Partners Steven Graffam and John Stivale met commuting to work on the bus in New York City. The two had noticed one another for months. Then one day, they went beyond exchanging looks and exchanged phone numbers too. The two have been together a little under a year.
Steven is a gay dad with one son, via a straight relationship, who came to terms with his sexual orientation in 2015. Now he's in a serious relationship with a man who adores his son and they've begun to talk about their future, one that might include more kids. Here's Steven's story.
Steven didn't realize he was gay till he was 34. He had been with the same woman for 14 years, married for 10, and together they had son in 2007. "Fatherhood wasn't hard at all," said Steven, "I welcomed it with open arms; I finally found the meaning of love."
From left to right: Steven, his son and John
Steven came out to his wife in 2015. Although blind-sided and upset, she handled the revelation very well and has remained supportive of her ex-husband.
Although it took Steven a long time to be true to himself, he dislikes the word closeted. "When I hear that it makes me feel sad and brings me back to a bad place," he explained. "[It] feels untrue and that I deliberately did this … All of my relationships in my past were real, my marriage included." Steven's advice to others in a similar relationship is to live your truth, and everything will fall into place.
Steven waited another 18 months before talking to his son about his sexuality. Both he and his ex-wife decided that with all the upheavals their son was experiencing – parents divorcing, he and his mother relocated to a neighboring state, new co-parenting schedules – they didn't want to give their son something else to comprehend. When Steven did talk to his son, his reaction was very simple. He said "okay" and went on about his day. "We left it as an open conversation," said Steven.
In September 2017, after their flirtatious glances on the bus, Steven began seeing John. Steven's son embraced his dad's boyfriend, even getting them both a Fathers' Day card that read 'Daddy & Dad.' "John is very involved and we spend almost every weekend that I have my son together," explained Steven. "He is always asking where John is and when he's coming home from work … Sometimes I think my son likes John more than me!"
Although the relationship is still relatively new, Steven and John are excited about the future and talk about expanding their family. They're open to either adoption or surrogacy, but the biggest decision at the moment, which they can't agree on, is how many kids! John is in the one camp, while Steven is rooting for two. "If I had it my way I would have twenty more kids," says Steven. "I am sure when the time is right we will see eye-to-eye and have two more children. Wink- Ha!"
If there were one thing Steven could change, it would be waiting to tell his loved ones that he was gay. He wished he'd opened up earlier, as soon as he himself had realized and spoken to his ex-wife. "I lived with not telling them for about two years, and all of that pressure and stress I put myself through – what would they think and how would they react – was a waste of my time." Those close to Steven have embraced him, but he knows he is one of the luckier ones. "It breaks my heart to think in this day and age, there are still people out there that can't love others for who they are, no matter their sexual orientation, color, race or gender."
Although the last three years have meant a completely different life path and trajectory for Steven and his family, they are all much happier. Being a father has helped give him purpose, perspective and be able to prioritize what's really important, including coming out.
"Children change your life in every way," said Steven. "The way you think, feel and react; it is the most rewarding responsibility one will ever have. Have fun with it and enjoy the ride."
**Update: Steven and John are now engaged.**