Pret-a-Reporter

Sperm Washing Clears Gay Dads' Babies of HIV, Says Hollywood Actor

Illustration by: Peter Arkle

Recent developments are enabling some of the most motivated of potential fathers to have children — without transmitting the disease to their offspring.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

I knew at a very young age that three things were supposed to happen for me. One was to live in Hollywood and be a successful actor. The second was to be happily married. The third was to be a dad. All of these things have come to pass. I've enjoyed success mainly as a character actor. Once I let go of the "leading man" status in my head, the work became more lucrative and frequent. I found happiness with the man of my dreams. Then came the kid thing. This speed bump proved to be much more challenging, but not for the reasons you might think. The popularity of surrogacy has made it practically prehistoric thinking to wonder how two men or even a single man (gay or straight) could start a biological family. But this is the bump: One of us is HIV positive.

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It is already enough to be a gay actor in this business. Out or in, you face prejudices of those who can't see you beyond who you love. Add the fact that you are positive, and you will cease to exist. Forget the fact that an HIV status does not indicate a true health status and most of the positive men I know are healthier than people without the virus: This is the second closet door. It's ironic that your manager, attorney and publicist might all be HIV positive just like you, but none of you would ever know it. Revealing such a thing is certain to secure a scarlet-letter status in our industry. This would also prove true in my husband's and my earliest venture into parenting.

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First, we approached a popular surrogacy agency. Even after revealing that we had no intention of using the "sperm washing" technique because the non-HIV-positive partner would be involved in the process, we were told that helping us to have a child "would be the same as giving a child to a woman with cancer." Saddened, shocked and disappointed by this level of ignorance, I wanted to take action, but my partner, a lawyer, warned me that litigation would leave me feeling worse, no matter the outcome. We heard about an agency serving the gay community and moved on.

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From the moment we arrived at Growing Generations, we felt welcomed. We were assured that there would be no problem for either of us to participate in the surrogacy process. We had done our research and found a lab that was working with parents who shared our status. We were lucky: We were set up with a surrogate who was educated and compassionate. She knew the steps we'd taken to secure healthy embryos, which also meant that she would be healthy during the pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby. What she did was give birth to healthy twins!

I am a working actor. I am a husband. I am a dad. I am HIV positive. Three of my dreams came true.

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