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Overcoming obstacles to build a blended family

Cory Allen husband Johnny Presidio Wedding Golden Gate Bridge view San francisco California
Courtesy Cory Allen

A heartwarming story of love and family as a couple navigates cultural differences and LGBTQ+ identity, learning to find acceptance in unexpected places.

Three years ago, if you had told me that we would wed in front of our parents, nervously awaiting the birth of our first child and preparing to cohabitate with my husband’s parents, I would have said you were out of your mind.

Three years ago, my then-boyfriend came out to his parents. I embraced him when he returned, knowing it hadn’t gone well. His parents ignored the tell-tale signs that their children were gay, as many parents do. After facing reality, dramatic outbursts, irrational fears, and hurtful words occurred.

His parents were born and raised in Guangzhou, China, and immigrated separately to the U.S. around 1980. They met in San Francisco, later married, and, by 1985, had two beautiful children. Growing up in Oakland’s Chinatown, surrounded by native speakers and cross-generational family members, they were insulated from the American mainstream. This is a typical story in many cities across the U.S., regardless of the country of origin. The family established itself, looking out for each other to ensure they achieved success through hard work, dedication, and perseverance. They did whatever it took to set their children up for success. They acquired multiple rental homes, doing most of the work to save money. They were focused on the future, expecting Johnny to wed and produce grandchildren. It’s all they knew and expected.

In June of 2021, it all came crashing down on them when they were faced with the news that both of their children were queer. They outwardly thought that their years of hard work were for nothing. They knew nothing of LGBTQ culture except for a little bit of information they may have picked up from Chinese news or hearsay within the community. This was similar to my own parent’s situation at the time. I didn’t realize it then, but it took us years to figure out who we were, come to terms with what it meant, relearn our identities, and find our footing in the world. We bestowed this information upon our parents with an unrealistic expectation that they’d accept it and we’d move on.

That isn’t how it works.

He was visibly upset, angered, and confused when he got home that night. He told me what was said that night, which broke my heart. I knew we had a long way to go, but all we could do was give them time to process everything. Since I had come out to my parents years before Johnny, we were armed with patience as we endured a rough patch while their relationship reconfigured. They, too, had to cope with the retooling of their expectations, hopes, and dreams for their kids. I was resolute that we’d get through this process on his terms and comfort level.

The next couple of years gradually improved as we sought to normalize our relationship. We gave them gifts on Lunar New Year, showed them our newly purchased home, and assured them our relationship was no different from anyone else’s. It just happened to be two men. They were protective of their son, so it was also incumbent on me to show them I loved and cared for him.

Following our engagement during a trip to Maui in 2022 and expecting our child in late 2023, we knew we needed to fill them in on our plans to marry and that they would be grandparents. We’d begun having occasional dinners together by that point, so their acceptance had already come a long way in a short time. I surmised having grandchildren was their highest priority. Though I don’t speak Cantonese, things became much more comfortable once they knew it was becoming a reality.

As we planned the wedding, we didn’t know if members of his family would attend. There was still ambiguity surrounding their cultural fears, but we set about it and left the ball in their court. As the date neared, his mom became more involved in the wedding planning: the guest list, Chinese traditions, table arrangement, etc. I loved seeing her engaged in planning our wedding. It signaled acceptance.

A couple of weeks before the wedding, after dinner at their house, they handed us a red envelope with Chinese wedding symbolism on it. It was moving, and we knew we were in the clear. They accepted and blessed our wedding.

On our wedding day, Johnny’s family turned out in full force. They had three full tables of family members in attendance, along with members of my family and our close friends. It was something we didn’t think would be possible just three short years ago. The night was magical, with moments of laughter together, and we involved them in the big day. Before my family left town, my new father-in-law asked if we could have dinner with my parents. And there we were, our new blended family, in a Mexican restaurant near our home. It was surreal to witness.

Following the wedding, we had a dim sum with other members of Johnny’s family who couldn’t attend. This was the first time Johnny’s parents and their siblings had been together since before the pandemic. To know we were the reason for the reunion is beautiful.

As we await the birth of our son, my in-laws are preparing their home for us to move into in the fall. A comfort exists now, and even if most of the talking is in Cantonese, the body language, gestures, and smiles tell me all I need to know.

Like most immigrants, my in-laws have not had an easy path since immigrating. All I can do is learn as much as possible about them, their culture, and their history and ensure we impart that knowledge and respect to our children.

I owe them a debt of gratitude for accepting me into their family, accepting us for who we are, and their willingness to learn and adapt. I thank them, and I can’t wait for what’s ahead.

Cory Allen is an author, husband, father, and 20+ year government servant who is now a Supervisory Special Agent in the Bay Area, where he resides with his husband and their new son. Allen authored Breaking Free, a saga of self-discovery by a gay Secret Service Agent, in 2023 and now advocates for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as IVF and LGBTQ family building. Allen has appeared in dozens of outlets and continues to write in his free time. More information can be found at and on social media @AuthorCoryAllen.

Voices is dedicated to featuring a wide range of inspiring personal stories and impactful opinions from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Visit to learn more about submission guidelines. We welcome your thoughts and feedback on any of our stories. Email us at Views expressed in Voices stories are those of the guest writers, columnists and editors, and do not directly represent the views of Out or our parent company, equalpride.

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