written by Juli Del Prete, Literary and Public Programs Assistant
What happens when familial desires clash with societal expectations?
Our Wednesday Night Out event last night saw two guest panelists join our literary manager, Isaac Gomez. They were Jim Doelling and Scott Takacs of the Center on Halsted’s Gay Fathers of Greater Chicago support group, and in the thirty-plus minutes that they shared the Samsara stage, they expressed dreams and anxieties not unfamiliar to the characters in the play itself.
Unlike Craig and Katie, the American child-seeking couple at the center of Samsara, neither Jim nor Scott used a surrogate to build their families. Rather, both of them have children from previous marriages – to women. When they were asked about the “trials and triumphs of same-sex parenting,” they shared their stories candidly – of divorce, of coming out as gay, of building lives with their children and new partners, of the tension they often experienced between the personal and the political.
Then a patron asked, “How could you do that to [your wives]?”
There was a pause as the panelists considered how to respond. Then Scott described the role that traditional expectations had played as he struggled with his own identity. “There was an assumption, growing up, that I would marry a woman and raise a family with her,” he said. “But life got in the way.” Scott went on to relate his own journey to Craig and Katie’s. Their expectation? A baby of their own. Their reality? Having to pack up their “biological material” and send it to India – then wait nine months to meet their very non-American surrogate. Life got in the way for them, too.
“Sometimes I feel that my kids have been punished,” Jim said at one point throughout the discussion, “but I also feel that we’re a wonderful family.”
If there was a point driven home last night, it was that there’s no right or wrong way to build a family. The play and panelists echoed a universal parental desire: to make sure their children feel whole and loved. Craig has several awkward (and hilariously political incorrect) encounters with his Indian surrogate, Suraiya. But in one particularly sweet moment, he takes a picture of Suraiya in front of an Indian mosque, telling her, “We won’t let [our son] forget where he comes from.”
Scott closed out the panel by saying, “This is modern family. Family isn’t defined by a man and a woman. Things can be different and still be good.” It’s hard to disagree. After all – some traditions are made to be broken.