When you’re a teenager and your father comes out as gay, you can end up feeling like there’s no one you can tell. Erin and Jared exchange letters about their experiences as the children of gay men.
This letter was written in response to this one from Erin Margolin about having a father who has come out as gay. These letters are part of the Letters project on The Gay Dad Project. Read more about it here on The Gay Dad Project website.
March 3, 2012
Thanks so much for your letter. We’ve known that we have this in common, but we’ve never really had a chance to explore the topic until now. I’m glad you wrote.
I was just shy of 15 myself when my dad told me he was gay. We were in his tiny studio apartment on Page Street in San Francisco, just off Divisadero. I remember that I just cried when he told me, and my dad held me in his arms as we stood in the middle of the room heaving and clutching each other, and he asked me if I knew why I was crying, and that it was okay if I didn’t. I don’t remember what I said, but I suppose I did and didn’t know why I was crying.
For a long time I was angry and confused. I wasn’t angry at him, necessarily, but just angry at the situation, and confused because I didn’t have the internal awareness or strength to deal with it, and I sure as hell didn’t have any external resources—human or otherwise —to deal with it.
So I just never told anyone. And everything was cool. Except it wasn’t. Because my dad had come out of the closet and was able to tell the world who he was, but I—like you—was still locked in the closet, unable and unwilling to tell a soul that I had a gay dad.
But as I got older, and as I got more comfortable with myself and how I was developing my world views, and as my dad and I were able to develop a relationship that was based on friendship and common interests and little to do with his homosexuality, I was finally able to be okay with the fact that he was gay.
And then he died. Bastard. I was 27.
I find it interesting when you say you have trust issues related to your dad not being honest, and pretending to be someone he’s not. I have not had that reaction. Perhaps it’s easier for me because my dad is no longer alive, but I have been able to take myself out of the equation. Because although my dad’s homosexuality has affected me, in the end it’s not about me. It’s about him. When I look at his situation through a historical lens, I understand that it would have been extremely difficult to admit he was a gay man in the early 1970s, even to himself. I don’t see his being gay and not telling anyone earlier than he did as an act of deceit or dishonesty. I’m not even sure that he knew that being gay was an option available to him. He told people he was gay when he knew for sure, and when he could be proud of who he was.
In his path of discovery, he happened to have gotten married and produced a son, me, before he realized that he was living a lie. In my path of discovery, I have been able to get over the hurtful and confusing emotions that my dad’s homosexuality caused me to feel when I was younger. It hasn’t always been easy, but I recognize that as a straight man in the 21st century, I have many more privileges than my dad ever had as a gay man in the 20th. That knowledge and self-awareness helps me stay grounded.
There’s so much to talk about on this topic, I know. Let’s continue this thread, and continue our exploration. I’ll write you a letter on your blog next.
And, by the way, there are books out there. No titles are coming to mind immediately, but they’re out there. We can find them together.
Be strong and be open.
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