Dad Life

A Ballet Dancer, a Lawyer, and Two Adorable Kids

John D. Lam and John G.F. Ruggieri (JR) live in Boston, MA with their two sons, Gio and Santino. John is a principal dancer in the Boston Ballet, and JR as a lawyer. They've been married since September 2011. We caught up with the dads to see how fatherhood has been treating them!

How did the two of you meet? I was crossing the street to drop off my laundry while JR was in his car and stopped to allow me to cross the cross walk. I didn't think of it, just thought it was nice for a Bostonian to yield to a pedestrian. I then walked across the street to get a coffee and wait outside for my laundry to be done. The car then circled around, and double parked right in front of me, and JR came out and sat right next to me and introduced himself. Unbeknownst to me he was attending a previewing showing at the ballet, and I happen to be dancing that evening, so it was all too close to home. With JR's persistence, I gave him a dinner date, and the rest was history.

Tell us about your path to parenthood. We both wanted kids in our lives, our main object was to create a family unit we could call our own. We explored adoption and surrogacy at the same time, and ended up taking the path of surrogacy. We felt that for us, we were in a place where we could jump at the choice to try surrogacy and see if we won the jackpot through the process of it all. Thankfully, luck was on our side. It was a relatively fast and smooth process for us to have two beautiful healthy boys!

What obstacles did you face on your path to fatherhood? I think there were obstacles that challenged us both as a married couple, not just as a same-sex couple raising kids. The "traditional family unit" can be a challenge when determining what "roles" to take as parents. In our family there is one daddy and one papa. No female parent in our family, so it was sometimes hard for people to realize by asking a simple question like "Who's the mommy? Who's the daddy?" it could cause a handful of emotions for us. We are challenging the societal view of what is "supposed" to be right. Educating the masses was the way to go, and overcoming that obstacle became easier and easier as we grasped fatherhood by the bull's head and went with our intuition as fathers. There are so many broken families out there, so many shades of what family is. It made me learn more about myself as a gay man married and raising kids. This obstacle allowed me to be a better advocate in allowing the uneducated see that love is truly love, and a family is a family.

How has your life changed since you became a father? Being a father has always been a path I wanted to follow. Growing up, I was always surrounded by family, and I remember how much love I received by being in my family. I wanted to have the opportunity to raise kids of my own and create my own family traditions and stories. I would say I was young when I had kids, 28 years old, but it will never be the perfect time to have kids in my book. We wanted kids, and the process was brisk so we just went with it all. The hardest part for me is the social aspect, when friends assume just because you have kids, that your life is just too swamp. It is, but I am a planner, and if you want to do drinks and dinner, I just need some notice. The assumption that one's life is over because new life came into the world baffles me.

John L (left) and JR with Gio and Santino

Was there ever a moment that either of you experienced any serious doubts about your path to fatherhood or fatherhood itself? My husband and I were fortunate to position ourselves financially to go through surrogacy. If it weren't for planning ahead, surrogacy or adoption would be a financial burden that wouldn't allow us to seek creating the family we have now.

Is your family treated differently than others on account of your sexual orientation or gender identity? I have yet to encounter anything that would treat our family differently then those that are single or heterosexual families raising kids. Thankfully we reside in a state that is pro-gay, so I don't sense anything differently. When we travel abroad, I wonder if others may view or treat us differently, but I have yet to experience this.

What words of advice do you have for other gay men considering pursuing your same path or parenthood? Do it with the utmost dream of fulfilling your goal, no matter the stones placed in your path that you must jump around to create that family. The process to surrogacy is not an easy one, but if you continue to have the goal, then it will happen. We kept reminding ourselves whenever there was a stressful situation of our goal of creating a family.

How have your families responded? Coming from a Vietnamese family and my husband an Italian family, our cultures were similar in terms of how you're supposed to raise a child. Blending these cultures, and blending our two families has been great. Thankfully we have had positive feedback from our own parents, but they are still shocked that we are raising kids without a "female" counterpart. I think showing them how great our kids are is helping teach people from their generation that anything is possible. To this day, my mother is still shocked that we are raising two boys… all I do is smile, and let the kids speak for themselves.


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