EXCLUSIVE: Remember the boy whose tattoo moved his father? Meet his other father - Vincent Levesque

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Portuguese version HERE.

On April 27th, 2018, Out of the Closet (Fora do Armário) issued a version (slightly adapted) from a report by Pink News about a gay father who was shocked at his son getting a tattoo done only until he came across what it was.

The original article, however, did not bring any information about Jonathan's other gay father. Out of the Closet had the privilege of interviewing Vincent Levesque, Jonathan's other father, who gracefully granted us all with this heartwarming talk.

Vincent Levesque, right, is Jonathan's father and Richard's ex-husband. He is American, 48, and lives in Mount Holly, Nova Jersey. Vincent works as Systems Integration manager. 

Fora do Armário: When did you decide to adopt a child? What were your feelings about it at that time?

Vincent Levesque: My partner Richard and I were together for about 6 years when he came to me and expressed interest in children. I really never thought about it nor thought that it was possible for gay couples to adopt in the state of New Jersey. He had met a couple while working as a Pharmacist who adopted sisters and soon we became friends. Even then I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a parent or even try for the fear of rejection. Several months went by and one day I just woke up and had an overwhelming feeling that I wanted to be a parent. So Rich and I spoke about it and we decided to try.

Richard, left, Vincent and Jonathan.

Fora do Armário: What was the process like? Was Jonathan adopted under the names of two dads or only one?

Vincent Levesque:  First, we looked at private adoption agencies and researched online and found one in Trenton. We setup an appointment to talk to someone there but we didn’t go away with warm fuzzy feelings. They talked about a perfect child they had for us but couldn’t provide a picture or background on him. They were, however, willing to give us the paperwork to fill out in regards to our finances and the expenses involved in order to adopt him. After we left we spoke to our friends who adopted the sisters and they told us about adopting through the state of New Jersey like they had. So we decided to take their advice and reached out the Department of Children and Family Services. We filled out the paperwork and took parenting classes which are required and were assigned an amazing caseworker. 

We waited several months while she searched for a child that would be the best fit for us. It was an agonizing wait. We were presented with a few kids as possibilities but because of circumstances beyond our control, we never met any of them. Then one day the caseworker contacted us of about Jonathan who at the time was living in foster care for almost four years. The caseworker met with us at our home and explained all of Jonathan’s history to us. She didn’t sugarcoat anything. We heard the good and the bad and then she gave us a few pictures of him. Hearing his story and seeing that adorable little boy just melted our hearts and I think we knew at that point that we wanted to move forward and set up a meeting with his caseworker and to meet Jonathan. 

The day we met Jonathan was one of the best days of our lives. Here was this cute little boy with an amazing smile needing someone to love and take care of him and we just fell in love with him. We continued to meet with Jonathan and his caseworker for a few months before setting up his transition to our home.  We had to set up his room, contact the schools to have him enrolled and prepared to change our lives forever. Jonathan was officially placed with us in the middle of August of 2005. We were assigned a new local caseworker to help with him settling in but after some delays in the government process we finally made him ours and adopted him in October of 2006.

Jonathan: I love my gay dads - Nova Jersey.

Fora do Armário: How would you describe the experience of being a father to a son that was a Seven-year-old child at the moment of adoption, then a teenager and now a young man? What would you say the biggest challenge is? What about the biggest rewards?

Vincent Levesque:  Being a parent of a child isn’t easy at any age and even more so with your first child. We had many challenges. When adopting an older child you have missed all those stages in a child’s life where their personality formed especially one that was in the system. Jonathan didn’t trust people and acted out a lot. However, Richard and I read a ton of books on parenting and parenting an older adopted child. Many kids in the system when they are placed with a potential family first go through a honeymoon stage where they are perfect little angels. This will last a few weeks to a few months. The next stage they will test you to your limits. You will ride a wave of emotions far greater than anything we have experienced. You will feel like you are failing as a parent and you will shed a lot of tears. But in the end, you have to stay strong, define your boundaries, and most importantly follow through with what you say from promises to discipline.

As Jonathan became a teenager the issues we hadstarted to subside but the normal teenage behaviors that every parent deals with starts. The only difference was that Jonathan having same-sex parents made you a little more of a target by his junior High school peers. We went from having a proud adolescent who had two dads to being hidden a little. It was tough for him and it was very hard for us see him go through some bullying. During this time we made sure Jonathan was open about his feelings and we were very involved with the school to see to that it was being addressed. From these experiences, we started to see Jonathan advocating and defending kids that were being bullied as well. I believe these were the seeds that were planted that made Jonathan want to join the military. 

Jonathan joined the ROTC (Reserved Officer Training Corps) program in high school following in the footstep of my father who had served for 26 years in the Navy. They had a close relationship and Jonathan loved his stories and looked up to him. Sadly, my father passed away and never got to see Jonathan grow and mature into the man he had become. 

Vincent Levesque (right), Jonathan and Richard.

Fora do Armário: Are you and Jonathan close to each other? What do you usually like to do together in your free time?

Vincent Levesque:  JJonathan and I are very close. I’ve always fostered open communication with him and he knows he can ask my advice about anything. Now that he is a man it’s hard to stop being an overprotective parent but still, encourage him to do and be who and what he wants. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the fun parent so I can’t say we went to the beach and rode roller coasters. I left that to Richard. We did and still have our long talks about life, go visit family members, go to car shows, and laugh a lot. I’m still a goofy kid at heart and fart jokes make me laugh. 

Vincent Levesque and Jonathan.

Fora do Armário: Your relationship to Richard came to an end but you both are Jonathan's fathers. This is the experience of many couples, especially straight couples, I mean, parents get divorced and they have to keep up with their fatherhood. How do you handle time together and other aspects of fatherhood after your divorce? 

Vincent Levesque:  One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make was to end our relationship. As like many couples, gay and straight you find that your hopes, wants, and dreams no longer align. We worked on issues together but found ourselves not being happy. You should never sacrifice your happiness or ask someone else to sacrifice theirs.  So when I decided to leave, when I felt Jonathan didn’t need me as much, I saw to it that I stayed close by. I moved into a two bedroom apartment 3 miles away. Jonathan had the security of knowing that I was close. Together, Richard and I still co-parented as best as we could. Your responsibility as a parent never ends after a separation or a divorce. You still have to be there and show that you care and love your child. The biggest thing is to make sure that they know that they weren’t the cause and that you aren’t divorcing them. 

Maybe we were lucky, we didn’t have much drama afterward and still supported each other but as friends. We kept things normal as possible and we’re both there for Jonathan. We shared responsibilities and did things together as we had before I just was no longer living in the same home. 

Jonathan and his two fathers in Rome.

Fora do Armário: By the way, how long ago did you divorce? How did Jonathan react to that new reality? 

Vincent Levesque: Jonathan was 16 when Richard and I separated and it’s been 4 years. Our domestic partnership was dissolved 2 after we separated.  It was tough for Jonathan at first but at that time he was mature enough to see and understand the changes in our relationship. We talked extensively about it and answered all his questions the best that we could. Unfortunately, there was some acting out on Jonathan’s part but just like when we adopted him we had to assure him that we were still there for him. 

Jonathan and Vincent Levesque

Fora do Armário: What are Jonathan most special personality traits in your opinion? 

Vincent Levesque: Jonathan is a funny and charismatic young man. Even though he was adopted I think he has my sense of humor and Richard’s charisma. He can talk to anyone and make friends instantly. I admire that in him a lot especially since I become awkward in social situations. 

Fora do Armário: What are your plans for the near future, say, within the next 5 years or so?

Vincent Levesque: For me, I will be “Soft” retiring this July. Since my separation, I started to travel a lot to South America. I’ve been to Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Argentina,and Paraguay but I fell in love with Brazil. I have been 8 times and to 7 different cities. Since Jonathan joined the military and I was single I didn’t have anything anchoring me here. So the spring of 2017 I decided to change my life. I sold my house and rented a room from a friend, sold  my car and saved as much as I could so that I can move to Sao Paulo, Brazil in August 2018 to learn Portuguese and eventually Spanish in another country. I have made some great friends there and a special someone that I hope blossoms into my next great relationship. As for 5 years out, I have no definitive plans. I just want to enjoy life and smell the roses along this life’s journey and as long as I am happy that’s all the matters.

Jonathan on his 19th birthday. Brazil's shirt!

Fora do Armário: Can you leave a word to the readers of Fora do Armário?

Vincent Levesque: I spent some time thinking of some words of wisdom but I’m terrible at that. The first thing that I’ll say is that if you want to adopt, you should. It will have its challenges and won’t be easy. But it is so rewarding to see and know you help mold them into the person they will become.  The second thing is, be who you are, be proud, live your life to the fullest but always trust your gut over your heart and head. It will never steer you wrong in life. 

Jonathan and Vincent - Instagram