JON and Justin were high school mates, and both had girlfriends. But it wasn’t until after they left school that they both came out as gay and realised they were in love.

They’ve lived together for the past nine and a half years, and already own two homes together.

Jon, who works as a senior constable in the New South Wales Police Force, said they started discussing having children early in their relationship.

“It was always something we wanted to do,” he said.

In 2013, the couple started researching their options, including fostering and adoption.

“It didn’t appeal to us,” Jon said.

“Then we looked into surrogacy… we looked overseas and the issues (you face) and we realised we weren’t willing to do that so we decided that if we wanted to do it, we had to do it here.”

The couple put their feelers out to family and friends to see if anyone would be willing to help.

“Obviously it’s a pretty big ask,” Jon said.

But eventually they got in contact with Shannon – a woman introduced to them by a family friend. She had previously offered a heterosexual couple to be their surrogate.

They spoke over emails for a few months.

“We obviously didn’t know Shannon very well so there was concern, but once we met Shannon, it was alleviated,” Jon said.

Shannon, who is married and has two children of her own, is now a good family friend.

Jon and Justin with their surrogate Shannon.

Jon and Justin with their surrogate Shannon, who has two kids of her own.

“It was so worth it in the end,” Jon said.

“We’ve got Elsie now, who is our daughter, and now we’ve got Shannon and her two kids in our lives.

“It’s not like we just used a surrogate, it’s like we’ve made family friends forever.

The couple are now starting the whole process again and are looking for another surrogate for a second child.

Shannon, who is releasing a book about being a surrogate, will be speaking about her experiences at the world’s largest conference on surrogacy to be held in Brisbane on June 4-5.

The conference, which is run by Australian consumer group Families Through Surrogacy, will feature gay singles and couples sharing the experiences of both Australian and international surrogacy.

There will also be a panel with children (16 and up) born through surrogacy, talking about their lives.

Families Through Surrogacy events and content director Sam Everingham said Australia is now stepping up the options for gay men who want to start a family.

“Five years ago, when we first ran this conference in Melbourne, the main focus was overseas surrogacy,” Sam said.

“The focus was all on India and the US. But with India, Thailand and most recently Nepal closed to surrogacy for foreigners, it is Australia, the US and Canada which are stepping up the options for gay men wanting to create a family.

“The change means dozens of surrogates and potential surrogates now attend.

“A significant number might have had a child in India or Thailand and would dearly love a sibling. But with those countries closed, they’ll be attending again to explore new pathways.”

Families Through Surrogacy’s 2016 National Consumer Conference is on June 4-5 at the Pullman Hotel in Brisbane CBD.

Full details at www.familiesthrusurrogacy.com.

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