Gay Dad From JCPenney Ad Opens Up About Life, Fatherhood, And Backlash


In May, JCPenney launched its Fathers' Day advertising campaign, part of which was based around ads featuring the above image of a gay couple and their button-cute kids. The anti-gay right freaked out, as its wont to do, and JCPenney didn't flinch. The freakage, the retail giant's coolness in the face of freakage, and the publicity generated thereby probably added up to a lot of free advertising. Good deal!

Turns out, the gay couple is a real gay couple — Cooper Smith and Todd Koch — and those kids are really their kids. They all live near Dallas.

Smith has posted a brief essay at HuffPo describing the experience of having his family's image flashed all over the national media:

While we had no hesitation in doing the ad itself, we initially girded ourselves for a negative backlash against our family personally. To our surprise, the response has been overwhelmingly positive — shockingly positive, in fact! We've received hundreds of emails, Facebook posts, Twitter comments, and cards in the mail from everyone from long-lost friends and classmates to complete strangers in remote parts of the United States and beyond, each filled with heartfelt sentiments of support and acceptance. We've even heard from celebrities and other public figures. Sure, there have been some pretty hateful comments and notes, too, but they're nothing we haven't heard our whole lives …

Some of the best sentiments come from straight mothers and fathers who don't understand what all the fuss is about, accompanied with vows to drop by JCPenney just to spite anti-gay groups like One Million Moms …

Smith is from the Rio Grande Valley, and for Fathers' Day chatted with the Valley's Monitor  about life, business, and growing up gay in the area:

I wasn’t out to myself or anyone else when I still lived in the Valley. People made assumptions that I was, and fortunately it wasn’t too bad. I was fairly popular in school, had good grades and held numerous leadership positions in band, student council and other groups. It was actually harder being very tall, very thin and very white! When I was teased about being gay, though, it was very painful. One time in ninth-grade biology, all of the kids passed around a picture of me and wrote horrible things about me on it. Then at the end of class, someone handed it to me. I was devastated. I left school and just cried in my car in the parking lot. I didn’t come out to myself until my sophomore year at Southern Methodist University. Over the following years, I slowly came out to family and friends as the situation warranted. Most were completely unsurprised and nearly all have been very supportive.