Jarius and Terrell Joseph never intended to be role models on TikTok.
The couple, who have been together for over a decade, started posting on social media when they were 22-year-olds and just beginning to start a family. But now, the family of four has almost 1.5 million followers and has resonated with hundreds of thousands of people.
“We thought, ‘Why not be that representation for people?'” Jarius told In The Know. “I’m so glad that we did because I feel like now we get to see so many people come and say, ‘Until I saw you guys, I didn’t think that having a family of my own was possible.'”
The couple almost thought it wasn’t possible for them either. Both came from big families and knew they wanted children of their own, but, as Jarius recalled, it felt impossible to envision that as a reality while growing up as a young, Black bisexual man.
“I didn’t think that having a family of my own was possible, especially not in my 20s,” he said. “I felt like it was important for us to be what we were looking for.”
Within months of moving into a house in Atlanta in 2015, Joseph and Jarius were pregnant via a surrogate. At 20 weeks gestation, the surrogate miscarried their first daughter.
“What people didn’t know was that we were also facing, I guess, a form of discrimination, even at the hospital,” Terrell said. “They didn’t care so much about us during one of the most difficult times — you know, we were the dads, and our surrogate was miscarrying. And you know, they didn’t even allow us in. We didn’t get updates. We weren’t being communicated with.”
Around the same time as the miscarriage, the couple was gaining popularity on social media. Without hesitation, they wanted to share this part of their journey.
“You look for people who can guide you. People run to Google, people run to YouTube,” Terrell explained. “There weren’t many stories of people who looked like us going through this process… I think a lot of emphasis is placed on mothers, which is amazing — there are some dope mothers out there — but part of our journey and our story is that fathers can do it, too.”
In addition to not feeling sympathy from the hospital, Terrell and Jarius were also under the pressure of their very limited paternity leave options. According to a 2016 report by the National Partnership for Women & Families, only 41% of the U.S. workforce has employers that offer paid paternity leave to some workers. Only 9% of the workforce is employed by a company that offers paid paternity leave to all employees.
“It’s not that we were the first. I think that we were just the first to publicly talk through it and go through and share our experience,” Terrell added.
Fortunately, in late 2017, the couple officially became fathers to a pair of infants — Ashton and Aria — who were born a month apart from two different surrogates and are now the focal point of the couple’s TikTok account.
“Jarius has taken the lead,” Terrell said. “You know, we have a daughter [and] we don’t want her to miss a beat in anything. So he does a lot of video tutorials with doing her hair and just showing that we can be just as great of parents, no matter gender or sexuality.”
“To be able to provide visibility and representation, I think, is truly amazing to me,” Jarius explained. “That we were selected from God to be the ones who are going to have a direct say in advancing our community forward.”
“Hopefully, with seeing us, people take a second to understand people’s backstory, take a second to understand and not just assume, like, ‘Oh, they’re brothers.’ We get that all the time — ‘they’re brothers,'” Terrell said.” [Or] ‘they’re giving their wives a break with the kids.’ Family can be whatever you choose.”
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