- FAMILY -

FAMILY is a photographic series featuring portraits of LGBTQ families taken at home, shot documentary-style against the backdrop of everyday life.  These images are a celebration of love and diversity with the goal of increasing the visibility of LGBTQ families.  

Background: During my ten years working as a federal probation officer, I witnessed people losing their freedoms as a result of racial and socioeconomic inequality.  This served as a powerful reminder of the themes in my life that I have always cared so deeply about.  FAMILY was born out of a passion for human rights, social justice, and equality and an interest in family dynamic. 

For further information or to participate and share your story, contact family@amymayesphotography.com  

Ask me about family photo session options which are separate from participation in this series.


October 26, 2014:  Cara Marshall, Jennifer Parkinson, James-Henry Marshall Parkinson (JP) (age 6) and John Marshall Parkinson (age 3)

October 26, 2014:  Cara Marshall, Jennifer Parkinson, James-Henry Marshall Parkinson (JP) (age 6) and John Marshall Parkinson (age 3)

Our story began in high school. We attended a large suburban high school and, while we were not in any of the same classes, we both played Lacrosse. We met on the field, became friends, and this friendship quickly turned into love.

Sadly two students in our class committed suicide together because they were gay. It was a very difficult time. The school brought in speakers to talk about gay issues. I think this helped us a lot. Back then it seemed like we were the only ones, and the world felt so frightening.

We ended up choosing to go to the same college in upstate NY and we each came out to our families shortly after. We became very active in our campus LGBT group. It was the mid 1990’s and at the time we felt that the gay movement needed a lot of outspoken leaders. We became co-chairs of the group and took it to a new level. It was an exciting time.

Since then, we moved back to Long Island and eventually had our two boys. We both work on college campuses and are very content in our lives. Our families had a hard time at first accepting us, but came around and eventually became our biggest allies.

The boys are fortunate to be growing up now, in a time when people are so accepting and we see gay people and gay families in main stream media and in our neighborhoods. They have met with very little negativity in terms of their different family. Their teachers and classmates have been very supportive and accepting of their family. In the twenty years since we first came out, the world has changed so incredibly much, and we are so thankful for that. So many before us have struggled and we appreciate all of the work that went into making the world a better place.
— Cara & Jennifer

August 20, 2015:  Rocco Forgione, Corey Martin and Forge Leon Martin (17 months)

August 20, 2015:  Rocco Forgione, Corey Martin and Forge Leon Martin (17 months)

When Rocco and Corey met, they both knew they wanted a family. They value commitment and unconditional love above all other things and knew they would build a great home for a child. After five years together they first set out to adopt… when work and circumstances made that unrealistic, they decided to pursue a way to have a biological son. After being together ten years, they welcomed an active baby boy, Forge Leon into the world. He is every bit the son of both Rocco’s (Papa) and Corey’s (Dada), seemingly taking on parts of both of their personalities. They have two Boston Terriers, Bug and Bee, a fat white cat named Brittany and hope to give Forge a little brother or sister within the next year or so. They live in Westchester, NY where they can be close to family, cousins, aunts, uncles and more.
— Rocco & Corey

April 9, 2016:  The Cubanos - Aida, Deborah, Noah (age 5) and Alex (18 months)

April 9, 2016:  The Cubanos - Aida, Deborah, Noah (age 5) and Alex (18 months)

Before we even went on our first date, we knew we loved each other. Within a few months we knew we wanted to spend our lives together. We went to Vermont and had a civil union. It was the closest thing to marriage we could have at the time. It felt great to us to become “joined in civil union,” but once we were back home in New Jersey, we knew it didn’t mean much to others. We knew we eventually wanted children. In 2008, when President Obama won the election, we felt like it was the right time to start trying. Two years later, our first son Noah was born. In 2013, we knew we wanted to give Noah a sibling and we set out to start trying again. We were thrilled when gay marriage became legal that year. We ended 2013, with a beautiful wedding on the warmest Saturday in December with Noah as our ring bearer. The following month we were pregnant with our second son, Alex. Even though both boys are biologically Aida’s, I carried Noah and Aida carried Alex to really make the family bond a special one. Fourteen years after our first date, we feel so lucky to have our beautiful boys and to have all of our family times and traditions together.”
— Deborah
Music is a very important part of my life’s journey. My father and brother, who also play the guitar, were a big influence in my love of music. From parranda’s during the Christmas season, to impromptu duets with my brother at family gatherings, music always brought us together. Now I have music sessions with my own family and I share my love of music with my sons and wife. In this photo, Noah is playing the güiro, which is a traditional Puerto Rican instrument that originated with the Taíno people. The güiro is also my father’s signature instrument. After his brain surgery and suffering from a stroke a few years ago, my father can no longer play, making this an even more important tradition to pass down to Noah and Alex.
— Aida

October 11, 2015:  Joe Adelantar, Sean Gilligan and Katherine Adelantar Gilligan (13 months)

October 11, 2015:  Joe Adelantar, Sean Gilligan and Katherine Adelantar Gilligan (13 months)

A little about us: I’m 37 and Sean’s 35. We’ve recently celebrated our 17th Year Anniversary. We’ve been together monogamously since I was 19 and Sean was 17. I come from a very catholic family and the first coils of years, I was estranged from my family and they had a hard time accepting that I was gay. All of that has changed now and they accept and love us.

We have a 13 month old baby daughter named Katherine and our journey to get her was a whirlwind.

Sean’s best friend of 15 years offered to be our compassionate surrogate. The original plan was that Sean would be the donor. Our friend is Japnese so the baby would have been half Caucasian, half Asian (since I’m Filipino).

We got pregnant and were so excited, but we found out about 10 weeks in that the baby had SMA, spinal muscular atrophy and we lost the baby. It was one of the hardest things for us, to want a baby so much and lose it.

A year later, we tried with me and before we did, we made sure I wasn’t a career. We found out in January we were pregnant and 6 weeks in, we found it was twins! I was ecstatic and Sean was shocked!

At our 10 week scan, one of the twins didn’t make it and our heart sank. I was scared that this wouldn’t happen but we had one healthy baby still.

12 weeks, we did a maternity 21 test and they said we were having a boy. All we cared about was that it was healthy.

14 weeks in, we go in for ultra sound, and the nurse said it was a girl. I asked the doctor if it was one of those babies with boys and girls part. Apparently, the Maternity 21 which looks for the boy chromosomes confirms that we would have had a boy and girl set of twins.

It’s almost a year since Katherine been born, and it’s been an adventurous year. From moving out of Jersey City to South Orange, NJ, buying a fixer upper and trying to balance work and life.

The biggest surprise is our surrogate parents. When we moved, we were on a waiting list for daycare, and both of them being retired, offered to watch Katherine. They never expected to have this level of involvement in her life and they absolutely are thankful and happy to be given this chance.

Our daughter’s first word was “DAda” but her second and third are Japanese words and neither of us speak Japanese.
— Joe

February 27, 2016:  Christine Abbott, Erica Devaux, Garrett Paul Abbott-Devaux (11 months) and Trudy

February 27, 2016:  Christine Abbott, Erica Devaux, Garrett Paul Abbott-Devaux (11 months) and Trudy

It’s so funny how life comes together when you least expect it. We were approaching the ten-year anniversary since we met. And for five years now, we were trying to start a family. We always talked about setting a date for a ceremony if we ever had a baby. While we thought about plans to celebrate the past ten years, Erica turned to me and said “It’s been ten years, marriage is now legal, and the baby may never come. Let’s plan a wedding.” So we spent our anniversary weekend looking at wedding venues and beginning to plan for our big day. Two weeks later, we set a date and put a deposit on our favorite place. Then two more weeks later we got the call! The adoption agency was calling to say that we have been chosen by a birth family and we were about to have a baby! Life came together for us all at once. Several months later, our wedding date approached. We had scrambled to finalize the plans since we had been spending all our time with the new baby. It all turned out just perfect. We got married surrounded by our closest family and friends, and most importantly with our new son.
— Christine

March 22, 2015:  Mark McNease and Frank Murray

March 22, 2015:  Mark McNease and Frank Murray

We met completely by chance, as is often the case (not many couples meet by pre-arrangement!). It was a cold December evening and we both went to a dating event at NYC’s LGBT Center. After an earlier disappointing experience, I decided to just go and have fun. It wasn’t quite speed dating, but a version of it, and one of the men I thought I’d like to date was Frank. He thought the same, and we embarked on what will soon be a 9 year journey.

We waited until the Supreme Court overturned DOMA to get married, since we didn’t want a marriage license that was valid in one state and not another. That was August 22, 2013, and life continues to be exciting and challenging. We plan to eventually leave NYC after many years to live in our small house in the New Jersey woods. Very rural, very beautiful. Where we’ll end up from there we don’t know, maybe Delaware, but adventure calls, especially the adventure of each day together.
— Mark

July 26, 2015:  Wylliam Soliwoda-Doan, Todd Doan, Cristian Soliwoda-Doan (age 15), Joseph Agaman (age 12) and George Cruz Soliwoda-Doan (age 18)

July 26, 2015:  Wylliam Soliwoda-Doan, Todd Doan, Cristian Soliwoda-Doan (age 15), Joseph Agaman (age 12) and George Cruz Soliwoda-Doan (age 18)

Todd Doan (age 41) and Wylliam Soliwoda-Doan (age 40) have been foster parents for about seven years. During that time, they have fostered 14 children ranging from age 5 to age 18. A year ago, they adopted George and Cristian, who had been in foster care for over 8 years. Currently, their home is still open for fostering with the intent of adopting. Joseph is currently being fostered with plans by the Division of Child and Permancy to terminate parental rights and adoption is in the works. During their time as foster parents, they have taken on mainly teenage boys who have ADHD and/or disabilities (learning & autism). They plan to continue fostering as long as they can to help as many children in difficult situations.

Todd Doan is currently a music educator in East Orange, New Jersey. In his nineteenth year as an educator, he has taught in Newark, NJ, Cranford, NJ and Winter Park, FL. His passion for music has been fulfilled with conducting the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra, New Jersey Youth Symphony, Norwalk Youth Orchestra and InterSchool Orchestras of New York. In addition to his profession, his hobby includes following and playing tennis. Todd was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States when he was seven years old. He was raised by a single mother, Nina, and has one older brother, David. He is happily married to his husband of fifteen years.

Wylliam Soliwoda-Doan is a stay-at-home dad for the past seven years. He earned his MBA in Business Management at Rollins College in 2001. Since graduating from college, he has been employed by Peak Performance, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and The Gym in New York City. Wylliam hopes to return back to work in the near future with a fitness company. Wylliam’s interests includes fitness, WWE wrestling and Star Wars. He is the youngest of four siblings (Lorie, Michael, Terri and Dan) and was raised by his parents, William and Linda.

George Cruz Soliwoda-Doan is a recent high school graduate from Dickenson High School in Jersey City. This 18 years old hopes to continue his education at Hudson Community College and pursue a career in Criminal Justice. George’s hobbies include playing video games and spending time with family members. He is close to his biological mother, Rosa, who is currently living in Dominican Republic. He has a younger brother Cristian.

Cristian Soliwoda-Doan is a Sophomore at Lincoln High School in Jersey City. He is an outgoing 15 year old who enjoys WWE wrestling and aspires to become a professional wrestler. Cristian is a member of the Boy Scouts of American, and his other hobbies include watching WWE, being on social media, knitting, and being with friends and family.

Joseph Agaman is a 7th grader at MS #4 in Jersey City. He is a colorful and honest 12 year old, always being true to himself. Joseph is a loving brother to his 2 foster brothers and 6 biological siblings. His favorite shows include WWE wrestling and RuPaul’s drag race. Joseph has a passion for glamorous makeup and fashion. His goal in life is “to be fabulous at anything I do.
— Todd & Wylliam

October 4, 2014:  Joe Matessa, Billy Molasso, Eli Molasso-Matessa & Ricky Molasso-Matessa (twins, age 6)

October 4, 2014:  Joe Matessa, Billy Molasso, Eli Molasso-Matessa & Ricky Molasso-Matessa (twins, age 6)

I was somewhat of a late-bloomer, and didn’t come-out until I was 30 years old. As I was coming to terms with my sexual orientation, I knew one thing for certain – I didn’t want compromise the two things that I’d always dreamt about: getting married, and having a family. Fast forward six years to June 2006. I’m not getting any younger, and I’m not gonna waste my time dating guys that don’t want to have kids. Against the advice of my friends and family, I would come right out and ask guys on the first or second date whether or not they want to have kids. As you can imagine, there weren’t a lot of third dates. So there I am, on a friend’s rooftop deck overlooking the Chicago Pride Parade. I meet this awesome guy, Billy. I may have had a drink or two, and true to form – I asked him if he wanted to have kids. I believe that I may have even asked him if he wanted to have my kids. And so it began.

Three months later, we started talking about how we were going to make this happen. In the state of Illinois, one of us would’ve had to adopt the child as a single, straight male, and somewhere down the road, we could do a second-parent adoption – providing we got the right judge, in the right county. As we went through the home study process, our partner would’ve been recognized as a friend, or a roommate. That just wasn’t acceptable to us. It didn’t feel like how I dreamt of starting my family. Billy is in higher education, and their faculty recruitment process can take up to 10-12 months. So he found a potential opportunity, and asked me how I felt about moving to Washington, D.C. That following June, we quit our jobs, sold my house, and moved our lives to D.C.

A year later, we had our wedding (before it was legal), and started the process of adoption. We initially started with a local agency. However, as we got deeper into the process, came to realize that we were about 2-3 years down the list. Again…not getting any younger. So we partnered with a second agency that had a more national reach – Independent Adoption Center (IAC).

We knew that we wanted two, and were hoping that they might be siblings. We also knew that infants kindda ‘scared’ us, so we were hoping that they might be toddlers. Both agencies shared with us that it was quite unlikely that we would get what we were looking for, and counseled us to start with one infant, then a couple of years later try for another. So that’s how we proceeded. Billy and I often joked about how great it would be to have twins, but never actually thought it would happen. As you go through the preparation, there’s a high level of emotional anxiety, and IAC is constantly reminding you that “you’ll get the children that you were meant to have.”

At 10:36, the morning of Friday, November 13th, 2009 - less than two months after our profile became active in IAC’s “parent pool,” I got a call on my cell phone while I was sitting at my desk at work. It was a young lady with a quivering voice. She introduced herself, told me that she had one-year-old twin boys, and asked me if I wanted to be their new daddy. We’d had some failed matches before, so I tried not to get my hopes up – but this one felt different, and I was overwhelmed with joy. She happened to be local – less than 30 minutes away. So the next day she came to house and we met in person. The following day we went to her house and met the boys. Three days later was their birthday, and we took them to their one-year check-up at the doctor. And here we are, five years later. We truly got the children that we were meant to have.
— Joe

October 17, 2015:  The Seeleys - Brain, Tim, Gabriel (age 4 1/2 ) and Caleb (age 2) 

October 17, 2015:  The Seeleys - Brain, Tim, Gabriel (age 4 1/2 ) and Caleb (age 2) 

Our names are Brian and Tim, and we are a ‘Match.com’ commercial come to life. We live in Pelham, a suburb located in Westchester County, approximately twenty miles outside New York City. We have been married for six exciting years, as of October 9, 2010, although we have been together for a bit over twelve years. In August ’03 our paths crossed online, though we say it was fate bringing us together. At the time Brian was living in Boston and Tim in NYC, both subscribing to the same dating website. One evening online, when Brian set his search criteria on that website, he mistakenly chose matches within one thousand miles, rather than ten. The first profile to appear was Tim’s and once Brian saw Tim’s picture he was smitten! As Brian began reading Tim’s profile, he was surprised to read that Tim was from the same hometown as Brian, Williamsville, New York. Thinking not much would come of it since we lived over two-hundred miles apart, Brian decided to send an e-mail to Tim, just to say ‘hi’ and suggest a meeting if ever we were in Buffalo at the same time. This first e-mail lead to numerous lengthy emails, followed by several rather lengthy phone calls. After all the back and forth, we both soon realized a desire to meet each other in person. We made a date to meet in NYC that following weekend. Much to the surprise of most of Brian’s friends, he drove down to NYC to meet Tim, and ended up spending the entire weekend there with him. We were fortunate enough to share what seemed to be an instant connection and our relationship moved full steam ahead from that point forward. We moved in together and lived in Manhattan for four years, and have been in Pelham, NY for almost seven years now. We were blessed with our son Gabriel in Feb ‘11. We adopted him, after being present for his birth and have cherished every moment since. We were then pleasantly surprised and even more blessed with our son Caleb in October ’13. We adopted him the day after he was born and our family has been complete since that day!

We both love to travel, and since we have been together we have taken trips to Italy, Spain, Greece, the Dominican Republic, and St. Thomas. Our trip to Spain was capped off with participation in Tomatina’, a tomato festival in which some thirty-thousand revelers engage in a town sized food fight using strictly tomatoes. It was one of the craziest and most exhilarating things either of us have ever done. We have also been all over the United States. We hope that we can share our sense of adventure with our children and be able to show them the world that we have been able to start to discover. Before going head first into parenthood, we decided to test the waters and adopted a beagle named Maddeline. After moving out of Manhattan and into the suburbs it seemed only fitting to get her a sibling, so we adopted a male beagle named Cooper. Although some say they are just pets, we treat them like a member of our family. We love to spend time with the dogs playing in the yard, taking long walks around town or to the dog park, and cuddling under the blanket on a chilly winter evening. One of the most amazing times in our family thus far was the birth of our son Gabriel Brian. We feel so very fortunate to have been present for his delivery. When he was born in February of 2011, in Indianapolis. Gabe is a sweet, sensitive but strong-willed, funny, and caring boy. He is all boy, has a great sense of adventure, though always ensures his Daddy (Brian) and Abba (Tim) are within earshot. When Gabe was born we chose to raise him Jewish, and were lucky enough to find a great early childhood development program that Gabe attends at Temple Israel of New Rochelle, a reform synagogue. Gabe has a great sense of community at his school, has developed some great friendships, and in general has learned so much as a person and a Jew. Brian grew up going to Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, also a reform temple where he was active in youth group, and enjoyed holidays and sense of family that came with his Judaism. Tim grew up practicing Catholicism, and also has very fond memories of family holidays and the togetherness those holidays brought. We hope to celebrate all these holidays, including non-secular, with our children. We feel that is one way to encourage a cohesive family unit. The next most amazing day for our family came on October 26, 2013 when we got a call on a Saturday evening from our adoption agency telling us of a baby boy who was born the day before, whose mother was looking to put him up for adoption, and would be ok with them showing her our profile. We immediately said yes and then hung up the phone wondering if we really just said ok to that, and if she picked us realizing we would be having another child the next day! Two hours later the phone rang, and we were told that we would be picking up our new son tomorrow morning at Mt. Sinai hospital and we needed to provide a name immediately, so they could get the paperwork together. This is how Caleb came into our life! Caleb is funny, sweet, and one of the most loving persons you will ever meet. We tell him every day how he gives the best hugs (because he does). Caleb is really coming into his own as a person. Being almost 2 years old, his vocabulary is growing every day and he is making sure to let his big brother know that he is here to stay! They are amazing brothers, and what has been most amazing is to see how our two boys, who do not share any biology, can truly become brothers. Caleb also attends the same school as his brother, loves to go to school and play with his friends. Both boys keep us busy with birthday parties, swimming, soccer, and all the playground time they can get. We feel so lucky at how life as turned out, and how amazing our family is.
— Brian & Tim