#GWKThenAndNow: Matt and Ken
Back in 1990, Matt was 22 years old and working at a small gay nightclub a friend owned in Seattle. That's where he and Ken first met. The guys were instantly smitten, describing their initial meeting as "love at first sight." At the time, neither had been in a long-term relationship nor had they come out to family. In the Fall of 2016, these two dads will celebrate their 26th anniversary!
Matt was born in 1968 to Swiss parents living in California. Soon after, the family returned to Switzerland and Matt spent much of his early childhood there. When he was 9, the family moved back to California. Ken was born in 1971 and raised in Idaho. Both men eventually found their way to Seattle, Washington.
The couple say they were inseparable, basically living at one another’s apartment until they officially moved in together just a year later. Neither was out to his family back then, and Matt decided it was time to let his family know about his life and his boyfriend. While the news came as a big surprise, he received only love and support. Ken decided not to make a big official announcement, opting instead to let his family slowly figure things out on their own. Like Matt's family, the love and support Ken received from his family has never wavered.
Both men have always known they wanted to be dads. Interestingly, Matt says he knew at an early age that his would not be a typical family life with a wife. Rather, he looked to "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," as proof that he could be a dad all by himself. On the other hand, Ken thought his only path to fatherhood was through a heterosexual marriage. And he went so far as to get engaged to a woman. “Luckily I got wise and realized that wasn’t probably the right move,” says Ken today.
Over time, the couple watched their gay friends create families via adoption. Although their stories worked out beautifully in the end, the guys noted that in each case their friends had to endure some hardships. Plus, while the men hadn't given up on their own dreams of fatherhood, the timing just didn't seem right, especially for Matt.
Then, in 2009, Matt was flipping through People magazine and came across an article on Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, and how they became dads. “It was like a light went off in my head, and I thought, ‘Hang on, we could do it like this! How cool would it be!’ And I got so excited,” shared Matt. He sent a spontaneous email to Ken to say he was ready. Ken, so delighted to get the unexpected message, says that he fell off his chair after reading it!
First family Christmas card photo, 2011
Surrogacy involving compensation was (and still is) illegal in the men's home state, so Matt found an agency in Portland, Oregon. On a whim, he drove out to meet with them and soon enough everything fell into place. Their twins Nico and Kate were born in September of 2011. The dads followed Neil and David's journey, using one egg donor while each dad has a biological connection to one of the twins. (After their birth, the dads co-adopted their non-biological child.)
First flight with the twins at 6 weeks old, December 2011
Both kids also have Swiss citizenship – a first-ever accomplishment for a same-sex, bi-national couple. Their case has set a precedent in Switzerland for future same-sex parents.
We asked the dads to share the secret behind the success of their long-term relationship.
“Definitely have common interests. Opposite attracts but you have to have similar interests in life, otherwise it’s going to get boring,” shared Matt.
“Empowerment is incredibly important. Keep the communication flowing but empower the other to do what they want in life and be the best they can be,” explained Ken.
And for those considering fatherhood, these two dads have additional advice. "Make sure it’s something you really want, be committed and be present."
Matt and Ken explained: “Doesn’t matter who it is – mother or a father – it’s about love. And our kids’ generation has never known this (a gay dad family) was anything other than “normal.” It’s the most accepted thing; they don’t even care.”
Despite the hard days that every parent has, neither Ken nor Matt would change a thing. “It’s the best thing that’s happened to me,” said Ken, “Everything is worth it.”