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”,
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