Divorced, Gay and a Dad- What It Means to Me


Today is Father’s Day and I received a message from my eldest daughter that they plan to call me later today to wish me a Happy Father’s Day.  On such a day that honors those of us guys who have children, there is a segment of us who uniquely filled the space of being divorced and gay.  Specifically, fathers who have come out of a marriage to a woman. I am one of them.

My four children are all grown now. My two youngest are in college.  I have three daughters and a son.  I came out in my early 30’s from a deeply religious setting where I was in complete denial.  It took some periods of depression and finally needed counseling before I could accept that I was gay.  It took an even more heart wrenching decision making to live my life honestly.  The result was the divorce.  It meant leaving the home my children lived in and that broke my heart.

Coupled with that, I never was introduced into the gay world before and had no known access to good resources.  I went to my first gay bar when I was legally separated from my wife and that was when I had my first sexual experience with a man.  It validated my sexuality but it left me emotionally distraught.  It also left me in a world where fathers with children were not really an equation but where youth and freedom from responsibility  ruled.

Eventually, I found my way.   My big regret was that because of the guilt that I held because of the reasons of the divorce and also because of  the overarching religious pressures, my ex-wife and I never accessed authentic sound resources that would have helped our family navigate the emotional and practical challenges of our unique situation.  It would have helped us, and especially our children, to cope better with the painful break up of a family due to the coming out of their father.   We all loved each other but pain can wreak havoc on tender hearts ,and it did with all of us, and especially, my little ones.

In a society where a sexual minority continues to face bigotry, even from a constitutional viewpoint, you can only imagine how that translates down to familial ties, especially, between a father and his children.

Over the years,  the journey has not been without some heavy heart wrenching and even dark moments.  Somehow, we have made it through.  Their mother was a rock through what must have been an emotional devastation of the severest kind, dealing with a husband who came out and having to deal with becoming a single mom.

The children who loved their dad, first dealing with his absence in the home and then with his sexuality that was only taboo with their church but with many parts of their society.  Two heavy burdens for them – Divorce and Gay.

Somehow,  we were able to make it through and have eventually begun to thrive.

I think the answer has been love.

Love pulled us through the financial nightmares that immediately hit us with the layoffs that  immediately occurred as the divorce happened and pushed me to a job out of state ( something I would never recommend to any divorced dad). Love pulled us through the suicidal attempts of our second daughter who we found out later had bi-polar disorder.   Love helped me reunite with my son who found out I was gay at 14 and did not speak to me until last year.  Love was in full bloom when we saw our first granddaughter entered our family.

There have been many trials but we have had so many happy moments. Thankfully, my ex wife and I have been amicable to each other over the years. We love our children and she has been a great mother.  The actual word is “amazing.”

Against this backdrop, I have wanted for some time to express to my children in note what I have said to them over time to then and I know that they know in their hearts.  This Father’s day seems appropriate.

My dear Annette, Rachel, Andrew and Clarissa,

You are the true joy in my life. You are the only ones that can fill my heart completely.  Your pictures fill my folders in my computer, my phone, the walls in my home and   my memories in my mind.  You made me a father.   I know I have not been perfect and, God knows, I have not been typical,  but I love being your father.

People sometimes ask me what it is like to be gay and to be a dad.  I think that is a funny question because I don’t put the two together. When I think of you, I just think of being dad.

I remember  each of your births. I remember holding you and falling in love with each of you and knowing that you were mine.  Every energy I have spent in earning a living since that time before and after the divorce was motivated by your faces in my mind’s eye and my love for you in my heart.  Whatever meager dollar I could muster up, I wanted it for you.  Oh how much, I wanted to give you more. There were days, I went without things because I wanted you to have even the little I could give you.

I know sometimes you thought I was living some glamorous life somewhere. In reality, I was a divorced dad with four kids who needed to support them and also pay alimony.   I want you to know I did that not because I had to but because it was my duty and my privilege to do all I can as your father to provide for you. Unlike my peers, I lived a pretty sedate life and most of it was with a partner ( until recently).

I remember my trips to see you and our trips together on vacation.  Having you next to me, feeling your hugs, hearing your laughter, and just being with you was heaven to me.  It sustained me.

My only regret was I lived too far from you and I tried so hard to find a job closer to you but doors were closed to me. I tried.  I really did.  I wanted to return to you my babies.  I lived many days with a broken heart.

However, as you know, these days are better days and we are closer together than ever before.  We have this beautiful little girl, my granddaughter, in our lives.   We have so much living and loving to do now.

You have all been so accepting of me and have learned that where love is then there exists tolerance, understanding , forgiveness and happiness.

I think you know that you can be whoever you are and what you want to be without any fear of rejection from me or your mother.  You are each, unique and wonderful.

You know that education, hard work and self sufficiency are the hallmarks that we have tried to raise you under.  Your mom and I also tried to teach you about compassion, service and love.  We also tried to help you embrace healthful living, a love of sports, and a development of spirituality.

I particularly want you to continue to discover your heritage and that part of it is the Chamorro culture from Guam.  Only a very few in the world share that bloodline and from its history and traditions you can be armed with principles and ancestral strength to help you move into the future proudly.

Yes, it a Happy Father’s Day for me.  I have you Four.  You are my Fantastic Four!   I love you!  You are what L-O-V-E means to me!

Your very own  “Fabulous”,

Dad

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30 thoughts on “Divorced, Gay and a Dad- What It Means to Me

  1. This is a very real story that many argentinian gay divorced men are living too. I guess it can help many other people understand what we go through in a situation like here described.
    thanks, Diego.

  2. Same scenario, married for 20 years, however he has yet to come out to his family. He has no contact with his children because he is still in denial. Religious convictions and not comfortable accepting himself for 47 years has kept him away. He left the family in 2006. There has been no verbal healing for any of us ( chlidren, not me) aside and talk to his children in hopes of rebuilding a future with them

  3. Denise,

    I am so sorry. I hope one day there might be some resolution. However for the children , I hope there may be some resources they can use to help them in the meanwhile.

    JP

  4. I am hurting and alone tonight looking for some comfort and stumbled across your story this evening. My story is similar but different also. I divorced in 3/2008 with 3 daughters. The marriage was very toxic from my sexual confusion, co-dependancy and an alcoholic wife. In 12/2008 my ex-wife entered into another relationship that was harmful for the kids. My 15 year old called me and begged me to take her full time knowing I was now living with another partner (who happened to be 19 – me being 41). I took her in with love and support. In 3/2010 my ex-wife dropped of my youngest daughter on my door step before leaving the state for a job that only lasted a few months. Since then she has not actively been in the girls life except for the every so often call, got married, separated, moved among 4 states and has been through several jobs. Through all this my partner (now 23) has been supportive and there every step of the way. My ex-wife has not been supportive of me and has taken every opportunity to fill my childrens minds with very narrow minded thoughts. The 2 kids living with me full time 24/7 have been very confused and has become increasingly more angry and hateful towards me making the home situation extremely tense. Now my 17 year old has decided to leave the house and my ex-wife popped back into their life to rescue the 16 year old. I am completely upset, scared for the girls and very sad. I hope that one day my kids will accept their father and understand I love them very much. Even though I hurt my ex-wife so badly, which I regret with every fiber, I do not feel it is fair for her to use this opportunity to intensify the division between the kids and me… Please share some words of hope and encouragement.

  5. Mark,

    I really feel for you and I know this must be a very difficult time. I know your heart is broken. Your children are torn because they love both their parents despite the bitterness that has come from this divorce. Even with your ex-wife’s behavior, it is important not to react to her in such a way that will disparage her in front of the children. It will only come back to bite you.

    Her negative behavior to you will only come back to her haunt her one day. Continue to love your children. It really is about them. They are still young and they will eventually come to the realization that their father loves them.

    I would suggest seeking counseling on the matter. If their safety or well being is an issue with their mother, it is your right to check in with child protective services or similar services to make sure their interests are protected.

    In the meantime, nurture the relationship with your partner and show your children what a loving, wholesome relationship can be like. It does not matter if you are gay. They will see it as an example of what true love with the right person can be like. That is the legacy you can leave them.

    This storm will pass. It is a rough one. As a parent , you can only love your babies and do all you can to protect them. However, they make their choices. I promise you they will come back to love eventually.

    JP

  6. Remarkable life story. I am sure you have touched the personal lives of many others who have yet to breath your air of freedom you now live. Kudos to you for sharing your personal testament, as you walk the path of self-discovery, self-exploration, self-acceptance, and ongoing self-renewal. You make us all proud in standing up for your Truth.

  7. Wow…..such wonderful stories……I also just divorced because I came out….have a wonderful daughter and my ex-wife is already dating and feels then need to tell me how wonderful this new man is and how they plan to do all the things like golfing, traveling…etc……..you feel like you are being replaced…….
    Rob

  8. I just separated from my wife after coming out to her over a year ago. We have 3 amazing boys and we’re working through this to make it as amicable as possible, not only for the boys but for us as well. We truly are best friends and love each other very much. I came across your blog and started reading the letter you wrote to your children on Father’s Day. Wow! I think we have many similarities in our circumstances. I too come from a religious affiliation that does not condone homosexuality. I was married in the LDS temple and have been an active member for most of my life. While I know things will be better in the long run, it’s simply excruciating right now. Even with the support and love of my wife, it hurts to know that my need to live being honest about who I am, is causing any amount of turmoil and pain in the lives of my family. Both our families are very supportive and are doing what they can to be here for us and our boys. Still, with all this support it’s heartbreaking right now. Thank you for your honesty and your willingness to share your story. It really is a testament that things will get better. Being a dad is probably the one thing I’m good at. I love it and love my boys with all my heart. I’m just glad to know that I’m not the only gay dad out there that has a desire to be the best dad possible, despite the circumstances we’re in.

  9. TJ,

    Thank you for sharing. I know it is hard. It is better to live in your truth. Love wins out in the end. Love your boys. Love yourself. That is the greatest legacy you can ever give them.

    JP

  10. TJ,
    I have now been divorced since March and living on my own since February all after being married for over 20 years. My 13 year old daughter is triving. She is amazing………I know it is tough but the best thing you can do for those boys is to keep a wonderful relationship with their mom. If you ever need to talk…….

    Robert

  11. Robert and JP, thanks so much! I appreciate that! It’s great to see that there are others who have experienced what I’m going through. I think right now, I’m feeling a bit lost. It’s been building up for over a year now and I’ve wanted to take the step to be on my own. Not only for me, but for my wife as well. I truly believe she deserves to have a full life with someone that can bring her everything that I cannot. We both deserve to be happy and I just feel that staying together for the wrong reasons and living in the “pretend normal” would have been a mistake. I’ve spent a few nights with the boys at my place and even had some movie nights with my wife there as well. Last night was the first night I was alone and it was just a strange feeling. I’m hoping it gets easier. My priority right now is making sure the boys are able to talk to either of us and that they know we are still a family no matter what happens.

  12. TJ,

    Please take it day to day. I hope you can both access great resources to help you through this process of adjusting and also help your boys. You are a family and will always be.

    JP

  13. TJ,

    We are close. Of course we are made from our lives journeys. Sometimes I wish I came out before I married. But I could not imagine my life without my children. I wish we had better resources to assist us through the process.

    JP

  14. TJ,
    I started dating my exwife when we were 15…….we are now in our 40s. We were married for over 20 years…..so I can’t imagine not having her in my life. This is a journey. There will be time when you need her, there will be time when you want to be on your own. She may be angry for a period, but my wife says “how can I throw away all of our years together”. Now, there are days where I don’t want to know about what is going on in her personal life and I don’t tell her about mine. I regret not coming out when I was younger, but I also have an amazing daughter and I don’t think I would be where I am today if all of us hadn’t been on the journey together. It will get easier….give yourself some time…..it takes time……..my daughter is at both our homes and she now has a routine and likes it. Give yourself some room to breath……remember you are starting a new chapter in your life……
    What state are you in?

    R

  15. I am in the state of Utah. How about you Rob? I’m trying to take your advice and give myself, and my wife some room to breathe and get used to the situation. The hard thing right now is knowing how to support her from minute to minute as her needs change constantly. I know it will be fine in the long run, but I’m struggling with handling right now. The boys seem to be doing well, better than I had anticipated actually. It’s encouraging to know that your daughter is thriving.

  16. Im 20, with a fiancé and were having a baby in the next few weeks here. Before we found out she was pregnant we almost broke up due to my questions about my sexuality. (Throughout my early teens I was openly Bi Sexual/Gay/Whatever and had a few relationships.) When we found out I basically told myself it was time to man-up and marry this girl who I have been off and on with for 4 almost 5 years who I love greatly and settle down and be the father I need to be. It was very hard accepting this ‘straight’ life and took many nights of crying and depression until these past few months where I had finally left it all behind me. A gay friend of mine posted this on facebook today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hlVBg7_08n0 and I completely broke down. What can I do. I love this girl, I really do care for her. But I dont know if i can ever feel whole again this way. And I know my child needs a father. I need help.

  17. Marshall,

    It is a very personal decision. It is yours to make. There are resources for you. I know you can be a father , a good one , even if it means accepting who you are. The worse thing you can do to a child or to the person you are committed to love is to live a double standard. It is also the worse thing you can do to yourself. However, you need to reach out to the local LGBT center in your community and they can point you to great resources.

    Love sometimes means being honest. Fatherhood goes beyond sexuality. However, living in duplicity will only end up in greater hurt in the end.

    Let me know if you need further assistance.

    JP

  18. TJ, I’m not sure if you are ever going to read this, but I just wanted you to know that I am in the same shoes as you. I am a gay Mormon father of three beautiful girls. I have come out many years earlier to my wife, but we are still together. We will be divorcing soon. But, I could really use your support. Being Mormon and gay is probably one of the hardest things. On top of that, I love my young daughters with all my heart, and I do NOT want to hurt them. But divorcing my wife will definitely hurt them. My marriage is toxic right now, as my wife is angry all the time (many reasons are my fault, but she also has numerous issues of her own). I am afraid that she will take the kids and run, and I will never see them again. She’s a little nuts. Your insight could be helpful, TJ (or anyone else!). Thank you. Please email me at clem99002@gmail.com

  19. TJ,

    I came across your posting tonight and was very touched by your letter and how you handle your relationship with your wife and your kids. I am in an early phase of a potential divorce because of my sexuality. I have two young girls and am less fortunate with a bitter wife aggressively seekIng full custody of the kids and suggesting I move out ASAP. We live in separate rooms in our house and only communicate throught email and text message now. I love my girls deeply and will do anything and everything to protect them. I too could use your advice on how to move forward. While one side of me says that I should work with her to arrange for divorce, the other side of me feels that she will take complete advantage of me and take the girls away. I don’t know how hard I should fight in the divorce arrangement without impacting future relationship with kids. Your help and guidnace is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    HD

  20. HD

    First congratulations for taking the steps to be your true self. 5 years ago I was in you exact shoes. I was divorcing, trying to understand what I was going through, wondering if anyone would accept me or love me. I was scared, feeling alone and wondering what I had done. All I wanted was to be me and retain the amazing relationship I had with my daughter. So, I sat down with my ex wife and had a heart to heart. I told her I knew she was mad at me and that was ok. She could be mad at me forever but our children need both of us. They need our love even more now. I explained that we can make this work for our daughter so that the changes in her life would be as simple as possible. I then listened as my ex told me how this has changed everything. I was lucky in that we are now partners in raising out daughter. So, please remember you deserve to be in your children’s lives and so keeping fighting for what you believe in. I promise life will get easier. RC

  21. HD,
    My heart goes out to you being in this situation. The most important thing, as you are well aware, are your girls. It’s hard enough going through this with it being amicable. I cannot imagine the pain you feel being in a not so amicable situation. Fear us what drives someone to react in a way that your wife has reacted. Her world has ceased to exist the way she imagined, she’s terrified of this. She’s terrified if the future now that it’s uncertain. Che’s afraid that she’s been made out to be a fool because if get past with you. These are all things my wife told me she was and to done degree, still is feeling. I wished so many times that she was able to see into my heart to feel the sorrow I felt for putting her through that. The only thing you can do, is show through word and action that you love your girls. Be there for them in any way you can. They’ll grow up knowing that their Dad loves them and that regardless of the living situation and step parents that may come into their lives, they’ll know of that live because they will see you did everything in your power to be there for them…and their mom. It’s not always going to be easy, but you’ll get through it and your girls will be aware of it. They’ll realize it over time. I’d be happy to talk more about it outside the public forum and help in any way I can. Just let me know what email address I can contact you with. I admire you for being true to yourself and wanting to put your children first. So many kids are list in the shuffle and placed on the backburner while we adults focus on our own battle scars and do what we can to get through the next day or even the next minute. Just don’t waste any opportunity to be an example to your girls and their Mom. I’m so very grateful for my boys and their Mom. Even on her worst days she manages to pull herself together and teach me something about Christ Like Love. It’s a process. It takes time. But I do believe, the pain she feels will gradually be less and less crippling to her and she will be grateful for the example you set. My wife sometimes accused (and still does) me of being naive enough to believe in a happy ever after for all of us even if we’re divorced. I do long for that kind of closure. Have faith in it and strive to do your part to ensure it. That’s a huge responsibility, but like me , you’ll be more then happy to do whAt needs to be done to make sure it does happen.

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