Spotlight Series sponsored by Quinny, a European stroller brand available in the United States.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
CHRIS: My wife and I have been together more than 13 years, since October 2001. When we met, she was in the Army National Guard and I was in the Air National Guard. I was deployed to Europe right after 9/11 in the lead up to the war in Afghanistan, so we spent much of our first few months apart. Later, she transferred from the Army Guard to the Air Guard and we both lived and served in a small military town. This was still during the time of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and it was rough, because we could be recognized pretty much anywhere we went, and we lived in constant fear of being outed and losing our military careers. I deployed to the desert in 2004 and got very ill, needing emergency surgery. Because of DADT, I couldn’t include her on my “Emergency Notification” list, and she found out about my illness and surgery through the course of her military function (she worked in casualty notifications). That experience really gave us a wake up call of sorts and we re-evaluated our life together and what we wanted it to be. We made the decision to leave full time military service so that we could start a family and live at least somewhat more openly. We both took federal civilian jobs in Louisville, Kentucky, and became “part time” guardsmen, her in a Kentucky unit and me in an Ohio unit. That took a lot of the “fish bowl” pressure of us and we were able to lead more “authentic” lives in southern Indiana. We started the process of adding to our family through adoption, and after a 3 year wait, we were blessed with our adorable son, CJ, just one day after he was born. The birthmother had not been working with our agency, and only called them after he was born, so the call came totally out of the blue for us. They called us at 11:30 am and we were at the hospital at 2:00 pm! We spent the night at the hospital with CJ and his birthmother and took him home with us the next day. That was two and half years ago, and now we spend our time just trying to keep up with him! I had just retired from my 28 year military career just 2 weeks earlier, so the timing couldn’t have been much better.
TNF: How did you meet your wife? What do your children call you?
CHRIS: My wife and I met through mutual close friends, and our first date was a Janet Jackson concert, after I had to call her multiple times to get her to go out with me! I’m more than a few years older than she is, but she’s an “old soul” and I’ll be forever in my 20’s so it works out pretty well. After the fall of DADT, and the DOMA decision that lead to the federal government and military recognizing same sex marriages, we finally tied the knot in Washington, DC onSeptember 1, 2013, with our son as ring bearer.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families? If so, how so?
CHRIS: For the most part, we don’t really FEEL different from other families, but we do recognize that we are, and we recognize the real possibility that our son may experience different treatment or even discrimination because of it. It certainly helps that we are starting to see a wave of marriage equality across the nation. But until marriage equality is the law nationwide, and until we are legally protected from discrimination, including so-called “religious objections”, I’ll continue to worry about the effects of discrimination on my son. Fortunately, because Indiana law allows for 2nd parent adoption, both my wife and I were able to legally adopt our son (albeit in separate adoptions), so at least we are both now his legal parents. I can only imagine the daily struggles and constant worry for so many families out there that don’t have that protection! And of course, only recently, thanks to the ruling from the 7th Federal Circuit Court, our marriage is now legally recognized by our home state of Indiana! The peace of mind this gives us is immeasurable. And the simple change in being able to refer to Novia as “my wife” instead of “partner” or “girlfriend” has been so important. We are now truly a family in every legal and social sense!
TNF: Where do you live? Is it tough being a gay couple where you live? Do you feel accepted?
CHRIS: Although we both work in Louisville, Ky, we live in a small rural town in southern Indiana. Although Louisville is a large enough city to have a good amount of diversity and a fairly active LGBT community, you don’t have to venture very far from the city limits to encounter homophobia and less-than-progressive attitudes. We make an effort to patronize the more welcoming businesses, but are certainly conscious of the possibility of encountering negative situations. Thankfully, those are few and far between.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
CHRIS: Leaving full time military duty and moving away from the “military town” environment is really the only thing that made it possible for us to start our family at that time. Although I know other LGBT families did it, I can’t imagine trying to navigate the legal, social and military issues associated with having a child together before the demise of DADT and then DOMA. But thankfully, DADT fell and adopting CJ has truly completed our life together. We now live completely openly, and my wife was actually able to return to full time military service, something she would not have done with DADT still in effect. I am now a “military spouse”, and her unit completely accepts me into their military spouse family. The changes in the last 2-3 years alone are simply amazing. We can’t wait to see what the next few years brings!
Thank you for sharing your beautiful family with us!