How does one begin to describe their life? Did it begin when I was born? Did it begin when you were born nineteen years ago? Or did it begin when I first met your mother on the tour we both took to the Soviet Union in 1990? For me, the story needs to begin on the day I came out to you and then moves backward and forward in time from there.
I came out to your mother in the summer of 2012 after not talking about my sexuality with her for over twenty years. We had discussed my attraction to men shortly after we met in 1990, but at the time, I thought my attraction to men was mainly in the past, having recently left a group in New York City that had promised through the study of their philosophy that men could change from homosexuality. While I knew I had not changed completely, I felt I had changed ‘enough’ that I could move on with my life, which I hoped included love and marriage to a woman.
When I met your mother I met a woman that I began to care deeply for. I had never met anyone quite like her and we developed an immediate bond and attraction to each other. We fell in love and after dating for a year I asked her to marry me. Over the ensuing years, my attraction to men, that I had felt was mostly in the past, rekindled, and grew stronger. There was still, at that time, the tremendous shame attached to being gay, and the topic was not one I knew how to discuss with anyone including your mother. I felt had made a commitment to your mother and our marriage and was determined to honor my commitment, which I did for the next twenty-plus years.
But then something occurred, which I will describe more fully later, and in the summer of 2012, I came back out to your mother. It began one of the most painful periods of my life. Every day was an emotional struggle and I constantly battled a depression, which at points felt almost crippling. Your mother was also in tremendous pain. The marriage she had felt was so solid was on the rocks.
For months your mother and I had argued about my coming out to you. I had the feeling that you were different and your generation was different and I hoped that my being gay would not be a big deal for you. Your mother was adamantly against my coming out to you. On a number of occasions, we had discussed my coming out to you and she acted like I was the one who did not get what a stupid thing I was asking. “How do you think it will affect him?”, she said on more than one occasion with an incredulous look. “It will destroy him to find out his father is gay. It will hurt his school work and he can’t afford to have his grades to drop. This is high school and it all counts towards college. What can you be thinking?
And then came that car ride back from the mall after doing Valentine’s Day shopping. You had just bought your mother some purple exercise clothes at the Sports Authority and we were heading home. I do not remember what triggered it but we talked about your best friends’ parents who were always fighting. You said something like, that was how they communicated but that they really loved each other. I said something to the effect, that people did not always stay together and you could not know what really went on behind closed doors. Somehow we were no longer talking about your friend’s parents but you wanted to know what I meant. “What are you really saying, dad? What is going on with you and mom? I want to know!” I began to backpedal, realizing that I had waded into waters I had not intended to go. Even though I had come (back) out to your mother eight months earlier and wanted to have this discussion with you, I felt I could not go against what your mother wanted, and tell you the truth.
I remember you started sobbing as we drove on the Washington Beltway home and I tried to calm you. When we arrived home you had calmed down. Your cousins and aunt were at the house and I was leaving within the hour for an overnight business trip. I went upstairs to pack my bags and you went to hang out with your cousins. A car service arrived shortly to take me to the airport, and I left on my trip.
When I arrived wherever was flying there was an urgent voice mail message waiting on my cell phone. Your mom wanted me to call her immediately and she sounded very upset. When she answered the phone she was furious that I had not told her what had happened on the way home from the mall. She told me that as soon as your cousins left the house you broke down sobbing and wanted to know what was going on with us. She said you asked her if I was gay, and she said that she told you that you would need to ask me that question. She described you as distraught and in tremendous pain. I was a wreck and did not know what I was coming home to.
I flew home the next evening and came directly home from the airport. After walking in the front door, I dropped my bags and headed up to the room at the top of the stairs that I thought of as your ‘office’. It was a room we had converted from a guest room into a homework room when you entered tenth grade. “Hi, want to talk?”, I said, having rehearsed a hundred different conversations in my head that we might have. Where ever the conversation went, I had made up my mind to tell you the truth.
“Dad, sit down.” At that moment our roles were reversed. You were the adult and I was the child in need of talking to. You swiveled around from your desk and the MacBook where you had been playing a video game, rolled your chair closer and faced me as I sat down on the couch. You put both hands on your knees and leaned forward. “Dad, are you gay?” “Yes”, I answered. “Dad, I want you to know that I will always love you and you will always be my dad. I don’t really care. It does not matter to me or my friends if someone is gay. It’s not a big deal.” And that was it. I know we hugged each other and then sat down to talk more. I know we sat and talked for about a half an hour while your mom sat downstairs waiting, but I do not remember much of the rest of the conversation.
Possibly the most important thing since that conversation three years ago is that you have been true to those first words of support. You have never once wavered in your love and support for me, even though when I moved out of the house after your eleventh-grade year, I place a tremendous burden on you. I know in your senior year of high school, in addition to a full course load of AP classes, you also had to take care of your mother and help her heal. But you never once blamed me. Your support has helped make it possible for me to continue to take bold steps in my life to have the out and open life that I had hoped for when I left my marriage.
There is a much longer story that begins when I was born and goes on to today, but this is a beginning. I hope to tell you the rest of the story soon.