After being interviewed by Corinne Lightweaver of RaiseAChild.US for this The Huffington Post article, I flashed back to when I first met our youngest, Marcus, in his foster home. When my social worker and I walked up to the door, Marcus–without knowing me or why I was there–ran up and gave me a hug. I took that as a sign… (I ignored “the sign” of my next visit, when I took him to a park and he cried for two hours uncontrollably.)
There was also another child there at the foster home, Christian, who was about 11. He was a beautiful kid, loved basketball, and he asked if I was there to adopt Marcus. I told him that I might be, and it was clear to me that as happy as he was that Marcus might be adopted, he knew the chances for himself were slim. I walked away from that home happy that I’d just met the newest member of our family, but also sad that I couldn’t manage to take Christian as well…
Did you know that the number of LGBT people willing to fost-adopt children FAR OUTWEIGHS the number of kids in foster care??? Simply by making adoption by LGBT people across the U.S. legal, we could provide houses for all the kids in foster care. Astounding, and sad–for all the “Christians” in the world–that we can’t do just that.
Thanks to Corinne Lightweaver and Raise A Child, USA, for the chance to chat! Read the interview here!
So proud that our older son, Mason, is turning into such a fine young man. He agreed to be interviewed by Rainbow Riot, which is a literary magazine for teen youth with LBGT parents, and he did such a great job. LOVE this kid! Check it out here!
Last night I was fortunate in finally being able to legally marry my wonderful Russ, after almost 12 years together. Our wedding had a French theme and was a joyous celebration of our love, commitment, and family. Thank you to all who attended, and for the support and well-wishes of our friends and family. Here are the vows I wrote and read, and the boys played a part in as well…
June 7, 2014
My beloved Russ,
We stand here today, before family and our dearest friends, entirely mindful that we are a product of our pasts. At the same time, we are fully invested in this sacred moment, publicly proclaiming our commitment to one another and detailing our vision for our collective future. We can’t change where we’ve been, even if we wanted to, but together we can move forward with grace and consideration, charting together a map for the road we envision our lives to follow.
We both came into this relationship with a sense of purpose. As many people here know, we first met on Match.com. (I was attracted to his hair.) Meeting with common intention, it took us a while to realize that the goals we’d each initially had had already been fulfilled. But the friendship that first formed between us during that on-again/off-again time provided the foundation for this life we now share.
As my profile back then stated, I lead an ordinary/extraordinary life. I was looking for someone to enhance the extraordinary factor, which you have in spades.
French writer Andre Breton noted that “Love is when you meet someone who tells you something new about yourself,” and you’ve done just that for me. When we met, I was a struggling single dad, with an amazing two-year-old son and a dead-end job. While I’d had creative aspirations, I’d decided to focus on raising Mason, and my identity quickly narrowed. But in me, you saw a writer, and encouraged me to follow my passion. You saw a person of spirit, and now our church family has become one of our strongest sources of support. You saw more than my surface, and opened my eyes to the possibility of a new way of living.
One of the things I mentioned in my profile was that I was looking for someone to lovingly challenge me, and you’ve done that as well. While we initially saw our differences as obstacles—something to get over—we finally realized that these aspects of us were actually complementary. Your drive at work inspired my career determination. Your zeal for fitness inspired my love for boot camp. And your creativity and unique take on the world helps inform everything from our home, to the trips we take, to our spirited family dinners. We continually bring out the best in each other, encouraging personal growth.
When it comes to our boys, you tend to not get the credit you deserve. Not only do you work tirelessly to create the best possible life for us, but your love, guidance, and support—even telling the kids five million times to pick up their clothes—all of that plays an instrumental role in shaping Mason and Marcus into becoming the best people they can be.
French dramatist Victor Hugo wrote, “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved — loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” Neither of us is perfect, and never will be. But despite that knowledge, we continue to love, and our love grows only stronger as the years progress.
It seems only fitting that we are now taking this step into matrimony. We could have done this before, but today the time, place, and the people feel “right.” We are both committed to each other, to our children, and to completing our journeys together. And so this I vow to you…
Trust. I was a bit bruised, lacking in the trust department, when we first met, but you quickly cured me of that with your forthrightness. I vow to you my trust.
Faith. I believe in you, Robert Russell Noe. You have such gifts and creativity, and I fully support who you are. I believe you can do anything you attempt, and I place in you my faith.
Commitment. You’re it. There will be no other. This I vow to you.
And, most importantly, but not lastly, love. I love you. I believe that somewhere along the line, you never received the vital message that you are worthy of love, and lovable. But you are. And I want you to feel love—to experience love—and vow to show you every day that you’re worthy of love.
Mason: I vow to show you my love.
Marcus: I vow to show you how much I love you, Pappy.
And, finally, if there is anything lacking in our relationship, I think it is spontaneity and surprise. While we came together born of purpose, we didn’t have those fireworks and ringing bells—the romantic notion of love—that many have. You and I made the decision to be committed to each other and the kids, and in our day-to-day attempts to ensure we do everything necessary to keep our lives afloat, sometimes romance and surprise take a back seat to practicality. But that ends today. I vow to you, Russ, romance, spontaneity, and surprises…
And that starts right now. (I then launched into singing “La Vie en Rose” with guitar and accordion accompaniment–with the intro sung in French, which I don’t speak!)
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Brian Rzepczynski, MSW, a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in helping LGBT individuals and couples develop and maintain successful and fulfilling intimate relationships. He’s got a great podcast called “The Gay Love Coach,” where he and I talked all things LGBT parenting. Check out my interview with Brian on his new podcast!
One of the great things about Facebook is the ability to reread posts made in the spur of the moment and quickly forgotten. I tend to forget some of the funny things our kids say, and it’s great to have the ability to look back and remember. As two white gay dads raising two amazing African American boys, our house is always hopping. Here are quotes from our 13-year-old, Mason, and our 10-year-old , Marcus, in another edition of Sh*t My Kids Say.
Me: “Marcus, it is 6AM. What are you doing up, trying to get in to that ice cream?!?”
Marcus: “I need energy.”
Marcus: “Do babies have balls when they’re born?”
Me: “Well, boy babies do.”
Marcus: “Yeah, I know… Girls have cracks.”
Me: “I sure hope I’m there to see you when you find someone you love and maybe have kids.”
Marcus: “But if you’re not, I’ll do the funeral and dig and put you in there.” (more…)
Accompanying a recent Huffington Post article I wrote was a photo of my family, taken by Sara + Ryan Photography. That one photo resulted in so many terrific comments and queries from readers about the duo’s work, which is primarily focused on LGBT families, that I thought it would be fun to learn more about them and their journey to their photographic specialty. Both were happy to share how they became straight allies for LGBT equality and to specialize in photographing our unique community.
Given that you are both straight, how did you come to specialize in photographing LGBT families?
Sara: My sister is gay, as well as my best friend, and both have long term partners, but we didn’t necessarily intend to specialize in LGBT families and couples, though we always knew we would be open to it. With both of these couples, however, we found that neither had ever had professional photos taken, until our sessions with them, as they felt it might be awkward to get pictures taken at a portrait studio.
So they felt more comfortable, given your relationship?
Sara: Yes, because they knew that we were completely comfortable with them being themselves. After that, we started getting a lot of referrals. Of course, we still photograph straight families as well, but most of our clientele is now in the LGBT community.
Ryan: We talked to a lot of same-sex couples who’d had previous experiences, where photographers had assured that they had experience photographing same-sex couples, only to feel that the photographer was a bit uneasy during the shoot, whether being uncomfortable personally, or in attempting to pose the couple as a traditional straight couple might be. (more…)
I’ve been a fan of yours since 1984, when I first saw your wonderful film debut in Another Country. At the time, I was a young gay man and had recently come out to my parents. I was attempting to find identifiable versions of myself in the larger LGBT world and was using cinema, literature, and the arts as a starting place. You, as your character was depicted in that film, represented an ideal gay man to me, which I had yet to see, in either real life or reel life. Your character was everything I aspired to be. You were smart, droll, handsome, and seemingly secure with your sexuality. (Plus you got to snog the ever-adorable Cary Elwes, which scored points in my book.) Call it youthful naiveté, but at that time I assumed that you yourself were much the same as your character, given you continued to live your life off-screen as an out gay man.
But being out doesn’t necessarily mean one is secure, does it, Rupert? Being out doesn’t necessarily mean that a person feels whole and worthy. As you and I both know, being out isn’t the same thing as being enlightened.
Your recent quote on gay parenting was a rude awakening for me, making me realize that, all this time, I’d given you far more credit than warranted. While you may have played the gay father to Madonna’s child in The Next Best Thing (likely leading to endless sessions on the couch with your therapist), does that mean you’re qualified to speak out about LGBT parenting, or any kind of parenting? Not really, but here I sit, staring at your quote in the Sunday Times, where you say, “I can’t think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads.” Given the lives we’ve both led, I can’t help but think, “Really, Rupert? WTF?”
In all of the world’s endless possibilities, Rupert, you can’t imagine anything worse than a child being raised by gay men?
How about a child being born to a father who is in jail for attempted murder? Whose mother sees fit to pierce the ears of her then 6-month-old son, but cannot find the time to fix his club feet? Who later takes this same son to a crack house, which is then raided by police, leading to a year and a half of foster care? (more…)
While audiences nationwide became acquainted with Sarah Tyler and her family following their appearance on Anderson Cooper’s talk show, I got to know them in a completely different manner: at church. Living in conservative Orange County, CA, and being gay men with children, it was important that my partner and I find a church family where every single person is welcome, which we found at Church of the Foothills. One of our pivotal moments as a congregation occurred when we learned that Danann Tyler would be transitioning from boy to girl, which prompted me to bring in a speaking panel from the Orange County Transgender Coalition to help educate our members.
As would be expected, having a child undergo such a transition caused numerous issues within the Tyler family, at school, in their community, and at work. Sarah Tyler graciously took time to share with me the journey her family has traveled, including not only the many challenges they’ve faced, but also the joyful child the transition from male to female eventually revealed.
Sarah, thanks so much for agreeing to chat.
I’m so honored you even think we’re worth writing about!
I’ve been impressed with how gracefully you and your family have not only handled what would be, for most, a difficult situation, but also how you then took that next step, advocating on behalf of your child and transgendered people on a national level. Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable taking such a public stance.
When it’s your child being mistreated, simply for being different, it’s easy to become an advocate.
Many people may not be aware of your family’s story. First, tell me a little about your family, and what it was like prior to discovering that Danann was transgender.
Well, I’m a yoga instructor, and a bit on the liberal side, and my husband, Bill, is a police officer, definitely more conservative, and we have two children. I was always told I couldn’t have kids, but I’m the kind of person who, when told I can’t do something, immediately wants to do it. I knew that, somehow, we’d have them.
So your eldest, James, how did he come about?
He was a total fluke! (laughing) But Danann was planned.
Tell me about your pregnancy with Danann.
I was absolutely positive, when I was pregnant, that I was going to have a girl. I just knew it. But, in all honesty, I was rather hoping for a boy. You know, already having one, there were some benefits to having another, such as not having to buy any extra clothes, etc. Still, when they told me I was actually having a boy, I felt that they were wrong. The pregnancy with Danann felt entirely different than with James. With James I had no morning sickness, but with Danann, I was sick for the first six months. I kept thinking the doctors had it wrong, but then, at delivery, they told me that I’d had a boy, and I was like–cool!
What was Danann like as a baby?
I’ll use the male pronoun, because pronouns for transgender people can be tricky. But when Danann was a he, he was a really happy, calm baby. He was serene, loving, content–we called him our little Buddha.
When did you first notice that all was not as it seemed?
My husband and I took James on a trip, when Danann was two, and left Danann with a friend for the weekend, who had a young girl. When I went to pick Danann up, he was standing there in a dress, with nails painted and everything, and just looked so happy–the happiest I’d ever seen him. I was sure my husband was going to freak out, so I asked Danann to change. He started crying and got very angry. And from that day on, things were different. (more…)
I’ve always wanted to have kids. And that desire has never wavered, even during the days in California when gay and lesbians were prevented from adopting. I knew, intrinsically, that I was meant to be a dad, and often found myself contemplating what parenting might be like. I gave much thought as to how I wanted to raise my children, the example I would set, and the values I wanted to impart.
In truth, the life that I wanted to give them was only slightly different from the one I was then living — just better. I wanted my children to eat better, to exercise more, and to live life more fully than I had, without fear. I wanted them to never doubt my love. I wanted them to discover their own potential and embrace themselves, whomever that led them to be. And once I did have kids and began parenting, I found that I was surprisingly successful in achieving most of these goals.
Today, we eat healthy. largely vegetarian, and most of what we buy is organic and all-natural. We exercise regularly, attend church, volunteer, talk about the issues of the day, and discuss ways in which we can not only improve ourselves, but how we can help make this world a better place.
Still, there have been challenges.
Our eldest son, Mason, was diagnosed at an early age with a condition that, if not treated immediately, could have left him with stunted growth. We took him to specialists, ruled out possible causes, and did every test under the sun. His endocrinologist recommended an unproven, off-label drug for him, which we easily agreed to. It was the only option available and, happily, still seems to be working.
For our younger son, Marcus, the road has been much tougher. We first met him at age 2, and he’d already been through more hardships than most people experience in a lifetime. While initially sullen and withdrawn, once placed in our home, Marcus opened up, evolving into a sweet, active, and chatty boy. We were aware of how challenging his hyperactivity could be, but given his checked-out demeanor when we first met him, all we could focus on was how much better he seemed. Once in school, however, this manic inability to focus became an issue.
It also seemed that, once set off emotionally, Marcus could not be stopped. While most parents find ways to combat a temper tantrum, with Marcus, it was more like a temper tornado. He simply could not control or calm himself, and it was scary to see how helpless he felt. (more…)
Thanks to the great folks at It’s Conceivable for their nice interview with me on parenting. For any LGBT folks considering kids, their site has a lot of terrific information and first person stories about parenthood.
Kergan and Russ
Adoption, They Did It · Tagged: Adoption, California, featured, Featured Feature, foster care adoption, private agency adoption, single parenting, they did it, two dads
Kergan and Russ are adoptive parents to two boys in Orange County, CA. Mason,11, was adopted through a private agency, and Marcus, 9, was adopted through foster care. In 2011, Kergan was named one of HRC’s Fathers of the Year.
Name: Kergan Edwards-Stout
Partner’s Name: Russ
Hometown/City: Orange, CA
Number of Children: 2
Names of Children: Mason (11), Marcus (9)
When did you decide you wanted children?
I’d always known, even as a kid, that I would be a dad someday. I’ve always connected well with children–often better than with adults!
As I grew older, the desire to parent became even stronger. I considered it at various points in my life, but after settling down with my now-ex partner, we decided we were ready to parent through a private adoption.
When our son Mason was a year and a half, however, we broke up. I parented as a single dad for the next two years, until meeting my partner Russ. We went on to fost-adopt for our second child, Marcus.
How did you decide to either biologically have a child or adopt a child?
I never considered surrogacy. While I understand the desire some people have to biologically connect with their offspring, there are just too many kids out there who need homes now for me to seriously consider any other option.
Did you share your journey with your family and friends? If so, have they been supportive? I’ve always been open of my desires to parent, so my family and friends were well aware. Still, when it came time for my first son to be born, and that he would be African American, there were a few issues which arose. Both of my parents are from the South, and very religious conservatives. We’d worked through most of the “gay” issues, but this situation brought up racial issues as well. (more…)