Brian Rosenberg, who is HIV-positive, spent most of his adult life thinking becoming a dad was simply out of the question.
"At that point, it was all about how much time do we have together?" Rosenberg, a gay man, recalls discussing with his partner, Ferd van Gameren.
But as treatment and outcomes for other HIV-positive folks like him improved, the couple's mindset changed. "We started to feel like life had to be about more than just the two of us."
After a turbulent, emotional ride with an adoption that fell through at the last minute and attempts at surrogacy, Rosenberg and van Gameren finally became fathers when they adopted a newborn baby boy named Levi.
"We went into a few stores like, 'We’re having a baby. We’re getting it tomorrow. We have nothing. What do we need?'" he says.
They found that pretty much everything baby-related was marketed toward moms. Most of the advice online was, again, geared toward moms. There was barely any support out there for dads, let alone gay dads.
Eventually, the two got a hold of the whole parenting thing and decided they'd try to make a difference. They started an online community called, fittingly, Gays With Kids.
Gays With Kids shares stories, photos, and support for a hugely neglected but growing audience: gay dads.
All photos via Gays With Kids, used with permission.
The photos are absolutely adorable — diverse, happy, double-dad families from all around the world.
But there's an important mission behind the "aww"-inducing pics.
Rosenberg says the mission is two-fold: one, to help gay men learn about how they can become dads (it's not always easy) and two, to see what life is like for other gay men once their dream comes true.
A lot of gay men in their 40s and 50s never would have imagined becoming a parent was possible.
The good news is, Rosenberg says, the younger generation is thinking about kids more and more — a fact that keeps him motivated every day.
While he wants to normalize gay parenthood, Rosenberg is very clear: "To me there was never a need to prove that it's OK to be gay and become a dad."
"Of course it's OK," he says.
Knocking down major stereotypes isn't something he concerns himself with much.
He just wants people — straight and gay alike — to know that two men who love each other coming together to raise a child is a beautiful thing.
And he's right! I mean, have you seen the photos so far?
The response has been huge: Gays With Kids has over 50,000 followers on Instagram and brings in thousands of letters, stories, and messages of support every day.
Rosenberg says his favorite letters are actually from moms of gay sons.
"They said 'thank you' because we helped show them what their sons' lives might look like one day," he says.
He's also inspired when he hears from gay men overseas, some of whom aren't "allowed" to even be gay at all.
These might just look like cute photos to some of us, but for gay men in certain countries, it's impossible to overestimate how hopeful they may make them feel.
As for Rosenberg and van Gameren, they're now proud parents to three gorgeous children. It's a dream come true for both of them.
A dream they almost didn't let themselves believe in.
[rebelmouse-image 19528458 dam="1" original_size="933x1165" caption="Photo courtesy of Manny Lopez and Tatiana Teo Photography via Gays With Kids." expand=1]Photo courtesy of Manny Lopez and Tatiana Teo Photography via Gays With Kids.
Sharing their story, and the stories of other men like them, has become a true labor of love.
The effect Gays With Kids is having goes far beyond its number of Instagram followers.
It's giving hope, pride, and proof that anything is possible to a whole new generation of gay men.