Local Couples Tell Us About Their Families
March 1, 2012
by Bradley Osborn
Behind the census data and demographic analyses about child-rearing are real LGBT parents doing the love-inspired work it takes to keep their families thriving.
Here are some accounts of couples who have graciously agreed to share a little about their families with us.
If you are a local LGBT parent — particularly one who would add gender and/or ethnic diversity to the mix of experiences we are sharing — we invite you to tell us your story, as well.
Ryan and Eric
Both Eric and Ryan had always wanted to be dads.
“While the logistics can be almost paralyzing, we both knew it was always a possibility for us to become dads. We just had to find each other to begin our adoption journey,” Ryan said.
Ryan is from Springfield, Mo. He attended college in Dallas, finished his degree at Missouri State University and earned his graduate degree from Webster University. Starting as a social worker in long-term care facilities, he later obtained his license as a nursing home administrator. Now he is the administrator for a skilled nursing facility in Harrisonville, Mo.
Eric is from Payne, Ohio, a rural farming community near Fort Wayne, Ind. While in Ohio, he obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology. He moved to Olathe to attend the University of Kansas, Edwards Campus, where he earned a master’s degree. He is now the chief administrator of the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg, Mo.
It was love at first sight when Ryan and Eric met six years ago at a conference at the Lake of the Ozarks. Shortly after their meeting, they started dating long-distance, as Ryan was living in Springfield and Eric lived near Columbia. Almost eight months after their first meeting, Eric was promoted from the veterans home in Mexico, Mo., to his current position in Warrensburg. After this promotion, the two moved in together and bought the house in Lee’s Summit, Mo., where they now live.
Intent on achieving their goal of fatherhood, the couple moved quickly to set up routine deposits into an account to fund an adoption. They formally committed their lives to one another July 12, 2008, in Charleston, S.C. In 2010, Ryan changed his last name to match Eric’s last name, and they created an irrevocable trust and a will to protect their family.
The two met with social worker Nancy Simons Bean in April 2010 and spoke with their son’s birth mother in October 2010. They traveled to Arizona to meet the birth parents in December 2010 and returned in March 2011 for the birth of their “little blessing,” remaining there for two and a half weeks to finalize paperwork before bringing their son home. Their son’s biological sister lives in Raymore, Mo. They are friends with her parents, and both children will know they are birth siblings.
The new dads were feted with five big baby showers. All of their friends knew they had wanted to become fathers, and a circle of close friends immediately “adopted” their son as a nephew. Most of their relatives were supportive and are actively involved in the little one’s life, as distance allows. Their employers were extremely supportive and provided them all the time off they needed to adopt and become adjusted to being new parents.
The dads share child-care duties. Eric typically has bath time, and Ryan usually takes care of bedtime. They have an informal parenting plan to ensure consistency.
“We adhere to that plan to foster an environment for him that is consistent, structured, nurturing and where he knows both his daddies are actively engaged in his care and upbringing,” said Ryan.
They say their son has always attracted people to him. So ever since he was born, people have approached them, assuming that they are his parents, commenting on how lucky they are and what a wonderful son they have. A couple of times, while out with an avuncular friend, someone has come up to say, “Well, how nice; you’re giving the ladies a day off.”
“We are really no different from any other family … really.”
Colton and Brent
Colton, known as Colt, was born in Manhattan, Kan. He has lived in the Kansas City area since 2000, and in California and British Columbia before that. Brent was born outside of Minneapolis, Minn., but he has lived in the Kansas City area for most of his life. In their eight years together, they have lived in Midtown (Kansas City, Mo.) and the Old Leawood area of Leawood, Kan. They are now building a new home in South Overland Park, Kan.
Colt works as an account executive for Modern Business Interiors. Brent is a cosmetologist and extensionist at Envy salon in Overland Park.
Brent and Colt’s first date was spent babysitting Colt’s nieces and nephews. So the conversation turned to the topic of having kids. A few years later, they began their adoption process.
Colt sensed that the Midwest attitude toward same-sex couples having children had room for improvement. But to the surprise of them both, the community has shown remarkable acceptance and, in many ways, admiration for their family.
“We are living proof that gay men can become dads; that we can adopt as an alternative to the option of pursuing a biological birth.” From a financial standpoint, Colt and Brent want others to know that parents don’t need an immense amount of wealth to adopt.
The two adopted their first daughter four and a half years ago. In a private, local adoption, they became fathers again a year and a half ago when their second daughter was born.
Brent’s family was 100 percent supportive of their fatherhood from day one. With Colt’s family, it took some time. Friends were supportive once they knew the two were serious about becoming dads.
“We’re both full-time working parents, and we rely heavily upon Brent’s mother for extra day-care help. We both strive to be equals in co-parenting,” Colt said.
Brent commented on being out and about with the kids: “Before becoming parents, we could have simply been two friends or two coworkers out in public. With a young girl of Asian ethnicity, we got our share of looks. And now, two men, a Vietnamese five-and-a-half-year-old and a Black-Hispanic one-and-a-half-year-old, we get looks and stares. Nearly everywhere we go, we get smiles and our daughters get compliments. For the most part, we think Kansas City looks at our family with an air of admiration. We’re two men with a lot of love to give these two little girls. And people, I hope, see that first and foremost!”
Colt and Brent would like others to know that LGBT families have some of the most caring, humble, devoted, loving, and hard-working parents. Most LGBT families have had to face some of the hardest challenges, and LGBT parents have gone to extreme lengths to expand their families.
Brent said, “LGBT families are the minority, and they are strong-minded and proud. We strive to teach diversity and hope that our children’s generation has an even greater acceptance of each other.”
Mike and Gordon
Mike is from Kansas City, and Gordon is from Boston. They have lunch with their parents every Sunday, along with their daughter, Emily.
“I have always wanted to be a parent,” Mike said. “In fact, one of the fun moments of preparation after we found out we were going to be Emily’s parents was when I unpacked all of my childhood books. I remember packing them away when I was 10 or so, with the thought they would be great to share when I have a child of my own.”
On the prospects of fatherhood, he said: “My biggest issue when I was coming to terms with my sexual orientation in my late teens was the effect that would have on my ability to be a dad. Kids coming out have so many issues to deal with. Hopefully, our story will help them have one less thing to worry about.”
Gordon and Mike have been together for 11 years, and they had a commitment ceremony seven years ago. Kids have always been part of the plan for their partnership. Mike commented on the paths to parenthood available to them: “Adoption or foster-then-adoption was always the way I wanted to start our family. There are so many kids out there that need a good home.”
Those closest to Gordon and Mike knew fatherhood was part of the plan. The dads found tremendous support among them for their decision. At the time of Emily’s adoption, both of their employers were very flexible, and they both offered partial reimbursement for its cost.
Mike and Gordon work full-time and they split all of her care 50/50.
“We take her everywhere we go. Most of the time, we are just met with smiles and encouraging words such as ‘You have a beautiful daughter.’ I am pleased to say through the entire process, we have actually encountered zero discrimination.”
Mike, on having a 2-year-old: “Emily is very strong-willed. She loves to eat what we are eating, exactly the way we eat it. She does not want things cut up in little pieces. The last time I had a hamburger, I cut about a quarter of it off and gave it to her after her persistent pointing and screaming. Well, she did not want a quarter of the burger — she wanted the whole thing. After a grunt, she threw it at me and screamed, ‘No, Daddy!’ and pointed at the remaining burger on my plate and exclaimed, ‘Emily eat.’ We are working on manners, but I think charm school may be in her future.”
Mike and Gordon’s advice to others: If you are thinking about being a parent, do it!