Living an out and proud life in a small rural town in east Texas isn't easy. But that's what gay dads and Greenville locals Joseph and Devin are trying to do. But it's been unfathomably tough. Devin has two children through a previous straight relationship and only recently came out. His family is having a hard time accepting his sexual orientation. For his part, Joseph lost his job as a Youth Pastor when he came out and he has been ostracized by his own family. On top of their current struggles, Devin is fighting lymphatic cancer. What gives them courage to keep fighting? Their kids. Here's their story.
Devin separated from his wife over a year ago after coming out to her and his family. Devin and Joseph have been together 8 months. In the beginning, things moved very quickly due to their instant connection. In the third week of their relationship, Devin, 28, and Joseph, 31, arranged to have a date in the park with Devin's ex-wife and their kids.
"It was incredible and the kids immediately took to me!" said Joseph.
At first, things went relatively well for the new couple despite Devin's family objecting to their relationship. They told Joseph that he would never be the children's real father, but 2-year-old Emma Jane began calling him "Papa" of her own accord after only a week. The couple are co-parenting with Devin's ex wife, and the children spend one week at theirs, and the next week with their mom.
Joseph's life changed greatly as he began to fit into the role of "Papa." Devin and Joseph were never alone when the kids were at their house, and they loved it. They spent their free-time having fun with the kids, taking them to the zoo or to museums.
But then cancer reared its ugly head.
2 months into their relationship, Devin was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer.
"[It] rocked all of our worlds," said Joseph. "It went from trying to build this beautiful life together to all of sudden having to make sure Devin was able to kick this cancer's ass."
For more than just the typical reasons, Devin's diagnosis was very difficult on the couple. Although they were in a new relationship, they quickly became each other's rock. Much to Devin's family's displeasure, Joseph wouldn't leave Devin's side. It made the hospital waiting room very awkward.
Devin spent 3 weeks in the hospital after his initial diagnosis, and Joseph was there beside him. This didn't stop some people from lashing out, including the pastor who married Devin and his ex-wife. He told the couple that Devin's cancer was punishment for their gay relationship, and that it was God's way of taking Devin so his children wouldn't have to grow up with a gay father.
"We went through a storm," said Joseph. "He was battling cancer and I was battling his family by trying to keep as much negativity away from him that I could."
But when it became clear that Joseph wasn't going anywhere, Devin's family began to have a change of heart. They saw how much Joseph loved him.
"I could not stay away from him. I would get off work and drive straight to the hospital just so he could rest holding my hand."
The relationship between Devin's family and Joseph is far from perfect, but the dads hoped they've seen the love and commitment the couple have for one another, as well as Devin and Joseph's devotion to their kids. After living the majority of their lives in the closet due to fear of persecution from the Church, it's their kids who inspire them to keep living their authentic lives and to keep fighting Devin's cancer.
"One of the biggest things I have learned from our babies is to be fearless," said Joseph. "Watching our daughter Emma face life with so much courage has made both of us want to live our lives as open and loudly as possible."
And together, they are living their authentic lives and fighting as a family to kick cancer's butt. We send this courageous family all our love and strength, and will be sure to keep you posted on their progress.