Spotlight Series sponsored by Quinny, a European stroller brand available in the United States.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
STEPHANIE: My wife Denise and I were married in California during the brief window gay marriage was legal in 2008. We’d been together for 6 years by that point, but were waiting until it could be legally recognized before actually tying the knot. We got married on October 11th and less than a month later Proposition 8 passed, shutting down the opportunity for new marriage licenses to be issued. We were in legal limbo (legally married, but unsure if the courts would eventually void our marriage) until the United States v. Windsor decision on June 26, 2013. I remember being gathered around the tv with the kids as reports began coming out that we’d won. Denise and I were kissing and crying, and the whole family got in on a spontaneous dance party before school.
Denise and I were together five years before we decided to start our family. We considered having a child, but neither of us was particularly interested in being pregnant. When we thought about it we realized we were more interested in being parents than in giving birth. We knew there were children in our community who were in need of families, so the foster adoption route quickly became our first choice. We attended orientations at several local agencies, but ultimately chose to work with Sierra Forever Families, after being very impressed by the large number of same-sex families they worked with. We went to their orientation in May of 2007, quickly completed our paperwork and training, and were certified in October. One month later we got the call that we’d been picked as the family for our daughter, Savvy. She came home at two months old and is now a precocious seven year old who loves reading and eating Ethiopian food.
A couple years later we decided to start the adoption process again, and were again quickly matched with our son, Miles, who came home at seven months old. Miles is now a goofy, sensitive four year old who loves anything with wheels and laughing at his own jokes. After thinking we were done with a boy and a girl, we decided we still had the capacity to love and raise more children, so we updated our file and almost immediately got matched with our daughter, Cora, who came home to us at four months old. Cora is now a feisty two year old who loves animals and playing with her baby dolls. We’ve been so blessed with each of our kids and can’t speak highly enough of our experience with the foster adoption process.
TNF: How did you meet your wife?
STEPHANIE: Denise and I met while working together in the sales department of a local company. I was working as the administrative support for the unit, while she was an outside salesperson. We were casual friends until we ended up in the same evening college courses. We were both finishing our BA in Psychology at Sacramento State and needed the same core courses to graduate, so we’d see each other all day at work and then be in class together at night. We were best friends for nearly two years before the relationship became romantic. And once we were both okay with the turn in the relationship there was no looking back. I was more sure of how I felt for her than I’d ever been of anything else in my life.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families? If so, how so?
STEPHANIE: Our family doesn’t look like a lot of other families. We don’t look like our children, we aren’t all the same race, and our kids have two moms. That said, I’ve been so encouraged by the difference in how my children’s generation handles this. I remember visiting their preschool one morning and they were doing “circle time” and sitting together singing a song about mommy and daddy dinosaurs. One of the kids said “Wait! Savvy doesn’t have a daddy. We should sing Mama and Mommy dinosaurs!” And they all just started singing the new song. And then another kid called out “Wait! Lexie has two dads. Let’s sing Daddy and Papa dinosaurs!” While there’s been some curiosity on the part of several children, they just accept those differences without giving it much thought. We talk a lot in our home about how all families are different and we’ve given our children words they can use when people question why their family looks different. Savvy has gotten to the point
now where she heads off a lot of comments. When Denise went to pick her up at her new afterschool program she said “That’s my mom. She doesn’t look like me.”
We’ve also been so lucky to have met so many other gay transracial adoptive families through our adoption agency’s support group. Our kids have all grown up together and I think they know as many people whose families look like theirs as they do people whose families don’t.
TNF: Where do you live? Is it tough being a gay couple where you live?
STEPHANIE: After Savvy’s adoption was final we started looking at how diverse the schools were around us and decided we didn’t want our daughter being one of two African-American kids in her school. We started looking at other areas in the Sacramento region and were lucky enough to be house hunting during the 2008 election. We could drive through a neighborhood and get a pretty good feel by the political yard signs how many of our potential neighbors were more liberal-leaning. We ultimately chose a neighborhood in Elk Grove with great, diverse public schools and more gay families nearby. We love where we live now. We had a lemonade stand a few years ago to raise money for a mentoring program for foster children and had many neighbors we’d never met before come by and generously donate. There’s never been any weirdness with us being a gay family and our children are surrounded by positive African-American role models.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
STEPHANIE: I always knew I wanted to have kids, but could never see myself parenting with anyone else. When Denise and I were still just friends I would come over while she babysat a friend’s daughter. I’d be sitting, helping this little girl with her homework, while Denise made dinner or folded laundry and I just had this weird premonition that someday we would be doing this, together. Denise wasn’t sure she wanted kids when we first got together, and now is the one joking about us needing to drive an airport shuttle so we can fit all our future kids in one car. Getting to create a family with Denise and parent alongside her has deepened my love for her and has further convinced me that there’s no one else I would rather be on this journey with. Our families are closer, we get to experience the world all over again through our children’s eyes, and it’s just given us a greater sense of purpose for our lives.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful family with us!