Sometimes, life has a way of blindsiding you in the best way possible.
And this was one didn't-see-it-coming twist that Survivor's Ricard Foyé wholeheartedly embraced. Since he was 12 years old, the season 41 castaway dreamed of being a dad. But he never quite knew what that would look like. "I'm not straight, I'm not going to have a wife," he shared with E! News. "There's no way I'd be able to get a surrogate."
And then came life's greatest reward: Now-husband Andy Foyé. After the two met volunteering at a queer youth camp in 2015, they eloped on New Year's Eve, with a bigger wedding that followed in May 2018. It was then that Andy, inspired and guided by his transgender community, told Ricard he stopped his hormone treatments. He was ready to try having kids, to carry them on his own.
Just over a year later, in June 2019, they welcomed daughter Aurelia. Though they sadly suffered a pregnancy loss amid the pandemic, son Lucia arrived in June 2021, just weeks after Ricard returned from filming Survivor. (Andy, who runs housing programs for homeless youth, aptly calls himself a seahorse dad, as male seahorses give birth to their babies.)
In all the scenarios Ricard, 32, imagined, none played out like this. "My mind was so closed off to the idea of that," he explained. "And then we met and I learned so much more about my queer community and so much more about what's possible. He taught me, like, 'Oh no, I can get pregnant.' I was like, ‘What?' So, keep your mind open to embracing whatever life hands you because I didn't see any of this coming."
In honor of Transgender Visibility Day March 31, the Washington-based pair share their relatable, challenging and pretty damn inspiring journey to fatherhood.
E! News: Let's go back to the beginning. Were kids something you both talked about early on?
Ricard Foyé: I was actually in the process of fostering. I've always wanted to be a dad. It's been the most important thing to me. And so, that's something we definitely discussed early on. We definitely did not discuss him carrying our kids.
Andy Foyé: Prior to meeting Ricard, I had not really thought about having kids and definitely not carrying kids. But once I met him, it was clear I did want to have a family with him. And I have to thank other seahorse dads who went before me to even know that was something I could think about, be excited about and be comfortable with. After our wedding, it felt we'd settled in a new state. I had a good job. We were figuring out what our lives were going to look like, and it just seemed a good time to see what happens.
E!: Some doctors mistakenly say if you start taking testosterone you become infertile. Was that a concern?
AF: I was definitely given that misinformation. But I saw other trans dads get pregnant and have beautiful babies then learned more about where that information was actually coming from and that it's not from any study, just from people's assumptions. All I had to do was go off of hormones for a few months to get pregnant. That’s not true for everyone because everyone's fertility journey is different whether they are trans or not. But being on testosterone doesn't itself impact that.
E!: What was the most challenging part of pregnancy?
RF: Trying to make sure I could be as accommodating as possible, to not have Andy have these interactions with the "motherhood" aspect of this pregnancy. We went to a birthing class and the person who was teaching said, "Hey, can everybody say their pronouns?" And I remember one of the mothers being like, "She/her?" Like, so much confusion of, "Why are we doing this?" And then, it became more apparent he could be carrying the child as well as have he/him pronouns. I just tried to be as helpful as possible, but it was scary.
And it's still scary when I think about when our kids go to school and one of them says, "I came out of my daddy's belly." I know if we don't tell the teacher beforehand, or if we are not proactive explaining to this classroom that this is a possibility, she's going to be told you're wrong. And that's my biggest fear.
AF: The most surprising thing for me was how much I loved it. Learning about the baby's development, seeing the ultrasounds and then feeling them move around was really special. And it made me feel more connected to my body in the way that I thought it would be the opposite. I definitely experienced a lot of dysphoria and discomfort, but pregnancy made me feel my body was powerful. It was a gift.
E!: Those times when you were feeling dysphoria, what would you do to regain confidence?
AF: I tried to keep doing activities, like running, hiking and taking my dogs out in the woods. Because those things make me generally feel good. When I was pregnant with Lucia, I grew a mustache. It wasn't a good one. [Laughs.] But it was a thing I could do that made me feel like a man in a way that nothing else that was going on was reinforcing.
E!: What was that wave of emotion like when you held your daughter for the first time?
RF: I was a wreck. We had been planning on a home birth, but labor didn't go as expected and we ended up transferring to a hospital. We didn't want to be a side show. We didn't want people just randomly walking in to be like, "Let's say hi." And then I found out my grandma died a few minutes before pushing started. So, it was such a complicated day. And then this amazing thing happens: I got to pull Aurelia out. I don't remember anything but crying and sleeping the rest of the day.
AF: It was perfect even though it was far from what we thought we'd wanted and planned for. The moment they handed her to me, first I was a little freaked out and was asking if she was breathing. But after that, looking at her face, I just knew her already. She was ours and I've been in love with her ever since.
E!: Why did you decide to have a second soon after?
AF: I grew up with two siblings and we were all close in age. It was fun to have built-in friends, sometimes enemies. [Laughs]
RF: I was just like, "This is so hard. Why do you want another?" I postponed it as long as he would allow. But then, Lucia was born, and I realized I was just way in my head. I see how much we've taught Aurelia. I'm like, "We created this little human who can have full conversations with us. We actually did great."
E!: How did your pregnancies differ?
AF: I learned things to make myself more comfortable. I bought some sweatpants overalls, which are the pretty much the best thing ever. But the biggest thing was to trust myself and my body. With Ari, there was extra concern for me being a trans dad and also for her being a bit small, but she was born perfectly healthy. So, with the second pregnancy, I was able to trust myself to know when things were going well and when I should ask more questions.
E!: How did COVID impact your pregnancy?
AF: It was tough because he couldn't come to any of the appointments or ultrasounds. It was actually tougher the pregnancy we lost before Lucia, when I was going through that miscarriage. It was hard for me, but I was also hard for him to not get closure in the same way that I did.
RF: It was tough because I wanted to prioritize making sure that whatever he was physically and emotionally going through was taken care of and that he felt supported. Finding out about a miscarriage on FaceTime is wild. I felt very much not a part of helping him. I felt powerless. And that was a way to protect myself with going into Survivor. I felt I had to not focus on it and that helped me get through the game.
E!: With Andy pregnant with Lucia, did you have any hesitations about going on the show?
RF: I should probably say, yes, but no. [Laughs] There was no way I was going to leave that opportunity behind. There were definitely conversations about what do we do? How are we going to handle this? Not only that, he works a lot of hours, has a one-and-a-half-year-old at the time running around and was seven-and-a-half months pregnant when I left. I was like, "Sorry, the best I can do is set up auto pay for all of our bills." [Laughs].
AF: I was very excited for him. But we had our own version of Survivor going on over here. [Laughs].
E!: Since sharing a glimpse into your family on the show, have fans been reaching out?
RF: It's something I actually did not anticipate. So many people want to connect, ask questions about the pregnancy and get advice. And I love it, but it's daunting. We can tell you our story, but it's hard when people ask for advice for their journey. I don't want to give bad advice ever.
E!: Andy, what have you learned about yourself throughout this journey?
AF: When I talk about my story, our family and how we came to have our kids, I try to hold up that this is just my experience and it's OK to feel another way about yours. It's important to talk about how it's OK to have complicated feelings about yourself, your gender and your body, whether someone is trans, non-binary, cis or any other identity. I'm very solidly identified as a trans-masculine person. I didn't feel my identity changed at all being pregnant. If anything, I just felt more rooted in who I am and how much more comfortable I am with my body.
E!: Is the door closed on having more kids?
RF: [Laughs] He was badgering me just last night. He was like, "So when are we having our third? I was just adding to the baby name list." I'm like, "You can erase that baby name list." I don't want anymore, but he'll get his way, I'm sure. [Laughs]. I just want to sleep through the night!
E!: What do you love most about fatherhood?
AF: Our kids are just so cool. And they're hilarious, especially Ari because she's older and her personality is coming out more. Every single day we look at each other and we're like, "Who taught her that?"
RF: It's so weird.
AF: The other day she said, "I prefer to use the purple toothbrush," and we're like, "Prefer? You're two, what are you talking about?"
RF: I thought they would just mimic us, use our mannerisms and phrasing until they were older. But she's going to be the person she's going to be and that's all on her. We're here to help her grow and it's really cool to see that, at such a young age, she is her own person. And Lucia's getting there. He's hilarious.
E!: Your kids are young, so how do you talk about gender and orientation in a way they can understand?
RF: What's funny is how much kids are capable of understanding. We don't use watered down terms. We are very vocal and correct with the words that use. And by just explaining over and over, "some families have two moms, some families have this," we try to make space for all types of situations and make them know what they may see in the real world.
E!: Andy, over the summer, you started back on testosterone. How are you feeling?
AF: I'm feeling great. I'm feeling like my body is mine. I certainly feel older than I did. [Laughs] I was lucky and privileged in that I was able to access healthcare when I decided I wanted to start a medical transition—but I had to fight for it. It wasn't covered by insurance. It was a lot of money and sacrifice to get access to hormones, top surgery and things that I needed. But they absolutely saved my life. It is as imperative that young trans people have access to appropriate gender affirming healthcare as for anyone else to have access to any healthcare. Not having it is life threatening.
E!: What message do you want to send to trans youth today?
AF: While they're receiving awful messages from their governments, their schools and sometimes their parents and media, I hope they're also getting to see trans adults who are happy and at home with their families and bodies. And know that their futures are as open as anyone else's, that their identities are completely valid, wanted and needed in the world.
RF: The messages we send now are the messages they're going to carry with them. I may not be trans, but the hurtful things that family members, strangers or teachers said to me as a queer kid, as a little gay kid, before me even understanding what that meant, they continue with me.
Little kids feeling so ashamed of who they are from the outside world and confused about who they are on the inside sucks and it's not fair. I hope that trans kids can feel authentic in who they are at some point in childhood, not have to wait until they're an adult and figure it out too late.
Ask us whatever you want to ask. We really are open to communication, and we want to help.
AF: People are always welcome to reach out. There are also lots of other trans dads out there [Freddy McConnell, Bennett Kaspar Williams, Kayden Coleman, Danny Wakefield] who are doing a lot of work and advocacy.
We want you in the world and the world needs you.