Gays With Kids Speaks With Kordale and Kaleb
With his memoir, Kordale reveals what a viral picture didn’t
You’ve probably seen the photo. Two young, shirtless, buff, tattooed black men doing their daughters’ hair. That photo, casually posted to Instagram a few months ago, went viral instantly.
Among the many thousands of reactions and comments this photo sparked, a significant number were deeply homophobic, racist, or both. (Many of the negative tweets have since been deleted.) “When this (photo) went viral we did get a lot of hate mail too, and we received death threats, and our first priority was to make sure our children were, and continued to be, safe,” says Kordale, who took the famous selfie. And that meant that, except for a statement they released on the Huffington Post’s Gay Voices in January, they were unwilling to speak with the media, as they did not wish to step further into the spotlight amidst the unexpected controversy.
But now, with his memoir ”Picture Perfect?” recently published, Kordale is opening up about his life and family in an interview with Gays With Kids. “A lot of people wanted to know about us and the kids, especially how they were conceived, how long we’ve been together, and what our lives look like. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to let people know who we are and how we got to where we are today,” says Kordale.
The memoir begins with Kordale’s life as a child in Chicago, a life marked by sexual abuse at his stepfather’s hands, his mother’s crack addiction and drug-fueled violent rages. His life is in constant flux: sometimes he lives with his grandmother, sometimes with his aunt Aretha in Ohio, and sometimes in St. Joseph’s Home for Children, a foster home. His dad is in prison for murder, serving two consecutive life terms without parole. Trying to cover up his feelings for boys, he tries cocaine and begins dating girls. When one of these girls, Carla, becomes pregnant, he decides to accept responsibility for this child, whom they name Desmiray. Then Maliyah is born; Kordale Jr. followed. Somehow, Kordale manages to go to college in Atlanta. On 2011, via Facebook and Skype, he meets Kaleb, an engineering student. They fall in love and soon they are living together, with all three kids. A chapter about the photo that went viral concludes the memoir.
“We were just posting pictures of our family the same as we had before. I don’t know why the picture went so viral,” says Kordale. Before they knew it, the photo was making headlines across the world. Kaleb believes the reason it made the news was because of how shocking some of the homophobic and racist comments were. “As far as me and Kaleb, it kind of drove us insane. I got emotional a couple of times, but it’s six months in the making and we’re stronger than ever,” says Kordale. They try not to take cyberbullying to heart. “Those people don’t know us, they don’t know our values, they don’t know our teachings in our household,” says Kordale. Kaleb notes that they received many supportive comments and reactions, too, and that these actually outnumbered the negative reactions.
Their children Desmiray, Maliyah and Kordale Jr. weren’t concerned with the whole ordeal. “Honestly, I think they could not care less about what’s gone on with that picture. They are more concerned with Disney shows,” says Kaleb. The dads say they try to be very transparent with their children, but didn’t allow them to witness the extent of the comments online. “We shelter our kids as much as we need to shelter them. A 7, 6 or 5-year-old does not need to be on the Internet, so we do not need to worry about patrolling it.”
Overall, the two dads are proud that many see them and their photo as a message of equality. “It’s a great feeling. I think that when people look at the picture they can see that we’re two caring and loving fathers who love our children and the fact that we’re gay doesn’t mean anything – we’re fathers. I think that’s starting to open up people’s minds and what they think when it comes to homosexuality,” says Kordale.
Kaleb and Kordale have found it especially difficult being gay dads of color; often times, queer people of color are among the most marginalized within the LGBT community. “You can be gay, but when you’re gay and a part of the black community, it’s like two strikes against you. You get one strike for being gay, the second strike for being African-American, and we actually have a third strike because we’re gay with children,” says Kordale.
The couple claims that a lot of the scrutiny they feel comes from within the African-American community itself. “Many within our community find it shocking that we (two men of color) have kids and that we are taking care of our kids. It’s not a secret that many men of color do not participate actively in the lives of their children,” says Kaleb. “So when some women see us they find our family uplifting.” Still others complain that each gay black father represents one less responsible positive male role model who is no longer available to women.
Kaleb says they do their best to block potentially damaging views from entering their home. “We don’t allow what people say or the ridicule that people give off to get into our household. As long as we continue to run our household the way we should, and that we continue to take care of our responsibilities, there shouldn’t be any issues,” says Kaleb.
The dads have advice for other gay dads who also make it into the public’s eyes in a big way. “Stay grounded and always put your family first because people are going to say a lot. Everyday somebody is commenting or sending us stuff through Facebook, you know, we should be dead or whatever, but you just have to be strong and keep your family grounded,” says Kordale.
Kaleb and Kordale recently got engaged, but are unable to get married in their home state of Georgia. They plan to travel to New York to get their marriage license and have a wedding within the year.
If you want to stay informed about their daily lives, check out their postings on Twitter and Instagram. They are currently working on another project that they are not at liberty to discuss yet. Sounds like big plans to us.