The Parent Map: Two TV Documentaries and Two Books from Queer Artists Outline Their Individual Roads to Mommyhood and Daddydom. (Gay Parenting)

Article excerpt

Daddy & Papa

* Directed by Johnny Symons * PBS * June 3

Adoptions by gays seem to be downright contagious. That was the experience of filmmaker Johnny Symons, whose award-winning documentary Daddy & Papa will be shown June 3 on PBS's Independent Lens series. The project began with Symons's curiosity about his friend's adoption of two brothers. Three years later, Symons and partner William Rogers were the proud adoptive parents of a son of their own.

The more he filmed his friend Kelly and saw up close and personal the joys of being a gay dad, the more Symons and Rogers found themselves talking about starting their own family. "William and I kept having conversations, wondering what would this be like for us," Symons says.

The answer came when Zachary moved in at age 10 months. In addition to Symons's having to juggle fatherhood with film production, another problem was the fact that Zachary's foster mom was a devout Christian, initially reluctant to give him up to two gay dads who live near San Francisco. Her church friends had filled her head with the usual myths about gay parenting, but her experiences with Symons and Rogers changed her mind. To everyone's surprise, she became part of their extended family. Her realization that gay parents can do just as good a job as straight parents is one of the emotional highlights of Symons's highly personal film.

When the film premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, this scene and many others had the industry-heavy audience in tears. "So many people came up to me saying, 'I cried at your film, and I never cry at films!'" recalls Symons.

He's Having a Baby

* Directed by Georg Hartmann * Cinemax * June 4

For Hollywood agent Jeff Danis, deciding to become a gay parent was easy. The hard part was convincing his partner of 20 years, Don Pike, to join him in this quest. "Don didn't feel the paternal pangs," recalls Jeff.

Undeterred, Danis continued to research adoption options and even started collaborating with friends Georg and Abby Hartmann to document his two-year journey to adopt a child in Vietnam. The resulting film, He's Having a Baby, will debut June 4 on Cinemax's Reel Life series.

"For the first year, Don didn't even know we were making the movie," says Danis. "We had to do it undercover." Eventually, though, Danis could hide an impending adoption only for so long. When he finally brought home some photos of candidates from the agency, Pike relented. Seeing pictures of the Vietnamese kids changed his mind and his heart. Their relationship was not only salvaged but practically reborn as they journeyed halfway around the world to claim their newborn son.

Now Joe Pike Danis (named after Danis's father) is 3, and the two dads have learned that patience in parenting is a necessity. "My son has taught me patience," admits Danis. "We've read Thomas the Tank Engine 400 times!"

Buying Dad

* Harlyn Aizley * Alyson Books * $14.95

Lesbians would seem to have a big advantage over gay men in creating their own kids--just find a sperm source and let nature take its course, right? But for Boston-based writer Harlyn Aizley, the process of getting impregnated was a long and sometimes harrowing journey. In fact, over the course of two years, it became a story so filled with false starts and medical missteps that she turned it into a book, Buying Dad.

"Of course, if I had gotten pregnant on the first try, there'd be no book," Aizley wryly admits. …