Cooper: Todd and I have been together for 15 years. We adopted our children, Claire and Mason, three months apart – both just days after they were born in the same hospital in California. Claire was our third adoption attempt and the agency knew that we wanted multiple kids. Out of the blue three months after coming home with Claire, they called asking if we’d like to adopt another newborn. And so we went from just the two of us and no kids to a full house in less than three months!
Todd and I are currently planning our wedding, which will take place this summer in San Francisco.
TNF: Tell me about your kids?
Cooper: Our daughter Claire is five years old. Physically, she’s the tiniest girl in her pre-K class, but she’s definitely got one of the biggest personalities. As with just about any little girl, she can’t wear enough pink. She’s also one of the stars of her soccer team.
Mason will turn five in June. Unlike Claire, he’s one of the biggest kids in class – often mistaken for being in a higher grade. Mason loves letters, numbers and writing. He’s not as interested in soccer as Claire, but he’s getting better.
Both of our kids were born in the same hospital in Southern California, delivered by the same doctor. They’re both of Hispanic & Asian heritage and they look like they could be twins.
TNF: How did you meet your fiancé?
Cooper: Todd and I met through a mutual friend who worked at American Airlines with him in 1998. We started dating in early 1999, after planning a going-away party for mutual ex-boyfriend (who we were obviously still friends with!). We jokingly call our first date the day we drove four hours each way to go shopping at IKEA in Houston. The guy who introduced us was also on that road trip with his boyfriend.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families? If so, how so?
Cooper: Before the kids were in school, we felt different and tended to hang out mostly with other gay and lesbian parents. But now that they’re in school, nearly all of our close friends with kids are straight couples. It’s amazing how NOT different we are, simply because we’re a same-sex couple. We are all going through the same ups and downs of parenthood, and sometimes we even feel like we’re the more “normal” and traditional ones in the bunch!
TNF: Is it tough being a gay couple in Dallas? Do you feel accepted?
Cooper: Funny enough, the most frequent question we got during all of the JCPenney media coverage was “How’s it being gay in Texas?!” I can’t speak for all places in Texas, Dallas is an amazing place to live as a gay person and to raise a family. I’ve lived in Dallas for 21 years and have always felt accepted.
There are so many misconceptions when it comes to the strength, influence and acceptance of the GLBT population here. Over the years, Dallas has frequently had a gay person on the City Council – and a couple of elections ago, there was actually a runoff for Mayor between a gay man and the eventual winner.
Sure, there’s a religious conservative population here, but they’re also in more liberal states. Most people don’t realize that Dallas-Fort Worth is the 4th largest metropolitan area in the United States, only behind NYC, LA and Chicago, so we’re as much of a mixing pot as any of those cities and typically have the same “live and let live” mentality.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Cooper: Having a family has changed my life in ways I never expected it to. I expected it to rewarding (it is) as well as difficult at times (it’s definitely that too!), but it’s also made me grow up so much as a person and figure out “who I am” and who I want my kids to see me as. It’s also made me feel so grateful to the generations of gays and lesbians who came before us and who made it possible for us to realize the experience of parenthood. I go out of my way to share our family with them as an act of gratitude and demonstration of the progress that they made for our community.
TNF: How did you get to be the JCPenney Gay dads?
Cooper: I’ve always been very open in sharing my family’s daily lives on Facebook, and in the media whenever I’m asked. In January 2012, we were contacted by a friend-of-a-friend who’d seen our Christmas card photo online. He was a casting agent for JCPenney and talked to us about being part of their marketing campaign celebrating the “diversity of fatherhood” for Father’s Day. We said yes immediately.
About a month later, we had the photo shoot and never heard or saw anything from the company after that. In fact, I hadn’t even seen the photo until Huffington Post broke the story in late May and my phone started ringing off the hook with friends congratulating us! The rest of the summer was a blur, with media outlets from all over the world contacting us about the ad.
My favorite part of the experience was seeing how the hate and criticism lodged at us by those claiming to be “Christians” fell so flat. It was a photograph conceived to honor a family’s love, and it was received with so much love that their hateful words were drowned out completely, instead replaced with an army of friends and allies who support families of all types.
Congratulations Cooper and Todd on your engagement and soon-to-be nuptials. Thank you for sharing your family with us!