Who Knows How Many Hide?
I’m writing this letter to share with you my experience in the hopes that you may read this and relate, learn and gain deeper insights into your own relationships.
My parents are excellent parents filled with love and joy and I experienced great care throughout my life. I grew up in the south in a typical two-parent household with an older brother. I never had any clue that my Dad was gay until I was out of the home and in college. I remember the day my Mom told me my Dad was gay and I was angry with her. I felt that it wasn’t her place to tell me something so shocking and personal and that I should hear it first from my Dad. However, I later appreciated her sharing this news with me as it allowed me to digest the information and be better prepared to respond when my Father did have the conversation with me.
I am fortunate that I was old enough to know gay people and even have a few gay friends before I found out about my Dad. I’m also fortunate that I grew up in a household that was conservative in some ways, but always open to people of all types and had a mother who is the most patient and giving person I’ve ever known. My Mom’s family is a church family and they are all deeply committed to serving others. While I am not very religious, I very much appreciate and agree with the church culture of giving and love for all. It is a shame to me that so many churches are hypocritical as they teach acceptance and forgiveness yet shun anyone who differs from themselves.
When my Dad came out to me I was living in Charleston, SC and had recently gotten my first real job. I was not fully grown up but I was getting close and I already had enough perspective to handle the news with poise. I let my father know I supported him fully in his search to find himself and I respected his courage to be openly gay in a society that still does not readily accept a gay lifestyle. My Dad is also very committed to the church, and the Baptist church at that, so it was not easy for him to make the transition to being an openly gay man. Thankfully, I grew up in Athens, GA which is a very liberal town by southern standards, and we went to a Baptist church that is a very liberal church by Baptist standards. However this only made it possible, and it certainly has not been easy.
Sometimes I wish my Dad had come out of the closet earlier in life. I know my Mom suffered. They were always kind to each other, but I cannot imagine being married for twenty years to a partner who is not sexually attracted to me. I got the feeling that my Mom had a large amount of relief and justification when my Dad announced he was gay, as if to say, “See! It wasn’t me! I’m not the one who couldn’t make our marriage work”. I know my Dad never intended to deceive anyone. He was a function of his upbringing and the greater society. Who knows how many gay men and women hide their true selves and how many are still hiding? But it doesn’t change the fact that he was gay and my Mom suffered for it.
In the end all you can do is make the best with the hand you’re dealt. My parents have struggled, but they persevered and managed to keep a happy and contented home throughout. I now have a 6-month-old son and my admiration grows by the day as I experience how difficult parenting can be and marvel at how I never witnessed a harsh word or a mean glare between my parents throughout my childhood. They set a wonderful example for me to follow and I wouldn’t change a thing about my life and my upbringing as it has made me into who I am today.