Just in time for Father’s Day, a book is hitting shelves that explores how gay fathers go about building and maintaining families.
Written by Aaron Goodfellow, an independent scholar and former director of the Program for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Johns Hopkins University, “Gay Fathers, Their Children and the Making of Kinship” is based on fieldwork Goodfellow conducted from 1994-2004 with 35 gay men in rural, suburban and urban areas across a number of states, who built families with children through adoption, surrogacy and heterosexual marriages.
“I was living in Manhattan and I met two men in Central Park who had taken what I thought at the time was a nontraditional path to parenthood,” Goodfellow said.
The couple was from Guatemala, and one of the men returned to that country to bring the child of an unwed mother back to the United States, to be raised as the naturalized child of a U.S. citizen. “This was in the mid-1990s, before the legalization of same-sex adoption. So that was the point of the launching of my project.”
Goodfellow said his interviewees didn’t always fit into the narratives he initially thought would be common.
“I expected to find a discussion of how we willed this family into being, a very particular statement of our being gay fathers,” he said. “Instead, what I found was something far more mysterious. It was something that people knew they had to do instead of choosing into being. I wasn’t expecting to find so much traditional family and family values. I wasn’t expecting to find families that went to church, families moving from Manhattan to rural Montana to be with their biological families. I wasn’t expecting to find so much traditional family.”
Part of the reason he was surprised, Goodfellow said, was because of the scholastic assertions at the time.
“At that time, in the 1990s, there was this academic discussion about ‘brave new families’ that were undoing and reconfiguring family relationships. Gay families were situated right at the center of this. I was following what academia was already talking about and defining more radical configurations of the nuclear family. I was trying to find something and I didn’t find it. I found myself saying, The story that is being told in the universities is off-base. This isn’t what I’m finding at all.”
“Gay Fathers, Their Children and the Making of Kinship” is in stores now.