Same-sex parenting in Singapore: Tough but worth it

Same-sex dads
We've been talking to same-sex dads, who decided to remain anonymous, about their journey to fatherhood and the struggles they face as same-sex parents in Singapore

Meet someone you like, fall in love, get married, have kids. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to go? Sadly, that’s not always the case if you’re in a same-sex relationship. Marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships between partners of the same gender are only recognised by 28 countries around the world and, unfortunately, Singapore isn’t one of them. And if two men or two women want to have a baby together here? Adopting or even fostering a child is off the table. We’ve been talking to two sets of same-sex couples who are not only embracing their love for each other (hurrah!), but have become parents. Both sets of same-sex dads requested to remain anonymous, but absolutely wanted HoneyKids to share their stories and to let the world know how important it is for them to be living their truth. For the purposes of anonymity we are using the names Neil and Mark along with Patrick and David for the couples we spoke to.

The journey to fatherhood

Neil and Mark

The first thing that’s evident when you meet *Neil is how utterly wonderful he is with his twin daughters, and what well-adjusted little girls they are. There was an element of shyness to begin with from *Rosie and *Eliza, but Daddy being there soon had them coming around to the stranger in their midst. We knew we’d made firm friends with them when they wanted to read a book with us. So how did these perfect small people come to be, what with the obvious obstacles of biology and, in Singapore’s case, laws? “They’re fraternal twins,” Neil explained,“So my partner, *Mark, and I have one biological twin each. They were conceived using two sets of embryos and using sperm from each of us to fertilise eggs from the same egg donor.”

Having been married for a while (the marriage took place overseas in Iceland where same-sex marriage is legally recognised), Neil and Mark started exploring the possibility of having a family together. Neil was admittedly hesitant about having children to begin with, and it took years of soul-searching before a final decision was made. “I didn’t want to come onboard just to be a supportive spouse, because it’s a lifetime thing,” he explained. “It took me three years of going back and forth over all the possible issues, and then once we were both 100 per cent onboard, it was a further year before the girls came along.” 

Neil and Mark used a surrogate in order for their parenting dreams to be realised, which in itself was not an easy process. They also had to deal with their immediate families, whose responses were also a challenge. “We had to do a lot of talking, and explain it over and over to Mark’s dad and my mum. We had to prep them on how to respond to extended family because not everyone knew we were gay and living as a married couple. It was tough for them.” 

Patrick and David

*Patrick and his partner, *David, meanwhile, were together for 20 years and into their 40s before they made the decision to become parents. “During our thirties, David and I realised how much we enjoyed spending weekends playing and running around with our nephews. We wanted to wait until we were a little older though, and had the means and love to give to a child before becoming fathers,” Patrick told us. Patrick and David also travelled to America to have their son, *Gabriel, via a surrogate.

Dealing with criticism

Although both Neil and Mark, and Patrick and David received overwhelming support from their family and friends, there were also some who questioned, and even opposed, their decisions. “When I told my father I was expecting a child via surrogacy, he was concerned my son would be made fun of in school for having two gay dads,” explained Patrick. “It kept him awake at night and anxious for a while after we made our announcement.”

And one of the controversial comments that stuck with Neil? “You and Mark are grown men, you can take the criticism and the comments, but why would you put that on a kid? You know how mean kids can be!” This remark from a friend really made Neil stop and think about the surrogacy decision. The comment raised issues that he hadn’t previously contemplated, but he knew he needed to really consider this line of thought before he pressed on with bringing his babies into the the world.

In the end, along with Mark, they resolutely decided that they had nothing to be ashamed of, and that they should listen to their hearts. They would be good dads, and their children would be loved and brought up to be accepting and strong. And having met Rosie and Eliza for ourselves, we are SO glad they went with those big hearts of theirs.

Same-sex dads

Rainbow flags are often flown in support for the LBGT community the world over. Photography: Kirsty Lee via Unsplash

Becoming a same-sex dad wasn’t easy…

The process of surrogacy is a complicated, lengthy and costly process that takes around 15 to 18 months from start to finish. It is the only option for same-sex parents in Singapore. Neil and Mark’s and Patrick and David’s children are all American citizens, which has its own set of problems – both families have to leave the country every 90 days to get visitor’s passes for the kids. Neil, with his ever-present good humour, says of this: “I make lemonade out of lemons and just plan fabulous vacations to Australia, around South-East Asia, and go on cruises – it’s great! It’s a chance for us to bond as a family, although Mark isn’t always able to join us as he works long hours.” And as neither of the couples’ marriages are recognised in Singapore, to add insult to injury, the children are considered illegitimate. 

We absolutely love Neil’s lighthearted attitude to his situation, but he does admit that as happy a family unit as they all are, there are other issues they live in fear of. He tells us that the Ministry of Social and Family Development has the legal authority to take the children away at any point before they turn 18 years. “It’s the worst-case scenario,” he says. “I’ve never heard it happening but it could. I came into this situation with my eyes wide open; I knew we had to do the ’90 days’ thing. If they make it more difficult for us, then we will just leave. It’s tough because our support system is here and it’s not really easy to relocate with kids.” Patrick and his partner also agree. “If there’s no other choice, we’ll just migrate to another country,” he says.

Neil also tells us there was an alternative route he and Mark could have taken to avoid trouble from ICA and MSF. He and his partner could have gotten ‘married’ to women, adopted each of their biological children and then gotten a divorce. “I didn’t want to have to tell my children that I had them by lying, by compromising and denying who I am in order to bring them into our lives. I want to leave a better world for my daughters.”  

Update: Times are a-changing! 

Since we first published this story, there’s been a recent ruling made by Singapore’s High Court whereby a gay couple was allowed to adopt their five-year-old son who was conceived through a surrogate in the United States. The judgement was a result of a four-year battle with the Family Justice Court. High Court Chief Justice Menon believes a child’s welfare should be prioritised over everything else. The future is looking bright for same-sex families in Singapore seeking adoption!

As the great activist Bayard Rustin once said, “To be afraid is to behave as if the truth were not true.” Both Neil and Mark, and Patrick and David adore and nurture their children like any loving parents. It’s clear to anyone who meets them how well-adjusted and awesome the kids all are. These men embrace who they are: something that so many people are afraid to do in a world that is always judging. 

*names have been changed for the purpose of this article. 

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