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How this queer family moved to rural Alabama and won over hearts and minds

Chelsey and Bailey Glassco at home with their son, Brayden.

When we first met them for LGBTQ Nation Authentic Voices of Pride last year, Chelsey and Bailey Glassco were living in a house they’d bought outside Birmingham, Alabama, with their 9-year-old adopted son, Brayden. 

Then last fall Bailey’s parents gave them a three-acre slice of family land in a remote area of northern Alabama. So they sold their house, bought a camper and parked it in Bailey’s parents’ backyard while they built their dream home. It’s located in an area where Bailey’s family has deep roots: Several roads boast their surname. 

Now, Brayden, 10, attends Douglas Elementary, where Bailey went to school, and is adapting to his new outdoor, country life. They are also happily adjusting to being closer to extended family in a way that they never expected. To their surprise, the move has brought new love and acceptance from relatives who once shunned them and refused to acknowledge their marriage. In a show of respect, Bailey’s parents have even started calling Brayden their grandson.

The new acceptance the Glassco family has found reflects a national trend. In November, the Biden Administration reversed a Trump-era rule that allowed federally funded child welfare agencies to bypass non-discrimination rules if they conflict with the providers’ religious beliefs. Foster and adoption groups that receive federal funding will be required to open their process to LGBTQ+ families.

To their surprise, the move has brought new love and acceptance from relatives who once shunned them and refused to acknowledge their marriage. 

LGBTQ Nation chatted with Chelsey, 31, and Bailey, 32, about adjusting to rural family life, being closer to family, the cause of equality in Alabama, and why strangers still stare at the family. Brayden joined the conversation at the end to add his views on how love makes a family.

Where are you living now?    

Bailey: Its an area called Sand Mountain in Marshall County. It is very rural with a lot of woodland and pasture land. It’s about as unspoiled land as you can find around here nowadays.  

And this is sort of a homecoming? 

Bailey: Yeah, it is in a lot of ways. I grew up out here, just out in the woods. And it was a very long-term sort of dream of mine to be able to rehabilitate the land and revitalize it and have this little slice of wilderness to be able to pass down to Brayden.

A family game of Monopoly. Photo by Bang Images for LGBTQ Nation.

How does Brayden feel about the move? 

Bailey: It has been a huge change for him, but he seems a lot less fearful about things and he’s more robust than he was before. So it’s been a good transition for him, even though it was a big one. But he just kind of grabbed it with both hands and just really jumped into it.

And how’s that transition for you?

Bailey: So we’re basically living in my parents’ backyard, in the camper with my wife and child. That’s not where I thought that I would be at 32! [Laughs] And then my dad’s parents live down the road, on the family land. There are a bunch of people with the same last name as me that live around here.

Chelsey: We have to turn on Glassco Road to get to our road. 

Chelsey and Bailey Glassco on their new land in northern Alabama where they’re building a home. Photo courtesy of the Glassco family.

Can you tell us some details about the new house you’re building?

Chelsey: It’s a farmhouse-style home and we’re very excited. It’s three bedrooms, two baths. It’s all one level and a big kitchen. Brayden is just super excited because he’s going to have his own full bathroom. And he can decorate it however he wants, within reason.

Bailey:  It’s a very open floor plan and rustic. It’s going to be the perfect home for us.

Chelsey: There’s a Brandi Carlile song called “Crowded Table,” and that’s the song that kind of inspired this home. It’s about, you know, just filling up your table with all your loved ones, and that’s the song that we hear when we think about our home.

Before you’d talked about the strained relationships with your relatives, and now you’re living much closer to Bailey’s family. How has that been? 

Bailey: It’s weird, but it’s very much coming home. And it’s nice to be here, where there are relatives who can look after us and look after Brayden, and Brayden gets to have more of an extended family than he really ever has before 

Chelsey: It was really something that we dreamed of having, but we never thought would be possible. But we have come so far in these relationships with family. There were years where we had no connection with anyone. So it’s just really nice now. Being able to kind of heal those bonds.

Brayden with his grandparents, Granny and Gramps Glassco, in costume for Christmas. Photo courtesy of the Glassco family
Brayden with his grandparents, Granny and Gramps Glassco, in costume for Christmas. Photo courtesy of the Glassco family.

So you see them more often now?

Chelsey: Oh yeah. We were sitting around the dinner table just a few nights ago, all talking about funny stories from dating. And it was so neat.

Bailey: And surreal.

Chelsey: Talking to Bailey’s parents about funny dating stories and us being able to share the same thing. I never thought we would ever even be able to acknowledge ourselves around them. And now it’s just kind of understood.

Bailey: So now, to be at this place and be able for Brayden to have grandparents and great-grandparents and great-aunts and uncles – that family sort of close-knit community that I grew up with  – for him to be able to have those things as well? It’s pretty magical.

“It’s nice to be here, where there are relatives who can look after us and look after Brayden, and Brayden gets to have more of an extended family than he really ever has before.”
Bailey Glassco

So are both sides of your families more accepting these days?

Chelsey: I would say there’s definitely been a move toward that.  

Bailey: It only took 10 years! [Laughs]

Chelsey: Just in the past few years, they started getting Christmas presents for Brayden. And it said, “From Grandma and Grandpa.” They used to say he was supposed to call them Mr. Stan and Miss Judy. That was how they introduced themselves to him. And for them to go from Mr. Stan and Miss Judy to Grandma and Grandpa? It is huge to change your name. That changes the relationship. 

What other ways have you seen that change specifically?

Chelsey: Now when they send us something in the mail, it’ll say “The Glasscos” on it. They used to put my full birth name from before I was married, saying, “You are Chelsey Parker to us.” But now they’ll put “The Glassco Family” or if it’s just to me, they’ll put “Chelsey Glassco.” And that speaks volumes to me. That shows me that there’s a respect there, and acceptance.

Brayden Glassco in his new swing on the family’s land in Marshall County, Alabama. Photo courtesy the Glassco family
Brayden Glassco in his new swing on the family’s land in Marshall County, Alabama. Photo courtesy the Glassco family.

Do you think that change came about because of your adopting Brayden and being parents like them?

Chelsey: I think that was a big part of it, probably.

Bailey: Every bit of it! Our family model is a lot more familiar now, and we don’t feel so foreign to them anymore. For a long time, they didn’t know any other lesbian couples or any other gay couples. And they didn’t know what we got up to — when really all we got up to is playing video games and doing puzzles on the weekends. When you have a kid, you start doing things that are mom things. And I think that is more familiar to them and paints a more domestic picture. It’s something they can relate to.  

Chelsey: And you can’t help but fall in love with Brayden. He’s beautiful and smart and inquisitive and silly and full of love.  

Bailey: We’re so proud of him.

Chelsey: And of how far he’s come. And he deserves to have family and we just continually advocated for him. And then, with my family opening up to him, they were inadvertently opening up to us.  

“Our family model is a lot more familiar now, and we don’t feel so foreign to them anymore. For a long time, they didn’t know any other lesbian couples or any other gay couples.”
Bailey Glassco

And how do you see it affecting Brayden directly? 

Chelsey:  Recently, he looked at us and he said, “I really feel like I’m a Glassco.” And that’s huge because to him for the longest time Glassco was just me and Bailey. Now he says, “I’m a Glassco and that’s my grandparents and my great-grandparents.” 

Bailey: He takes a lot of pride in it now, in belonging. And he’s on this property, and that makes him feel like he belongs too. 

Chelsey: And he’s going to the school that Bailey and a lot of his family went to. We explained kind of jokingly that it’s like you’re a legacy boy. He proudly tells people, “I’m a Glassco and I’m a country boy now.”  

Has he started listening to John Denver? 

Bailey: We’re not there yet. [laughs]  

Chelsey: We just asked Brayden in here. 

Hi Brayden. So, what do you think about your new country life?

Brayden: I like getting to play outside and just being a kid.

How do you like being the next generation Glassco there? Do you feel like you have a lot to live up to? 

Brayden: Yes, sir. I feel really like now I’m kind of combined with my parents. I feel like I’m now one of them and I’m going to a school where they graduated from, and it just makes me feel really special.

“I feel really like now I’m kind of combined with my parents. I feel like I’m now one of them and I’m going to a school where they graduated from, and it just makes me feel really special.”
Brayden Glassco

Are there any subjects that are your favorite? 

Brayden: Uh, this may seem weird, but I like math. Even though I’m very, very bad at math.

Chelsey: You’re not bad at it. 

Bailey: It’s just harder for you than other subjects.

Chelsey: But he loves the challenge. And I love that about him. 

Do you have a favorite teacher?

Brayden: I like Ms. Petty because she’s very humorous. 

Bailey: She’s a girl that I graduated with from Douglas. So when we found out about her being his homeroom teacher, it was just kind of perfect.  

I heard that you’re very interested in learning about Martin Luther King Jr. too? 

Brayden: When I first learned about him [at school] and all that he’s done, how he changed so many people’s lives, I got inspired by him. And so I felt like I should be like him, and I should make a change.  

Bailey and Brayden Glassco by their pond. Photo courtesy of the Glassco family
Bailey and Brayden Glassco by their pond. Photo courtesy of the Glassco family.

And how do you see yourself as part of his legacy of making change?

Brayden: I see myself doing that in the future by trying just to show everyone that they were born to be someone special, and to love each other and care for each other, and not be enemies. I try to do that by being kind and respectful.

Have you ever felt people were not respectful to your family? And how did you deal with that? 

Brayden: I kind of feel my body start to get warm, in a way that kind of shows I’m not feeling anxious, but I’m not feeling happy either about it. Sometimes I would get mad, but other times I would say, “Hey I’ve got two moms and it’s actually really cool. So you can’t judge me.”

Chelsey: When he was at his old school, someone said, “You know it’s a sin that you have two moms, because the Bible says so.” And Brayden’s response was to say, “At least I have two parents that love me.” That just kind of put them straight.

Wow. Having gay parents can be very common in bigger cities, but I’m guessing that’s not the case in rural Alabama.

Bailey: Not down here. We were out to eat one day and I told Chelsey, “I forget  what it’s like to be stared at.” Because when we would go out to eat in Birmingham, it wasn’t a big deal because there’s a large gay population there. More than you would think. But then moving back here, there’s not so much a big out gay population. 

“When [Brayden] was at his old school, someone said, ‘You know it’s a sin that you have two moms, because the Bible says so.’ And Brayden’s response was to say, ‘At least I have two parents that love me.’ That just kind of put them straight.”
Chelsey Glassco

Brayden, how do you feel when people are staring like that?  

Brayden: I just don’t feel like it’s fair for people that are gay to be stared at because of who they are. It’s not fair to me and my parents. I love them so much. They mean everything to me. 

Bailey: I appreciate that, buddy. That’s very kind. But Momma and I just laugh it off.  

Chelsey: We just go, “They looking at us ’cause we look good!” [Laughs]

Brayden talked about wanting to make change like Martin Luther King Jr. It sounds like you’re making that change in a very real way being out and open about it where you are? 

Bailey: You know, 20 years ago, in Alabama at least, it was not really possible to do this. So it is important to us that we kind of destigmatize it. And we’re not doing it on purpose. It’s not like we go out and we’re passing out pamphlets. [Laughs] We’re just living our lives. So I think that Chelsey and I living authentically and true to ourselves provides an example and a model for what a normal gay family looks like.  

“You know, 20 years ago, in Alabama at least, it was not really possible to do this. So it is important to us that we kind of destigmatize it. And we’re not doing it on purpose. It’s not like we go out and we’re passing out pamphlets.”
Bailey Glassco

We’ve talked about some tough things, Brayden, but I wanted to know what are the happiest memories you’ve had with your moms?

Brayden: I have three happiest memories. Number one is the first day I met them and they became my parents. Then, my number two favorite memory is this day where me and Baba [Bailey] played video games together and we kicked alien scum in Halo. [Laughs] And after that, just every day getting to know that they love me. And I love them.   

Bailey: He’s very vocal and authentic with his heart.  

Chelsey: He’s our tender-hearted  boy and sometimes it just hits him, all the love that he feels. And we’re proud of it, that he likes to share that. Sometimes he’ll go, “I just need you to know. It means so much how much you love me. And I love you that much too. And I just wanted you to know.”  

Brian Sloan is a New York-based writer and filmmaker with bylines in The New York Times, NBC News, and Business Insider; and films on Netflix, MTV/Logo, and YouTube.