Tell us about your path to parenthood. I have known I was gay since I was in the 6th grade. When I was in my 20's my best friend was a straight woman and we were roommates and did everything together. I was out so clearly she knew I was gay. She had a son with her ex-husband, but wanted more children and I wanted children as well. We decided to have two children together. As far as how they were created, we did it the old fashioned way, as that was a lot less expensive than artificial insemination. It was definitely weird and awkward. The result was having two sons that are 3 and a 1/2 years apart. We raised them together in the same house.
What obstacles did you face on your path to fatherhood? The biggest obstacle was that I'm gay so our method for her impregnation was weird for me. Another obstacle was that when my boys were in their teens, the friendship between their mother and I changed and we grew apart. During that time she moved out of state and I continued raising them by myself.
How did your life change when you became a father? I was young and spent a lot of time at clubs in Washington DC before they were born. After they came along I spent less time going out and more time with them. I had to become more responsible.
What have you learned from your children since you became a dad? I have learned to love unconditionally and that loving another human being does not always mean that the relationship is easy. I have learned how to let my children make their own mistakes and learn from them instead of always intervening.
Was there ever a moment that you experienced any serious doubts about your path to fatherhood or fatherhood itself? I don't remember ever having any doubts about being a father. There were times that my heart would ache for what my boys went through, but that was temporary.
John with his granddaughter Emma, May 2016
Is your family treated differently than others on account of your sexual orientation? We were definitely treated differently sometimes because of my orientation. When they were young we were involved with a church. At some point we were told that we were no longer welcome because I was gay. My older son, Michael, and I were texting about this recently. He was only about 6 (he's 27 now) and he sent me the following text which brought me to tears because of the amazing young man that he has become: "I'd say that's one of my earliest memories of discrimination. Its one thing for a redneck to scream hate speech from his pickup, that sort of thing slides off my back, I can be bigger than that. I hadn't processed how people could smile at you, eat with you, and get to know you on a personal level but still be bigoted towards you. Glad times are changing." Still makes me cry.
Where do you see your family 5-10 years in the future? Both of my sons are adults now. The relationship is so different with them as adults versus children. We are extremely close and I hope we always will be. My oldest son has an 8 year old daughter. Being a grandfather is so amazing! We all currently live about 20 minutes away from each other, but I have been interested in the adventure of living in a different state. I think that no matter how far apart we live, we will always talk and text about the things that are happening in our lives.
Michael and his daughter Emma
Brandon performing at SXSW, July 2016
What words of advice do you have for other gay men considering adoption? Raising children with a friend can get complicated. It requires a lot of communication beforehand. You need to discuss parenting views and you need to be in agreement. Make sure that you spend a lot of time discussing and being mindful of the fact that you are going to bring a person into the world and you will be shaping their life. It's a big deal, don't ever take it lightly. It's the most challenging thing I have ever done, but also the most rewarding thing in my life.
Is there anything else you'd like to add? I love my sons more than anything in my life. They have enriched my life in immeasurable ways. I can't imagine what it would be like without them. One year on my birthday when my younger son was in his late teens he posted a message to my Facebook page. Among other things it said "I know you don't get to pick your parents, but if I could, I wouldn't change a thing". That's how I feel about my boys.