Canadian suburbanites Heather Jopling and David Hoare are happily married parents of a 6-year-old daughter, Rissa. They have two cats, a dog and a Chevy minivan. He's a high school teacher; she's a stay-at-home mom in the city of Cobourg and is also a writer and actor.
'The face of family is changing, and that's a good thing. Being open, being inclusive and being accepting is a very good thing,' said Jopling, 38. 'For people to say that alternative families aren't as good as normal families [ is ] wrong. I think people need to open their eyes and open their hearts to new ideas.'
Jopling and Hoare have opened their hearts and lives to the LGBT community in amazing fashion—so much, in fact, you need a scorecard to keep track. Just consider:
— Hoare's parents split when his mother came out as a lesbian.
— Hoare was a sperm donor for Toronto lesbian friends Virginia West and Cheryl Reid, who are now the parents of Rowan, their 2-year-old son.
— Jopling became the surrogate mother for Ottawa gay partners Michael Mancini and Ernst Hupel, who are now the parents of daughter Milena. And Milena's sister is Klara, Hupel's daughter with another surrogate mother.
Talk about a rainbow of diversity.
'It just happened that the three families are friends,' and still remain friends, Jopling said. Everyone vacationed together last summer at a cottage in Canada, and they plan to again this summer.
'All of us shared the same values in raising kids; that's what is most important,' Jopling said.
Hoare was first to agree to donate sperm for West and Reid's baby. Then it was Jopling's opportunity to personally jump into the LGBT community, so to speak. At a combined Christmas-Hanukkah party, she met Hupel for the first time and the talk included how he wanted to raise kids and that Hupel and Mancini wanted to have another child.
Clearly, it was a right place at the right time party for many.
Driving home from that party, Jopling told her husband that she might be able to have a baby for Mancini and Hupel, and that she was willing to do it.
'I really just wanted to do it [ for Mancini and Hupel ] because I knew it would be a great feeling to hand over that baby, in the delivery room, to parents who really wanted the baby. That's what it came down to,' she said. 'It was just something in me that I could do for them, and if I could, I should.'
Jopling admitted she did not have emotional concerns over carrying the baby for nine months, then literally handing if over to the gay couple. But rather, it was the practical concerns that worried her the most, such as, 'how the baby was going to affect my life for the next nine months.' She was, for instance, hesitant because the Northumberland Players, the local community theatre group of which she is the president, was producing Man of La Mancha—and she really wanted to do it.
'I was never worried emotionally that I wouldn't be able to give up the baby, because I knew from the onset that this was not my baby. Sure, biologically, she was mine, but it was their baby.'
Jopling and Hoare see at least some of their extended family at least every six weeks or so.
All of the kids are aware of their biological parents, or will be when they're old enough to comprehend, Jopling said.
'The kids have a very good understanding of family, and obviously a broader definition of family,' she said. 'My husband and I both love all of the kids that we had for other families. We love them for the people they are rather than for any specific connection they have to us.'
Jopling's journey into the LGBT world also is professional, not just personal.
Or, to be exact, Jopling's profession led to her expansion into the personal realm of LGBT life, so to speak.
Jopling has written children's stories for her own daughter. Hupel was the one, it turns out, who suggested she start writing stories for gay families because there just aren't a lot out there, Jopling said.
Jopling has since published three children's books. The books deal with the joys of diversity ( The Not-So-Only-Child ) and life with same-sex parents ( Ryan's Mom is Tall; Monicka's Papa is Tall ) .Besides being in stores, the books also are available at www.nicknamepress.com .
Jopling is expected to release more books in 2007.
'If we hadn't been at that Christmas-Hanukkah party, it wouldn't have happened because that was the first time I met Michael's husband, Ernst,' she said. 'I guess it was just coincidental, happenstance, whatever.
'But I'm very glad I met him there.'