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Community: Of Babies, Blogging, and Death Threats

Michael Pearce and Matt Burrus wearing faux pregnancy bellies at a baby shower for their new daughter.

By Marene Gustin

There are something like four million mommy bloggers out there, according to Ad Week. Then there are the daddy bloggers. Parenting blogs are big. But it’s a pretty good bet that not many of those millions of folk blogging about everyday parenthood issues receive death threats.

There’s one blog in Houston that does.

The Houston Chronicle’s new Gayby Boom blog went live in June, racking up 17,000 visits the first month—and a few death threats. That’s because the blog chronicles the lives of two gay men—attorneys Michael Pearce and Matt Burrus—and their quest to start a family.

“We did get hate mail,” said Pearce. “And some death threats. Negative comments about homosexuals as a group are one thing, but it’s something else when you get people saying you should die when you’re blogging about baby shoes.”

Comments on the blog are monitored, so you won’t see the haters’ comments—but that doesn’t mean that Burrus and Pearce don’t see them.

“There was one guy who essentially just spewed a bunch of stuff about us,” said Burrus. “We didn’t post his comments, but I did respond to him. I repeated what we state on our blog.”

Which is: While we realize there are those in the world who may disagree with our family model, and we support everyone’s right to freedom of opinion, it is our hope that we can share the many similarities in our family and support each other and celebrate the differences, hopefully with a bit of humor along the way.

“And I told him we just want to give a loving family to our little girl,” Burrus added. “He actually wrote back and said he didn’t agree with our lifestyle, but he wished our little girl well. And we never heard from him again.

“Of course, my first draft of that response wasn’t so kind.”

But Barrus and Pearce have learned not to hate the haters.

“We’re learning to respond in the way that we want our daughter to respond to hate speech,” Pearce said. Not with more hate, but with kindness and a hope to educate.

Pearce and Burrus met eight years ago. Their first date seemed like more of an interview, but it got both men to admit they wanted marriage and children. It seemed like fate. In 2008, they were married in Beverly Hills during the brief window when California allowed gay marriage before Prop 8 was passed.

Two years later they were told there might be a baby available for adoption. They added a nursery to their home and got everything ready.

But no baby came.

Then they decided to try the surrogate route. They found a willing womb, an egg donor, and began the process using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), an often-controversial process, to select healthy and gendered eggs.

In one of their favorite stories, they relate meeting the surrogate and her family. The woman’s mother actually told them, “We’d really rather see this baby go to a gay couple. You never see on the news that a gay couple drowned their baby in the bathtub.”

For a while after the fertilization process they thought they would have twins, a boy and girl, one from each of their sperm. But the boy wasn’t viable, and they are left with a girl that’s due on September 26. They’ve decided to call her Estelle Lillian Burrus-Pearce, after their grandmothers.

They have blogged about all the pain, frustration, and excitement of getting to this point. And despite the haters, there have been more than enough supporters.

“We were both big on Facebook and social media,” said Pearce. “I would keep up with family and friends and tell them about our quest to have a family. I would ask what kind of baby bottles to use, and get 50 responses.”

Then an attorney in Burrus’s office suggested they blog about their experiences, and a mutual acquaintance’s friend at the Houston Chronicle got the newspaper to ask them to do a blog at chron.com.

“Even though we’re two guys trying to have a child,” Burrus said, “it’s a universal experience.”

Pearce added: “We have a surprising number of moms chiming in. That’s been very nice.”

Burrus said they’ve gotten positive and helpful responses from as far away as Kansas and the Bronx, probably because of their social media connections on Facebook and Twitter. Pearce said the reach is much greater than they ever expected, with many gay couples who are wanting children contacting them for advice.

“We’ve been so grateful for the advice we’ve gotten from our cyber village,” he said. “We want to pay it forward.”

And as for little Estelle, will she someday be Googling herself?

“We are very conscious that she will read this someday,” Pearce said. “We are going to put the blogs into a book for her so she knows what we went through to get her, and how much we love her.”

Follow Michael and Matt’s parenting blog at http://blog.chron.com/gaybyboom/.



Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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