Being your children's most enthusiastic and loving cheerleader is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. To support, encourage, guide and to provide a safe loving environment where children can truly be themselves. And that's what Adam and Josh Blaylock are doing for their adopted 17-year-old son, Sam Blaylock.
Before meeting his dads, Sam experienced physical and emotional abuse from his birth family and relations. Once child services became involved, he was moved to and from the homes of different family members and a foster home, before finally coming to stay with Josh and Adam.
"After moving in with them I finally felt what a family actually meant," shared Sam.
Adam and Josh created a home environment of love, acceptance, and freedom to be his authentic self. But how did two Portland, Oregon, husbands in their early thirties become dads to a gay teenager? Although it wasn't necessarily part of the "plan," it's become abundantly clear that this was the family they were meant to have. Here's their story.
Both Adam and Josh came out to friends and families after their high school years. Adam, now 34 and a teacher, told his mom on a trip to New York City, while commemorating his 21st birthday. They celebrated by going to museums and Broadway shows.
"Shocking she didn't know already, right?" said Adam. Over dinner the truth came out, and Adam's mother didn't take it well. Adam never came out to his father and unfortunately no longer has any relationship with him because of his beliefs and how he expresses them.
Josh, 33 and a retail manager, came out to his sister on the way home from a Cher concert.
"So looking back, duh, I'm sure everyone knew," said Josh. "But growing up in an Evangelical household, I didn't know what the reaction to the truth was going to be." It would be another few years before he told his mom; Josh phoned her to tell her that he'd got a dog, and ended up saying how he'd moved in with his boyfriend Adam and he was gay. His mom's response was, "Well, you know how I feel about that," (which he didn't) and they left it at that.
"It has taken awhile, and a lot of work on both parts, but by including my family in our lives, they were able to see the love that we have for each other and for them," said Josh. "They were all at our wedding in 2015, where Adam took my family's last name." Adam feels welcome in Josh's family and they couldn't be happier with their relationship.
When the husbands began thinking about children, Josh and Adam imagined they'd foster or adopt a younger child. "I am teacher, so I have seen first-hand how many children there are out there who need loving homes," said Adam. But when a friend of theirs who works with LGBTQ youth reached out to them and asked if they would temporarily foster a teenager while DHS found a permanent placement, they said yes.
Sam first came to live with his dads when he was 14 years old and after a very traumatic childhood that stretched into his teen years. He suffered abuse from his family and relations, both physical and mental, and then was sexually assaulted in a foster home where he lived temporarily. (Read Sam's story, in his own words, here.) Sam struggled with his sexuality, which was also a source of contention for his family who did not accept who he was or how he chose to express himself. Finally, it lead to child services collecting him from school one day, and taking him to stay with Josh and Adam.
"I felt at home the second I walked into their house," remembered Sam. "I felt a strong connection, and felt like I was in the wrong family for the past 14 years and now have found my people. My true family."
"We knew we could be a loving permanent home for Sam," added Josh. It took another two and a half years of court dates and working with child services, and the process itself was challenging and emotional. "It's very awkward and heartbreaking to sit in the courtroom supporting your kid while his mother is there, obviously caring about her child but not able to provide a safe environment for him," said Adam. "Sam loves his biological family, even though they are not supportive of his sexuality or that the state got involved, and we fully support contact with them as long as it is safe and he is in a stable mental state to see them."
On January 8, 2018, the husbands finalized Sam's adoption.
Since becoming dads, Adam and Josh's priorities have changed considerably. They dove head-first into parenting, so never had time to doubt. But even though the path was challenging, they know Sam has a bright future; they know they made the right choice.
"Having two dads is amazing," said Sam who now lives as an out and proud teen. "I never have to worry about anything when it comes to being gay. They understand it all. I never feel judged and can be as weird and as expressive as I want."
Adam and Josh have learned so much about themselves by helping Sam along his way. "We never would have even thought about coming out as teenagers, but Sam is undeniably himself, exploring drag and everything gay," said Adam. "We had always lived very heteronormative lives, but now we have learned to be very proud of our sexuality and family!"
Through his safe and supportive family life, Sam has begun to really explore drag. "It started with just makeup, but then I wanted to dress up for pride 2017 and Adam helped me make my cute little tutu," explained Sam. "We were joking around and how it looked like Tinkerbell and thus came my drag name, Twinkerbell." Sam describes drag as being his number one outlet of coping and seeing the beauty in life.
And even though Sam will soon be off to college and they will become empty nesters, Adam and Josh will forever be his dads, and biggest cheerleaders.