With PRIDE Month upon us, it is crucial to recognize and celebrate the journeys of LGBTQ+ champions who are breaking boundaries and reshaping societal norms. Terrell and Jarius Joseph, renowned LGBTQ+ advocates and social media influencers, have captivated millions with their inspiring story of parenthood and unwavering commitment to equality.
With their social media platforms boasting a substantial following (2.1 Million on TikTok alone) and their appearances on notable media outlets, such as Good Morning America and Forbes, Terrell and Jarius have become a beacon of hope for the LGBTQ+ community.
Parentology met with this dynamic power-couple to talk about the challenges of parenting, being advocates, and their experience making history on the reboot of “Wife Swap” as the first gay couple. They are vocal about social injustice, civic duty, and sharing their story on what it means to belong to two vulnerable communities as gay Black men.
Redefining the Modern Family
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Terrell and Jarius are millennial gay dads with plenty of experience defying stereotypes and stigmas surrounding same-sex parenting. Their unconventional journey, shared transparently with their followers, has resonated deeply with people worldwide.
“I think that we became advocates naturally. It wasn’t anything that we actually set out to do,” says Terrell. “We started to share when we were going through surrogacy with our first daughter and then the miscarriages that happened. Because we were so private when we were expecting Ashley and Aria, it became this viral moment when we actually shared them with the world. It had catapulted our social media presence, where people wanted to hear what we have to say. They want to see our lives; two guys, two parents, two husbands trying to figure this thing out.”
Starting from their initial decision to pursue surrogacy, through the ups and downs of their path to parenthood, Terrell and Jarius have provided a safe space for their community. Through their authenticity, they showcase that love, family, and marriage transcend societal expectations.
“We came into advocacy through lived experience and seeing the world that our children have to grow up in, knowing that it’s not the world that we envision for them,” says Jarius. “Whether it’s the lack of knowledge around surrogacy, especially in the black community, or different family makeups. We get so many messages from people who are so scared to live in their truth, because some people can be killed or severely punished for their truth. It makes you want to do the work to be the change that you want to see.”
Facing (And Overcoming) Challenges
As parents raising two toddlers, Ashton and Aria, Terrell and Jarius have encountered unique challenges. They acknowledge the fear of the unknown, particularly in a world where discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals still exists.
“I often worry about conversations when we’re not there with our kids,” says Terrell. “We try to instill so much at home, and the goal is that no one will be able to break you down and we build you up here at home. We just want to make sure that we’re laying the groundwork for an accepting space where not only our kids can benefit, but future generations as well.”
Balancing their public presence with protecting their children from negativity and misconceptions has been a concern for the couple. However, their unwavering determination and intentionality in creating an accepting environment for their children have allowed them to overcome these challenges and set a strong foundation for their family.
“When you grow up in the south and you grow up in such a different community, you take on all of those experiences that you’ve had, and it influences who you are as a person, how you show up in your marriage, how you show up as a parent,” Jarius agrees. “One of the biggest and hardest lessons for me was recognizing that my childhood was not the standard and that my parents were not perfect and that my family was not perfect. I have to make sure that I’m present and cognizant enough to be able to make the change in my parenting.”
Terrell and Jarius made history as the first gay couple to participate in the reboot of “Wife Swap.” By ‘swapping’ families with a more traditional, religious household, they aimed to educate viewers about the misconceptions and discrimination faced by same-sex parents.
“When they approached us, I thought, oh, this would be cool, why not another teachable opportunity? Let’s go show them how we’re just like any other family. We kept saying, we’re normal, we’re just like everyone else,” says Terrell. “And of course, they swapped us with the most Bible thumping family with so many kids. I guess that’s what makes the show so good. After we did that show, our mindset shifted from trying to convince the world that we’re just like everyone else to owning that we are different, but we should be accepted like everyone else.”
The show offered a real opportunity for impact and to educate viewers about misconceptions and discrimination, but ultimately did not deliver. As Jarius said: “Those things were discussed, those things just didn’t show up.”
Although the editing of the show may not have accurately portrayed their intentions, the experience reinforced their mission to be accepted as different, yet deserving of equal respect and recognition. On an equally brighter note, their appearance on the show sparked conversations and challenged preconceived notions about LGBTQ+ families.
“When you’re the first to do anything, you take it the hardest simply because you’re the person that’s going out there forging the path,” says Jarius. “I think it was quite the learning experience, and at the end of the day, the goal is to continue making episodes. There’s a little bit in there where it’s like, hey, well, we want to teach something along the way. But really the reality of reality TV is that it’s for pure entertainment.”
Utilizing Their Platform for Social Justice
Terrell and Jarius understand the power of their social media platforms in raising awareness about social injustice and promoting civic duty. Rather than relying solely on statistics and information, they engage their audience by incorporating humor and relatable experiences.
By sharing their everyday lives as a black queer couple, they encourage their followers to question their own biases and assumptions. Their content fosters understanding, acceptance, and love, empowering individuals to make a positive difference in their communities.
“Our social media, it’s our place, it’s our own reality show, it’s our own channel where we’re the producers, the actors, the stars,” says Terrell. “We have the ability to shape it the way we see fit and the message we want to come across. We do it in a way that it has you questioning, do I really feel that way? Is that one of the misconceptions that I’ve had?”
He recollects one instance where he and Jarius were shopping with their children, and were stopped by a number of people who complimented them on “giving their wives a break.”
“We act it out because it’s literally funny to us. The hope is that it raises awareness. I love being able to share our family and people from around the world who may not be able to do the same live through us,” says Terrell. “It’s just an amazing feeling to receive so much positive energy about the work that are the lives that we’re living.”
The source of their successful content lies in its palatability and relatability. “Most people tend to give a lot of information and a lot of statistics,” Jarius explains. “We have been able to impact so many people, especially families who are navigating a child coming out, families that are trying to navigate their child transitioning. When they see our content and when they see our parents involved in our content, too, it makes them reconsider how to show up.”
Navigating Challenges as Gay Black Men
Belonging to two vulnerable communities, Terrell and Jarius have faced unique experiences and challenges. They navigate the intersections of their identities with grace, resilience, and unyielding determination. “It’s one thing to love your partner, to love your spouse when it’s just the two of you. But it’s a different level of love to see your partner love your kids, to share something so beautiful together and the love that our kids have in the relationships that they’re building,” says Terrell.
“We have been through so much together,” says Jarius. “All the odds were against us, and we really stuck it out and pushed through and tried to move the needle when we got all these no’s. I think that’s how we want to show up and what we want people to see. It’s not going to be smooth sailing.”
By sharing their stories and advocating for equality, these young parents aim to break down barriers and dismantle stereotypes that hinder progress. Their visibility and willingness to address these challenges head-on inspire countless individuals who face similar struggles.
The Ups and Downs of Parenthood
Terrell and Jarius openly discuss the highs and lows they have experienced on their journey of parenthood. From the joyous moments of seeing their children grow to the heart-wrenching experiences of miscarriages, they embrace both the beautiful and the difficult aspects of raising a family. These experiences have shaped them as individuals and as a couple, strengthening their bond and reinforcing their commitment to being the best parents they can be. And spoiler alert – they’re expecting a third child!
“Not only have we made it, but we defied the odds that are unjustly placed upon queer couples too. Everyone thinks we’re just these over sexualized beings and we can’t be monogamous, and I think we’ve overcome all of the misconceptions, all of the stereotypes, and all of the hoops that we had to jump through,” says Jarius.
Advice for LGBTQ+ Individuals Considering Parenthood
For LGBTQ+ individuals and couples contemplating starting a family, Terrell and Jarius emphasize the importance of research and finding a strong network of people you love and trust to navigate the challenges and joys of the journey.
“The biggest thing that we’ve learned, and that we would have appreciated, is just having a very strong support system around you,” says Terrell. “If you were to get a no, if something were to, unfortunately, happen during the process, that network can support you mentally and show up for you, I think that that changes the entire process.”
Lastly, they remind individuals to prioritize self-care and mental well-being, as navigating the path to parenthood can be emotionally challenging at times.
“I think parenthood is such an intentional thing that you have to be super present for,” says Jarius. “There’s always something that we can improve upon. Every day that we wake up is a whole new day to try all over again. I think that will benefit our children in the long run, because they’ll always have parents that are trying every single day to be the best they can.”
Terrell and Jarius Joseph’s impact as LGBTQ+ advocates and parents is undeniable. Through their authenticity, resilience, and unwavering commitment to equality, they have inspired countless individuals and shattered stereotypes. Their journey of parenthood serves as a beacon of hope for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples around the world, demonstrating that love, family, and parenthood know no bounds. As Terrell tells us: “We really had to fight to make our family what we dreamed of. For that, we’re super proud.”