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Magazine For Gay Parents Gets A Healthy Start


April 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved.

WHEN Michelle Darné and her partner set out to start a family, they found few answers to their many, many questions.

"We had so many questions about how a lesbian couple can become parents," Ms. Darné said in an interview in her Brooklyn office. "Should we adopt? Should one of us carry the baby? What are our legal rights? Where is the best sperm bank?"

Ms. Darné said she could find no publication to address those questions, apart from an eight-page newsletter with an irregular publishing schedule.

So they started their own.

"In my search for information I realized we were not alone and recognized an untapped market," Ms. Darné said. "At that point we put off our plans for a family, pulled out $250,000 of our savings and prayed that an unrecognized and unserved market would embrace us."

The gamble may pay off. Three years later, Ms. Darné and her partner, Kathleen T. Weiss, now run And Baby, published every two months dealing with issues unique to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents.

Recent articles include: "Doll Shopping With Gay Dads" (let your child choose), "Will My Kids Be Gay?" (offer support if they are) and "Transgender Transition: Talking to Your Kids" (younger children accept transgender parents more readily).

The women, who first met five years ago through a mutual friend, now also have 1-year old twin daughters, London and Morisot.

Unlike parenthood, the world of publishing was nothing new for Ms. Darné, 38.

The youngest of 11 children born in San Francisco to parents from Puerto Rico, Ms. Darné first experienced publishing as the only girl on a 17-person crew loading issues of The Contra Costa Times into trucks.

Moving to New York in 1995, she worked in advertising sales at Paper, a fashion monthly. Eventually starting her own publishing consulting firm, Ms. Darné began three publications that eventually closed or changed their titles - a plastic surgery magazine called Form and Figure, a skateboarding magazine called Skate and Stuff, and the short-lived Sports Monthly.

In contrast, Ms. Darné said she followed instinct for And Baby. "We made all market estimates based on our feelings and general sense," she said. "Not until a year after we launched did anyone publish a report that supported what we had told advertisers."

THAT report, in October 2002, finally gave independent support to the numbers on which the magazine had been based.

Prepared by Witeck-Combs Communications, a Washington marketing and public relations firm, the study estimated that 2.6 million gay or lesbian couples live in households with children under age 18.

The research company said the market for gay parents remains unrecognized and untapped.

The magazine prints nearly 100,000 copies, and now has 11,000 paying subscribers, they say. They also say they sell about 3,000 copies on the newsstand. Its growth has come largely through a strategy that has the magazine given away at all the country's major gay parades, carnivals and same-sex parent clubs. "We knew that 90 percent of the people at gay pride events are target readers," Ms. Darné said. "We did not realize how hungry they would be for our magazine."

At the first event she attended, the 2001 gay pride festival in Long Beach, Calif., nearly 20,000 copies were gone in a matter of hours.

Despite the popularity among readers, however, advertisers remained skeptical.

"No major advertisers believed in our business plan at the beginning," Ms. Darné said. "We were aiming for an unheard-of market that combined a wholesome family publication with homosexuals."

Starting with advertising based on regional listings for sperm banks and adoption agencies, subsequent issues began to attract the attention of national advertisers, like I.B.M. and Bridgestone tires, focusing on the gay population.

Although tobacco and alcohol-related advertising traditionally supports gay-related publications, Ms. Darné said such companies are inappropriate for And Baby.

"We are proud to be the only gay magazine with advertising from Enfamil baby formula and Peg Perego baby strollers," Ms. Darné said. "Our magazine can give Middle America another look at life in the gay community."

For all the commercial success, Ms. Darné said she remains strongly attached to the founding principles of the publication, including articles about bisexual and transgender issues.

"One potential investor was not comfortable with us including bisexuals and transgender so we did not take their money," Ms. Darné said. "We must look out for our whole community."

Perhaps the greatest single political issue facing her and her readership, however, is that of marriage, Ms. Darné said.

She said she and Ms. Weiss had spent nearly $30,000 on setting up a legal framework to protect their family. Nonetheless, she said, the rights of her family fall well short of those of a heterosexual couple that has adopted a child.

"We look at the same-sex marriage issue from the point of view of families and children's rights," she said. "We cannot deny children of two same-sex partners the right to have parents."

Reflecting her concerns and the current political climate, And Baby produced a special issue: "My Big Fab Gay Wedding! 3,000 Years of Same-Sex Unions."

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