The September 18-19 event was held at the iconic Westin New York at Times Square, implementing what the organizers describe as an “immersive yet responsible format” that included daily on-site rapid testing and safe catering protocols.
Each year, the nonprofit organization Men Having Babies (MHB) travels to a number of cities across the U.S. and internationally to share a wealth of knowledge with gay men aspiring to become parents. These events include peer guidance, expert advice, information about financing and grants, inspirational testimonies from surrogates and fathers, and an opportunity to meet dozens of reputable surrogacy providers.
However, besides one conference in Taiwan where COVID-19 was kept at bay, MHB was unable to hold such events since the beginning of the pandemic. “We used specialized virtual conference technology to offer guidance to the best of our abilities,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, MHB’s Executive Director. “However, the complex process and highly personal nature of surrogacy parenting requires an immersive and personal experience, and a comprehensive educational agenda that is beyond the attention span of virtual events.”
“As the audiences were returning to Broadway, and the crowds to the US Open, we felt it was time to find a model that allows us to go back to full operation while meeting the challenges of the new public health reality we face for many months to come,” said Jenny Congiardo, MHB’s Director of Operations. “By requiring full vaccination and masking, providing onsite testing, and using careful catering practices, we were able to safely educate and engage gay men who want to begin this amazing journey to fatherhood.”
Judging from the robust attendees turnout from all across the Northeast, there is indeed much pent-up demand from gay men who’ve been putting their dreams of family building on hold. “This conference is extremely useful for intended parents considering surrogacy journey. I liked the in person meeting so much, I enjoyed the direct one on one interaction with presenters and many providers,” stated Harry Lesmana, one of the event attendees. "This helped us immensely in making sense of a complex process. It's comforting to know that there is such a robust support network of quality providers who have one goal— to make me and my husband fathers," stated Evan Seigerman.
"While being mindful of Covid, it was truly wonderful to resume in-person conferences," said Dr. Susanna Park from San Diego Fertility Center. "It felt amazing to be able to re-connect with our partners in the industry, and to be able to develop a warm connection with intended parents through the face-to-face interactions. It was inspiring to see that humanity continues to believe in the beauty of families in spite of the challenges presented by Covid. Love will always prevail."
The two-day event started with workshops and panels that compared the destinations where gay men can find surrogates to help them become parents, and provide guidance on how to plan a surrogacy journey. Special attention was given to the new opportunities brought about by the recent NY Surrogacy Reform.
Several sessions were dedicated to ways prospective parents can budget smartly, take advantage of financial assistance and member discounts by MHB, and opportunities to receive coverage of surrogacy related medical costs as part of employee benefits or state-mandated insurance.
Other sessions covered the insurance, budgeting, legal, medical and psychological aspects of surrogacy. As always, one of the most popular programs was the personal stories panel, where attendees heard from local gay dads and the surrogates who helped them. A session was also dedicated to several dozen prospective single dads who received expert and personal advice followed by an opportunity to socialize.
The success of the New York Conference was lends MHB added confidence as the organization is gearing up to offer similar conferences around the world for the next six months, starting with Chicago (October 9) and Brussels (November 6-7).