As we kick off Pride Week here in Boston, I am reminded of how being a gay dad is the ultimate coming out. I flashed back to when I first came out, at the ripe old age of twenty-seven. Compared to lots of braver kids nowadays, that’s pretty old. And in gay years, I was just about ready to collect Social Security.
This one day I happily proclaimed to a friend over coffee that I was "done" coming out; I had finally told all of my friends and family. He laughed and said, "Honey, you’re never "done" with coming out." After reflecting on it for a moment, I realized that, much to my chagrin, he was right. There would always be new people to tell. Thanks for peeing in my Cheerios. My balloon of relief was quickly deflated.
But after some further reflection, I realized that while he was correct, the stakes would be different. I had existing relationships with family and friends who knew me before I was out. And I wanted to keep those people in my life. The fear of losing loved ones is real. I was very fortunate to not have any adverse reactions from my peeps. I suppose my decoupage skills and love for Gucci had already given them a heads-up. And new people? Well they could either take me for who I am, or take a hike.
Getting married upped the ante. Because I wear a traditional wedding band on the left ring finger, it is easy for strangers to presume that I have a wife, particularly if I don’t answer the door in a mu-mu. Initially, finding the right title was awkward. "Partner" felt too sterile and business like. "Spouse", while correct, seemed like I was skirting the issue since heterosexual couples seldom refer to one another that way, aside from on a paper form. And, it also doesn’t clearly state the sex of one’s "spouse". But "husband" just sounded awkward to me. I think part of it is that it traditionally implies that the other person is the wife. I also thought if husband sounds funny to me as a married gay man, how must it sound to straight people? But then I got used to it. Now, I find that 95% of the time, I refer to Greg as my husband. The other 5% of the time I default to "partner". Most often this is around elderly people who may not be ready for this jelly. Or more accurately, maybe I’m the one who’s not ready for the jelly.
But the real "all-in" moment for me was becoming a parent. The natural assumption one makes when seeing a dad with a child alone is that there is a mom at home. Whenever asked, one is faced with how to respond. My standard default response is "she has two daddies." which depending on the circumstances, is either left at that or requires further expounding. The truth is most people are cool with it. And if they’re not, it’s ultimately not my problem. Families look all kinds of ways. Long gone are the ’Leave it to Beaver’ days, (though I do still admire June for always looking great, and she didn’t even have an Alice or Hazel to help her out.) But enough of my digression, I’m losing all those under forty now.
We recently met a gay couple who were planning to adopt. As we spoke, we learned that neither of them was out at work. I was puzzled. It made me wonder how one would navigate that road with a child. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not always easy. You never quite know who is going to judge you and how will they react. And sometimes you may not be up for playing the role of educator or protagonist. But at work? These are people one sees and interacts with daily. Unless you don’t speak about anything outside of business, I simply don’t understand how one manages that one. I understand that different things work for different people. But in a sense, I see not being honest about your family unit as sort of a betrayal. And what message does that give one’s child? Personally, I would question one’s readiness to be a gay dad if you can’t be open about who you are. It’s not fair to anyone. Closets are for clothes and shoes... except for the ones in my trunk that my husband doesn’t know about yet.