It was 2013 in Colorado. Monte Foreman was serving in the U.S. Army, and Mario Powell had just taken a job as the Director of Music at the church where Monte sang tenor in the choir.
“I definitely didn’t think he was interested in me,” Monte admitted. “I mean, we all have our insecurities… But I didn’t believe he really liked me until my friend told me I was being so naive, and he had definitely been flirting with me the entire time.”
Mario explained that working in the religious sector and being gay, he felt he had to keep his interest in Monte under wraps.
“You didn’t put that out in the public,” Mario explained.
Monte had come out to his family much earlier in life, but Mario was still in the closet when they met. After a few months of dating, with Monte by his side, Mario came out to his conservative mother.
Apart from a few close friends and family, the couple kept their relationship a secret from the rest of the world for years, even after they married in 2016.
When the church found out Mario had married a man, he was given an ultimatum; he could either seek therapy, or get an annulment. So they left the church.
With Monte medically retired from the Army, Mario joined the Air Force. They were able to go on vacations, go out in public, and post photos together on social media at last.
Finally out of the closet together, Monte started dreaming of starting a family. He said he had long dreamed of being a dad. He intended to leave a great legacy to the next generation, and he wanted loved ones to care for him as he grew old. But he had to convince Mario first.
“I didn’t really want kids, to be honest with you,” Mario said. “I just want to do us, do me. But we had our talks, and he pointed out to me reasons to have kids, and it started to make sense to me.”
About three years after they tied the knot, Mario and Monte were at a friend’s house for game night when the topic of having children came up in conversation.
“So our friend shouts out; ‘Ariel can do it! She’s super fertile!’” Monte laughed, referring to their friend’s cousin. “It just passed on as a joke.”
But around six months later, Ariel called Monte, and told him she had been thinking about what they said.
“She said; ‘I want to do it.’ And I said ‘What do you mean?’ I had forgotten!” Monte recalled. “And she said; ‘I want to be your and Mario’s surrogate!’ I just couldn’t believe it.”
When Mario got the call from Monte telling him about Ariel’s decision, he was understandably thrilled. They met with Ariel and her husband in person, discussed their planned path to parenthood, and found lawyers for each of them. But still, the expense of surrogacy seemed to make the journey unfathomable to them both.
So Mario decided to write to someone who had inspired him throughout his life — Ellen DeGeneres. As a public LGBTQ+ figure with religious roots, Mario said he had always found the TV host to be a guiding light for him, so he reached out to her to tell her how amazing his husband Monte has been.
In March 2021, Mario and Monte were flown out to Los Angeles. They were driven to the Warner Bros Studio, and told to take a seat in a green room.
Playing on the TV was the Ellen Show. Monte had no idea what was going on.
“I can see two people right now in the green room named Mario and Monte,” Ellen said to the audience, much to the surprise of the couple backstage. “Hey you guys want to be my next guests?!”
After the screams of excitement had subsided, Mario told Ellen he is now a vocalist with the Heartland of America Band at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Monte explained that he’s currently working for the Army Corps of Engineers, and is a full-time graduate student.
Although they’d been saving hard for their dream of surrogacy, they told Ellen they were still far from having enough money to start a journey of their own.
Since it was the Ellen Show, the couple got to play a game show-style game, winning $20,000 and lots of baby-related prizes like a crib, toys, and diapers. They were elated.
“You can imagine our life has been crazy busy since the Ellen show,” Monte told GWK. “So many people wrote in to us, letting us know how inspiring our story is for them to start their families… And however we can share our story to help people, that’s what we’re about.”
In their efforts to shine a light on the social and financial hurdles gay men face in creating families, Mario and Monte have agreed to let GaysWithKids follow along their entire surrogacy journey as they try this summer to create their family with an at-home insemination kit made by MosieBaby.
You can hear Mario and Monte tell their story, and follow along with all the upcoming chapters on their path to parenthood on GaysWithKids the Podcast, available below, on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to pods.