In 1997, in a gay club in Walnut Creek, California, Justin met Brian. Working as a barback at the time, Justin had recently ended a relationship; Brian had left the military not long before and was newly "out." Neither were looking for a longterm relationship. Today, almost 20 years later, Brian and Justin have married each other twice – once in a commitment ceremony in 2003, and once legally in 2008 – and are the proud dads of their son, Trenton. This is their #GWKThenAndNow.
Brian (left) and Justin in 2007
Justin and Brian grew up not too far from one another in California. When the two men came out to their family, some members were more receptive than others. Brian's mother and brother were supportive, and his father eventually came around despite his initial concern for his son's sexuality. Justin's family's responses was similar: his mother was supportive and his father less so. As Justin put it, "He was supportive enough."
After meeting at that club and exchanging pager numbers and AOL Instant Message details – it was the 90s after all – their first date was spent watching Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet" at Brian’s house.
Two years later, as Justin's parents were getting divorced, Brian moved in with Justin at his father's house in San Pablo. The next few years were spent in between San Pablo and Chico (several hours apart) where Brian attended school for two separate years. In 2003, they celebrated their relationship with a commitment ceremony.
Justin and Brian at their commitment ceremony on August 16, 2003
Path to Fatherhood
Although both men wanted to be dads, it wasn't till 2005 that they seriously started discussing the possibility, and it was another year before they began putting the wheels in motion. At first, they considered foster-adopt as their chosen path but it wasn't meant to be. After taking a foster-adopt class, they decided that it wasn't right for them, so they began considering other options.
Justin is a dance instructor, and through his classes he knew a mother who had adopted as many as 10 children. When he began asking her questions, she put Justin in touch with a private adoption facilitator named Nancy. They signed with her for an open adoption in September 2006.
They were connected with a birth mom, but she disappeared before the baby's due date. It was later discovered that she was in jail and they were unable to make contact with her. Sadly, they had to move on from their first birth mom.
Through Nancy’s agency they met Kate*, another birth mom, and the men were able to realize their dream of becoming dads.
When Justin and Brian read Kate's profile, an expectant mom who was addicted to meth and still using during her pregnancy, something clicked inside them and they knew this was their child. Although Kate's profile specified heterosexual couples, they asked their agency to tell Kate about them anway, and Kate chose them as the intended parents.
Justin and Brian with a very pregnant Kate; their friend Denise behind them, 2007
Justin and Brian knew the risks of adopting a child whose birth mom who was still using drugs, but it didn't stop them. When signing with the agency, the dads-to-be had been given a checklist of things that they would consider, and a child that had been exposed to drugs was something they were both willing to consider.
"We knew what were getting into, but we rolled the dice as we didn't care because we wanted a baby," explained Justin.
Their birth mother was homeless at the time, so the dads-to-be were able to arrange a place for her to stay during her last months of pregnancy: Denise, a good friend of theirs, had a spare room. The men covered rent and food, and Denise went above and beyond helping Kate through her pregnancy and her addiction. It was in Kate's final two months of pregnancy that she was able to get clean.
Their first family trip to Disneyland in 2007 for Gay Days, when Trenton was 12 weeks old
In the early morning of Monday July 16, 2007, Justin and Brian received a call letting them know that Kate was in labor and on her way to the hospital. The two dads were in the room when Kate gave birth to their son Trenton.
"It's the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen," shared Justin. "Seeing my son come into the world. I can't really put it into words."
Thanks to Kate's sobriety during the final two months of her pregnancy, Trenton tested negative for meth the day he was born.
Adoption Day, August 15, 2008
An Open Adoption
Justin, Brian and Trenton see Kate once or twice a year now. They’re very happy with their open adoption arrangement as they want Trenton to know who his birth mom is.
"It is important for Trenton to have that relationship with his mother, but he doesn't call her mom, he calls her Kate," explained Brian.
Visiting Trenton's birth mom, Kate, September 2016
Trenton has three siblings through Kate, two older and one younger sister named Pearl. Before Trenton was born, the two older children were taken away by child protective services due to Kate’s drug use, and later adopted through the state. Unfortunately there hasn't been a way to track their whereabouts and reconnect them with their little brother. Pearl is two years younger than Trenton, and was adopted by a gay couple in Georgia. The four dads met briefly following the birth of Pearl but Trenton was too young to remember. (The dads are still connected via Facebook.) Still, he really holds on to that, explained Brian, telling people proudly that he has siblings.
At a Giants game in San Francisco, 2009
The Family Today
Trenton is now 9 years old and he keeps his dads on their toes! He loves theater and basketball, and is very interested in coding which he is learning at school. He got an iPod and a robot for Christmas to help practice his coding.
Dad Brian and Daddy Justin are very involved in Trenton’s school with Brian coaching the basketball team, and Justin attending the school auctions and always at the ready for the “Moms and Margaritas" nights – more Justin's thing than Brian's!
Working at the Fall Carnival for Trenton’s school in 2015
Advice From Two Gay Dads
These two experienced dads have some wise words for others.
"Open communication and talk about everything. Be honest with each other and your child. But 100% worth it."
"It is so important to maintain a good relationship as a couple, not just parents. Be sure to take date nights, remember you loved each other first and always remember to appreciate one another. Be sure to communicate clearly and even if you don't agree on things, make sure the kid(s) know you are on the same team. Try to maintain a united front and discuss differences behind closed doors."
* Not her real name