Young Love and Marriage in Vegas: Gay Dads Chris and Parker
So let's set the stage: After a period where he tried to will himself straight thanks to a very Mormon stepmother and strict Army father, Chris Labine, now 25, moved to Las Vegas and met Parker Graves, now 23, on Grindr in November of 2015, who was raised by his grandparents because his immediate parents “were not really fit" to raise him and his sister, and who himself has a biological son, Liam, now three, with his former boss, Ashley.
“I'd say we are the definition of a modern family," sums Parker.
Chris and Parker with Liam and their two dogs
You can see the Negative Nancies lining up in the peanut gallery for this one, whether it is the “too much, too fast, too soon" camp or those scornful types charging that gays and lesbians have a responsibility to treat the hard-won right to marry with the utmost of deliberation. Artist Chris and Parker, a bank teller, are not oblivious to either, but neither are they trying to prove a point. In fact, they are using both notions as blueprints for the dynamic of their partnership.
Says Chris, “We know marriage is something very important to people. We don't treat this like we are just dating; when we have disagreements, we are very, very good at communicating it, and we remember in the forefront of our mind that we are married, we are going to work through this, we're not going to tear each other down."
“I realized this is the man, the person, I want to spend the rest of my life with," Parker affirms. “We're going to make it work, and at the end of the day we love each other. Our best interests are each other's interest. That's what we do."
Each is particularly watchful for mountain-forming molehills; those seemingly innocuous bumps and slides of a relationship that are just the tip of very real issues that the complacency of a LTR may overlook because the comfort-level is already so high. And for all the spontaneity of saying “I do," neither husband has the we-can-always-get-divorced lackadaisical regard for leaving the relationship; come hell or high water, Chris and Parker vow to make their marriage work. Anything good is worth fighting for, and to say that all whirlwind romances end in failure is overly simplistic (not to mention a little eros-killing).
And just to make things interesting, why not throw in a toddler?
According to 2005 statement from the American Psychological Association, “sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality." This is a modern version of the scale developed in the 1940s by sexologist Alfred Kinsey, and suggests that sexual orientation varies from individual to individual across a spectrum. While Chris always identified as gay, Parker includes some wiggle room, enough for a child to be born (“It was kind of unexpected," Parker admits) with Ashley. Today, she and Parker co-parent Liam, and for his part, Chris embraces the role of step-father.
Chris (left) and Parker kissing Liam
“I was nervous about how he would respond to me being so young," Chris recalls, but, “I absolutely adore Liam and he has given me worth to my life. It's pretty cute to watch Parker be a dad. I fall in love with him more watching him with his son."
“I go for the little more lenient route, Chris likes structure," Parker adds, describing how familial roles are establishing themselves. “And I think that Liam is taking well to it. I mean, he adores Chris."
Chris and Parker have yet to formally explain to their son that his family is somewhat different from others; but there is something to be said for learning by osmosis: Chalk it up to a child's famous plasticity or an inherent knack for fatherhood on the part of Chris, but Liam has not missed a beat to the inclusion of a third player in his upbringing. And as any parent knows, a 3-year-old is more than adept at getting his or her point across.
“We were in the car and I turned around and asked, 'Liam, do you know who Chris is?'" Parker recounts to GWK. “And he said, 'Yeah!' and he points to him. But then I said, 'But I'm your daddy, so who is Chris?' And Liam said 'Chris is dad!' It was a really awesome thing to hear."
The Traditional Route
But as unconventional as the start of their lives together may be, Chris and Parker (and Liam) are making a go — somewhat — at custom. Although legally married in a small ceremony earlier this year, a much larger matrimony “event" is planned for October in the dramatic setting of Nelson, one of Nevada's most panoramic ghost towns, for family and friends that missed the first go-around.
The festivities promise all the fixins', including Liam as ringbearer and Chris's father, who for all his Army-bred rigidity will nevertheless officiate (strict does not mean homophobic). Also present will be Ashley. This may sound awkward, not least because Chris was Parker's rebound-relationship after his split with her, but in fact the opposite is true.
“She and Chris get along very well," says Parker, “and she deserves someone who can be fully invested in her. She asked me if she could be at the wedding, and I said of course. I mean, she was a big part of my life, and I want everybody that's been a big part of my life to be there. She's Liam's mother."
It is that selfawareness, and the awareness for others, that gives a very strong impression that Parker and Chris's union is something more than a fickle affair of the youthful heart.
“Like I said, being married so quickly helps us in all of our aspects of everything do, decisions we make," says Chris. “We're married. We're going to do this together, we're a team, always looking out for each other's feelings. There's no escape, we're going to work through whatever comes."
“And I am so happy for Liam," adds Parker, “because he is going to have love from all kinds of people. From a very young age he will know how the world works and have an open mind to homosexuality and to split households and all this stuff. He's going to be very aware, and I couldn't be happier about it."
If happy parents make a happy child, maybe a little impetuosity to get the whole thing rolling isn't such a bad thing after all.