Happy Father’s Day to these LGBT Fathers & Dads of LGBT Children!By Megan Clayton • June 17, 2017 • 1:01 pm
This Sunday is Father’s Day, when we honor dads with a much-needed thanks for the sacrifices they make, and the unconditional love they give.
For this special day, Freedom for All Americans is proud to highlight the stories of LGBT fathers, and fathers of LGBT children, who are tasked with an additional challenge when it comes to parenting—enduring anti-LGBT discrimination that is still legally sanctioned in 32 states and occurs each and every day.
These courageous dads are speaking out and pushing hard for nothing less than full LGBT non-discrimination protections. Read their stories below:
Bryce Cook • Mesa, AZ
For a long time, Bryce—a devoted Mormon—wasn’t comfortable with the LGBT community because of the Church’s position.
“I had very un-Christlike feelings toward gay people,” Bryce wrote in a personal reflection several years ago, in which he confronted his longtime lack of understanding.
Then, in 2003, Bryce and his wife Sara received a letter from their son Trevor—who told them he was gay.
“We called him, and we were flabbergasted and surprised,” Bryce told Freedom for All Americans. “But we told him absolutely that we loved him, that this didn’t change anything, and that he would always be a part of the family.”
For Bryce, Sara, and the Cook family, learning that Trevor is gay was an important first step on their journey toward more fully understanding the LGBT community—and the discrimination people face, often with few legal protections.
“Your job as a parent is to love your child, to make sure that they are safe, emotionally protected, and well. And you do that by being accepting and loving.” –Bryce Cook, AZ
The key to this realization, Bryce said, is unconditional love.
“Your job as a parent is to love your child, to make sure that they are safe, emotionally protected, and well,” he said. “And you do that by being accepting and loving, not by being rejecting and critical.”
Mykel Mickens • Louisville, KY
In June 2016, after a prolonged period of being discriminated harassed and discriminated against because he is transgender, Mykel was fired from his job at General Electric Appliances.
Before the firing, though, the negative effects on his health and economic wellbeing were readily apparent. Worst was the effect it had on his wife, Kenitha, and his daughter.
“I felt like I worked at General Electric—like I was an employee there, because everything was coming home every day,” Kenitha said. “I would get upset at Mykel, but in reality there was no way he was not going to be affected by all of this.”
“People would think that it shouldn’t affect the family, but it does,” Mykel added. “I hated this situation, but I had to provide for my family. I used to say to our daughter that if you want food and you want gifts, Daddy has to go here. I’m a family man. GE was messing up my family life.”
“People would think that it shouldn’t affect the family, but it does. I hated this situation, but I had to provide for my family.” –Mykel Mickens, KY
Now, Mykel is challenging his firing as a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by Shannon Fauver, one of the attorneys who successfully challenged Kentucky’s ban on marriage between same-sex couples all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Fighting for their family has given Mykel and Kenitha the resolve to keep pushing forward in Mykel’s case and, and in the broader movement for a better understanding of transgender people.
Pastor Brian Jenkins & Kelly Jenkins • Springfield, MO
This spring, the local community in Springfield, Missouri endured a divisive campaign to repeal a local ordinance passed last year that protects LGBT people in the city from discrimination.
Among the community leaders who worked in favor of the ordinance were Pastor Brian Jenkins and his wife Kelly Jenkins.
They spoke out because their faith compelled them. But they also did it to set an example for their kids, to teach them to follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.
“That’s what we’re teaching our kids, and it’s not always easy,” Kelly said. “We’ve prayed about it and thought about the example we want to set for our kids.”
“I once judged people who are gay. Then, through my ministry, we came to know some gay and transgender people and learned the discrimination that they sometimes face.” –Brian Jenkins, MO
Advocating in favor of the ordinance was a waypoint on Brian’s path to being more accepting of LGBT people
“I once judged people who are gay,” Brian said. “Then, through my ministry, we came to know some gay and transgender people and learned the discrimination that they sometimes face.”
But now, they’re more committed than ever to showing their community the importance of standing up for all people.
Cory • Edmonds, WA
Story via Washington Won’t Discriminate
Before Julie met her husband Cory, she didn’t consider herself the “romantic type.” Romance was something that made for a great novel, but someone looking for their “forever partner,” as she was, should be realistic.
“I had thought it would take a while to find this soul,” she says. “Then I met Cory. Not only is he exceedingly gorgeous, but we clicked immediately and talked many nights away, getting to know one another and falling in love.”
Part of getting to know Cory was learning that he is transgender, and getting to know better herself what that means.
That meant dealing with strangers who would ask rude or inappropriate questions, and medical professionals who would give Cory substandard care because of his gender identity.
“Being transgender is a piece of himself that regularly needs to be explained or defended,” she says. “There are cruel and uneducated people in this world.”
Being transgender is just one part of Cory’s identity though, and every day she’s finding something new to love about him. And one of the things she loves most is how diligent and caring he is with their daughter. Julie says no matter what is going on, no matter how busy life is, Cory makes time daily to play with her.
The time they spend together as a family so important, and Julie worries about the impact repealing Washington’s transgender non-discrimination protections would have on their daughter.
“When we’re out in public as a family—with our two-year-old daughter—we’d have to worry about facing discrimination, just because someone doesn’t accept Cory for who he is,” she says. “What kind of message does that send to our daughter?”
Derek & Donnie Broussard-Cormier • Georgia
Story via Georgia Unites Against Discrimination
Derek Broussard and Donnie Cormier have been together for 12 years. Four years ago, they officially tied the knot—and then completed their family by adopting their son, Dax, not long after.
Derek and Donnie feel the same joy all fathers feel watching their children grow. But for them, that joy is tempered by worry about barriers Dax might face because his parents are gay. Dax is four years old now, meaning soon he’ll leave their home for preschool and other public places where he, and his parents, can be legally discriminated against.
“Having non-discrimination protections for gay fathers would really provide peace of mind for our family and families just like ours,” Derek says, noting that although that hasn’t happened yet in Georgia, the introduction last year of bi-partisan legislation that would address anti-LGBT discrimination in Georgia gives him hope.
Jeff Casteel • Indiana
Story via Freedom Indiana
Kyle Casteel’s story is a little different. He didn’t feel that immediate acceptance when he told his father, Jeff, that he was gay.
He was 14, and told his mother first because he was convinced his father wouldn’t love him any more if he knew he was gay. A few weeks later, though, he did tell his dad.
“It wasn’t easy. We didn’t talk about it much,” he says, remembering the emotional ambiguity of their initial conversation. His father didn’t stop loving him, but Kyle still wasn’t sure where they stood.
That changed in high school. After coming out, Kyle helped start a Gay-Straight Alliance. During his senior year, Kyle organized a public meeting for the parents of the club’s members. Kyle’s father came, and made it clear he was proud of his son.
Since then, Jeff has gotten more vocal in his support.
“I’m a proud conservative, a father and a grandfather, and I believe in freedom for all Hoosiers regardless of what they believe, who they are, or who they love,” he says. That’s especially true when it comes to his family.
“I have four kids and I love them all for the unique, independent people that they are,” he says. “Kyle has always been passionate about fighting for his community, and even though I haven’t always agreed with him on the issues, I’m proud of him and think he and his friends deserve the same rights that I enjoy.”
Kyle and his dad still disagree on a lot. His father is conservative, and Kyle is more liberal. But there’s no debate in their house about how LGBT people should be treated: With respect, and with equal rights.
“Even though we don’t see eye to eye on much, I never doubt that my Dad supports me for who I am and respects what I’m fighting for—a world that loves and accepts queer people as much as much as he loves and accepts me.”