Chris Pittman and Scott Lindsey each had 2 kids under 10 when they met after coming out and getting divorced. Now they’re one big happy family, but it hasn’t always been easy— and sometimes it still isn’t
Fifteen-year-old Madeleine Pittman chokes back tears as she explains what it’s like having two gay dads in the small town of Italy, Texas, where her mom is pastor of the local Methodist church.
Sitting on the sofa in the living room of her dads’ spacious home in Dallas’ Oak Lawn neighborhood, Madeleine says she’s lost friends over it.
When she tells people, they often judge her because it goes against their religious beliefs, she says. So now she waits a long time before sharing her secret with anyone, hoping to make sure she can trust them first.
“It kills me because I don’t have many friends because of it, and even my mom isn’t the nicest person about it,” Madeleine says, her voice wavering. “She says stuff all the time, and people say stuff all the time, and I defend it as much as possible, and I get so angry and I cry about it, but I can’t do anything to make people understand it, and that’s probably what hurts the most.”
Madeleine’s difficulties in Italy are just the latest example of the adversity this unusual, blended LGBT family has faced since her dad, Christopher Pittman, met his husband, Scott Lindsey, 11 years ago.
Pittman and Lindsey, who married in Canada in 2006, each had two children from previous marriages to women.
When they met, the kids were 1, 4, 7 and 8.
Lindsey’s Olivia and Brian are now 20 and 18, respectively, while Pittman’s Madeline and Caroline are 15 and 12.
The children often refer to their family as “the gay Brady Bunch.”
“Right now I don’t see them as stepsisters,” Brian Lindsey, who’ll be a freshman at Texas State in the fall, says of Madeleine and Caroline. “They seem like my blood sisters, my straight-up sisters.
“Chris is my dad, and Scott’s my dad,” Brian adds. “They’re both the equivalent … and I mean it, too.”
‘We wanted them all to be together’
Lindsey and Pittman both grew up in conservative evangelical denominations: Pittman in the Southern Baptist Church in Tulsa; and Lindsey in the Church of Christ in Irving.
Pittman married his high school sweetheart at 19 in 1990.
“That was legal somehow, which it probably shouldn’t have been,” he says.
The same year, Lindsey married a Catholic girl and converted.
Pittman and his wife moved to Dallas so he could attend seminary at SMU, but soon both he and Lindsey would come out as gay and divorce their wives.
“The older I got, you couldn’t hold those kinds of feelings in,” Lindsey says.
He met Pittman on Gay.com in 2001, and six months later they moved in together. Ever since, they’ve made a point to maintain the same visitation schedule for both pairs of kids — every other weekend, and every Wednesday night.
“We wanted them all to be together, from the very beginning,” Lindsey says.
It was trying at first, particularly with Lindsey’s ex-wife, who would get angry, for example, if Pittman came to pick up Olivia and Brian.
“There were some not-very-nice words said sometimes,” Lindsey says. “What we always called it was, my kids had to get back into daddy mode when they came back over to our place. Since their mom thought it was wrong, she didn’t really want to be around it, so she sometimes said some things to them like: ‘Daddy doesn’t love you anymore. Daddy loves Chris, and you don’t have to love the girls [Madeleine and Caroline].’”
In the last five years, Lindsey’s ex-wife’s position has become more neutral, and earlier this year there was a breakthrough.
Olivia Lindsey, now a 20-year-old junior at Texas Tech, broke her leg during a ski trip with friends in Angel Fire, N.M., in February.
Because the nearest hospital was an hour away, she was given a splint and some painkillers, and told to go to the doctor when she got back to Lubbock.
Olivia said she was having a major meltdown by the time she called her biological mom and dad, who couldn’t meet her in Lubbock because both were working.
So Pittman flew out, rented a car, picked her up from her dorm, took her to the hospital and stayed there with her overnight and all the next day.
When she was released, they got a hotel room so she wouldn’t have to go back to the dorm.
“I was laying on one bed and he was laying on the other,” Olivia recalls. “He said, ‘Your mom just sent me a text.’
“I was so confused,” Olivia recalls. “I was like, she has his number? How did she even get that?
“It was just a text thanking him for being able to come out there, and just saying thank you for all he’d done over the years,” she says. “I think she finally realized that we’re a family, and we’ll do what we have to for each other.”
While Lindsey’s ex-wife’s attitude has evolved from anger to acceptance, Pittman says his ex-wife began at the other extreme — “trying too hard to be cool.”
After school plays, she would insist that Lindsey and Pittman go to dinner with her and her new husband.
“It was just awkward … and I don’t think he cared for it,” Pittman says. “Eventually I was like, we don’t really have to do this much to prove we’re OK.”
At one point, Pittman’s ex-wife even hired Lindsey’s mom to be the kids’ nanny.
“So we have Scott’s mom at my ex-wife’s house taking care of my kids and her foster kids and his kids, and their mom who didn’t want to know I existed,” Pittman says. “It was very awkward at times.”
Unfortunately, Pittman’s ex-wife’s attitude has become less accepting, partly due to the conservative congregations at her new churches in Italy and nearby Frost. Madeleine, regaining her composure after Olivia comforts her with a hug, says that as the preacher’s daughter she’s very active in her church youth group. This leads people to be shocked when they find out she loves her gay dads, and they tell her she shouldn’t.
“God loves everybody,” she says she tells those people. “He wouldn’t send you to hell for loving someone. Why would he do that? It makes no sense.
“My dad’s an ordained pastor,” Madeleine says. “How could he go to hell for loving somebody? … It doesn’t add up.”
‘I am married to a man’
Pittman says ironically, attending Methodist seminary is what “allowed him to be theological enough to realize that I could come out and be OK.”
After getting ordained, he served as associate pastor for five years at the UMC church in downtown Dallas. But he decided he wanted to be authentic, and the UMC doesn’t allow openly gay clergy, so he became a chaplain at Children’s Medical Center.
He eventually switched his credentials to the United Church of Christ and ministered part-time at the Cathedral of Hope, where the family still attends church.
Lindsey, meanwhile, is a pharmacist who worked for years at Tom Thumb. But after the couple met, Pittman pushed Lindsey toward his dream of owning his own pharmacy.
In 2004, that dream became a reality when he bought an independent pharmacy in Irving.
Pittman went to school to become a pharmacy technician, and he now works part-time at the business. His other job is flying all over the world writing reviews of airlines for Airways Magazine.
The couple was married in January 2006 at the base of Whistler Mountain in British Columbia, in a surprise wedding orchestrated by Lindsey.
“It was amazing because it was 10 minutes at the max,” Lindsey said of the ceremony. “But people were congregating and people were starting to watch, but I didn’t really notice them until the very end when everybody was clapping.”
But the newlyweds got “a splash of cold water,” Pittman says, when they landed back in Texas and tried to complete a joint Customs form.
He says they weren’t trying to make a statement, but were merely filling out “one form per household” as they had in the past. This time, the Customs officer in Dallas asked whether they were brothers. When they responded that they were partners, the official told them it was one form per household only for those who are related.
“He immediately was like: ‘Look, you’re not recognized by the U.S. government. Step back, get two forms and try this again,’” Pittman recalls. “He was very rude.”
It’s moments like those that motivate Pittman and Lindsey to remain heavily involved with the Human Rights Campaign, for which Pittman sits on the governing committee and serves as recruiting chair for the DFW Federal Club.
“I stay involved because the six of us are a real family,” Pittman said during a recent Federal Club luncheon, where he addressed the group just prior to new HRC President Chad Griffin. “I am married to a man. Damn the government and anyone who thinks otherwise.”
And it would appear as though their dads’ advocacy is rubbing off on the kids. Olivia Lindsey says at last year’s HRC Black Tie Dinner, where she sat at the pharmacy’s table, she remembers watching Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s speech and wishing it was her on stage. Asked whether she’ll grow up to be an advocate, Madeleine, who’ll attend this year’s dinner, responds that she already is.
“I already have that dream of being up on stage and telling people my story,” Madeleine says. “If you asked me right now, I’d do it tomorrow morning.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 27, 2012.