JR and John on How They Deal With the 'Where's The Mommy?' Question

Originally published June 29, 2017

John D. Lam and John "JR" Ruggieri have been married since 2011, and they live in Boston, Massachusetts with their two sons, Gio and Santino.

John is a principal dancer in the Boston Ballet, and JR is a lawyer.

John said they met when he was crossing the street to drop off his laundry. JR was in his car and stopped to allow John to cross the crosswalk.

"I didn't think much of it, just thought it was nice for a Bostonian to yield to a pedestrian," John said. "I then walked across the street to get a coffee and wait outside for my laundry to be done. The car then circled around, and double-parked right in front of me, and JR came out and sat right next to me and introduced himself."

Unbeknownst to them both, JR was planning on attending a preview showing at the ballet that John happened to be dancing that evening. With JR's persistence, John said he gave him a dinner date, and the rest was history.

"We both wanted kids in our lives," JR said. "Our main objective was to create a family unit we could call our own."

The husbands explored adoption and surrogacy at the same time, and ended up taking the path of surrogacy. They said they felt they felt they were in a place where they could jump at the choice to try surrogacy and see if they won the "jackpot."

Thankfully, it was a relatively fast and smooth process for them to have two beautiful healthy boys, Gio and Santino.

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"I think there were obstacles that challenged us both as a married couple, not just as a same-sex couple raising kids," John said. "The 'traditional family unit' can be a challenge when determining what 'roles' to take as parents."

In their family, there is one Daddy and one Papa. JR said sometimes people do have questions.

"There's no female parent in our family, so it was sometimes hard for people to realize by asking a simple question like 'Who's the mommy?' or 'Who's the daddy?'" he explained. "It can cause a handful of emotions for us. We are challenging the societal view of what is supposed to be 'right.'"

The dads decided the way to go was to dedicate themselves to educating the masses. "Overcoming that obstacle became easier and easier as we grasped fatherhood by the bull's head and went with our intuition as fathers," JR added.

"There are so many broken families out there, so many shades of what family is. It made me learn more about myself as a gay man married and raising kids. This obstacle allowed me to be a better advocate in allowing the uneducated see that love is truly love, and a family is a family," John said.


Growing up, John said he was always surrounded by family, and he remembered how much love he got by being in his family.

"I wanted to have the opportunity to raise kids of my own and create my own family traditions and stories," John said. 

John was 28 years old when they had their boys, which he said he does consider young to be a dad. But, he said, he knew it would never be the perfect time to have kids.

"We wanted kids, and the process was brisk so we just went with it all," he said. "The hardest part for me is the social aspect, when friends assume just because you have kids, that your life is just too swamp. It is, but I am a planner, and if you want to do drinks and dinner, I just need some notice. The assumption that one's life is over because new life came into the world baffles me."

With John coming from a Vietnamese family and JR from an Italian family, they said their cultures were similar in terms of how you're supposed to raise a child. Blending these cultures, and blending their two families has been great.

The couple had positive feedback from their families, but they said their parents were initially somewhat shocked that JR and John were raising kids without a female counterpart.

"I think showing them how great our kids are is helping teach people from their generation that anything is possible," John said. "To this day, my mother is still shocked that we are raising two boys. all I do is smile, and let the kids speak for themselves."

JR-and-John John L (left) and JR with Gio and Santino

Financially planning for kids was a big part of the journey for JR and John. The cost of surrogacy can often turn prospective parents off, but John said they were fortunate that they could position themselves to go through the process.

"If we hadn't planned ahead, neither the cost of surrogacy nor adoption could be financially doable," he said. "It would have stopped us from seeking to create the family we have now."

Thankfully, the dads said they have yet to encounter anything that would be considered as treating their family 'differently' than those that are single or heterosexual families raising kids. They said some of that may be because they reside in a region that is generally gay-friendly.

"When we travel abroad, I wonder if others may view or treat us differently, but I have yet to experience this," John added.

When it comes to advice for other hopeful dads, JR said go for it "with the utmost dream of fulfilling your goal, no matter the stones placed in your path that you must jump around to create that family."

"The process to surrogacy is not an easy one, but if you continue to have the goal, then it will happen," he said. "We kept reminding ourselves whenever there was a stressful situation of our goal of creating a family."

Posted by Brit Smith

Brit Smith is a Staff Writer & Associate Editor at GWK. A native of London, England, Brit started her American adventure nannying and waiting tables in Texas in 2006, and eventually graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley in 2017. Brit has previously written and created podcasts for WBZ NewsRadio, iHeart Media, and Different Leaf.

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