it was Greg who asked me to marry him. I was a self-centered male model signed to an exclusive contract with Pierre Cardin but today my whole world is Greg and our son Steven. I would give up my life for them in a minute.

    "The New Normal" is very much "us" in many ways. Though our son is my father's tenth grand child and my in-laws third, he is the most sought after, loved and doted on grand child of all. My father goes to great lengths to spend time with him while Greg's parents are just as devoted and loving. Both spend more time at our house then they do with any other grand children. No child in the family is cared for more than our own son Steven.

    Yes, "The New Normal" is a bit flamboyant and stereotypical but it hits very close to home - at least in our family. Happily we do not have an bigoted "Nana" in the group.

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Sep 12, 2012 1:59:52 AM


  2. LOVE OS2GUYS's comment -- saw the 2nd episode. These are still not my kind of guys, but I appreciated it.
    LOVED Ellen Barkin's line in the pilot -- "a couple of salami smokers"
    STILL think the surrogacy guy who wrote the article needs to remove the stick up his butt

    Posted by: Bob | Sep 12, 2012 2:56:13 AM


  3. Three fat jokes in the pilot. THREE. And don't get me started on the "BABY CLOTHES!" stupidity. I happen to enjoy Glee, for the most part, and am usually a fan of Ryan Murphy's work. But this show was a mess. I haven't seen episode 2 yet, but if there's another damn fat joke (Will & Grace used to do the same thing -- Jack saying Will was fat) it will be the last I watch. I try to give sitcoms at least 5 or 6 eps to find their groove, but this one? Wow. It was not funny or endearing to me at all.

    Posted by: Jack J. | Sep 12, 2012 3:18:27 AM


  4. Wow. The fact that a show like this got onto mainstream network tv is a big deal. Just by itself. Humor, or so I thought, is a way that people deal with uncomfortable topics. You know break the ice, get the conversation going. Its a time honored technique to deal with frustration, disappointment, and even horrific tragedy. Having a kid is a big deal for sure. I doubt that Ryan Murphy is intentionally trivializing the experience. And I'm not dismissing anyone's opinion here, but consider this the fact that the discussion is happening with a mainstream audience is huge. Nothing short of it. Especially with all of the hate out there. But it is a sitcom and not everyone likes sitcoms or comedy in general. There was once a groundbreaking sitcom in the 70's called "All in the family". You know the one Normal Lear brought to mainstream American tv audiences. It was the shot heard round the world. This wasn't so long after Martin Luther King. The point is that it confronted America to get the conversation going about racism and race relations and equality. Humor can be effectively used as a device.

    Sophisticated audiences in 2012 are not stuck on stereotype. But in the span of the time allotted for most shows they have to pack a punch and communicate fast and hold the viewer's interest. For me it worked on several levels. First I laughed out loud and forgot about my problems for 1/2 hour. I thought the dialog and timing were quick. Second, I'm in awe that they got a network to take a chance on this. In this economy no one wants to lose money. My thanks to the executives who said yes. Third, sappy as some of the sentiment is it tells kids hey you know something you can have a life and a family its possible. I'm sorry but I don't think I could even process that in high school.

    Give this show a break. Its not perfect. Its a start. The conversation has started and everyone's going to have an opinion. But that's the point people are talking and thinking about the issues! You know something is relevant when it even gets dealt with on a sitcom in prime time. Its going to take some time for the average straight American to digest all of the stuff being hurled at them. Things are changing for the good. Maybe Ryan Murphy could use a little advice on plot and episode content. There are a lot of articulate people commenting, why not help him. Its easy to be a critic.

    Posted by: Mark | Sep 12, 2012 3:36:44 AM


  5. The problem I had with the show was that while it did hit home on a few occasions it still continues the myth that gay males are amusing, chintzy, sexless, camp, materialistic, flighty and shallow.

    I realise there is a split in gay culture between camp and non-camp that will rage for years, but it would be nice if occasionally its acknowledged that gay men can be something else, and that most camp gay males are not 'hollywood' camp. In the same way it would be nice if they noticed thaat lesbians can be dainty and feminine, not just jocks with vaginas or objects of sttraight male sexual fantasy.

    Posted by: Rovex | Sep 12, 2012 3:59:41 AM


  6. Well...good bad or indifferent, the fact a show that represents us is always a good thing... years ago these shows couldn't find their way to the airwaves!! Ryan Murphy has given us so many great shows over the years and he has always represented gay characters how he see them in real life... sorry but stereotypes exist for a reason, you can't deny it.

    Posted by: tommyboy10T | Sep 12, 2012 7:08:01 AM


  7. It's a frigging comedy. Does everyone think that red headed females are ditsy because Lucille Ball played one on TV? Does everyone think that blacks are like Sanford and Son or the Jeffersons? All physicists/engineers are like the cast of the Big Bang Theory? NO! Comedy exaggerates individuals and personalities and I think some of the commentors need to look in the mirror because they might just be the stereotypical gay that straights DO see! Everytime a gay character or show comes on TV, it seems all the negativity comes out from the gay community...let it be!

    Posted by: CB | Sep 12, 2012 7:29:48 AM


  8. Wow, I wonder if some of the gays who are saying "so WHAT if the whole show is based on crooked and offensive stereotypes? It's a COMEDY!" would find it equally as acceptable if the show was about black people and exhibited some of their crooked stereotypes.

    No, then we'd hear ZOMG THAT'S RACIST! But seeing someone that looks like you on TV feeds your narcissism, doesn't it?

    Ryan Murphy does nothing except create trite and stupid shows devoid of any real substance.

    Posted by: Jack | Sep 12, 2012 10:29:22 AM


  9. I see Emmys! When a show makes me laugh out loud and tug at my heart I know it is good. Fraiser and Friends did that. Only criticism I have is that they slow it down, the rapid fire dialog gets too easily missed.

    @os2guy I wish I had your life. Like @Mark says above, the idea that I could be open, fall in love and marry when I was in high school couldn't be imagined! Good or bad, support this show. Barkin, Bartha and Rannells are Emmy winners to me.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Sep 12, 2012 10:31:04 AM


  10. Too bad it isn't actually funny. Relying on tired stereotypes as the focus of jokes really is the laziest sort of humor.

    Posted by: oh ok | Sep 12, 2012 10:35:25 AM


  11. Yes, it's over the top with some of its stereotypical characters and dialogue... but Archie Bunker & company were equally over the top. That was ground-breaking television. It got people laughing, but it also got people talking. As others have said, "it's a comedy".

    Posted by: John | Sep 12, 2012 10:53:19 AM


  12. For those of you saying the stereotypical BS is justified because "it's a comedy"....please.

    Are you suggesting that the only way to make a show featuring gay men funny is to resort to stereotypes?

    There is huge potential in the situation itself (two men having a baby through a surrogate) for a truly talented writer/director to create REAL humor while still depicting the two main characters as "regular guys".

    In fact, this was a golden opportunity to do that, but was lost. And that is what is so sad about it.

    Posted by: Rick | Sep 12, 2012 11:16:26 AM


  13. Sorry, but the producers blew it. The characters were TOO out of touch stereotypical for today's audiences to be enjoyable to watch and hear. Strait audiences today are used to "Gays" talking just like THEY do without lisping, and using constant body movements to support their dialog; Some of which was beyond belief - "I wonder if we can get to California on a half a tank of gas?"

    Posted by: Jerry6 | Sep 12, 2012 12:28:12 PM


  14. Hey @Rick, if you can write a better show, DO IT. I'm serious man. Do it. This isn't all or nothing. Either someone gets it right at the start or forget it. Ryan Murphy put his work out there. There's plenty of room. And I would say the same for anyone else who is unhappy with Ryan's work for the same reason. Do it. Just like there are all kinds of people in the world so too for gay men. Don't rely on someone else to speak for you. Especially if you think that they don't. I'd be willing to bet if you are talented and good at writing that Ryan Murphy himself would be willing to mentor you or anyone else with good ideas.

    Come on guys lets encourage each other. Why are we wasting energy attacking each other? How awesome is it that people care enough to take the time to comment in the first place.

    Whether we like it or not tv is a powerful mirror that we hold up to ourselves. And you can see that with comments here. This show reaches me because I think of the kid who I was in high school, like a lot of kids then, painfully aware that I was different but forcing myself to fit in. The only gays on tv were dying of AIDS and mainstream America was terrified of catching the gay disease.

    Its not trite to see a loving, but goofy, successful professional couple, trying to have a kid!!!!! Its actually positive, really positive. Instead of being that kid running away from myself I might of recognized myself. How cool it would have been to say I can do this, look Bryan and David. Its that recognition that makes me smile now. I missed too much of life and I don't take this for granted. Its a big deal.

    Posted by: Mark | Sep 12, 2012 12:57:57 PM


  15. 33 years ago a recently graduated, reasonably attractive, NYC-raised med student/soon-to-be intern met an amazingly sexy gentile, Orange County-raised actor/model while playing volleyball on opposite teams on West Street Beach in Laguna. He claims I kicked sand in his face at the net! That evening they saw each other again at a party and we've been together ever since. My partner and I have talked about adopting on several occasions over the years (surrogacy was not even a topic of consideration in the Eighties and early Nineties). But we never did, with a bit of regret - but our home has been filled with 3 to 6 dogs and plenty of love at any one time during the past 33 years. I can see that if we were the same twenty-something Los angeles gay men but meeting today, we would be very much like the guys on the show.
    I saw a big improvement in the second episode last night (even though it was on past my bedtime!). We never would have predicted when we met in 1979, that we'd still be together when characters similar to us would be portrayed in a primetime sitcom.
    And it is, after all, just a freaking sitcom. Take a chill pill and laugh a couple of times before you go to bed.

    Posted by: DrMikey | Sep 12, 2012 1:50:47 PM


  16. Great words @DrMikey - I am one of those twenty-something's and hope to someday marry and raise 2-3 kids! Thanks for posting.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Sep 12, 2012 2:08:36 PM


  17. My husband and I opted for open adoption for our son (now two years old) rather than surrogacy, but we are strongly considering surrogacy if we have a second child. I have also donated sperm to two female couples who have wonderful children of their own. I agree that the Bryan character uses blatantly unrealistic and virulently homophobic 1970's stereotypes that portray gay men as somehow less masculine and more flamboyant than heterosexual men. While it is great that his husband is a more realistic gay man, it is pathetic that they made Bryan that way. However, it is great that in other ways TV is improving in its portrayals of gay characters in some important ways; unlike 'Will & Grace' or 'Glee', 'Modern Family' and 'The New Normal' show gay families that I actually recognize from daily real life (i.e. marrying and having children, not the ridiculous effeminate mannerisms).

    Posted by: DB | Sep 12, 2012 2:35:59 PM


  18. The false effeminate stereotyping probably makes this show as unwatchable as 'Glee'. However, 'Modern Family' also uses offensive and inaccurate flamboyant stereotyping but its character development, writing, and acting outweigh those flaws. Maybe this show can do the same.

    Posted by: DB | Sep 12, 2012 2:39:35 PM


  19. Give this show a break!! It's TV, it's a comedy! Yes, I understand that it deals with issues that are understandably very very serious to (some) gay men, but it's still meant to be a funny TV show.
    Of course it's full of stereotypes that some might consider 'unflattering', but so is any other TV (comedy) show. Most straight guys aren't like the guys in "Two and a Half Men," most women aren't like the ladies of "Sex and the City" or "Desperate Housewives"...

    I think TV has come a long way in presenting gay characters, and more importantly gay COUPLES. I remember when TV (and movies) first started to portray gay relationships, they more or less all seemed disfunctional, doomed to fail, and the people ended up being miserable. I thought "So that's all there is in store for me?" I for one an always happy when there's a happy committed couple that even starts a family, because that's what I can relate to. I don't care if one of them has a limp wrist and is obsessed with fashion...

    Posted by: Lee | Sep 13, 2012 6:52:46 AM


  20. http://cryokidconfessions.blogspot.co.uk/

    Posted by: Angela | Sep 13, 2012 7:43:47 AM


  21. http://cryokidconfessions.blogspot.com

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  22. « 1 2

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