I have read with much interest and heart some of your stories. I’m in the process of deciding what is best for my family … and me. I am 49, married, have four wonderful children, and I am attracted to men. I have been for 20 years. I’ve told my wife. She knows. It seems to be getting worse the longer I stay. I stay for my children. They are my world.
The question I have for you all is if you could have it all done over, would you still have your father tell you he was gay? Or would you rather have the status quo and let your world revolve around the family unit and not your father’s secret?
Erin: Peter, thank you for sharing this with us. I think it’s time for you to speak your truth and begin taking steps to change the situation. Continuing to hide this from your children will only make it worse. I don’t know their ages/stages/personalities, but I firmly believe the longer you live this lie, the more they might resent you.
Before you come out to them, see if you can have some support systems in place for all of you, such as the Straight Spouse Network, PFLAG, and of course The Gay Dad Project! You can also check out COLAGE.
You don’t mention how your wife feels … knowing you’re gay, but remaining in the marriage—although you say it’s getting worse. Kids sense things. So believe it or not, they may already have some inkling about what’s going on, and they deserve to know the truth, even if it will hurt them. They are NOT alone, and I am personally willing to reach out to them (and to you and your wife) to help however I can.
There’s no doubt this will be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do, but you cannot continue on this path. It’s not fair to you or your family. Good luck, and please let us know what you decide to do. We are here for all of you as you navigate the choppy waters ahead.
Amie: I have strong feelings on this topic, Peter, as I grew up with a gay dad and straight mom trying their best to keep it together for us kids. While I understand my parents tried to do what they thought was best for us, I’ve never felt that their staying together was actually best for us kids.
It was hard to avoid the tension between my parents (which has since passed on to me). I always wanted them to divorce and pursue a life of things that made them happy. I resented my dad for pretending to be someone he wasn’t; I resented my mom for staying with someone who couldn’t love her the way she deserved to be loved. Although I recognized their marriage wasn’t my fault, it was hard not to blame myself when I was constantly reminded that they were staying together for me.
Erin suggested some great resources for your entire family. I would also recommend finding support groups and reaching out to those who understand how difficult this transition can be. A support system will help you tremendously as you embark on this journey. It will be rough for awhile but you’re doing the right thing to take care of yourself and pursue happiness for your entire family.
Jared: Peter, you asked if I could do it all over, would I still have my father tell me he was gay. My answer is a resounding yes! The main thing I would have changed, though, is for him to have told me he was gay when I was three or four or five, instead of when I was fourteen.
I know that sounds strange to some folks, but the whole reason why this is such a difficult situation for you (and for all of our dads when we were kids) is because of the marginalization of homosexuality. Because being gay is not the norm, because there is a stigma attached to it, because so many people are afraid of it, because of all these reasons the topic gets swept under the rug, and it doesn’t get discussed.
And when something as important as this can’t be discussed openly with people of all ages, it forces people to hide, to be ashamed, to lie, and to perpetuate the myth that being gay is bad.
I don’t know how old your children are, but I agree with Erin and Amie—tell your children now. Be prepared with support systems in place, and be prepared to be honest with them, and be prepared to respect whatever their reactions may be. Be open, be strong, and be yourself.
I noticed (after we published this) that we neglected to cite any resources or places of help for the gay parents. It is very important that everyone in the family has an outlet and a safe place to talk about their feelings and emotions. Each family member’s journey will be slightly different but everyone will face some challenges. As a gay parent who is thinking about coming out I would urge you to take a look at and maybe chat with our friend Rick Clemons, The Coming Out Coach.
This was previously published on The Gay Dad Project.
Image credit: pasukaru76/Flickr