In a world where expectations too often dictate actions, it shouldn’t surprise us that Jacob found himself married to a woman, with two children. Raised in a religious Texas household, Jacob married young, following the path that had been laid out for him by his family. The only problem was, Jacob was gay. Jacob had known he was gay since he was 7 years old, and in a house where the recommendation was to “pray the gay away,” options were hard to come by. But as we’ll learn, life is about choices.
So after seven years of marriage, Jacob broke down and told his wife that he could no longer stay in their marriage, that it was unfair to everyone. He asked for a divorce. Suddenly, all of the people he considered to be friends, many from their church, stopped having contact with him. Jacob found the coming-out process eye-opening, and it unfortunately confirmed many of his initial fears about coming out. He was surprised that people he considered to be “Good Christian folk” turned away from him.
Jacob told me, “The sooner you’re honest, the sooner your family will have time to come around. And if they don’t, there’s not much you can do. And in the same way your family has to love you, you also have to love your non-supportive family for who they are.”
In the face of immeasurable hurt and anguish, I was taken aback by the endcap of my discussion with Jacob about his family’s level of acceptance, by the way in which Jacob forgave their shortcomings. “I have to think that my friends and family are just trying to figure out how to love this version of me.”
Jacob’s ex-wife is working through this, and her road is – perhaps understandably – complicated. She isn’t completely understanding, but isn’t standing in the way of Jacob seeing his children. Their two kids, Landon and Adelyn, live primarily with their mom, but Jacob gets to spend the weekends with them. Landon just celebrated his fifth birthday, and Adelyn is 3. Jacob hasn’t had a conversation with his children yet about being gay, or what it means. It’s hard to academically explain concepts of sexual identity and societal expectations to children. But children learn what love is by seeing love in the world.
Born into a military family and adapting to the nomadic lifestyle of an army brat in Louisiana, Germany, and Texas, Kodi knew from a young age that he was gay. Kodi kept his orientation a secret for most of his life. Many of us characterize our dads as drill sergeants, but Kodi can lay the actual claim; his father is one. Kodi remembers being active in Boy Scouts, was involved in school activities. There came a time when Kodi decided that he could no longer live a lie, and with the assistance of a bit of liquid courage, he started to come out to friends.
The day before Kodi met Jacob, he came out to his mother. In what Kodi describes as “normal Southern mom stuff,” his mother was concerned, worried for about a week or two. However, we all know that moms are important in these things. Between Jacob and Kodi’s first date and Jacob’s introduction to Kodi’s Mom, only a week passed.
Then came the question that deserved and received the most careful consideration: How and when should they introduce Kodi to Jacob’s children?
I’ll let Kodi talk about it. “We waited about seven months before I met Adelyn and Landon. I just tried to be as respectful as possible in those seven months. I knew Jacob and his ex-wife were going through their divorce and I wasn’t trying to rush that. I wanted to respect the process and his ex-wife, and I wanted her to be comfortable with the idea of us spending time together with the kids. But meeting them for the first time was very nerve-racking.”
And it happened in true Texas style. Kodi was helping Jacob move a lawnmower to a friend’s truck, and Jacob’s ex-wife was there with the kids. She came out and introduced herself to Kodi, and then introduced her children to him.
After making the choice to live an authentic life as an openly gay man, Kodi chose Jacob, children and all. When I asked Kodi what it was like to date a man with children, he said, “The only challenges are knowing and accepting that the kids have to come first. I don’t get to dictate anything, and I’m totally fine with that. It’s never taken away from our relationship, it only adds to it and makes it better.”
But when asked to talk about Jacob’s story, Kodi is clearly just as inspired by the man with whom he’s fallen in love with. He said, “When I tell you that Jacob is my hero, I mean it. I don’t know another man who can go through the stuff he’s gone through and still keep a smile on his face. I’m in awe of it. All I can be is loving and supportive of this incredible man.”
While still navigating the world of holiday-sharing and big First Events, Jacob and Kodi’s story offers unique insights and profound teaching moments for others. I was struck by Jacob’s advice for men with kids who might feel conflicted by their attraction to men.
“Take the time to actually know yourself and not be ashamed of who you are, or the honesty of what you are. I lived in denial and lived for everyone else my whole life, trying to make everyone else happy. It’s not much of a life, living for everyone else.”
And as a gay man expecting a child of his own, I had to ask Jacob for some advice on men who are considering fatherhood. Here’s what he had to say.
“It’s a wonderful journey, it’s incredibly stressful, but it’s the most wonderful thing ever. Sleep as much as you possibly can now, and run out and go to the store at 2 in the morning just because you can, without having to pack up half the house. Know where you stand, and what you’re ready for. Being a dad is the most important thing. There’s a lot of ‘hustle here’ and ‘go there’ and spending money. But getting into bed, kissing them, reading a bedtime story, and saying a bedtime prayer, that’s the ultimate reward for me.”
Some children have a mom and a dad. And some, in tiny Texas towns, are lucky enough to have a mom, a dad, and a Kodi.
Being gay is not a choice; being a father is. Living a life that is truthful and open and honest, that’s a choice. Making a commitment to yourself to be the person that dwells inside your heart is a choice, one that we make every minute of every day. And if we’re lucky, we find a person who helps us bring out the man inside, a man who deserves to walk in the light. The choices we make allow us to find the Kodi to our Jacob, and to be the fathers our children deserve.
For Jacob and Kodi, the choice is simple. Choose to be happy.