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Gay dads share trials and tribulations of fertility journey – and how they’re helping others in their shoes

Sponsored August 1, 2022
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Michael and Wes Johnson-Ellis with their two children.

Wes and Michael Johnson-Ellis with their two children. (The Modern Family Show)

Proud gay dads and founders of The Modern Family Show, Michael and Wes Johnson-Ellis, share their journey to fatherhood, and explain how they channeled their experiences into helping would-be parents like them.

The Modern Family Show, which returns to London on 10 September, is an inclusive event dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ people and allies create their families.

Like many gay men, founders Michael and Wes grew up believing the only way they could have children would be to hide their true selves.

Both married – and divorced – women before meeting each other.

“I thought that was kind of the only way I could get on in life and have a child,” Wes explains.

“I didn’t know any ‘regular’ people that were gay and having children, it was just seemed reserved for celebrities and the elite,” Michael adds. “There was no one in my network that I could talk to about having children.”

More than a decade on, the couple are parents to two beautiful children, Talulah, 5, and Duke, 2.

Michael and Wes on holiday with their kids. They're smiling at the camera, with palm trees visible in the background.
Michael and Wes on holiday with their kids. (The Modern Family Show)

Like many queer couples, their journey to parenthood was filled with confusion and uncertainty. They spent years researching their options, and dealing with institutions that had no idea how to cater to a same-sex couple.

To help others now standing in their shoes, Michael and Wes created The Modern Family Show in 2021.

Drawing on their own experiences, the event features educational talks, seminars and Q&A sessions with leading experts from the UK, US, Canada, Cyprus and elsewhere.

Michael’s face lights up as he reminisces about the early days of the couple’s relationship, but he strikes a more sombre note as he recalls the beginning of their family planning journey.

 

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Early on, they knew adoption wasn’t for them. “We’re obviously big supporters of people that do, but that’s not how we wanted to start our family, so surrogacy was then our pathway,” Michael says.

Wes reflects: “I think, certainly for my generation, if you wanted to have a child you would adopt because you thought that was your only option. And that’s what you almost felt pressured to do.” 

Michael, nodding in agreement, explains how the couple spent “three, three-and-a-half years researching surrogacy and whether we could have children because there was no inclusive information out there”.

“We had no one, there was no organisation, no resources that could educate you,” he adds.

After “a ton of research” the couple ended up at a clinic that, at the time, was seen “as one of the better ones with an LGBTQ pathway”.

While they certainly felt “considered”, they still felt as though they were “having to fit into a heteronormative pathway”.

“There were no images of people like us in their reception room, and the forms weren’t designed for two people of the same sex,” Michael recalls.

A black and white photo of Michael and Wes in bed, cuddling their two children
The Johnson-Ellises. (The Modern Family Show)

The experience put a huge strain on them both as individuals and as a couple, complicating what should be one of life’s most joyful journeys.

These frustrations drove them to launch The Modern Family Show in 2021.

The aim of the event is to create a safe space for the community to seek advice and support, and to help them understand their options, be it fostering, adoption, surrogacy, or sperm and egg donation. There are also specific supports for people embarking on a co-parenting journey, and for trans people who are becoming parents.

While on their own journey, Michael and Wes realised that the crucial thing is “making sure that everyone has all of the information to allow them to make the best informed decisions”, Wes explains.

“And that’s navigated through to The Modern Family Show,” he adds. “It’s about presenting people with all of the educational content, to help understand all the different components – the law, fertility, treatment.” 

More than 250 people of different genders and ages attended the first show in London last year, travelling from across the UK.

In fact, the response was so positive that this year, The Modern Family Show is hosting a US expo, in San Francisco on 29 October, and will travel to Sydney in April 2023.

Before then, Michael and Wes will join a diverse line-up experts and parenting advocates for The Modern Family Show in London on 10 September.

For full details and to buy tickets for The Modern Family Show 2022, click here.

More: fertility treatment, LGBT parenting

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