I’d like you to meet my son, and his two amazing moms.


I’m turning 40 this year, celebrating four decades of adventure, exploration, creating, learning, growing, loving and being loved.

I’ve had the privilege of participating in countless community projects, political movements and artistic collaborations. But the most special collaboration I’ve ever participated in began ten years ago – and I’ve never mentioned it publicly, until today.

In 2004, two of my friends – Patty Barerra and Gabe Thirlwall – asked if I would help them make a baby. It was the most amazing thing anyone had ever asked of me.

Most commitments in life come with an escape clause. You can join a group, and later decide to leave. You can accept a job, and then quit. Deep friendships can slowly fade. And even marriages, allegedly the ultimate act of commitment, have an escape mechanism which we all know is used frequently. But to be asked by someone to participate in the act of creating a child… this was truly sacred. Patty and Gabe were inviting me on a journey that we would share till our last breaths, together, inextricably connected as a family. It was perhaps the deepest expression of faith and confidence in who I am, that I had ever felt.

It took about two seconds for me to decide. The answer was yes. I love children enormously. They brighten my life more than any other source of joy. I was also attracted to the challenge of being part of a non-traditional family in a world that encourages conformity in so many ways. And I have tremendous amounts of respect for both Patty & Gabe. The faith and trust that they were investing in me, was entirely reciprocal.

They were both surprised at how quickly I accepted the proposal. They told me to think about it further. A week passed, and they asked me again. My answer was the same, without hesitation.

Santiago was born in February, 2005. He’s turning ten years old next year. I love him more than anything. I’ve spent a decade watching in awe as he’s grown. I’m so proud to be his dad, and to be a part of Patty & Gabe’s family.

santiago and moms

But some of my own friends still don’t know about him, and most of my extended family doesn’t know either! I’d like to explain why, and also explain why I want to suddenly share it with you now.

1) Privacy. All parents maintain a certain level of privacy about their newborn kids, but the level of privacy changes drastically from family to family. While some parents post an endless stream of baby pictures on social media, others are very strict about keeping photos – or even the name – of their toddlers private and personal.  I wanted to let the moms choose their own level of privacy, and I felt the best way for me to do that was to simply keep the whole thing to myself.  I told my immediate family, of course, and a handful of my closest friends. But that was it. Anything else would seem, to me, an invasion of Patty & Gabe’s privacy. But that was ten years ago.  Santiago is growing up, and his moms are less worried about the boy’s privacy than they were when he was a toddler.


I asked them a few months ago, if I could be more public about the family.  The answer was: “You should ask the boy. He’s old enough now to make his own decisions”. That was a life-altering moment for me. For some reason, part of me had ridiculously assumed that this project would always be a three-way collaboration. Or, at least I hadn’t imagined that the fourth voice would play an active role so soon. I asked Santiago if I could tell all my friends that he was my son.  He said yes. Of course, before I asked him, I had to ask him if he actually knew he was my son.  That may sound strange to you, but the truth is that we had never really talked about it.  We spend lots of time together, the way an active uncle would, and he’s always simply called me “mez”, as all my friends do. At what age do you tell a kid who you don’t live with, “Oh, hey – I should mention, I’m your dad”.  It’s hard to bring up that conversation.  And to be honest, it just never seemed important – in the moment – to bring it up. We were having fun, all the time.  And that was all that mattered.

him and meFor years, close friends and family would repeatedly ask me: “Does he know yet??”.  I think my answer surprised them.  I simply said “I’m not sure. We haven’t talked about it. I don’t think it even matters. He knows I love him, and I know he loves me.  And I’m not even sure that he would care.  After all, the word “Dad” might not carry a lot of weight, to a toddler who didn’t have the experience of having a father in the house”.  So, a few months ago, I finally had a talk with him. It went something like this:

“Hey, so I’m your dad”.  “Yeah, I know.”  “So, you can still call me Mez, or if you ever wanna call me ‘dad’ you can.”  “ok.”  “Are you ok with me calling you my son?”.  “Yes.” [pause… silence..]  “So, it’s kind of like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, right? I’m your father… but it’s complicated.”  “Ok.”  “…And I promise I’ll never cut off your hand.” (He seemed relieved). I also asked him if I could write this piece. And he said yes.  So I did.

iago+mez2) Social Media. Ten years ago, Facebook didn’t exist. So there was no forum to announce things to EVERYONE with one click, the way that we now routinely announce engagements, graduations, pregnancies, etc.  There was word-of-mouth, and there was e-mail. So at the time, I told my immediate family and my closest friends, I sent an e-mail to a small group of people, and that was it. Now, ten years later, I have 5,000 “friends” on Facebook and I share a lot of my life with them. I post stories and photos about all the most important things in my life. But I’ve never once posted anything about him.

And for a while, I didn’t really care.  It was kinda fun to have a secret part of my life. But I want to start sharing pictures of him for two reasons. First: jealousy! Haha. I’m almost forty, so almost all of my friends have kids. And 90% of what they post on their Facebook, is about their kids. When they spend a fun day with their kids on Centre Island or at a birthday party, they post pictures and everyone writes “oh my god, he/she is so cute!” and everyone feels good about the cycle of life and the cuteness of children.

But when I go to Centre Island with the boy, or to his birthday party (I’ve been to ten of them), I come home, upload my photos (well, the first few birthdays were on rolls of film), and then… I do nothing.  I’ve never posted a single picture of the boy. Why? Because it’s awkward to post a picture of your child, when many of your own friends and some family don’t know about him!  Imagine the thread:

“Hey, who’s the kid?  Mez, he’s looking really cute. Is that your boy? “Your WHAT? What the heck?” “Is this a joke?”  “He’s got your eyes.” “No, really: What the heck?”  “You do not have a son.”  “What is going on here?”

By publicly announcing my role in Santiago’s family, I can now join my friends in the popular act of sharing cute pictures of our offspring, without triggering outbursts of confusion.


But aside from jealousy, there is another reason I want to post pictures of him/us: I want him to know that I love him.  I know that sounds silly.  There are lots of ways of showing love, and surely social media is not one of the most important.  But the truth is, the ways that we express ourselves in our myriads of public profiles sends a message about who we are, what we care about, and where our passions lie.  And I’m not comfortable with Santiago looking at my Facebook page one day and seeing pictures of my friends, my family, my projects and hobbies… but nothing of him.  I love him more than anything in the world.  And I want to share that, and I want him to know.

sittting on stage3) He’s my friend now. Babies are cute, and fun, but they are babies.  You giggle at them, and they giggle back.  It’s a shallow relationship.  I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, Santiago became a person. And a friend. So, it was one thing to not share photos about a giggling toddler. But as he increasingly becomes a part of my social life and my  intellectual growth (he learns from me, I learn from him) it seems less appropriate to pretend that he doesn’t exist.

4) Pride. This is perhaps the most important reason. Two years ago, when Anderson Cooper came out of the closet, he said something that really resonated with me:

“It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true. I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible.”

As a straight male, I’ve never thought of myself as being closeted. But his words made me question the way I was handling my relationship to the family. Despite the fact that Ontario now has a lesbian Premier who campaigned proudly with her partner, it’s easy to forget that there is still a lot of discrimination out there, a huge lack of awareness and understanding, and a sense of isolation for many in the queer community.  I remember the first reaction from my parents, ten years ago, was peppered with confusion and concerns about what it would mean to be a donor and become part of a gay family. Their fears came from a place of love, and from a complete lack of experience with anything like this. When they were growing up, there was no talk about queer families or donors. It just wasn’t a part of their reality. And we are hard-wired to fear the unknown. So the question I’ve been asking myself is: am I contributing to the social stigma facing gay families, by keeping Santiago a secret? Or, more importantly, could I help play a positive role by loudly and proudly declaring myself to be a donor?

scaredI also know that a surprising number of men, when asked to be a donor, often decline the invitation for reasons based on fear: How will this work? What will my family think? How will this affect my personal relationships? Will it be confusing? Will the relationship be difficult? Again, I’ve asked myself: am I contributing to this fear by not offering myself as a role model and showing my peers what a healthy donor relationship can look like?

I’m proud to be a donor. I’m proud of my son. I’m proud of his moms. And this week, as my hometown celebrates World Pride, I’m proud of all the people who have stood up against fear and discrimination, and created a space in this world for Gabe and Patty to live their lives as they choose, without having to hide who they are. From Stonewall, to Toronto’s Bathouse raids, to Harvey Milk, George Hislop, Glenn Burke, Matthew Sheppard, Proposition 8, Svend Robinson, Michael Sam, “It gets better”, Kathleen Wynne, etc… It’s so important for us not to forget this history, to celebrate how far we’ve come, and to recognize how far we still have to go. And I want to – proudly – be a part of that.

So that’s why I’m suddenly sharing with the world that I have a son: Circumstance, practicality, jealousy, love and pride.


Donor relationships are fascinating. In many ways, it’s been easier and simpler than I had thought. I envisioned regular family meetings with the moms, trying to sort out difficult questions along the way. But we’ve never had anything to sort out, as a family. It’s been extremely smooth, and fun. And my own immediate family (my parents, siblings, etc) have all been very supportive and welcoming to Santiago and his moms.

But in other ways, it’s been more complicated than I thought, with occasional questions or circumstances arising that I simply hadn’t anticipated. (like, when and how to tell my young nieces and nephews that my little friend Santiago isn’t just my friend, but my son …and their first cousin!).

santiago and jacob

It’s been fun and challenging to figure these things out as I go, and I’m surprised that there isn’t a donor support/discussion group in Toronto.  I’m thinking of starting a group, to help facilitate sharing, learning and mentoring for local donors or those who are considering being a donor. (If you or someone you know might be interested, let me know!).

Anyway, I just wanted you all to know about my amazing kid.  Santiago brings so much love into my life, I can’t possibly describe it here with words.


He’s so lucky to have two amazing moms, and I want to thank Gabe and Patty for inviting me into their family and giving me the most precious gift in the world.





four feet

with band



Gabe and Boy

Patty and boy

turning five

38 responses to “I’d like you to meet my son, and his two amazing moms.

  1. Really great post, Dave.

    Edifying, warm and clear-minded.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Yours, Matt 649 Christie St.

  2. I’ll save this link for when my mum suggests I live in an unconventional set-up! Is brilliant that it is all working out so well ten years on. You were brave and it paid off, for all of you. Hilary.

  3. Dave, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful family <3

  4. I love this. Thank you for sharing! So incredible! Such beautiful souls!

  5. Love this! Thank you for sharing! You are incredible, this is beautiful! Such special souls xoxo

  6. I’m not even in your circle of friends and yet I am filled with joy knowing there is a mini-Mez out there.

  7. So lovely!! Amazing you held on to such sweet moments for so long – I hope you’re enjoying the process of sharing them more widely! Many thanks,

  8. Lovely story, thank you for sharing a side of the donor relationship that I had previously never read or thought about. That a child could have three loving parents…wow, that’s one lucky kid!

  9. Mez, you never fail to amaze, or impress.

  10. A heartfelt congratulations to you, Mez! I have never ceased to be amazed at the support I’ve found in social media as a parent. Welcome (officially and publically) to the club!

  11. David Linehan

    Dave, was reading your story and while being thrilled to share your wonderful family, damn something must have got into my eyes cos they became very watery, like really wet. Managed to get through to the end though, pesky insects.
    Beautiful experience and what a lovely family, As they say ‘you done good’ buddy.

  12. My husband contracted cancer and passed away in 2010. We have four grandchildren and two of them were turning 10 years old the year he died. Now only one of the four is less than 10 and my husband is missing the part right now he was looking forward to the most…. sharing those ‘coming of age’ years. That part of your story brought tears to my eyes. Enjoy your son and thank you for reminding me of all the ways our children are treasures. Santiago looks well nurtured, happy and confident…. kind of like his old man.

  13. Mez, this is a wonderful post. Thank you for being who you are. (And I’m psyched about the next few months!)

  14. As an “extended family” member of your and learning about Santiago through this beautifully written article it truly brought tears to my eyes. I’m so happy for you. Watching a child grow,especially your own is the greatest gift of life!

  15. Quite awesome Mez!

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  24. The Mental Meddler

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience.

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  27. That is awesome… Thanks so much for sharing!

  28. Mez, great to hear this story about your big life. Mazel Tov and felicidades. Daina

  29. Arnie Resnick

    I heard you interviewed on Metro Morning this morning. This is a very nice story! When Santiago learns some Appalachian and/or bluegrass tunes on that fiddle of his I’ll be happy to accompany him on the 5-string.
    The best,
    (your cousin) Arnie Resnick

  30. Matthew Mendelsohn

    Absolutely wonderful! Congratulations!

  31. Lee and Hessie Rimon

    Dave, nothing you do surprises us really and everything you do is pretty wonderful. We love you and are so proud of you, Santiago’s Moms and Santiago……, who is adorable by the way!! Can’t wait to meet him. Lee and Hessie

  32. David,
    Although we have known from the start about your wish to help two close friends who dearly wanted a child in their lives, we are so touched by the gradual and growing change in your commitment to Santiago. The love, awe, pride, and enjoyment you feel has made you a dad. Lucky you and lucky Santiago……….you have so much to give him. He looks like a great kid! We look forward to meeting him and his moms.
    Much love, Uncle Danny and Aunt Sandy

  33. What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing Mez!

  34. This is the most beautiful thing I have read in a long time – what a lucky kid to have such love around him.

    Marcie Ponte

  35. Beautiful post Mez. I’m so glad you’ve come out! :)

  36. Thank you for sharing your story! It’s beautiful and Santiago is a lucky kid to have two wonderful moms, and a wonderful dad! It was an honor to have met you here in LA and have you spend some time with Sydney. I drew a picture of you a couple months ago and we just talked about you today and yesterday. :-)

  37. Thank you for sharing such sweet story of you and your family. It will encourage more people to live a life as what life is supposed to be. Wanna have children of my own one day and raise them with beloved one, although there is still a long way to go.

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