Dufty enters new arena – parenthood
by Zak Szymanski
The recently pregnant and glowing Rebecca Goldfader feels lucky. "I've always wanted to be a mom," she beamed from her place at the dining room table on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Turning to the father of her future child, she remarked, "This is a commitment for life. He is going to be an awesome parent. And he has been so faithful, and so supportive of me."
It's the stuff that Middle America's churches would devour in the packaging and marketing of the traditional family. Except, it's not.
Goldfader, an Ob/Gyn nurse practitioner and Pilates instructor, is a lesbian. Her future baby's father is the openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty. While not romantically involved, the pair does identify as a couple and plans to live together, and like many traditional partnerships, theirs revolves around having children and creating family.
Yet as an opposite-sex gay couple, they also are charting newer ground, and by allowing for each other's separate lives and lovers, may even protect their children from another American tradition: the bitter fallout that comes from divorce.
"When this happened, I called Bevan and said, 'You can never leave me,'" laughed Goldfader, who only half-jokingly characterizes herself as the "wife" in her relationship with Dufty.
"This [pregnancy] is not changing our relationship," nodded Dufty. "This is our relationship."
Alhough friends and many community members have known about the couple's plans for a while, everything became more than a concept just weeks ago, when Goldfader learned she was finally pregnant after a year and a half of trying. This week, she undergoes genetic testing, and until those results are received no further details about the pregnancy will be released to the public. For now, said Goldfader and Dufty, they want to use this time to introduce their plans and explain their process to the community and also advocate for the legitimacy of LGBT families.
"Creating gay families can be an intentional, loving decision that has so much to offer," said Goldfader.
Began at the gym
It all began, not so innocently enough, at the gay-popular Gold's Gym in the South of Market District. Goldfader, Dufty, and dozens of other early risers regularly attended the morning step class in the late 1990s, and "We became fast friends," said Goldfader, who was at the time dating someone Dufty knew from his days on Capitol Hill.
Over the years, Dufty and Goldfader became family, with both of them ending long-term relationships and seeing a variety of dating partners come and go. The one constant, they said, was their need to have children in a gay family structure, and they eventually made the decision to co-parent together in a 50-50 arrangement, a promise that wasn't dependent on long-term sexual compatibility or romantic endurance at all. Then they reached the point, said Goldfader, where they decided that regardless of who else was in their lives, they needed to start trying to conceive.
"With my climbing in age we knew we wanted to start trying," she said. Goldfader turns 40 this year; Dufty is 51.
Both Dufty and Goldfader, strong supporters of adoption, felt a need to pursue the genetic route first in order to honor their deceased mother and father, respectively. Both also are Jewish, and while that played less of a genetic and religious role, it did factor into their choice when thinking of their child's cultural identity.
"My mom Maely was a strong presence in my life. Her life story – her escaping from Europe, my never having met anyone in her family, her raising me without my father and her courage and perseverance despite all those odds – I want to extend a bit of who she is and carry that forward," Dufty said. "Rebecca also faced a tremendous loss when she lost her father. We feel we're honoring them, by extending what they gave to us. That's been fundamental to this journey."
And so in July 2004, with the assistance of a gay male midwife who worked with Goldfader at the Menlo Park Medical Clinic, they tried their first intra-cervical insemination in the privacy of a home setting.
"It was a family affair," said Goldfader.
Months passed and insemination quickly became an emotional investment. The process "kept escalating as we didn't get pregnant," said Dufty, describing the degrees of interventions they pursued.
They next decided to visit a queer Ob/Gyn in San Francisco, who put Goldfader on the fertility drug Clomid. When that didn't work they switched to intra-uterine insemination, and a physician Goldfader worked with in Menlo Park started her on a series of injectibles to induce ovulation.
Dufty's body went through a workout of its own.
"Bevan could be seen roaming through the bowels of Stanford University trying to get his specimen ready," said Goldfader, recalling the magazines, or sometimes, dating partners he would rely on in order to produce a specimen upon demand.
"I was probably doing things people get arrested for," Dufty said.
"Sometimes he would come out of the bathroom sweating," Goldfader added.
Another few months with no results meant it was time to take it to the next step. They were told that given Goldfader's age their best chances for pregnancy were through in vitro fertilization. It seemed to be their last hope.
Enlisting the services of San Francisco's Pacific Fertility Center, Goldfader embarked on a strict routine of shots to prepare her body for egg retrieval. The final shot had to be given intramuscularly within an exact 15-minute window, a time period that happened to be during a dinner party in Dufty's home. The city supe asked a neighbor who was a medical resident at the University of California, San Francisco if he would be available that night do the shot for them, and "we walked out of a party of about 50 people with a syringe in one hand and champagne in the other," said Dufty. The neighbor gave Goldfader her shot. A few days later doctors retrieved her eggs and joined them with Dufty's specimen, creating embryos.
The couple opted to implant as many high-grade embryos as possible, a procedure which often carries more chance of multiple births but which nonetheless still gave Goldfader under a 50 percent chance of conceiving at all. The fact that it worked has been "joyous," said Goldfader, still seemingly in shock from the success of their efforts.
Now the focus is on joining together and preparing their environments for a child. Already spending a few nights a week together and being mutually responsible for each other in a variety of ways, they plan on moving in together as soon as possible, but there are a lot of factors to consider. Dufty must soon concentrate on his re-election campaign; Goldfader is due in October and the election is in November. If Dufty himself relocates, his new home must be in District 8. There are legal and health considerations as well; like other gay couples they are not legally married and must explore a variety of arrangements to ensure that their family is insured and protected.
"Suddenly it seems like there's not enough time to do all the planning," said Dufty.
But there also have been costs. Physically, Goldfader had to deal with the side effects of treatments and procedures. Financially, the treatments aren't cheap, with some clinics estimating that IVF can run more than $10,000. But the emotional toll may have hit them both the hardest. As gay people without all the traditional support that straight parents receive, they had to carve out new spaces within their own community and ask their dating partners to provide support for their decision to co-parent with someone else.
"It has been painstaking to invite people into the process who may or may not be comfortable with all of it," said Goldfader. The heartbreak of losing people â€“ many of whom were active in the pregnancy effort and present during inseminations â€“ lingers for both Dufty and Goldfader. Many lovers could not handle the added commitment; others could not handle the uncertainty of their parental roles.
As the biological co-parents of their child, it's Dufty and Goldfader who have the automatic legal rights associated with parenting, though both envision that their long-term partners would have parental roles and rights as well.
"This is a family. It's great if a person could come in and be a part of it," said Dufty. "But to a certain extent our doing this brings up a question about who the primary partner is here."
"It does get into, what a serious relationship looks like for either one of us and what the role of the other person would be," agreed Goldfader, adding that whomever she dates also will be getting involved with Dufty. "It's been a challenge for us in relationships. We're co-parenting. We have a real commitment to things working out between us forever."
Families with multiple parents certainly exist, and in the LGBT community can actually work quite well, said Beth Teper, executive director of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, the social and advocacy organization which often serves as ground zero for the newest queer formations of extended bliss.
"Queer families have been creating and forming their families in all the ways they can throughout the last millennium. There are many gay families that co-parent," said Teper, adding that COLAGE has several member kids known as "bothies," meaning they have two gay dads and two gay moms. Some of those families began as four-way agreements. In other situations, romantic relationships began after the children were born to co-parents, and the biological parents were able to add legal protections for their lovers through contracts and court rulings later.
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said one ironic result of the advancement of the gay marriage issue is that courts may be less willing these days to grant the same legal recognitions to extended gay families – such as third and fourth parent adoptions – that they have in the past.
"The counterintuitive piece of it as we achieve more in terms of mainstream legal recognition is that it limits an otherwise creative and friendly court's ability, and in some cases willingness, to craft more creative solutions," said Kendell. "[California's domestic partnership law] AB205 is an enormously important and protective legislative scheme giving us essentially all the rights and benefits of marriage, yet because it exists it could very well be used by a court to say, 'Well, I can't grant a third or fourth parent adoption because you now have this system.'
"The odd thing of the law is that where it is silent we have more creativity than where the law is actually spoken. And where it's spoken – in statute or court decisions – it's always going to be in a more conservative voice. Marriage is enormously important, but it will not solve and will not meet the needs of every family constellation."
However, people can still draw up contracts to add legal protections for each other.
"I always recommend in situations where someone can't get legal recognition to document the relationship through a contract and make clear what the intentions are," said Kendell. Although a non-legal parent may not have as much protection in the event of a dispute, "just the existence of an agreement can avoid later disputes," she said.
Goldfader and Dufty said they tend to trust those they love and don't worry in advance about how their complex arrangement will inevitably change. That uncertainty alone can prove too much for new lovers who may be unwilling to enter into something that resembles parenthood without being protected first, even though Dufty and Goldfader are just now exploring what kinds of legal protections they need for each other.
But Goldfader said she does believe both parents will find happiness in others who willingly and knowingly want to join them.
"There's absolutely room for a loving partner for each of us," said Goldfader, who acknowledged that "It takes a special kind of person to accept and embrace the commitment" she and Dufty have. Such a commitment, said Dufty, should not inherently undermine other partners' abilities to feel like a welcome and secure part of the equation.
There are other situations that Dufty and Goldfader may face on the road ahead, whether as sex-positive parents or as a politician in the public eye.
In his own life, Dufty recognizes that his unique position comes with responsibilities – to be as open as possible about personal matters, for instance, whenever those issues may inform LGBT issues at large. Already some may be speculating that his creating a family means he is giving up his gayness or becoming more conservative, but Dufty was quick to dispel that.
"I'm never going to have an issue with a window display," he said, referencing a teakwood table holder carved into a nude statue that was for sale last year at Phantom*SF on 18th Street. "I'm never going to be flipped out about explaining things to my children."
As for Goldfader, she has had to get used to being more in the public eye, and she has already grilled Dufty on his political aspirations to make sure he has no plans to leave San Francisco for Sacramento (he does not).
In a quick tour of his home, Dufty points to his family photographs; his godmother Billie Holiday at the piano in his happening childhood home, his mother the writer surrounded by people in her social, engaging environment.
"That's sort of what I think it will be like," Dufty said of his future family. "Maybe a little less piano and a little more politics."
Goldfader said they have discussed finding a duplex with adjoined separate quarters, perhaps splitting up parenting duties by the week, but often doing things together. Both said they must be prepared to deal with whatever comes up in each other's lives, for the sake of their child and their relationship. Goldfader emphasized that they also are counting on the support of the LGBT community as they embark on the journey of their lifetimes.
"The most important thing to me is community support – to have the people who can be there for you in really simple ways and then ultimately be there for the long haul," she said.