In 2014, Malaysian couple Alex and Chuck cemented their lives together in Thailand with a wedding for the ages, celebrating true love and diversity in a society where same-sex unions are rare and often hidden. A year later, baby Bien came into their lives, and in 2018, they found a new home in New Zealand. It's been a whirlwind ride the past four years for Alex and Chuck, but now they're living the family life they had only dreamed of in New Zealand. Here's their story.
Despite leading almost parallel lives in Malaysia, Alex and Chuck didn't meet till 2009. They had been members of the same sports club since childhood (some 40 years back) and yet had never run into one another. Alex, who was tiring of the dating scene and was trying out a new theory that playing competitive sports with someone can quickly bring out their true personality, bumped into Chuck on the tennis courts. Their first date was a tennis match. Needless to say, Chuck passed with flying colors.
Alex (right) and Chuck's union in Chiangmai, Thailand
When the two men fell deeply in love, they soon started building a home together and also traveled the world. In 2014, they flew to Chiangmai in Thailand, along with 150 of their closest family and friends to celebrate their union. "We were truly touched as at the time the idea of celebrating same-sex unions, especially in Asian society, was almost taboo," said Alex. In a cacophony of flower petals, theatrics and declarations of love, the two were wed. A video of their union went viral!
"We were happy to see so many well wishes from people around the world," said Alex. "But when it started to draw political attention, we removed the video."
Alex and Chuck dreamed of, but never imagined they would be parents, given a climate not particularly conducive for same-sex parenting. Nevertheless, they held on to their dream, and after a long and difficult road, they finally became parents to baby Bien in 2015 (making them @ABCDaddies on Instagram). The dads recall "We just wanted to be the best parents that we could be, and give him the most beautiful childhood that he deserved".
Alex (left), Bien and Chuck, September 2015
While Alex and Chuck had enjoyed life as a couple, they now were learning to enjoy life as a family. "Like all families, we had to make sacrifices with career," said Chuck, "but feeling like the luckiest parents in the world, that was a no-brainer."
The first couple of months, as it is for most new parents, were a challenge. Alex and Chuck were both exhausted, managing the night feeds, and figuring out their new role as parents. Sleep deprived, "I recall having squabbles with Chuck about the silliest things," remembered Alex. "But after I started to embrace being a father, I would actually look forward to the next night feed, or even the next poop change."
"We found that it really takes a village to raise a child, and were so grateful to our tribe of close friends and family who helped us especially through the early days". Through this journey they found, even their relationships with their own immediate families blossomed.
Sunset in Lombok, Indonesia, October 2017
Alex & Chuck travelled extensively in the past, and as new fathers, included Bien in all their subsequent travels. While they've had to make adjustments traveling as a family, the wouldn't have it otherwise, and in fact have found that traveling as a family, has given them a new perspective of the world. "It's been exciting and exhausting, refreshing and fulfilling, all at the same time. As we journey to introduce Bien to the beautiful diversity the world has to offer, we've started seeing life and the world through his eyes again, which is incredibly refreshing," said Chuck.
Karekare, New Zealand, the family's favorite beach
Alex and Chuck's journey as dads has also deepened their relationship. They've made many major life decisions together. Their most recent one: a move to New Zealand where they plan to grow new roots. "While we were living in our little happy bubble in Malaysia, we wanted to bring Bien up in an environment which truly embraced diversity. And so, we made the painful but necessary decision to leave our careers, family and friends, to bring Bien up in the best environment we saw fit for us as a family," said Alex.
"Of course, being LOTR fans helped!" added Chuck. (The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand.)
We'll keep following the adventures of @ABCDaddies as they begin their lives as a Kiwi family.
Auckland, April 2018