Former ATP Tennis Pro's "Non-Traditional" Family Doing Just Fine
Not long ago, former ATP tennis professional Brian Vahaly met his match.
On October 16, 2015, Brian married Bill Jones in Atlanta, a few months after same-sex marriage became legal by the US Supreme Court. It was a momentous occasion made all the more memorable when the newlyweds found out, the same night, that they would also soon become fathers.
Today, Brian, who is now a venture capitalist, and Bill, a real estate agent, are busy raising their 1-year-old twins, Parker and Bennett, in Annapolis, Maryland. With Brian's high profile career as a professional athlete now behind him, he and Bill say they are leading a more normal, happy family life.
But his fellow former tennis star, Margaret Court, 74, apparently feels differently.
Brian and his husband Bill
Earlier this year, Margaret Court wrote a letter to a newspaper in which she described her stance against same-sex couples raising children, specifically naming Australian tennis player Casey Dellacqua and her female partner who have two children:
"Indeed, the lines are becoming increasingly blurred as the march towards such partnerships, even gay marriage, is fueled by minority voices rising in opposition to respected Christian beliefs which many cultures believe," Margaret said. "I simply want to champion the rights of the family over the rights of the individual to engineer social norms into their relationships. I really want to see a society where traditional family values are still celebrated and every child has the best possible start in life."
Court, whose name stands atop the Stadium at the Australian Arena in Melbourne, has also been vocal on her objection to marriage equality in Australia.
After learning of Court's interview, Brian, ever the competitor, issued a challenge of sorts to her fellow athlete in an interview with Huffington Post: try spending some time with his family.
Bill and Brian with their two sons
"I think if she met little Parker and Bennett and actually came into our home, she would understand why her words were so hurtful to so many people," Brian said in the interview. "Gay people do not just wake up with children," he continued. "It's a serious, intense, and exhausting experience that takes years and a lot money. Every child in the family of a gay couple is so incredibly loved and wanted."
Sadly, Brian's comments drew negative attention from opponents of LGBTQ equality, and he was bombarded with nasty emails from those who agreed with Margaret Court.
"We received thousands of hate email with references to studies that were done on how children of gay parents have a higher likelihood of suicide," Brian told Gays With Kids. "We were consistently told how selfish it was to deprive these kids the role of a mother in their lives."
Court, unfortunately, has not yet taken Brian up on his invitation to spend some time with his family. But we here at Gays With Kids wanted to provide an opportunity for people to get to know this young family a little bit better.
Brian with one of his sons
The day starts with Brian and Bill waking Parker and Bennett up at 6:30 a.m., feeding them breakfast, and then sending them on a stroll through the neighborhood. This is followed by playtime and a few activities in the hopes of teaching them a few things, with more naps breaking things up.
For Brian, there is nothing better than coming home from work to his family.
"They make this huge excited sound when the door opens, and they come running to us," said Brian. "You can't beat it."
Unsurprisingly, Brian's favorite activity with his two boys is "catch."
"I love to play 'catch' with them and roll the ball back and forth and watch them laugh," he said. "It's the best."
Parker and Bennett
For Brian, the moment he first felt like a dad was when he saw their heartbeats on the ultrasound.
"I got goose bumps and realized this was real. We had a responsibility to these two kids. There was no going back. I felt a tremendous sense of purpose and focus in that moment."
Like all dads, Brian and Bill have their strengths and weaknesses. They believe their strongest assets are discipline and encouragement.
"[We] run a tight schedule and make sure to be thoughtful about the time we spend with our boys."
Brian and Bill also believe in encouraging their boys on a daily basis so they continue to grow and express themselves.
Their weakness, however, is their inability to sit still for long periods of time. Becoming parents have made them shift their internal expectations of what it means to be productive at home.
"Sometimes you just have to sit back and just enjoy your time with the kids," shared Brian. "They need your time, love, and attention."
Brian and Bill at their wedding, 2015
Like all parents, Brian and Bill have aspirations for their kids, and like most parents, they're pretty simple.
"We intend to do everything in our power to have thoughtful, kind, polite, educated young men," they said. "[And] to provide [the] opportunities and structure to make that happen."
So to any future gay dads-to-be out there, the message from these dads is pretty simple:
"[It will be the] best decision of your life. It will require sacrifice - but all great things do."
And although their lives have changed dramatically from when they enjoyed things like long trips abroad and the occasional sleep-in, they wouldn't have it any other way.
After learning more about Brian and Bill's family, it's hard to see how they differ much from any other. Their home is one filled with love, support, and hope for the future. So if these are the ills that befall a non-traditional according to Court and her supporters, perhaps we need a bit more "engineering" of our social norms, not less. For more on the upcoming marriage equality vote in Australia, see our recent photo essay of local gay dads telling us what legalizing same-sex marriage would mean to them.