Gay Dad Life

Burke Burnett and Justin Carrier

Burke Burnett and Justin Carrier were returning from their honeymoon when they first learned they had a son on the way.


They had been dating for a year and a half when Burke popped the question — ring and all — in front of all their friends at his birthday party. (Justin, as you’ve probably gathered, said yes.)

Burke proposing to Justin

Their lives have moved at lightning speed from that moment. By the time they were married four months later, they had already become certified for adoption through a private agency.

Both men had dreamed of being fathers when they were young but thought coming out meant it would never happen.

"I'd really given up on it," Justin says. "It wasn't until I met Burke and I found somebody who was so passionate about becoming a dad someday that it actually started to happen."

A traditional guy, Justin felt strongly about getting married before having kids.

"I didn't want to have them out of wedlock," he says. On the way from their Playa del Carmen, Mexico honeymoon, they learned they'd be dads sooner than anticipated.

They flew from their home near Dallas, Texas to Reno, Nevada to meet the birth mother as soon as they could and welcomed their son, Caleb, in February of last year.

Burke holding Caleb with Justin

After Caleb's birth, Burke and Justin decided to wait a while for their second kid. That is, until a call came from the adoption agency about a young pregnant couple.

On the phone, they learned the couple had expressed a desire to adopt to a local gay couple willing to have an open adoption.

"They described us," Justin said. He and Burke instantly knew it was a match — and that they would be in for a few more big life changes. They met Cody, their second son, last month.

"We've been married for two years, have bought two houses, had two kids and bought two cars," Burke says. "We've really just had to sort of adjust our lives and the things in our lives accordingly," he says. Their family had quickly outgrown the house they had bought in anticipation of Caleb’s arrival — and they’d needed a bigger car, stat.

Justin holding Cody for the first time

The house and cars were just the beginning: Learning to balance the needs of two kids required an even bigger adjustment.

“I was really intimidated by ... I didn’t know, logistically, how you have two kids,” Burke says.

They've learned through experience who's better at remembering feeding schedules and who's better at getting them bathed and dressed.

"We're starting to figure out what each other's strengths are. When you have just one kid, it's easier," Justin says.

"But when you have two, you have to figure it out." "We're equally strong in having fun with the boys," Burke adds.

"We're trying to get Caleb to take his first steps. Any day now. Any day now."

Cody sleeps well, so the transition has been easier than anticipated.

“He's not really awake yet and he's certainly not as mobile as Caleb is," Justin says.  “— and as I say this, Caleb is crawling toward the dog dish." Having two kids in diapers can have its darker moments, too. Occasionally, Burke says, it's just a matter of picking your battles.

Family photo at the hospital with Caleb and newborn Cody

“This morning, I went to pick up Cody and he had peed through his outfit, and his blanket and swaddle, and right as I pick him up, I look over at Caleb and he’s pushing out a number two. And he’s grunting,” he says with a laugh. (He can laugh about it now that it’s over.)

"With one kid, there's only so much that can be happening at one time. But with two kids, you just kind of decide which kid needs help more." It was a banner year, and not just for Justin and Burke’s new family.

In the midst of caring for a newborn and everything else that came with it, Burke also co-founded a support group for survivors of violent crime .

Four years ago, Burke was stabbed and beaten with a broken bottle, then thrown onto a fire by three men shouting anti-gay slurs. The men are now in prison, but Burke, who lived in Paris, Texas at the time, struggled to move on.

"I was beat up and burned pretty bad," he says. "I moved to Dallas shortly thereafter to kind of start my life over. I had a hard time kind of coping after the attack — and I know that most people who go through something similar have a hard time coping.”

Burke with Justin

S.O.S (Survivors Offering Support) offers support groups and counseling, and helps hate crime survivors fight for lost wages compensation, recover lost or stolen property, and recuperate medical costs.

"We've had a really nice response from the community here in Dallas, so we're really proud of it," he says. Four years later, Burke has the new life he set out to build in Dallas: a husband, kids, a project he believes in and a strong community of other gay families.

The kids' birth parents have a strong desire to be involved in the kids' lives as part of the open adoption agreements. “Both situations are birth parents that are high school aged and not ready to be parents, but very loving,” Burke says. "We want to share that love with our kids."

They have even found a faith community where they're at home.

Burke sitting holding Cody, and Justin kneeling smiling at Caleb

"We have a great church that we feel really comfortable in and really safe bringing our kids to," he says. "At our church, we're not the only family that looks like [ours]."

Justin’s twin brother and younger brother both also have young kids — one within just six weeks of Caleb. The families get together often for "cousin parties," which are as great for the grown-ups as they are for the kids, Justin says.

"We really learn a lot from watching [them parent.]" It's nothing like how either man thought their life be at this moment. "If I had been given the option to write the script for how my life is going to play out, I would have sold myself short on possibilities," he says. “It’s a great time to be gay in the world — and I never thought that day would come."

Burke and Justin lying down with Cody

 

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

A Gay Dad Wonders: What Will the 'Roaring Twenties' Bring?

Jim Joseph says he's looking forward to "moving forward in 2020" and in the decade to come!

The Roaring Twenties are upon us, and with the new decade comes great anticipation.

I remember as a kid that whenever a new decade came, it felt like "out with the old and in with the new." It seemed like pop culture and the way of doing things suddenly shifted. Witness 1979 into 1980 and the dawn of a new era in music, fashion, entertainment, and culture. Same with 1989 into 1990. Bam!

As I got older and started my own journey of growth, I started tracking decades by the milestones I had hit during each of the ten-year increments.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Life

Gay Dads Tell Us Their Parenting Goals for 2020

Some are hoping to expand their families — others are hoping to keep the members they already have alive!

We asked our community on Instagram what their parenting goals were for 2020. Here are some of their responses.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Life

10 Ways Gay Dads Inspired Us in 2019

No two gay parents have the same family creation story, but they still have one thing in common — they inspire us.

Every week, we bring you the stories of gay men and their families. While no two of these stories are the same, one thing they have in common is this — they inspire us. Check out 10 (out of the MANY!) ways gay dads moved us in 2019!

Keep reading...
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

As a Gay Dad, What's the Impact of Letting My Son Perform Drag?

Michael Duncan was excited when his 10-year-old son asked if he could perform in drag for charity — but he also felt fear and anxiety.

As LGBT parents, we have all lived through some sort of trauma in our lives. For many it is the rejection of our family, being bullied, or abuse. We learn to be vigilant of our surroundings and often are very cautious of who we trust. As adults, we start to become watchful of how much we share and we look for "red flags" around every corner.

So, what effect does this have on our children? Does it unintentionally cause us to be more jaded with our interactions involving others? For some the answer may be a resounding "no." But as we look deeper into the situation, we often find that through survival our interactions with others have changed and we may not even realize exactly how much we are projecting on those around us.

Keep reading...
Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

Keep reading...
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse