Gay parents

It’s a family dinner night for three. Gregory “Ean” Taylor warmly wraps his arms around Dravin Irving, his son, as they wait for the oven to preheat. Russell Irving watches over them, sinking in the moment they are sharing with one another. Dravin, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, calls Irving “dad” and Taylor “daddy” because he is the adopted son between the same-sex couple.

Dravin leaves the kitchen and piano notes echo from the dining room. Irving and Taylor walk across on the wooden floor and stand behind their son. Though he is in the beginning levels, Dravin has picked up the instrument very rapidly. He glides his fingers down the keys as his fathers smile and nod their heads along.

This family could be considered old-fashioned. The family promptly wakes up at 6 a.m. They all eat breakfast together without exception, and Taylor walks Dravin to the bus stop every morning. After school and homework, Dravin takes karate and piano lessons. During dinner, he helps his dads cook meals and clean the dishes.

Dravin’s dads are both from central Indiana. Irving, 53, is a interior designer who works to restore older Muncie homes like at the Midwest Restoration Festival. He and his family grew up in Muncie. Taylor, 44, is an Indianapolis native that’s currently a senior in social work at Ball State.

THE ADOPTION

Taylor has always loved children. He worked with disabled kids for 11 years. He recalls expressing to a co-worker his yearning for children of his own. That was when he learned that he and Russell could be foster parents.

Approximately 19 percent of same-sex couples raising children have an adopted child in their family, according to a New York Times article. There are currently 115,000 of those children in the United States.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, Indiana is one of the 16 states, along with Washington, D.C., that allows same-sex couples to jointly petition for adoption. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in 2006 that any unmarried couple, heterosexual or homosexual, could petition to adopt.

Irving said he would not raise children with any previous relationship, but he would with Taylor. After being together for five years, they decided to commit to being parents and went through foster parent training that took six months. Afterward, they received a call from their case worker about an 8-year-old who was not available for adoption but for fostering.

“The minute I looked at him, I knew that he was supposed to be ours,” Irving said.

Even though they didn’t have a physical copy of their approved foster parenting license, their son Dravin came to their home. The license arrived three weeks later.

“Dravin doesn’t know who his father is, and his mother has a drug addiction,” Taylor said. “I remember when he got out of the car with his National Guard hat with his little suitcase. It was very sad.”

Dravin’s mother attempted to get her act together but lost her parental license, and Dravin was legally adopted by Irving and Taylor.

“Foster children typically have a lot of emotional and psychological scars, so they act out behaviorally,” Taylor said. “With that, we knew taking in somebody that was a foster child would have a lot of issues and not attach immediately because his mom abandoned him.”

Irving said raising teenagers is just difficult in general for every parent. 

“He’s just a 14-year-old boy right now,” he said. “Testosterone meets up with any child.”

Taylor said Dravin has an uncanny blend of his and Irving’s personalities. 

“His anger, temper and addictive personality is all mine,” he said. “I tell my mom about Dravin, and she said I used to be the same way.”

THE JOURNEY

Irving is nine years older than Taylor, and some people they’ve come across do not originally think he’s the father.

“Because I am old, people think I’m the grandfather,” Irving said.

Even though Taylor is not close to his extended family, his mother loves Dravin very much.

“I told her what we were doing with the adoption, and she gave her full support,” he said. “I gave my mom her first grandchild.”

Taylor’s relationship with his parents and him coming out caused him distress in his past. His parents married when they were 18 and divorced before right before his second birthday.

Taylor said he separated from his family because they did not accept his sexuality. For example, he couldn’t bring his boyfriend to Thanksgiving dinner at his grandparents’ house. He escaped to various places around the country.

“I was chasing men around the country instead of trying to figure myself out and what I wanted out of life,” Taylor said. “I was trying to fit into someone else’s life. If they accepted me, I accepted me. Especially having a parent that rejected me, I always felt like I needed a lot of acceptance from people, especially men.”

He resolved his problems with alcoholism and ended up homeless. Since then, he recovered, enrolled in school and met his partner, Irving. A mutual friend set up a blind date for them. 

“Even after 10 years, my favorite most single person is him,” Irving said. “He’s the finest person I know.”

In addition to the support from Taylor’s mother, Irving’s family accepts Dravin as a regular family member.

“Dravin is their grandson, Ean is their son-in-law,” he said.

THE OBSTACLES

When first adopting Dravin as their sons, Irving and Taylor were told only one of them could adopt and the other would have to be his guardian.

“It was something that bothered us, because we wanted to be both of his parents,” Taylor said. “We went through four or five attorneys that wouldn’t do it because we were gay.”

Then they found one attorney who was glad to help the couple and Dravin out.

“[The attorney] adopted from the foster care system before,” Taylor said. “The new birth certificate just lists us at parents. Some of the previous forms were very gender specific.”

Before having Dravin as their son, Irving and Taylor worried about raising a child in a society that views homosexuals as second-class citizens.

“We questioned adopting at one point knowing that he was going to get picked on,” Taylor said. “Every kid gets picked on for something. I wanted him to realize that those things will pass. How he deals with it will make him a better person.”

THE FUTURE

Last year, the Indiana House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill to add a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex unions and marriages. If the bill is passed through the 2013-14 General Assembly and Indiana voters, the law will be implemented into the Indiana Constitution.

“Russell and I are more legally bound by our adoption than in any other way because we’re on Dravin’s birth certificate,” Taylor said. “If a gay couple were to break up, there’s no rules for who’s paying child support, who gets custody. Even claiming Dravin as a dependent, we had to discuss who was going to be his dependent even though we’re both his parents. Inheritance and insurance are more issues.”

Even though the constitutional amendment against their family looms ahead, Irving and Taylor said they are married in their minds.

“We would like to get married in the future,” Irving said. “We asked Dravin if he would be our best man at our wedding, and he said, ‘bring it on.’”

The family plans on staying in Muncie for the long run. Irving plans to continue his work in restoring old homes, like the one he and his family currently reside in. Taylor plans to finish school and continue his education with a master’s degree in social work.

“Muncie was a good sized city, and we wanted Dravin to be around people of different cultures,” Irving said. “We thought he could be brought up with more diversity.”

Irving, Taylor and Dravin reside in a neighborhood east of downtown Muncie. The neighbors across the street are a young gay couple who is also interested in adoption. They are getting early parenting experiences by being uncles for Dravin.

“We’re paving the way,” Irving said. “But we don’t see ourselves as a trendsetter.”

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