All of the ‘Share Your Story’ submissions we’ve received so far have been people simply sharing their stories with us. This story is a bit different in that the person sharing asks a few questions and asks for our advice. While The Gay Dad Project is not a place where we advise people how to live their lives, we are happy to share our tales and experiences with the hope that it will help others.
I fell onto your site and just had to write. For 2 years I’ve been keeping a blog on the frustrations of being a gay dad. Well, more specifically of being a gay, divorced, ex-Mormon dad of children being raised by a pretty fundamental Mormon woman, my ex-wife.
I’ve grown a lot in the process of coming out and I’m intrigued by your site and what I could possibly learn from your perspectives to make me a better father to my kids. I suppose I can take the time later to write a more thorough story, although after 2 years of blogging I don’t even know where I’d start.
My relationship with my children (ages 8, 10, 13, 15) is awesome. I love them dearly and I know they love me. Their understanding of my gay-hood varies by age and I’m not always sure how to handle it when it does come up. Due to their current upbringing, it’s uncomfortable for them. I don’t hide, but I don’t always make it a point of discussion either.
Without a partner, there’s really not much “gay” about my day to day life that they are exposed to. When it does come up I try to be nonchalant and forthright. . .honest. What do you wish your fathers had done differently? What did they do right in the situation? Any tips or advice?
Dad’s Primal Scream
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Amie: Thanks for your message, Dad’s Primal Scream. While we are not experts here and don’t want to give the impression that we know what is best for you and your family, we are happy to share our personal thoughts and experiences with you.
To me it sounds like you are already doing a great job with your kids just in being honest with them and living an honest, fulfilling life for yourself. Honesty was, and continues to be, one of the hardest things about having a gay dad for me. I struggled, and sometimes still do, with feeling as if I had been lied to my entire childhood.
If you are open, honest, and supportive to your kids – as a dad – I think you are on the right track. Your kids may choose to accept or reject your lifestyle to varying degrees for their own reasons. That you cannot change. I think it’s important to maintain the father/child relationship outside of religion and sexuality.
For me, my dad’s sexuality was the easiest thing for me to accept. What feels like years of lies, the strained relationship between my parents, and the lack of emotional support I received as a kid are the things that have been the bigger challenges for me to overcome. I wish we could have had an honest, open, and trusting home built from honest and trusting relationships with each of my parents. I’m not sure how we could have done that differently and it sounds like you are doing that quite well with your kids. I hope this somehow helps and all the best to you and your family.
Erin: Dad’s Primal Scream, thank you so much for reaching out to us. As Amie said, we’re not certified or qualified to tell you how to parent; that being said, I wish my dad had been honest with himself and us long before he was. I wish he had helped connect us to other kids with gay parents.
He was very supportive otherwise: paid for my therapy, answered my questions, loved us, and financially supported us. He invited us to take part in his gay activism as much or as little as we wanted to. I chose to participate sometimes and found it helpful to an extent.
But what I never found until The Gay Dad Project was formed, was SOMEONE ELSE LIKE ME; someone else with a gay dad. My own brothers didn’t count because they were younger, we were not close, and I think we felt too awkward discussing it with one another.
Because my dad became so active in the gay community, I’m fairly certain he must’ve come into contact with other men who had married and/or had children before coming out. At the tender age of 15? I’d have LOVED nothing more than to have had the opportunity to connect and talk with them. To ask them questions, to feel not so alone.
It’s a shame it took 20 years for me to finally feel (thanks to my partners, Amie & Jared) like I have people who understand what I went through, and what I continue to go through, as a child of a gay father. Best wishes to you and your family.
Jared: Hi Dad’s Primal Scream. Thanks so much for reaching out and joining our community. My perspective is a little bit different than Amie’s or Erin’s in that I never really felt that sense of betrayal, of being lied to. When he told me he was gay when I was 14, it definitely wasn’t easy, but that wasn’thisfault. It was the era, and society, and underdeveloped understandings of sexual orientation.
What I wish my father had done differently has nothing to do with his being gay. I wish that he were around more and that I got to grow up with a dad who was with me and who I knew better. That being said, I don’t judge him or think that he was selfish for doing what he did – leaving his wife and kid (me) to find a more welcoming community for who he was and who he would continue to become.
The fact that your kids know you’re gay is huge. Yes, it will be uncomfortable at times for them, but I think we all – including gay parents – have a responsibility to help normalize homosexuality in society by combating stereotypes, telling the truth, and having those difficult discussions with your children when you feel each of them is ready to share perspectives.
There’s so much more to talk about, so I hope we can continue this discussion here at The Gay Dad Project, offline, and anywhere else our paths may cross.
Photo from Dad’s Primal Scream’s blog