Nathan: Hello. We’re back with another story update. This week, we’re going to be speaking with Carl Reddish. Who’s originally from Jonesboro, Georgia, but before we speak to Carl, let’s take a look at his story.
Carl: I am Carl Reddish and I am from Jonesboro, Georgia. I grew up extremely Southern Baptist. My parents are from Mississippi and they were raised very traditionally.
Once I was born, they already had a friend of theirs that they thought that was going to be the girl I was gonna marry. And the day that I came out, they felt that all those dreams shattered. The first counselor we went to was a member of our church. And he would not tell me that what I was doing was wrong.
So my parents got upset with that. So then we went to another council where they actually, the counselor said, “Well, you know, in the Bible, it says… this is what it says.” And, you know, my mom, she thought it was just black and white. Since it’s written in the Bible, that’s the end of the story for her.
It actually took a movie that kind of made them see a different side of things. And once they saw the movie, they understood where I was coming from a little bit more, the words that I kept trying to express, but I quite couldn’t..
Nathan: What was the name of that movie?
Carl: “Prayers For Bobby.” Really great movie. Some of the conversations that the mother and the son had in the movie have been very similar to the conversations that me and my mother have had. And there was one part in the movie where he actually does find a partner, that’s before he actually committed suicide, and, you know, wanting to bring that partner home, wanting to share, you know, his life was his family, and the mother’s not allowing it. And it made me remember a time that I was dating my longest person I’ve ever been in a relationship with and just dealing with that issue and wanting to bring that person home and having that same argument with my mother.
The conflict of having a relationship and not able to express and share something that I feel is, you know, an exciting moment in my life with my family, you know, and understanding that they should want to know what’s going on. They should want to know who’s in my life, you know, and that not doing that, isolates them from me. And that would… that eventually would push me further and further away.
So, you know, we had the conversation and they understood, like, “We understand that, you know, we don’t want to isolate you. We don’t want to push her away, we don’t want you thinking that you can eventually bring someone home. And that’s when the conversation – my dad said, “Well, if you are in a serious relationship with someone, you can bring them home.”
Nathan: Okay. Carl, thank you so much for joining us. That is, as it always has been, an incredible story. How have you been doing since these past 10 years that we last recorded that?
Carl: The last 10 years have been great. Kind of been a ton of insane. Still living in Brooklyn, have had the chance to, like, live in the Hamptons for a little bit with work and do some really fun things with work.
But one, I also got married, which has been really an amazing story, like, to add to my story.
Nathan: Wow. Okay. Well, there’s a lot to catch up on then. So – but I first want to go back to, you know, your story ended with a major cliffhanger because you talked about how your parents came around and they said that you can bring someone.
So can you tell us the story of, if you have, I guess you have if you’re married, but can you tell the story of the first time you took someone home?
Carl: Yeah. So from… one, I met my husband, seven years ago. His name’s Kyle. We met through friends and just kinda amazingly just clicked. And it was just really kind of awesome, which is what you want and everything. So then when it did come time to tell my parents, like, “Hey, I found someone and I’m ready to bring them home to show you and, like, meet you.”
They were like, “Okay, bring him home.” Funny enough. I still had to, while I was under my parents’ roof, we did have to sleep in separate bedrooms the entire time until we got married. That’s the only time that we actually could sleep in the same bedroom in our house. They’re still very much Christian. So it was really kind of funny. And they’re like, “It doesn’t matter if it was a girl or not, we’re still making you sleep in separate bedrooms. You’re not married.”
But yeah, parents came around, you know, and I can’t remember if I’ve told it in the first story, but I knew how long it took me to come out and deal with it. I knew it would take them time as well. And I have to say the time really did come around.
So the first trip when I took my at-that-time just boyfriend down to see my parents, it was really fun. Showed him around, took him just to see the sights of the city, where I grew up in Jonesboro. We actually did even go to my house that I grew up in, the high school, just great local places. And it was with my mom and my mom – my dad had to work that day, so Dad couldn’t go, but it was just my mom and him and I, and we drove around and it was really fun. Like, they got to get to know each other.
The amazing thing was actually when the parents met. That was actually really amazing. So my parents flew to San Diego to meet his parents. And then they built their own connection and bond, so much so that my parents were just… it was just really just natural to see that, how they love Kyle and how my parents love me. And then all of a sudden, how Kyle’s parents love him and also how Kyle’s parents love me.
It was what they wanted for me. You know, they wanted me to have a family, an extended family to have a marriage, to have a loving family. And that’s one of the things that they really are thrilled about is that I did pick someone that, you know, as they wanted, someone that would love me and help me, help me grow and be a supportive person, but also have the extended family that supports that whole network as well.
And it was – it’s been an amazing like 10 years, honestly. I mean, there’s been some ups and downs as always, but, you know, now to have that extended family, have those opportunities to actually get married, you know, it’s been amazing.
And one, I never would have thought, and it was amazing when I – when we decided we were gonna get married, who was going to actually marry us. I couldn’t think of any other better people than our parents. So both of our sets of parents actually married us. My father actually got ordained so that he could actually sign our marriage certificate. And he did.
Nathan: Oh my gosh.
Carl: Yeah, it was really like… it was really an “aw” moment. When we got married, we got married in February and it was a snow wedding. This part really kind of chokes me up because on the night of our wedding, it was in February, it started snowing. We get the most picturesque kinda moments from that. And it’s really kind of fun to me. It was my grandparents, everybody else kind of smiling down on us. And it snowed only – it started from the time our wedding started and stopped at the end. And it, I mean, we’ve been married for two years but this part of it still gets me… like it was special. Like for that to happen the way it happened, everything, the family coming together was absolutely amazing.
You know, that’s the one thing is like, it’s like there’s so much joy out there with that, and when families come together, it’s hard to kind of even express it, I guess, until you actually live it.
Nathan: That is so beautiful. And it just makes me go back to think about how you, in your story you mentioned your parents wanted, you know, they envisioned you with this girl that they knew, that you knew from a really young age. And, you know, they thought that you were going to marry her. They had this grand vision for you. And in a way it seems like that vision came true, but it was with, you know, with Kyle instead of this girl who they knew and in a way they had their perfect wedding that they wanted to see their son in.
And so what was… how do you think that… what journey did they go on to get to where they are? Like, what was it that, you know, ‘cause some people are going to be – are going to be watching this and their parents aren’t okay with him being gay. They don’t want their kid to bring home their boyfriend or their girlfriend and you know… so what can they… what hope can they have that their parents can change based on what, you know, change your parents went through.
Carl: So both of my parents are Devout Christians, Southern Baptist. My father, who is a… he has his PhD in education. He really had to go through a journey himself. It was all a journey of understanding, reading. He did a lot of prayer. He did a lot of research. They actually did attend seminars on how to deal with, you know, a son being gay.
It was because of their love, they had to figure out the journey themselves. You know, and Dad very, really much likes President Jimmy Carter as an individual and respects him greatly. And you know, some of those things that he’s heard Jimmy Carter say about it and what he’s read, he kind of, he used people that he respects, he used what they… they have said and spoke and and some of those – that’s really allowed him to come to the journey to where he is now.
It’s really kind of amazing because now they’re like, “Uh, where’s our grandkids?”
And I’m like, “Hold on! Hold on! Give us a little bit.” So that’s one of the things is it’s… the parents got to find the journey of themselves. Just as much as we find our own journey and we had to do it ourselves, you know, I think with parents who love their kids no matter what, they’re going to find that journey, they’re going to have that time.
You know, it’s more of, you gotta be you and making sure that you let the parents understand the journey themselves and help them when they can – when you can, if they ask questions and if they want to know things.
Nathan: And what about the flip side of that, what if… what if someone is listening who is young and their parents aren’t accepting? What would you say to those people, whether they’re kids or adults? You know, it’s not just for… it’s not just kids who have unaccepting parents. What would you tell them? You know, would you say to give it time? Or would you say to show them movies that, you know, in your case is what helped a lot. What advice would you give to them?
Carl: To them, I would – definitely, whatever helped that individual get through it, I would say, share what helps yourself get through it with your parents. I would say that would be the best advice.
I didn’t realize, one of the – when my dad married us, one of his lines in this opening thing, it goes, “He’s built a community.” I mean, he was talking about being part of the gay community. He said, “They have built their own family.” And one of the things I can tell you is like, my friends are my family as well, and it’s very evident. And it was so evident because all the years my parents would come up, visit me in New York, we would do Thanksgiving and we would have a group of people everywhere. My mom and dad loved big family gatherings. They got to see actually my New York family gathered for Thanksgiving multiple times. You know, and that included my gay best friends.
And that’s where they really kind of realized, it’s not kind of what they were told whe, I guess, the sixties and seventies. It’s different. And they understand that there is a family friendship and that’s when they really kind of also opened up. You know, ‘cause my mom enjoyed cooking for all my friends. Like that was – that’s always her highlight. When we have a big gathering, we always do a party. When my parents are here, my parents love it. My parents really have enjoyed getting to know who I actually interact with and who are my friends.
And I think, you know, that is one of the things that also has been really kind of exciting. It’s evolved over the last 10 years. You know, so it’s more about understanding who your parents are, open for hope and love them, and help them on their journey when they want it. And allow them to – and I understand this is going to take time.
Personally, my friends and who are – who have gone on the journey of coming out and understand it and expressing it, have parents that actually have been all – maybe they didn’t come around at the beginning, but over time they all have, you know, and I think time is actually – sometimes heals all wounds.
To the ones that don’t have parents that are healing wounds, you know, realize that you’re going to be a part of a community that loves each other. And you’re going to find your friends. You’re gonna find your network. You’re going to find the people that you can count on. Everyone knows when I had a car that – all of my friends – that I would help them move. So no matter what, and you know, living in New York, that is like gold, but I did because those are my family, You know, realize you’re going to connect with your own family and it’s the family you actually get to choose versus a family you’re born into.
I have been extremely lucky. Born into an extremely lucky family. So was my husband. And I’m so proud that we actually can share that and have our families share. But I’ve also got to choose some really great family as well. And I say, that’s what you want to think about. Think about who you want to choose to be a part of your family and your network.
Nathan: So you would say basically find your own family of choice and if your parents or other loved ones aren’t accepting of you, share with them what helps you through your own journey and, you know, give it time. And is that essentially what, what works for you?
Carl: That’s it. Give it time, get to choose who you want to work with and live with and be your family. I mean, trust me, those are the things, the memories that I have with the family up here is amazing. You know, and also that I’m very privileged to have my parents be a part of that is also, and it took time.
Nathan: Okay. Is there anything else that you wanted to share about your marriage or your journey or your life right now?
Carl: For the vows, we actually had our parents write our vows. And the reason being, because I – they know us better than anyone else. There were little jabs, they were really small, but also made it fun and unique. But, you know, I wanted to make sure that it was – they were a hundred percent a part of it. And they understood, you know, and the people that saw it understood like, “Hey. This is… we’re doing this. This is… this is our kids. We love them. And we’re excited for this.” And it’s… it couldn’t have been more of a dream wedding than I could ever imagine. Like, it was legit a dream. Um, so I can tell you that I never thought it was going to happen this way 10 years ago.
Nathan: That’s… that’s beautiful. Well, congratulations on your, you know, amazing past 10 years that you’ve had, it seems like things have gone really well. I know you said there’ve been ups and downs, but congratulations on the ups and also on your marriage and your wedding.
And also extend your, extend my gratitude to your parents for coming around and not just coming around and being tolerant, but really just diving in. And you know, what you said about becoming a part of the community and being there for you and that’s really, you know, they deserve a lot of credit for that. I know it’s not easy to come around sometimes, especially coming from a very religious background. So congratulations to you and them. So… and thanks for giving us an update on your life.
Carl: Thank you. Enjoyed it.
Nathan: All right. If you have any questions for Carl that I didn’t cover, just leave them in the comments and we’ll ask him to come back and check periodically. And if you want to watch more stories from I’m From Driftwood, they are readily available. We have about 800 of them total. You can watch them on our YouTube channel, on our website imfromdriftwood.org, on our Instagram or on our Facebook. Thanks for watching.