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Gay men, adoptive fathers

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Title:
Gay men, adoptive fathers a phenomenological study
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Keelan, Markie ( author )
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English
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Gay parents ( lcsh )
Gay fathers ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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This research will look at how gay male adoptive fathers in Colorado make sense of parenting. Unlike earlier research that focused on moral judgment, the goal of the present study is to understand better the lived experiences of the participants. Privately funded research, typically by religious parties with political agendas, have perpetuated stigmatization of gay men both in the past and present by presenting data that is biased and unscientific (Wegman, 2015). Early research focused on the morality of gay men becoming fathers rather than on how fatherhood is experienced by them (Gianino, 2008). With better understanding and knowledge of these experiences, mental health professionals can better serve gay adoptive families. An interpretive phenomenological analysis was completed using semistructured interviews of 3 gay parental couples (N=6) from Colorado. Verbatim transcription of individual interviews was used to both organize emerging themes and to compare how themes relate to other participants’ statements. Implications for counseling practices will also be discussed upon completion of the analysis.
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of Colorado Denver.
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Includes bibliographical references.
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System requirements: Adobe Reader.
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by Markie Keelan.

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University of Florida
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on10043 ( NOTIS )
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on1004393214

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Full Text
GAY MEN, ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY
by
MARKIE KEELAN
B.A., California State University Northridge, 2010
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts
Counseling Program


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This thesis for the Master of Arts Counseling degree by Markie Keelan has been approved for the Counseling Program by
Robert Allan, Advisor Troyann Gentile Edward Cannon
Date: May 13th, 2017
Keelan, Markie (M.A., Counseling, Concentration: Clinical Mental Health) Gay Men Adoptive Fathers: A Phenomenological Study Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Robert Allan


Ill
ABSTRACT
This research will look at how gay male adoptive fathers in Colorado make sense of parenting. Unlike earlier research that focused on moral judgment, the goal of the present study is to understand better the lived experiences of the participants. Privately funded research, typically by religious parties with political agendas, have perpetuated stigmatization of gay men both in the past and present by presenting data that is biased and unscientific (Wegman, 2015). Early research focused on the morality of gay men becoming fathers rather than on how fatherhood is experienced by them (Gianino, 2008). With better understanding and knowledge of these experiences, mental health professionals can better serve gay adoptive families. An interpretive phenomenological analysis was completed using semi-structured interviews of 3 gay parental couples (N=6) from Colorado. Verbatim transcription of individual interviews was used to both organize emerging themes and to compare how themes relate to other participants statements. Implications for counseling practices will also be discussed upon completion of the analysis.
Keywords: interpretive phenomenology analysis, gay, male, adoption, Colorado This form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Robert Allan


IV
DEDICATION
This research is dedicated to all of the fathers in my life. Thank you to my beloved father, Paul Keelan for always believing in me, loving me unconditionally, and putting his family before everything. Your strength has given me the courage to take on challenges that change my life and bring me happiness. To Hyo Bang, Young Sup Shin, Cesar Garcia, John Boudro, Monte Damiana and Scott Fujii. Thank you for treating me as if I were your own daughter. You are my elders and I respect and love you so much for the guidance you have shown me. And finally, thank you to my maternal grandfather, Jesus Fernandez, who passed away during the completion of this work. The love you shared with your family lives eternally through your daughter, you sons, and your grandchildren. With love, I dedicate this work to
you.


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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to thank Dr. Robert Allan for believing in me throughout the entire creation of this project. Thank you to Dr. Troyann Gentile for staying after class to listen to me when I felt unheard. Thank you Dr. Edward Cannon for reminding me of how important it is to bring humanity into our profession by always role modeling compassion. I would like to thank Dr. Gary Brooks, who without, I would be lost. Your knowledge and kindness were invaluable in this process. Thank you to my parents, Paul and Diane Keelan for instilling the confidence in me to always follow my dreams. Thank you to Nico Damiana, Katie Hunter, Breeanna Garcia, Noelle Boudro, Mandy Li and Stephanie MacKay for always supporting me. And finally, to my pets for keeping me company as I wrote each page. My gratitude cannot be
explained by words. Thank you all.


VI
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. Introduction....................................................................1
Location of Researcher......................................................3
Literature Review..................................................................3
Increase in Gay Adoptive Fathers............................................4
Research....................................................................6
Minority Stress.............................................................8
Gay Parental Barriers......................................................11
Business of Adoption.......................................................14
Legal Issues of Adopting as a Gay Couple...................................15
Positive Movements in Gay Male Adoptive Parenting..........................17
II. Methodology...................................................................19
Research Design............................................................19
Phenomenology..............................................................19
Intersubjectivity...................................................20
Hermeneutics........................................................22
Idiography..........................................................25
Sample.....................................................................26
Participants........................................................27
Materials..................................................................28
Initial Contact.....................................................29
Consent Form........................................................30
Interview Schedule..................................................30
III. Analysis.....................................................................33
Transcription..............................................................34
Themes.....................................................................35
IV. Results......................................................................41
V. Becoming a Father Over a Life-Span...........................................43
Identity versus Role Confusion.............................................44
Intimacy versus Isolation..................................................46
Current Developmental Stage................................................48
Unique Developmental Considerations........................................49
VI. The Process of Adoption......................................................53
Deciding on Fatherhood.....................................................55
Reacting to the Inspection.................................................58
Trusting the Process.......................................................63
VII. Dealing with Minority Stress.................................................67
Authoring a Life...........................................................67
Embracing Fatherhood.......................................................68


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Minority Stress as Adoptive Parents..................................71
Coping with Discrimination..................................................74
Institutionalized Heteronormativity..................................76
Male Parenting.......................................................77
Creating a Refuge...........................................................80
VIII. Discussion...................................................................83
Developing into Fatherhood..................................................84
Minority Stress and Development.............................................87
Clinical Implications................................................88
Process of Adoption.........................................................89
The Gender Hierarchy.................................................90
Transitioning into Fatherhood........................................91
Long-Term Effects...........................................................94
Lingering Minority Stress............................................95
IX. Conclusion...................................................................100
Summary of the Findings.....................................................100
Clinical Implications.......................................................100
Limitations.................................................................101
Further areas of research...................................................103
REFERENCES.........................................................................105
APPENDIX...........................................................................122
APPENDIX A Development of Super-ordinate Themes...................................123
APPENDIX B Participant Endorsement Rating Scale...................................125
APPENDIX C Interview Schedule.....................................................126
APPENDIX D Invitation to Participate..............................................127
APPENDIX E Consent and Authorization Form.........................................128
APPENDIX F Online Interview Disclosure Form.......................................132
APPENDIX G Advertisement..........................................................133


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CHAPTERI
GAY MEN, ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY
INTRODUCTION
The traditional family, consisting of a married heterosexual couple and their biological children, is often not the typical pattern for many families in recent years (Gates, 2011). Society still imposes expectations on individuals about what is considered an ideal family. Due to this, it is, therefore, important for helping professionals to consistently update their knowledge of new and unique family dynamics.
This research will examine the gay male adoptive parenting phenomenon. In studying gay adoption, it is important that the research focus on what is occurring when gay male couples adopt children considering that there are three cultures being experienced all at once, those of a gay male dyad, children being raised without a mother, and of adoptive parents. Many research questions revolve around what happens developmentally with children who are raised by gay parents. As well, most research that focuses on same-sex parents concentrates on the lesbian mother experience (Panozzo, 2010). The current research will focus on understanding how gay male adoptive parents in Colorado experience life.
The recent United States Supreme Court decision to make same-sex marriage legal leaves unclear how this ruling will affect same-sex parents. In Colorado; however, it is legal for adoption petitions to be submitted by a single gay prospective parent, same-sex couples as prospective parents, and same-sex second parent adoption (Lavender, 2007; Movement Advancement Project, 2016). Given these issues, the experience of gay men as parents is becoming more and more important for researchers and helping professionals to understand.


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It seems important to document and better understand the phenomena of gay male couples adopting children in Colorado before more data driven research is to be performed. The first phenomenological study on gay male couples as parents was only recently completed (Gianino, 2008). Understanding how gay males experience being adoptive fathers in Colorado can give information on how, as a society, we can better support the families in our communities. Once we know about the lived experience of gay adoptive male couples, helping professionals will be in a better position to serve these families.
This research will be taking an interpretive phenomenological approach. An interpretive phenomenological analysis, IPA for short, approach was chosen over other qualitative or quantitative research analyses due to the need to understand the phenomenon in more depth before proposing any type of explanation for cause and effect. Interpretive phenomenology also looks at how individuals experiencing the phenomena make meaning of their experience (Smith, Flowers, and Larkin, 2009). The current study will focus on understanding specific complex individual experiences instead of other research approaches that try and generalize findings.
The main purpose of this study is to explore how gay males make sense of fathering as an adoptive parent in Colorado. A secondary focus will be on the microaggressions, hurtful or insensitive words or actions, they experience as gay parents exposed to heteronormativity both as individuals and as parents. Heteronormativity refers to the organization of sexuality as a part of a hierarchy. Due to the nature of the research question, it seems most fitting to perform an interpretative phenomenological study exploring the experience of gay men as adoptive parents.


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Location of Researcher
Knowledge for the reader to understand the principle investigator is a value in IPA. The interpretation process is supposed to be as unbiased as possible, though Heidegger believed ridding ourselves of all of our identity while interpreting was impossible. Heidegger did believe in being as transparent and aware of our biases throughout the IPA study (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). With this in mind information about the PI is important for the reader to know.
I began this work from inspiration of researching gay male attachments while serving as a research assistant at the University of Colorado Denver. I am a candidate for the Masters of Arts degree in the Counseling Program at the University of Colorado Denver. This research is for the purpose of fulfilling the Masters of Arts degree. I work as a registered psychotherapist in the state of Colorado and am formally trained in evidence based counseling theories. I have worked with various populations, though with intention to seek to instill the value of diversity and provide lower cost individual counseling services to uphold the value of equality in counseling treatment. I identify as a millennial, bi-racial, single, heterosexual, cisgender female. I am not currently a parent. My intention throughout this process was to uphold an unbiased analysis of a population whose experiences are drastically different to my personal knowledge in the world. Moving forward, all attempts to manage and reduce my biases in analysis were made, this knowledge of the research may inform the reader on how interpretations were designed.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Little attention is paid to the gay males adoptive parenting experience both socially and in research. This review will look at past research that has been performed on gay


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families. It will also look at who among gay men are adopting, the laws surrounding adoption in Colorado, and at gay couples versus single gay male adoption. In order to give the reader a holistic understanding of the background of the issue and the population being studied, the issues of oppression, of how equality in marriage may affect gay families, and of what the advantages of becoming a gay adoptive father might be, will also be discussed.
Increase in Gay Adoptive Fathers
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals are increasingly becoming parents (Gates, 2011). According to research by the Williams Institute in 2013, an estimated 37% of LGBT adults have had a child in their lifetime (Gates, 2013). This means, approximately 3 million LGBT adults have had children. It is also the case that same-sex couples are more likely than opposite-sex couples to be raising adoptive children. Approximately 16,000 same-sex couples are raising more than 22,000 adopted children in the United States (Gates, 2013). The rate of adoption from 2000 to 2009 among same-sex unmarried partners has nearly doubled, possibly due to change in political policy in favor of same-sex couples rights and to alteration in adoption laws. Looking at these statistics, it is clear that the increase in LGB parents calls for greater knowledge and understanding by helping professionals of this type of family structure. The exact number of LGB parents adopting is hard to track as many LGB people keep their sexual orientation a secret in the adoption process to avoid harassment (Craft, 2017).
What is known about the adoptive practices and the characteristics of same-sex couples who are more or less likely to become adoptive parents? First, Gates (2011) has found that gay men raising children are more likely to be biologically fathering a child. This current research; however, will not be looking at this population, which is both larger and


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more demographically diverse, specifically in in terms of race, than that of the population of gay men who adopt children. It is also known that white same-sex couples are nearly twice as likely as their non-White counterparts to be raising an adopted child (Gates, 2011). Same-sex couples that adopt are also more likely to have more education (Gates, 2011).
When considering this population, therefore, it is important to distinguish between the similarities and differences of gay male adoptive fathers and gay male biological fathers. Both will experience stigmatization and parental negotiations, yet adoptive fathers or fathers through surrogacy may have had more time than biological fathers to plan how to manage minority stress before engaging in parenting. As compared with gay men who adopt, those who father children through opposite-sex relationships are likely to be younger, not yet open about their sexual identity, and the pregnancy is more likely to have been unplanned (Gates, 2011).
Gates (2011) has also provided evidence demonstrating that same-sex couples are more likely to become parents through adoption than heterosexual parents, although heterosexual adults are adopting at higher rates than same-sex couples (Gates, 2013). It is also the case that lesbian women are adopting children more than gay men (Hick, 2006). Furthermore, gay men are more likely to be raising an adoptive child with a disability than lesbian or heterosexual couples (Gates, Badgett, Macomber, & Chambers, 2007).
These numbers are all estimates since the United States census does not require a parent to disclose his or her sexual identity (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009). This lack of data mirrors the lack of research attention given to gay male adoptive fathers, as the census is typically understood to document areas of the country that could use additional resources. Gay male fathers are not only understudied but also underserved. As the makeup


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of the nuclear family continues to change, it is important mental health professionals understand the unique challenges gay males face as adoptive parents to better support the families helping professionals work with.
Research
Little research has been done on the gay male adoptive father experience (Tomello, Farr, and Patteson, 2011). It can be assumed gay men have been parenting for generations, yet, it was not until relatively recently they could do so openly (Sullivan & Baques, 1999). This greater openness in parenting also correlates with an increase in gay males choosing to become parents. The beginning of research on gay men as parents started in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Miller, 1978; Bozett, 1987). Their research focused much more on the morality of gay men parenting and on the effectiveness of their parenting skills than on the gay male experience (Gianino, 2008). The majority of previous sexual minority parenting research has concentrated on children raised by lesbian women (Panozzo, 2010). The first researchby Mark Gianinoto look at the experience of transitioning into adoptive parenthood for gay male couples was not published until 2008. Gianino looked at the specific shared experience of the gay male couple through their adoption process. Since Gianinos pioneering work, research on the gay male adoptive father experience has increased, but much remains to be studied.
Another trend in research has been the study of the psychological outcomes for children who are raised in gay and lesbian parenting households (Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). Some outcome research is fueled by the unfair label that lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents are unfit parents and unable to provide a healthy environment in which to raise children (Wei, 2015). Research from around the world has shown that children raised in gay and


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lesbian households have the same outcomes in peer relations and in mental health as compared to children with heterosexual parents (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2014; Bergman, Rubio, Green, & Padron, 2010; Bos, van Balen, & van den Boom, 2007; Patterson, 2005; Tasker & Golombok, 1997).
Based on their family makeup, children of LGB parents reported multiple cases of harassment by peers (Kosciw and Diaz, 2008). Though these children experience prejudice, children with LGB parents were able to identify various coping skills to aid in dealing with such instances (Farr, Crain, Oakley, Cashen, & Garber, 2016). The ability of children with LGB parents to identify copings skill in the face of prejudice could be attributed to model parental behavior, in this case, coping with minority stress. Also children with lesbian, gay, or bisexual parents do not report being victimized or being subjected to excessive mistreatment. Overall, parental sexual orientation does not have as big an impact on childhood outcomes as the type of care and daily interactions the child has with their parents (Farr, Crain, Oakley, Cashen, & Garber, 2016; Gianino, 2008; Wei, 2015).
It is important to note that not all research on gay men has been scientifically sound or motivated. An article published recently in Social Science Research claimed that children raised by gay parents were at higher risk of being sexually abused, of contracting STDs, and of attempting suicide than children raised by heterosexual parents (Regnerus, 2012). Social Science Research later performed an internal audit of the study and found that Regnerus methodology, analysis and sampling were completely misleading and not valid (Wegmen, 2015). It is studies like thisstudies that also happen to be funded by politically charged supportersthat mislead the research in the field of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual studies. The


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lack of accurate representation of LGB families limits resources and increases minority stress.
Minority Stress
Phenomenological philosopher, Martin Heidegger once said, Language is the house of being (Heidegger, 1947/ 1978, p. 193). What Heidegger meant was our language is more than just the words we use; words create an illustration of the world in which we live. Microaggressions are products of hurtful or insensitive words or actions. I will be examining three types of microaggressions: microinvalidations, microinsults, and microassaults. Microinvalidations occur when a marginalized persons experience is negated or minimized. This happens when people discourage the organization of special clubs at schools for LGB students or minimize the importance of a pride parade celebrating sexuality and gender.
Heteronormativity, which refers to the organization of sexuality as a part of a hierarchy, could be considered a microaggression as it works through many institutions by marketing services or products to heterosexual couples instead of other sexual minority couples. Microinsults are any type of communication that is insensitive or offensive. An example would be a lesbian couple choosing to biologically parent by choosing one of the partners to carry the child and then experience criticism for their choice to elect the less feminine partner, invalidating that a women, no matter how she presents can be a mother. Microinsults are more openly expressed online and in public. Lastly, microassaults refer to intentional derogatory acts towards a marginalized person (Nadal et al. 2011; Sue 2010). A few months after the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, a Kentucky county clerk refused to issue a same-sex couple a marriage license (Bobic, 2015). This intentional use of power and privilege to deny a marginalized persona of equality is a


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microassult. What is most important to note is that microaggressions, of whatever type, are directly linked to higher rates of depression (Nadal, 2013).
LGB individuals have previously been labeled as having a mental health disorder (Meyer, 2003). Merely being attracted to a person of the same-sex was early on said to be a mental disorder. Later on, it was thought to be the cause of mental distress and, therefore, a disorder. Research would eventually evolve to question whether being attracted to same-sex individuals was the direct cause of the mental distress many LGB individuals experience (Meyer, 2003). Might the causative factor be instead the stress of being a sexual minority? Factors such as internalized homophobia, stigma, discrimination, and violence can all contribute to the increase of mental health issues in LGB families (Meyer, 1995). In 1973, with the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, homosexuality was officially removed as a classified mental disorder (DSM; American Psychiatric Association, 1973). This was a step towards the effective treatment of the mental distress experienced by many LGB individuals; yet, this did not end all of the issues LGB people faced in mental health.
LGB individuals do experience higher rates of mental distress than their heterosexual counterparts (e.g., Cochran & Mays, 2009; Cochran, Sullivan, & Mays, 2003; King et al., 2008; Feinstein, Wadsworth, Davila, & Goldfried, 2014). This could be attributed to the increase of minority stress LGB people face compared to heterosexual people (Meyer, 2003). Minority Stress is a term used to describe the chronic stress an individual experiences based on their minority status (Meyer, 1995). Specifically, LGB minority stress is associated with being at risk of discrimination, of internalizing homophobia, and of experiencing rejection (Meyer, 2003). Meyer also reported that minority stress is not restricted to certain negative


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0
events in a persons life but also includes the minority persons experience of living within a dominant culture with the expectation of rejection. Thus, a person in a minority position would experience more psychological distress than a person belonging to the dominant culture. Gay males may also belong to other marginalized cultural groups in addition to being a sexual minority (e.g., a recent immigrant or a member of a racial minority). The more marginalized groups an individual belongs to, the more potential avenues the individual has to experience microaggressions.
Minority stress can be a major factor in gay men deciding to become, or rather, to not become an adoptive father (Silverstein, Auerbach, & Lavent, 2002). For instance, based on the lack of gay father role models, gay men can feel as though they will not be accepted as caregivers. This can be considered as an example of internalized homophobia, which refers to a LGB individuals uncontrolled belief that societal expectations or stereotypes of LGB people, usually in a negative sense, are true. Internalized homophobia is usually described as being most prevalent early on in the coming-out experience, but it is unlikely the early internalization can be completely erased (Cass, 1984; Colman, 1982; Troiden, 1989).
Primarily, minority stress is caused by the anticipation of discrimination or violence based on being a minority (Garnets, Herek, & Levy, 1990). Individuals who experience high levels of stigma based on their minority status are more likely to experience higher levels of anxiety than individuals of the dominant culture (Goffman, 1963). High levels of perceived stigma can cause hyper-vigilance, expectations of rejections, and over-all lower levels of self-esteem (Meyer, 1995).


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Gay Parental Barriers
There are different concerns gay male fathers confront when parenting, which heterosexual parents may not consider. Some unique considerations of two fathers raising children include dividing parenting tasks, gender roles, heteronormativity, and microaggressions. Gay adoptive families also face different challenges than heterosexual couples, including a lack of information and emotional support, personal doubts, legal concerns, stigma, the issue of disclosure to their children of being lesbian or gay, and helping children describe their family to outsiders (Goldberg, Downing, & Sauck, 2007).
Discrimination at the societal/cultural, institutional, and interpersonal/individual levels are all specific barriers that LGB parents face (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009). The most common form of discrimination LGB parents face is societal. Oppression of gay adoptive fathers usually starts during the adoption process. In general, adoptive parents go through intrusive and variable procedures in order to begin adoption. Adoption agencies have been accused of discriminating against LGB parents, some even refusing to place children with same-sex couples (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009; Gianino, 2008). Preferential treatment towards heterosexuality promotes the dont ask, dont tell attitude in some adoption agencies that will presume heterosexuality unless otherwise specified (Matthews & Cramer, 2006). Research shows that lesbian women feel the need to pick between remaining closeted to increase their chances of adopting, or remaining open with their sexual orientation and accept that they will experience micro- and macro-aggression (Goldberg, Downing, & Sauck, 2007). Yet, research shows the more open lesbian and gay participants are about their sexual orientation, the higher their self-esteem, the greater their life satisfaction, and the more positive their feelings are overall (Beals, Peplau, & Gable


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2009). This speaks to the affect internalized homophobia and microaggressions have on LGB families wellbeing.
Agencies have suggested to gay prospective fathers that children need a mother, invaliding males ability to parent (Gianino, 2008). Other agencies who may ostensibly present as more open to gay men sometimes act in a contradictory manner, offering only to place children with special needs with same-sex couples (Kenyon et al., 2003).
Becoming a parent through the means of adoption challenges societal norms and thrusts gay fathers in to yet another category of people who experience stigmatization. A common microaggression among adoptive children and their parents, both heterosexual and LGB, is people asking the child, Who are your real parents? Another common assumption is that the adoptive child must have had drug-addicted parents (Garber & Grotevent, 2015).
School poses the biggest challenge for lesbian and gay adoptive families (Groza & Rosenberg, 2001). Gay adoptive parents struggle to find schools that both accept the parents sexual orientation and also ensure equal treatment for their family (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009). Some more specific barriers to adoptive gay fathers in the school system included the struggle for both parents to be recognized as legal guardians and the fathers continual efforts to educate school staff on their unique family makeup (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009).
Gay men are also more likely than lesbian women to experience resistance form adoption professionals, possibly due to the systemic belief that a child needs a mother (Johnson & OConnor, 2002). Comments about the lack of a mother in the childs life leaves gay fathers feeling ostracized (Silverstein, Auerbach, & Lavent, 2002). As previously noted,


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the majority of LGB research is conducted on lesbian mothers rather than gay fathers. This gap in research promotes the ideal that only mothers are supposed to raise children.
These types of microaggressions impact the beliefs some gay men have about their parenting ability in relation to their gender (Brinamen, 2000). Research has shown that 9 out of 10 gay fathers felt that there are differences in men and women that made it easier for women to be primary caregivers than men (Brinamen, 2000). It may seem as though gay men face an insurmountable number of barriers. As mentioned before, gay men adopt the highest number of children with disabilities, which increases the adoptive parents risk of post-adoption depression (McKay et al., 2010). Also, lack of support and invalidations of the legitimacy of their parental status as gay adoptive fathers would likely increase the experience of mental health issues.
Despite all these potential problems, research that examines the differences between heterosexual, gay, and lesbian couples that adopted infants showed no difference in parenting stress among the different families (Farr, Forssell, & Patterson, 2010, & Lavner, Waterman, & Peplau, 2014). Gay men are finding unique and inventive ways to raise children successfully and persevering through the challenges (Gianino, 2008).
Becoming a parent can challenge any persons self-image and for gay men this is especially true. Gay adoptive fathers may occasionally even be rejected from inside the LGB community as a result of the view some community members espouse that becoming a father signifies an alignment with the oppressive traditional family model (Armesto, 2002; Bergman, Rubio, Green, & Padron, 2010; Gianino, 2008).
Another issue is that gay men enter many systems when raising a child including schools, healthcare systems, and social circles. Fathers will continuously expose their sexual


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identity to a large number of people when engaging with these systems. Gay men come out to an increased number of people, leaving them at a higher risk of discrimination and minority stress than gay men without children. A major cause for LGB people to hesitate or refrain from becoming a parent is their desire to protect their child from potential discrimination or prejudice (Gianino, 2008). Living in a society with discriminatory legal systems and religious sectors only increase the likelihood that minority stress will negatively affect the LGB person or his or her child. It is important that mental health services evolve to include support for LGB people and their children concerning minority stress.
Business of Adoption
The business of adoption is another institution that has been known to further oppress gay male adoptive fathers (Berkowtiz, 2011). Unfortunately, there is a profit to be made in adoption. LGB prospective adoptive parents are considered the least desirable clientele for adoption agencies (Goldberg, 2009; Goldberg, Downing, & Sauck, 2007). There is also evidence of a racial hierarchy among adoption agencies who charge lower fees for African-American children and charge the highest fees for Caucasian children (Maldonando, 2006). Agencies often match their least desirable parental applicants, LGBT prospective parents, with children who are hard to place with heterosexual couples (Davidson, 2015; Lewin,
2006; Mallon, 2004). With this information, it may explain why gay men are more likely to adopt children with disabilities more often than lesbian and heterosexual adoptive parents (Gates, Badgett, Macomber, & Chambers, 2007). The adoption agencies are not only discriminating against minorities, rather, they are actually making the process harder for minorities to adopt as parents or to be adopted as children.


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Legal Issues of Adopting as a Gay Couple
Adoption requires a lengthy legal process for all adoptive parents. In the United States gay couples can adopt directly from various avenues, including, the foster care system, agencies, or through international adoption (Davidson, 2015). Yet, not all adoptive parents come in pairs, sometimes a single mother or father will adopt a child. If after the single adoption has been made final and the single parents romantic partner would like to also be recognized as the childs parent, they can do so through second parent adoption. Second parent adoption is a way a person can adopt a child who already has one legal guardian. Second parent adoption is the legal procedure allowing same-sex parents, whether in a legally recognized relationship or not, to adopt his or her partners biological or adoptive child, without terminating the first parents legal status as the sole parent (National Center for Lesbian Right, 2015). Second parent adopting gives options to families to have two legally recognized parents who would otherwise have to choose one parent to be the sole legal guardian for the child. Thus, without second-parent adoption, LGB parents could only adopt through single adoption, leaving one parent without legal guardianship, furthering heteronormativity in the adoption process (Goldberg, 2009; Goldberg, Downing, & Sauck, 2007).
LGB couples can legally co-adopt in the state of Colorado as of 2007 with the passing of House Bill 07-1330 describing the rights of Second Parent Adoption. However, the Bill does not specifically state that LGB parents can jointly adopt, it simply does not specify any class of people to which there is any exception to the law. Prior to this, only a single LGB person could adopt in Colorado. Only recently have all states in the US allowed LGB couples to co-adopt (Movement Advancement Project, 2016). Though North and South Dakota,


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Michigan, and Virginia allow state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services for families, including LGB people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs. In the United States each state has its own specific laws surrounding when second parent adoption is legal (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders 2014).
Legal guardian rights impacts more than just one parents ability to be legally recognized. Goldberg (2010) found having two legally recognized adoptive parents enables children to receive benefits from both parents, assures children that both parents are real parents, and ties parents to the child which increases parental investment. Additionally, legal recognition of both parents increases societal acceptance and decreases the societal oppression experience by the LGB community (Goldberg & Kuvalanka, 2012). It is also important to consider the emotional impact of deciding who in the relationship will be the legal parent and who will not be. Lack of parental rights leaves the legally unrecognized parent feeling less validated and with less support from the community (Mallon, 2004).
Legal barriers for gay adoptive fathers may prove to be such an obstacle they may deny themselves the option of parenthood all together. Due to the legal systems denial of LGB peoples rights as parents, many gay men find themselves in their forties and feel that their age also prohibits them from becoming a parent (Gianino, 2008). The many oppressive norms that dictate the perfect parent, from gender, sexual orientation and age are discouraging individuals from believing in their ability to be adoptive parents.
Prior to June 2015, when same-sex couples were asked how they would feel differently if same-sex marriage became legal, most same-sex couples reported he or she would expect to feel happier and healthier both physically and mentally. Similarly, he or she


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would feel safer having the legal rights of a married couple, would be able to be considered a real couple, and would let go of anger related to the discriminatory justice system (Shulman, Gotta, & Green, 2012). Prior to the Supreme Courts ruling on same-sex marriage, couples felt unheard and underrepresented. The idea of legalizing same-sex marriage painted a picture of equality and hope. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States, the country has expressed mixed feelings regarding the ruling. Though this is a step forward for the LGB community, more overt acts of discrimination have been highly publicized. It could not have been predicted that once same-sex marriage became legal some members of the LGB community would still be met with such hostility.
Positive Movements in Gay Male Adoptive Parenting
Not all areas of gay male adoptive parenting are focused on hardships. Family cohesion, communication, and nurturance are protective factors in families who experience discrimination. LGB families often employ these protective factors as coping mechanisms while simultaneously improving their family cohesion (Gall, 2015).
A unique advantage of being a gay male adoptive father is the opportunity to effectively plan for barriers (Crespi, 2001). Research shows that gay males families often divided tasks more equally than heterosexual families (McPherson, 1993). This could be in part due to the amount of awareness and thought gay males put into the decision to embark on parenthood. Gay male parents are pushed to define their specific roles as parents because there is no model to follow. When adopting, the more prepared the family is for the new addition, the less placement disruption will occur, which will result in less adjustment issues (Averett, Nalavany, & Ryan, 2009; Paulsen & Merighi, 2009). Thus, having conversations about parental roles and potential barriers could actually help gay families when adopting.


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The level of intentionality LGB parents cultivate towards family planning influences the type of environment gay couples raise their children in (Gall, 2015).
Some of the joys of gay parenting included being a parent, being pioneers for the lesbian and gay community, and an increase in extended family support (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009). There could be an entire study done on the benefits and drawbacks for gay families to consider, as most other families could consider as well. But as the above review supports, gay male parenting is a unique phenomenon that has little research to support the understanding of the gay parental experiences. Goldberg (2012) does a great job describing the importance of sharing the gay male dyad experience as parents. Goldberg explains, not only does understanding gay male parents shed light on greater understanding of their experiences but it also conveys awareness to the pervasiveness of heteronormativity in our society. Gay male parents challenge heteronormativity in their romantic roles, parental roles, and gender roles. Hopefully, this research allows the reader to explore his or her own views of parenting.


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CHAPTER II
GAY MEN, ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY
METHODOLOGY
Research Design
It is appropriate to use interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) in this study due to the research questions main focus on understanding rather than evaluation or outcome data. In IP A, determining cause and effect is not of primary concern (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Instead, a phenomenological approach not only helps researchers understand the phenomenon being studied, but may also help future data driven research questions. Phenomenology
The main purpose of phenomenology is to look at what is most important to the participants involved in the phenomenon and at how they make sense of their experience (Smith, 2011). The philosophical basis of phenomenology is concerned with the study of the experience (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). It is philosopher Edmund Husserl whose name is most closely linked with the development of phenomenology (Converse, 2012). Husserls main goal, as distinct from other philosophers, was to understand human thought and experience through rigorous and unbiased study of things as they appear. (Dowling, 2007; Converse, 2012).
Husserl emphasized the difference between understanding an object in the way we already think of it, and being able to let down our precognitions about the object and experience it in a new way. Part of this process Husserl described as the phenomenological method which includes bracketing. Bracketing is a research technique that involves putting aside the taken for granted ways of life and focuses instead on the perceptions of those


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experiencing a phenomenon (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Husserl goes farther in taking the researchers bias out of the study by continuous reduction, using differing lenses to look upon consciousness to view the essence of the experience (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009).
Husserls focus was on describing the consciousness of an object or its intentionality, which gave way to lead to descriptive phenomenological research. His student, Heidegger, took a different route. Heidegger believed it is impossible for us to completely take away our biases (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Husserl was concerned with the essence of the phenomena, while Heidegger was concerned with the being of the phenomena. Since Heidegger believed that being cannot be removed from a situation, he also did not apply reduction of multiple lenses to research as Husserl proposed (Converse, 2012).
Heidegger also moved phenomenology towards hermeneutics and focused on interpretative phenomenology, which will be the focus of the following sections (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Other philosophers, like Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, added to Heideggers revision of Husserls view of phenomenology. These thinkers adopted Husserls philosophical underpinnings, but sought to create a practical way to apply those principles. Intersubjectivity
Intersubjectivity refers to the philosophical concept of shared experiencing as social beings. Intersubjectivity is a co-phenomenon occurring in phenomenological research (Cornejo, 2008). Husserl was concerned with conditions in which Intersubjectivity occurs. Husserl believed that it is actually prior to the encounter with the other that this shared experience begins. It starts with a personal experience in to which we can refer back in order to relate the others experience to ourselves. In this experience we create a way to empathize


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with the other in their descriptions of an event (Finlay, 2005). First, we will look at how we experience others, before looking at how others experience us.
Sartre proposed that we are constantly becoming ourselves (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Thus, we are becoming rather than being. This principle is emphasized in Sartres explanation of two levels of consciousness: reflective and pre-reflective. Reflective refers to the part of self that is conscious in its action and views. The pre-reflective is aware, but attention is diverted, similar to breathing (Gyllenhammer, 2006). One is aware that they are engaging in this activity, yet breathing is usually not a conscious activity. But once we place focus on breathing, this does not mean pre-reflective consciousness is overcome, rather our pre-reflective consciousness is on another object, such as the heart pumping. Thus, Sartre emphasizes the importance of the presence and absence of our relationships with the other and within ourselves (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009).
Husserl went a step further to explain a bodily relation that refers to empathy from another (Husserl, 1928/1989, p. 176, p. 177). Merleau-Ponty expanded Husserls notion of bodily relation to encompass the concept of our lives being intertwined with others. Intertwining refers to a double mirroring effect; we perceive others as another body and we perceive our body as their other body (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/1962, p. 354). One way to conceptualize this would be with our thoughts in social interactions. When we interact with another person, we are aware of this other individual outside ourselves with whom we are trying to relate. We may at some point wonder what this person thinks of us. This is being aware that we have an experience of another person, as well as, the other person having their own experience about us. This interaction illustrates double mirroring and intertwining.


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Heidegger proposed another layer of how an individual experiences being in the world [Dasein] (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Heidegger considers understanding in two forms, knowledge-of-the-world and knowledge-in-the-world. Knowledge-of-the-world refers to our cognitive understanding of objects outside of our self. Knowledge-in-the-world refers to our natural ability to care and concern ourselves with an object, thus taking it from outside of ourselves and accepting it into our being (Conejo, 2008). How gay men experience life encompasses both knowledge-of-the-world and knowledge-in-the-world. This relates also to language. Making meaning in language is not an isolated experience. One creates meaning from the flow of social processes. Lived experiences are constantly informing the meaning of the words we use (Valsiner & Van der Verr, 2000). Words alone do not hold meaning. Words gather their meanings through social interactions with words. Thus, words can only presuppose meaning (Cornejo, 2008). How a gay man uses language to convey the essence of their world will be impacted by their current and past experiences. Thus, listening and interpreting participant spoken words will bring the reader closer to understanding their lives experience through meaning making.
Hermeneutics
Hermeneutics is a theory concerned with the process of interpretation (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Hermeneutics began through the interpretation of sacred texts. Ricoeur (1970, 1981) has suggested that hermeneutics is situated in two different positions, restoration (hermeneutics of faith) or demystification (hermeneutics of suspicion) (Josselson, 2004). In hermeneutics of faith, the interpretative process is fueled by understanding and absorption of the authors message through empathy. Hermeneutics of suspicion is fueled by skepticism and doubt of the message.


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Hermeneutics of suspicion can be related to psychoanalytic counseling theory and practices (Josselson, 2004). Freud, creator of psychoanalytic theory, believed the power of the unconscious informs the belief system of the conscious mind to such a degree that the conscious message cannot be completely trusted as an accurate depiction of the individuals experience. Thus, it is up to the interpreter to propose his or her own interpretation of the others reality. Hermeneutics of faith can be related to postmodern counseling theories such as Feminist and Narrative. The counselor accepts the individuals account of their experience as is; no investigation into their truth is attempted. Put shortly briefly, the individual creates their own reality, and there is no question by the counselor, just acceptance of the clients own experience, and restriction to place the counselors value system ahead of the clients. This study will approach interpretation through the hermeneutics of faith. The idea that something needs to be a certain way goes against our freedom as beings. Sartre refers to the denial of freedom to be as bad faith (Gyllenhammer, 2006).
This brings up other philosophical questions on how one can truly accept anothers experience outside of the researchers or counselors own personal experience. As mentioned before, Heidegger was concerned about the difficulty we all have in avoiding bias when studying human experience. Thus, Heidegger went on to argue that humans cannot separate from their experience to completely inherit anothers essence of an experience or object and must instead interpret. Though Heidegger recognizes one may not be able to rid themselves of all biases, he does emphasis that we must never allow our preconceptions to be present in IPA (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Heidegger, encourages researchers to always strive for as little bias as possible in the interpretative process, while knowing one cannot rid oneself of all biases. The Philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer suggests that when interpreting, it is vital


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both to be aware of what our precognitions are before starting and also to maintain a questioning stance throughout the process to better complete a valid interpretation (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009).
To best represent the original teller, the way in which interpretation should be conducted is artful and holistic. Frederich Schleiermacher, another source for IP A, suggested that within the interpretation process the author chooses what language to use and how to use it, thus, creating a meaningful text by the author. Schleiermacher focus is on how words receive their meanings, connecting hermeneutics with Intersubjectivity of both the author and interrupter (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009; Valsiner & Van der Verr, 2000).
Schleiermacher went as far as to suggest when interpretation is done effectively, the interpretation could be more insightful than the original sources of information because of the amount of analysis the interpreter puts toward the words that the original author might not have (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). This also brings up the point of the hermeneutic circle. The hermeneutic circle is the cycle in which a word will become clear from the context of the sentence it is in, whereas the meaning of the sentence relies on the words that make it up. Through the interpretive process this cycle will continue on small and large scales that continuously influence each other. This is true also of the new discoveries the researcher will uncover and how those realizations affect both the smaller and bigger pieces of the study (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009).
Double hermeneutics occurs when the researcher is making sense of what the participants are trying to make sense of (Smith, 2011). This is one of the key features of IP A research. The other two main factors of IPA include idiography and phenomenology. Idiography is concerned with the understanding of a very specific and precise topic.


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Phenomenology is the philosophical perspective of reality as a constellation of phenomena. The following section will proceed in discussing the methodology of this study, and further explore the concepts of IPA.
Idiography
Idiography is the commitment to looking at the particular rather than look at the large and generalizing (Smith, Flowers, Larkin 2009). Idiography is a main feature in IPA that distinguishes itself from other research. The majority of psychological research is focused on nomothetic that deal with averages and making generalizations to a large population (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). This becomes a problem when the specifics of a situation or experiences are discounted and disappear into averages.
Single case studies are a good example of the principles of idiography. Case studies usually concern themselves with an interesting topic that yields further exploration into existence rather than cause and effect. The attention to detail that case studies call for, uncover information that would otherwise be disregarded. Because of the attention to the particular, scientists can further explore the general, mirroring the hermeneutic circle; the more understanding of the particular the better understanding of the general and vice versa (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). In IPA, it is important to maintain small sample sizes to remain focused on the particular of the experience of a human being.
When considering Heideggers concept of Dasein, idiography becomes more complex. Dasein refers to being in the world (Conejo, 2008). Though idiography is concern with the particular, it is a description of the systemic implication of the phenomenon. Idiography does not completely refute generalization. Yet idiography changes the way in which we view generalizations (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009).


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This change in how research views generalization can greatly aid helping professionals in treating individuals of minority status. Psychiatric care has historically based its diagnoses on abnormalities in the dominant culture. Some diagnostic categories have gone as far as to pathologize an entire minority group (Schrader, Jones, & Shattell, 2013). Research into the particular aids both helping professionals and researchers maintain a curious stance into both the bigger and smaller pictures to establish a clear view of a phenomenon.
Sample
In keeping true to the idiographic style of IP A, a homogeneous sample selection was conducted for this study. This sample was selected through probability means, yet purposefully to find participants that offer insight into the particular research question (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Participants must have met the following criteria to qualify to be a part of the study: self-identify as gay, self-identify as cisgender male, adopted one or more children with their current romantic partner, adopted a child six months prior to the interview, became a legal parent of the child either through co-adoption or single and second parent adoption and between the ages of 21 to 99 years old.
The interviews were conducted on each male individually to gather information on their own individual experiences rather than their experience together, as co-parents. The sample size consisted of three couples, six individuals, n = 6, from Colorado. The number of participants was created with the intention to focus the study on the interpretation of the very specific phenomena occurring among gay male adoptive fathers in Colorado. To focus on a small number of cases gives proper attention to the complex individual experience of the


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phenomenon. The norm practice for a Masters thesis is n = 3 in IPA (Smith, Flowers, and Larkin, 2009, p. 52). Participation was marketed through flyers at the University of Colorado Denver, through parental rights law firms, adoption agencies, online message boards and various other LGB friendly community areas events. Also, snowball sampling was considered to be a major part in gathering participants as a marketing strategy. This was not utilized, as none of the participants knew of any other gay adoptive couples in Colorado. To incentivize participation, individuals received a $20.00 allowance by the researcher for their participation.
To clarify above in regards to participation, single gay fathers of adoptive children will not be a part of this study. This is due to the added phenomenon of being a single parent along with being gay and an adoptive parent. Again, it is important to keep the sample as specific as possible.
Participants
The participants in this research consisted of three gay male couples that have adopted a child together. Aliases will be used from this point forward to protect the participants identities. All of the participants were from the Denver Metro area, though recruiting did focus on the entire state of Colorado.
The first couple, Will and Dennis, live in Denver and adopted their, now toddler age, daughter together when she was an infant. The second couple, Austin and Ken, adopted a school-aged son together through the foster-to-adopt system. Austin had adopted a child prior to his relationship with Ken with a previous partner. After Austin ended his relationship with his previous partner, Ken and Austin started a long-term relationship where Ken later became a stepfather to Austins eldest child who is now a young adult. The final couple, Nick and


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Alex, adopted their toddler age daughter together when she was an infant. All of the participants met the criteria to participate in the study and volunteered themselves. Table 2.1 Descriptions of Participants
Participants The Participants Childrens City of Residence
Couple #1 Will Dennis Sarah Denver
Couple Austin Ethan Aurora
#2 Ken Erik
Couple #3 Nick Alex Jenn Denver
Materials
Taking an interpretative phenomenological approach to this research, I implemented different strategies in order to better understand the phenomenon these parents are experiencing. The first strategy was to email out an initial contact form that included a consent form and information packet regarding the study. Once contact was initiated, the researcher did a phone screening to validate the participants qualifications to be in the study. Once the participants had emailed their consent form back, the researcher contacted the participant to set up an in-person interview. Each participant was asked a series of ten questions regarding various topics of the phenomena that can be viewed in Appendix C. Though the same ten questions were asked to each participant, some variation from the interview scripted were administered, depending on the appropriateness; these variations were recorded.
The interview was a semi-structured interview format, which means there was a list of questions the interviewer asked. The interview was less directed by the interviewers questions and more directed by the participants answers to those questions, while also taking


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into account the participants willingness to share their experiences (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). The entire interview was audio recorded from start to finish. The main purpose of the strategy is to gather as much important information as possible from the participants to be able to understand the essence of be the gay male adoptive parent experience in Colorado.
Initial Contact
Each potential participant was given a pre-screening questionnaire over the phone. This questionnaire was for the researchers ability to obtain all of the information needed to identify if the potential participant had all of the required demographic characteristics needed to participate. After the pre-screening was completed, the participant was either told they qualified for the study or not. If the participant did qualify they were emailed an invitation to participate letter along with an informational packet and consent form.
A consent form and informational packet was sent via email to each participant. The informational packet was given to the participants in an effort to inform them of the type of material being studied. The informational packet shed light into what types of questions would be asked during the interview, so that the participants are fully aware of what type of phenomenon they will be exploring. It was also important that these participants started to make sense of what it is they feel is valuable for the researcher to know about their experiences. It also informed the participants of the nature of semi-structured interviews and what will be expected from them as a participant in this study. This was also an added precaution to prepare and protect participants from any emotional or psychology harm that could be caused by discussing such a personal topic (Smith, Flowers, and Larkin, 2009).


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Consent Form
The consent form will informed the participants of all of the potential dangers involved in the study. The main potential danger is psychological harm by bringing up sensitive personal topics. The informed consent explicitly stated that participation is completely voluntary. If the participant were absent for their interview appointment, they would not receive the $20.00 payment for services. The participant was told they must arrive and begin the interview to receive the payment. If after or during the interview, the participant decided they would like to withdraw their participation in the study, they were informed they were allowed to keep the payment, and all records of their participation would be destroyed. It would also be noted that their participation was excluded in the study, but no identifying terms would be used. This scenario did not occur in the study. The consent also addressed the use of audio recording of the interview. Lastly, the informed consent described in detailed the limitations of confidentiality. Due to the ethical standards of being a counselor in training, the researcher has a duty to report specific types of incidences of emergency. Outside of these limitations, all information was and will be kept confidential.
Interview Schedule
The interview was scheduled at a convenient time for the participant and the principle investigator. The principle investigator conducted all interviews. Phenomenological semi-structured interviews were conducted with the individuals of the couples separately.
Goldberg (2012) gives a well thought out explanation as to the importance of separating the couple for the interview process as to verify that they are being honest in regards to personal matters that may not be suitable to discuss with their partner. It is also important to note that it can be expected that different themes could emerge through individuals in a relationship


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and separating the couples could encourage independent expression. Interviews were held at the University of Colorado Denver Counseling Center and at the participants residences.
The interview process lasted anywhere from 30-90 minutes to complete. After the interview, the participant received $20.00.
The interview schedule consisted of ten open-ended questions with corresponding possible prompts. The questions addressed the following issues: parental roles, parental tasks, parental satisfaction, gender roles, political policies, microaggressions, and heteronormativity. These are the themes that have been gathered from the literature review that seem to be the main areas of concern for gay parents. Specifically, themes were gathered from, Goldbergs (2012) novel reporting the experience of gay fathers, Nadals (2013) article on microaggressions the LGBTQ community experiences, and Goldberg and Smiths (2013) article on predictors of psychological adjustment in adoptive families.
The questions were determined to address the primary research questions: how do gay males make sense of fathering as adoptive parents in Colorado. The secondary question was how the participants experience microaggressions as gay parents. These questions are ordered in a logical sequence surrounding the timelines of adoption. All questions were formulated as to not imply anything about the participants experiences, but rather to prompt as much exploration on the participants part as possible. The possible prompts were and were not used as seen appropriate by the interviewer (see Appendix C). Though there is a set structure of asking these questions, there was room for the interviewer to go beyond these set questions to ask the participants to elaborate. It is also important to point out that an external audit was used before all questions were finalized. The audit included the researcher


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reviewing the interview schedule with the thesis committee chair and well as discussing the interview schedule with the participants ahead of time.


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CHAPTER III
GAY MEN, ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY
ANALYSIS
IPA provides the opportunity to be extremely detailed while also allowing room for growth. The analysis of the transcriptions are not definite accounts but rather an attempt to focus on the participants described experiences as mentioned before in the description of double hermeneutics (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009; Smith, 2011). The techniques in IPA are flexible and leave room for the researcher to process their meaning and experience throughout the process to more effectively interpret. A main feature of IPA is the researchers personal internal dialogue and how there is a constant effort to bracket, or set aside, ones own view and values to analyze the transcription to accurately depict the participants experiences.
The key phases in IPA are reading, note taking, and development of themes in individual transcripts, analysis of how themes are developed, emerging themes between transcripts, and finally an interpretation of the transcripts. The following section will give more detail to the process of line-by-line analysis of claims, concern, and understanding of the participants. Also more details of how emerging themes are organized and created will also be discussed. Structure will be given to themes in a way for more understanding of the participants experiences. With the researchers knowledge of psychological underpinnings and the participants data, an interpretive account arises with the main principles of IPA, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and idiography, in mind. Supervision was utilized to audit the interpretive process. Finally a reflection of the researchers perceptions and process was taken into account by continuous journaling throughout the study.


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Transcription
Once the interviews were completed, the audio recordings were transcribed verbatim into a computer document. The importance of writing out the interviews verbatim is to be able to clearly recognize significant statements, organize the verbal cues, and record anything of significance given or not given to a statement. This computer document was printed out for further analysis by the principle investigator.
Reading and re-reading of the transcription was the second step of the transcription process. This is to submerge the researcher in the material and the participants experiences. Some side notes were made during this time, but not for the purpose of analysis, yet for the principle investigator comprehension. The experience of re-reading the transcription also benefits the researchers understanding of the general tone of the interview and leaves more room to understand the many details that were discussed.
Following the re-reading process is the noting process. In this phase the principle investigator began to note all of the interesting dialogue that came about from the interview. The results of this phase were detailed notes on the data. The initial notes were exploratory in nature and included questions for the researcher to ponder when trying to emerge their thinking into the data. The notes themselves, try to describe, understand, and conceptualize the participants experiences. Descriptive notes were taken to highlight important words or phrases the participant described and were revisited to go back in the process to take note of deepening meanings to those statements. Linguistic comments were made on how information was delivered throughout the interview that could make sense of meaning to the participant. And finally, conceptual comments were usually formed as a way for the principle investigator to ask more questions about the topic being discussed. These comments were


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made of what, how, and when, the participant made a comment. From these initial notes, the analysis started off with summaries of events and lead into the interpretive nature of exploring core values of the interview and meanings of the experience.
Themes
Following the reading and note taking of data, themes of the interview were established. When creating themes, the research is not only interested in what happens among all the participants, yet it is also important to incorporate themes of unique individual themes. Once themes were created they were ordered chronologically and inputted into a data chart that lists how often themes were brought up. Transcripts were taken out of the whole interview in chunks to represent the qualifying theme. Themes were used as a way of categorizing the meanings around important information the participants shared. Themes define what the essence of the phenomenon is that is being described. By assigning themes, the research is better able to define what some of the major characteristic are in the phenomenon of being a gay male adoptive parent. As for the reader, specific transcriptions are matched with qualifying themes as to give evidence of how these themes were presented by the participants.
This process was done with each participants interview separately. Care was taken to handle each transcript as an individual case. The importance of accounting for individual influences after each interview is for each transcript to be looked upon with a new and exploratory view, instead of trying to fit the other individuals experience into the past participants view. After completing each individual transcript, all themes were looked at as a whole. Themes were separated physically from the individual transcription and placed in similar thematic order. Abstraction was the method used in identifying patterns. In


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abstraction similar themes from individual accounts were matched with themes from other participants descriptions. These meanings developed into clusters of super-ordinate themes. From this cluster the principle investigator developed a graph that describes the superordinate themes as well as themes that do not fit into the super-ordinate category. These themes are presented as data in a table with the theme as a label and different verbatim transcriptions below to illustrate meaning and evidence.
A sample of the analysis of the interviews is provided in Table 3.1. The research first had to organize the transcripts into rows that separated when the participant was speaking and when the researcher was speaking in order to be clear in who said which statement.
Then, each row is numbered chronologically on the left side of the column containing the transcript. The next step was to add three columns to the right side of the transcript: exploratory comments, emergent themes, and super-ordinate themes. By working through the columns left to right, the research started by reading the entire transcript by itself, then rereading the transcript and writing down descriptive comments. Descriptive comments are notes that explain what the participant was saying as closely tied to their original words and without interpretation. In the sample, descriptive comments are displayed in standard form. These comments are meant to be at face-value (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Similarly, linguistic comments are meant to show the unique way in which the participant used language to communicate their experience. For instance, linguistic comments would summarize the use of volume, tone, frequency, as well as symbolism and choice of words. Linguistic comments are italicized as well as their related section in the transcript. Finally, conceptual comments were assigned by moving into an investigative stance towards interpreting meaning from the participants words.


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Table 3.1 Sample Analysis
Transcript Exploratory Comment Emergent Super-Ordinate
Themes Themes
The final one was another, just, meeting to go over it and sign paperwork saying that we agreed to the home study. I don't even remember the length of time that it was for that first initial process, but it's a very invasive process that... Can be extremely frustrating. You're going through fingerprint checks, you're going through all of this stuff. You're watching the news and you're reading the paper and youre seems
Went through various protocol step prior to being approved to adopt.
The home visit and security checks seem overly invasive
Discouragement & exhaustion with barriers in the adoption system
Fear of failure
Perfection in the inspection Process
Coping with the inspection process
(continued)


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Table 3.1 Sample Analysis (continued)
Transcript
Exploratory Comment
Emergent
Themes
Super-Ordinate
Themes
*9
these families that are bavins children taken away from them because theyre abusing them, you're seeing people that are abusing the system just having child after child and taking advantage. You're sitting there being like, "We're a loving family. We want to give a child a home, but we have to jump through all these hoops."
Unfairness in parental judgments / Wanting to care and love a child of their own -
Double standard for biological parents Does he desire validation that his frustrations are appropriate?
Does he find value and pride in making it through the process?
Inequality for adoptive parents
Perfectionism in the inspection Process
Coping with the inspection process
Note. *9 = line 9 of the transcript
From the exploratory comments emergent themes were produced. Not all emergent themes contributed to super-ordinate themes, yet were considered when organizing superordinate themes. Finally super-ordinate themes are assigned to the passage. Colors are used to illustrate relationships between categories as well as underlined conceptual comments.


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CHAPTER IV
GAY MEN, ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY
RESULTS
After analyzing the participants transcripts there were three major super-ordinate themes: becoming a father over a life span, the process of adoption, and minority stress. In the following section these super-ordinate themes will be discussed along with detailed descriptions of how these themes were described verbatim by the participant and how the researcher interrupted the meaning of the participants words. Subthemes will divide the results for a more specified look into how the super-ordinate themes developed. More individualized experiences will also be discussed in the context of the super-ordinate theme to allow for an idiographic look into the experiences of the participants. Both evidence based practices and counseling theories will also be brought into light to dive deeper into the clinical implications of the research as well as the effectiveness of certain models that could apply to this population.
In staying true to interpretative phenomenology and the hermeneutics of faith, the participants narratives are dissected in a manner to best represent their experience and not to validate their truth. Therefore, the results are presented in three different chapters, organized by super-ordinate themes. See Appendix A for an illustration of the super-ordinate and emergent themes.
In the figure 4.1, the top center circle represents the research question and is comprised of three parts, each a super-ordinate theme. The super-ordinate themes are displayed in a with connecting arrows between them to demonstrate their influence on each other and continued experiencing of each theme rather than a linear model. The list below


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each super-ordinate theme is that themes sub-themes that give a more detailed description of
what each super-ordinate theme entails.
Figure 4.1 Illustration of Super-Ordinate Themes and their corresponding subthemes
The Gay Male Adoptive Father Experience in Colorado
Identity v. Role Confusion
Intimacy v. Isolation
Deciding on Fatherhood
Reacting to the Inspection
Current Developmental Stage
Trusting the Process
Authoring a Life
Accepting Fatherhood
Coping with Discriminatijon
Developmental
Considerations
Creating a Refuge


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CHAPTER V
GAY MEN, ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY BECOMING A FATHER OVER A LIFE-SPAN
It is clear in each participants transcript that their individual experience of growing up significantly impacted their experience as a father. Though there are many different theories of human development Erik Eriksons Psychosocial Theory will be the main theory of development discussed in this section. Erikson suggests an individual goes through stages of developmental that build on top of each other (Erikson, 1963). One of the main principles of the theory is the principle of epigenic, which refers to the stages of development being in a preset order in which the individual must accomplish before going on to the next stage (McLeod, 2013).
Table 5.1 Erik Eriksons Psychosocial Stages of Development
Stages Crisis Favorable Outcome Unfavorable Outcome
1-2 years Trust vs. Faith in the environment Suspicion, fear of future
Mistrust and future events events
2-3 years Autonomy vs. A sense of self-control and Feelings of shame and self-
Doubt adequacy doubt
(Continued)


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Table 5.1 Erik Erikson s Psychosocial Stages of Development (continued)
3-5 years Initiative vs. Guilt Ability to be a self starter, to initiate A sense of guilt and inadequacy
6-puberty Industry vs. Inferiority Ability to learn how things work A sense of inferiority at understanding
Adolescence Identity vs. Role Confusion Seeing oneself as a unique and integrated person Confusion over who and what one really is
Early Intimacy vs. Ability to make Inability to form
adulthood Isolation commitments to others affectionate relationships
Middle age Generativity vs. Stagnation Concern for family and society in general Concern only for self-ones own well-being
Aging Years Integrity vs. Despair A sense of integrity and fulfillment Dissatisfaction with life
Identity versus Role Confusion
One stage that stood-out as a pivotal milestone for the participants was the fifth stage of development: identity versus role confusion, which is characterized by self-exploration. Austin expressed struggling with comprehending a life for himself as a gay man while also able to reach his life goals.


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I very specifically remember the idea of wanting to be a father someday as a major reason why I didn't allow myself to think that I could be gay.
Austins dilemma as an adolescent highlights the duality of identity development. He denies himself his identity as a gay person due to his desire to be a father. The inability to accept co-occurring identities reflects the lack of maturity in an individual. Unfortunately, Austins co-occurring identities were not only confusing together due to black and white thinking of an adolescent but also as a cultural taboo. Acceptance of one identity meant the rejection of another.
In this stage, adolescents are moving from understanding them self in the world as stagnant and rooted in stable rules of being versus moving towards understanding the world as constantly changing while including the self among the world. This high level of examination into ones identity can also bring up discomfort and insecurities. Lack of gay male fathers as role models in the community challenged the participants belief in their ability to parent while also being gay.
On the other side of this developmental experience is the outcome of a high level of self-exploration at a young age. This appears to increase resiliency in identity acceptance. Alexs description of gender roles reiterates this concept:
You kind of blow past gender roles very early in your life as a gay person. You kind of as a teen, you imagine what's that going to be and what's my relationship going to look like?
As Alex describes gender roles, he emphasizes the importance of this developmental stage for gay men. Alex seemed to accept his gay identity early on in life, and thus had to make appropriate adjustment to how his life would differ from the typical. His comfort with gender


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fluidity came with increased comfort with his sexuality, yet confusion brews in how gender will now influence his romantic relationships.
At the identity versus role confusion stage of development it is appropriate to question more than just sexuality and find space to explore many facets of ones self. Fluidity in gender roles appeared to be a vital part in gay mens experience as fathers and their identity development. It is unique in the sense that caretaking, being in love with a man, and wanting to raise children are all considered feminine characteristics. Alex highlights the majority of his concern was focused on having a meaningful relationship and less emphasis on the stereotypes of gender. This exemplifies a shift into the sixth stage of psychosocial development, towards intimacy versus isolation, which is characterized by a resolution to connect with others in healthy relationships.
Intimacy versus Isolation
Alex describes this shift by being understanding of his gender fluidity as a characteristic of himself but was more concerned with not being able to connect with another person who shared his desire to be in a gay relationship with him. This becomes increasingly important in particular to gay men who want to have children. Gay men in relationships are not necessarily bound to the same societal standards of heterosexual couples like getting married and having children. In this way, there is more opportunity to create relationships and families in a unique way but also less assurance that other potential partners would want to have a traditional family that may or may not include children. Will and Dennis described their conversation with each other about having children very similarly. Will did not see himself being a father, where Dennis did. Dennis describes his efforts to pursue a family with
Will:


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I think it probably came down to a lot of me going, "I would like to have a child," and him going, "I don't really want to have a child," and me going, "I would like to have a child," and him going, "I don't want a child." Then, me going, "I would like to have a child," and him going, "Well, let's think about it." I was kind of persistent. I've always wanted to be a dad.
Dennis describes a need to remind Will that having a family was important to him. The metamessage within Denniss quote is I want to have a family with you. Dennis and Wills I statements take some of the pressure off of the receiver of the message. By engaging in this type of communication, the relationship is not directly impacted by either of their differing values of having children.
Will and Dennis communication style is an example of healthy disagreements in each partners values system but strength to continue to be in a loving and caring relationship with each other as well as listening to each others viewpoints. This acknowledgement of the differences between each other in a relationship is a key to intimacy. Dennis efforts paid off when Will eventually became curious and began investigating adoption. While Wills open-mindedness kept the relationship strong enough for him to explore without any pressure to commit before he was ready. After adopting their daughter Will described his experience as a father:
That feeling that you get when she looks at you and smiles or gives you a hug or reaches up and grabs your hand, I don't think anything could compare to it and I never knew anything that would be like that if it hadn't been for her. She makes every day
better.


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Many of the other participants vocalized a similar experience, though Wills was unique.
Will was the only father who had mentioned his initial lack of willingness to become a father while an adult. When he says, I never knew anything that would be like that if it hadnt been for her, this is a statement in discovery. Will discovered a part of life that he had never explored before becoming a father. It seems like the other participants had a sense of missing out on something when they were not fathers. Wills openness to the possibility of rejecting, imperfection, and hard work left him with the rewards of being a father, one he never knew to what extent it could bring happiness to his life.
Current Developmental Stage
Will describes feeling as though he is able to care for his daughter in a purposeful way to foster her development. This is a shift into the stage of generativity versus stagnation. Being able to care for his daughter appeals to his greater purpose of identity development as it applies to the world through his daughter. All of the fathers described their concerns for their childrens ability to lead healthy lives in the future. In the transcripts the fathers description of concerns for their child outweighed their concerns for their relationship drastically. The fathers much higher concern towards fostering their child development depicts their long journey into the last stage of psychosocial development. Dennis describes how he currently values instilling certain characteristics in his daughter:
I think actually, my big thing for her is I'm very concerned about her self-image. I'm fixated on making sure my daughter is confident. I want her to be a confident person. I've seen a lot of the negative impacts that a lack of confidence can have on you in extremely weird ways.


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Dennis description of his hope that his daughter is confident in herself reflects his concern for her process through the stage of identity versus role confusion. The fathers understanding of this difficult process of development is a major theme in their lack of confidence in parenting. As Dennis described his experience with lack of confidence and its negative effects, his personal struggle through this stage of life seems not only vital to make it through, but important for long term success as he experienced when accepting his identity.
This stage, as noted prior, is a major stage in every persons life but is typically more complex for those individuals belonging to a minority group. Dennis is aware of the struggles of this stage through his identity as a sexual minority, but it is also important to note the participants have children that already belong to the minority group of being an adopted child. Being children of gay parents is another minority group the participants children belong to. Furthermore, adoptive children are not all Caucasian, able-bodied, heterosexual, male, cisgender, or from the same country as they are adopted into which could potentially add to the complexity of their psychosocial development as well as minority stress.
Unique Developmental Considerations
Gay men do not exhibit a different developmental pattern than heterosexual individual. Yet, gay men may be specifically unique in their creation of their development and the complexity of the same milestones heterosexual individuals experience. Another major theory of development that is important to consider is the Inclusion Model (McCam & Fassinger, 1996). See figure 5.1 for an illustration of the Inclusion Model.
In this model the development of the individual and their inclusion into a minority group is considered both parallel processes and catalytic for both development. I knew one person that we thought was gay was my art teacher in middle school, and he was so


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ostracized. Austins quote described his understanding of the type of treatment gay men were exposed to through his experience with his teacher. Realizing, for himself, the possibilities of being excluded by others because of his sexuality. Austin goes on to describe his lack of hope in being fulfilled while also being a gay man, while simultaneously knowing he could also not be happy while denying his sexuality, a lose/lose dilemma.
The Inclusion Model differs from Eriksons Psychosocial Development in structure due to Eriksons use of the principle of epigenic. Rather, McCarn and Fassinger created this model to be in phases rather than stages to emphasis the flexibility as well as to conceptualize development as circular versus linear. The development of being a sexual minority builds upon new knowledge acquired throughout a lifetime of being both gay as well as belonging to a minority group.
Tim describes the lack of a well-defined path in his development in the 70s when he was a child on how to develop as a gay male.
Growing up in the '70s, I graduated high school in '85.1 had no gay role models. There was nothing on television. I didn't know that you could even be happy and gay, much less happy, gay, and be a parent.


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Figure 5.1 McCarn and Fassingers Inclusion Model of Gay Identity Development (1996)
Awareness
of feeling or being different
of existence of different sexual orientations in people
"I had no idea there were lesbian/ gay people out there."
Internalization/Synthesis Exploration '
of love for same-sex partner, of strong/erotic feelings for same-
sexual choices, into overall identity sex partner
of identity as a member of a of one's position regarding
minority group, across contexts lesbians/gays as a group (both
"1 am deeply fulfilled in my attitudes and membership)
relationship with my same-sex "Getting to know lesbian/gay
partner.'
Deepening/Commitment
~T
to self-knowledge, self-fulfillment, and crystalization of choices about sexuality
to personal involvement with reference group, with awareness of oppression and consequences of choices
"Sometimes I have been mistreated because 1 am gay."
Tim describes his experience in the awareness phase of development when he questions the idea that not everyone is heterosexual. The other message Tim delivers is the lack of role model to demonstrate happiness as a gay man for him. This questioned his sense of faith in his ability to be happy and gay, which reflects back on the oppression the inclusion model brings up in contrast to Eriksons stages (1963).
A unique strength of the participants' families is that the fathers are all pioneers in their path towards parenthood and have acquired developmental resiliency in their personal


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journey. The inclusion model was based off of various minority developmental models to include the difference in developing as a majority member and a minority member in the world. The fathers are able to act as role models for their children who belong to minority groups to support their children through their development journey. This guidance and modeling of minority development for adoptive children may not be as readily available in families that have not experienced development as a minority member.


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CHAPTER VI
GAY MEN, ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY THE PROCESS OF ADOPTION
No one couples path to adoption seems to be the same. All the fathers decided to adopt in unique ways, though all sought agencies that were LGB friendly. Even fathers who were partnered did not give the same answers to the same questions. Their experiences were unique to their life story. None of the fathers took time to explain prepping the nursery, conversations about splitting tasks with their partners or even much about discrimination in the process. Rather, the amount of vulnerability asked of the fathers throughout the process of trying to create a family through adoption, was completely endorsed by all fathers. To my surprise, the participants responses told a story of love in place of worry, where adoption was simply the setting for which the story of their family took place.
Austin made a moving observation about this process. I always said, if biological parents had to go through everything we went through, there'd be a lot fewer kids. In Austins statement there is a meaningful description of the type of discomfort as well as hard work adoptive parents go through to have a family. All of the fathers described the inspection process as being very invasive. They all found that they over prepared and had invested a lot of energy in impressing the investigator. This sense of being perfect is often emulated in the majority of all adoptive parents, but could be amplified among gay men. Being perfect in parenting was a theme for some of the fathers. For those fathers who displayed signs of perfectionism in parenting, their narratives seemed to match the start of this behavior with the beginning phases of the inspection process. Once this perfectionist behavior began, it


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continued to progress into their interactions with other parents and the community once they started parting in public.
Sartres concept of essence is highlighted in this section. Existence comes before essence (Sartre, 1948/1973, p.26) quote introduced a unique philosophical concept of existentialism that humans have the freedom of choice, which ultimately creates a suffering through the responsibility of creating their identity. What Sartre meant by this is that we are created without a protocol of how to be human. He believed we create our existence through the choices we make in our lives and construct essence through these choices. Alex highlights the importance of free will by saying:
I'm really proud of the choice we made to start a family. I enjoy being the person at the party who shows up really early with their kid and leaves really early. I'm proud of that life choice and I'm glad I'm that guy.
Alex finds dignity and integrity in his choices. Knowing that he had to work hard and create his own path to fatherhood seems to give Alex a sense of pride in his determination. The other point in this statement is the sense of being at peace with who he has become due to his choices. In the previous chapter discussing identity development, acceptance is a major theme. Becoming a father through adoption with his partner is part of the identity Alex created for himself. The long and invasive tasks of the inspection process leave much time and consideration for adoptive parents to pull out and change their minds. The determination Alex displays by going through a process that is not only unique, but also riddled with challenges, is the best example of creating a life through existence, which shows his essence.
Philosopher of language, Wittgenstein, would argue a caveat to Sartres theory of choice. Wittgenstein looked at how our language shapes our reality, thus limiting what


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choices we have the ability to perceive. The participants also are bound in their existence by their unfiltered influences that shape their reality. Microaggressions, prejudice, and discrimination are not easily forgotten. Diving farther into the process of adoption with the father, vulnerability shifted from internal dialogues of self-doubt into more serious issues like becoming victims of fraud, involvement in the legal system, and unsuccessful bio-parent matches. Minority stress is a part of a persons existence. Due to this, freedom of choice is limited by Wittgensteins theory of limitations, which creates a unique challenge for gay adoptive fathers to live out their essence publicly.
Deciding on Fatherhood
The decision to adopt can come in many different forms. For Nick and Alex, this was somewhat of a standard for their relationship. Alex described his conversations with Nick early on in their relationship, When you talk about your future and what it looks like, we both got that out there early that, oh we want a family. I want kids. It was a running conversation for several years. Nick and Alex had the expectation set for their relationship to ultimately move towards fatherhood. Being in a romantic relationship was contingent on having the same outlook on family goals. Preparing their relationship for fatherhood was also of importance to them by continuing to have a conversation as their relationship evolved.
Will and Dennis did not see eye to eye on wanting children. Will described his process of deciding to adopt with Dennis:
I'm not into having kids. Other people are made to have kids that I'm made to play with their kids and then go home." We'd been together for, actually at that point, nine years, something like that. It was like, "Let's do it.


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For Dennis, making the decision to adopt was a topic of concern for his relationship. He challenged his partner in having children. Dennis shared a unique sense of pride in his ability to be a father to his daughter. Yet, he seemed to be the only father who resisted the idea of becoming a father in the initial stages of his relationship. Dennis went on to say he did not see himself as a father prior to deciding to adopt. Many people decide not to have children, but as mentioned in the literature review, gay men have different reasons of denying themselves the identity of being a father. Some reasons could be the lack of a set path to fatherhood, lack of information and guidance, the risks involved in adoption, and also the discrimination against gay men being legitimate parents for their children. Once Dennis did decide to adopt his daughter, he dropped naturally into a caregiver role, an identity denied prior to starting the adoption process.
Austin and Ken differed in their path since Ken met Austin as a single father raising his eldest son, Erik. Austins journey to adoption was unique to the other participants. The main differences included the time period he adopted, the age of his son at the time of adoption, adopting twice and his identity as a single father prior to meeting Ken. Austin had adopted his eldest son, Erik, with his previous partner. In 2003, Austin and his partner wanted to foster-to-adopt a child who was older, around 5-8 years old. They were paired with Erik very fast, and Austins partner was the first legal parent, with Austin being added as the second parent later. Austins previous partner left the relationship and their son, soon after the adoption. Austin became a single father seemly overnight.
Austin brings up a topic I had considered early on: relationship shifts and riffs. What I had not considered was the aftermath of relationship issues on a single gay adoptive father. Austin explains dating as a single father:


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Dating during the time I was single, dating was very hard. I had someone I was very into, suddenly break up with me and just say that it was too much, like I came with too much baggage. I was like, "Wow, you just called my kid baggage."
Once Austin met Ken, things were different. When I started exploring vulnerability as an emerging theme in the research it was very apparent in asking someone to be their adoptive father, in parenting in public, and legal issues. I had failed to consider what Austin described. Austin was able to make the choice to be a father, something he had always wanted but did not always allow himself to consider. Fatherhood, Austin growing up was simply not a viable path for a gay man. Once his desire to be a father came into fruition, he was met with abandonment, lack of support, and rejection. Yet, in the face of such resistance, Austin still prided himself as a father. Uniquely, as much as his partner, Ken, made note that he did not find much relationship between his identity as a gay man and his identity as a father, Austin valued his dual relationship throughout the interview. Austin sees himself as a whole with many facets that all influence other pieces of himself. When someone denied Austins attractiveness due to his identity as a father, this was hard for him to understand because he does not view any one part of himself as being more important or more attractive than another. He is not one or the other; he is all of the above and accepts himself as a whole.
When Austin described his shock with his ex-partners reason for leaving him, he was able to confidently stand up for himself and his son. He expresses his value in his family and the need to have a partner who will do the same. His patience to find a partner who would value him and his son paid off when he met Ken.
With Ken, Ken came into ... I was already a dad when Ken came into the situation. Ken chose to be with me, knowing that this was part of the package. I've never known


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Ken when parenting wasn't part of the situation. I didn't have to convince him or anything. He was not in any way scared of that or anything.
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It is apparent in Austins description that he feels as though his identity as a father is of high value to him. For previous partners to not accept his son is to not accept the parts of Austin that are authentic to who his is. Once Ken came into the picture, Austin felt honored and accepted for his multi-faceted identity. Ken also acknowledged the influence being a stepfather to Erik had on his decision to want to adopt with Austin.
I grew very attached to Josh. He now refers to me as dad. I grew fairly fond of Josh. I was like, wow. I really missed out on this half, being able to foster, being able to parent Josh when he was younger and that would be something I would like.
Ken describes the relationship he has with Erik when I asked about how he came to the decision to adopt his son Ethan. A meaningful step in his relationship with Erik was when his identity shifted from stepfather to dad. Kens relationship with Austin gifted him another meaningful relationship and an added layers to his identity. Ken honored his desire to be a father and decided to adopt with Austin their second child. Though I mention Ken was straight forward in his belief that his sexual identity did not influence his parenting, I can only assume he meant in the most practical of sense. His words spoke a different tone than his demeanor. Ken may not be drastically different in his parenting style if he were not gay, but his life experience as a gay man has shaped him into the accepting father he is today. Reacting to the Inspection
The inspection process is potentially one of the most anxiety provoking experiences in the adoption process. All individuals and couples who go through an adoption process must go through a house inspection. Typically, this process is performed by a social worker


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to verify the adoptive parents house is child ready and a healthy environment for a child to thrive in. Along with the inspection, parents are required to go through an extensive background check and could be asked to attend classes, make changes to their house, as well as other various tasks to demonstrate the couple is ready for a child. Will said, I don't even remember the length of time that it was for that first initial process, but it's a very invasive process that... Can be extremely frustrating. Wills small pause before saying Can be extremely frustrating appears to be hesitation towards questioning the process of the inspection. The inspection is invasive and promotes a standard that adoptive parents have to earn the trust of a professional to become parents. If Will questions this process, it becomes a problem. If the process was more relaxed, there could be a chance of a child getting placed in an unsafe house. If the process stays strict, there is a sense of assurance of the dedication the adoptive parents are willing to put into raising a family. With this dilemma, Will is left to internalize the discomfort of the process as his own creation. Instead of saying what he would like to change about the process, he chooses to explain his emotional frustration with it.
The inspection process is an experience and not a miniscule point in becoming a parent. It has a lasting effect on the expectations adoptive parents place on themselves throughout parenthood. Dennis describes how he finds himself turning parenting into competition:
Seriously, it's amazing to me how competitive parenting is. You've got to be ... Every time you run into somebody near your own age, or your kids on own age, you find yourself being like, "My kid is doing this, "-bragging about your kid.
Getting caught up in this balancing act starts to strain interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. Dennis sets his standard of good parenting on how his child is developing


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compared to other children her age. Yet, he goes on to say how annoying this pattern is for him. Placing visual and tangible markers on parenting ability was set up for adoptive parents through the inspection process. To successfully navigate the inspection process a parent must check-off different categories the caseworker judges. Parenting was introduced to Dennis as having a report card. As Dennis continues to parent, he tries to find criteria for him to measure his capabilities as a parent by comparing himself to others. This mirrors the conflict in identity versus role confusion early in life, since gay men tend to compare themselves to other heterosexual men and begin experiencing minority stress. Dennis is repeating this cycle through parenting.
Nick shares a similar sentiment as Dennis when it comes to feeling the pressure to be a fit parent. Nick described his fears associated with not measuring up as a parent:
If I had only been wearing the cape today. The day is filled with those types of challenges, right? What is my kid going to eat? What is she not going to eat? What, has she pooped yet? Like why hasn't she pooped yet? Is that cough serious?
Nick goes on to describe a long list of different ways in which he could fail as a parent. His perfectionism denies the results of any efforts that do not measure up to his standards. But how were these standard created? Though many parents experience pressure to be perfect, it seems the participants first encounter perfectionism as a means of coping with their sense of being different than others during adolescence, while it re-enters their life in parenthood through the investigation process.
This frustration with the fear of failure creates a discourse. Will implies there is a sense of unfairness in adoptive parenting that sets a stage for adoptive parents to question their parenting abilities more than biological parents.


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You're watching the news and you're reading the paper and you're seeing these families that are having children taken away from them because they're abusing them, you're seeing people that are abusing the system just having child after child and taking advantage. You're sitting there being like, "We're a loving family. We want to give a child a home, but we have to jump through all these hoops.
Wills statement expresses the unfairness and lack of legitimacy adoptive parents have in the community. As expressed in the previous chapter, the participants legitimacy of being fathers has been questioned since childhood. Wills statement is an example of his frustration with the unfairness of being under a microscope, feeling the need to be perfect, and questioning his quality of parenting.
Going back to Sartres and Wittgensteins concepts about how we form ourselves through our choices, the microcosm of adoption encourages questioning adoptive parents natural ability to parent as well as a biological parent. Due to the double standard in adoptive parenting investigation and none for biological parents, it is simply implied that biological parent are more fit as parents and can trusted. This lack of trust in adoptive parents capabilities is internalized and cannot be erased throughout the process of parenting. Each participant explained some feeling of anxiety or unfairness towards the inspection process. Becoming a parent is a lifelong choice that will encompass many choices and sets parents up to seek external validation of their ability to parent. For gay adoptive fathers, this can bring up fear of being less than the majority due to their identity as being different than the majority.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy core beliefs inform intermediate beliefs and then progress to evolve into automatic thoughts (Beck, 2011). In the transcripts it appears the


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participants automatic thoughts revolve around questioning their ability to parent, questioning others ability to parent, and devotion to caring for their childrens well being. Core beliefs are typically created in childhood and amplified in adulthood. During the inspection process the most confident of fathers confidence are tested and negative core beliefs tend to arise. Ken, for example, explained that he did not feel such a sense of worry during this process but rather irritation with the extent the inspection went to. Ken seemed comfortable and confident in his parenting ability but when asked what his biggest concern with parenting this was his response:
My biggest concern is whether I'm a good parent or not. I think that's fairly typical of most parents. Then I always have concerns about Ethan and Erik. What is it going to be like when he's older? Is this going to be a problem for him? Is he going to be able to adapt to this? He's struggling in math, is that going to keep him out of college? Is he going to go to college? He says he's going to go to college then he says he's not going. What happens if he doesn't go to college? Will he be happy? Is it important for him to go to college to be happy? Yes or no?
This response was surprising during the interview and even more so when re-reading the transcript. Kens personal presence created a different story of his experience than his written words did. Ken answered questions very concisely and deliberately throughout the interview, exuding what I perceived as confidence. Reading through the transcripts, there was a different view of Ken, a vulnerable, uncertain, yet hopeful father. Kens divergence of presence versus written speech exemplifies conflicting beliefs in me as a researcher.
After further evaluation of Kens experience, I found that this divergence appears in Kens experience, particularly when I asked specific questions about how being a gay


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father impacted him. As mentioned before, Ken stood firm in these answers that his sexual orientation did not impact him and would then go on to explain some minor examples of when it did. I think being a gay father challenged Kens identity as simply a father. But I also wondered if sexuality had any unique meaning for Ken that I had not experienced. Was it taboo for Ken to explore if his sexuality did influence his experience as a father? What would that mean to him if being gay did shape way in which he parents? Would that somehow lessen his validity as a father for allowing those two identities to mix? Ken, like myself as a researcher, is trying to separate parts of his identity in different roles. Ken separates being gay from being a father. I try to separate being myself to try to understand my participants. Neither is possible, but both seem desirable to be affective in our chosen roles.
Trusting the Process
We are never so vulnerable as when we love. Sigmund Freud. The business of adoption is intrusive and requires some risk, whether financially or emotionally, on the prospective adoptive parents part. The fathers expressed different levels of ease with the process but all explored areas of vulnerability required on their end to put themselves out publicly as wanting to adopt. In later chapters, microaggressions and minority stress after becoming a father will be examined further, though this chapter will focus on the risks involved before the participants became fathers.
Finding a gay friendly adoptive agency was often of value for the participants to ensure fair treatment. Austin and Ken had less value on the agency but on the childs age and decided to go with a county adoption. They were the only couple that had issues within the


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adoption process that distinctively opposed their sexuality, which was also complex due to their child belonging to a Native American Tribe. Austin described this event:
That brings in a whole 'nother set of legal issues, when it's a child from a tribe, because they have to prove that they tried to place the child with a Native American family, and all these different things. The tribe did not like us being gay, and we tried to fight that for two days in court. We ended up winning.
This was the only instance that opposed a participants ability to adopt due to their sexual orientation. When Austin described this, he was very calm, did not seem upset and was explaining the legal issue similar to any other part of the inspection process. It was clear Austin was simply not surprised his sexuality was in question. Being a gay man and experiencing discrimination became a standard for Austin when asking for equality in public. The other message that came across in Austins quote is that he has developed a resiliency towards discrimination. He simply said, We ended up winning and ended with this topic. By ending on this note he grabs the readers attention to underscore that in the end, he successfully became a father (in this case, for the second time) and that is what should be the focus, not the hardship.
Hardship is well known in adoption. Most couples go through some sort of introduction to adoption course that describes some emotional risks involved with adoption. The risks are sometimes higher for adoptive parents than a biological pregnancy due to the adoption process involvement with various people throughout the system that have the means to take advantage of prospective parents. Both Alex and Nick, and Will and Dennis, had one failed adoption attempt each before becoming parents. In this process both couples experienced very different circumstance but both found this to be an exceptionally hard loss


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to deal with that they did not feel as prepared for as they could have been. Will and Dennis encountered, what they called, an emotional scammer during their adoption experience. An individual had expressed interest in having them as her childs adoptive parents that turned out to be a case of fraud. Dennis explains:
It kind of resulted out that she probably was never pregnant, or never intended to place a child for adoption. It was more ... It wasn't about money. Which was actually harder ... I could understand if it was about money, but it actually seemed to be about emotional blackmail, or emotional fuckery.
Dennis entrusted this person to carry the child he wanted to parent. This required him to relinquish control and be vulnerable. Dennis trust was violated. People often describe a birth mother changing their mind and the adoptive parents feeling similar to a biological parents experience of a miscarriage. There is no real equivalent to compare a biological parent to the situation Dennis endured. Dennis simply could not understand how or why someone would take advantage of him in this way. Fortunately, this did not stop Dennis and Will from considering to pursue an honest birthmother and they were able to adopt shortly after this incident.
Throughout this chapter, barriers are discussed, yet all of the father persevered and were able to grow with their family. A unique distinction between gay male couples and heterosexual couples is the grieving process of adoption. Many heterosexual couples first option of parenthood is often not to adopt and typically is a result of learning of fertility issues impairing the couple from having a child (Begue, 2013). Grieving is typically an issue heterosexual couples need to consider when starting to discuss adoption, while gay mens acceptance of a non-biological child tends to play as a strength into their ability to start and


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follow through with the adoption process. Parenting as a minority person to a minority child creates a bond through a shared experience and room for growth and understanding from both the parents and the child.


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CHAPTER VII
GAY MEN, ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY DEALING WITH MINORITY STRESS
I'm not allowed to be ... I'm not allowed to rely on the expectation that because your straight and married and have a child biologically, that you know how to parent. Dennis Going through the entire transcripts of each participant, in reflection it looked like their stories had a similar tone in each one connecting them together. Keeping in the mind the reflexive virtue of phenomenology as well, I considered how the fathers would agree or disagree with my interpretation of their experience. If anything, the fathers very rarely spoke with sadness about their experience with discrimination or microaggressions. For some, they spoke with anger and disgust for the types of inequalities they faced. For others, they spoke with a sense of freedom to let go of these experiences in order to focus on moving forward instead of looking back.
Authoring a Life
The couples had experienced discrimination as sexual minorities yet rose to parenthood despite heteronormativity. The fathers portrayed an image that was less about us against them or any specific sense of feeling less fortunate than others, rather an image of ignorance that they experience from others. For instance, Ken described never feeling like the stigma of being a gay male impacted his sense of being as an individual or as a father and each participant noted their privileges in comparison to one another. The fathers experience with minority stress was apparent and explained by all of the fathers other than Ken, while also denying discrimination to have power to control their ability to have integrity as a man, partner and as a father.


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Austin has been a father longer than any of the other participants. When I asked him how he saw himself evolving as a father he said: I always tease like I'm ready for grandkids, where I can play with them, have fun with them, have a fun Saturday with them, and then send them home to their parents. Austins openness to building a bright future for his family grows with age. When discussing parenting with Austin, he typically exuded the value of competency. He mentioned wanting his sons to be confident in the world, and his way of instilling this value is by allowing them to take responsibility and action towards their goals. The intendonality in Austins parenting style appears to be well thought out and practiced.
By parenting with purpose Austin creates a world for himself and his family to thrive in. Embracing Fatherhood
The fathers explained prior to deciding to adopt their routine lifestyle seemed to be missing an important piece. As mentioned before, in Erik Eriksons developmental stages, the men are reaching the crisis of stagnation versus generativity (Erikson, 1963). This stage pushes individuals to create meaning by nurturing the things in their life that will outlast them in order to feel a sense of accomplishment in the world. If one is to stay in stagnation, this can lead to a hollow feeling of being in the world. Panozzo (2010) found gay mens motivation to adopt was nearly completely self-centered or child-centered motivated rather than relationship-centered, pointing out the importance of creating a family to be consistent with this stage of development. This is important due to the clarity of finding a partner that the man can trust with his own personal goals in mind.
Will describes how he and Dennis made the decision to adopt: We'd been together for, actually at that point, nine years, something like that. It was like, "Let's do it. We can do this. We started doing the research and jumped in both feet. Will points out the length of


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time he had been with Dennis. Will expressed the type of routine or comfort he had with his relationship at the time when he started to consider becoming a father. Once Will realized his desire to be father, he described his excitement to pursue parenthood and committed himself to this goal. A key factor to the entire process for Will is commitment and trust. Having Dennis as a support opened the opportunity for Will to take the risk and pursue adoption.
In relation to the complexity of the identity versus role confusion for LGB individuals, the stage of stagnation versus generativity is also challenged by the lack of LGB parent role models. To grasp the dilemma properly, consider not only how the participants came to the decision to parent, but also if this stage of development is being denied to the majority of gay men by the lack of acceptance of their validity as parents. Regnerus invalid study that proposed gay men raised children who were at higher risk to be sexually abuse, have an STD, and attempt suicide is one of many studies and social movements to delegitimize gay families (Regnerus, 2012). Considering to be a parent for anyone brings up a challenge to ones belief system, but for gay men in particular, the challenge involves resistance of the message that LGB people are unfit to be parents. In addition, heteronormativity floods the parenting resources offered in the community, along with primarily mother related parenting classes leaving gay men with little support for guidance.
Nick mentioned, We were surprised. I tried to vet how little resources I think there are for the gay community. We're not on the leading edge of this by any means. In each interview the fathers were asked what resources they had. The most common response was either going to a heterosexual dominated parenting group or reading Dan Savages book The Kid (1999). By having so few resources, many of the fathers admitted to not looking into help due to past experiences of finding no results. Nicks statement reflects a sense of hope


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that comes with social change, like legalizing gay marriage and co-adoption, only to be let down when institutions are not updating their services at the pace the community is evolving.
One way in which the participants found support in their parenting journey was through turning towards their partner for help. All of the fathers noted how loyalty in their relationship was highly valued during the adoption process. Austin explained the importance of acceptance he felt when he met Ken.
Ken chose to be with me, knowing that this was part of the package. I've never known Ken when parenting wasn't part of the situation. I didn't have to convince him or anything. He was not in any way scared of that or anything.
Austin and Ken are not married, but this statement seemed important when considering the type of bond marriage can bring to a relationship, adding to the sense of trust in a relationship. The legal system had denied marriage and co-adoption for LGB people for such a long time, undermining the role of trust and faithfulness in LGB romantic relationships.
Austin described the difficulties of dating while being a single father. In his statement, Austin acknowledges the ease in which Ken assumed both the role of partner and as father, which were both of high importance for Austin. The other quality in Austins statement is the assumption that during dating his partner would be scared of being asked to be a father figure. This happened to Austin in a previous relationship, which exemplifies the evolving importance for Austin to have a trustworthy partner to parent with and love. Fatherhood, as explained by the father, is not a single identity but a multifaceted title for a man who takes on many responsibilities in his romantic relationship and parental relationship.


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Minority Stress as Adoptive Parents
Will and Dennis stability in their relationship proved to be an enormous strength when they experienced emotional abuse during their adoption process. They became involved with a fake birth mother who manipulated them into believing she was pregnant with a child that was up for adoption and wanted Dennis and Will to be the childs adoptive parents. This relationship with an abuser is the antithesis of what the fathers looked for in a partner and in a birth mother. The fathers had to put their emotions on the line to trust many people involved in the adoption process. Unfortunately, Dennis and Will were taken advantage of. Will described this as:
It was just a complete emotional scam and she wasn't pregnant. It was this team of women that were working together to scam emotionally people are looking to adopt because you're vulnerable. You want to start a family and you have somebody that contacts you. They tell you the things that you want to hear and they feed off that. Because youre vulnerable. Will is trying to explain the sense of pain he felt for wanting to raise a family, but not only was denied that opportunity, but also was lied to. Will goes on to convey briefly the type of hope and excitement that he felt when he thought he was close to becoming a father. His willingness to become a father overshadowed any doubts about the situation. This traumatic event is reminiscent of the type of denial and rejection gay men face throughout their lives of the opportunity to become fathers, only in this instance a woman literally took their emotional safety away from them.
The fathers run the risk of increasing their exposure to discrimination when they choose to parent. Nick describes his experience:


I have to come out every day. In a working environment, in like a normal working environment, I didn't have that experience where I had to come out every day. As a parent, you have to nearly come out every day. Somebody will. They'll say, "Oh, your, you know, your wife must love picking out her clothes." I'm like, "Actually, I do, and my husband doesn't like to shop, and so I take enormous pleasure."
Nick goes on to describe how he also has to explain to his daughter that she does not have a mommy, she has two daddies. There is frequent frustration with the constant need to correct people when they assume they are a part of a heterosexual relationship because they are men with a child. On the other hand having to remind Nicks daughter, during her toddler years, that her family looks different than all of the other families in the books and entertainment she is exposed to also becomes tiresome. Nicks growing resentment of outing himself in his comments seemed to be focused more on normalizing his daughters experience growing up with two fathers and less focused on his own increase risk for minority stress. Nick is experiencing dual stressors by fearing for his daughters adjustment while also considering the type of biased treatment he faces as a gay father.
Ken, the only father who rejected the view that being gay had impacted his experience as a father, gave an example of how minority stress aside, the task of being an adoptive father is hard all by itself. Ken and Austins youngest son, Ethan, is school aged, has a learning disability and struggles in school. Ethans teacher, who is a gay man, invested himself to the task of seeing Ethan succeed in school. As much as Ken and Austin, both educational professional, value a strong education for their sons, they both noted their struggle with flexibility in realizing that their sons may not value education in the same ways they do, or at least does not learn in the conventional styles they grew up in. He resolved that


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Ethan is different than he was at his age, having a learning disability and being adopted. Ken decided to stop pushing Ethan too hard and respected the differences between him and Ethan. When Ken noticed his teacher continuing to push Ethan in a manner that did not help, he explained:
I finally said, "You know what? You need to back off because this is not helping Ethan. We're trying, but this should not be wrecking our lives. This should not be undermining his self-esteem. He's 12 years old, he shouldn't have to see a psychiatrist for problems because we didn't have these problems a year ago. He backed off. I don't know if it's because he's gay and he wanted to really help the kid of a gay parents, but it created a lot of problems.
Ken describes the teacher as someone who has relatable qualities to him, values education, cares for Ethan, and is also a gay man. Kens flexibility with appreciating the difference between himself and his son fulfills his value of respecting the diversity. Ken finds himself having to stick up for his family against what he knows is harming his son. This type of opposition is subtle but makes a huge impact of how conflicting beliefs occur outside of just sexuality for gay men. They experience the same struggles all parents face. Ken is clear in relaying the message that his life does not revolve around the struggle of being a gay father, but simply of being a man of virtue and caretaker for his son.
The ease in which fathers were willing to accept adopting as a path to family creation, rather than grieving their inability to biologically have a child with their partner, is a unique quality in adoption. Dennis commented about his lack of concern with adopting. I can't imagine a difference from parenting, at least for me, whether Sarah was a biological child or not. For me, that's not a big concern. Maybe it is for other people. Dennis points out his


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quality of acceptance and the sense of connection he feels to his daughter, which is not always the case in adopting. Acceptance of self and individuality is a protective factor in LGB families. A 2016 study found that children of gay parents tend to understand and utilize healthy coping skills when experiencing microaggressions (Farr, Crain, Oakley, Cashen, & Garber, 2016). This specific type of resiliency is important for adoptive children to foster in the face of stigma and internalized shame of being an adopted child.
Coping with Discrimination
When considering adoption, parents can personalize their inability to biologically conceive as a failure to be a good parent. Prior to Nick deciding on adoption, he considered surrogacy before he found out he was unable to biological have a child.
I discovered that I have a rare, very rare birth defect that doesn't allow me to actually conceive my own children, which is also funny, because you wonder why, nature versus nurture, is that, because I couldn't do that, is that why I'm gay? Take me out of that genetic pool so to speak.
Nicks statement struck me as an illustration of internalized homophobia in parenting for gay men. Internalized homophobia tends to primarily dissipate earlier in life, but can have subtle effects on self-image (Cass, 1984; Colman, 1982; Troiden, 1989). For Nick, finding out he was unable to biologically have children seemed to come as another sign that he was different, restarting the inclusion models developmental phases. His quote, Take me out of that genetic pool so to speak hits on the internalized belief that, because he is gay he is not good enough to be a father, to pass on his DNA and to foster life. This created a new set of challenges for Nick after learning surrogacy was not an option. His internal dialogue about infertility spread to his confidence toward his ability to be a suitable parent.


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Nick wondered, Can I love a child that Im not related to genetically? Prior to deciding if he wanted to adopt or not, he asked a person who had gone through the process: He's like, "Yeah, I definitely like my son better than my daughter. My daughter's just ... She's been ... She's a difficult human. She was like a difficult child. She's a difficult adult. Like, she's just hard." He's like, "You know, like, I love her because I have to, because I'm her parent, but like I wouldn't choose her like, and you know, as like somebody who I would hang out with, you know?"
I was like, "Whoa, that is really honest." Then talking to some other friends who have adopted, they didn't love babies. They didn't bond with their adopted child immediately. It took a little bit of time. It took some age and the baby took, and start recognizing them and for them to really fall in love with the baby. It was ... I was a little concerned. This is a lifelong commitment. This is not like a dog kind of situation. I was a little worried about that.
Nicks statement was the first time any of the fathers had discussed their worry about potentially not loving their adoptive child as much as a biological child. This brought up the intrusion of the shame involved in not being able to biologically parent a child. In this particular comment, Nick can foresee the potential to feel shame for not being able to ever connect to a child as a father and also fear he cannot provide his child with enough parental love. Shame plays a large role in gay male development. Shame is often a highly avoided response early on in development for gay men. The way to move past shame it is to learn tolerate and thus reduce shame (Downs, 2005). Though none of the fathers discussed shame with me, it appeared throughout our conversations, mostly in their perceived ability or lack of ability to parent. Nicks hesitation to adopt appears as a way for him to avoid the potential for


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shame if he does not meet the ideal father standard. His past experiences of rejection, denial, and being different are all internalized as proximal stressors. Nicks proximal stress appears as internal anxiety and negativity around his belief that he cannot be a proper father, he is experiencing internalized rejection and lack of confidence due to his experience with rejection in the past for being gay. In a way, Nicks experience with shame connects Nick to his daughter. Research on adopted children show they sense that something is different about them (Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2010). The unique understanding and coping with shame for being different as gay men can actually benefit adopted children in their pursuit to tolerate, cope and reduce shame.
Institutionalized Heteronormativity
Though the men all displayed pride in their identity, they were upfront on how they feel they are not being treated equally to heterosexual couples, specifically legislatively.
Most of the fathers mentioned the need for more public support for gay couples and how this could help support gay fathers. Alex stated:
Gay marriage is huge. Huge, huge, huge, huge. Especially as a parent. Nick gets hit by a bus, what's going on with Jenn, right? Should I, if Nick gets hit by a bus, have to go through different legal hurdles to take care of my child? No. No. No.
Alexs tone when saying this was emotional. The fact that laws govern the way in which he can parent his daughter is scary for him. Not only is the thought of losing his partner hard to bear, added to this scary thought is a looming question around his parental rights. This scenario stated by a straight person may be considering a catastrophizing thought; yet this is a very legitimate risk to consider as a gay adoptive father. The instability of the future for


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LGB rights threatens LGB adoptive parents mental health due to increase rumination over preparation for disaster.
As many of the fathers described their denial of their desires throughout their life to pursue goals that were stereotypically heterosexual, Dennis describes his realization that being ideal is not tolerable for him and legislation matters.
I realized, "You know what? It actually is a big deal because it is equal rights for everyone and what does it matter?" I think obviously with what's gone on recently with our politicians and then recently in Florida, it brings to light that there is still a major uphill battle for the LGBT community.
Dennis is referring to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida in 2016 that targeted LGBT people. Prior to stating this, Dennis recalled being passive in the fight for marriage equality, as it did not seem to be of particular interest to him. Though later in life, Dennis would realize the lack of freedom sexual minorities are exposed to, and how normalized discrimination has become for LGB people. By ignoring the legislative inequality of LGB couples and families, discrimination becomes normalized and accepted as a standard for the community.
Male Parenting
Male parenting versus female parenting was a unique twist in gender privilege. The fathers explained the majority of the microaggressions they experience are towards either their sexuality or their gender. Alex and Nick both described cases where mothers would approach them while parenting their daughter and shame their parenting skills. While Nick had no doubts that these mothers were singling them out saying, With a gay couple, the assumption has been that we don't know what we're doing. Yet, Alex was more hesitant to


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assign meaning to the mothers intentions by saying: We don't know if that's, we're two dads. That's kind of a curiosity for us when we get engaged by other people, and we try not to assign it to, oh it's two men.
Nick and Alex bring up the concept in minority stress of distal versus proximal stressors. Distal stressors include immediate thoughts, feelings, and actions that directly act as prejudice against a persons identity, while proximal stressors develop out of the psychological accumulation of distal stressors and leads to the minority persons internalized expectation of rejection (Meyer, 2003). Nick and Alex both assume the mothers are critiquing their parenting skills due to their sexual orientation. Nicks statement is much more direct and confident in his assessment that heterosexual couples do not experience this type of treatment when parenting in public. While Alex is less confident in this assessment, leading him to have to guess if this behavior is typical or if these mothers are treating them differently than they would a heterosexual couple. There is no easy answer to Alexs question and this type of question left to repeat itself in similar situations, can lead to rumination. This is an example of a response to a proximal stressor. While Nick is certain of his statement, his process of this prejudice is to see it as a clear attack on his sexuality, gender and parenting skills, thus leading him to adapt to a distal stressor by accepting people have prejudice against gay men parenting. Nick goes on to sum up the experience as some people being intolerant of diversity, rather than ruminate on the mothers intentions. This idea of not knowing who has ill-will and who is acting with good intentions paints a picture of minority stress and many reasons why LGB people have an increased chance of having a mental disorder (Meyer, 2013).


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Four of the fathers are raising daughters and two are raising sons. A unique paradox occurred when the subject of their childs gender came up. Some of the fathers raising daughter expressed their future worry of being incapable of raising a female due to their masculinity. Austin, raising a son, described a similar sentiment.
My only fear was a little bit of, how would the kid respond to having two dads, and would he be teased about it in school, and that sort of thing. I think I was sensitive to that because, obviously, as a less than incredibly masculine boy, I always felt that fear of being labeled in some way.
Austins comment displays how the fathers thoughts contradict one another. If a gay man is raising a girl, he is too masculine to raise her. If a gay man is raising a boy, he is too feminine to raise him. Austin, having parented the longest realized the falseness of this early thought. He was totally cool with having two dads, and thought it was awesome, and understood it, and didn't care, and was happy to have a home and parents who loved him, that all went away. Austins comments explains how little his sexuality mattered to his son and the expectation of failure to raise a man was a formation of internalized homophobia
Will described his experience with internalized prejudice when I asked him about being a male in a relationship with a male that are raising children together. You're like, "What do we know about ...Unfortunately ... In society, the way roles are played out, it's ingrained in you that you're with a man, this is what you do. He names the doubt gay men wrestle with when considering parenting alone or with another man. The low expectation for heterosexual men to parent their children is applied to gay men to the point even men who desire to be fathers question if they will be competent.


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Creating a Refuge
The mens stories were not over when the interview ended. They have shared only the first portion of many stories. All of the fathers were asked what concerns they had moving forward with their families. Alex began by discussing his mothers experience with depression after his father died and related this to his hopes for his daughter.
If you can be happy and have a good foundation, then she can take her life in whatever direction she wants. Go be an artist. Go be a doctor. Or go be a hippy, I don't care. Be happy. Know that you're loved. Know that you're loved. That's big. Alexs statement reflects the values in which he parents with. The struggle he originally found himself in was that of the role of a child with his depressed mother, trying to convince her that she had more than just her husbands love, she had her sons. Alexs statement about his daughter originates from his desire for his love to be understood and accepted. In his current position as a father, he feels a strong sense of control and also freedom to express his love to his daughter.
Alex, like many of the other fathers, answered this question by referring to their feeling of responsibility for their childs happiness as an adult. The fathers often mentioned instilling certain values in their children that they felt would lead to happiness through education, confidence, life skills, cultural awareness, financial stability, among many other qualities. Dennis describes his concern for his daughter:
We have concerns about as she growing up, other people's shit interfering with us. That's their shit, that's not my shit. I'm not restricting our ... I'm not taking upon myself the obligation to make other people not be assholes. My job is to prepare my


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daughter to have to deal with other people being assholes. Again, that's something you have to deal with whether you're straight or gay. We just have a different target. Dennis comment embodies the internalization/synthesis phase of McCarns and Fassingers (1996) developmental inclusion model. He explains why it is important for him to teach his daughter how to protect herself from discrimination. He does not try to make excuses for others prejudice behavior, yet underlines the power in which his family has to reject oppression.
Although becoming a parent adds a new identity, it cannot erase an existing sense of who one is. LGB parents experience two types of distal stressors, their personal experience of rejection and their concern about their children having being rebuffed because of their family structure (Wycisk, 2016). Austin and Ken were the only participants in the study to have parented school aged children and, as such, were the only participants to address the second distal stressor. It can, however, be expected that the other participants will eventually experience similar events. Ken describes his initial caution with how people will perceive his family.
I don't know that they have. I expected them to. I expected there to be some hesitation of other parents, parents of Ethans playmates or classmates would be hesitant of us or not want their kids coming over here or spending the night or vice versa. We havent encountered any of that. That may exist, but I havent been aware of it.
Kens expectation of rejection and unfair judgment is a proximal stressor caused by his experience of stigmatization for being a gay man. His awareness of the lack of evidence for this thought continuously serves him well to control the amount of stress he will endure. Kens last statement is unique. Though he validity checks his thought process, he


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simultaneously acknowledges the reality for this type of hidden discrimination to exist beyond his awareness. Ken displays in this passage radical acceptance (Linehan, 2015). He chooses to recognize reality head on instead of avoiding it. Rather than suffering further, he finds security in acknowledging his lack of control over others prejudices. By effectively coping with proximal stressors, Ken is able to parent in accordance to his values rather than allow others opinions to dictate his relationship with his sons.


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CHAPTER VIII
GAY MEN, ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY
DISCUSSION
In the following section I present a discussion in congruence with a phenomenological attitude. Heidegger specified the importance of considering phenomenology as a way of thinking versus a way to produce research (1927/1962). The idiographic data will be related to the broad scope of helping professional theories. Each results section includes the fathers relation to broad theories. In this section, the reverse process will take place by looking at how the broad theories can be related to the individual experiences of the fathers in the study.
Recalling the hermeneutic circle, there is a return from the particular to the generalized. Delving into the specifics of the participants lives we go back to the things themselves (Husserl, 1901/2001, p. 168). Much of the literature previously discussed will be revisited, while new literature will be introduced as the understanding of the topic has evolved. Super-ordinate themes will be discussed to inform helping professionals how to apply these findings into practice.
While moving back into considering the relational parts of the findings, bracketing reveals a new challenge. Bracketing is considered the act of putting aside the researchers natural way of thinking about the world, or what Husserl named, the natural attitude (Husserl, 1936/1970 p. 152). The phenomenological attitude and the natural attitude are in contests with each other throughout this process (Finlay, 2009). While returning to the broad, the researcher is to continue bracketing their natural attitude to be fully able to conceptualize the impact both the individual and the broad have on each other, while keeping


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in mind the new information added to their revised understanding of the natural attitude of the participants.
Lastly, a review of limitations in the study will be conducted considering what could have been done differently to improve this research as a means of validity checking. While IPA does not have a strict checklist mentality of validity criteria, there is agreement in various ways to fulfill validity testing (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009).
Developing into Fatherhood
Lifewith all of its habits and behaviorsis an endless game of trying on new roles, of appropriating various ways of existing that are observed in others, and creatively performing them from an alternative vantage point (Bahler, 2015). Merleau-Ponty focused on how development occurs. He believed, with parents and children, intersubjectivity was reciprocated and continuously evolving for all members involved. The fathers started developing into parents while exploring their identity as adolescents. This is in line with the inclusions model of development proposed cycle of development in which the fathers are continuously evolving their identity as gay men and their ability to grow with each new life development. Becoming a father created a new space for the participants to explore their identity now as a gay man who is also a father.
Fassingers inclusion model is the closest model to what the participants described. With that said, there are other identity development models that are more commonly used to inform the creation of clinical assessment measures such as; gay father developmental model by Brinamen and Mitchells (2008) and gay father developmental model by DAugelli (1994), the lifespan model of parenting by Salmela-Aro (2009) and Cass (1979) gay identity development model. The more accurate understanding of the process of identity development


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The fathers described less confusion around their sexuality, which Cass model considers the first stage of gay identity development. Rather, the fathers noted the negative influence feeling different than others had on their sense of confidence as an adolescent. Considering the inclusion model, the awareness of people with different sexual orientations and the minority status in which they belong was of more interest to the fathers in this study. It could also be possible that at this time in the fathers lives, their values have shifted away from individualism and more towards a collectivistic viewpoint, as focused on in the inclusion model. The value of community support and validation for being different is also a reframe of gay victimization. Instead of resolving that being gay and feeling bad is an individual issue, the fathers focused on their feelings amongst others which shows the importance of considering gay identity development not as an individual experience but rather an as a social experience.
Consideration for the Evolution of Developmental Models
The participants made sure to note the time in which they grew up was hostile for gay men. Many of the fathers addressed the progressive acceptance of sexual minorities currently occurring in contrast to when they were adolescents. As mentioned before, gay identity development as a social issue affects the individuals experience in developing. The state in which legislation either supports or neglects LGB rights influences lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals lives (Hatzenbuehler & Keyes, 2012; Roseneil, Crowhurst, Hellescund, Santos, & Stoilva, 2013; Tremblay, Paternotte, & Johnson, 2011). By advocating for legislative rights for LGB individuals, the opportunity to improve how young gay men consider their possibility to become a parent in the future is possible. This is not to say it is easier or hard for young gay men to decide on fatherhood, but yet a different experience and process of


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development into the choice of fatherhood.
The lack of role models in the fathers lives had a substantial part to play on their process to come into awareness of being different than others and wrestling with identity confusion. Today, more than ever before openly gay men are becoming fathers with other openly gay men (Gates, 2011). The more social and legal support of gay men, the easier it will be for them to integrate into communities, also changing how gay men perceive and manage their identity development (Kertzner, 2001).
Minority Stress and Development
The fathers described themselves in generativity versus stagnation in the Eriksons developmental model. This stage was moderately described in each participant; considering their ages, this would be appropriate. Yet, the stigmatization of gay men in early life continues into adulthood with the sense that they are delayed in their life course compared to others who may have married or started a family earlier than they did (Cohler & Galatzer-levy, 2000). This trend also supports the participants trend to wait longer before seriously considering adoption. Bearing in mind the impact AIDS had on the gay community in the 1980s, there is also a challenge for gay males to prioritize their developmental processes. Gay men looked less towards their concerns with having a family and more towards survival during this time (Kertzner, 2001). With AIDS awareness, the supreme court ruling to legalize gay marriage, and the increase of gay male fathers as role models, practical barriers for gay men to become fathers at younger ages are decreasing (Kertzner, 2001; Reilly, 2016).
As the participants reached a dilemma with stagnation versus generativity, heterosexual couples seem to be increasingly investing time into resolving their dilemma of intimacy versus isolation prior to having children as evidence by their increasing age of


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pregnancy over the last five decades (Bichell, 2016). Considering more time to settle into intimacy could be a movement also motivated towards generativity to foster a healthy family. The more both heterosexual parents function in a world with LGB parents, and vice versa, the more influence both identities have on each other. Erikson claimed parenthood to be the peak of development (1963). Parenthood allowed the fathers to be involved in the development of their childs life, continuing the cycle of the endless game by being able to have the opportunity to extend their legacy into the next generation.
Clinical Implications
Assessing development on a case-by-case basis is becoming increasingly necessary for mental health professionals who engage with LGB youth. The developmental models proposed in this study are not current with the social progression the gay rights movement continues to have on individual development. As the participants voiced, the journey of parenthood starts in adolescence. Gay men are much more likely to have biological children from a heterosexual relationship prior to coming out as gay, and minority men at a higher rate than Caucasian men (Gates, 2011). The earlier a gay man feels confidence in his identity, the more authentic he can build his future along with the freedom to choose to have a family.
As mental health professionals, considering the evolution of development and cultural shifts, the conceptualization of clients poses a unique challenge. Prior to looking at any developmental model, consider the different societal constructs of the time the model was created versus the time in which you and the client develops. For the current generation of gay adoptive fathers, consider their identity as a role model for other gay men and the influence this has on their level of pressure to perform as a parent versus heterosexual couples. Lastly, consider your own cultural experience with LGB people, men, and fathers.


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Taking a postmodern approach, the professional reflection of ones own perception of discrimination, minority stress, or development of fathers, males, and LGB people should be bracketed in order to understand the clients full experience as it is unique to themselves (Corey, 2012). The balance of various minority identities can become overwhelming for many people. Self-care and community support was discussed as coping skills for the fathers in the study. As professionals, teaching clients life-skills and providing educational of resources is a part of aiding our client. Yet, the most vital source of support comes from being an advocate for clients through social and political change. As mentioned before, gay adoptive fathers development appears more as a social development than an individual concept.
Other than the generation in which clients belong to, geography is also important to consider. Not all areas of Colorado are equally as accepting as the metropolitan Denver area to LGB people, where all of the participants in this study lived. Some participants mentioned the difference they feel traveling and the different sense of judgment they experience outside of Denver. Reflect on the political-socio climate of the area the client lives in and what resources they have. Taking a broader scope of the political climate of the country, not all young people will experience exposure to gay role models. Yet, with caution, understand even a gay male father who grows up in the most accepting of environment will still experience minority stress as living among a majority. Geographical and cultural values are worthy of in-depth exploration in developmental phases.
Process of Adoption
The adoption processes for the fathers were riddled with navigating a system that had traditionally oppressed men and gay people. Most fathers were not met with hostility but


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instead expressed proximal stressors less about being gay, but rather about being a man and their identity as an adoptive father, not a biological parent. As none of the participants mentioned their lack of respect for the inspection system, most described a sense of unease with knowing only adoptive parents have to go through such a protocol to become parents. This additional feeling of rejection as a suitable parent is another way the fathers experience minority stress.
The Gender Hierarchy
Uniquely, in a study looking at heterosexual and lesbian women and heterosexual and gay men who became parents, gay men had the most increased amount of confidence the more time they parented (Goldberg & Smith, 2013). Gay men in the study started out with less confidence than all women but more confidence than heterosexual men. The lack of confidence related to gender roles and the expectation for femininity to reflect nurturing ability. The lesbian women in the study had the least amount of increased confidence the more they parented. Consider the lesbian women as setting the bar high for parenting by expecting the more femininity in the relationship with the child the more nurturance the child gets. Men considered their masculinity to be a deficit in parenting. Gay men increased confidence more than heterosexual men potentially due to embodying both mother and father roles simultaneously, rather than the ability to compare their parenting ability to a mother figure in their childs life.
The fathers voiced their embodiment of both feminine and masculine roles in their family. Austin identified self-consciousness with his lack of masculinity when it came to raising male children; questioning if he could provide enough balance in both masculine and feminine roles while being a single parent. The other participants were raising daughters.


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One couple noted the importance of having female role models around the family to help their daughter in developing into a woman. Gender holds a lot of power in the fathers ideology of the rules of parenting. What is most unique is the lose/lose component in parenting as a gay male couple. If the couples are to raise a young boy, the father questions if they are not masculine enough to provide proper modeling of male characteristics. Yet, if the couple is to raise a young girl, the fear is now the fathers are not providing enough feminine traits to help foster female characteristics. But as the Goldberg & Smith (2013) study shows, confidence has the ability to grow the more time the fathers have to parent. Austin, now, with one grown son, does not believe being less than masculine had any negative affect on his eldest son and realized the falsehood of this anxiety over time.
Transitioning into Fatherhood
As Goldberg and Smiths (2013) research shows, the idea of one gender being more parental than another is alive and well. Gay male fathers decisions to adopt were motivated by their freedom of choice while they experienced interference with internalized homophobia holding back the mens ability to step into a fathering role sooner (Schacher, Auerback, & Silverstein, 2005).
The participants started considering fatherhood once they had viewed many of their family members and friends starting families of their own. Age seemed to be a major factor for all of the fathers when considering adoption. Though there was no biological clock ticking, the fathers seemed to have a sense of urgency in which they needed to make a decision by. This could be related to the sense of being behind and having a desire to join in the norm age group for new parents (Cohler & Galatzer-levy, 2000). Though there was no one reason or time frame the participants wanted to become a father, they did all describe a


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sense of desire to become a father within a specific time frame or else they may not feel suited to be fathers at a later age.
The fathers embodied Sartres concept of freedom when they took the leap to start looking into creating a family unique to them. Each father noted the different ways in which they reacted to the thought of adoption in contrast to their partner. This seemed important to the fathers to recognize that the idea of creating a family was birthed out of the acknowledgement and respect for their partners ability to nurture life.
Being able to rely on the other partner is paramount in the beginning stages of family planning. This is important, as LGB couples are not always seen as equals to heterosexual couple, particularly legislatively. This is one of many reasons it is important for mental health professionals to be advocates for legislative change. Public denial of gay couples legitimacy breeds a hostile environment for LGB people and perpetuates heteronormativity. The fathers all noted the importance of their partners support in parenting and the stability of their relationship as being a catalyst for considering adoption. Normalizing the importance of co-agency for all parents will help create an atmosphere of assurance for the gay fathers.
Each participant explained the differences between their lives as single gay men, gay men in committed relationships and gay men as adoptive fathers. In each event the fathers were able to reinvented their identity and shift with their new set of desired goals. This comfort with change could potentially be contributed to their increase efficacy in utilizing coping skills, the fathers ability to recognize their level of control in situations and ability to adapt to new environments.
For the fathers, denial was a major factor in their process. The journey to parenthood for the participants was riddled with many more questions, self-expectations, denial of


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desires and fears than the life-span model takes into account. Lack of clarity for gay men in the adoption process can cause resentment, internalized homophobia, and relationship distress as described by the fathers. The more detailed understanding mental health professionals have of how gay men experience the adoption process, the more accuracy the professional will have on targeting goals for treatment and accurately perform evidence based theories.
The uniqueness of choice for the participants is a drastic contrast to heterosexual biological families. Choice, being the word much too often used to deny gay people of their identity, is convoluted with expectations for denial. The fathers described their choice to start a family as being much less involved in changing their lifestyle to fit their goals than it was deciding to risk further discrimination for themselves and the potential to have their children accompany them in those occurrences. Some of the fathers explained their ability to cope with discrimination as a strength rather than a weakness. They saw worthiness in a diverse family and the ability to raise a child with tolerance for difference. The most important belief the fathers voiced in their interviews was a deep understanding of accepting the responsibility to know what they can and cannot control. The fathers described this virtue as being a direct link to their sense of happiness. They saw coping skills as a fundamental value in their family system.
In the adoption process the concept of preparedness is very unique compared to the biological process. The fathers stated their frustration with the double standard of the investigation process of adoptive parents versus the lack of investigation of biological parents. The need to investigate adoptive parents seemed to attach an underlying stigma that having to adopt somehow made the parents less equipped to become parents than if they


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could biologically conceive. The main consensus of the fathers experience with the investigation was not discomfort with the investigation itself, yet the resentment that only foster and adoptive parents had to go through this process, while biological parents got an automatic pass. The level of intentionality LGB parents cultivate towards family planning has shown to be beneficial in their levels of preparedness that ultimately help with placement disruption (Averett, Nalavany, & Ryan, 2009; Paulsen & Merighi, 2009, Gall, 2015). Thus, compensation for gay adoptive fathers begins before they are assured they can become fathers, while biological parents have the possibility of never having anyone to oversee their compensation to become a parent.
Long-Term Effects
Our current models of development and our counseling theories of reality have difficulty in incorporating in a meaningful way our human capacity for freedom. The result is that they are unable to predict accurately what a persons life will be and how they will live it. The fathers in this research displayed this capacity for freedom in their many choicesby deciding, for example, to have children, to love their partner, and to live in Colorado. The fathers distinctive sense of freedom has been informed by their understanding of what it feels like not to have freedom.
Fear of failure, rather than the initial assessment of perfectionism in parenting, is their dominant motive. The fathers have traveled a long way to become parents, and they cherish this parental opportunity. How can one best encapsulate the nature of their parental experience?
Imagine a championship hockey game. Team A and Team B are playing against each
other at Team As home rink. Team B hears boos and chants for them to lose. The first


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period is hard for the players, having to deal with the mental barriers of the crowd and trying to get their team in sync. The members of Team B starts to doubt themselves and their ability to win. During the second period, however, knowing that their fans back home are watching, Team B stops listening to the crowd, instead paying attention to their coaches and teammates. Team B catches up with Team A and starts to gain speed. Finally, in the third period, Team B begins to relish the fact that they are underdogs and, instead of just trying to hang on, start to realize that they are going to win. Of course, the change in thinking could be a risktheir defense could let up, the other team could score, or their offense could become too comfortable and start making simple mistakes. But things have definitely turned around.
Though an overly simplistic example, this is the fathers third period. They are highly motivated and believe in themselves, but they are afraid to let up the struggle. They push themselves to continue their work, feeling they are not able to rest on their acquired skills and accomplishments alone. If they make a mistake, it will validate the crowd belief that they are not competent. Typically, the fathers surround themselves with people who believe in them. They choose to focus on creating their family in the way that works best for them. The constant sense of being different during adolescence that the fathers describe has followed them into adulthood; the fear of disapproval and disconnection lives on.
Lingering Minority Stress
Many researchers focus on the LGB-parented childs experience of rejection, ignoring the evidence that children being raised by LGB parents show no difference in levels of adaptation as compared with other children (Wycisk, 2016). From what the participants in the current study reported, this particular distal stressorfear that their children will be rejected because their parents are members of the LBG communityinfluences the fathers


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level of stress more than that of their children. Fear of being rejected by their child, resentment, and a fear that the child will face the same type of discrimination that they themselves had suffered increases the fathers level of minority stress.
Systematic discrimination originally inspired this research. Reviewing this subject with the fathers revealed that many were already politically aware of the changes they believe are needed to create improvement on a large scale. Many, however, had already made accommodations in order to find agencies and institutions that would support their sexuality. While the capacity to adapt to current circumstances is a healthy coping skill that has enabled the fathers to move forward, it nonetheless holds the victim of discrimination responsible for making accommodations rather than requiring the perpetrators of discrimination to change.
Austin, one of the fathers, mentioned the progress that has occurred since he began raising his first child, noting, for example, that schools had become better at using the words parent/guardian instead of mother and father on school forms. Such small adjustment to a form validates the schools awareness of and support for types of families different than the traditional mother and father constellation.
Isolation is a potential barrier for gay fathers. The healthy coping skill of surrounding themselves with support can lead, for example, to decisions not to reside in various areas of the state. Some of the fathers mentioned they were aware that not all areas of the country are as LGB friendly as Denver, Colorado. One couple chose to move from one city in Colorado to another in order to feel more supported by their community and, consequently, less out of place. An increase in social support can, of course, improve mental health outcomes and influence the development of positive personal growth, as opposed to producing negative disorder symptoms (Wycisk, 2016).


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! GAY MEN, ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY by MARKIE KEELAN B.A. California State University Northridge 2010 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Counseling Program

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! ii This t hesis for the Master of Arts Counseling degree by Markie Keelan h as been approved for the Counseling Program b y Robert Allan, Advisor Troyann Gentile Edward Cannon Date: May 13th, 2017 Keelan, Markie (M.A., Counseling, Concentration: Clinical Mental Health) Gay Men Adoptive Fathers: A Phenomenological Study Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Robert Allan

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! iii ABSTRACT This research will look at how gay male adoptive fa thers in Colorado make sense of parenting. Unlike earlier research that focused on moral judgment, the goal of the present study is to understand better the lived experiences of the participants. Privately funded research, typically by religious parties with political agendas, have perpetuated stigmatization of gay men both in the past and present by presenting data that is biased and unscientific (Wegman, 2015). Early research focused on the moral ity of gay men becoming fathers rather than on how fatherhood is experienced by them (Gianino, 2008). With better understanding and knowledge of these experiences mental health professionals can better serve gay adoptive families. An interpretiv e phenome nological analysis was completed using semi structured interviews of 3 gay parental couples (N=6) from Colorado. Verbatim transcription of individual interviews was used to both organize emerging themes and to compare how themes relate to other participant s' statements. Implications for counseling practices will also be discussed upon completion of the analysis. Keywords: interpretive phenomenology analysis, gay, male, adoption, Colorado This form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its p ublication. Approved: Robert Allan

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! iv DEDICATION This research is dedicated to all of the fathers in my life. Thank you to my beloved father, Paul Keelan for always believing in me, loving me unconditionally, and putting his family before everything. Your strength has given me the courage to take on chal lenges that change my life and bring me happiness. To Hyo Bang, Young Sup Shin, Cesar Garcia, John Boudro, Monte Damiana and Scott Fuj ii. Thank you for treating me as if I were your own daughter. You are my elders and I respect and love you so much for the guidance you have shown me. And finally, thank you to my maternal grandfather Jesus Fernandez who passed away during the completion of this work. The love you shared with your family lives eternally through your daughter, you sons, and your grandchildre n With love, I dedicate this work to you.

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! v ACKNOWLEDGEMENT S I would like to thank Dr. Robert Allan for believing in me throughout the entire creation of this project Thank you to Dr. Troyann Gentile for staying after class to listen to me when I felt unheard. Thank you Dr. Edward Cannon for reminding me of how important it is to bring humanity into our profession by always role modeling compassion I would like to thank Dr. Gary Brooks who without, I would be lost. Your knowledge and kindness were invaluable in this process. Thank you to my parents Paul and Diane Keelan for instilling the confidence in m e to always follow my dreams. Thank you to Nico Damiana, Katie Hunter, Breeanna Garcia, Noelle Boudro, Mandy Li and Stephanie MacKay for alway s supporting me And finally to my pets for keeping me comp any as I wrote each page My gratitude cannot be explained by words. Thank you all.

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! vi TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 1 Location of Researcher ................................ ................................ ................................ 3 Literature Review ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 3 Increase in Gay Adoptive Fathers ................................ ................................ ................. 4 Research ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 6 Minority Stress ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 8 Gay Parental Barriers ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 11 Business of Adoption ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 14 Legal Issues of Adopting as a Gay Couple ................................ ................................ 15 Positive Movements in Gay Male Adoptive Parenting ................................ ............... 17 II. Methodology ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 19 Research Design ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 19 Phenomenology ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 19 Intersubjectivity ................................ ................................ .............................. 20 Hermeneutics ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 22 Idiography ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 25 Sample ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 26 Participants ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 27 Materials ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 28 Initial Contact ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 29 Consent Form ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 30 Interview Schedule ................................ ................................ ......................... 30 III. Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 33 Transcription ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 34 Themes ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 35 I V Results ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 41 V. Becoming a Father Over a Life Span ................................ ................................ ................ 43 Identity versus Role Confusion ................................ ................................ ................... 44 Intimacy versus Isolation ................................ ................................ ............................ 46 Current Developmental Stage ................................ ................................ ..................... 48 Unique Developmental Considerations ................................ ................................ ...... 49 V I The Process of Adoption ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 53 Deciding on Fatherhood ................................ ................................ .............................. 55 Reacting to the Inspection ................................ ................................ ........................... 58 Trusting the Process ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 63 VI I Dealing with Minority Stress ................................ ................................ .......................... 67 Authoring a Life ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 67 Embracing Fatherhood ................................ ................................ ................................ 68

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! vii Minority Stress as Adoptive Parents ................................ ............................... 71 Coping with Discrimination ................................ ................................ ........................ 74 Institutionalized Heteronormativity ................................ ................................ 76 Male Parenting ................................ ................................ ................................ 77 Creating a Refuge ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 80 VI I I. Discussion ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 83 Developing into Fatherhood ................................ ................................ ....................... 84 Minority Stress and Development ................................ ................................ .............. 87 Clinical Implications ................................ ................................ ....................... 88 Process of Adoption ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 89 The Gender Hierarchy ................................ ................................ ..................... 90 Transitioning into Fatherhood ................................ ................................ ......... 91 Long Term Effects ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 94 Lingering Minority Stress ................................ ................................ ............... 95 IX Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 100 Summary of the Findings ................................ ................................ .......................... 100 Clinical Implications ................................ ................................ ................................ 100 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 101 Further areas of research ................................ ................................ ........................... 103 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 105 APPENDIX ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 122 APPENDIX A Development of Super ordinate Themes ................................ ...................... 123 APPENDIX B Participant Endorsement Rating Scale ................................ ......................... 125 APPENDIX C Interview Schedule ................................ ................................ ....................... 126 APPENDIX D Invitation to Participate ................................ ................................ ................ 127 APPENDIX E Consent and Authorization Form ................................ ................................ .. 128 APPENDIX F Online Interview Disclosure Form ................................ ................................ 132 APPENDIX G Advertisement ................................ ................................ .............................. 133

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1 CHAPTER I GAY MEN ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY INTRODUCTION The traditional family, consisting of a married heterosexual couple and their biological children, is often not the typical pattern for many families in recent years (Gates, 2011). Society still imposes expectations on individuals about what is considered an ideal family. Due to this, it is therefore, important for helping professionals to consistently update their knowledge of new and unique family dynamics. This research will examine the gay male adoptive parenting phenomenon. In studying gay adoption, it is important that the research focus on what is occurring when gay male couples adopt children considering that there are three cultures being experienced all at once, those of a gay male dyad, children being raised without a mother, and of adoptive parents. Many research questions revolve around what happens developmentally with children who are raised by gay parents. As well, most resear ch that focuses on same sex parents concentrates on the lesbian mother experience (Panozzo, 2010). The current research will focus on understanding how gay male adoptive parents in Colorado experience life. The recent United States Supreme Court decision to make same sex marriage legal leaves unclear how this ruling will affec t same sex parents. In Colorado; however, it is legal for adoption petitions to be submitted by a single gay prospective parent, same sex couples as prospective parents, and same sex second parent adoption (Lavender, 2007; Movement Advancement Project, 2016). Given these issues, the experience of gay men as parents is becoming more and more important for researchers and helping professional s to understand.

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2 It seems important to docum ent and better understand the phenomena of gay male couples adopting children in Colorado before more data driven research is to be performed. The first phenomenological study on gay male couples as parents was only recently completed (Giani no, 2008). Unde rstanding how gay males experience being adoptive fathers in Colorado can give information on how, as a society, we can better support the families in our communities. Once we know about the lived experience of gay adoptive male couples, helping profession als will be in a better position to serve these families. This research will be taking an interpretive phenomenological approach. An interpretiv e phenomenological analysis, IPA for short, approach was chosen over other qualitative or quantitative researc h analyses due to the need to understand the phenomenon in more depth before proposing any type of explanation for cause and effect. Interpretive phenomenology also looks at how individuals experiencing the phenomena make meaning of their experience (Smit h, Flowers, and Larkin, 2009). Th e current study will focus on understanding specific complex individual experiences instead of other research approaches that try and generalize findings. The main purpose of this study is to explore how gay males make sense of fathering as an adoptive parent in Colorado. A secondary focus will be on the microaggressions, hurtful or insensitive words or actions, they experience as gay parents exposed to hete ronormativity both as individuals and as parents. Heteronormativity refers to the organization of sexuality as a part of a hierarchy. Due to the nature of the research question, it seems most fitting to perform an interpretative phenomenological study expl oring the experience of gay men as adoptive parents.

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3 Location of Researcher Knowledge for the reader to understand the principle investigator is a value in IPA. The interpretation process is suppose d to be as unbiased as possible, though Heidegger be lieved ridding ourselves of all of our identity while interpreting was impossible. Heidegger did believe in being as transparent and aware of our biases throughout the IPA study (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). With this in mind information about the PI is important for the reader to know. I began this work from inspiration of research ing gay male attachments while serving as a research assistant at the University of Colorado Denver. I am a candidate for the Master's of Art's degree in the Counseling Progr am at the University of Colorado Denver. This research is for the purpose of fulfilling the Master's of Arts degree. I work as a registered psychotherapist in the state of Colorado and am formally trained in evidence based counseling theories. I have worke d with various populati ons, though with intention to seek to instill the value of diversity and provide lower cost individual counseling services to uphold the value of equality in counseling treatment. I identify as a millennial, bi racial, single, hetero sexual, cisgender female. I am not currently a parent. My intention throughout this process was to uphold an unbiased analysis of a population whose experiences are drastically different to my personal knowledge in the world. Moving forward, all attempts t o manage and reduce my biases in analysis were made, this knowledge of the research may inform the reader on how interpretations were designed. LITERATURE REVIEW Little attention is paid to the gay males adoptive parenting experience both socially and in research. This review will look at past research that has been performed on gay

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4 families. It will also look at who among gay men are adopting, the laws surrounding adoption in Colorado, and at gay couples versus single gay male adoption. In order to gi ve the reader a holistic understanding of the background of the issue and the population being studied, the issues of oppression, of how equality in marriage may affect gay families, and of what the advantages of becoming a gay adoptive father might be wi ll also be discussed. Increase in Gay Adoptive Fathers Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals are increasingly becoming parents (Gates, 2011). According to research by the Williams Institute in 2013, an estimated 37% of LGBT adults have had a child in their lifetime (Gates, 2013) This means, approximately 3 million LGBT adults have had children. It is also the case that same sex couples are more likely than opposite sex couples to be raising adoptive children. Approximately 16,000 same sex couples are raising more than 22,000 adopted children in the United States (Gates, 2013). The rate of adoption from 2000 to 2009 among same sex unmarried partners has nearly doubled, possibly due to change in political policy in favor of same sex couples' rights and to alteration in adoption laws. Looking at these statistics, it is clear that the increase in LGB parents calls for greater knowledge and understanding by helping professionals of this type of family structure. !"#$#%&'($)*+,#-$./$012$3&-#)(4$&5.3(6)7$64$" &-5$(.$(-&'8$&4$+&)9$012$ 3#.3:#$8##3$("#6-$4#%*&:$.-6#)(&(6.)$&$4#'-#($6)$("#$&5.3(6.)$3-.'#44$(.$&;.65$"&-&44+#)($ <=-&/(>$?@ABCD$$ What is known about the adoptive practices and t he characteristics of same sex couples who are more or less likely to becom e adoptive parents? First, Gates (2011) has found that gay men raising children are more likely to be biologically fathering a child. This current research; however, will not be looking at this population which is both larger and

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5 more demographically dive rse, specifically in in terms of race, than that of the population of gay men who adopt children. It is also known that white same sex couples are nearly twice as likely as their non White counterparts to be raising an adopted child (Gates, 2011). Same sex couples that adopt are also more likely to have more education (Gates, 2011). When considering this population, therefore, it is important to distinguish between the similarities and differences of gay male adoptive fathers and gay male biological fathe rs. Both will experience stigmatization and parental negotiations, yet adoptive fathers or fathers through surrogacy may have had more time than biological fathers to plan how to manage minority stress before engaging in parenting. As compared with gay men who adopt, those who father children through opposite sex relationships are likely to be younger, not yet open about their sexual identity, and the pregnancy is more likely to have been unplanned (Gates, 2011). Gates (2011) has also provided evidence dem onstrating that s ame sex couples are more likely to become parents through adoption than heterosexual parents, although heterosexual adults are adopting at higher rates than same sex couples ( Gates, 2013 ). It is also the case that lesbian women are adoptin g children more than gay men (Hick, 2006). Furthermore, gay men are more likely to be raising an adoptive child with a disability than lesbian or heterosexual couples (Gates, Badgett, Macomber, & Chambers, 2007). These numbers are all estimates since the United States census does not require a parent to disclose his or her sexual identity (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009). This lack of data mirrors the lack of research attention given to gay male adoptive fathers, as the census is typically understood to document areas of the country that could use additional resources. Gay male fathers are not only understudied but also underserved. As the makeup

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6 of the nuclear family continu es to change, it is important mental health professionals understand the uniq ue challenges gay males face as adoptive parents to better support the families helping professionals work with. Research Little research has been done on the gay male adoptive father experience (Tornello, Farr, and Patteson, 2011). It can be assumed gay men have been parenting for generations, yet, it was not until relatively recently they could do so openly (Sullivan & Baques, 1999). This greater openness in parenting also correlates with an increase in gay males choosing to become parents. The begin ning of research on gay men as parents started in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Miller, 1978; Bozett, 1987) Their research focused much more on the morality of gay men parenting and on the effectiveness of their parenting skills than on the gay male exp erience (Gianino, 2008). The majority of previous sexual minority parenting research has concentrated on children raised by lesbian women (Panozzo, 2010). The first research by Mark Gianino to look at the experience of transitioning into adoptive parenthoo d for gay male couples was not published until 2008. Gianino looked at the specific shared experience of the gay male couple through their adoption process. Since Gianino's pioneer ing work, research on the gay male adoptive father experience has increased, but much remains to be studied. Another trend in research has been the study of the psychological outcomes for children who are raised in gay and lesbian parenting household s (Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). Some outcome research is fueled by the unfair label that lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents are u nfit parents and unable to provide a healthy environment in which to raise children (Wei, 2015). Research from around the world has shown that children raised in gay and

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7 lesbian households have the same outcomes in peer relations and in mental health as compared to children w ith heterosexual parents ( American Academy of Child and Adole scent Psychiatry, 2014; Bergman, Rubio, Green, & Padr—n, 2010; Bos, van Balen, & van den Boom, 2007; Patterson, 2005; Tasker & Gol ombok, 1997). Based on their family makeup, children of LGB parents reported multiple cases of harassment by peers (Kosciw and Diaz, 2008). Though thes e children experience prejudice, children with LGB parents were able to identify various coping skills to aid in dealing with such instances (Farr, Crain, Oakley, Cashen, & Garber, 2016). T he ability of children with LGB parents to identify copings skill in the face of prejudice could be attributed to model parental behavior, in this case, coping with minor ity stress. Also children with lesbian, gay, or bisexual parents do not report being victimized or being subjected to excessive mistreatment. Overall, parental sexual orientation does not have as big an impact on childhood outcomes as the type of care and daily interactions the child has with their parents (Farr, Crain, Oakley, Cashen, & Garber, 2016; Gianino, 2008; Wei, 2015). It is important to note that not all research on gay men has been scientifically sound or motivated. An article published recentl y in Social Science Research claimed that children raised by gay parents were at higher risk of being sexually abused, of contracting STDs, and of attempting suicide than children raised by heterosexual parents (Regnerus, 2012). Social Science Research later performed an internal audit of the study and found that Regnerus' methodology, analysis and sampling were completely misleading and not valid (Wegmen, 2015). It is studies like this studies that also happen to be funded by politically charged suppor ters that mislead the research in the field of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual studies. !"#$

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8 :&'8$./$&''*-&(#$-#3-#4#)(&(6.)$./$012$/&+6:6#4$:6+6(4$-#4.*-'#4$&)5$6)'-#&4#4$+6).-6(9$ 4(-#44D Minority Stress Phenomenological philosopher, Martin Heidegger once sai d, "Language is the house of being" (Heidegger, 1947/ 1978, p. 193 ). What Heidegger meant was our language is more than just the words we use; words create an illustration of the world in which we live. Microaggressions are products of hurtful or insensiti ve words or actions. I will be examining three types of microaggressions: microinvalidations, microinsults, and microassaults. Microinvalidations occur when a marginalized person's experience is negated or minimized. This happens when people discourage the organization of s pecial clubs at schools for LGB students or minimize the importance of a pride parade celebrating sexuality and gender. Heteronormativity, which refers to the organization of sexuality as a part of a hierarchy, could be considered a micr oaggression as it works through many institutions by marketing services or products to heterosexual couples instead of other sexual minority couples. Microinsults are any type of communication that is insensitive or offensive. An example E.*:5$,#$&$:#4,6&) $ '.*3:#$'"..46)7$(.$,6.:.76'&::9$3&-#)($,9$'"..46)7$.)#$./$("#$ 3&-()#-4$(.$'&--9$("#$'"6:5$&)5$("#)$#%3#-6#)'#$'-6(6'64+$/.-$("#6-$'".6'#$(.$#:#'($("#$:#44$ /#+6)6)#$3&-()#->$6);&:65&(6)7$("&($&$E.+#)>$).$+&((#-$".E$4"#$3-#4#)(4$'&)$,#$&$+.("#. Microinsult s are more openly expressed online and in public. Lastly, microassaults refer to intentional derogator y acts towards a marginalized person (Nadal et al. 2011; Sue 2010). A few months after the United States Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage, a Kentucky county clerk refused to issue a same sex couple a marriage license (Bobic, 2015) This intentiona l use of power and privilege to deny a marginalized persona of equality is a

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9 microassult. What is most important to note is that microaggressions, of whatever type, are directly linked to higher rates of depression (Nadal, 2013). LGB individuals have pre viously been labeled as having a mental health disorder (Meyer, 2003). Merely being attracted to a person of the same sex was early on said to be a mental disorder. Later on it was thought to be the cause of mental distress and, therefore, a disorder. Res earch would eventually evolve to question whether being attracted to same sex individuals was the direct cause of the mental distress many LGB individuals experience (Meyer, 2003). Might the causative factor be instead the stress of being a sexual minorit y ? Factors such as internalized homophobia, stigma, discrimination, and violence can all contribute to the increase of mental health issues in LGB families (Meyer, 1995). In 1973, with the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, homosexuality was officially removed as a classified mental disorder ( DSM ; American Psychiatric Association, 1973). This was a step towards the effective treatment of the mental distress experienced by many LGB individuals; yet, this did not end all of the issues LGB people faced in mental health. LGB individuals do experience higher rates of mental distress than their heterosexual counterparts (e.g., Cochran & Mays, 2009; Cochran, Sullivan, & Mays, 2003; King et al., 2008; Feinstein, W adsworth, Davila, & Goldfried, 2014). This could be attributed to the increase of minority stress LGB people face compared to heterosexual people (Meyer, 2003). Minority Stress is a term used to describe the chronic stress an individual experiences based o n their minority status (Meyer, 1995). Specifically, LGB minority stress is associated with being at risk of discrimination, of internalizing homophobia, and of experiencing rejection (Meyer, 2003). Meyer also reported that minority stress is not restricte d to certain negative

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10 0 events in a person's life but also includes the minority per son's experience of living within a dominant culture with the expectation of rejection Thus, a person in a minority position would experience more psychological distress tha n a person bel onging to the dominant culture. Gay males may also belong to other marginalized cultural groups in addition to being a sexual minority (e.g., a recent immigrant or a member of a racial minority). The more marginalized groups an individual bel ongs to the more potential avenues the individual has to experience microaggressions. Minority stress can be a major factor in gay men deciding to become, or rather, to not become an adoptive father (Silverstein, Auerbach, & Lavent, 2002). For instance, based on the lack of gay father role models, gay men can feel as though they will not be accepted as caregivers. This can be considered as an example of internalized homophobia, which refers to a LGB individual's uncontrolled belief that societal expectati ons or stereotypes of LGB people, usually in a negative sense, are true. Internalized homophobia is usually described as being most prevalent early on in the coming out experience, but it is unlikely the early internalization can be completely erased (Cass 1984; Colman, 1982; Troiden, 1989). Primarily, minority stress is caused by the anticipation of discrimination or violence based on being a minority (Garnets, Herek, & Levy, 1990). Individuals who experience high levels of stigma based on their minorit y status are more likely to experience higher levels of anxiety than individuals of the dominant culture (Goffman, 1963). High levels of perceived stigma can cause hyper vigilance, expectations of rejections, and over all lower levels of self esteem (Meyer, 1995).

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11 1 Gay Parental Barriers There are different concerns gay male fathers confront when pa renting which heterosexual parents may not consider. Some unique considerations of two fathers raising children include dividing parenting tasks, gender roles, heteronormativity, and microaggressions. Gay adoptive families also face different challenges t han heterosexual couples including a lack of information and emotional support, personal doubts, legal concerns, stigma, the issue of disclosure to their children of being lesbian or gay, and helping children describe their family to outsiders (Goldberg, Downing, & Sauck, 2007). Discrimination at the societal/cultural, institutional, and interpersonal/individual levels are all specific barriers that LGB parents face (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009). The most common form of discrimination LGB parent s face is societal. Oppression of gay adoptive fathers usually starts during the adoption process. In general, adoptive parents go through intrusive and variable procedures in order to begin adoption. Adoption agencies have been accused of discriminating a gainst LGB parents, some even refusing to place children with same sex couples (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009; Gianino, 2008). Preferential treatment towards heterosexuality promotes the "don't ask, don't tell" attitude in some adoption agencies th at will presume heterosexuality unless otherwise speci fied (Matthews & Cramer, 2006). Research shows that lesbian women feel the need to pick between remaining closeted to increase their chances of adopting or remaining open with their sexual orientation and accept that they will experience micro and macro aggression ( Goldberg, Downing, & Sauck, 2007 ). Yet, research shows the more open lesbian and gay participants are about their sexual orientation the higher their self esteem, the greater their life sat isfaction, and the more positive their feelings are overall (Beals, Peplau, & Gable

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12 2 2009). This speaks to the affect internalized homophobia and microaggressions have on LGB families' wellbeing. Agencies have suggested to gay prospective fathers that "chi ldren need a mother," invaliding males ability to parent (Gianino, 2008). Other agencies who may ostensibly present as more open to gay men sometimes act in a contradictory manner, offering only to place children with special needs with same sex couples ( Kenyon et al., 2003). Becoming a parent through the means of adoption challenges societal norms and thrusts gay fathers in to yet another category of people who experience stigmatization. A common microaggression among adoptive children and their parents both heterosexual and LGB, is people asking the child, "Who are your real parents?" Another common assumption is that the adoptive child must have had drug addicted parents (Garber & Grotevent, 2015). School poses the biggest challenge for lesbian and gay adoptive families (Groza & Rosenberg, 2001). Gay adoptive parents struggle to find schools that both accept the parent s sexual orientation and also ensure equal treatment for their family (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009). Some more specific barr iers to adoptive gay fathers in the school system included the struggle for both parents to be recognized as legal guardians and the father s continual efforts to educate school staff on their unique family makeup (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009). G ay men are also more likely than lesbian women to experience resistance form adoption professionals, possibly due to the systemic belief that a child needs a mother (Johnson & O'Connor, 2002). Comments about the lack of a mother in the child's life leaves gay fathers feeling ostracized (Silverstein, Auerbach, & Lavent, 2002). As previously noted,

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13 3 the majority of LGB research is conducted on lesbian mothers rather than gay fathers. This gap in research promotes the ideal that only mothers are "supposed" to r aise children. These types of microaggressions impact the beliefs some gay men have about their parenting ability in relation to their gender (Brinamen, 2000). Research has shown that 9 out of 10 gay fathers felt that there are differences in men and women that made it easier for women to be primary caregivers than men (Brinamen, 2000). It may seem as though gay men face an insurmountable number of barriers. As mentioned before, gay men adopt the highest number of children with disabilities, whic h inc reases the adoptive parent s risk of post adoption depression (McKay et al., 2010). Also, lack of support and invalidations of the legitimacy of their parental status as gay adoptiv e fathers would likely increase the experience of mental health issues De spite all these potential problems, research that examines the differences between heterosexual, gay, and lesbian couples that adopted infants showed no difference in parenting stress among the different families (Farr, Forssell, & Patterson, 2010, & Lavn e r, Waterman, & Peplau, 2014). Gay men are finding unique and inventive ways to raise children successfully and persevering through the challenges (Gianino, 2008). Becoming a parent can chal lenge any person's self image and f or gay men this is especially tr ue. Gay adoptive fathers may occasionally even be rejected from inside the LGB community as a result of the view some community members espouse that becoming a father signifies an alignment with the oppressive traditi onal family model (Armesto, 2002 ; Bergm an, Rubio, Green, & Padr—n, 2010; Gianino, 2008). Another issue is that gay men enter many systems when raising a child including schools, healthcare systems, and social circles. Fathers will continuously expose their sexual

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14 4 identity to a large number of people when engaging with these systems. Gay men come out to an increased number of people, leaving them at a higher risk of discrimination and minority stress than gay men without children. A major cause for LGB people to hesitate or refrain from becomin g a parent is their desire to protect their child from potential discrimination or prejudice (Gianino, 2008). Living in a society with discriminatory legal systems and religious sectors only increase the likelihood that minority stress will negatively affe ct the LGB person or his or her child. It is important that mental health services evolve to include support for LGB people and their children concerning minority stress. Business of Adoption The business of adoption is another institution that has been k nown to further oppress gay male adoptive fathers (Berkowtiz, 2011). Unfortunately, there is a profit to be made in adoption. LGB prospective adoptive parents are considered the least desirable clientele for adoption agencies (Goldberg, 2009; Goldberg, Dow ning, & Sauck, 2007). There is also evidence of a racial hierarchy among adoption agencies who charge lower fees for African American children and charge the highest fees for Caucasian children (Maldonando, 2006). Agencies often match their least desirable parental applicants, LGBT prospective parents, with children who are hard to place with heterosexual couples (Davidson, 2015; Lewin, 2006; Mallon, 2004). With this information, it may explain why gay men are more likely to adopt children with disabilities more often than lesbian and heterosexual adoptive parents ( Gates, Badgett, Macomber, & Chambers, 2007 ). The adoption agencies are not only discriminating against minorities, rather, they are actually making the process harder for minorities to adopt as parents or to be adopted as children.

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15 5 Legal Issues of Adopting as a Gay Couple Adoption requires a le ngthy legal process for all adoptive parents. In the United States gay couples can adopt directly from various avenues, including, the foster care system, agencies, or through international adoption (Davidson, 2015). Yet, not all adoptive parents come in p airs, sometimes a single mother or father will adopt a child. If after the single adoption has been ma de final and the single parents' romantic partner would like to also be recognized as the child's parent, they can do so through second parent adoption. S econd parent adoption is a way a person can adopt a child who already has one legal guardian. Second parent adoption is the legal procedure allowing same sex parents, whether in a legally recognized relationship or not, to adopt his or her partner's biolog ical or adoptive child without terminating the first parents' legal status as the sole parent (National Center for Lesbian Right, 2015). Second parent adopting gives options to families to have two legally recognized parents who would otherwise have to ch oose one parent to be the sole legal guardian for the child. Thus, without second parent adoption, LGB parents could only adopt through single adoption, leaving one parent without legal guardianship, furthering heteronormativity in the adoption process (Go ldberg, 2009; Goldberg, Downing, & Sauck, 2007). LGB couples can legally co adopt in the state of Colorado as of 2007 with the passing of House Bill 07 1330 describing the rights of Second Parent Adoption. However, the Bill does not specifically state th at LGB parents can jointly adopt, it simply does not specify any class of people to which there is any exception to the law. Prior to this, only a single LGB person could adopt in Colorado. F):9$-#'#)(:9$"&;#$&::$4(&(#4$6)$("#$GH$&::.E#5$012$'.*3:#4$ (.$'. I &5.3($< J.;#+#)($K5;&)'#+#)($L-.M#'(>$?@AN C D $ !".*7"$O.-("$&)5$H.*("$P&8.(&>$

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16 6 J6'"67&)>$&)5$Q6-76)6&$&::.E$4(&(# I :6'#)4#5$'"6:5$E#:/&-#$&7#)'6#4$(.$-#/*4#$(.$3:&'#$&)5$ 3-.;65#$4#-;6'#4$/.-$/&+6:6#4>$6)':*56)7$012$3#.3:#$&)5$4&+# I 4#%$'.*3:#4>$6/$5.6)7$4.$ '.)/: 6'(4$E6("$("#6-$-#:676.*4$,#:6#/4 In the United States each state has its own specific laws surrounding when second parent adoption is legal (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders 2014). Legal guardian rights imp acts more than just one parent's ability to be legally recognized. Goldberg (2010) found having two legally recognized adoptive parents enables children to receive benefits from both parents, assures children that both parents are "real" parents, and ties parents to the child which increases parent al investment. Additionally, legal recognition of both parents increases societal acceptance and decreases the societal oppression experience by the LGB community (Goldberg & Kuvalanka, 2012). It is also important to consider the emotional impact of decidi ng who in the relationship will be the legal parent and who will not be. Lack of parental rights leaves the legally unrecognized parent feeling less validated and with less support from the community (Mallon, 2004). Legal barriers for gay adoptive father s may prove to be such an obstacle they may deny themselves the option of parenthood all together. Due to the legal systems denial of LGB peoples' rights as parents, many gay men find themselves in their forties and feel that their age also prohibits them from becoming a parent (Gianino, 2008). The many oppressive norms that dictate the perfect parent, from gender, sexual orientation and age are discouraging individuals from believing in their ability to be adoptive parents. Prior to June 2015, when sam e sex couples were asked how they would feel differently if same sex marriage became legal, most same sex couples reported he or she would expect to feel happier and healthier both physically and mentally. Similarly, he or she

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17 7 would feel safer having the l egal rights of a married couple, would be able to be considered a "real" couple, and would "let go of anger" related to the discriminatory justice system (Shulman, Gotta, & Gree n, 2012). Prior to the Supreme C ourt s ruling on same sex marriage, couples fel t unheard and underrepresented. The idea of legalizing same sex marriage painted a picture of equality and hope. Now that same sex marriage is legal in the United States, the country has expressed mixed feelings regarding the ruling. Though this is a step forward for the LGB community, more overt acts of discrimination have been highly publicized. It could not have been predicted that once same sex marriage became legal some members of the LGB community would still be met with such hostilit y. Positive Move ments in Gay Male Adoptive Parenting Not all areas of gay male adoptive parenting are focused on hardships. Family cohesion, communication, and nurturance are protective factors in families who experience discrimination. LGB families often employ these pr otective factors as coping mechanisms while simultaneously improving their family cohesion (Gall, 2015). A unique advantage of being a gay male adoptive father is the opportunity to effectively plan for barriers (Crespi, 2001). Research shows that gay males families often divided tasks more equally than heterosexual families (McPherson, 1993). This could be in part due to the amount of awareness and thought gay males put into the decision to embark on parenthood. Gay male parents are pushed to define th eir specific roles as parents because there is no model to follow. When adopting, the more prepared the family is for the new addition, the less placement disruption will occur which will result in less adjustment issues ( Averett, Nalavany, & Ryan, 2009; Paulsen & Merighi, 2009). Thus, having conversations about parental roles and potential barriers could actually help gay families when adopting.

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18 8 The level of intentionality LGB parents cultivate towards family planning influences the type of environment ga y couples raise their children in (Gall, 2015). Some of the joys of gay parenting included being a parent, being pioneers for the lesbian and gay community, and an increase in extended family support (Brown, Smalling, Broza, & Ryan, 2009). There could be an entire study done on the benefits and drawbacks for gay families to consider, as most other families could consider as well. But as the above review supports, gay male parenting is a unique phenomenon that has little research to support the understandi ng of the gay parental experiences. Goldberg (2012) does a great job describing the importance of sharing the gay male dyad experience as parents. Goldberg explains, not only does understanding gay male parents shed light on greater understanding of their experiences but it also conveys awareness to the "pervasiveness" of heteronormativity in our society. Gay male parents challenge heteronormativity in their romantic roles, parental roles, and gender roles. Hopefully, this research allows the reader to expl ore his or her own views of parenting.

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19 9 CHAPTER II GAY MEN ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY METHODOLOGY Research Design It is appropriate to use interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) in this study due to the research question's main focus on understanding rather than evaluation or outcome data. In IPA, determining cause and effect is not of primary concern (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Instead a phenomenological approach not only helps researchers understand the phe nomenon being studied, but may also help future data driven research questions. Phenomenology The main purpose of phenomenology is to look at what is most important to the participants involved in the phenomenon and at how they make sense of their experie nce (Smith, 2011). The philosophical basis of phenomenology is concerned with the study of the experience (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). It is philosopher Edmund Husserl whose name is most closely linked with the development of phenomenology (Converse, 20 12). Husserl's main goal, as distinct from other philosophers, was to "understand human thought and experience through rigorous and unbiased study of things as they appear (Dowling, 2007; Converse, 2012). Husserl emphasized the difference between unde rstanding an object in the way we already think of it, and being able to let down our precognitions about the object and experience it in a new way. Part of this process Husserl described as the phenomenological method' which includes bracketing. Bracketi ng is a research technique that involves putting aside the taken for granted' ways of life and focuses instead on the perceptions of those

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20 0 experiencing a phenomenon (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Husserl goes farther in taking the researcher's bias out o f the study by continuous reduction, using differing lenses to look upon consciousness to view the essence of the experience (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Husserl's focus was on describing the consciousness of an object or its "intentionality", which g ave way to lead to descriptive phenomen ological research. His student, Heidegger, took a different route. Heidegger believed it is impossible for us to completely take away our biases ( Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009 ). Husserl was concerned with the essence o f the phenomena, while Heidegger was concerned with the being' of the phenomena. Since Heidegger believed that being cannot be removed from a situation, he also did not apply reduction of multiple lenses to research as Husserl proposed (Converse, 2012). Heidegger also moved phenomenology towards hermeneutics and focused on interpretative phenomenology, which will be the focus of the following section s (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009) Other philosophers, like Sartre and Merleau Ponty, added to Heidegger's revision of H usserl's view of phenomenology. These thinkers adopted Husserl's philosophical underpinnings but sought to create a practical way to apply those principles. Intersubjectivity Intersubjectivity refers to the philosophical conc ept of shared experiencing as social beings. Intersubjectivity is a co phenomenon occurring in phenomenological research (Cornejo, 2008). Husserl was concerned with conditions in which Intersubjectivity occurs. Husserl believed that it is actually prior to the encounter with the other that this shared experience begins. It starts with a personal experience in to which we can refer back in order to relate the others' experience to ourselves. In this experience we create a way to empathize

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21 1 with the other in t heir descriptions of an event (Finlay, 2005). First, we will look at how we experience others, before looking at how others experience us. Sartre proposed that we are constantly becoming ourselv es (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009 ). Thus, we are becoming rat her than being. This principle is emphasized in Sartre's explanation of two levels of consciousness: reflective and pre reflective. Reflective refers to the part of self that is conscious in its action and views. The pre reflective is aware, but attention is diverted, similar to breathing (Gyllenhammer, 2006). One is aware that they are engaging in this activity, yet breathing is usually not a conscious activity. But once we place focus on breathing, this does not mean pre reflective consciousness is overco me, rather our pre reflective consciousness is on another object, such as the heart pumping. Thus, Sartre emphasizes the importance of the presence and absence of our relationships with the other and within ourselv es (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009 ). Husse rl went a step further to explain a "bodily relation" that refers to empathy from another (Husserl, 1928/1989 p. 176, p. 177 ). Merleau Ponty expanded Husserl's notion of "bodily relation" to encompass the concept of our lives being intertwined with others. Intertwining refers to a double mirroring effect; we perceive others as another body and we perceive our body as their other body ( Merleau Ponty 1945/1962 p. 354 ). One way to conceptualize this would be with our thoughts in social interactions. W hen we interact with another person, we are aware of this other individual outside oursel ves with whom we are trying to relate. We may at some point wonder what this person thinks of us. This is being aware that we have a n experience of another person, as well as, the other person having their own experience about us. This interaction illustrates double mirroring and intertwining.

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22 2 Heidegger proposed another layer of how an individual experiences "being in the world" [Dasein] (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009) Heidegger considers understanding in two forms, knowledge of the world and knowledge in the world. Knowledge of the world refers to our cognitive understanding of objects outside of our self. Knowledge in the world refers to our natural ability to care a nd concern ourselves with an object, thus taking it from outside of ourselves and accepting it into our being (Conej o, 2008). How gay men experience life encompasses both knowledge of the world and knowledge in the world. This relates also to language. Mak ing meaning in language is not an isolated experience. One creates meaning from the flow of social processes. Lived experiences are constantly informing the meaning of the words we use (Valsiner & Van der Verr, 2000). Words alone do not hold meaning. Words gather their meanings through social interactions with words. Thus, words can only presuppose meaning (Cornejo, 2008). How a gay man uses language to convey the essence of their world will be impacted by their current and past experiences. Thus, listening and interpreting participant spoken words will bring the reader closer to understanding their lives experience through meaning making. Hermeneutics Hermeneutics is a theory concerned with the process of interpretation (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Hermeneutics began through the interpretation of sacred texts. Ricoeur (1970, 1981) has suggested that hermeneutics is situated in two different positions, restoration (hermeneutics of faith) or demystification (hermeneutics of suspicion) (Josselson, 2004) In hermeneutics of faith, the interpretative process is fueled by understanding and absorption of the author's message through empathy. Hermeneutics of suspicion is fueled by skepticism and doubt of the message.

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23 3 Hermeneutics of suspicion can be related to psychoanalytic counseling theory and practices (Josselson, 2004). Freud, creator of psychoanalytic theory, believed the power of the unconscious informs the belief system of the conscious mind to such a degree that the conscious message cannot be compl etely trusted as an accurate depiction of the individual's experience Thus, it is up to the interpreter to propose his or her own interpretation of the other's reality. Hermeneutics of faith can be related to postmodern counseling theories such as Feminis t and Narrative. The counselor accepts the individual's account of their experience as is; no investigation into their truth is attempted. Put shortly briefly, the individual creates their own reality, and there is no question by the counselor, just accept ance of the clients' own experience and restriction to place the counselors value system ahead of the clients This study will approach interpretation through the hermeneutics of faith. The idea that something "needs" to be a certain way goes against our freedom as beings. Sartre refers to the denial of freedom to be as "bad faith" (Gyllenhammer, 2006 ). This brings up other philosophical questions on how one can truly accept another's experience outside of the researcher s or counselor s own personal experience. As mentioned before, Heidegger was concerned about the difficulty we all have in avoiding bias when studying human experience. Thus, Heidegger went on to argue that humans cannot separate from their experience to completely inherit another's es sence of an experience or object and must instead interpret. Though Heidegger recognizes one may not be able to rid themselves of all biases, he does emphasis that we must never allow our preconceptions to be present in IPA (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Heidegger, encourages researchers to always strive for as little bias as possible in the interpretative process, while knowing one cannot rid oneself of all biases. The Philosopher Hans Georg Gadamer suggests that when interpreting, it is vital

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24 4 both to be aware of what our precognitions are before starting and also to maintain a questioning stance throughout the process to better complete a valid interpretation (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). To best represent the original teller, the way in which interpre tation should be conducted is artful and holistic. Frederich S chleiermacher, another source for IPA suggested that within the interpretation process the author chooses what language to use and how to use it, thus, creating a meaningful text by the author. Schleiermacher focus is on how words receive their meanings, connecting hermeneutics with Intersubjectivity of both the author and interrupter (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009; Valsiner & Van der Verr, 2000). Schleiermacher went as far as to suggest when in terpretation is done effectively, the interpretation could be more insightful than the original sources of information because of the amount of analysis the interpreter puts toward the words that the original author might not have (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). This also brings up the point of the hermeneutic circle. The hermeneutic circle is the cycle in which a word will become clear from the context of the sentence it is in, whereas the meaning of the sentence relies on the words that make it up. Throug h the interpretive process this cycle will continue on small and large scales that continuously influence each other. This is true also of the new discoveries the researcher will uncover and how those realizations affect both the smaller and bigger pieces of the study (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Double hermeneutics occurs when the researcher is making sense of what the participants are trying to make sense of (Smith, 2011). This is one of the key features of IPA research. The other two main factors of IPA include idiography and phenomenology. Idiography is concerned with the understanding of a very specific and precise topic.

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25 5 Phenomenology is the philosophical perspective of reality as a constellation of phenomena. The following section will proceed in discussing the methodology of this study, and further explore the concepts of IPA. Idiography Idiography is the commitment to looking at the particular rather than look at the large and generalizing (Smith, Flowers, Larkin 2009). Idiography is a main feature in IPA that distinguishes itself from other research. The majority of psychological researc h is focused on nomothetic that deal with averages and making generalizations to a large population (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). This becomes a problem when the specifics of a situation or experiences are discounted and disappear into averages. Single case studies are a good example of the principles of idiography. Case studies usually concern themselves with an interesting topic that yields further exploration into existence rather than cause and effect. The attention to detail that case studies call for uncover information that would otherwise be disregarded. Because of the attention to the particular, scientists can further explore the general, mirroring the hermeneutic circle; the more understanding of the particular the better understand ing of the general and vice versa (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). In IPA, it is important to maintain small sample size s to remain focused on the particular of the experience of a human being. When considering Heidegger's concept of Dasein, idiography becomes more complex. Dasein refers to "being in the world" (Conejo, 2008). Though idiography is concern with the particular, it is a description of the systemic implication of the phenomenon. Idiography does not completely refute generalization. Yet idiography change s the way in which we view generalizations (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009).

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26 6 This change in how research views generalization can greatly aid helping professionals in treating individuals of minority status. Psychiatric care has historically based its diag noses on abnormalities in the dominant culture. Some diagnostic categories have gone as far as to pathologize an entire minority group (Schrader, Jones, & Shattell, 2013). Research into the particular aids both helping professionals and researchers maintai n a curious stance into both the bigger and smaller pictures to establish a clear view of a phenomenon. Sample In keeping true to the idiographic style of IPA, a homogeneous sample selection was conducted for this study. This sample was selected through probability means yet purposefully to find participants that offer insight into the particular research question (Smith, Flower s, Larkin, 2009). Participants must have me t the following criteria to qualify to be a part of the study : s el f identify as gay s elf identify as cisgender male a dopted one or more children with their current romantic partner a dopted a child six months prior to the interview b ecame a legal parent of the child either through co adoption or single and second par ent adoption and b etween the ages of 21 to 99 years old The interviews were conducted on each male individually to gather information on their own individual experiences rather than their experience together, as c o parents. The sample size consist ed of three couples, six individuals, n = 6, from Colorado. The numbe r of participants was created with the intention to focus the study on the interpretation of the very specific phenomena occurring among gay male adoptive fathers in Colorado. To focus on a sma ll number of cases gives proper attention to the compl ex individual experience of the

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27 7 phenomenon. The norm practice for a Masters thesis is n = 3 in IPA (Smith, Flowers, and Larkin, 2009, p. 52). Participation was marketed through flyers at the University of Colorado Denver, through parental rights law firms, adoption agencies, online message boards and various other LGB friendly community areas events Also snowbal l sampling was considered to be a major part in g athering participants as a marketing strategy. This was not utilized, as none of the participants knew of any other gay adoptive couples in Colorado. To incentivize participation, individuals receive d a $20.00 allowance by the researcher for their particip ation. To clarify above in regards to participation, single gay fathers of adoptive children will not be a part of this study This is due to the added phenomenon of being a single parent along with being gay and an adoptive parent. Again, it is importa nt to keep the sample as specific as possible. Participants The participants in this research consisted of three gay male couples that have adopted a child together. Aliases will be used from this point for ward to protect the participant s identities All of the participants were from the Denver Metro area, though recruiting did focus on the entire state of Colorado. The first couple, W ill and Dennis, live in Denver and adopted their now toddler age daughter together when she was an infa nt. The se cond couple, Austin and Ken a dopted a school aged son together through the foster to adopt system. Austin had adopted a child prior to his relationship wit h Ken with a previous partner. After Austin ended his relationship with his previous partner, Ken an d Austin started a long term relationship where Ken later became a stepfather to Austin's eldest child who is now a young adult The final couple, Nick and

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28 8 Alex, adopted their toddler age daughter together when she was an infant. All of the participants met the criteria to participate in the study and volunteered themselves. Table 2 1 Descriptions of Participants ___________________________________________________________________________ Participants T he Participants Children's City of Residence Couple #1 Will Dennis Sarah Denver Couple #2 Austin Ken Ethan Erik Aurora Couple #3 Nick Alex Je n n Denver Materials Taking an interpretative phenomenological approach to this research, I implemented different strategies in order to better understand the phenomenon these parents are experiencing. The first strategy was to email out an initial contact form that include d a consent form and information packet regarding the study. Once contact was initiated, the researcher did a phone screening to validate the participants qualifications to be in the study. Once the participant s had emailed their consent form back, the researcher contact ed the participant to set up an in person int erview. Each participant was asked a series of ten questions regarding various topics of the phenomena that can be viewed in Appendix C Though the same ten questions were asked to each participant, some variation from the interview scripted were administe red, depending on the appropriateness; these variations were recorded. The interview was a semi structured interview format which means there was a list of questions the interview er ask ed The interview was less directed by the interview er s ques tions a nd more directed by the participant 's answers to those questions while also taking

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29 9 into account the participant's willingness to share their experiences (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). The entire interview was audio recorded from start to finish. The ma in purpose of the strategy is to gather as much important information as possible from the participants to be able to understand the essence of be the gay male adoptive parent experience in Colorado. Initial Contact Each potential participant was given a pre screening questionnaire over the phone This questionnaire was for the researcher's ability to obtain all of the information needed to identify if the potential participant had all of the required demographic characteristics needed to parti c ipate. After the pre screening wa s complete d, the participant was either told they qualified for the study or not. If the participant did qualify they were emailed an invitation to participate letter along with an informational packet and consent form. A consent form and informational packet was sent via email to each participant. The informational packet was give n to the participants in an effort to inform them of the type of material being studied. The informational packet shed light into what types of questions w ould be asked during the interview, so that the participants are fully aware of what type of phenomen on they will be exploring. It was also important that these participants start ed to make sense of what it is they feel is valuable for the researcher to know about their experiences. It also inform ed the participants of the nature of semi structured interviews and what will be expected from them as a pa rticipant in this study. This was also an added precaution to prepare and protect participa nts from any emotional or psychology harm that could be caused by discussing such a personal topic (Smith, Flowers, and Larkin, 2009).

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30 0 Consent Form The consent form will inform ed the participants of all of the potential dangers involved in the study. T he main potential danger is psychological harm by bringing up sensitive personal topics. The informed consent explicitly state d that participation is completely voluntary. If the participant were absent for their interview appointment they would not recei ve the $20.00 payment for services. The participant was told they must arrive and begin the interview to receive the payment. If after or during the in terview, the participant decided they would like to withdraw their participation in the study, they were informed they were allowed to keep the payment, and all rec ords of their participation would be destroyed. It would also be noted that their participation was excluded in the study, but no identifying terms would be used. This scenario did not occur in the study. The consent also address ed the use of audio recording of the interview. Lastly, the informed consent describe d in detailed the limitations of confidentiality. Due to the ethical standards of being a counselor in training, the researcher has a duty to report specific types of incidences of emergency. Outside of these limitations, all information was and will be kept confidential. Interview S chedule The interview was scheduled at a convenient time for the participant and the principle investigator. The principle investigator conduct ed all interviews. Phenomenological semi structured interviews were conducted with the individuals of the couples separately. Goldberg (20 12) gives a well thought out explanation as to the importance of separating the couple for the interview process as to verify that they are being honest in regards to personal matters that may not be suitable to discuss with their partner. It is also impor tant to note that it can be expected that different themes could emerge through individuals in a relationship

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31 1 and separating the couples could encourage independent expression. Interviews were held at the University of Colorado Denver Counseling Center and at the participants' residences The interview process lasted anywhere from 30 90 minutes to complete. After the interview the participant receive d $20.00. The interview schedule consisted of ten open ended questions with corresponding possible prompts The questions address ed the following issues: parental roles, parental tasks, parental satisfaction, gender roles, political policies, microaggressions, and heteronormativity. These are the themes that have been gathered from the literature review that s eem to be the main areas of concern for gay parents. Specifically themes were gathered from, Goldberg's (2012) novel reporting the experience of gay fathers, Nadal's (2013) article on microaggressions the LGBTQ community experiences, and Goldberg and Smit hs (2013) article on predictors of psychological adjustment in adoptive families. The questions were determined to address the primary research questions: how do gay males make sense of fathering as adoptive parents in Colorado. The secondary question wa s how the participants experience microaggressions as gay parents. These questions are ordered in a logical sequence surrounding the timelines of adoption. All questions were formulated as to not imply anything about the participants' experiences, but rath er to prompt as much exploration on the participants' part as possible The possible prompts were and were not used as seen appropriate by the interviewer (see Appendix C) Though there is a set structure of asking these questions, the re wa s room for the interviewer to go beyond these set questions to ask the participants to elaborate. It is also important to point out that an external audit was used before all questions were finalized. The audit included the researcher

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32 2 reviewing the intervi ew schedule with the thesis committee chair and well as discussing the interview schedule with the participants ahead of time.

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33 3 CHAPTER III GAY MEN ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY ANALYSIS IPA provides the opportunity to be extremely detailed while also allowing room for growth. The analysis of the transcription s are not definite account s but rather an attempt to focus on the participants described experiences as mentioned before in the description of double hermeneutic s (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009; Smith, 2011). The techniques in IPA are flexible and leave room for the researcher to process their meaning and experience throughout the process to more effectively interpret. A main feature o f IPA is the researchers perso nal internal dialogue and how there is a constant effort to bracket, or set aside, one's own view and values to analyze the transcription to ac curately depict the participant s experience s The key phases in IPA are reading, note taking, and development of themes in individual transcri pts, analysis of how themes are develope d, emerging themes between transcripts and finally an interpretation of the transcripts The following section will give more detail to the process of line by line analysis of claims, concern, and understanding of the participants. Also more details of how emerging themes are organized and created will also be discussed. Structure will be given to themes in a way for more understanding of the participants' experience s With the researcher's knowledge of psychological und erpinnings and the participants' da ta an interpretive account arise s with the main principles of IPA, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and idiograp hy, in mind. Supervision was utilized to audit the interpretive process. Finally a reflection of the researcher's perceptions and process was taken into account by continuous journaling throughout the study

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34 4 Transcription Once the interviews were com pleted the audio recordin gs were transcribed verbatim into a computer document. The importance of writing out the interview s verbatim is to be able to clearly recognize significant statements, organize the verbal cues, and record anything of significance given or not given to a st atement. This computer document was printed out for further analysis by the principle investigator. Reading and re reading of the transcription was the second step of the transcription process. This is to submerge the researcher in the material and the p articipants' experience s Some side notes were made during this time, but not for the purpose of analysis, yet for the principle investigator comprehension. The experience of re reading the transcription also benefits the researcher s understanding of the general tone of the interview and leaves more room to understand the many details that were discussed. Following the re reading process is the noting process. In this phase the principle investigator began to note all of the interesting dialogue that cam e about from the interview. The results of this phase were detailed notes on the data. The initial notes were exploratory in nature and include d questions for the researcher to ponder w hen trying to emerge their thinking into the data. The note s themselves try to describe, understand, and conceptualize the participants' experience s Descriptive notes were taken to highlight important words or phra ses the participant described and were revisited to go back in the process to take note of deepening meanings to those state ments. Linguistic comments were made on how information was delivered throughout the interview that could make sense of meaning to the participant. And finally conceptual comments were usually form ed as a way for the principle investigator t o ask more questions about the topic being discussed. These comments were

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35 5 made of what, how, and when, t he participant made a comment From these in itial notes, the analysis started off wi th summaries of events and lead into the interpretive nature of expl oring core values of the interview and meanings of the experience. Themes Following the reading and note taking of data, themes of the interview were established. When creating t hemes the research is not only interested in what happens among all the par ticipants, yet it is also important to incorporate themes of unique in dividual themes. Once themes were created they were ordered chronologically and inputted into a data chart that lists how often themes were brought up. Transcripts were taken out of the whole interview in chunks to represent the qualifying theme. Themes were used as a way of categorizing the meanings around important information the participants shared. Themes define what the essence of the phenomenon is that is being described. By assign ing themes, the research is better able to define what some of the major characteristic are in the phenomenon of being a gay male adoptive parent. As for the reader, specific transcriptions are matched with qualifying themes as to give evidence of how thes e themes were presented by the participants. This process was done with each participant' s in terview separately. Care was taken to handle each transcript as an individual case The importance of accounting for individual influences after each interview i s for each transcript to be looked upon with a new and exploratory view, instead of trying to fit the other individuals experience into the past participants view After completing each individua l transcript, all themes were look ed at as a whole. Themes w ere separated physically from the individual transcription and placed in similar the matic order. Abstraction was the method used in identifying patterns. In

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36 6 abstraction similar themes from individual accounts were matched with themes from other participant s de scriptions. These meanings develop ed into clusters of super ordinate themes. From this cluster the pri nciple investigator develop ed a graph that describes the super ordinate theme s as well as themes that do not fit into the super ordinat e category. These themes are presented as data in a table with the theme as a label and different verbatim transcriptions below to illustrate meaning and evidence. A sample of the analysis of the interviews is provided in Table 3.1 The research first had to organi ze the transcripts into rows that separated when the participant was speaking and when the researcher was speaking in order to be clear in w ho said which statement. Then, each row is numbered chronologically on the left side of the column containing the tr anscript. The next step was to add three columns to the right side of the transcript: exploratory comments, emergent them es, and super ordinate themes. By working through the columns left to right, the research start ed by reading the entire transcript by i tself, then re reading the transcript and writing down descriptive comments. Descriptive comments are notes that explain what the participant was saying as closely tied to their original words and without interpreta tion. In the sample, descriptive comment s are displayed in standard form. These comments are meant to be at "face value" (Smith, Flow ers, Larkin, 2009). Similarly, l inguistic comments are meant to show the unique way in which the participant used language to communicate their experience. For inst ance, linguistic comments would summarize the use of volume, tone, frequency, as well as s ymbolism and choice of words. Linguistic comments are italicize d as well as their related section in the transcript. Finally, conceptual comments were assigned by moving into an investigative stance towards interpreting meaning from the participants' words.

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37 7 Tabl e 3. 1 Sample Analysis ___________________________________________________________________________ Transcript Exploratory Comment Emergent Th emes Super Ordinate Themes 9* The final one was another just meeting to go over it and sign paperwork saying that we agreed to the home study I don't even remember the length of time that it was for that first initial process, but it's a very invasive process that ... Can be extremely frustrating. You're going through fingerprint checks, you're going through all of this stuff. You're watching t he news and you're reading the paper and you're seeing Went through various protocol step prior to being approved to adopt. The home visit and security checks seem overly invasive Discouragement & exhaustion with barriers in the adoption system Fear of failure Perfection in the i nspection Process Coping with the inspection process (continued)

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38 8 Tabl e 3. 1 Sample Analysis (continued) ___________________________________________________________________________ Transcript Exploratory Comment Emergent Themes Super Ordinate Themes *9 these families that are having children taken away from them because they're abusing them, you're seeing people that are abusing the system just having child after child and taking advantage You're sitting there being like, "We're a loving family. We want to give a child a home, but we have to jump through all these hoops." Unfairness in parental judgments / Wanting to care and love a child of their own Double standard for biological parents Does he desire vali dation that his frustrations are appropriate? Does he find value and pride in making it through the process? Expressed a realistic example to validate his experience Speech became louder and increased in tempo Inequality for adoptive parents Perfectionism in the i nspection Process Coping with the inspection process Note. *9 = line 9 of the transcript From the exploratory comments emergent themes were produced. Not all emergent themes contributed to super ordinate themes, yet were considered when organizing super ordinate themes. Finally super ordinate themes are ass igned to the passage. C olors are used to illustrate relationships between categories as well as underlined conceptual comments.

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39 9 Figure 3.1 Process of Analysis of an individual Transcript O nce the analysis of each participant was completed the researcher then created a rating system to measure recurrent themes, including super ordinate theme and sub themes. A scoring system was created to identify who endorsed a theme and to what extent. The participant's lev el of endorsement for a theme was cate gorized into high, moderate, or low ratings. The high, moderate, and low scale is based on the frequency and duration in which a par ticipant focused on a theme (see A ppendix B ) Finally, the last stage is to generalize each participants super ordinate themes by extracting and clustering sub themes in a new document. By doing this, the researcher is able to look at all like and dislike themes that appear in each transcript (see Appendix A) #$%&'($")*! +*$)%,"-! "&,*$+"*.! /*%0!1! '2)-*$3*!'*45! "&,6!,7*! ,$%&'($"8,'! 9$*%,*! !"#$%&'(%&) (6--*&,'!! : ;"&32"',"(!(6--*&,'!! : <*'($"8,"+*!(6--*&,'!! : 96&(*8,2%4!(6--*&,'!! 9$*%,*!=-*$3*&,! #7*-*'! : >%'*0!6&! *?86$4%,6$@! (6--*&,'!! <*+*468! "&0"+"02%4"A*0! '28*$B6$0"&%,*! ,7*-*'!56$!,7*! 0%,%!'*,!

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40 0 Figure 3.2 Process of Analysis across Transcripts =?,$%(,!'28*$B6$0"&%,*! ,7*-*'!5$6-!*%(7! ,$%&'($"8,!! : C'!.*44!%'!,7*"$! (6$$*'86&0"&3! *-*$3*&,!,7*-*'! D'*!+*$)%,"-! E26,*'!5$6-!,7*! ,$%&'($"8,!,6! 8$6+"0*!*+"0*&(*! 56$!*%(7!'28*$B 6$0"&%,*!,7*-*!! 96-8%$*!%&0! (6&,$%',!'28*$B 6$0"&%,*!,7*-*'! )*,.**&! 8%$,"("8%&,'! <*+*468! 3*&*$%4"A*0! '28*$B6$0"&%,*! ,7*-*'!,7%,!(%&! $*4%,*!,6!%44! 8%$,"("8%&,'!

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41 1 CHAPTER IV GAY MEN ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY RESULTS After analyzing the parti cipant s transcript s there were three major super ordinate themes: b ecoming a father over a life span, the process of adoption, and minority stress. In the following section these super ordinate themes will be discussed along with detailed descriptions of how these themes wer e described verbatim by the participant and how the researcher interrupted the meaning of the participant's words. Subthemes will divide the results for a more specified look into how the super ordinate themes developed. More individualized experiences wil l also be discussed in the context of the super ordinate theme to allow for a n idiographic look into the experiences of the participants. Both evidence based practices and counseling theories will also be brought into light to dive deeper into the clinical implications of the research as well as the effectiveness of certain models that could apply to this population. In staying true to interpretative phenomenology and the hermeneutics of faith the participants narratives are dissected in a manner to bes t represent their experience and not to validate thei r truth. Therefore, the results are presen ted in three different chapters, organized by super ordinate themes See Appendix A for an illustration of the supe r ordinate and emergent themes. In the figure 4.1, the top center circle represents the research question and is comprised of three parts, each a super ordinate theme. The super ordinate themes are displayed in a with connecting arrows between them to demonstrate their influence on each other and con tinued experiencing of each theme rather than a linear model. The list below

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42 2 each super ordinate theme is that themes sub themes that give a more detailed description of what each super ordinate theme entails. Figure 4.1 Illustration of Super Ordinate Themes and their corresponding subthemes The Gay Male Adoptive Father Experience in Colorado >*(6-"&3!%!F%,7*$!6+*$! %!;"5*BG8%&! Identity v. Role Confusion Intimacy v. Isolation Current Developmental Stage Developmental Considerations The Process of Adoption Deciding on Fatherhood Reacting to the Inspection Trusting the Process Dealing with Minority Stress Authoring a Life Accepting Fatherhood Coping with Discriminatijon Creating a Refuge

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43 3 CHAPTER V GAY MEN ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY BECOMING A FATHER OV ER A LIFE SPAN It is clear in each participant' s transcript that their individual experience of growing up significantly impacted their experience as a father. Though there are many different theories of human development Erik Erikson's Psychosocial Theory will be the main theory of development discussed in this s ection Erikson suggests an individual goes through stages of developmental that build on top of each other ( Erikson, 1963). One of the main principles of the theory is the principle of epigenic, which refers to the stages of development being in a preset order in which the individual must accomplish before going on to the next stage ( McLeod, 2013) Table 5.1 Erik Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development ___________________________________________________________________________ Stages Crisis Favorable Outcome Unfavorable Outcome 1 2 years Trust vs. Mistrust Faith in the environment and future events Suspicion, fear of future events 2 3 years Autonomy vs. Doubt A sense of self control and adequacy Feelings of shame and self doubt (Continued)

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44 4 Table 5.1 Erik Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development (continued) ___________________________________________________________________________ 3 5 years Initiative vs. Guilt Ability to be a "self starter," to initiate A sense of guilt and inadequacy 6 puberty Industry vs. Inferiority Ability to learn how things work A sense of inferiority at understanding Adolescence Identity vs. Role Confusion Seeing oneself as a unique and integrated person Confusion over who and what one really is Early adulthood Intimacy vs. Isolation Ability to make commitments to others Inability to form affectionate relationships Middle age Generativity vs. Stagnation Concern for family and society in general Con cern only for self one's own well being Aging Years Integrity vs. Despair A sense of integrity and fulfillment Dissatisfaction with life Identity versus Role Confusion One stage that stood out as a pivotal milestone for the participants was the fifth stage of development: identity versus role confusion, which is characterized by self exploration. Austin expressed struggling with comprehending a life for himself as a gay man while also able t o reach his life goals.

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45 5 I very specifically remember the idea of wanting to be a father someday as a major reason why I didn't allow myself to think that I could be gay. Austin's dilemma as an adolescent highlights the duality of identity development. He denies himself his identity as a gay person due to his desire to be a father. The inability to accept co occurring identities reflects the lack of maturity in an individual. Unfortunately, Austin's co occurring identities were not only confusing togethe r due to black and white thinking of an adolescent but also as a cultural taboo. Acceptance of one identity meant the rejection of another. In this stage adolescents are moving from understanding them self in the world as stagnant and rooted in stable r ules of being versus moving towards understanding the world as const antly changing while including the self among the world. This high level of examination into one's identity can also bring up discomfort and insecurities. Lack of gay male father's as role models in the community challenged the participants' belief in their ability to parent while also being gay. On the other side of this developmental experience is the outcome of a high level of self exploration at a young age. This appears to increase resiliency in identity acceptance. Alex's description of gender roles reiterates this concept: You kind of blow past gender roles very early in your life as a gay person. You kind of as a teen, you imagine what's that going to be and what's my relationship going to look like? As Alex describes gender roles, he emphasizes the importance of this developmental stage fo r gay men. Alex seemed to accept his gay identity early on in life, and thus had to make appropriate adjustment to how his life would differ from the typical. His comfort with gender

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46 6 fluidity came with increase d comfort with his sexuality, yet confusion br ews in how gender will now influence his romantic relationships. At the identity versus role confusion stage of development it is appropriate to question more than just sexuality and find space to explore many facets of one's self. Fluidity in gender rol es appeared to be a vital part in gay men's experience as fathers and their identity development. It is unique in the sense that caretaking, being in love with a man, and wanting to raise children are all considered feminine characteristics. Alex highlight s the majority of his concern was focused on having a meaningful relationship and less emphasis on the stereotypes of gender. This exemplifies a shift into the sixth stage of psychosocial development towards intimacy versus isolation, which is characteriz ed by a resolution to connect with others in healthy relationships. Intimacy versus Isolation Alex describes this shift by being understanding of his gender fluidity as a characteristic of himself but was more concerned with not being able to connect wi th another person who shared his desire to be in a gay relationship with him. This becomes increasingly important in particular to gay men who want to have children. Gay men in relationships are not necessarily bound to the same societal standards of heter osexual couples like getting married and having children. In this way, there is more opportunity to create relationships and families in a unique way but also less assurance that other potential partners would want to have a tradition al family that may or may not include children. Will and Dennis described their conversation with each other about having children very similarly. Will did not see himself being a father, where Dennis did. Dennis describes his effor ts to pursue a family with Will:

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47 7 I think it probably came down to a lot of me going, "I would like to have a child," and him going, "I don't really want to have a child," and me going, "I would like to have a child," and him go ing, "I don't want a child." The n, me going, "I would like to have a chil d," and him going, "Well, let's think about it." I was kind of persistent. I've always wanted to be a dad. Dennis describes a need to remind Will that having a family was important to him. The meta message within Dennis's quote is "I want to h ave a family with you." Dennis' and Will's "I" statements take some of the pressure off of the receiver of the message. By engaging in this type of communication, the relationship is not directly impacted by either of their differing value s of having children. Will a nd Dennis' communication style is an example of healthy disagreements in each partner s values system but strength to continue to be in a loving and caring relationship with each other as well as listening to each other's viewpoints. This acknowledgement o f the differences between each other in a relationshi p is a key to intimacy. Dennis' efforts paid off when Will eventually became curious and began investigating adoption. While Will's open mindedness kept the relationship strong enough for him to explore without any pressure to commit before he was ready. After adopting their daughter Will described his experien ce as a father : That feeling that you get when she looks at you and smiles or gives you a hug or reaches up and grabs your hand, I don't think anyt hing could compare to it and I never knew anything that would be like that if it hadn't been for her. She makes every day better.

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48 8 Many of the other participants vocalized a similar experience, though Will's was unique. Will was the only father who had ment ioned his initial lack of willingness to become a father while an adult When he says, "I never knew anything that would be like that if it hadn't been for her," this is a statement in discovery. Will discovered a part of life that he had never explore d be fore becoming a father. It seems like the other participants had a sense of miss ing out on something when they were not fathers. Will's openness to the possibility of reject ing imperfection, and hard work left him with the rewards of being a father, one h e never knew to what extent it could bring happiness to his life Current Developmental Stage Will describes feeling as though he is able to care for his daughter in a purposeful way to foster her development. This is a shift into the stage of generativity versus stagnation. Being able to care for his daughter appeals to his greater purpose of identity development as it applies to the world through his daughter. All of the fathers described the ir concerns for their children's ability to lead hea lthy lives in the future. In the transcripts the fathers' description of concerns for their child outweighed their concerns for their relationship drastically. The fathers much higher concern towards fostering their child development depicts their long jou rney into the last stage of psychosocial development. Dennis describes how he currently values instilling certain characteristics in his daughter: I think actually, my big thing for her is I'm very concerned about her self image. I'm fixated on making sur e my daughter is confident. I want her to be a confident person. I've seen a lot of the negative impacts that a lack of confidence can have on you in extremely weird ways.

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49 9 Dennis' description of his hope that his daughter is conf ident in her self reflects h is concern for her process through the stage of identity versus role confusion. The fathers understanding of this difficult process of development is a major theme in their lack of confidence in parenting. As Dennis described his experience with lack of co nfidence and it s negative effe cts, his personal struggle through this stage of life seems not only vital to make it through, but important for long term success as he experience d when accepting his identity. This stage, as noted prior, is a major stage i n every person's life but is typically more complex for those individuals belonging to a minority group. Dennis is aware of the struggles of this stage through his identi ty as a sexual minority, but it is also important to note the participants' have child ren that already belong to the minority group of being an adopted child. Being children of gay parents is another minority group the participan ts' children belong to. Further more, adoptive children are not all Caucasian, able bodied, heterosexual, male, ci sgender, or from the same country as they are adopted into which could potentially add to the complexity of their psychosocial development as well as minority stress. Unique Developmental Considerations Gay men do not exhibit a different developmental pat tern than heterosexual individual. Yet, gay men may be specifically unique in their creation of their development and the complexity of the same milestones heterosexual individuals experience. Another major theory of d evelopment that is important to consid er is the Inclusion Model (McCarn & Fassinger, 1996). See f igure 5.1 for an illustration of the Inclusion Model. In this model the development of the individual and their inclusion into a minority group is considered both parallel processes and catalytic for both development. I knew one person that we thought was gay was my art teacher in middle school, and he was so

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50 0 ostracize d ." Austin's quote described his understanding of the type of treatment gay men were exposed to through his experience wi th his teacher. Realizing, for himsel f, the possibilities of being excluded by others because of his sexuality. Austin goes on to describe his lack of hope in being fulfilled while also being a gay man, while simultaneously know ing he could also not be hap py while denying his sexuality, a lose/lose dilemma. The Inclusion Model differs from Erikson's Psychosocial Development in structure due to Erikson's use of the principle of epigenic. Rather, McCarn and Fassinger created this model to be in "phases" rat her than stages to emphasis the flexibility as well as to conceptualize development as circular versus linear. The development of being a sexual minority builds upon new knowledge acquired throughout a lifetime of being both gay as well as belonging to a m inority group. Tim describes the lack of a well defined path in his development in the 70's when he was a child on how to develop as a gay male. Growing up in the '70s, I graduated high school in '85. I had no gay role models. There was nothing on television. I didn't know that you could even be happy and gay, much less happy, gay, and be a parent.

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51 1 Figure 5. 1 McCarn and Fassinger's Inclusion Model of Gay Identity Development (1996) Tim describes his experience in the awareness phase of development when he questions the idea that not everyone is heterosexual. The other message Tim delivers is the lack of role model to demonstrate happiness as a gay man for him. This questioned his sen se of faith in his ability to be happy and gay, which reflects back on the oppression the inclusion model brings up in contrast to Erikson's stages (1963) A unique strength of the participants' families is that the fathers are all pioneers in their path towards parenthood and have acquired developmental resiliency in their personal

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52 2 journey. The i nclusion model was based off of various minority development al models to include the difference in developing as a majority member and a minority member in the world. The fathers are able to act as role models for their children who belong to minority groups to support their children through their development journey. This guidance and modeling of minority development for adoptive children may not be as readily available in families that have not experienced development as a minority member.

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53 3 CHAPTER V I GAY MEN ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY THE PROCESS OF ADOPT ION No one couples' path to adoption seems to be the same. All the fathers decided to adopt in u nique ways, though all sought agencies that were LGB friendly. Even father s who were partner ed did not give the same answers to the same questions. Their experiences were unique to their life story. None of the father s took time to explain prepping the nursery, conversations about splitting tasks with their partners or even much about discriminatio n in the process. Rather, the amount of vulnerability asked of the fathers throughout the process of trying to create a family through adoption, was completely endorsed by all fathers To my surprise, the participants responses told a story of love in pla ce of worry, where adoption was simply the setting for which the story of their family took place. Austin made a moving observation about this process. I always said, if biological parents had to go through everything we went through, there'd be a lot fe wer kids." In Austin's statement there is a meaningful description of the type of discomfort as well as hard work adoptive parents go through to have a family. All of the fathers described the inspection process as being very invasive They all found that they over prepared and had invested a lot of energy in i mpressing the investigator. T his sense of being perfect is often emulated in the majo rity of all adoptive parents, but could be amplified among gay men. Being perfect in parenting was a theme for some of the father s For th ose fathers who displayed signs of perfectionism in parenting, their narratives seemed to match the start of this behavior with the beginning phases of the inspection process. Once this perfectionist behavior began, it

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54 4 continued to p rogress into their interactions with other parents and the community once they started parting in public Sartre's concept of essence is highlighted in this section. "Existence comes before essence (Sartre, 1948 /1973 p.26) quote introduced a unique phi losophical concept of existentialism that humans have the freedom of choice, which ultimately creates a suffering through the responsibility of creating their identity. What Sartre meant by this is that we are created without a protocol of how to be human. He believed we create our existence through the choices we make in our lives and construct essence through these choices. Alex highlights the importance of free will by saying: I'm really proud of the choice we made to start a family. I enjoy being the p erson at the party who shows up really early with their kid and leaves really early. I'm proud of that life choice and I'm glad I'm that guy. Alex find s dignity and integrity in his choices. Knowing that he had to work hard and create his own path to fatherhood seems to give Alex a sense of pride in his determination. The other point in this statement is the sense of being at peace with who he has become due to his choices. In the previous chapter discussing identity development, acceptance is a major theme. Becoming a father through adoption with his partner is part of the identity Alex created for himself. The long and invasive tasks of the inspection pr ocess leave much time and consideration for adoptive parents to pull out and change their minds. The determination Alex displays by going through a process that is not only unique, but also riddled with challenges, is the best example of creating a life th rough existence, which shows his essence. Philosopher of language, Wittgenstein, would argue a caveat to Sartre's theory of choice Wittgenstein looked at how our language shapes our reality, thus limiting what

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55 5 choices we have the ability to perceive. Th e participants also are bound in their existence by their unfiltered influences that shape their reality. Microaggression s prejudice, and discrimination are not easily forgotten. Diving farther into the process of adoption with the father, vulnerability s hifted from internal dialogues of self doubt into more serious issues like becoming victims of fraud, involvement in the legal system, and unsuccessful bio parent matches. Minority stress is a part of a person's existence. Due to this, freedom of choice is limited by Wittgenstein's theory of limitations which create s a unique challenge for gay adop tive fathers t o live out their essence publicl y. Deciding on Fatherhood The decision to adopt can come in many different forms. For Nick and Alex, this was som ewhat of a standard for their relationship. Alex described his conversations with Nick early on in their relationship, When you talk about your future and what it looks like, we both got that out there early that, oh we want a family. I want kids. It was a running conversation for several years." Nic k and Alex had the expectation set for their relationship to ultimately move towards fatherhood Being in a romantic relationship was contingent on having the same outlook on family goals. Preparing their relat ionship for fatherhood was also of importance to them by continuing to have a conversation as their relationship evolved. Will and De nnis did not see eye to eye on wanting children. Will described his process of deciding to adopt with Dennis: I'm not in to having kids. Other people are made to have kids that I'm made to play with their kids and then go home." We'd been together for, actually at that point, nine years, something like that. It was like, "Let's do it."

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56 6 For Dennis, making the decision to adop t was a topic of concern for his relationship. He challenged his partner in having children. Dennis shared a unique sens e of pride in his ability to be a father to his daughter. Y et, he seemed to be the only father who resisted the idea of becoming a fathe r in the initial stage s of his relationship. Dennis went on to say he did not see himself as a father prior to deciding to adopt. Many people decide not to have children, but as mentioned in the literature review, gay men have different reasons of denying themselves the identity of being a father. Some reasons could be the lack of a set path to fatherhood, lack of information and guidance, the risks involved in adoption, and also the discrimination against gay men being legitimate parents for their children Once Dennis did decide to adopt his daughter, he dropped naturally into a caregiver role, an identity denied prior to starting the adoption process. Austin and Ken differed in their path since Ken met Austin as a single father raising his eldest son Erik Austin's journey to adoption was unique to the other participants. The main differences included the time period he adopted, the age of his son at the t ime of adoption, adopting twice and his identity as a single father prior to meeting Ken. Austin h ad adopted his eldest son, Erik with his previous partner. In 2003, Austin and his partner wanted to foster to adopt a child who was older, around 5 8 years old. They were paired with Erik very fast, and Austin's par tner was the first legal parent, with A ustin being added as the second parent later. Austin's previous partner left the relationship and their son, soon after the adoption. Austin became a single father seemly overnight. Austin brings up a topic I had considered early on: relationship shifts a nd riffs. What I had not considered was the aftermath of relationship issues on a single gay adoptive father. Austin explains dating as a single father:

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57 7 Dating during the time I was single, dating was very hard. I had someone I was very into, suddenly bre ak up with me and just say that it was too much, like I came with too much baggage. I was like, "Wow, you just called my kid baggage." Once Austin met Ken, things were different. When I started exploring vulnerability as an emerging theme in the research it was very apparent in asking someone to be their adoptive father, in parenting in public, and legal issues. I had failed to consider what Austin described. Austin was able to make the choice to be a father, something he had always wanted but did not alwa ys allow himself to consider Fatherhood, Austin growing up was simply not a viable path for a gay man. Once his desire to be a father came into fruition, he was met with abandonment, lack of support, and rejection. Yet, in the face of such resistance, Aus tin still prided himself as a father. Uniquely, as much as his partner, Ken, made note that he did not find much relationship between his identity as a gay man and his identity as a father, Austin valued his dual relationship throughout the interview. Aust in sees himself as a whole with many facets that all influence other pieces of himself. When someone denied Austin's attractiveness due to his identity as a father, this was hard for him to understand because he does not view any one part of himself as bei ng more important or more attractive than another. He is not one or the other; he is all of the above and accepts himself as a whole. When Austin described his shock with his ex partne r's reason for leaving him, he wa s able to confidently stand up for himself and his son. He expresses his value in his family and the need to have a partner who will do the same. His patience to find a partner who would value him and his son paid off when he met Ken. With Ken, Ken came i nto ... I was already a dad when Ken came into the situation. Ken chose to be with me, knowing that this was part of the package. I've never known

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58 8 Ken when parenting wasn't part of the situation. I didn't have to convince him or anything. He was not in any way scared of that or anything. It i s apparent in Austin's description that he feels as though his identity as a father is of high value to him. For previous partners to not accept his son is to not accept the parts of Austin that are authentic to who his is. Once Ken came into the picture, Austin felt honored and accepted for his multi faceted identity. Ken also acknowledged the influence being a stepfather to Erik had on his decision to want to adopt with Austin. I grew very attached to Josh. He now ref ers to me as dad. I grew fairly fond of Josh. I was like, wow. I really missed out on this half, being able to foster, being able to parent Josh when he was younger and that would be something I would like. Ken describes the relationship he has with Erik when I asked about how he came to the decision to adopt his son Ethan A meaningful step in his relationship with Erik was when his identity shifted fro m step father to "dad." Ken's relationship with Austin gifted him another meaningful relationship and an added layer s to his identity. Ken honored his desire to be a father and decided to adopt with Austin their second child. Though I mention Ken was straight forward in his belief that his sexual identity did not influence his parenting, I can only assume he meant in the most practical of sense. His words spoke a different tone than his demeanor. Ken may not be drastically different in his parenting style if he were not gay, but his life experience as a gay man has shaped him into the accepting father he is t oday. Reacting to t he Inspection The inspection process is potentially one of the most anxiety provoking experiences in the adoption process. All individuals and couples who go through an adoption process must go through a house inspection. Typically, t his process is performed by a social worker

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59 9 to verify the adoptive parents house is child ready and a healthy environment for a child to thrive in. Along with the inspection, parents are required to go through an extensive background check and could be ask ed to attend classes, make changes to their house as well as other various tasks to demonstrate the couple is ready for a child. Will said, I don't even remember the length of time that it was for that first initial process, but it's a very invasive proc ess that ... Can be extremely frustrating." Will's small pause before saying "Can be extremely frustrating" appears to be hesitation to wards questioning the process of the inspection The inspection is invasive and promotes a standard that adoptive parents have to earn the trust of a professional to become parents. If Will questions this process it becomes a problem. If the process was more relaxed, there could be a chance of a child getting placed in a n unsafe hou se. If the process stays strict, there is a sense of assurance of the dedication the adoptive parents are willing to put into raising a family. With this dilemma, Will is left to internalize the discomfort of the process as his own cre ation Instead of saying what he would like to change about the process, he chooses to explain his emotional frustration with it. The inspection process is an experience and not a miniscule point in becomi ng a parent. It has a lasting ef fect on the expectations adoptive parents place on themselves throughout parenth ood. Dennis describes how he finds himself turning parenting into competition: Seriously, it's amazing to me how competitive parenting is. You've got to be ... Every time you run into somebody near your own age, or your kids on own age, you find yourself being like, "My kid is doing this," bragging about your kid. Getting caught up in this balancing act starts to strain interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. Dennis sets his standard of good parenting on how his child is developing

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60 0 compared to other children her age. Yet, he goes on to say how annoying this pattern is for him. Placing visual and tangible markers on parenting ability was set up for adoptive parents through the inspection process. To successfully navigate the inspection process a paren t must check off different categories the caseworker judges. Parenting was introduced to Dennis as having a report card. As Dennis continues to parent, he tries to find criteria for him to measure his capabilities as a parent by comparing himself to others This mirrors the conflict in identity versus role confusion early in life, since gay men tend to compare themselves to other heterosexual men and begin experiencing minority stress. Dennis is repeating this cycle through parenting. Nick shares a simila r sentiment as Dennis when it comes to feeling the pressure to be a fit parent. Nick described his fears associated with not measuring up as a parent: If I had only been wearing the cape today. The day is filled with those types of challenges, right? Wha t is my kid going to eat? What is she not going to eat? What, has she pooped yet? Like why hasn't she pooped yet? Is that cough serious? Nick goes on to describe a long list of different ways in which he could fail as a parent. His perfectionism denies the results of any efforts that do not measure up to his standards. But how were the se standard created? Though many parents experience pressure to be perfect, it seems the participants first encounter perfectionism as a means of coping with their sense of be ing different than others during adolescence, while it re enters their life in parenthood through the investigation process. This frustration with the fear of failure creates a discourse. Will implies there is a sense of unfairness in adoptive parenting that set s a stage for adoptive parents to question their parenting abilities more than biological parents.

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61 1 You're watching the news and you're reading the paper and you're seeing these families that are having children taken away from them because they're abusing them, you're seeing people that are abusing the system just having child after child and taking advantage. You're sitting there being like, "We're a loving family. We want to give a child a home, but we have to jump through all these hoops." Will' s statement expresses the unfairness and lack of legitimacy adoptive parents have in the community. As expressed in the previous chapter the participants' legitimacy of being fathers has been questioned since childhood. Will's statement is an example of h is frustration with the unfairness of being under a microscope, feeling the need to be perfect, and questioning his quality of parenting. Going back to Sartre's and Wittgenstein's concepts about how we form ourselves through our choices, the microcosm of adoption encourages questioning adoptive parents natural ability to parent as well as a biological parent. Due to the double standard in adoptive parenting investigation and none for biological parents, it is simply implied that biological parent are more fit as parents and can trusted. This lack of trust in adoptive parents capabilities is internalized and ca nnot be erased throughout the process of parenting. Each participant explained some feeling of anxiety or unfairness towards the inspection process. Becoming a parent is a lifelong choice that will encompass many choices and sets parents up to seek externa l validation of their ability to parent. For gay adoptive fathers, this can bring up fear of being less than the majority due to their identity as being different than the majority. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy core beliefs inform intermediate beliefs and then progress to evolve into automatic thoughts (Beck, 2011) In the transcripts it appears the

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62 2 participants automatic thoughts revolve around questioning their ability to parent, questioning others ability to parent, and devotion to caring for their children's well being. Core beliefs are typically created in childhood and amplified in adulthood During the inspection process the most confident of father s confidence are tested and negative core beliefs tend to arise Ken, for example, explained th at he did no t feel such a sense of worry during this process but rather irritation with the extent the inspection went to. Ken seemed comfortable and confident in h is parenting ability but when asked what his biggest concern with parenting this was his respo nse: My biggest concern is whether I'm a good parent or not. I think that's fairly typical of most parents. Then I always have concerns about Ethan and Erik What is it going to be like when he's older? Is this going to be a problem for him? Is he going to be able to adapt to this? He's struggling in math, is that going to keep him out of college? Is he going to go to college? He says he's going to go to college then he says he's not going. What happens if he doesn't go to college? Will he be happy? Is it i mportant for him to go to college to be happy? Yes or no? This response was surprising during the interview and even more so when re reading the transcript. Ken's personal presence created a different story of his experience than his written words did. Ken answered questions very concise ly and deliberate ly throughout the interview, exuding what I perceived as confidence. Reading through the transcripts, there was a different view of Ken, a vulnerable, uncertain, yet hopeful father. Ken's divergence of prese nce versus written speech exemplifies conflicting beliefs in me as a researcher. After further evaluation of Ken's experience, I found that this divergence appears in Ken's experience p articularly when I asked specific questions about how being a "gay

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63 3 fa ther" impacted him. As mentioned before, Ken stood firm in these answers that his sexual orientation did not impact him and would then go on to explain some "minor" examples of when it did. I think being a "gay father" challenged Ken's identity as simply a father. But I also wondered if sexuality had any unique meaning for Ken that I had not experienced. Was it taboo for Ken to explore if his sexuality did influence his experience as a father? What would that mean to him if being gay did shape way in whic h he parents? Would that somehow lessen his validity as a father for allowing those two identities to mix? Ken, like myself as a researcher, is trying to separate parts of his identity in different roles. Ken separates being gay from being a father. I try to separate being myself to try to understand my participants. Neither is possible, but both seem desir able to be affective in our cho sen roles. Trusting the Process We are never so vulnerable as when we love." Sigmund Freud The business of adoption is intrusive and requires some risk, whether financially or emotionally, on the prospective adoptive parents part. The fathers expressed different levels of ease with the process but all explored areas of vulnerability required on their end to put themselves out publicl y as wanting to adopt. In later chapters, microaggressions and minority stress after becoming a father will be examined further, though this chapter will focus on the risks involved before the participants became fathers. Fi nding a gay friendly adoptive agency was often of value for the participants to ensure fair treatment. Austin and Ken had less value on the agency but on the child's age and decided to go with a county adoption. They were the only couple that had issues wi thin the

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64 4 adoption process that distinctively opposed their sexuality, which was also complex due to their child belonging to a Native American Tribe. Austin described this event: That brings in a whole 'nother set of legal issues, when it's a child from a tribe, because they have to prove that they tried to place the child with a Native American family, and all these different things. The tribe did not like us being gay, and we tried to fight that for two days in court. We ended up winning. This was the on ly instance that opposed a participants' ability to adopt due to their sexual orientation When Austin described this, he was very calm, did not seem upset and was explaining the legal issue similar to any other part of the inspection process. It was clear Austin was simply not surprised his sexuality was in question. Being a gay man and ex periencing discrimination became a standard for Austin when asking for equality in public. The othe r message that came across in Austin' s quote is that he has developed a resiliency toward s discrimination. He simply said, "We ended up winning" and ended with this topic. By ending on this note he grabs the reader s attention to underscore that in the end he successfully became a father (in this case, for the second time) a nd that is what should be the focus, not the hardship. Hardship is well known in adoption. Most couples go through some sort of introduction to adoption course that describes some emotional risks involved with adoption. The risks are sometimes higher fo r adoptive parents than a biological pregnancy due to the adoption process involvement with various people throughout the system that have the means to take advantage of prospective parents Both Alex and Nick, and Will and Dennis, had one failed adoption attempt each before becoming parents. In this process both couples experienced very different circumstance but both found this to be an exceptionally hard l oss

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65 5 to deal with that they did no t feel as prepared for as the y could have been. Will and Dennis enc ountered, what they called, an "emotional scammer" during their adoption experience An individual had expressed interest in having them as her child's adoptive parents that turned out to be a case of fraud. Dennis explains: It kind of resulted out that s he probably was never pregnant, or never intended to place a child for adoption. It was more ... It wasn't about money. Which was actually harder ... I could understand if it was about money, but it actually seemed to be about emotional blackmail, or emoti onal fuckery. Dennis entrusted this person to carry the child he wanted to parent. This required him to relinquish con trol and be vulnerable. Dennis' trust was violated. People often describe a birth mother changing their mind and the adoptive parents feel ing similar to a biological parent s experience of a miscarriage. There is no real equivalent to compare a biological parent to the situation Dennis endured. Dennis simply could not understand how or why someone would take advantage of him in this way. For tunately, this did not stop Dennis and Will from conside ring to pursue an honest birthmother and they were able to adopt shortly after this incident. Throughout this chapter barriers are discussed, yet all of the father persevered and were able to grow with their family. A unique distinction between gay male couples and heterosexual couples is the grieving process of adoption. Many heterosexual couples first option of parenthood is often not to adopt and typically is a result of learning of fertility iss ues impairing the couple from having a child (BÂŽgue, 2013) Grieving is typically a n issue heterosexual couples need to consider when starting to discuss adoption, while gay men's acceptance of a non biological child tends to play as a strength into their ability to start and

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66 6 follow through with the adoption process. Parenting as a minority person to a minority child creates a bond through a shared experience and room for growth and understanding from both the parents and the child.

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67 7 CHA PTER VI I GAY MEN ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY DEALING WITH MINORIT Y STRESS I'm not allowed to be ... I'm not allowed to rely on the expectation that because your straight and married and have a child biologically, that you know how to parent. Dennis Going through the entire transcripts of each participant, in reflection it looked like their stories had a similar tone in each one connecting them together. Keeping in the mind the reflexive virtue of phenomenology as well, I considered how the fathers would agree or disagree with my interpretation of their experience If anything, the fathers very rarely spoke with sadness about their experience with discrimination or microaggressions. For some, they spoke with anger and disgust for the types of inequalities they faced. For others, they spoke with a sense of freedom to let go of these experiences in order to focus on moving forward instead of looking back. Authoring a Life The couples had ex perienced discrimination as sexual minorities yet rose to parenthood despite heteronormativity. The fathers portrayed an image that was less about "us against them" or any specific sense of feeling less fortunate than others rather an image of ignorance that they experience from others. For instance, Ken described never feeling like the stigma of being a gay male impacted his sense of being a s an individual or as a father and each participant noted their privileges in comparison to one an other The fathers experience with minority stress was apparent and explained by all of the fathers other than Ken, while also denying discrimination to have power to control their ability to have integrity as a man, partner and as a father.

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68 8 Austin has been a father longer than any of the other participants When I asked him how he saw himself evolving as a father he said: I always tease like I'm ready for grandkids, where I can play with them, have fun with them, have a fun Saturday with them, and then send them home to their parents." Austin's openness to building a bright future for his family grows with age. When discussing parenting with Austin, he typically exuded the value of competency. He mentioned w anting his sons to be confident in the world, and his way of instilling this value is by allowing the m to take responsibility and action towards their goals. The intentionality in Austin's parenting style appears to be well thought out and practiced. By parenting with purpose Austin creates a world for himself and his family to thrive in. Embracing Fathe rhood The fathers explained prior to deciding to adopt their routine lifestyle seemed to be missing an important piece As mentioned before, i n Erik Erikson's developmental stages, the men are reaching the crisis of stagnation versus generativity (Erikson 1963) This stage pushes individuals to create meaning by nurturing the things in their life that will outlast them in order to feel a sense of a ccomplishment in the world. If one is to stay in stagnation, this can lead to a hollow feeling of being in th e worl d. Panozzo (2010) found gay men' s motivation to adopt was nearly completely "self centered" or "child centered" motivated rather than "relationship centered," pointing out the importance of creating a family to be consistent with this stage of develo pment. This is important due to the clarity of finding a partner that the man can trust with his own personal goals in mind. Will describes how he and Dennis made the decision to adopt : We'd been together for, actually at that point, nine years, something like that. It was like, "Let's do it. We can do this. We started doing the research and jumped in both feet." Will points out the length of

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69 9 time he had been with Dennis. Will expressed t he type of routine or comfort he had with his relationship at the time when he started to consider becoming a father. Once Will realized h is desire to be father he descr ibed his excitement to pursue parenthood and commit t ed h imself to this goal. A key fac tor to the entire process for Will is commitment and trust. Having Dennis as a support opened the opportunity for Will to take the risk and pursue adoption. In relation to the complexity of the identit y versus role confusion for LGB individuals, the stag e of stagnation versus generativity is also challenged by the lack of LGB parent role models. To grasp the dilemma properly, consider not only how the participants came to the decision to parent, but also if this stage of development is being denied to the majority of gay men by the lack of acceptance of their valid ity as parents. Regnerus' invalid study that proposed gay men raised children who were at higher risk to be sexually abuse, have an STD, and attempt suicide is one of many studies and social move ments to delegiti mize gay families (Regnerus, 2012). Considering to be a parent for anyone brings up a challenge to one's belief system, but for gay men in particular, the challenge involves resistance of the message that LGB people are unfit to be parents In addition, heteronormativity floods the parent ing resources offered in the community, along with primarily mother related parenting classes leaving gay men with little support for guidance Nick mentioned, We were surprised. I tried to vet how little resources I think there are for the gay community. We're not on the leading edge of this by any means." In each interview the fathers were asked what resources they had. The most common response was either going to a heterosexual dominated parenting group or reading Dan Savages book "The Kid" (1999). By having so few resources, many of the fathers admitted to not looking into help due to past experiences of finding no results. Nick's statement reflects a sense of hope

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70 0 that comes with social change, like legalizing gay marriage and co adoption, only to be let down when institutions are not updating their services at the pace the community is evolving. One way in which the participants found support in their parenting journey was through turning towards their partner for help All of the fathers noted how loyal ty in th eir relationship was highly valued during the adoption process. Austin explained the importance of acceptance he felt when he m et Ken. Ken chose to be with me, knowing that this was part of the package. I've never known Ken when parenting wasn't part of t he situation. I didn't have to convince him or anything. He was not in any way scared of that or anything. Austin and Ken are not married, but this statement seemed important when considering the type of bond marriage can bring to a relationship adding to the sense of trust in a relationship. The legal system had denied marriage and co adoption for LGB people for such a long time, undermining the role of trust and faithfulness in LGB romantic relationships Austin described the difficulties of dating while being a single father. In his statement, Austin acknowledges the ease in which Ken assumed both the role of partner and as father, which were both of high importance for Austin. The other quality in Austin's statement is the assumption that during da ting his partner would be scared of being asked to be a father figure. This happened to Austin in a previous relationship, which exemplifies the evolving importance for Austin to have a trustworthy p artner to parent with and love. Fatherhood, as explained by the father, is not a single identity but a multifaceted title for a man who takes on many responsibilities in his romantic relationship and parental relationship

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71 1 Minority Stress as Adoptive Parent s Will and Dennis' stability in their relationship proved to be an enormous strength when they experienced emotional abuse during their adoption process. They became involved with a fake birth mother who manipulated them into believing she was pregnant with a child that was up for adoption and wanted Denni s and Will to be the child's adoptive paren ts This relationship with an abuser is the antithesis of what the fathers looked for in a partner and in a birth mother. The fathers had to put their emotions on the line to trust many people involved in the adop tion process. Unfortunately, Dennis and Will were taken advantage of. Will described this as: It was just a complete emotional scam and she wasn't pregnant. It was this team of women that were working together to scam emotionally people are looking to ad opt because you're vulnerable. You want to start a family and you have somebody that contacts you. They tell you the things that you want to hear and they feed off that. "Because you'r e vulnerable." Will is trying to explain the sense of pain he felt for w anting to raise a family, but not only was denied that opportunity, but also was lied to. Will goes on to convey briefly the type of h ope and excitement that he felt when he thought he was close to becoming a father. His willingness to become a father overshadowed any doubts about the situation. This traumatic event is reminiscent of the type of denial and rejection g ay men face throughout their liv e s of the opportunity to become fat hers, only in this instance a woman literally took their emotional safety away from them. The father s run the risk of increasing their exposure to discrimination when they choose to parent Nick describes his experience:

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72 2 I have to come out every day. In a working environment, in like a normal working environment, I didn't have that experience where I had to come out every day. As a parent, you have to nearly come out every day. Somebody will. They'll say, "Oh, your, you know, your wife must love picking out her clothes." I'm like, "Actually, I do, and my husband doesn't like to shop, and so I take enormous pleasure." Nick goes on to describe how he also has to explain to his daughter that she does not have a mommy, she has two daddies. There is frequent frustration with the constant need to correct people when they assume they are a part of a heterosexual relationship because they are men with a child On the other hand having to remind Nick's daughter, during her toddler years that her family looks dif ferent than all of the other families in the books and entertainment she is exposed to also becomes tiresome. Nick's growing resentment of outing himself in his comments seemed to be focused more on normalizing his daughter's experience growing up with two fathers and less focused on his own increase risk for minority stress. Nick is experiencing dual stressors by fearing for his daughter's adjustment while also considering the type of bias ed treatment he faces as a gay father. Ken the only father who rejected the view that being gay had impacted his experience as a father gave an example of how minority stress aside, the task of being a n adoptive father is hard all by itself Ken and Austin's youngest son, Ethan, is school aged, has a learning disabil ity and struggles in school. Ethan's teacher, who is a gay man, invested himself to the task of seeing Ethan succeed in school As much as Ken and Austin, both educational professional, value a strong education for their son s they both noted their struggl e with flexibility in realizing that their sons may not value education in the same ways they do, or at least do es not learn in the conventional styles they grew up in. He resolved that

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73 3 Ethan is different than he was at his age, having a learning dis abilit y and being adopted. Ken decided to stop pushing Ethan too hard and respected the difference s between him and Ethan When Ken noticed his teacher continuing to push Ethan in a manner that did not help, he explained: I finally said, "You know what? You need to back off because this is not helping Ethan We're trying, but this should not be wrecking our lives. This should not be undermining his self esteem. He's 12 years old, he shouldn't have to see a psychiatrist for problems because we didn't have these pr oblems a year ago. He backed off. I don't know if it's because he's gay and he wanted to really help the kid of a gay parents, but it created a lot of problems. Ken describes the teacher as someone who has relatable qualities to him, values education, care s for Ethan and is also a gay man. Ken's flexibility with appreciating the difference between himself and his son fulfills his value of respecting the diversity. Ken finds himself having to stick up for his family against what he knows is harming his son. This type of opposition is subtle but makes a huge impact of how conflicting beliefs occur outside of just sexuality for gay men. They experience the same strugg les all parents face. Ken is clear in relaying the message that his life does not revolve around the "struggle" of being a gay father, but simply of being a man of virtue and caretaker for his son. The ease in which fathers were willing to accept adoptin g as a path to family creation, rather than grieving their inability to biologically have a child with their partner, is a unique quality in adoption Dennis commented about his lack of concern with adopting. I can't imagine a difference from parenting, a t least for me, whether Sarah was a biological child or not. For me, that's not a big concern. Maybe it is for other people." Dennis points out his

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74 4 quality of acceptance and the sense of connection he feels to his daughter, which is not always the case in adopting. Acceptance of self and individuality is a protective factor in LGB families. A 2016 study found that children of gay parents tend to understand and utilize healthy coping skills when experiencing microaggressions ( Farr, Crain, Oakley, Cashen, & G arber, 2016) This specific type of resiliency is important for adoptive children to foster in the face of stigma and internalized shame of being an adopted child. Coping with Discrimination When considering adoption, parents can personalize their inabil ity to biologically conceive as a failure to be a good parent Prior to Nick deciding on adoption, he considered surrogacy before he found out he was unable to biological have a child. I discovered that I have a rare, very rare birth defect that doesn't a llow me to actually conceive my own children, which is also funny, because you wonder why, nature versus nurture, is that, because I couldn't do that, is that why I'm gay? Take me out of that genetic pool so to speak. Nick's statement struck me as an illu stration of internalized homophobia in parenting for gay men. Internalized ho mophobia tends to primarily dissipate earlier in life, but can have subtle effects on self image (Cass, 1984; Colman, 1982; Troiden, 1989). For Nick, finding out he was unable to biologically have children seemed to come as another sign that he was different ," restarting the inclusion model's developmental phases. His quote, Take me out of that genetic pool so to speak" hit s on the internalized belief that because he is gay he is not good enough to be a father, to pass on his DNA and to foster life. This created a new set of challenges for Nick after learning surrogacy was not an option. His internal dialogue about inferti lity spread to his confidence towar d his ability to be a suitable parent.

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75 5 Nick wondered, "Can I love a child that I'm not related to genetically?" Prior to deciding if he wanted to adopt or not, he asked a person who had gone through the process: He's like, "Yeah, I definitely like my so n better than my daughter. My daughter's just ... She's been ... She's a difficult human. She was like a difficult child. She's a difficult adult. Like, she's just hard." He's like, "You know, like, I love her because I have to, because I'm her parent, but like I wouldn't choose her like, and you know, as like somebody who I would hang out with, you know?" I was like, "Whoa, that is really honest." Then talking to some other friends who have adopted, they didn't love babies. They didn't bond with their adop ted child immediately. It took a little bit of time. It took some age and the baby took, and start recognizing them and for them to really fall in love with the baby. It was ... I was a little concerned. This is a lifelong commitment. This is not like a do g kind of situation. I was a little worried about that. Nick's statement was the first time any o f the fathers had discussed their worry about potentially not loving their adoptive child as much as a biological child This brought up the intrusion of the s hame in volved in not being able to biologically parent a child In this particular comment, Nick can foresee the potential to feel shame for not being able to ever connect to a child as a father and also fear he cannot provide his child with enough parenta l love. Shame plays a large role in gay male development. Shame is often a highly avoided response early on in development for gay men The way to move past shame it is to learn tolerate and thus reduce sh ame (Downs, 2005). Though none of the fathers discussed shame with me, it appeared throughout our conversations mostly in their perceived ability or lack of ability to parent. Nick's hesitation to adopt appears as a way for him to avo id the potential for

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76 6 shame if he does not me e t the ideal father sta ndard His past experiences of rejection, denial, and being different are all internalized as proximal stressors. Nick's proximal stress appears as internal anxiety and negativity around his belief that he can not be a proper father, he is experiencing inte rnalized rejection and lack of confidence due to his experience with rejection in the past for being gay. In a way, Nick's experien ce with shame connects Nick to his daughter. Research on adopted children show they sense that something is different about t hem ( Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2010 ). The unique understanding and coping with shame for being different as gay men can actually benefit adopted children in their pursuit to tolerate cope and reduce shame. Institutionalized Heteronormativity Though the men all displayed pride in their identity, they were upfront on how they feel they are not being treated equally to heterosexual couples, specifically legislatively. Most of the fathers mentioned the need for more public support for gay couples and how thi s could help support gay fathers. Alex stated: Gay marriage is huge. Huge, huge, huge, huge. Especially as a parent. Nick gets hit by a bus, what's going on with Jenn, right? Should I, if Nick gets hit by a bus, have to go through different legal hurdles to take care of my child? No. No. No. Alex's tone when saying this was emotional. The fact that laws govern the way in which he can parent his daughter is scary for him. Not only is the thought of losing his partner hard to bear, add ed to this scary thought is a loo ming question around his parental rights. This scenario stated by a straight person ma y be considering a ca t ast roph izing thought; yet this is a very legitimate risk to consider as a gay adoptive father. The instability of the future for

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77 7 LGB rights threatens LGB adoptive parents mental health due to increase rumination over preparation for disaster. As many of the fat hers described their denial of their desires throughout their life to pursue goals that were stereotypically heterosexual, Dennis describes his realization that being ideal is not tolerable for him and legislation matters. I realized, "You know what? It a ctually is a big deal because it is equal rights for everyone and what does it matter?" I think obviously with what's gone on recently with our politicians and then recently in Florida, it brings to light that there is still a major uphill battle for the L GBT community. Dennis is referring to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida in 2016 that targeted LGBT people Prior to stating this, Dennis recalled being pa ssive in the fight for marriage equality, as it did not seem to be of particular intere st to him. Though later in life Dennis would realize the lack of freedom sexua l minorities are exposed to, and how normaliz ed discrimination has become for LGB people By ignoring the legislative inequality of LGB couples and families, discrimination beco mes normalized and accepted as a standard for the community. Male Parenting Male parenting versus female parenting was a unique twist in gender privilege. The fathers explained the majority of the microaggressions they experience are towards either their sexuality or their gender. Alex and Nick both described cases where mothers w ould approach them while parenting their daughter and shame t heir parenting skills. While Nick had no doubts that these mothers were singling them out saying, With a gay couple, the assumption has been that we don't know what we're doing." Yet, Alex was m ore hesitant to

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78 8 assign meaning to the mothers' intentions by saying: "We don't know if that's, we're two dads. That's kind of a curiosity for us when we get engaged by other people, and we try not to assign it to, oh it's two men." Nick an d Alex bring up the concept in m inority stress of distal versus proximal stressors. Distal stressors include immediate "thoughts, feelings, and actions" that directly act as prejudice against a person s identity, while proximal stressors develop out of the psychological accumulation of distal stressors and leads to the minority person's internalized expectation of rejection ( Meyer, 2003 ). Nick and Alex both assume the mothers are critiquing their parenting skills due to their sexual orientation. Nick's statement is much m ore direct and confident in his assessment that heterosexual couples do not experience this type of treatment when parenting in public. While Alex is le ss confident in this assessment, leading him to have to guess if this behavior is typical or if these mothers are treating them differently than they would a heterosexual couple. There is no easy answer to Alex's question and this type of question left to repeat itself in similar situations, can lead to rumination. This is an example of a response t o a proximal stressor. While Nick is certain of his statement, his process of t his prejudice is to see it as a clear attack on his sexuality, gender and parenting skills, thus leading him to adapt to a distal stressor by accepting people have prejudice aga inst gay men parenting. Nick goes on to sum up the experience as some people being intolerant of diversity, rather than ruminate on the mothers' intentions. This idea of not knowing who has ill will and who is acting with good intentions paints a picture o f minority stress and many reasons why LGB people have an increase d chance of having a mental disorder (Meyer, 2013).

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79 9 Four of the fathers are raising daughters and two are raising sons. A unique paradox occurred when the subject of their child's gender c ame up. Some of the fathers raising daughter expressed their future worry of being incapable of raising a female due to their masculinity. Austin, raising a son, described a similar sentiment. My only fear was a little bit of, how would the kid respond t o having two dads, and would he be teased about it in school, and that sort of thing. I think I was sensitive to that because, obviously, as a less than incredibly masculine boy, I always felt that fear of being labeled in some way. Austin's comment displa ys how the father's thoughts contradict one another. If a gay man is raising a girl, he is too masculine to raise her. If a gay man is raising a boy, he is too feminine to raise him. Austin, having parented the longest realized the falseness of this early thought. "H e was totally cool with having two dads, and thought it was awesome, and understood it, and didn't care, and was happy to have a home and parents who loved him, that all went away ." Austin's comments explains how little his sexuality mattered t o his son and the expectation of failure to raise a man was a formation of internalized homophobia Will described his experience with internali zed prejudice when I asked him about being a male in a relationship with a male that are raising children together. "You're like, "What do we know about ...Unfortunately ... In society, the way roles are played out, it's ingrained in you that you're with a man, this is what you do." He names the doubt gay men wrestle with when considering par enting alone or with another man. The low expectation for heterosexual men to parent their children is applied to gay men to the point even men who desire to be fathers question if they will be competent.

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80 0 Creating a Refuge The men's stories were not ov er when the interview ended. T hey have shared only the first portion of many stories. All of the fathers were asked what concerns they had moving forward with their families Alex began by discussing his mother's experience with depression after his father died and related this to his hopes for his daughter. If you can be happy and have a good foundation, then she can take her life in whatever direction she wants. Go be an artist. Go be a doctor. Or go be a hippy, I don't care. Be happy. Know that you're l oved. Know that you're loved. That's big. Alex's statement reflects the values in which he parents with. The struggle he originally found himself in was that of the role of a child with his depressed mother, trying to convince her that she had more than ju st her husband's love, she had her sons. Alex's statement about his daughter originates from his desire for his love to be understood and accepted In his current position as a father he feels a strong sense of control and also freedom to express his love to his daughter. Alex, like m any of the other fathers answer ed this question by referring to their feeling of responsibility for their child's happiness as an adult The fathers often mentioned instilling certain values in their children that they felt would lead to happiness through education, confidence, life skills, cultural awareness, financ ial stability, among many other qualities Dennis describes his concern for his daught er: We have concerns about as she growing up, other people's shit interfering with us. That's their shit, that's not my shit. I'm not restricting our ... I'm not taking upon myself the obligation to make other people not be assholes. My job is to prepare my

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81 1 daughter to have to deal with other people being assholes. Again, that's something you have to deal with whether you're straight or gay. We just have a different target. Dennis' comment embodies the internalization/synthesis phase of McCarn's and Fassin ger's (1996) developmental inclusion model. He explains why it is important for him to teach his daughter how to protect herself from discrimination. He does no t try to make excuses for others prejudice behavior, yet underlines the power in which his famil y has to reject oppression. Although becoming a parent adds a new identity, it cannot erase an existing sense of who one is. LGB parents experience two types of distal stressors, their personal experience of rejection and their concern about their childr en having being rebuffed because of their family structure (Wycisk, 2016). Austin and Ken were the only participants in the study to have parented school aged children and, as such, were the only participants to address the second distal stressor. It can, however, be expected that the other participants will eventually experience similar events. Ken describes his initial caution with how people will perceive his family. I don't know that they have. I expected them to. I expected there to be some hesitation of other parents, parents of Ethan's playmates or classmates would be hesitant of us or not want their kids coming over here or spending the night or vice versa. We haven't encountered any of that. That may exist, but I haven't been aware of it. Ken's expectation of rejection and unfair judgment is a proximal stre ssor caused by his experience of stigmatization for being a gay man. His awareness of the lack of evidence for this thought continuously serves him well to control the amount of stress he will endure. Ken's last statement is unique. Though he validity checks his thought process, he

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82 2 simultaneously acknowledges the reality for this type of hidden discrimination to exist beyond his awareness. Ken displays in this passage radical acceptance (Linehan 2015) He chooses to recognize reality head on instead of avoiding it Rather than suffering further, he finds security in acknowledging his lack of control over others prejudices. By effectively coping with proximal stressors, Ken is able to parent in accordance to his values rather than allow others opinions to dictate his relationship with his sons.

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83 3 CHAPTER VII I GAY MEN ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY DISCUSSION In the following section I present a dis cussion in congruence with a phenomenological attitude. Heidegger specified the importance of considering phenomenology as a way of thinking versus a way to prod uce research (1927/1962). The idiographic data will be related to the broad scope of helping professional theorie s. Each results section includes the fathers' rela tion to broad theories. I n this section the reverse process will take place by look ing at ho w the broad theories can be related to the individua l experiences of the fathers in the study Reca lling the hermeneutic circle, there is a return from the particular to the generalized. Delving into the specifics of the participant s lives we "go back to the things themselves" (Husserl, 1901 /2001 p. 168 ). Much of the literature previously discussed will be revisited, while new literature will be introduced as the understa nding of the topic has evolved. S uper ordinate themes will be discussed to inform helping professionals how to apply the se findings into pract ice. Whil e moving back into considering the relational parts of the findings, bracketing reveals a new challenge. Bracketing is considered the a ct of putting aside the researcher 's natural way of thinking about the world, or what Husse rl named, the "natural attitude (Husserl, 1936/1970 p. 152). The "phenomenological attitude" and the "natural attitude" are in contests with each other throughout t his process (Finlay, 2009) While returning to the broad, the researcher is to continue bracketing their "natural attitude" to be fully able to conceptualize the impact both the individual and the broad have on each other while keeping

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84 4 in mind the new information added to their revised understanding of the "natural attitude" of the participants Lastly, a review of limitations in the study will be conducted considering what could have been done differently to improve this research as a means of valid ity checking. While IPA does not have a strict "checklist mentality" of validity criteria, there is agreement in various ways to fulfill validity testing (Smith, Flowers, Larkin, 2009). Developing into Fatherhood Life with all of its habits and behavio rs is a n endless game of trying on new roles, of appropriating various ways of existing that are observed in others, and creatively performing them from an alternative vantage point ( Bahler, 2015 ). Merleau Ponty focused on "how" development occurs. He believed with parents and child ren, intersubjectivity was reciprocated and continuously evolving for all members involved The father s started developing into parents while exploring their identity as adolescents. This is in line with the inclusion' s model of development proposed cycle of development in which the fathers are continuou sly evolving their identity as gay me n and their ability to grow with each new life development. Becoming a father created a new space for the pa rticipants to explore their identity now as a gay man who is also a father. Fassinger' s inclusion model is the closest model to what the participants described. With that said, there are other identity develop ment models that are more commonly used to inform the creation of clinical assessment measures such as; gay father developmental model by Brinamen and Mitchell's (2008) and gay father developmental model by D'Augelli (1994), the l ifespan model of parenting by Salmela Aro (2009) and Cass' (1979) gay identity development model The more accurate understanding of the pro cess of identity development

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85 5 a professional has, the better able to appropriately t reat a client as well as assess their situation. Taking a look at Cass' model, which is commonly used to formulate other gay development model may help in understanding the basics of gay development. I will not be mentioning the other models as they take various characteristics from Cass' model and Fassinger's model. Figure 8 1 Cass' Gay Identity Development Model, 1979 Cass Identity Development Model (1979), which is one of the most commonly used LGB developmental models, uses a stage model and was developed over 35 years ago Comparing Cass' and Fassinger's models reveals a distinctive difference in looking at identity development from a individualistic perspective versus a systemic perspective. M easuring individual s identity development is challenging, as the number of identities held by an individual can be countless (Economou, 2011). The father s did not display developmental behavior that represented a linear model. Instead, they described their identity as a gay person, a man, and a father as something that is never necessarily resolved, yet always available to remodel in the context of their life events. Identity Synthesis Identity Pride Identity Acceptance Identity Tolerance Identity Comparison Identity Confusion

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86 6 The fathers described less conf usion around their sexuality, which Cass' model considers the first st age of gay identity development. Rather, the father s noted the negative influence feeling different than other s had on their sense of confidence as an adolescent Considering the inclusion model the awareness of people with different sexual orientations and the minority status in which they belong was of more interest to the fathers in this study It could also be possible that at th is time in the father s lives their values have shifted away from individualism and more towards a collectivistic viewpoint as focused on in the inclusion model The value of community support and validation for be ing different is also a reframe of gay v ictimization. Instead of resolving that being gay and feeling bad is an individual issue, the fathers focus ed on their feelings amongst others which shows the importance of considering gay identity development not as an individ ual experience but rather an a s a social experience. Consideration for the Evolution of Development al Models The participants made sure to note the time in which they grew up was hostile for gay men. Many of the fathers addressed the progressive acceptance of sexual minorities currently occur r ing in contra st to when they were adolescents As mentioned before, gay identity develo pment as a s ocia l issue affects the individual s experience in developing. The state in which legislation either supports or neglects LGB rights influences lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals lives ( Hatzenbuehler & Keyes, 2012; Roseneil, Crowhurst, Hell escund, Santos, & Stoilva, 2013; Tremblay, Paternotte, & Johnson, 2011) By advocating for legislative rights for LGB individuals, the opportunity to improve how young gay men consider their possibility to become a parent in the future is possible This is not to say it is easier or hard for young gay men to decide on fatherhood, but yet a different experience and process of

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87 7 development into the choice of fatherhood. The lack of role models in the father s lives had a substantial part to play on their process to come into awareness of being different than others and wrestling with identity confusion Today, more than ever before openly gay men are becoming fathers with other openly gay men (Gates, 2011) Th e more social and legal support of gay men th e easier it will be for them to integrate into communities, also changing how gay men perceive and manage their identity development (Kertzner, 2001). Minority Stress and Development The fathers described the mselves in generativity versus stagnation in the Erikson's developmental model. This stage was moderately described in each participan t; considering their ages, this would be appropriate. Yet, the stigmatiza tion of gay men in early life continues into adulthood with the sense that they are delayed in their life course compared to others who may have married or started a family earlier than they did (Cohler & Galatzer levy, 2000). This trend also supports the participants' trend to wait longer befo re seriously considering adopt ion Bearing in mind the impact AIDS had on the gay community in the 1980 s there is also a challenge for gay males to prioritize their developmental processes. Gay men looked less towards their concerns with having a family and more towards survival during this time (Kertzner, 200 1). With AIDS awareness, the supreme court ruling to legalize gay marriage, and the increase of gay male fathers as role models, practical barriers for gay men to become fathers at younger ages are d ecreasing (Kertzner, 200 1 ; Reilly, 2016 ) As the participants reached a dilemma with stagnation versus generativity, heterosexual couples seem to be increasingly investing time into resolving their dilemma of intimacy versus isolation prior to having children as evidence by their increasing age of

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88 8 pregnancy over the last five decades (Bichell, 2016). Considering more time to settle into int imacy could be a movement also motivated towards generativity to foster a healthy family. The more both heterosexual parents function in a world with LGB parents and vice versa, the more influence both identities have on each other. Erikson claimed parent hood to be the peak of development (1963). Parenthood allowed the father s to be involved in the development of their child's life continuing the cycle of the "endless game by being able to have the opportunity to extend their legacy into the next generat ion. Clinical Implications Assessing development on a case by case basis is becoming increasingly necessary for mental health professionals who engage with LGB youth. The develo pmental models pro posed in this study are not current with the social progression the gay rights movement continues to have on individual development. As the participants voiced, the jour ney of parenthood starts in a dolescence Gay men are much more likely to have biological children from a heterosexual relationship prior to coming out as gay, and minority men at a higher rate tha n Caucasian men (Gates, 2011). T he earlier a gay ma n feel s confidence in his identity the more authentic he ca n build his future along with the freedom to choose to have a family. As mental health professionals con sidering the evolution of development and cultural shifts, the conceptualization of clients poses a unique challenge Prior to looking at any de velopmental model, consider the different societal constructs of the time the model was created versus the time in w hich you and the client develops F or the current generation of gay adoptive fathers, consider their identity as a role model for other gay men and the influence this has on their level of pressure to perform as a parent versus heterosexual couples. Lastly, consider your own cultural experience with LGB people, men, and father s.

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89 9 Taking a postmodern approach, t he professional reflection of one's own perception of discrimination, minority stress, or develop ment of father s males, a nd LGB people should be bracketed in order to understand the client's full experience as it is unique to themselves (Corey, 2012) The balance of various minority identities can become overwhelming for many people Self care and community support was discu ssed as coping skills for the fathers in the study As professiona ls, teaching clients life skills and providing education al of resources is a part of aiding our client. Yet, the m ost vital source of support come s from being an advocate for clients through social and political change As mentioned before, gay adoptive fathers development appears more a s a social development than an individual concept. Other than the generation in which clients belong to, geography is also important to consider. N ot all areas of Colorado are equally as accepting as the metropolitan Denver area to LGB people where all of the participants in this study lived. Some participants mentioned the difference they feel traveling and the different sense of judgment the y expe rience outside of Denver. Reflect on the politic al socio climate of the area the client lives in and what re sources they have. Taking a broader scope of the political climate of the country, not all young people will experience exposure to gay role models. Ye t, with caution, understand even a gay male father who grows up in the most accepting of environment will still experience minority stress as living among a majority Geographical and cultural values are worthy of in depth exploration in developmental p hases. Process of Adoption The adoption process es for the fathers were riddled with navigating a system that had traditionally oppressed men and gay people. Most fathers were not met with hostility but

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90 0 instead expressed proximal stressors less about bei ng gay, but rather about being a man and their identity as an adoptive father, not a biological parent. As none of the participants mentioned their lack of respect for the inspection system, most described a sense of unease with knowing only adoptive paren ts have to go through such a protocol to become parents. This additional feeling of rejection as a suitable parent is another way the fathers experience minority stress. The Gender H i e rarchy Uniquely, in a study looking at heterosexual and lesbian women and heterosexual and gay men who became parents, gay men had the most increased amount of conf idence the more time they parented ( Goldberg & Smith, 2013 ). Gay men in the study started out with less confidence than all women but more con fidence than h eterosexual men. The lack of confidence related to gender roles and the expectation for femininity to reflect nurturing ability. The lesbian women in the study had the least amount of increased confidence the more they parented. Consider the lesbian women as setting the ba r high for parenting by expecting the more femininity in the relationship with the child the more nurturance the child gets. M en considered their masculinity to be a deficit in parenting. Gay men increas e d confidence more than heterosexual men potentially due to embodying both mother and father roles simultaneously, rather than the ability to compare their parenting ability to a mother figure in their child's life The fathers voiced their embodiment of both feminine and masculine roles in their family. Austin identifie d self consciousness with his "lack of masculinity" when i t came to raising male children; questioning if he could provide enough balance in both masculine and f eminine roles while being a single parent. The other participants were r aising daughters.

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91 1 O ne couple noted the i mportance of having female role model s around the family to help their daughter in developing into a woman. G ender hold s a lot of power in the f athers' ideology of the rules of parenting. What is most unique is the lose/lose component in parenting as a gay male couple. If the couple s are to raise a young boy, the father question s if they are not masculine enough to provide proper modeling of male characteristic s Yet, if the couple is to raise a young girl, the fear is now the fathers are not providing enough feminine traits to help foster female characteristics. B ut as the Goldberg & Smith (2013 ) study shows, confidence has the ability to grow the more time the father s have to parent. Austin, now with one grown son, does not believe being "less than masculine" had any negative affect on his eldest son and realized the falsehood of this anxiety over time. Transitioning into Fatherhood As Goldberg and Smith's (2013 ) research shows, the idea of one gender being more parental tha n another is ali ve and well. G ay male father s decision s to adopt were motivated by their freedom of choic e while they experience d interference with internalized homophobia holding back the men' s ability to step into a fathering role sooner (Schacher, Auerback, & Silverstein, 2005). The participant s start ed considering fatherhood once they had viewed many of their family members and friends start ing families of their own Age seemed to be a major factor for all of the fathers when considering adoption. Though there was no biological clock ticking, the fathers seemed to have a sense of urgency in which they needed to make a decision by. This could be related to t he sense of being behind and having a desire to join in the norm age group for new parents (Cohler & Galatzer l evy, 2000). Though there was no one reason or time frame the participants wanted to become a father, they did all describe a

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92 2 sense of desire to b ecome a father within a specific time frame or else they may not feel suited to be fathers at a later age The fathers embodied Sartre's concept of freedom when they took the l eap to start looking into creating a family unique to them. Each father noted the different ways in which they reacted to the thought o f adoption in contrast to their partner This seemed important to the fathers to recognize that the idea of creating a family was birthed out of the acknowledgement and respect for their partner s ab ility to nurture life. Being able to rely on the other partner is paramount in the beginning stages of family plann ing. This is important, as LGB couples are not always seen as equals to heterosexual couple, particularly legislatively. This is one of man y reasons it is important for mental health professionals to be advocates for legislative change. Public denial of gay couples legitimacy breeds a hostile environment for LGB people and perpetuates heteronormativity. The fathers all noted the importance o f their partners support in parenting and the stability of their relationship as being a catalyst for considering adoption. Normalizing the importance of co agency for all parents will help create an atmosphere o f assurance for the gay fathers Each part icipant explained the differences between their lives as single gay men, gay men in committed relationship s and gay men as adoptive fathers. In each event the fathers were able to reinvented their identity and shift with their new set of d esired goals. This comfort with change could potentially be contributed to their increase efficacy in utilizing coping skills, the father s ability to recognize their level of control in situations and ability to adapt to new environments. For the fathers denial was a major factor in their process. The journey to parenthood for the participants was riddled with many more questions, self expectations, denial of

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93 3 desires and fears than the life span mode l takes into account Lack of clarity for gay men in the adoption pr ocess can cause resentment, internalized homophobia, and relationship distress as described by the father s. The more detailed understanding mental health professionals have of how gay men experience the adoption process the more accuracy the professional will have on target ing goals for treatment and accurately perform evidence based theories The uniqueness of choice for the participants is a drastic contrast to heterosexual biological families. Choice, being the word much too often use d to deny gay peo ple of their identity, is convoluted with expectations for denial The father s described their choice to start a family as being much less involved in changing their lifestyle to f it their goals than it was deciding to risk further discrimination for themselves and the potential to have their children accompany them in those occurrences Some of the father s explained their ability to cope with discrimination as a strength rather tha n a weakness They saw worthiness in a diverse family and the ability to raise a child with tolerance for difference. The most important belief the fathers voiced in their interviews was a deep understanding of accepting the responsibility to know what t he y can and cannot control. The fathers described this virtue as being a direct link to their sense of happiness. The y saw coping skills as a fundamental value in their family system In the adoption process the concept of preparedness is very unique compar ed to th e biological process. The father s stated their frustration with the double standard of the investigation process of adoptive parents versus the lack of investigation of biological parents. The need t o investigate adoptive parents seemed to attach a n underlying stigma that having to adopt somehow made the parents less equipped to become parents than if they

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94 4 could biologically conceive The main consensus of the fathers experience with the investigation was not discomfort with th e investigation itself yet the resentment that only foster and adopt ive parents had to go through this process while biological parents got an automatic pass. The level of intentionality LGB parents cultivate towards family planning has shown to be beneficial in their levels of preparedness that ultimately help with placement disruption ( Averett, Nalavany, & Ryan, 2009; Paulsen & Merighi, 2009, Gall, 2015). Thus, compensation for gay adoptive fathers begins before they are assured they can become fathers, while biological pare nts have the possibility of never having anyone to oversee their compensation to become a parent. Long Term Effects Our current models of development and our counseling theories of reality have difficulty in incorporating in a meaningful way our human capacity for freedom. The result is that they are unable to predict accurately what a person's life will be and how they will live it. The fathers in this research displayed this capacity for freedom in their many choices by deciding, for example, to have children, to love their partner, and to live in Colorado. The fathers' distinctive sense of freedom has been informed by their understanding of what it feels like not to have freedom. Fear of failure, rather than the initial assessment of perfectionism in parenting is their dominant motive The fathers have traveled a long way to become parents, and they cherish this par ental opportunity. How can one best encapsulate the nature of their parental experience? Imagine a championship hockey game. Team A and Team B are playing against each other at Team A's home rink. Team B hears boos and chants for them to lose. The firs t

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95 5 period is hard for the players, having to deal with the mental barriers of the crowd and trying to get their team in sync. The members of Team B starts to doubt themselves and their ability to win. During the second period, however, knowing that their fa ns back home are watching, Team B stops listening to the crowd, instead paying attention to their coaches and teammates. Team B catches up with Team A and starts to gain speed. Finally, in the third period, Team B begins to relish the fact that they are un derdogs and, instead of just trying to hang on, start to realize that they are going to win. Of course the change in thinking could be a risk their defense could let up, the other team could score, or their offense could become too comfortable and start m aking simple mistakes. But things have definitely turned around. Though an overly simplistic example, this is the fathers' third period. They are highly motivated and believe in themselves, but they are afraid to let up the struggle. They push themselve s to continue their work, feeling they are not able to rest on their acquired skills and accomplishments alone. If they make a mistake, it will validate the crowd belief that they are not competent. Typically, the fathers surround themselves with people wh o believe in them. They choose to focus on creating their family in the way that works best for them. The constant sense of being different during adolescence that the fathers describe has followed them into adulthood; the fear of disapproval and disconnec tion lives on. Lingering Minority Stress Many researchers focus on the LGB parented child's experience of rejection, ignoring the evidence that children being raised by LGB parents show no difference in levels of adaptation as compared with other children (Wycisk, 2016). From what the participants in the current study reported, this particular distal stressor fear that their children will be rejected because their parents are members of the LBG community influences the fathers'

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96 6 level of stress more than th at of their children. Fear of being rejected by their child, resentment, and a fear that the child will face the same type of discrimination that they themselves had suffered increases the fathers' level of minority stress. Systematic discrimination origi nally inspired this research. Reviewing this subject with the fathers revealed that many were already politically aware of the changes they believe are needed to create improvement on a large scale. Many, however, had already made accommodations in order t o find agencies and institutions that would support their sexuality. While the capacity to adapt to current circumstances is a healthy coping skill that has enabled the fathers to move forward, it nonetheless holds the victim of discrimination responsible for making accommodations rather than requiring the perpetrators of discrimination to change. Austin, one of the fathers, mentioned the progress that has occurred since he began raising his first child, noting, for example, that schools had become better at using the words "parent/guardian" instead of "mother and father" on school forms. Such smal l adjustment to a form validates the school's awareness of and support for types of families different than the traditional mother and father constellation. Isolation is a potential barrier for gay fathers. The healthy coping skill of surrounding them selves with support can lead, for example, to decisions not to reside in various areas of the state. Some of the fathers mentioned they were aware that not all areas of the country are as LGB friendly as Denver, Colorado. One couple chose to move from one city in Colorado to another in order to feel more supported by their community and, consequently, less out of place. An increase in social support can, of course, improve mental health outcomes and influence the development of positive personal growth, as opposed to producing negative disorder symptoms (Wycisk, 2016).

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97 7 It is also the case that the more open about their sexual orientation the gay fathers are, the fewer the negative disorder symptoms that will occur. A lack of openness about one's sexuality can lead to "unreasonable precaution, distrust and superficiality in relationships, [a] tendency to withdraw, and [a] fear of rejection escalating due to rumination about the secret being revealed, and guilt about living a lie" (Wycisk, 2016). The disadva ntages of living in fear of potential discrimination is that such emotions can breed mental health problems; this can be the case even if the LGB parent is not open about their sexuality. Although all the men in this study were white, it is known that blac k gay fathers are more likely to experience even gr eater pressure both towards homonegativity and to not disclose their sexuality, resulting in an increased sense of minority stress (David & Knight, 2008). In the diagram below, it explains the difference b etween distal and proximal factors of minority stress. Once an individual experiences minority stress they rely on social support and intra personal factors to regulate their ability to cope with the stress. If there is proper social support and intra pers onal support they may experience positive mental health outcomes like personal growth. If the individual does not receive proper social support and intra personal factors they may experience negative mental health outcomes such has mental health disorder s ymptoms. Mental health professionals have the ability to utilize various evidence based practices to aid gay fathers in cultivating identity formation and coping skills. Gay fathers who are deeply immersed in their identity synthesis (Cass's model of identity devel opment) report a greater sense of competence and parental satisfaction (Rizzi, 2014). This point exemplifies the principle many of the fathers in this study mentioned respecting their desires for their children's future: their strongest wish is that their children will have a well

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98 8 developed sense of confidence in who they will become as adults. The value these gay fathers place on the importance of confidence is well founded: the confidence they have in their own identity contributes to the pleasure and con fidence they have in their role as parents. Figure 8 2 LGB parents minority a nd its impact on mental health ( Wycisk 2016 ) It is important to recognize the difference between immersing oneself in identity synthesis during, rather than prior to, fatherhood. If a father is moving into identity synthesis during parenthood, there is a period of adjustment during which a sense of i ncompetence as a parent may arise. The suggested explanation is that an increase in awareness of their sexual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99 9 minority status can result in an increase in minority stress (Rizzi, 2014 ; A rmesto & Shapio, 2011; Giesler, 2012; Power et al., 2012; Rootes, 2013). Validating the consequences the accumulation of stress can have over the long term can normalize the gay father's experience. More specifically, acknowledging the effects of such stress can l ead both to the gay fathers recognizing the inaccuracy of the belief that there is an inherent sense of weakness in minorities as a whole and, on a positive note, to them finally acknowledging openly the unique mental health concerns minorities face. Such factors can have an important impact on the therapeutic process: the more precise the professional's assessment is of the client's current experience, the greater the ability of that professional to treat the individual successfully.

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100 00 CHAP TER I X GAY MEN ADOPTIVE FATHERS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY CONCLUSION Summary of the Findings To fully immerse in the gay male adoptive father experience, one must first understand there is no one father who is the same. The collection of memories and experiences are obvious when the father s started describing their values in parenting. While ther e were similarities between the participants in terms of their experience with microaggressions, development milestones, and stigma attached to adopti ng versus biological parenting, t here were distinct differences that exclusively fit into a n individual narrative A key to understanding these father s was to first understand what it means to be a minority person. The fathers' minority status has existed for such a long time, their ability to separate their experience as a person belonging to a minority group and their experi ence as a father is impossible. B eing a marginalized person hurts while simultaneously acts as a symbol of strength. Denial is a large part of the gay male adoptive father life span experience Lack of trust in others and also their internalize d oppression adds to mental health outcomes. Clinical Implications Mental health professionals may meet men who are or will become gay adoptive fathers Asking direct questions about how a client culturally identifies is a major factor in setting the s tage for an ope n discussion about personal identifiers. While discussing sexuality would be an important conversation to have in the beginning of treatment, it is equally as important to maintain a stance of curiosity throughout work ing with client s Advoc ating for

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101 01 client s to live authentically and fostering an open environment for sharing can make a large difference for people who feel a sense of fear about being different the most commonly discu ssed fear for the fathers in this study. Often, client s are asked to explore their lives in depth and to share intimate details about themsel ves with their professional. As these father s could not separate their identity as a sexual minority from be ing a father, professionals can not separate their own past expe riences from their current understandings of the world. Thus, exploring the ways in which the identity of the professional affects the work, understanding, and relationship with clients is appropriate. Acting collaboratively with gay male fathers would bot h be empowering for the clients, encouraging confidence in decision making, as well as equaling the power differential between th e professional and the client. Allowing the client to co create their goals and welcoming in their individual value system can act as a safety net for professionals to regulate their own values system and t o help prevent the professional from impairing the work the father is able to do. Limitations This research is one of a few phenomenological studies done of gay male adoptive fathers. A challenge with phenomenological research is taking the findings and generalizing these particular experiences to the masses With the principle of ideography in mind, finding participants was challenging. Deciding to use couples was important t o the research question, but ultimately this research does not cater t o the shared experience in the couple's relationship M ore research would need to be done on identifying between fathers in a relationship how their dialogues interact with their persona l and shared experience as a gay adoptive father.

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102 02 A major factor that is missing from this research is the inclusion of racial minority gay adoptive fathers. As most research on statistics about adoption are limited due to the lack of information adopti on agencies requ ire and also that potential parents ten to lie about parts of their identity it seems there is a dispa r ity of racial minorities in Colorado who choose adoption A 2012 study on transracial adoption statistics in Colorado st ated only 2.4% of adoption s were with white children adopted by parents of color, and 5.6% of children of color were adopted by parents of color of a different race in contrast to 35.5% of children of color adopted by white parents (AFCARS, 2012). All of the participants in the study were white men, with 3 out o f the 4 children adopted being of racial minority status This trend supports the statistical data, yet in the phenomenological research method, it wo uld be of interest to include father s who are also identify as n on white T he main purpose of this study was to explore how gay males make sense of fathering as an adoptive parent in Colorado. Though the researcher did advertise and recruit for participants in various regions of Colorado, this sample does not reflect Colorado as a whole, but rather metropolitan Denver. This limits the experience of gay adoptive fathers in other areas of the state In order to get a better view of the phenomenon being studied it would be ideal to repeat this study throughout the c ountry. Part of the phenomenon studied is the relationship between the interviewee and the interviewer. Repeating this study could yield different descriptions of the phenomenon because of the different relationship built by other investigators and intervi ewees. As with any type of interaction between a professional and a participant or client it is important to recognize the power differential that can occur between participant and

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103 03 researcher, especially when there is a currency component added to incentivize participation. It could be possible that in interviews, the participants may feel th e need to "give" the type of information they think the researcher is looking for. It is important in this study for the interviewer to come across as neutral as possible and give no weight to their responses as good or bad, while still being personable. There are many struggles still occurring in various parts of the world that are not occurring in Colorado. And equally, Colorado is dealing with different struggles than the rest of the world. When reading this study, keep an open mind to the locatio n the se participants are in and how that has impacted their legal rights as well as their internal experience of being a gay adoptive father. Another key limitation to this study is the lack of discussion of other cultural factors other than sexuality and bei ng an adoptive father that could play a role in these men's lives. Another study of these men could be conducted on what other cultural factors played a part in how they feel a s a father other than these three aspects this study prim arily researches As me ntioned in the minority stress literature review section, any version of the participants' minority status could play a particular role in their phenomena that is not discussed in this study. Further areas of research Adding to these finding s, it would be encouraging to look at the development of fatherhood through a lifespan and generational perspective. Looking at a lifespan perspective is a holistic viewpoint on developing a parenting value system. Adding the generational view is vital to understandi ng the impact social change continues to have on gay males as adoptive fathers in Colorado.

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104 04 Considering the lack of support the participants stated they had and also sought were low, research into what ways helping professionals are failing at reaching t his population would also benefit the community as a whole. The participants stated they were unaware of any professional services geared towards gay adoptive fathers other than adoption agencies that advertised openness to accepting LGB prospective parent s. The lack of easily accessible resources seemed to a lso have an adverse e ffect of their willingness to search for support options. Looking at if there is simply a complete lack of resources, including lack of educational resources for professionals, or i f there is a lack of the professional community to connect to the fathers is worth further research. Finding the missing pieces of suppo rt options for gay male fathers has the potential to change the amount of minority stress the fathers may experience. In creasing professional, political, and society acceptance for diversity would be high effective in helping gay adoptive fathers families thrive.

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105 05 REFERENCES Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), 2012. Colorado adoption facts Retrieved from: https://www.nacac.org/policy/statefactsheets/Colorado%20ADOPTION%20FACTS. pdf American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2014). Children with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents. Retrieved from: www.aacap.org//Children_with_lesbian_gay_bisexual_and_transgender_parents_9 2.aspx American Psychiatric Association (1973 ). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (2 nd end.). Washington DC: Author. Armesto, J. C. ( 2002 ) Developmental and contextual factors that influence gay fathers' parental competence: a review of literature. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 3 67 78. doi: 10.1037//1524 9220.3.2.67 Armesto, J. & Shapiro, E. (2011). Developmental and contextual factor s that influence gay fathers' parental competence: A review of the literature. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 2 67 78. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1524 9220.3.2.67 Avere tt, P., Nalavany, B., & Ryan, S. (2009). An evaluation of lesbian/gay and heterosexual adoption. Adoption Quarterly, 12, 129 151. doi: 10.1080/10926750903313278 Averett, P., Strong Blakeney, A., Nalavany, B. A., & Ryan, S. D. (2011). Adoptive parents' atti tudes towards gay and lesbian adoption. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 7, 30 48. doi :10.1080/ 1550428X.2011.537211 Badgett, M., Chambers, K., Gates, G., & Macomber, J. (March, 2007). Adoption and foster

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114 14 Findlay, Trans.) New York: Routledge. (Original work published 1901) Johnson, S., & O'Connor, E. (2002) The gay baby boom: The psychology of gay parenthood. New Y ork, NY: New York University Press Josselson, R. (2004). The hermeneutics of faith and the hermeneutics of suspicion. Narrative Inquire, 14 1 28. http://0 dx.doi.org.skyline.ucdenver.edu/10/1075/ni.14.1.01jos Jung, C. G., (1959). Part I: Archetypes and the collective unconscious. 2 nd ed., translated by R. F. C. Hull. New York: Princeton University Press. Kenyon, G., Chong, K., Enkoff Sage, M., Hill, C., & Rochelle, L. (2003). Public adoption by gay and lesbian parents in North Carolina: Policy and practice. Families i n Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Service, 84 571 575. doi: 10.1606/1044 3894.138 Kertzner, R. M. (2001). The adult life course and homosexual identity in midlife gay men. Annual Review of Sex Research, 12 75 92. Retrieved from https://0 search proquest com.skyline.ucdenver.edu/docview/619949272?accountid=14506 King, M., Semlyen, J., Tai, S., Killaspy, H., Osborn, D., Popelyuk, D., & Nazareth, I. (2008). A systematic review of mental disorder, suicide, and d eliberate self harm in lesbian, gay and bisexual people. BMC Psychiatry, 8 70. Kosciw, J., & Diaz, E. (2008). Involved, invisible, ignored: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents and their children in our nation's K 12 schools GLSEN. Retrieved from http://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/Involved,%20In visible,%20Ignored%20Full% 20Report.pdf KŸbler Ross, E. (1969). On death and dying. New York NY : The Macmillan Company.

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115 15 Lavender, B. (2009). Non traditional families/gay and lesbian parenting. Retrieved from: file:///Users/markiekeelan/Documents/Thesis /Articles/Gay%20Adoption%20Articles %20/Lavender,%202007.html Lavner J. A., Waterman, J., Peplau L. A. (2014). Parent adjustment over time in gay, lesbian, and heterosexual parent families adopting from foster care. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84, 46 53. d oi: 10.1037/h0098853 Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York NY : Springer. Lewin, E. (2006). Family values: Gay men and adoption in America. In K. Wegar (Ed.), Adoptive families in a diverse society (pp. 129 145). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. LifeLong Adoptions (2015). LGBT adoption statistics Retrieved from: http://www.lifelongadoptions.com/lgbt adoption/lgtb adoption statistics Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT skills training manual. 2 nd ed. New York NY : The Guilford Press. Maldonado, S. (2006). Discouraging racial preferences in adoptions. Seton Hall Law School, Public Law, and Legal Theory, Research Paper 36 Newark, NJ: Seton Hall Law School. Mallon, G. P. (2004). Gay men choosing p arenthood New York NY : Columbia University Press. Martin, A. (1998). Issues for lesbians and gay parented families Retrieved from http://parenthood.library.wise.edu/Martin/Martin.h tml

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116 16 Matthews, J. D., & Cramer, E. P. (2006). Envisaging the adoption process to strengthen gay and lesbian headed families: Recommendations for adoption professionals. Child Welfare, 85, 317 340. Mc Carn, S. R., & Fassinger, R. E. (1996). Revisioning sex ual minority identity formation: A new model of lesbian identity and its implications for counseling and research. The Counseling Psychologist, 24, 508 534. doi: 10.1177/0011000096243011 McKay, K., Ross, L. E., & Goldberg, A. E. (2010). Adaptation to paren thood during the post adoption period: A review of the literature. Adoption Quarterly, 13, 125 144. doi:10.1080/10926755.2010.481040 McLeod, S. A. (2013). Erik Erikson. Retrieved from https://www.cdd.unm.edu/ecln/PSN/common/pdfs/Psychodynamic_erickson.pdf McPherson D. W (1993). Gay parenting couples: Parenting arrangement satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 54 (7 B), 3859. Merleau Ponty, M. (2012). Phenomenology of pe rception (D. Landes, Trans). New York, NY: Routledge. (Original work published 1962) Merleau Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of perceptions (C. Smith, Trans.) London UK : Routledge. (Original work published 1945). Meyer, I. H. (1995). Minority stress and mental health in gay men. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 36 38 56. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2137286 Meyer, I. H. (200 3). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues a nd research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129 674 697. doi: 10.1037/0033 2909.129.5.674

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117 17 Mey er, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1 3 26. doi: 10.1037/2329 0382.1.s.3 Miller, B. (1978). Adult sexual resocialization: Adjustments towards a stigmatized identity. Alternative Lifestyles, 1 207 234. doi: 10.1007/BF01082077 Miller, B. (1979). Gay f athers and their children. Family Coordinator, 28 544 552. doi: 10.2307/582517 Morris, A. (2013, March 22). Colorado governor signs same sex civil unions bill. Retrieved from: http://www.jurist.org/paperchase/2013/03/colorado governor signs same sex civil unions bill.php Movement Advancement Project (2016). Foster and adoption laws. Retrieved from: www.lgbtmap.org/equality maps/foster_and_adoption_laws Nadal, K. L., Issa, M. A. Leon, J., Meterko, V., Wideman, M. & Wong, Y. (2011). Sexual orientation microaggressions: "Death by a thousand cuts" for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. Journal of LGBT Youth, 8, 234 259. doi: 10.1080/19361653.2011.584204 Nadal, K. L. (2013). That's s o gay! Microaggressions and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. National Center for Lesbian Rights (2015 ). Adoption by LGBT parents San Francisco, CA. http://www.nclrights.org/wp cont ent/uploads/2013/07/2PA_state_list.pdf Palacios, J., & Brodzinsky, D. (2010). Adoption research: Trends, topics, outcomes. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34 270 284. doi: 10.1177/0165025410362837

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118 18 Panozzo, D. (2010). Gay male couples who decide to parent: Motivations, division of child care responsibilities, and impact on relationship and life satisfaction (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Psycinfo 2011 99150 375 Patterson, C. J. (2005). Lesbian and gay parenting: Summary of research findings. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: www.apa.org/pi/parental.html Paulsen, C., & Merighi, J. R. (2009). Adoption preparedness, cultural engagement, and parental satisfaction in intercountry adoption. Adoption Quart erly, 12, 1 18. doi:10.1080/10926750902791540 Power, J., Perlesz, A., McNair, R., Schofield, M., Pitts, M. Brown, R., & Bickerdike, A., (2012). Gay and bisexual dads and diversity: Father in work, love, and play study. Journal of Family Studies, 13 143 154. doi: 10.5172/jfs.2012.18.2 3.143 Regnerus, M. (2012). How different are the adult children of parents who have same sex relationships? Finding from the new family structures study. Social Science Research, 41 752 770. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012. 03.009. Reilly, M. (2016, March 31). Same sex couples can now adopt children in all 50 states. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mississippi same sex adoption_us_56fdb1a3e4b083f5c607567f Reiners, G. (2012). Understanding the differences between Husserl's (descriptive) and Heidegger's (interpretive) phenomenological research. Nursing & Care, 1, 1 5. doi: 10.4172/2167 1168.1000119 Ricoeur, P. (1970). Freud and philosophy: An essay on interpretation (D Savage, Trans.). NewHaven, CT: Yale University Press.

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119 19 Ricoeur, P. (1981). Hermeneutics and the human sciences. (J. B. Thompson, Ed. & Trans.) Cambridge MA : Cambridge University Press. Rizzi, J. (2014). Gay identity development and parental sense of com petence in gay fathers (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from: https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/68962/NSDRSW_26_4_rizzi_paper. pdf?s equence=1 Rootes, K. M. H. (2013). Wanted fathers: Understanding gay fathers families through contextual family therapy Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 9, 43 64. doi: 10.1080/1550438X.2013.746055 Roseneil, S., Crowhurst, I., Hellesund, T., Santos, A. C., & Stoilova, M. (2013). Changing landscapes of heteronormativity: The regulation and normalization of same sex sexualities in Europe. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Soci ety, 20 165 199. Salmela Aro, K. (2012). Transition to parenthood and positive parenting: Longitudinal and intervention approaches. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9 21 32. doi: 10.1080/17405629.2011.607584 Sartre, J. P. (1978). Existentialism and humanism. (C. P. Mairet Trans.) London UK : Methuen (Original work published 1948) Savage, D. (1999). The kid: What happened after my boyfriend and I decided to go get pregnant: An adoption story New York NY : Penguin Books Schacher, S J., Auer bach, C. F., Silverstein, L. B. (2005). Gay fathers expanding the possibilities for us all. Journal of GLBT Family, 1, 31 52. doi: 10.1300/J461v01n03_02

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120 20 Schrad er, S., Jones, N., Shattell, M. (2013). Mad pride: Reflections on sociopolitical ident ity and mental diversity in the context of culturally competent psychiatric care. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 34 62 63. d oi: 10.3109/01612840.2012.740769. Sears, R. B., Gates, G., & Rubinstein, W. B. (2005). Same sex couples and same sex couples rai sing children in the United States: Data from census 2000 Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Project on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, UCLA School of Law. Shulman, J. L., Gotta, G., Green, R. J. (2012). Will marriage matter? Effects of marriage ant icipated by same sex couples. Journal of Family Issues, 33 158 181. doi: 10.1177/0192513X11406228 Silverstein, L. B., A uerbach, C. C., & Levant, R. F. (2002). Contemporary fathers re constructing masculinity: Clinical implications of gender role strain. P rofessional Psychology: Research and Practice, 33 361 369. d oi: 10.1037//0725 7028.33.2.361 Smith, J. A., Flowers, P., and Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative phenomenological analysis: Theory, method, and research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. Smith, J. A. (2011). Evaluating the contribution of interpretative phenomenological analysis. Health Psychology Review, 5 9 27. doi: 10.1090/17437199.2010.5106559 Stacey, J., & Biblarz, T. (2001). (How) Does the sexual orientation of parents matter? Ame rican Sociological Review 66 159 183. Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, gender, and sexual orientation. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Sullivan, T., & Baques, A. (1999). Families and the adoption option for gay and lesbian parents. In T. Sullivan (Ed.), Queer families, common agendas (pp. 81 96). New

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121 21 York: Harrington Park Press. Tasker, F., & Golombok, S. (1997). Growing up in a lesbian family: Effects on child development New York NY : Guilford Press. Tornello, S. L. Fa rr, R. H., Patterson, C. J. (2011). Predictors of parenting stress among gay adoptive fathers in the United States. Journal of Family Psychology, 25 591 600. doi: 10.1037/a0024480 Tremblay, M., Paternotte, D., & Johnson, C. (Eds.). (2011). The lesbian an d gay movement and the state: Comparative insights into a transformed relationship Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company Troiden, R. R. (1989). The formation of homosexual identities. Journal of Homosexuality, 17 45 73. doi: 10.1300/J082v17n01_02 V alsiner, J., & Van der Veer, R. (2000). The social mind: Construction of the idea. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Wegman, J. (2015, May 21). Two same sex marriage studies, two debunkings. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/21/two same sex marriage studies two debunkings/?ref=opinion Wei, Y. (2015, Fall). The current state of LGBT parented families: Statistics, research, and social climate. LGBTQ Parented Families. Colorado Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, pp.6 Wycisk, J. (2015). The minority stress of lesbian, gay and bisexual parents. Specificity of Polish context. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 46, 594 606. doi: 10.1515/ppb 2015 0066

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122 22 APPENDIX

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123 23 APPENDIX A DEVELOPMENT OF SUPER ORDINATE THEMES Each super ordinate theme was development by comparing and contrasting the super ordinate themes that appeared in each participant's transcript. >*(6-"&3! %!F%,7*$! 6+*$!%! ;"5*B'8%&!! I%$*&,"&3!G,@4*! =?86'2$*!,6! P*,*$6&6$-%,"+",@!! Q6$$"*'!65! >*(6-"&3!%!F%,7*$! I*$'6&%4!J0*&,",@!"&! I%$*&,"&3!! I%$*&,"&3!R%42*'!! I*$'6&%4!J0*&,",@!%'! %!L%@!H%&!! H"&6$",@! G,$*''! =?8*$"*&(*!65! <"'($"-"&%,"6&!! =?8*$"*&(*!65! H"($6%33$*''"6&'!! /*'"4"*&(@!F%(,6$'! "&!F%-"4@!G@',*-!! J'64%,"6&!! 968"&3!.",7! H"&6$",@!G,$*''! F*%$!65!F%"42$*!! H%4*!I%$*&,"&3!!

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124 24 APPENDIX A (continued) #7*! I$6(*''!65! C068,"6&!! 968"&3!.",7!,7*! J&'8*(,"6&! I$6(*''! 96-8*,","+*&*''! "&!I%$*&,"&3!! #%S"&3!96&,$64! 65!,7*!I$6(*''! L$"*5!"&!C068,"6&! /*'"4*&(@!"&!,7*! C068,"6&! I$6(*''! C068,"6&! I$6(*''! I$6(*02$*'!! <"'($"-"&%,"6&!1! /"'S'!"&!%068,"&3!

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125 25 APPENDIX B PARTICIPANT ENDORSEM ENT RATING SCALE ___________________________________________________________________________ Participants W D A K N AL Super ordinat e theme Becoming a father over a life span M L H L H H Sub themes Identity v. Role Confusion L L L L M M Intimacy v. Isolation M L H L L H Current Developmental Stage M M M M H H Unique Developmental Considerations M M H L H H Super ordinate theme Process of Adoption H M L M L M Sub themes Deciding on Fatherhood M M M H L M Reacting to the Inspection H M L L M L Trusting the Process L L L M L M Super ordinate theme Dealing with Minority Stress H H H H M L Sub themes Authoring a Life M M M L L L Embracing Fatherhood H M H H H M Coping with Discrimination M H H M H L Creating a Refuge H H M H M L Notes. W = Will, D = Dennis, A=Austin, K=Ken, N=Nick, AL=Ale P!T!P"37!HT! H60*$%,*!;!T!;6. /*'86&'*!/%,*

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126 26 APPENDIX C INTERVIEW SCHEDULE 1. Can you tell me about your process of adopting? Possible prompts: Can you tell me about what struggles you faced? 2. Can you tell me about how you came to decide on adoption? Possible prompts: How did you feel once you made the decision? How did being male in the adoption process affect you? 3. Did you have any precautions about becoming a father? Possible pr ompts: where do you think those precautions stem from? 4. How did becoming a father effect your romantic relationship? Possible prompts: how do you think your partner has adjusted to parenthood? 5. How have issues of gender and/or sexuality impacted your family? Possible prompts: how do you feel about these changes? 6. How do you feel political policies affect you ability to parent? Possible prompts: What would you like to see change in poli tics? 7. Can you tell me about some of the rewarding parts of be a gay father? Possible prompts: what are some of the harder parts? 8. What are some of your biggest concerns with parenting? Possible prompts: How have these concerns evolved? 9. Has your style of parenting changed since your first adopted? Possible prompts: Can you tell me more about your support in parenting? Role models? Teachers? Family members? Community support? 10. How do you see yourself evolving as a father? Possible prompts: how do you see your romantic relationship evolving?

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127 27 APPENDIX D INVITATION TO PARTIC IPATE "Gay Men Adoptive Fathers A Phenomenological Study" Dear Potential Participant, We are conducting interviews as part of a research study to increase our understanding of how gay men experience adoptive parenting. As a gay adoptive father you are in an ideal position to give us valuable first hand information from your own perspective. The interview takes around 45 90 minutes. We are simply trying to capture your thoughts and perspectives on being an adoptive father and gay. Your responses to the questions will be kept confidential. Each interview will be assigned a number code to help ensure that personal identifiers are not revealed during the analysis and write up of findings. You will be compensated for participating in this study, $20.00. Your participation will be a valuable addition to our research and findings, which could lead t o greater public understanding of gay males and adoptive parenting. If you are willing to participate please suggest a day and time that suits you and I'll do my best to be available. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. Thanks! Since rely, Markie Keelan 805 407 8450 Markie.keelan@ucdenver.edu

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128 28 APPENDIX E CONSENT AND AUTHORIZ ATION FORM Principal Investigator: Markie Keelan COMIRB No: 16 0197 Version Date: 01/07/16 Study Title: Gay Men Adoptive Fathers: A Phenomenological Study You are being asked to be in a research study. This form provides you with information about the study. A member of the research team will describe this study to you and answer all of your questions. Please read the information below and ask questions abo ut anything you don't understand before deciding whether or not to take part. Why is this study being done? This study plans to learn more about the experience of being an adoptive father among the gay male community of Denver. The hope of this research is to understand more about the experience of adoptive fathering, not to quantify it. You are being asked to be in this research study because you have identified yourself as an adoptive father living in Denver, and in a relationship with the adoptive child other adoptive parent. The study will consist of three couples or six individual gay male who also identify as an adoptive father living in Denver, and in a relationship with the adoptive child other adoptive parent. What happens if I join this study? If you join the study, you will be asked to come to the University of Colorado Denver Downtown campus for an i nterview. The interview will be with one researcher who will ask you a variety of questions pertaining to your experience as a gay adoptive father. This interview will be tape recorded. Your partner will have a separate interview with the same researcher. The interview will be 45 90 minutes long per participant. What are the possible discomforts or risks? Discomforts you may experience while in this study include invasion of privacy about your experience as a gay adoptive father. Psychological discomfort o r emotional risk may occur from retelling events that cause unsettling feelings. The following are resources that may alleviate your mental concerns: University of Colorado Denver Counseling Center Tivoli 454 (4th floor)

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129 29 900 Auraria Parkway Denver, CO 8 0204 Phone 303 556 4372 Fax 303 556 6024 Hours Mondays Thursdays 9:00a.m. 7:00p.m. Fridays 9:00a.m. 4:00p.m. Colorado Crisis Services http://coloradocrisisservices.org/ 1 844 493 8255 Various locations along the Front Range See website for exact locations What are the possible benefits of the study? This study is designed for the researcher to learn more about your experience as a gay adoptive father in Denver. Sharing your experience could potentially help other individuals who feel they can relate to your experience. Who is paying for this study? This research is being paid for by the principle investigator: Markie Keelan. Will I be paid for being in the study? Will I have to pay for anything? You will be paid $20.00 in the form of a visa gift card immediately following the interview. It will not cost you anything to be in the study. Is my participation voluntary? Taking part in this study is voluntary. You have the right to choose not to take part in this study. If you choose to take part, you have the right to stop at any time. If you refuse or decide to withdraw later, you will not lose any benefits or rights to which you are entitled.

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130 30 Who do I call if I have questions? The researcher carrying out this study is Markie Keelan. You may ask any questions you have now. If you have questions later, you may call Markie Keelan at 805 407 8450. You may have questio ns about your rights as someone in this study. You can call Markie Keelan with questions. You can also call the Multiple Institutional Review Board (IRB). You can call them at 303 724 1055. Who will see my research information? We will do everything we can to keep your records a secret. It cannot be guaranteed. Both the records that identify you and the consent form signed by you may be looked at by others. These include: Federal agencies that monitor human subject research People at the Colorado Mul tiple Institutional Review Board (COMIRB) The group doing the study The group paying for the study Regulatory officials from the institution where the research is being conducted who want to make sure the research is safe The results from the research may be shared at a meeting. The results from the research may be in published articles. Your name will be kept private when information is presented. Some things we cannot keep private. If you give us any information about child abuse or neglect we have to report that to Child Protective Services. If you tell us you are going to physically hurt yourself or someone else, we have to report that to the Denver Police Department. Also, if we get a court order to turn over your study records, we will have to do that. Additional Confidentiality The tape recording of the interview and your consent forms will be kept under lock and key. They will be kept for 2 years, then erased and/or destroyed

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131 31 Agreement to be in this study and use my data I have read this paper about the study or it was read to me. I understand the possible risks and benefits of this study. I understand and authorize the access, use and disclosure of my information as state d in this form. I know that being in this study is voluntary. I choose to be in this study: I will get a signed and dated copy of this consent form. Signature: Date: Print Name: Consent form explained by: Date: Print Name: Investigator: _______________________________ Date: _______ Investigator must sign within 30 days ______________________________________________ Date_________ Print Name: Witness of Signature ) Tj ET Q q 0.24 0 0 0.24 242.4014 312 cm BT 58 0 0 58 0 0Tm /TT3 1 Tf ( Witness of consent process ) Tj ET Q q 0.24 0 0 0.24 242.4014 281.04cm BT 58 0 0 58 0 0 Tm /TT3 1 Tf (

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132 32 APPENDIX F ONLINE INTERVIEW DIS CLOSURE FORM Participants' confidentiality is of the upmost importance of this research. Some things to know if you are going to engage in online interviews: Among all internet based conversation, confidentiality can not b e guaranteed There are precautions the principle investigator will be taking to ensure your confidentiality these include: o The principle investigator's computer will be password protected. They will be the only person able to turn it on. o The interview will be conducted where the principle investigator will be alone where no other person is present to hear any information. o Pseudonyms in the data, analysis, and publication will be used. o All participants' personal online information will b e deleted as soon as the interview is completed. To help ensure you own personal information is keep secure, when participating in the interview: o Be in a room with the door closed o Try to be connected to the internet directly (versus Wi Fi) o Turn Skype of f instead of just hang up the call when the interview is over All record of the interview will be deleted on Skype immediately following the interview. The interview will be tape recorded as in the in person interview. The tape record of the interview wi ll be deleted upon the completion of the research.

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133 33 APPE NDIX G ADVERTISEMENT Gay male couples who have adopted children together are needed in a new study looking at the experience of gay adoptive fathers in Colorado. To qualify you must: Self identify as gay Self identify as cisgender male Have adopted one or more children with your current romantic partner Adopted a child at least six month prior to the interview Have become a legal parent through co adoption or single and second parent adoption Be between the ages of 21 99 years of age Participants will receive $20.00 comp ensation at the time of participation. If interested in learning more about the study and how to participate please Call: 805 407 8450, or email: Markie.keelan@ucdenver.edu