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When we last checked in with José Rolón a.k.a. @nycgaydad just half a year ago, the wedding planner had 140,000 TikTok followers. Now that number has surged to more than 205,000 and counting as new fans discover this single gay father’s heartwarming and often hilarious videos.
In one recent upload, for example, Rolón shows his quarantine-era life as his kids’ personal assistant. In another clip, his daughters bring him breakfast in bed, offering a slice of pizza of an unknown vintage. And in a third, one of his kiddos lip-syncs to his goofy rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 You.”
The videos aren’t just entertaining, though — they’re also affirming, especially for young fans who might experience the homophobia that Rolón has endured.
“I want LGBTQ youth to know that there’s hope,” Rolón told Today in November 2020. “I get messages from moms all the time that are like, ‘My son is 13, and he’s gay and really struggling. Thank you for showing him what’s possible.”
But even Rolón might not have believed that his blissful, boisterous family life was possible, given the tragedy they’ve gone through. In 2013, Rolon’s husband, Tim Merrell, died unexpectedly.
In his Love What Matters essay, Rolón wrote that he met Merrell in 2007. Merrell wasn’t interested in parenthood at the time, but he warmed to the idea, and the couple welcomed son Avery via surrogacy shortly after their 2010 nuptials. Then Merrell decided he wanted one more kid, but “one more” became “two more” when their surrogate became pregnant with twins.
Eleven weeks into the surrogate’s pregnancy with the twins, though, Merrell passed away in his sleep during a business trip, dying of an apparent heart attack. “I just started screaming, ‘No, no! Tell me this is a joke! Please tell me this a joke!’” Rolón wrote. “I just couldn’t believe it. I just collapsed.”
Not wanting his son to ever be orphaned alone, Rolón had the surrogate continue with the pregnancy. “On the morning of Tim’s funeral service, I woke up, and I thought, ‘Avery just lost his father. What if something were to happen to me?’” he told Today. “I didn’t want to leave him alone in this world. I knew what I was supposed to do.”
And soon Rolón had two daughters on his hands: Lilah and London. “They have each other, and we all have each other,” he explained to Today, reflecting on his brood of three. “I went from being this loner in the world to having a full, abundant family.”
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Now Rolón is a father of three, the host of the In the Know digital series Parenting Wins, a public speaker, and an advocate for LGBTQ+, Latinx, and BIPOC populations.
“If you had pulled me aside and said, ‘One day you’ll have a big, happy family,’ I wouldn’t have believed you,” Rolón told Today in November.
Well, we’re proud of Rolón for making believers of us all, for transcending tragedy, and for showing that fatherhood can be a gay old time!
Queerty podcast host, Gabe González, caught up with Rolón as part of the Pride50 celebration. Check it out below:
This is a very affirming story. I’m glad things are working out for him on all levels, and he seems like a great father.
Happy for him. I, myself, never been a fan of kids in general. Furry kids are the way to go for me. ?
Wow! What a story….this guy is strong, and thank you for sharing your story. It’s tragic, but overall very beautiful. Rolon is a wonderful parent, and a role model for us all. I look forward to reading more about him, Tim and their family in the future!
Beautiful family! Thanks for sharing your very inspiring story.
We need more of this. Stories that remind us that being LGBTQ means that we have the same choices open to us and that our lives are as diverse and open to all kinds of experiences. We are worthy of the same love that can take us places we might not think we are allowed to go and will get us through the hardest of circumstances.
Nothing sexier then a good Dad!
Perfect example of our normal lives!
Wow, a story without shirtless pics – didn’t think that was possible here. Wish that was the norm. Thanks for profiling an amazing individual.
What a great story. “If you had pulled me aside and said, ‘One day you’ll have a big, happy family,’ I wouldn’t have believed you. They have each other, and we all have each other. I went from being this loner in the world to having a full, abundant family.” Aspirational makes me hopeful that one day I may not have to be alone, after losing the person I loved the most and going dark
“Rolón had the surrogate continue with the pregnancy”. So, because he lost his spouse, that would have been any reason at all for the mother to kill the unborn kiddos? This should have not been put in this story, what does this have to do about a gay father? I am also a child of adoption, I’m glad my survival didn’t depend on if a loved one who was planning to take me in as their own loved one.
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