Gay Dad Life

The Famous Real Dads of Melbourne

Reid Duggan-Tierney is an Instagram celebrity with an iconic look: Bow tie, stylish shades, coiffed hair and the occasional suspenders. He’s got a full schedule of party invites and extracurriculars. Also, he’s 5 years old.


Reid’s dads, Jarrad and Michael Duggan-Tierney, didn’t set out to garner thousands of Instagram followers at Jarrad’s handle, @the_real_dads_of_melbourne. Like many parents, they simply wanted to share snapshots of their lives with friends and family. Six months ago, though, Jarrad started to notice his followers weren’t just friends and family, but also other gay men who were – or wanted to become – dads.

Photo credit: Angie Connell Photography

Then came product endorsement requests, particularly from companies that make bowties. Jarrad doesn’t mind – he’ll even give a shout-out to companies he thinks are great, but he’s not sure that’s what he wants his family’s newfound online influence to be about. “I’ve said no a lot lately.”

To protect the family’s privacy, Jarrad set up a separate email address to give out to account followers. He’s toned it down with the bow ties, even sometimes taking Reid’s bowtie off before snapping a photo. “I don’t want anyone to send me more bow ties!” he laughs.

Despite the challenges of adapting to Instagram fame, Jarrad says that strangers’ reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. “I think I’ve got over 7,000 followers. I think I‘ve had three people post negative comments.”

What’s more, several gay men have contacted him to say they’ve been encouraged to look into becoming dads themselves – that they hadn’t been sure it was possible.

Jarrad and Michael remember being in that place themselves a decade ago. Though they’ve both always wanted kids, they didn’t know any gay couples with kids and weren’t sure it was possible to become parents as a gay couple.

“It wasn’t until we watched a documentary [in] 2005 on two guys in Melbourne who had a child through surrogacy. That sort of opened our eyes,” he says. He’s thrilled to be empowering other gay men to pursue fatherhood.

Photo credit: Angie Connell Photography

Reid was born in Mumbai, India through surrogacy. Adoption laws in India have become more conservative in recent years, prohibiting gay prospective parents from adopting through surrogacy. At the time, though, Jarrad and Michael welcomed it as a more affordable option than U.S. surrogacy, which they estimate would have cost them around $250,000.

For five years, they researched agencies and sought advice from other gay couples in Melbourne who had kids through Indian surrogacy. One couple put together a contact list for them – who to call in Mumbai at each point in the process.

When they found the agency they would work with, it just felt right.

“We had a lot of email correspondence and face time on Skype,” says Jarrad. “Then we actually flew to India and we met families that were over there that were holding their infant.”

“We had a lot of questions,” says Michael. “[The] agency we did choose, they had all the time in the world to talk. It was all about building trust.”

Their first try resulted in an early miscarriage. Though they were offered a change in surrogate, both they and their existing surrogate wanted to try again.

The second pregnancy was successful, but so difficult that the surrogate spent three months on bedrest in the hospital. And, there were problems with the fetus’s development.

“His kidneys weren’t developing as they should and he wasn’t growing as they were expecting him to,” says Michael.

Photo credit: Angie Connell Photography

To everyone’s amazement – even the doctors’ – Reid was born perfectly healthy, though small, at 36 weeks. “It was just like a miracle. Everything that was wrong with him had gone away,” Jarrad says.

Three weeks later, the new family returned from balmy Mumbai to wintry Melbourne.

“I think we got home at five in the morning on a freezing cold Melbourne morning,” he recalls. “Michael shut the door and looked at me and it was like, ‘It’s just us. This is our family. Our dreams have come true. Now what do we do?”

The Real Dads of Melbourne

When Reid was younger, says Jarrad, he would pick his battles when strangers ignorantly inquired where his mother was, or joked about him “giving mom a break” as they walked in the park or ran errands. Now that Reid is older, he gives them the real answer.

“Now that he understands it, I like him to hear that I’m standing for his family. I will say it every time now,” he says. The couple agrees, though, they’re not interested in being activists.

Instead, they focus on cultivating a healthy environment for Reid. Jarrad fills album after album with beautiful photos of their lives – he’s up to 27 of them now. Family life revolves around Reid’s school, martial arts, swimming, play dates and parties.

Reid with their dog Albert

Michael and Jarrad worked as flight attendants for Qantas Airways prior to becoming dads. The airline, like many other Australian corporations, advertise their equal opportunity employer status when hiring, indicating the company’s accepting culture.

Both men received a 12-week paid paternity leave. Michael returned to work and Jarrad continued his leave for two years. Australian employment law entitles workers to return to work after their parental leave of 12 months, with the option to request 12 months more.

Jarrad ultimately decided to become a stay-at-home dad while Michael works, but they share the load at home and agree on parenting strategy. Michael made a career change last year to the finance sector to enable him to be home regularly.

“We’re just on the same page. I think that’s what we found really important,” says Jarrad, “to both be on the same page when it comes to routine, schedule, what consequences are involved.”

Reid attends a kindergarten where the staff embraces their family. His teacher reads “And Tango Makes Three,” a true story about two male penguins raising a baby, to each year’s incoming class and the school has included other books about non-traditional families in their library.

“Some little kids are funny: They’re like, ‘It’s not fair! I don’t have two dads,’” says Michael.

Finding a school for Reid, and a community, that embraces their family makes all the difference. “That was a big part of us choosing Melbourne to be our home,” he says.

Michael and Jarrad have been together for almost 15 years. Gay marriage is not yet legal in Australia, but the recent ousting of anti-equal rights Prime Minister Tony Abbott revived hope for a public vote on the issue.

“We want our son to grow up in an environment where there is equality – and that’s not just for gay marriage,” Jarrad says.

A selection of Jarrad's Instagram posts. Follow him @therealdadsofmelbourne

Cover photo credit (Duggan-Tierney family portrait): Angie Connell Photography

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

A Gay Dad Wonders: What Will the 'Roaring Twenties' Bring?

Jim Joseph says he's looking forward to "moving forward in 2020" and in the decade to come!

The Roaring Twenties are upon us, and with the new decade comes great anticipation.

I remember as a kid that whenever a new decade came, it felt like "out with the old and in with the new." It seemed like pop culture and the way of doing things suddenly shifted. Witness 1979 into 1980 and the dawn of a new era in music, fashion, entertainment, and culture. Same with 1989 into 1990. Bam!

As I got older and started my own journey of growth, I started tracking decades by the milestones I had hit during each of the ten-year increments.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Life

Gay Dads Tell Us Their Parenting Goals for 2020

Some are hoping to expand their families — others are hoping to keep the members they already have alive!

We asked our community on Instagram what their parenting goals were for 2020. Here are some of their responses.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Life

10 Ways Gay Dads Inspired Us in 2019

No two gay parents have the same family creation story, but they still have one thing in common — they inspire us.

Every week, we bring you the stories of gay men and their families. While no two of these stories are the same, one thing they have in common is this — they inspire us. Check out 10 (out of the MANY!) ways gay dads moved us in 2019!

Keep reading...
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

Keep reading...
Surrogacy for Gay Men

Interested in Surrogacy? Check Out These Bay Area Events This Weekend

If you're in the Bay Area this weekend, two major events are happening that will be of interest for dads-to-be and surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF)

If you're in San Francisco or the surrounding area, clear your calendar this weekend. Two events are happening simultaneously that are significant for dads-to-be AND surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF). For an outlines of both events, check out below.

Keep reading...
News

Gay Dads Show Up at Boston Event to Drown Out Anti-Trans Protesters

When Trystan Reese found out protesters were planning to show up to an event in Boston he was presenting at, he put out a call to his community for help — and gay dads showed up.

A couple months ago, Trystan Reese, a gay, trans dad based in Portland, Oregon, took to Instagram to share a moving, if incredibly concerning, experience. Reese, who works with Family Equality Council, was speaking at an event in Boston, and learned before his appearance that a group of protesters were planning to attend.

"As a trans person, I was terrified to be targeted by anti-LGBTQ people and experienced genuine fear for my own safety," Trystan wrote. In response, he did what many LGBTQ people would do in a similar situation — reach out to his community in Boston, and ask for their support. "And they came," he wrote. But it wasn't just anyone within the LGBTQ community that came to his defense, he emphasized — "you know who came? Gay men. Gay dads, to be exact. They came, ready to block people from coming in, ready to call building security, ready to protect me so I could lead my event. They did it without question and without reward. They did it because it was the right thing to do."

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse