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Tiger King: Joe Exotic’s Homosexuality, Husbands & Polygamy

Beware of spoilers!!

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The Netflix’s original docuseries Tiger King features Joe Exotic and how he ended up in jail. The series does not just feature his crazy love for big exotic cats and wild animals. In fact, it also features his personal life and interests. Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is 57-years-old. He is an openly gay person who was kicked out by his family when he came out as homosexual. While his family could not give him the love he was looking for, he found peace with the men in his life and animals. Even though the crime documentary Tiger King mostly features Joe’s 3 husbands, he was actually married 5 times in his life.

Joe Exotic’s First Husband

Little is known about Joe Exotic’s first husband. While Tiger King series mostly focuses on Carole Baskin’s first husband & his “missing” status, it does not really tell what happened to Joe’s first husband. Or even if it did, why the heck I don’t remember it.

Before opening up his zoo, back in the days, Joe Exotic used to work at a gay bar in Texas in 80’s. It’s there where he met his first husband, Briane Rhyne. They got married in 1986 reportedly, though gay marriage was not legal at that time. But it did not stop them from declaring their love.

After Joe’s brother died in a car accident, he used the money to open the animal zoo with his husband Brian. However, they could not stay together forever. Brian passed away in 2001 due to some infectious disease. Some sources confirm it as HIV.

Jeffrey Charles “J.C.” Hartpence

After the death of his first husband, Joe Exotic started to take interest in men who claimed to be heterosexual. He met JC Hartpence in a gay bar, and the two got married again. Once more, it was an unofficial marriage due to the law. JC was into drugs and alcohol. He also held a gun to Joe’s head during one of their fights.

JC was a 24-years-old event producer. Therefore, Joe Exotic and JC Hartpence decided to start animal and magic shows to indulge crowd and become famous. But  once again, the couple could not stay together for long. In 2003, a new employee joined the zoo.

It is not clear what exactly went wrong between the two. They split, and currently, JC is serving life in prison for a murder.

John Finlay

John Finlay joined the zoo after his graduation. He was just 19-years-old at that time. Joe took interest in him, and reportedly, he paid John to get a tattoo on his pelvis stating: PRIVATELY OWNED BY JOE EXOTIC. We all have seen that tattoo now.

John stayed with Joe Exotic for a long time, even though they had their differences. They fought a lot and their relationship became volatile. However, they continued dating for 10 years before they got married.

Travis Maldonado

Maldonado joined the zoo team in order to clean up his life. He was an addict. Joe Exotic was still in a relationship with John Finlay, but he was also experimenting adding more guys to the mix. He fell for Travis, and they ended up getting married. Yes, all three of them.

The marriage should have brought them all close, however, Joe’s relation with Finlay started to fall. Finlay figured out Joe was becoming more controlling and they could not stay together any longer. He left Joe and married a worker from the zoo. They have a child together. Both Travis and Finlay were not homosexual, as confirmed in the series. While Finlay married a woman and got his Joe Exotic tattoo covered with a new one, Travis was allegedly sleeping around with the female workers of the zoo.

In 2015, Maldonado and Joe finally got a license of their marriage. Hence, Joe’s surname changed. In 2017, while Travis was still 23, he shot himself mistakenly and died at the spot. Exotic lost his nerves and he became suicidal after it.

Joe Exotic’s Current Husband Dillon Passage

Joe Exotic is still married to Dillon Passage. He met Passage after Travis’s death. They met online, while Passage was just 19-years-old. The couple left the zoo when things were not working for him. They were still together when Joe Exotic was arrested. As per Tiger King documentary, Joe called Passage on daily basis, three times in a day. However, it is unclear if they are still together.

Is this the end of Joe Exotic’s exotic love stories? Was Joe Exotic’s sexuality playing a role in his sentence? Only time can tell.

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