Last year, the Supreme Court upheld same sex marriage. But one week ago, the gay community was dealt a blow by the shooting at a gay club in Orlando that killed 49 people.
On this Father’s Day, residents in the local LGBT community talk about their experiences with their fathers and raising children.
Two Father’s Day cards
Leslie Jackson has lived with her fathers since she was a teenager.
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“If it wasn’t for my dad and Jon coming in and taking me to raise me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” she said.
The day she was born was probably the greatest day of my life.
David Jackson had Leslie as a product of his first marriage, which lasted three years.
“The day she was born was probably the greatest day of my life,” he said.
When he separated from his wife, custody of Leslie went to her mother.
When Leslie was 15-years old, David brought her home. Leslie lived with her father and his partner, Jon Carnes, thereafter.
Growing up with two fathers was to me, no different than growing up with a mother and a father.
“Father’s Day means a lot to me,” said Leslie, who plans on buying two Father’s Day cards. “It’s a day to celebrate both of them. They’re both my fathers. They’ve both taken care of me and been there to support me through everything in my life. Growing up with two fathers was to me, no different than growing up with a mother and a father.”
Carnes said his first meeting with Leslie was awkward.
“I’ve never had children, so it was different,” he said.
Leslie’s first impression of Carnes, was that “he was nice.” They used to hang out by their pool, and Leslie said she fell in love with him. Carnes, who also considers Leslie his child, said he felt the same way.
“I know Jon loves her as much as I do,” said David Jackson. “I know he would go to the ends of the earth for her.”
David Jackson said Carnes and Leslie Jackson have always had a special relationship.
“Sometimes there were things when she was a teenager that she would go to Jon first,” David Jackson said. “They were more like buddies sometimes. They have their times and stories and things that they talked about that’s between them.”
It’s their hearts that raise the children, not their sexuality.
When Leslie was in high school, some of her classmates would make “mean” comments, but she said it only made her a stronger person and taught her to stand up for herself.
“I got to the point where I realized I didn’t care what other people thought,” she said. “These people take care of me. They put a roof over my head, they support me and love me. The people who are making fun of me don’t.”
Leslie said that seeing her fathers’ relationship taught her that no one can pick who they love.
“When you love somebody, you love them,” she said. “We have a special bond that nobody could ever take away. We’re a family and we always will be.”
Leslie said she’s closer to Carnes than her own mother.
“Gay couples absolutely deserve the chance to raise children just as anybody else,” Leslie Jackson said. “It’s their hearts that raise the children, not their sexuality.”
The father who already knew
Crystal Webb had always had a great relationship with her father.
“I was kind of a tomboy growing up,” said Webb. “We’d take off and we’d be gone fishing all day long. As I got older, we’d take the big boat out and we’d go down to Florida and do some deep-sea fishing.”
When Webb was 9 years old, her father taught her to drive.
“We’d go out to places that had huge parking lots, or if we were on one of his uncles’ farms, he’d let me drive,” she said.
And when Webb was in 7th grade, she developed a love of basketball and her father had a full court paved in their backyard.
But when she was 19, Webb was sweating bullets as she faced her parents in the living room of their home.
“Daddy was sitting in his recliner, and mama was sitting on the couch reading a newspaper,” said Webb. “I took a deep breath and said ‘I’m gay.’”
It’s not going to be easy. If you’re going to live this lifestyle, you’ve got to be strong.
Her parents barely reacted.
“Daddy glances back at the TV,” said Webb. “Daddy said ‘That’s it?’ and my mom said “I thought you were going to tell us something we didn’t know.’ I sat there with my mouth open.”
Webb’s father, Elbert, said he had never been ashamed to call Crystal his daughter. He said that he would always be there for her.
“He said ‘You’re my daughter, and I love you. I’m so proud of you and I’ve always been proud of you,’” said Webb. “And then he told me, ‘It’s not going to be easy. If you’re going to live this lifestyle, you’ve got to be strong.’”
Webb, who pursued a career as a body-builder, said those words stuck with her. Although her father died eight years ago, she still thinks about him.
“Sometimes I go and sit on the beach when I’m going through something and I’ll start talking and I’ll say ‘Daddy, you’re in heaven. I know you can hear me,’” said Webb “One time I was really upset about something and I was crying. I was the only person in the house and all of a sudden I felt somebody’s hands on the back of my shoulder. This total peace came over me and I just believed that it was my father as an angel coming back saying ‘you got this.’”
The dad’s dad
Ron Roberts said his dad is the “consummate dad’s dad.”
Roberts was the product of his mom’s first marriage, but she married the man (also named Ron Roberts) whom he considers to be his father a month after he was born.
“He was my dad from the get-go,” said Roberts. “He was out there throwing the baseball with me and teaching me how to throw a football and all that good stuff.”
He said his father would take him fishing, and take him on road trips.
“We did a lot of stereotypical father-son stuff,” said Roberts. “He taught me as much as he could, throughout all my disinterest, in auto mechanics. And you know what? I actually picked up some of that stuff.”
Roberts said coming out as gay to his father was “the coolest moment” of his life.
He rose to the challenge both times like a dad’s supposed to.
“All my life I was worried about ‘what if Dad finds out?’” he said. “I really thought I’d take that to the grave without him knowing, or wouldn’t tell anyone in my family until he passed or something. But he was the first in my family I wound up telling.”
His father found out when Roberts was 23 years old and in the middle of a breakup. He worked on a morning radio program and had missed work for three days. His family was getting worried, and his mother sent his dad to check on him.
“He could tell that I was depressed, so he just pressed and pressed and pressed,” said Roberts. “I finally got up the nerve to tell him. He was very receptive. He asked more questions about if he’d ever offended me, you know how guys can crack jokes and whatnot.”
Roberts said coming out was like “throwing a curve ball” at his father, but he remembers his father telling him that he just wanted his son to be happy.
“I know there are a lot of people out there who don’t have the circumstances as fortunate as I do, or had a father who wasn’t a biological father who just blew them off,” he said. “But he rose to the challenge both times like a dad’s supposed to.”
Christian Boschult, 512-818-4294, @TSN_Christian