Bisexual musicians Danielle LoPresti, 48, and Alicia Champion, 35, (who also identifies as nonbinary) became a couple the same year they launched San Diego’s IndieFest, a popular music fest that brings together LGBT and mainstream artists and fans.
Since 2004, IndieFest has grown from a small get together to one of San Diego’s premier events. While falling in love and putting on an annual festival, Champion and LoPresti were also dreaming of building their family. But it wouldn’t be until 2011 that their dreams began coming true. The couple, who married in 2014 and are now working on adopting a second child, share their story — and how it almost became a tragedy.
LoPresti: Once Alicia and I created IndieFest in 2004 and began the 10-year process of growing it, I felt like we became part of a San Diego family larger than anything we’d experienced before. It was beautiful, the way so many different people came together to stone-soup our way from one year to the next of celebrating the best of our communities. The closeness created over those years still informs our sense of what is possible when people join around a shared vision. What many people did not know was that for seven of those years, we were trying to adopt a child, something that had been a fantasy of mine since I was a kid. What we did not know was that we were walking a treacherous road — one filled with so many heartbreaks that I quite literally felt, those last two years, that I might not survive the process.
Champion: As a same-sex couple we ran into many hurdles not customary for heterosexual pairs. Because most countries — at the time — did not view us equally, I was irrelevant on paper. Danielle essentially applied for adoption as a single mother in every country we attempted — from Eastern Europe, Africa, Central America. Because of this, my financial information couldn’t be contributed to the household income requirements. We lived with a male housemate at the time, a dear friend of ours, whom I had to say on paper was my boyfriend to justify the three of us living under one roof on the applications. In the interviews, I had to vouch for Danielle’s ability to parent as a “friend,” not her partner, and I of course was never interviewed as a potential parent. It sucked.
LoPresti: We started looking internationally after a terrible experience I had with my first social worker at San Diego County adoptions, who actually told me I may never be seen fit to parent. After seven years of failed attempts and rejections, I felt like I was slowly dying of a broken heart. This feeling was actually the motivating force behind two decisions that eventually helped us break through the red tape that had been holding us back. First I found a free support group, though San Diego Youth Services, of adoptive parents. I will never forget the first day I went. When it was my turn to talk, I opened my mouth, began to cry, and asked for positive stories. I shared that for six years, all I’d been hearing was one sad, tragic, or negative thing after another. And I desperately needed to hear what I knew was out there — the happy stories of families being built. For over an hour one woman after another thrilled me with the most magnificent success stories of their kiddos and how their families came to be. These same women became mentors, angels, and the light at the end of a horribly long tunnel.
Next, in 2010, I went back to San Diego County Adoptions, reported what happened in my last experience, and asked to be assigned to someone different who would treat Alicia and I with respect. Once these two things happened, everything began to change for us. Now we could pursue adoption as a couple. Along with concurrent planning, we became part of the voluntary relinquishment program at San Diego County. We were told again and again that it could be years longer before we’d be matched. But finally, after only six more months, our luck changed, and Lucian was born into our lives.
Champion: This was also the first time both Danielle and I got to apply as a couple — as registered domestic partners, because Prop. 8 was in effect.
LoPresti: We named him Xander Lucian LoPresti-Champion, but call him “Lucian,” our light. To this day we maintain a close and loving relationship with his birth family. From the very first days of his life, Lucian began hearing his story. Adoption is celebrated in every way in our home. It’s the symbol of our worldview — family happens when love grows between beings. The presence or absence of blood ties have absolutely no bearing on what makes family for us. It’s love. It may sound like a gay Hallmark card, but the truth is, once you’ve lived this, you know with 100 percent surety that love does make a family. Magical, scary, transformative, boundary-busting love. And oh, my God, are we ever lucky to have finally found it.
Champion: We were on cloud nine for a long time, even with the sleep deprivation and hardship of learning how to be professional musicians within this new paradigm of motherhood. We gratefully thought that the worst was behind us, when Danielle developed a terrible cough. It lasted for a couple of months before she saw a doctor because we both just thought she was run down from the sleep deprivation. But then, on her birthday in 2013, when Lucian was just a year and a half, she was diagnosed with a hybrid form of lymphoma.
Mediastinal diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma with some characteristics of Hodgkin disease, stage III B was the diagnosis. [That was an advanced stage of cancer.] Stunningly, there were seven tumors in her body; the biggest one was the size and shape of my heart, lodged between her heart and breast bone. We were utterly terrified. After almost a decade of being together, after those seven long, painful years searching for our little guy, this is one challenge we never anticipated would be part of our story.
LoPresti: All this trauma has morphed into a constant awareness of the miracles that led to where we are now. Not because we “make” ourselves think this way, but because it’s become our central truth. How can we survive so much disappointment and loss and not remember every single day how lucky we are that our child is finally here? The cancer, on top of all this, only further cemented what lies at the heart of the LoPresti-Champion family: gratitude. Total, absolute, unforgettable gratitude — for our son, for our marriage, for our lives.