When Juan came out at the age of 15, his family responded in a horrible way: They disowned him and kicked him out of his home. He became homeless for a while, until a family in his neighborhood took him in. They were a family of eight – mom, dad and six kids – before Juan moved in, but they became his family and took care of him. As soon as he finished high school, Juan moved from Texas to Alaska, hoping to start his life anew.
For Juan, the painful experience of being disowned and abandoned made something very clear: If he wanted a family, he would have to create his own. He set his sights on fatherhood. He realized soon that two common paths to gay fatherhood, adoption and surrogacy, were out his reach; they were too expensive. In Alaska, he became close friends with a woman. He told her he was gay and that parenthood was his dream; she wanted to help him fulfill his dreams. And so the two decided to create a baby for him. She would only help out with parenting every now and then. On July 3, 2010, Juan became a dad to a baby girl.
Soon it became apparent that the birth mom had to play a much larger role in Juan’s daughter’s life than both she and Juan had foreseen. Whenever Juan was traveling for work, the baby needed a reliable caregiver. Moreover, fatherhood was a considerable financial burden to Juan; fortunately Juan’s adopted family helped out a lot. Juan and the birth mom also struggled with the legal aspect of both being parents to their daughter. Despite their original plans, their division of parenting responsibilities had become something resembling co-parenting. In hindsight, Juan wished he had done more research and had been more prepared for the job. But by the time his daughter turned 9 months old, Juan, in effect, became the sole parent. Today, after many years of legal wrangling, Juan has been officially recognized as the sole parent.
Juan eventually moved back to Texas when his uncle told him his mother had cancer. “I decided that after two years of not speaking, it was enough, and so I moved back home to be with her,” said Juan. Once he was back in Texas, the two worked on healing their fractured relationship. Juan joined the military when he returned to Texas, and his mother helped watched his daughter when he was away on service.
Three years ago, when Juan was ordering from a taco truck, he met Tommy Espinoza. He and Tommy, a 36-year-old Shiseido account executive, hit it off immediately. The two fell in love and on a trip to Belize in 2017, Tommy asked Juan to marry him. The wedding is planned for November this year.
At first, it was difficult for Juan’s daughter to welcome Tommy into her family. She was used to just her dad, and having a new parent required a big adjustment. But Tommy and Juan worked hard to tie their family together. Eventually the three settled into a groove, and now they are as close as can be. She is excited to be a flower girl at her dads’ wedding in November.
With serious plans to expand their family (one of the couple’s friends has agreed to be an egg donor!) and with a wedding around the corner, 2018 and beyond is looking very exciting for this family. The men are currently saving for surrogacy.
Although fatherhood has certainly come with hurdles and challenges, Juan, now a youth case worker, feels blessed to be the proud dad to his now 8-year-old girl. “My life is full of joy now and she’s makes me work harder and really appreciate the smaller things in life,” shared Juan.
This was originally published on Gays With Kids.