CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Lerone Landis had been reporting sports on a Christian radio station. One Sunday, his partner was listening to "Lambda Weekly," the LGBT show on 89.3 KNON-FM, and said, "Hey, you know they’re looking for a new guy."
Landis contacted the show by e-mail, came on the next week and has been co-hosting for the past 10 years. He said one of his favorite guests was writer E. Lynn Harris, whom he interviewed shortly before his death last year.
Landis met his partner, Danny Valle, a history teacher, 13 years ago.
On their first date, they talked about having children. Now, 13 years later, they have a 14-month-old daughter named Gabrielle.
"It takes a lot of planning and money to have a child," Landis said. "We wanted to make sure our lives were on track before we did it."
Part of the planning, they decided, was getting married. In 2007, they went to Vancouver where they wed.
That fall, they got serious about starting a family.
"We looked for a surrogate through online agencies. We wanted one in a state that was gay-friendlier than Texas," he said, although, for financial reasons, they didn’t rule Texas out completely.
"If at all possible, we wanted a state that put the second parent on the birth certificate," Landis said.
They found their surrogate in Maryland. Landis said she wasn’t doing it for the money.
"She has a better job than I do. She wasn’t opposed to helping a straight couple, but she really wanted to help a gay couple," he said.
They met her and corresponded with her regularly before traveling to her home in March 2008. From experiences friends had using surrogates, Landis said they planned multiple trips to Maryland. One friend tried for over a year before they conceived, another for about three years.
"Three weeks later, she e-mailed me a snapshot of a positive pregnancy test," he said. "I thought it was a joke."
But she had conceived on the first try.
One thing that helped keep down costs was that she had her own, good insurance coverage. Landis’ insurance wouldn’t cover her pregnancy, although the baby was covered by his policy from the time of her birth.
Gabrielle was born in December. Valle and Landis drove to Maryland two weeks before the surrogate mother’s due date and drove Gabrielle home two days after her birth.
Execution of a birth certificate with both names took some legal work, but was delivered, without problem, several months later.
"Being a father is pretty much what I expected," he said. "It really is constant, 24-hour care and it’s a little more tiring than I thought it would be."
He said the reward is "the littlest things that put a smile on your face for the rest of the week."
Another reward has been a renewed relationship with his father, who had never dealt well with his coming out. Since Gabrielle’s birth, Landis and the proud grandpa have been closer than ever and seen each other often.
After a year of parenting, the couple has begun talking about having another child.
"We’ve done the baby thing. We’re thinking of adopting," Landis said. "A child who’s potty trained and already walking."
He said they have already talked to the agency they used for the surrogacy, which does LGBT adoptions as well.
"We’ll contact them again when we’re ready," he said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2010.