14 Years of Ignorance
I must have been eight or nine when I was up in LA visiting my dad and his “roommate,” Ricardo. We were watching the Super Bowl. One of the teams was losing really badly, and I said that the losing team was “so gay!”
“That team is gay? What do you mean?” my dad and Ricardo asked, looking at each other, then at me.
“They’re gay!” I repeated in my best “duh” voice. “They suck! They’re lame! They’re really bad.”
Nothing more was said on the subject. This was the early 1980s. Reagan was president. AIDS was new. I didn’t know any gay people, and there was no reason for me in my conservative suburban San Diego environment to meet any.
And as far as the adults in my life were concerned, including my gay dad, that was the way it should be.
13 Years of Transition
I stood in the tiny studio apartment on Page Street in San Francisco, just off Divisadero, all the noises of the city almost, but not quite, drowning out my dad’s announcement that he was gay, and that it was okay if I cried, and it was okay if I didn’t understand, which of course I didn’t, because homosexuality wasn’t a part of my life, and I didn’t want it to be part of my life, except that now it was a part of my life, and I didn’t know how to handle it, because no one had prepared me to handle it, and I was fourteen, the prime homophobic year of my life.
I was a freshman in high school. I had decisions to make: continue to make anti-gay jokes and slurs with my friends, or own up to the fact that I had a gay dad. I did neither. Instead I didn’t tell a soul until I was 20 years old.
If my teenage years and early twenties were filled with denial, embarrassment, isolation, and fear of discovery, my mid twenties revealed signs of maturity, acceptance, and understanding that came to define who I am today.
12 Years of Continuing Evolution
My dad died of AIDS in 2000, when I was 27. For several years leading up to that point I had become pretty comfortable telling people that I had a gay dad. It was freeing, not only for me personally, but for the development of my dad’s and my relationship.
This was partly do to my maturation, and it was also largely due to me surrounding myself with people, activities, and ideas that were more in line with my new way of seeing the world. A few months after my dad passed away I moved from San Diego to San Francisco.
In the Bay Area the environment was more than just tolerant of the LGBTQ community; it was accepting,Â embracing, and even celebratory. It is within this community culture that my continuing evolution of speaking out for gay rights began, and continues to this day.
I am part of The Gay Dad Project because I know that the work we’re doing will make a difference for people who were, or are, in my situation. I hope my story will inspire other people to share their stories.
I believe that when we all talk about this stuff in an open and honest community space we will make a difference.