The self-proclaimed "Property Lovers" are back, and more perfect than ever!
PJ and Thomas, husband-husband stars of the new HGTV series Down to the Studs, have made incredible strides in LGBT-visibility as the first same-sex couple to host a show on HGTV. So, in celebration of their new show airing Monday, July 17 at 1p/12c on HGTV, we sat down with the couple to discuss their marriage, being gay in the south, their new show, and their major plans for the future!
PRIDE: Will you guys introduce yourself for us?
Thomas (pictured left): I’m 26, born and raised in Cleveland, Tennessee. I am a designer, though I will help occasionally help with demo. I am kind of the free-spirited, go-with-the flow one in our relationship. I’m a little more laid back and don’t stress too easily.
PJ (pictured right): I'm 31, born and raised in Cleveland, Tennessee. I am a licensed realtor and have a degree in construction management. I handle the real estate, with Thomas and I making all of the design choices together. I am extremely type A, so I like things structured and to the point, however I also like to cut-up and have fun with my team.
How did you guys meet?
Thomas: We met at a mutual friend’s get-together back in 2009. At the time, PJ was in a relationship and I wasn’t out yet. About 8 months later, when PJ’s relationship ended, PJ sent me a friend request on Facebook and then we started texting. A few days later I went over to PJ’s house and spent the night (...in the guest bedroom) talking about our past and what our dreams for the future were and we have pretty much been inseparable ever since.
What is it like living as an openly gay couple in the South?
PJ and Thomas: We feel very fortunate to say that it has been pretty normal for us to be out and in a relationship in our small, southern town. We haven’t experienced any prejudice or judgment (to our faces) since we have been together. Again, we feel blessed because we know that isn’t the case for a lot of couples in the south.
How important was it for you guys to get married?
PJ and Thomas: It was extremely important for us to get married. Even on the first night we hung out and stayed up all night talking, we talked about how we both wanted to be married with kids someday (little did we know at the time that it would one day be to each other). We are both very family-oriented so it’s always just been the end goal and where we saw our lives going together. After same-sex marriage became legalized, we decided to get married in the living room of our house that we’d been fixing up for the last 6 months.
At what point in your relationship did you guys decide to go into business together?
Thomas: Well PJ had been building and flipping homes for about 3 years and once we got together it was just a natural progression for our relationship because it’s something we are both so passionate about, so it came somewhat naturally to us, like, 'Okay, this is the next step in our relationship.'
Tell us about your new show Down to the Studs:
PJ: The show is about us, our neighbor Tania, and Thomas’ sister Sydney renovating homes in the Chattanooga area. We all have our area of expertise, with PJ being the real estate agent and project manager, Thomas is the designer, Tania is sort of a "Jill of all Trades," and Sydney is the design apprentice. First and foremost, though, we are a team, and so we all help out to as much as we can to get the house completed on time and under budget, so our roles spill over into each other’s, but that’s when it starts getting fun.
What’s the hardest thing about working with your spouse?
PJ and Thomas: The hardest thing about working with each other is when we disagree on a design decision. We are both very passionate about what we do and when we have differing opinions (which doesn’t happen often, but it does happen) it can sometimes be hard to come to a conclusion we both like. But at the end of the day, we both know that our marriage comes first and we make up and make a decision on the solution before we go to bed at night, because we don’t like going to bed angry.
You guys are the first married, same-sex couple to host their own show on HGTV. How does it feel to be pushing the boundaries of LGBT visibility?
PJ and Thomas: It feels wonderful to have that representation on HGTV, whether it starts with us or another couple. We both grew up watching HGTV all the time but never dreamed we would one day be on it as a married couple. Honestly, the best part of all of this is the messages we are receiving from people all over the country saying how grateful they are to see two married men on HGTV because it gives them hope for their own future, so it feels good to know this show is making even more of an impact in people’s lives beyond restoring old houses. It’s a very humbling experience, to say the least.
How did the public react after the show premiered? Positive? Negative? Mixture of both?
PJ and Thomas: Mostly all positive! One of our friends who also has a show on HGTV told us before we even finished filming the pilot to not read the comments on Facebook because of how mean people can be, but we did read them and they didn’t faze us. There is always going to be negativity when you put yourself out there but it is a waste of time and energy to care what they think, when we could probably be spending that same time and energy demo-ing another house.
What’s next for you guys professionally and personally? Babies? Bigger cities?
PJ and Thomas: If the show doesn’t work out, we will still continue to buy and flip homes in our area. In regards to kids, that’s something we have been talking more and more about lately. We have agreed on trying to have kids in 3 years from now. We’ve discussed adopting and surrogacy and will probably do both because we want a big family. We have also discussed possibly moving to a bigger city! We know that if we do it will be temporary, as the majority of our family lives near us, but we love the idea of experiencing a new city and culture for longer than just a quick vacation. So who knows where we will go? We just know we are enjoying the ride to get there!
Watch the trailer for Down to the Studs below and make sure to tune-in Monday, July 17 1p/12c on HGTV!