This week’s Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild.US “Let Love Define Family™” series installment follows the story of Ted Gottis and Xavier Quinonez, and their challenges in building a family of their own.
When Ted Gottis and Xavier Quinonez began their relationship 18 years ago, their families did not exactly embrace the idea. Coming from a traditional Latino culture, Xavier’s mother had a difficult time accepting that her son is gay, as did several of his brothers. Ted’s white family was even less supportive. Ted’s father had a difficult time understanding his son, as did one of Ted’s very conservative brothers.
When Ted, 45, a business consultant and Xavier, 40, a talent manager discussed a future together, they learned that having children was a common goal. After friends recommended Five Acres, a foster care and adoption agency based in Altadena, CA, the couple took the next step to make their dream of being parents a reality.
“At Five Acres we worked with Ivon Favela, who taught our training classes, and then Marianne Guilfoyle, who was our adoption specialist,” said Xavier.
Soon after completing the certification process the couple was introduced to two brothers, six-year-old David and one-year-old Elvis. The children came from a Spanish-speaking home so the fact that Ted and Xavier both spoke Spanish was a comfort to the children. And with Xavier’s mother living with the couple for the last 17 years, the aromas and spices of Latino cuisine would ease the children’s transition.
Although the children already had a permanent place in Ted and Xavier’s hearts and home, the court process brought some unexpected challenges for the couple because of opposition from the biological family.
“Fortunately, the legal team that we had in place was very good at litigating that. Marianne of Five Acres attended every court date with us, even if the session stretched into a second day. She was completely giving of her time and made us feel very supported.”
Ted says that the arrival of children in their home marked a major shift in how the couple was accepted by their extended family. “Having children seems to have bridged any disagreement about being gay and forged a better relationship with both sides of the family. Xavier’s brothers had been a little more distant, although most of his family has been generally more okay with our relationship. But once we had children, things improved with his brothers who have kids. Despite our differences, that seems to be a common denominator that we all share.”
“Both of the kids are very good academically, they’re both very good with sports, both very talented and coordinated in that regard and that’s definitely not me, so I’m glad they have those genes,” said Ted.
Now, six years later, taking special vacations together is a family tradition, and everyone gets in on the planning.
“We go on vacation twice a year and the vacations are a big part of what we look forward to,” explained Ted. “They’re all fairly local, within six or seven hours of driving. About a year ago we went all through the state of California. We drove up the eastern side to Yosemite and Angels Camp, across the top of the state and down the west coast through San Francisco. When we go on vacation we pick certain things that we want to learn as a family, whether it’s how to build a fire, how to use a compass, or how to make fresh drinking water if you’re stranded. We always try to pick something that the kids are going to take away from it. That’s something that my parents did with me. A vacation is fun in itself, but you want to make it a learning experience. Every day was packed with educational stuff and the kids have really come to enjoy this. They don’t typically like to go somewhere without getting something educational out of it. They have fun like kids do, but they’re always looking for the signs to read and books on the places they’re going to go.
“The best thing for me is seeing everything through your kids’ eyes. I think as you get older you fall into a habit of looking at things the way that you’ve always looked at them, not out of a lack of curiosity but out of habit and to save time. There are things you just don’t notice anymore. Kids focus on everything for the first time and everything is brand new. It causes you to see everything as brand new, too. That’s my favorite part.”
Corinne Lightweaver is the Communications Manager at RaiseAChild.US, a national organization headquartered in Hollywood, California that encourages the LGBT community to build families through fostering and adopting to serve the needs of the 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. Since 2011, RaiseAChild.US has run media campaigns and events to educate prospective parents and the public, and has engaged more than 2,200 prospective parents. For information about how you can become a foster or fost/adopt parent, visit www.RaiseAChild.US and click on “Next Step to Parenthood.”