Gay Dad Life

Family Spotlight: Brian, Michael and Their Kids

For Brian Berry-Berlinski and his husband, Michael, life changed almost instantly. The couple, one deaf and one hearing, welcomed three deaf foster children into their home in early 2011.

They had already prepared the kids’ room, complete with a fish tank. After leaving for a moment, they returned to find the kids – ages 3, 5 and 6  playing catch with the fish.

“The children had no experience with this,” Michael says today. “We had three new children and three dead beta fish.”

These days, those three biological siblings have been adopted by the Berry-Berlinskis. They’re reading at grade level, playing sports, and are integrated into their Northern California neighborhood. The family has grown closely together.

“We focus on the love they came from, and the love that they have now,” Michael says.


Brian (far left, in photo above) and Michael had already experienced rapid change in their lives. Their marriage itself came from an unexpected confluence of events.

Brian, who was working for a nonprofit group called DeafHope, was attending a conference and met Michael’s mother. The two got along famously and kept in touch over the next year.

“We had a big connection through that workshop, and I saw her as a friend,” Brian says.

At one point she told Brian about her son, who lived on the East Coast and had just ended a lengthy relationship.

Thanks to her coaxing, the two made a connection, first over email and then through Skype.

“His being deaf was never an issue,” Michael says.

Within a few months, Michael made the big decision to move across the country to California. The couple moved in together at the end of 2008. They married in 2010.

“It just felt like it was meant to be,” Brian says.

Family questions

Michael had a big condition in his relationship with Brian, though. In those early weeks and months of Skype calls, he had told Brian, “I will not enter a relationship with someone who is not interested in having children.”

Brian said he loved kids, and the issue was settled.

The question was how the couple would actually start a family. Their original plan was to have one deaf and one hearing child, and to have an open adoption. Even today, Michael can still outline those plans with precision.

“We went through a long process of deciding,” Michael says.

But those plans changed. The costs were high, for one thing. There was also no guarantee they would be matched with a deaf infant.

Finally, the two decided to try adopting from the foster care system. And within a few days of making that decision, thanks in part to the tight-knit deaf community, they were connected with the three children who live with them today.

“It was just all so immediate,” Brian says. “It happened so fast.”

Making it work

The three children, Mario, Juan and Zenaida, took some time to adjust to their new home and parents. And the two dads worked hard to make sure the kids had all the space they needed.

The beginning was very challenging, even though they had already gotten to know and were comfortable with the couple. “It was definitely daddy bootcamp for me,” Brian says.

The kids didn’t have to change schools, which was a plus. And to make the transition smooth, they kept clothes, blankets and even some furniture from their former home.

But over time, all five members of the family found their rhythm. Brian stayed home as the primary caregiver. Everyday activities, like cooking dinner, involved the whole family. And the kids’ familiarity with American Sign Language  they hadn't been  exposed to it in the past  flourished.

Despite the fact that the siblings came from (in Michael’s words) “unspeakable backgrounds,” the state made attempts at family reunification. After that didn’t work out, parental rights were terminated, and the Berry-Berlinskis were identified as the ideal candidates to become their adoptive parents.

The three were formally adopted on June 15, 2012, just a couple of days before Father’s Day.

Daily life

What about the basic mechanics of running a household? How do deaf kids get the attention of a deaf parent?

“It’s more a visual thing,” Brian says. “If they want attention, they will come up and touch us.” Sometimes, they might even turn out the lights in the room.

They can also stomp their feet, sending a vibration throughout the house. There are more and less polite ways to do that, Brian points out. “I know someone’s calling me.”

And at the playground, “they’ll see me calling them with my hands,” Brian says. “They’ll always see me making eye contact.”

For Michael, simple family communication becomes a chance to learn. He’s been working on his ASL skills. “It becomes an opportunity for them to teach me, which is awesome,” he says.

Today, the journey continues for the Berry-Berlinski family. The kids keep in touch with their biological parents and older brother. They attend the California School for the Deaf and keep growing and changing.

“It’s a really, really busy schedule,” Michael says. “The transition isn’t over; it’s always in motion.”

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

Broadway Performer's Surrogacy Journey Briefly Sidetracked — for One Very 'Wicked' Reason

"Broadway Husbands" Stephen and Bret explain the exciting reasons they had to hit pause on their surrogacy journey — but don't worry, they're back on track!

In the latest video of the Broadway Husbands sharing their path to fatherhood, Stephen and Bret explain their hiatus for the past 4 months. The couple have big news to share including a relocation, a job announcement, and the fact that they're getting ready to restart their journey (which they had to take a brief pause from since September).

Watch their video to find out their latest news.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Top 10 Reasons You Should Date a Gay Dad

Jay Turner lays out the top 10 reasons you should consider dating a single gay dad

We're gay dads. Many of us were married to women, and for various reasons we eventually found ourselves single and looking for companionship from another man. Life is a little more complicated for us because we have kids. But that shouldn't deter you from seeking a relationship with a gay dad. In fact, there are many reasons why we make better partners than men without children. We are generally more mature, responsible, and emotionally available. We are also better communicators.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should date a gay dad:

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Karamo Brown Co-Writes Children's Book with Son, Jason

The 'Queer Eye' star and his son named the story on a family mantra: You are Perfectly Designed

When his sons, Jason and Chris, were young, "Queer Eye" Star Karamo Brown repeated the same saying to them: "You are perfectly designed."

That mantra is now a Children's Book, cowritten by Karamo and his 22-year-old son, Jason, who used to come how and "say things like, 'I don't want to be me, I wish I was someone else, I wish I had a different life." As a parent, that "broke my heart," Karamo told Yahoo! Lifestyle. "I would say to him, 'You are blessed and you are perfect just the way you are,' as a reminder that you have been given so much and you should be appreciative and know that you're enough — I know that the world will try to tear you down, but if you can say to yourself, 'I am perfectly designed,' maybe it can quiet out some of those negative messages."

The illustrations, by Anoosha Syed, also make a point of displaying families of a variety of races and sexual orientations throughout the book.

Read more about Karamo's fascinating path to becoming a gay dad here, and then check out the video below that delves deeper into the inspiration behind "You Are Perfectly Designed," available on Amazon.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

How This Dad 'Redesigned' the Holidays After Coming Out of the Closet

Rick Clemons describes how he made the holidays work for him and his family again after coming out of the closet

What I'm about to describe to you, is something I am deeply ashamed of in hindsight. I was a jerk, still in a state of shock and confusion, and "in love" with a handsome Brit I'd only spent less than 24 hours with.

I was standing in the Ontario, California airport watching my wife walk with my two daughters to a different gate than mine. They were headed to my parents in the Napa Valley for Thanksgiving. I was headed to spend my Thanksgiving with the Brit in San Francisco. It was less than one month after I had come out of the closet and I was so caught up in my own freedom and new life that I didn't realize until everything went kaput with the Brit on New Year's Eve, that if I was ever going to manage the holidays with dignity and respect for me, my kids, and their Mom, I was going to have to kick myself in the pants and stop acting like a kid in the candy store when it came to men. Ok, nothing wrong with acting that way since I never got to date guys in high school and college because I was raised to believe – gay no way, was the way. But that's another article all together.

Keep reading... Show less
What to Buy

Shop with a Purpose with Our 2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Want to find amazing gift ideas while *also* supporting LGBTQ-owned and allied businesses? Look no further than our 2019 holiday gift guide!

'Tis the season to show loved ones you care. And what better way to show you care, by also supported our LGBTQ+ community and allies whilst doing it! Shop (LGBTQ+) smart with these great suggestions below.

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

A Newly Out Gay Dad Feels 'Demoted' After Divorce

Cameron Call showed up to his first family Thanksgiving since coming out and getting a divorce — and struggles to find himself "stuck with the singles."

Cameron Call, who came out in summer 2019, has generously agreed to chronicle his coming out journey for Gays With Kids over the next several months — the highs, lows and everything in between. Read his first article here.

Denial is an interesting thing. It's easy to think you're potentially above it, avoiding it, assume it doesn't apply to you because you'd NEVER do that, or maybe you're just simply avoiding it altogether. After finally coming out, I liked to think that I was done denying anything from now on. But unfortunately that's not the case.

And this fact became very clear to me over Thanksgiving.

Keep reading... Show less

New Report Details the 'Price of Parenthood' for LGBTQ People

A new report by the Family Equality Council takes a deep dive into the current state of cost for becoming a parent as an LGBTQ person

Parenthood is expensive. But parenthood while queer is still prohibitively costly for so many segments of the LGBTQ community interested in pursuing a family, according to a new repot by the Family Equality Council, titled, "Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood."

Among the more interesting findings was this one: the cost of family planning is relatively similar for all LGBTQ people, regardless of income level. This shows "that the desire to have children exists regardless of financial security," the report's authors conclude.

Research for the report was conducted through an online survey of 500 LGBTQ adults over the age of 18, and was conducted between July 11-18, 2018. For comparison, the survey also included 1,004 adults who did not identify as LGBTQ.

Other interesting findings of the report include:

  • 29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, and error associated with question-wording and response options.29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Regardless of annual household income, 45-53% of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family. Those making less than $25,000 a year are considering becoming parents at very similar rates as those making over $100,000.
  • Data from the Family Building Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ households making over $100,000 annually are considering the full range of paths to parenthood, from surrogacy and private adoption to foster care and IVF. The most popular options under consideration in this income bracket are private adoption (74% are considering), foster care (42%), and IVF or reciprocal IVF (21%). At the other end of the economic spectrum, for LGBTQ+ individuals in households making less than $25,000 annually, the most commonly considered paths to parenthood are intercourse (35% are considering), foster care (30%), and adoption (23%).

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse