We are lying to each other and both know that we are doing it. Worst of all…we are lying to ourselves. Even my mum has been roped into this crazy game. Having a gay child can do things to families and we are all right in the middle of it. I am desperate to come out properly to my dad but instead, I am stuck in a series of semi-revelations and tacit implied agreements to avoid the issue.
Well, it all started when I was about 7. I noticed that I would get some strange feelings in my stomach and groin when we were playing with my best friend Matt. I remember I used to tell my mum and dad anything that came to my mind. Nothing was too embarrassing or too private for our constant chats. However, the time that I told my dad about Matt something came into his eyes. I cannot quite describe it. It had elements of surprise, terror, and trepidation all mixed together.
In hindsight, he might have been shocked or disappointed…I don’t really know. What I know is that our relationship changed from that day onwards. He was always an attentive dad but I know that he pretends to be proud of me. I can see it in his eyes, although he tries so hard to hide it. My dad is a good guy. Just to set the record straight in case you are wondering: he is not one of those homophobic parents who throw their kids out on the street when they come out. I just wonder whether what we are doing is not just as harmful as kicking me out. For a start, we no longer have an honest relationship.
After that innocent but fateful confession that I felt something for Matt, my dad banished him from the house. He did not do this abruptly or make any overt noise about it. I just got the feeling that things at home would be much better if Matt no longer came to play. My dad said that I needed other friends because it was not good to be too close to one boy. Matt was disappointed by the gradual distancing we were facing and to this day I don’t think he really understands what happened.
Anyway for me coming out was never an event. It was a process. I started wearing mum’s makeup and dresses when I was 8. She caught me many times and laughed about it. Sometimes there was something hysterical and panicky about the way she laughed about it. I once heard her telling her friends that I was “special to her and that she knew I would always be by her side”. At the time I did not know what she meant but I now have a clue. She also kept my secret dressing escapades to ourselves. My dad was somehow no longer in the loop.
After that first incident about Matt, I somehow knew that I could never open up to my dad completely. A gap had sprouted up between us and it seemed that it would never close again. Meanwhile, my coming out was taking on giant strides. When I was twelve I fell in love…completely and absolutely. My friends say that it was a crash but I know otherwise. Ollie was the school bully. He was 16 and had a filthy temper. But again, Ollie was just devastatingly handsome. He was one of those sporty dudes that are a magnet for everyone; male or female.
The problem was that to Ollie, I was a dirty secret. He would call me names, tease me or avoid me when we were in public. I was that dangerous mix between a nerd and sissy boy; every child’s nightmare in school. To me, Ollie was an addiction I could never break because I enjoyed it too much. When we were together he would become the gentlest and most loving person. That made up for the public ridicule. I knew that only I had him. All those wannabe prom queens were just for show. He was mine. I am ashamed to say that Ollie married one of the would-be prom queens and they have two kids but to this day he still belongs to me. Our torrid, complex and ongoing affair is another story for another time.
My dad must have known about Ollie. We were secretive but he would have seen me getting out the moment Ollie came to the gate. I also once caught dad going through my phone so I know that he knows. I remember when I was about 15 and my mum told me that she wanted to meet Ollie. I was so happy for some reason. Like I could hug her forever (I do that lots of times anyway). She said Ollie could come in. Although she never mentioned dad not being there when Ollie came, I just knew it. It was yet another secret of ours, to be kept away from my dad.
Strangely enough, I had never come out to my mother…at least not in plain English. However, there had been many messages between us. We were almost always sparring about the elephant in the room. Finally; when I was 17 I told her that I wanted to tell her something about me. She laughed in her usual, panicky way and said “I know, my son. I know, I’ve always known since you were born”. Although she never said the word “gay”, it was pretty obvious to both of us what was meant and understood. My coming out to my mother was then aborted at the final moment but I was so relieved. We both know and did not need words or confessionals to confirm it.
I am certain that my mum did not tell dad about my semi-coming out. Still, it seems he sensed it. I noticed that his efforts to macho me up intensified. He suggested that I should take up rugby and that he would train me himself. There was something frantic about the way he insisted that we go out on guys-alone trips so that he could teach me manly things. Unfortunately, the more attempted to man me up the sissier, and nerdier I became.
Anyone that has been with me for five minutes will immediately know that I am gay. I am therefore certain that my father is in no doubt about me. In some ways the attempts to ignore my sexuality galvanized me into being more demonstrably gay. At one point I was even exaggerating the flamboyant aspects of my personality just so that I could get my dad to acknowledge me as I was; not as he would have imagined me to be.
He tried and tries so hard to change me into the perfect son, but I do not know what to do about the whole situation. When the trips demonstrably failed to do the trick, he turned to dropping heavy hints about the dangers of the “lifestyle”. Whenever a program would come up involving gay people, he would go into some kind of sermon about the dangers that gay people face. It was just like a public information announcement when we were watching television. My dad would try to interpret everything about gay people as a warning. It was tedious but also touching in a way. My dad was trying to be the best father he could but was failing miserably because he could not accept that I was gay.
When I hit my twenties, the talk started about when I would bring my boyfriend home. Because Ollie was always a clandestine pleasure, there were never any boyfriends but plenty of platonic girlfriends. My dad would go red when anyone suggested I was other than completely straight. This despite the obvious.
One-time dad actually punched Mr. Whittaker next door for suggesting that I was an “ass bandit”. I was feeling so bad that my dad was ashamed of what I was. The fact that my mum had been so wonderful meant that I was comfortable in my skin. I had no interest whatsoever in pretending and would have come out to my dad in a second if I did not know that it would break his blessed heart.
As a final strategy, my dad started buying books about “gay parenting”. But at this stage I am in my twenties. There is really no point in trying to re-parent me. I happen to think that my dad is a wonderful parent. He does not understand me but he is certainly one of the best people out there. I respect him and know that he would do anything for me. The “shame” about my being gay is not really his place because I don’t think he has anything to do with it. I knew I was different at seven and my mum says that she knew as soon as I was born. This tells me that there is nothing that my dad could have done.
In any case I happen to believe very strongly that being gay is not a disease or something to be ashamed about. I have made it in life ok. I have wonderful friends and the only clink in my armor is Ollie who continues to love me in the shadows. I wish I could explain to my dad that it is not a fault and is certainly not his fault that I am gay. I am a good person and I love my parents. They gave me a good home and my dad has nothing to prove.
Recently I have been thinking that before I hit my thirties, I must come clean about everything in my life. Ollie might soon get an ultimatum from me to either dump his wife and come with me or get lost. I am tired of being the dirty forbidden fruit that he enjoys in secret. As for my dad, I want to tell him how much I love and miss him. This constant worry about the “gay thing” is doing us no good. My mum is already in on the secret. My brother Pete and my little sister Meghan have known since our school days. They just treat me like any other brother so we have no issues there.
I want to be able to stop playing this cat and mouse game with my dad. No matter how much he would like to pretend, I am gay and proud of it. I would not want to be any other way. I appreciate that he thinks I am going to have a tough life because of my sexuality but that is neither here nor there. We live in a fairly free country and I can damn well fight if someone tries to come at me. My dad needs to stop feeling guilty about my life because I do not feel guilty about it.
Speaking to some friends has had mixed results. Some tell me that I am being selfish that my dad was born at another time and that I should be more patient with him. Others say that I need to be aggressive about it. I happen to disagree with both these extremes. First of all; my dad is not some time warp homophobe…far from it. He is just a man who has not been properly equipped to deal with an out-of-the-closet son. As for being aggressive, I love my dad too much to cause him any stress. In any case my life has never been about aggressiveness, I am comfortable within my own skin and surround myself with good people who enjoy my life with me.
As the clock counts down to thirty, I need to meet these two goals of mine. They are not yet at the panic stage but I know that as time goes by, I will be fretting about how to confront my father’s worries as well as getting the love of my life to publicly acknowledge me. Normally when I go to LGBT support groups, I find that I do not fit in as well. Some people think that I hate my dad, which is clearly not true. Others assume that I am secretly engaging in self-stigma when I definitely know that that is not the case. I am not a victim of the gay lifestyle. I know that some homophobes would like to make me a victim but I have been brought up in such a wonderful environment that it is doubtful that they will ever succeed. My weak spots have always been my dad and Ollie. If I can deal with them, I will be one gay and happy dude.
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