“I Want Our Son To Be Proud” – Talking Surrogacy, Family and Pride with Dustin Lance Black

In this special Father’s Day edition Lotte and Stu are joined by the Oscar winning, writer and director, Dustin Lance Black. Dustin and his husband, Tom Daley had their son, Robbie Ray, two years ago via surrogacy in California. Dustin discusses their journey to surrogacy, the differences between the UK and the US laws, his and Tom’s parenting roles, the decision to keep Robbie Ray out of the press and the importance of Pride.

Dustin Lance Black:  And so that we were married three years ago. we had set the date and frankly, once the date was set, we started. Really seriously  taking steps, to build our family.   we’re sitting there and it’s all happening. And, before you know, it, there is a little tiny baby  And he cries out for the first time. I want our son to be proud of his gay dads.

I want him to know where he fits in history 

Lotte Jeffs:  Hello everyone. And welcome to some families. We are so happy to be in your ears today, wherever you might be. I am Lotte Jeffs, 

Stu Oakley: and I am Stu Oakley. Hello. we are here today. We are on our favourite video conferencing app, as I do believe Lotte, but locked down restrictions, state that lesbian and gay should not be in a room with a mic and a bottle of wine at this time.

Lotte Jeffs:  yes, we can’t see each other’s faces IRL, but, we are enjoying each other in our quiet little man and woman caves, so Steve, how has your week been? What’s been going on for you?

Stu Oakley: week’s been good. We’ve been getting prepped for father’s day. It is father’s day, week, this week. So very excited for that.

Lotte Jeffs:  what will you be doing?

Stu Oakley: I just hope that the kids treat us really, and that I get breakfast in bed and I get a bottle of champagne and I get pampered. But seeing as the eldest is only four, I don’t see that happening just yet.

And I might have to wait a few more years, I I’ve been thinking about. how we do father’s day as well. Cause listening to how some of our community do mothers and fathers day, I find quite interesting, for example, I love that some people celebrate mother’s day one on the UK day and one on Australia day to kind of split it out.

And I’m kind of leading towards that a

Lotte Jeffs:  you just face me when your own day. Don’t

Stu Oakley: I do. I don’t share it with the hubby. I’m considering doing the split. I believe Australia’s father’s day is sometime in September. So I might be like, I might, I might coin that as my own day.

Lotte Jeffs:  I get that.

Stu Oakley: so Lotte, anything that you’ve been up to that’s exciting or new.

Lotte Jeffs:  Well funny. She mentioned that Stu, I, ended up on the front cover of the times, supplement, which I was not expecting. A few weeks ago. And so I’m still kind of reeling from that, to be honest, I’m on the front cover of the time. Say maybe your relationship isn’t gay enough.

what you could learn from me and my wife, 

Stu Oakley: In a pair of killer fucking heels as

Lotte Jeffs:  Yeah. You know? Yeah. I won’t lie. I made a bit of an effort. 

and then, yeah, I’ve been working on a few other things. I actually did another podcast. Don’t hate me. Um, but I was, uh, I know, I know I was invited to, Go on a podcast called anthems, which is myself and, a amazing lineup of other LGBTQ plus writers and voices and celebrate pride month. we’re each, writing and performing a piece, that.

Reflects our different, um, experiences as queer people. And my episode came out on the 1st of June. And it’s kind of about the moment that you put away a side of yourself that you maybe were exploring when you were younger, kind of wild side of yourself and you become a parent or you, you change your.

Life expectations. And it’s kind of reconciling those two different parts of. Yourself and figuring out who you are as a parent. And what happens to that more, wild side of you, when you do have these kinds of responsibilities. So it’s kind of a piece of spoken word, poetry writing, and I’d love it.

If you wanted to listen to it, it’s called Anthem’s pride and it’s on wherever you get your podcasts. 

Stu Oakley: well, that’s so exciting. I’m going to be downloading it for my listening pleasure for sure.

Lotte Jeffs:  Oh, thanks. Yeah, let me know. It’s definitely like the most personal, and creative piece of writing I’ve ever done. but talking of creative writing we have an amazing guest on our show today who is, is just that. 

Stu Oakley: Yes, He is LGBTQ plus activist. He’s a filmmaker and he’s a bloody Oscar winner. It is Dustin, Lance black.

Lotte Jeffs:  So Dustin is the proud father of two year old Robbie Ray with his husband, Tom Daley, who you may have heard of he’s like some sort or something. I think he does

Stu Oakley: Yeah, I think I’ve heard of him something with a pool.

So we spoke to Dustin about the surrogacy story that him and Tom have gone on and the differences between the UK and the U S how they approach their parenting styles and how they’ve changed as parents And, it was really inspiring speaking to Dustin and hearing his views on LGBTQ plus and queer people in general.

Lotte Jeffs:  yeah, we hope you enjoy the interview and we’ll catch you on the other side.  

Stu Oakley: So Dustin, Lance black, welcome to Some Families. Thank you for joining us. You are an Oscar winner, which as someone, myself who works in a film industry always blows my mind when I get to speak to somebody who has taken one of those golden statues. And in your Oscar speech, you mentioned that getting married would one day be an absolute dream for you, How much of the dream of having children was part of that as well.

Dustin Lance Black:  Oh, that, that went hand in hand with it, honestly, I grew up Mormon. So, you know, in the Mormon faith, you’re usually married in your early twenties and by 30 you probably have, you know, a handful of kids, maybe even nearing a dozen. And so this is the world I was raised in.

and there are many things about being Mormon that I didn’t appreciate, but the family part of it really felt true to me. and so. I’ve always seen, even in the time that I was fighting for marriage equality in the United States, I’ve always seen a connection between having children and the debris will need the legal need for marriage.

so the two are inextricably tied, I think, marriages of wonderful commitment and promise to make to someone, before you have children or when you have children. because it does bring a certain security that promise brings a security. and I think that’s important for the kids.

Lotte Jeffs:  So, was it important then that you spoke to people that you were dating quite early on about the fact that you wanted to have kids and did that ever kind of break up a relationship for you? Because you just weren’t on the same page with it.

Dustin Lance Black:  absolutely. it was always a part of the conversation and, It was one that when I was in my early twenties, and dating, it just seemed like an impossibility for gay people. so if I brought it up, people would be baffled. They be curious how that was even possible. There weren’t a whole lot of examples of it yet.

And, and so, you know, I think, I think some thought that I was just a dreamer and I sort of believed perhaps that was the case as well. and in terms of breakups, yes, there was, uh, at least one serious relationship I was in and every time the conversation turned to family, Uh, this person would get quite upset and insistent.

That was not something that they wanted. and so at the end, I mean, you listen to these relationships, you have to align at least on the big issues. I mean, I think difference is amazing in a relationship. I think it actually keeps it alive and, and growing, but, when it comes to kids, it’s one of those things you should agree on.

And then, and then I met Tom and on our first date, which was like two and a half months after we’d met.

because we were, we had a, an ocean and a continent between us when we were finally face-to-face again and taking this beautiful bike ride down in, um, Southern England. Early on in that bike ride, the idea of a family came up and I wasn’t leading the conversation. He was. And not only did we both discover we really wanted a family, but we broke another, if not all of the first date rules and began naming our children on that bike ride.

and in fact, our first son has the name that we chose on that day on our first date.

Stu Oakley: wow.

Dustin Lance Black:  it’s, it’s a meaningful name, in Tom’s family, it’s a tradition in his family, Robert is a name that is either your middle name or your first name, for the first born, 

Stu Oakley: So you and Tom, you’ve had the first day you’ve named your first child. when did you actually start the process and what were the avenues you kind of explored at that time?

Dustin Lance Black:  So I think we both wanted to be married, before we started to build a family. And so that we were married three years ago. we had set the date and frankly, once the date was set, we started. Really seriously  taking steps, to build our family. And, you know, it’s not as easy for gay guys as it is for my straight brother. you know, he can’t just get a cheap bottle of wine and a pizza and have a good night. there’s a lot of considerations. we did consider, uh, a couple of options, you know, gay people have adoption as an option.

Surrogacy as an option. and we considered both

Stu Oakley: what was the ultimate decider for you then   I think one was. Tom. And I had both lost, our, parent, fairly recently still. And he’d lost his father. I’d lost my mother and my big brother who was also like a parent to me. And there was just a part of us that yearned for that biological connection to our children.

Dustin Lance Black:  That’s something that would. Reach in both directions from past and into the future to connect our parents, to our children. we wanted that and it felt meaningful to us. we started to explore surrogacy, asked questions. one of the things that influenced my decision around adoption was.

Having watched a couple of my dear gay friends, close gay friends, try to adopt. And some of the laws though, I think they’re good laws. in the United States and certain States, can be used against gay people to take those children back by family members. And I’ve watched that happen three times with two of my friends.

And I saw the heartbreak after they adopted a child, began to raise the child. And after a number of weeks or months had that child taken away because someone in. The child’s biological family found out that a gay person was going to raise that child. And legally in some States they can take the child back.

I admit that I was not prepared to do that, to go through that. I will also on your podcast say right now, As we continue to build our family, I will be prepared to do that in the future. that adoption is still very much an option. And in fact, I encourage people, to embrace it as an option. And the laws in the United Kingdom are far better than many of the States in the United States.

When it comes to gay people, adopting children.

Stu Oakley: Yeah, cause it’s crazy. I’m a, adoptive father of three and. The birth family can have says over certain things, but only if they’re actually proving a case that they’re able to take back and look after the child and give the child the best care it possibly can.

And being gay or your sexuality would not factor into that into the UK. it would be for other reasons that they would be wanting to take the children back and then we’d have to have a very strong case to prove that they were the right caregivers for that child.

Dustin Lance Black:  and there are States in the United States that are like that. it, I actually think it’s a, it’s a decent law that I’m not sure what the fix is. Um, but that if someone in the biological family of this child that’s been put up for adoption, Raises their hand and says, let’s keep this child within our family and I will raise him or her.

They can take that child back from the adoptive parents. I see the value in that. Um, though I’ve also seen it hurt my friends. The problem is that, too often, what these, you know, answer or brothers or cousins, uh, find out is that the adoptive parents are queer and that child is taken back for that reason.

Stu Oakley: but isn’t that insane loop hole in it, all the, that is the reason that they want to take the child back. I just find the whole it’s crazy. And I can’t imagine how heartbreaking that is and how heartbreaking it was for, for the friends that, that happened to you

to hit

Dustin Lance Black:  heartbreak, quite heartbreaking. But, you know, it’s there whenever I hear that LGBTQ rights are settled. And acceptances here I go out and now we still have a lot of work to do  

Lotte Jeffs:  So just back to your personal, journey, then you had that conversation with, Tom and it sounded like you, were both really clear you chosen the names. You’d decided that surrogacy was the way to go, but the reasons that you so beautifully describe, was there a conversation that is kind of comparable to the conversation that myself and my wife had of who is going to be the biological parent and who is going to be the other parent?

Or was that something that you both just kind of knew straight away?

Dustin Lance Black:  no, we, so it was a long process by the way. So even with surrogacy, it was not something that we just jumped into.

because though in California, it’s, I think more common than other places in the world. We needed to make sure that it also didn’t have its own pitfalls, and come to find out there, there are a minefield of problems that can arise in the absence of good law. Would I do surrogacy in the United Kingdom?

No, not yet. Not until there’s solid law. Because solid law, not only protects this child that you’re going to care for, but also the surrogate and the intended parents. And there’s an absence, a dearth of that here still today in the United Kingdom in California, we felt comfortable that the laws were in place that would protect all parties and I’m of the opinion that good, strong, clear law creates.

Good, strong, clear behavior. and in that way, and after talking to many friends who had gone through surrogacy, it sounded like the most familial way to do it. including this relationship, we would then build with our surrogate, which is a misconception that these are people who, are simply vessels and that’s absolutely not the case.

we did decide to move ahead. and there are many, many options one of them was that both Tom and I, donated our sperm. Right. We then have an egg donor. and we asked our doctor, to create these embryos, with using both of our sperm and to, and to do the IVF, with our surrogate, of two embryos, uh, one of each and let nature decide. I mean, here’s the thing straight people don’t get to decide all these things. You know, why w you know, we don’t need to play God in that way. And so we just let nature do its thing. And here we are. And for those curious, uh, no, we haven’t asked, our doctor is the only person who knows.

Stu Oakley: this is a whole new learning curve for me, which is why I love doing this podcast So could there, could there have been a possibility where if you had done two embryos that had had both of your sperm could there have been an outcome where it could have possibly been twins?

Dustin Lance Black:  Yes. That was what we were hoping for.

Stu Oakley: how beautiful would that be? 

Dustin Lance Black:  I mean, without getting too personal, there was a bit of heartbreak when we found out it was only one, you know, it’s an 80% chance that any, embryo that is transferred will turn into a pregnancy.

80%. That’s how good it’s become. So with two, you have a 60% chance that both will take right. If you’re doing the math. so, chances were, we were going to have twins, and it just didn’t work out like that. That’s not what was meant to be.

Lotte Jeffs:  and presumably now you just feel like this was always what was meant to be, and your family has just become the thing. It was always going to be in a sense

Dustin Lance Black:  yeah. I mean, that’s w welcome to nature, you know? Uh it’s uh, we had to, to, you know, roll with what life gave us. With within days, it just became our path. This is what we were on. and we knew it was a boy early on. we got on with building a family and that moment when you first hold your child, in your arms, It’s feels like this was what was meant to be there’s no, you’re not thinking about what your hopes might have been. There’s something more miraculous than any of your hopes sitting right there in your arms, you know what I’m talking about. and so that’s, you know, that’s where we’ve been.

Lotte Jeffs:  what are your, what are your roles now as, as fathers, do you kind of see a difference in the kind of, vibe that you each have as parents  

Dustin Lance Black:  Yeah, but it’s shocking, isn’t it? Because it’s completely different than what I thought. Yeah. Ah, I’m right. I thought, you know, I was gonna have these clear sets of rules and we were going to lay him down and we’re going to have some structure. and I thought, well, and Tom. Who is just so good at like having fun and, much more of a free spirit than I am And all of a sudden, there’s this child and Tom is laying down the rules. And you’re seeing this kind of the athlete side of Tom come out and helping create these boundaries, helping. Oh, I mean also just literally cooking all the food so that it’s all healthy food scheduling when things are going to happen, what’s going to be eaten when bedtime is when morning time is.

And, you know, he’s frankly, You also watch how, um, child loves those boundaries loves that loves to have that sort of regular schedule. And Tom has been fantastic with that stuff. Whereas I’m realizing I’m a flaky artist. And I forget to eat even when I’m hungry and I’m realizing that, you know, I could probably use some structure in my life as well.

And so I’ve somehow become the weepy sensitive, cuddly. Letting him get away with this or that And I never, ever, ever thought that’s how I’d be. It’s certainly not how I run my film sets. Um, but, we also take turns and, as any parent knows, there’s sort of a, it’s like a pendulum, right?

Who’s the favored parent today or this hour or this minute, and who’s getting the cuddles and who’s being told to go away. And

Lotte Jeffs:  I’m glad that’s not just me. That gets told to go away.

Dustin Lance Black:  I was home with him all this entire, First year and I thought, well, I’m definitely going to be the favorite parent. I’m definitely going to have the closer connection and bond. No, no, no, no. I’m that extra arm to go get the things he wants. And Papa comes home from diving practice and is the favorite is the treasure he wants Papa’s cuddles and he wants to daddy to go away now.

Stu Oakley: I was having that just today, just before I came up here. I think it happens to all of us.

Dustin Lance Black:  It’s so true. now in lockdown, I’m writing. So I’m very, I’m busy now. and so I, I’m not seeing him every moment of every day. In fact, he’s with Tom every moment of every day right now. And does Tom’s exercise routines with him, which is just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen in your life.

and so I come up and now all of a sudden I’m the special one. it’s very nice.

Stu Oakley: How are you balancing the structure as you are actually in your home 

Dustin Lance Black:  I’m not good at being strict. I’ve learned that about myself. and maybe I should get better. the one place I’ve gotten, you know, learned that it’s beneficial to everyone to be strict is bedtime. Bedtime sleep training that makes everyone including him happier.

If, and when he comes downstairs in my office and I hear him screaming that, Hey daddy, daddy, daddy, like, I stop. You gotta stop. I stop working. I mean, that’s just how it is. He’s, he’s almost two, he’ll be two soon. He’s the cutest kid on the entire planet earth. I’m sorry.

You guys, he just is. Um, um, and so, you know, you don’t, you don’t say no and we have, um, a little. I have a, a white board or a dry erase board, whatever you call it, uh, with markers next to my desk. And, um, and he just loves to come over and open the markers and draw and draw and draw. And nowadays he wants me to write the alphabet, um, and, and we’ll name them together.

I mean, you know, these, so we sit in play and, and he learns how to be a little writer while I avoid my writing.

Lotte Jeffs:  Nice. I’m so sorry to be jumping around a bit, but just to go back to, finding your surrogates, and then that whole process and the birth, if we could just jump straight into talking about, how you, after building a relationship with this incredible woman, what the birth was like for you guys.

Dustin Lance Black:  I mean, you do build a relationship, and that’s, I think the most critical. part of this. and so in fact, just to back it up even a little bit further, just for those who don’t know, the way surrogacy works, at least in California. I think it ought to work this way everywhere is that the, the intended parents.

So in this case, me and Tom, we, we filled out these very in depth questionnaires and had to write essays about ourselves and then each other, it was like this amazing kind of like couples therapy and then you with photographs and all of this information, you submit it where it will be in, you know, this kind of archive that surrogates can look through.

And the surrogates choose you, not the other way around. And, and I, and I think that’s how it ought to be. and it takes a long time, it’s not going to happen overnight. we got the call that a surrogate was interested in meeting with us and, you know, of course we got.

Excited and nervous. And, we made a lunch date and she brought her entire family on the lunch date and we showed up and, you know, we just started to talk and it was very clear, very quickly. We loved her. I mean, Not just cause she was going to do this incredible thing for us and build our family, but she’s also just awesome.

She’s hilarious. And I can’t give too many details because, she’s asked to be well to not be in the public eye with this, And that meant that throughout the entire process throughout the next year. Cause it’s not just nine months. I mean, there’s all that has to happen to get ready for a transfer and then the transfer.

And hopefully it succeeds the first time. If not, there might be more attempts and you know, and then you finally, and by the way, that it’s constant communication and visits, during the pregnancy, which, you know, Even though we lived so far apart. I, Tom and I are in London. She was, this happened in California.

We would still fly all the time out there to see her and her family who we also fell forward. and so when the day came for, the birth, we’d already talked about everything. We already had following her lead, made the decisions of who would be in the room and who wouldn’t be in the room.

that was all led by her and decided ahead of time. It’s also some of the things you put on your application early on, so that if, there’s a surrogate who has an objection to the intended parents being in the room, there won’t be a match. so we’d already said we want to be there. She was fine with that.

and there were other people she wanted in the room there too, which was fine by us. I just to protect her privacy, I won’t go into too many of the details, but it was an uneventful, birth in terms of no meaning, no complications. and, It’s just, I mean, we love her, I’ll get emotional talking about it.

So, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re sitting there and it’s all happening. And, before you know, it, there is a little tiny baby  And he cries out for the first time. And I get to, I cut the cord and he’s handed to Tom, because we’ve made the decision that that’s how we wanted it to happen. And Tom has the skin to skin cuddling moment. And, um, I think there’s, we’ve put up a photo on our Instagram at some point of that. and there’s our surrogate and, um, you know, we’re just, we said, thank you. And I think she gave us a thumbs up There were a lot of tears and Holy crap, what have we done? You know, all of that, all of that, your life changes. It’s over baby. That, that life you knew is over. And some, a brand new adventure has begun and it doesn’t matter how much preparation you’ve done or reading. You’ve done. This is an absolutely unique journey. You’re about to be on and you may as well throw at least most of the instruction manuals away. Cause the only one that matters is in your arms.

Stu Oakley: So when it comes to the legalities, I’m interested in the difference between the U S and the UK, because it’s something you talked about earlier on, but. In the UK. It’s my understanding that the intended parents are not the legal guardians at the moment of birth. And it’s the, it’s the birth parents who, who have the legal guardianship.

Is it the same in California in the States or does it

Dustin Lance Black:  no, it’s absolutely different. So, first of all, the major difference is that. contracts between surrogates and intended parents in California and many other States, I’m just using California as an example. Cause it’s where we were. contracts are recognized and upheld in courts of law and the United Kingdom.

Those contracts, if they’re made are worthless, they are not recognized in a court of law. so in the United Kingdom, any. Surrogacy journey is based solely on trust. Okay. And as beautiful as that sounds, it can create insecurity. And I don’t think that the insecurity of a surrogate being worried that perhaps the intended parents will decide, you know, what?

I don’t want this child that causes anxiety. I don’t think anxiety is a great place to build any relationship and the best version, as far as I’m concerned of surrogacy is a relationship. so I much prefer to be in a place where you make all of the decisions ahead of time you sign the contracts that codify it into law, so that it’s enforceable.

And then you don’t have to worry about it. Then you can just get on with the business of making friends, getting close and building a family. So that that’s, that is the, the big difference as far as I’m concerned, because of that. in the United States, there is something called a pre-birth order. So once all those contracts are done and there is a pregnancy, you can get a pre-birth order.

So that the birth certificate from. Minute one has the names of the intended parents who will raise this child. I think, and I’m not alone here that it becomes absurd here in the United Kingdom. because like you just said, the birth certificate is going to have the name of the surrogate and her husband on it. most surrogacies are with an egg donor. So the surrogate does not have a biological connection to the child. And now she and her husband who really had very little to, nothing to do with this are legally responsible to raise that child in the United Kingdom. And again, it’s just trust until the long and expensive process of getting the courts in the United Kingdom to recognize the intended parents as parents. Uh, is over. You have to rely on trust. Meaning if that child gets sick, I guess you could walk into a doctor’s office. And if that doctor is homophobic or doesn’t get it, they could insist that only the surrogate and her husband make medical decisions for that child. That’s a, it’s pretty absurd. It’s pretty absurd.

It also is. I think anti-family. And has a whiff of homophobia about it that I can’t abide by. I will say we did have to go through that process. Once we came back to the United Kingdom, they did not recognize our purse certificate from the United States. And though our surrogate has no biological relation to our child.

the courts here recognized our surrogate’s husband as a father and not us. And we had to go through that legal process here, which was very expensive and time consuming, but bless them. Judge in our case when she recognized in her courtroom, that it’s a little bit absurd. That meant a lot to me actually in that hearing.

Stu Oakley: Yeah, I bet. And then is your surrogate also your egg donor 

Dustin Lance Black:  No, no, that’s not, you know, that’s something I learned while doing my own podcast is still something that happens here in the United Kingdom. They call it a traditional surrogacy where the surrogate. Well, it’s not really, you know, I guess it’s the egg donor. That’s not something that doctors feel comfortable with, in California and the United States.

and I can understand why, and I’m sure people will be mad at me for saying this, but at that point to me, that’s an adoption. That’s a different process. And if the, if the surrogate is fine with that, bless her. But to me that feels very complicated. because that surrogate is the biological mother of that child.

Lotte Jeffs:  and would it be important to you to use the same surrogate and the same donor where you to have a second child?

Dustin Lance Black:  it sounds like a good idea to me, but that’s not up to me, you know, that’s up to the surrogate and the egg donor.

Stu Oakley: do you maintain a relationship with the donor as well?

Dustin Lance Black:  so that’s an interesting thing. That’s one place where I think the United Kingdom really gets it right. Which is that in the United Kingdom, egg, donors are not anonymous, that the child has a right to know who their egg donor was. I am of the opinion. And again, this is just my opinion that any time we keep something secret, shame starts to.

Creeping. Uh, and I don’t like that. And I don’t want our son to have any shame about anything. Not certainly not about the, the glorious magnificent, magical way he came into this world, but in the United States, most egg donors are anonymous. we did do, the work, and ask the questions to make sure that ours was not.

so, uh, yes, at some point. One day when we’re able to fly about again. hopefully they’ll get to meet, but again, that’s up to our egg donor. It’s not up to us.

Lotte Jeffs:  we have a character on our podcast called aunt Sally, who is just the worst person that you might ever kind of meet or come across. she’s that person that just asks you the most inappropriate question about your parenting experience.

and maybe it’s slightly twinged with homophobia or just ignorance or, nosiness. Is there something that you could identify as being a bit of a moment like that for Tom and yourself and how did you deal with it?

Dustin Lance Black:  You run across those ants all the time, all the time. if I, you know, I guess like a learning moment I was doing a radio interview, for my book and it was a journalist in, I think, New Zealand. And at some point she just began to press well.

Who’s the real father. Who’s the real dad. Which one is, is it you or Tom? Who’s the real father. And I thought God, and, and not only did I think it, I said it, I said, is that, is that a question that you ask, adoptive parents? Do you ask them that, do you look them in the eye and say, well, come on buddy.

Who’s the real parent. And I thought that was disgusting. and she didn’t have a good answer for it. except that it became clear around the edges, whether she was aware of it or not, that there was something she didn’t consider real about gay parents. And she was looking for a way to like, express that, to give voice to that.

And that was the question she asked I sold her. It’s an absurd question. because here we both are. Exhausted in that first year, doing our very best, doing everything a parent should do. I think, to the best of our ability. And here comes this New Zealand journalist. And I put that in quotes who wants to take that away from one of us?

Stu Oakley: who knew the answer? Sally had a journalistic career. I mean,

Lotte Jeffs:  In New Zealand. Yeah. She gets around.

Dustin Lance Black:  but there’s been many other, I mean, listen, I I’ve been shocked by the aunt. Sally’s the day we flew back from the United States with our son.

the daily mail, had a headline. That said gay dads are not the new normal with our picture. Thanks, aunt Sally. I, you know, but that sort of thing, I think that sort of a moment is a great opportunity just to do your thing. And it’s a great educational moment for the world. So actually that didn’t upset me that much. I gotta, I I’ll admit.

Stu Oakley: Mm, on the point of the press and social media in that as well. obviously you keep all imagery of Robbie private and you don’t show his face, et cetera, which I feel that I can completely relate to as an adoptive father for. Both personal and or security reasons. was that a conversation that you’ve been Tom had at an early point, and you made that very clear decision to do that.

And, and also, are you concerned for the future as well in terms of being in a public image and, and keeping, keeping Robbie private.

Dustin Lance Black:  I think the first time we saw his cute little face and we thought if we share this with the world, it’s going to hurt the feelings of every parent out there, So we just, we’re just withholding.

 know, you know, it’s a, it’s too bad.  we live in, a time and a place where, paparazzi feel like it’s okay to chase children and well, It is at its worst here in the United Kingdom, a country. I love, it’s home. but we certainly have had, men with cameras parked outside of our home. They’ve chased us, with our child, and by not showing his face, it makes it so that, They can’t sell those photos. If we don’t share, they can’t share. thankfully. And so it’s, it’s helped keep that kind of harassment, down. And, you know, we just don’t want our son to feel frightened when he goes outside and sometimes paparazzi, not all of them, some of them I know. And I like, but sometimes they can be very frightening.

And invasive and we just don’t want that. And so we’ve made this decision and I’m really glad that people get it. Uh, also, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s up to him. I think the day will probably come where he’s like, Hey, why am I not on your Instagram? When do I get my own? And you know, that’s going to be his choice.

but for now, you know, we do our best to protect our, our little ones. And, and that’s the choice we’ve made.

Stu Oakley: and I want you to ask you about your on activism as well, because you’ve been such an important storyteller for queer stories there’s been certain conversations recently that I’ve noticed amongst LGBT groups about, I suppose, about normalizing and actually how we should just be fitting into society.

And especially as parents being You know, as normal as it can get really being, being parents. I suppose, what I want to ask you is, you know, cause I fully agree with your message that we need to honor those that have worked for us and shared the history and because our history has been so neutered as it were.

so what would be your advice to other gay parents out there to honor and support. Other queers around them and their prior history

Dustin Lance Black:  well, there’s a lot to dissect in there. I, you know, first of all, I hope I’m not normal. I think normal is so boring. I don’t even know. I don’t know that I know a single normal person. What the hell is normal?

We’re all different. So where are these people who are the same as each other?

I don’t know where they are. And I know a lot of like, you know, white, middle aged heterosexual folks with kids and they’re not normal, whatever that is. in terms of becoming heteronormative, it shouldn’t be forced upon anyone to get married and have kids. We didn’t fight for marriage equality because we thought that all gay people should go get married.

Absolutely not do your thing. Let your gorgeous sparkling, very, very different flag fly. There are some of us who really want to raise kids. It’s really compelling that the idea of gay parents is now quote unquote normal. Holy cow. It wasn’t when I was growing up, don’t tell that to the Mormon prophet, but you know, there are those of us who really have a desire to raise kids and to have families.

And for those people, I’m very, very glad that we fought so hard for marriage equality. So that our relationship and our families are protected and respected equally with our straight brothers and sisters. That’s why we have it. It does not mean everyone should do it.  this whole heteronormative thing, I just say, well, you know, just like everything else in the world, we’re on a spectrum.

And some people and their families might look a little bit more like the ones you grew up around and some might look incredibly different and, you know, enjoy it. What a gift we’ve got all this variety, but dear married, gay parents with kids. You are not allowed to disparage other fabulous queers who just want to be single and have a good goddamn time in life. and the other way around, in terms of our history, I agree with you that it, our history, LGBTQ plus history has been buried in shame and fear for a very, very, very long time. And, and honestly, for good reason, if you wrote, a gay film or a book and tried to lift up queer voices, 30, 40 years ago, where I’m from, you would be a criminal.

You could be put in jail. Declared mentally ill and you most certainly were going to hell according to most churches, Those are, those are compelling reasons to not write down and record that history. And it’s only really recently that we’ve seen our histories beginning to be told in a popularized, easily accessible fashion.

we’re, we’re nowhere near the place we need to be where we have fully reconstructed our history, rewritten, the history books that are missing, making the films that we need that help introduce us to our forefathers and our foremothers who fought for our lives before we were even born. You know. Yeah, I did, I did milk.

And when we rise and Pedro, those are tiny, tiny little chips in what needs to become a massive mosaic. And that mosaic has to be built of every gender and color and kind to be accurate. It’s going to take a lot of work. And why is that important to me as a gay dad? Because I want our son to be proud of his gay dads.

I want him to know where he fits in history. Hold on. Be proud of it. I don’t want him asking around like what, where are all the people like you, dad and Papa, and to feel like somehow, maybe we are hidden because there’s, there’s a reason for shame. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I want the children of gay and lesbian parents to be able to share our proud histories with our children.

It will lift them up.

Stu Oakley: There’s a, there’s a quote that you’ve shared before, which I love, which is that gender shall not determine destiny. And I was just curious about how, we should be embracing non stereotypical gender within our parenting.

And, and how do you, and how do you try and put that quote into your parenting with Robbie?

Dustin Lance Black:  he decides, I mean, first of all, they decide I was raised, uh, as Harvey milk would say by fiercely heterosexual parents yet here I am. Whatever they were trying to teach me. It didn’t work. And the same as going to the same goes for all our kids. You know, they it’s, it’s, I’m learning this, but you take your cues from them.

What are they like? What I’m not going to do is shame them. If they’re attracted to a pink, t-shirt over a blue t-shirt. Cause that’s silly. I, you know, you just, you just, I don’t want to limit possibilities and it really just comes down to that. And, you know, yes, I think in a big way, the women’s rights movement and the LGBT movement are, are linked with that idea, that gender not determined destiny.

And I think our gay brothers need to stand up for women more understanding that connection. when it comes to parenting, it just means not setting these bizarre limits based on these constructs that are completely unnatural.

you know, it’s funny because you look at these stereotypes, like the color pink, and if you don’t have to go back very far and pink was. Yeah, a very noble men’s color. So it’s a, it’s just, it’s just stupid.

Lotte Jeffs:  we are coming out with this podcast on UK father’s day. How will you guys be celebrating father’s day? Does one of you get more attention than the other? Do you do what my wife and I do where we, both just force our daughter to make us cards and, have a big celebration. 

Dustin Lance Black:  I got really, really lucky, marrying Tom dream come true. What I didn’t know was the secret little surprise, which was, I also won the best mother-in-law on the planet earth. she’s fantastic. In fact, she’s been, isolating with us here, she last year, uh, and I would guess this year will.

Put together, something quite spectacular with little hand painted cards to wish daddy and Papa happy father’s day. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I’ll say it quietly. Cause she’s just in the other room. Uh, but I I’m going to guess that’s what’s going to happen until he can do it on his own or until he decides I don’t want to give those jerks anything.

Um, she will probably take the steering wheel come father’s day.

Stu Oakley: as well, prior to this month. very different prides. What will you, Tom and Robbie do to market 

Dustin Lance Black:  I mean here, I actually think it’s really, it’s a great question. And it’s a really important one right now. particularly for, LGBT youth around the world, So this pride season, I want people to remember, that what it was like to be in the closet or what it was like to be with people who didn’t understand who you were, didn’t know who you are, or even aggressively didn’t accept it and know that so many. More than most years, LGBTQ people are in that position right now and are locked down with families who they’re not out to, who they can’t be open with.

And in some situations who are being openly antagonistic and abusive towards them because of who they are. So because of that, I think this is one of the more important pride seasons. And we have to do more than what we might have done in previous years, which is to show up to rallies and have a drink and put on our sparkly gear and maybe give a speech.

Now, I think it is our responsibility to use whatever platforms we have to get the word out there that pride is alive and that when this passes and it will pass, there are people out there who will love you and will accept you and will embrace you for who you are. That it will get better. so we’re going to do everything we can to be on zooms and Skypes and making little, videos, as much as we possibly can just to let people know that pride is alive.

 some families have a dad, a popper, and a two year old little boy. 

Lotte Jeffs:  Wow, what an amazing orator and, all around incredibly intelligent articulate man. I feel so inspired one of the things I found most interesting, and that I hadn’t read about before in my research about. Uh, Justin and Tom and their pregnancy journey was that they kind of hoping for twins from both of their sperm. I mean, what an incredible, amazing miracle that would have been had that happens. obviously it still is an incredible miracle that they have one child, but to have twins and to both be the biological father. That’s one of them.

Stu Oakley: Yeah, that’s quite mind blowing, isn’t it? If you think about it and I don’t think I’ve ever come across anybody. I know a lot of people that have had twins, through fertility support, But I never thought about it in terms of having one of each biologically, which is like you say, fascinating and mind blowing.

Lotte Jeffs:  What was your main takeaways? Do you from our talk with Dustin, Lance black.

Stu Oakley: I think he used to say I’m really pumped for pride and, and being in lockdown and being in pride month. It’s exactly as Dustin says, it’s so important. And it’s so important that we be there as a community together. there is so much that divides our community.

Sometimes the pride month is about coming together. And even though we can’t come together, physically, we all need to come together on an emotional and support level for one another.

Lotte Jeffs:  and maybe take the opportunity to just talk to our kids in some way about what it means. And. use this as an opportunity to broach some of the conversations about some families that maybe you might be having. Oh my, my daughter’s at the funniest thing, um, yesterday, cause I’ve been talking to her about it since doing the show and she said, um, some daddies have two mommies.

Stu Oakley: that’s beautiful. I love that.  thank you for joining me in that wonderful chat with Dustin latte, and I wish you another week of happiness and love and all things pride.

Lotte Jeffs:  Oh, thank you, Stu. Same to you. Have a great pride week with your family.