Having a Gay Dad: Once a Stigma, Now a Source of Pride: Jared Replies to Amie

Jared Karol on dealing separately with the confusion of having a gay father, and the man his father was.

The Gay Dad Project aims to explore families—and the complex relationships within these families—where one parent is gay and one parent is straight. Amie Shea, Erin Margolin, and Jared Karol all share the experience of having had a dad come out as gay. They have all found comfort in sharing their stories with one another, and in knowing that they are not alone.

After Amie read the correspondence between Jared and Erin on Jared’s blog, she sent him a letter of her own. This is Jared’s response.

Read more about the Letters here

This was previously posted on Lick the Fridge.

 

This letter is in response to the letter from Amie that was posted yesterday.

March 16, 2012

Amie,

I’m so glad you decided to write me a letter and get involved in the conversation. The more people who are talking about the topic of gay dads the better.

It’s interesting that you mentioned Erin’s letter in your letter and how much of what she said about her experience resonated with your experience. When I talked with Erin the other day, I mentioned you and your experience, and how, while we all three have the commonality of having a gay dad, my experience is a little bit different for a couple reasons.

My dad is no longer living and your dad and Erin’s dad are. The more I think about the fact that my dad passed away just as I was getting to a place where I was comfortable with the whole thing, I realize that I’ve got kind of a head start on the two of you.

What I mean is that I no longer feel all the confusion, the loneliness, the insecurity, the shame, and the dozens of other conflicting emotions that I felt from the time I was 14 when he told me he was gay right up to the time he died when I was 27. Without my dad around I only have his memory, and I’ve chosen to remember mostly the positive aspects of our relationship, and I’ve chosen to educate myself on gay history and politics and social movements. And, I’ve been able to do all this without him getting in the way of my discovery.

As a self-absorbed high school kid, every day I would think to myself that it was unfair that I had to have a gay dad, and I was constantly worried that someone would find out.

In other words, I’ve been able to make a separation between two different issues: 1) dealing with the fact that I had a gay dad during my formative teenage and college years, and 2) the fact that my dad finally realized he was a gay man in the 1970s, a time when very few gay men had the courage and confidence to be openly gay. As you can see, one issue was clearly mine, and one was clearly his. I think it’s only respectful to see it that way.

Also, my parents divorced when I was two, and it wasn’t my dad’s homosexuality that was the cause of the split. My dad told my mom he was gay after they had separated.

My dad wasn’t really the best dad growing up. He lived far away, and he was more interested in discovering who he was, instead of discovering who his son was. So I never really had a strong emotional connection to him as a young kid.

Maybe that’s the main reason why I don’t have the trust issues that you and Erin speak of. We didn’t have 14 years of traditional father/son bonding, so I never really had the experience of feeling like I had been lied to or that I had been abandoned (although I guess I kind of was).

I suppose I could be resentful, or blame him for not being a good father to me as a kid, but I don’t really see it that way. I’m able to take myself out of the historical situation, which was that being a gay man during that era was a hell of a lot harder than being a little kid with a dad who was mostly out of the picture.

I’m not saying that I think you (or Erin) can or should be able to take the path that I’ve taken. And I’m not saying that I didn’t have issues of embarrassment and self-pity for a long, long time. Because I did. As a self-absorbed high school kid, every day I would think to myself that it was unfair that I had to have a gay dad, and I was constantly worried that someone would find out.

In the end, though, accepting that I have a gay dad has been a liberating journey for me. In my teens and early twenties having a gay dad was a stigma. Now, it’s a conversation starter, an opportunity to make connections, a source of pride, and an undeniable part of my existence.

The fact that I have chosen to embrace and celebrate my dad’s homosexuality ultimately comes down to it just being the right thing to do. And you’re right—all the cool kids are doing it. Welcome to the inner circle.

Thanks for getting involved in the conversation. What do you say we keep it going?

Your friend,

Jared

 

Read more letters in The Gay Dads Project on The Good Life and more by Jared Karol: 

I Think You’d Be Proud of Who I’ve Become, Dad

Mr. Johnson, You Have AIDS

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About Jared Karol

Jared Karol lives in Oakland, CA. He is a writer, an editor, a musician, a humorist, a rider of public transportation, a gay rights activist, the father of boy/girl twins, a San Francisco enthusiast, and a bunch of other stuff. You can find his writing on his personal blog, Lick the Fridge. He is also the co-founder---along with Amie Shea and Erin Margolin---of The Gay Dad Project, an exploration of the unique family configuration where one parent has come out as gay.

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  1. [...] Yesterday, The Good Men Project reprinted correspondence between Jared and Erin. In the same spirit, here is another letter, which Amie sent Jared. Read his response here.  [...]

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