"I grew up very much in the closet and always knew I wanted kids," began 34-year-old professional go-kart driver and track owner, Brandon Adkins. "I met my ex-wife through some mutual friends and I thought this was exactly what I wanted." And that feeling lasted for Brandon until after they had their second child.
Brandon had been closeted and scared of his sexuality for some time, avoiding his feelings and not confronting his authentic self. When he met his ex-wife through mutual friends, he genuinely thought it was what he wanted: someone he loved, with whom he could have a family. "I had always looked at other parents and felt jealous knowing they had something I wanted."
The couple were together two years before welcoming daughter Kinley in March 2010, and lived in St. Louis, Missouri, for Brandon's job in the karting industry. Not long after Kinley's birth, they relocated to Pittsburgh for Brandon's job, and in June of that same year, they were married. "Our son Cruz was born September 2013 in Pittsburgh."
Early 2014, shortly after welcoming their second son, Brandon's employment ended and the young family moved to his then-wife's hometown of Cincinnati. Months after the move, and unable to keep his true self buried, along with a growing distance between he and his wife, Brandon began to explore his sexuality. When he was discovered by his then-wife, their relationship fell apart, and a long and difficult divorce began.
"After the ex and my divorce started, I kinda ran away from everything and took the farthest, best paying job I could find, which was in Charlotte working for a newly formed kart team," explained Brandon. "Before I left I had already come to terms that I was gay but was still closeted. So like any other gay man that wanted to explore, I took to the apps. I found Jamie on both Scruff and Grindr."
"I was 18 the first time I ever mentioned it to anyone," said Jamie Wince, now 39 and co-owner of Adkins Raceway. "I lived in a small town where everyone knew everyone. My dad was, and still is, a through-and-through Southern Baptist, and active member of the church, and my mom was a well-known teacher in the area and at my school, so I was super guarded." The first time Jamie told anyone he was gay, it was a close female friend he had met working a job out of town. "I found my nerve through her and by living quite a bit of my life and free-time in the city I was working up north in Virginia. From there I came out little by little. Clearly, most folks knew, but once I verbally came out I felt more and more relieved. My parents were last to know."
Jamie's parents were going through a divorce at the time and he was angry at his mom. "[My mom] said something to me during this time that fueled our discussion in which, out of anger and malice, I came out to her. Her reply was, 'Duh I knew you were gay.' Ha! So much for my plan to piss her off." Jamie didn't tell his dad till a few years later. "He was the one I didn't want to disappoint, to let down, to embarrass. I didn't come out to him till I met Brandon and the kids."
When Jamie met Brandon, he'd just come out of a bad relationship so he had some hard rules about dating. The two decided to meet late October 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the two were living at the time.
"It was seriously love at first sight. We sat in his garage for hours talking and getting to know one another," recalled Brandon. "We are both fairly reserved people so nothing happened except at the very end of the night as I was walking out we decided to kiss. I'll never forget it. I have never felt sparks, energy whatever you want to call it like that before. It was amazing. All I could think about that night and then all the next day until we met up again and I guess you could say the rest is history."
Brandon told Jamie about his kids during their first date. "We both shared our whole life story that first meeting so we started out completely fresh. He was immediately took interest and was very much part of the reason I fought so hard for them."
"When Brandon told me about the kids, I was stoked," said Jaime. "I wanted to know more: ages, sexes, names, where they were, how often he had them." And, most important, Jamie said it was important to know what kind of dad he was — if he was financially and emotionally still supporting his ex-wife.
"I specifically said, 'if you're a shitty dad, you'll be a shitty partner,'" Jaime said."Quite frankly I didn't have time and would not support such behavior. The kids sold me. I was hooked. I couldn't wait to meet them. It was a dream, did I really just stumble into my dream family?!"
When Brandon decided to move back to Ohio to be closer to his kids, Jamie went with him. It was also through being with Brandon and being step-dad to his kids, that Jamie finally found the courage to come out to his dad. "I said this is my life and these are your grandkids. His reaction, 'Awesome, the more grandkids the better!' He met them the first time Christmas 2015 and has been a very active part of their lives and ours since."
Throughout the first year of his and Jamie's relationship, Brandon's divorce continued with his ex-wife, and it was a tumultuous time, and ended up in court. "I had a horrible lawyer and he got everything wrong," said Brandon. "Not filling out paper work and not showing up at hearings which really set us back. I was only able to see the kids once a month and I also had to pay astronomically high amount in child support which I could not keep up with." After months of battling in the court, the once married couple reached a breaking point when the judge threatened Brandon with jail time when he was unable to meet the child support requirements. "I turned to the ex and begged her to say and do something, which she did and the new child support was set. A new visitation agreement was made and things finally started to take a turn for the best."
Afterwards, Brandon and Jamie moved to Ohio in October 2015 to be closer to the kids. Today, Brandon and Jamie, and Brandon's ex and her new husband, began a great co-parenting relationship that worked for all of them. "It started out rough but once everyone started to respect one another things changed drastically. Once we decided the kids should come first things got much better overall." They have the kids every other weekend during the school season, scheduled around their longer breaks, and they alternate holidays, birthdays and vacations, while also working with each family's schedules.
Having children changed Brandon's outlook on life. "Before having kids, I was scared and closeted not knowing who I really was. After having kids it made me realize I needed to make myself happy before I could take care of them and give them proper direction. Now I feel I have the best of both worlds and my kids will get to grow up knowing it's okay to be gay."
When Jaime came on the scene, he was delighted with how well the kids accepted him, despite some initial challenges. "Cruz was younger, only one year old, so that was super easy. Kinley was older, so that transition was tough at the beginning. The change in mom and dad, to dad and this dude was mind boggling and not normal for her. And I got that and did my absolute best to understand her little emotions." But they worked through it, and went from Daddy and Jamie to just recently, 'I have two step daddies and a mommy and a daddy' and 'I have a lot of people who love me.'"
"I never wanted to be pushy. Not of my position. No forceful titles, no names, no positions. I believed it would all come in time. Just respect and slowly a family unit will come. I'm not called 'Daddy' or 'Dad' and ya know what, I'm good with that. I'm not 'Daddy' or 'Dad', I'm a step parent and I respect them and they respect from me. I get to share their life with them... all of them. And that's enough. I love my little family."
When Brandon's father passed in April 2017, his mother decided to turn it over to Brandon, and he and Jamie rose to the opportunity. They now co-own and operate Adkins Raceway in Port Washington, Ohio. (If you're ever in the neighborhood, go check out the gay dad run business!)
Brandon and Jamie were engaged last Christmas 2018 and are excited to wed sometime in 2020. "We both had purchased rings and were not really planning a surprise or anything but we knew we wanted to do something," said Brandon. "Once we opened them we decided we wanted to wear them so we kinda agreed to be engaged on the spot."
We look forward to celebrating their upcoming nuptials!