Ryan Allen believes his daughter saved his life.
"I always call Harper my hero and my angel, and that isn't said lightly," said Ryan. "She did save my life and since then has always watched over me, protected me, loved me, and guided me as my angel."
Ryan, co-founder and president of a Kentucky nonprofit organization called Love Must Win, Inc., became a dad through a previous straight relationship. Ryan had always wanted children, but being a dad forced him to take stock in his life, become sober, and reevaluate what was most important to him. This process also led Ryan to come out as a gay man.
"It was through her that I found the strength to be true to myself," explained Ryan.
Although the pregnancy wasn't planned, it was a wonderful surprise and Ryan and Harper's mother share custody. Although co-parenting comes with it's ups and downs, they are proud of their co-parent relationship on behalf of their daughter.
We spoke with Ryan and found out how life has changed for him since becoming a dad.
Tell us about your path to fatherhood. Former straight relationship. Harper's mother and I weren't planning but ended up with the best surprise we could have ever asked for.
Tell us about any obstacles you faced on your path to fatherhood. Coming fully out as gay when Harper was about 5 months old, that was really tough. Since then co-parenting can be extremely challenging, but we work well together to create a thoughtful and bright and caring young lady!
How has your life changed since you became a father? Everything has changed! I learned to love and accept myself. I got sober when she was about a year old and my life has blossomed since then. I finished my two undergraduate programs and received a MBA degree shortly after. I rebuilt torn-down relationships and worked on raising my daughter with love and compassion. She helped me form a nonprofit in our area called Love Must Win, Inc., which helps eliminate violence in the world and self-violence (in the form of self-destructive behaviors) while spreading hope, love, kindness and acceptance.
What have you learned from your child since you became a dad? That anything I would want for my child, I would want for myself… Which is why I truly learned to love and accept myself just as I am. How could I have taught her that without teaching myself that lesson first?
Was there ever a moment that you experienced any serious doubts about your path to fatherhood or fatherhood itself? When her mother and I found out, we got into the car and we both just yelled a loud "ahhhh" to let out our stress and anxiety... after that we laughed and immediately started planning and strategizing. Once I came out fully (her mother had always known I was bi/gay/not sure) I then questioned how I would raise her - what if she didn't accept me! What if she didn't understand? What if ... what if?
Is your family treated differently than others on account of your sexual orientation? There have been some challenges in the past, but the majority of people are very kind and see it as encouraging situation rather than one to shame us or to belittle us. We have a strong support system :)
What words of advice do you have for other gay men considering pursuing your same path or parenthood? Just remember some nights will be filled with vomit covered blankets or floating poop in night time bath... but those situations are worth the millions of beautiful transformative times you get to spend and share with your child. You don't have to wait until you're completely financially stable, completely healed from past wounds, or completely have your life in order. All you have to do is be ready to love that child no matter what happens in life. If you wait until the perfect timing, the opportunity might pass you right by!