Portland husbands, Biff Chaplow and Trystan Reese, have three children: two adopted kids, Riley and Hailey, and Leo, their biological child who was carried by Trystan, a trans dad.
Trystan never wanted to be a dad. That was until he met Biff seven years ago at a queer brunch and they hit it off right away. For the first year of their relationship, they spent their weekends being carefree, partying and flying to Vegas. Then they received a call that would change their lives.
A social worker phoned Biff and told him that his niece and nephew were in desperate need of a safe home and were going into foster care at the end of the weekend, unless he took them. That call changed the direction of their lives together, and overnight they became twenty-something dads.
Their story was shared on the WNYC podcast "The Longest Shortest Time" (listen to it here), which covered the couple's adoption journey, their fight in court to keep the kids, Trystan's decision to carry their third child, and then, finally, life as dads to their newborn.
We caught up with Trystan to see how life as a dad of three is going, and if he has any advice to others taking a similar path.
Tell us about your path to fatherhood. We adopted Biff's niece and nephew when they needed a home and safe, loving parents. So it was kind of foisted upon us. And when we wanted to grow our family, it was easiest for me to carry our baby myself. As a transgender man, I was able to stop taking hormones and safely get pregnant. I gave birth to our beautiful baby boy, Leo, in July.
How has your life changed since you became a father? Everything is different. We moved into a more kid-friendly neighborhood (then a more kid-friendly state). I changed jobs so I had more flexibility and higher pay. Biff quit his job to stay home full-time. We can't go out as often, we have less money, we can barely travel. There are diapers and homework and a mortgage... none of which we had when we first started dating!
What have you learned from your child since you became a dad? Everything you could imagine. How to be patient when you had no sleep the night before and your kid is yelling at you. How to coach a kid to clean up after themselves, how to be a good citizen and friend. I've found hope for the world, and lost it again (when we told our pregnancy story publicly) and then found it again when Leo was born. I've learned how to love in a completely different way. I've laughed harder than I ever had before.
Was there ever a moment that you or Biff experienced any serious doubts about your path to fatherhood or fatherhood itself. Yes, all the time. The kids were dropped in our lap, and there were many times when it was so hard to parent them. They had been through neglect, trauma, and abuse. They were hard to like at times, and our patience faltered over and over again. We had to fight a legal battle to keep them, and that was extraordinarily challenging. And somehow, while all that was happening, we fell in love with them. And once that happened, we realized that we would do anything to keep them safe, and that became our guiding light— do what is best for them, even if it's hard for us.
Is your family treated differently than others on account of your sexual orientation or gender identity? Other then being subjected to a spotlight on our pregnancy, not really.
What words of advice do you have for other gay men considering pursuing your same path or parenthood? Wait until you have your shit really together. Kids will put a strain on your relationship, your finances, your house... everything!!! Until you're really ready to make them a major focus of your life, and have a healthy dynamic with your partner, wait! It's never too late to bring kids into your life, but it is often too early.