“I think Dad is gay.”
My sister and I were in the basement of our family home. I was about to leave for college in the fall and felt I needed to share my suspicions before I left. I knew my sister preferred to leave things well enough alone, told me I was crazy and to stop over-thinking everything, and we both went on with our lives until my suspicions were confirmed.
Turns out I wasn’t crazy. I remember wishing that I had been. Crazy would be have been easier than Dad being gay. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know how to handle it. Everyone else’s parents got divorced because one of their parents cheated with someone of the opposite sex. No one had a parent that was GAY.
What would people say if they found out? How would they treat us? Would the kids at school tease my younger brother and sister?
I had planned to have the talk with my little brother when he was 15 but before we reached that point rumors started in our small Montana town. I’m not sure how the rumors started but I do know the rumors led to my my dad to finally comingclean.
My sister cried. She told me she wished I had been crazy, too.
The truth was I too had desperately hoped that my suspicions were not true. I wanted more than anything to be crazy because being crazy meant we were still normal. Being crazy meant that our dad was not gay.
We had no idea what to do. We had no idea how to handle this and I was too scared to talk to anyone about it. Each person I confided in was a great risk that our secret could get out and our ‘normal’ cover blown. It was all so risky that survival became my main goal. I wanted each of my siblings to just ‘get through high school’ so that they could get out into the greater world and away from the small town where our secret was waiting to implode.
I didn’t want this. I didn’t want a gay dad. I didn’t want to feel like a mere byproduct of a gay person’s false attempts at being straight. So I put on a strong front and did my best to continue on despite my broken and shattered world. I wanted to know that despite everything, my sister, our little brother, and I would all turn out just fine. I held strong to the dream that someday this would all be part of our past and we would grow into successful well-adjusted adults. Even though success was simply getting out of bed in the morning and I had no idea how to conceptualize ‘normal’ anymore.
It has now been over 10 years since I pulled my sister aside and gave her ‘the talk.’ My dad beat us to the punch with our little brother. He told him at Thanksgiving, 4 weeks before I had intended to talk with him while I was home from college on my Christmas break.
Despite knowing the truth, it wasn’t until I was 21 that I finally heard my dad say the words.
“I. Am. Gay.”
Those three words and my dad’s lie have shaped and defined my entire life.
I used to spend hours scouring bookstores desperately searching for literature on having a parent come out. I wanted to read about other gay parents that came out after having kids. I wanted to hear how other kids survived. I wanted to know there were other families like mine.
I browsed a few books on coming out, looked at books on surviving a divorce, and a few times I found books for straight spouses who married someone who was gay. In one of the books there was a small chapter on coming out to kids.
I found nothing from another kid. No other survivors. I knew there had to be more of us but I had no way to connect with them. That’s when I promised myself I would write the book I couldn’t find in the libraries or bookstores. I didn’t want any other kids to feel alone.
Life went on. I met another Gay Dad “kid” in 2011, which led to another connection, and more discussion. Blogs. That book I wanted to write. Maybe we could write it together.
We started The Gay Dad Project in August of 2012 and the response has been incredible. We have connected with many other kids, other gay parents, and even other straight spouses. Some of the stories are happy, some of them are sad; all deserve to be told.
Those of us involved in The Gay Dad Project now have plans to make a documentary film to share with the world as both an informative and personal look at what happens when people are not able to marry for love. The Indiegogo fundraising campaignconcludes in less than a week and we are nearly 50% funded.
My life has been changed in simply meeting other kids that come from families like mine and I hope that through The Gay Dad Project I am able to reach out and change other lives. There are kids in their 40s and 50s who have never spoken about their gay parents. There are kids in their teens who have just learned about their parent’s sexual orientation. I want all these kids to know that they are normal.
Not one of us is crazy. And now, none of us need to feel alone.
Amie Shea is part of the co-founding dream team behind The Gay Dad Project. She is passionate about human rights and LGBT causes, often shares her personal gay dad stories on The Gay Dad Project blog, and has appeared as a guest on The Ricki Lake Show and been a guest on various radio shows. Amie loves to travel. She is now living and studying in Uppsala, Sweden. Click here for the link to The Gay Dad Project trailer and information on the Indiegogo fundraising efforts behind the project.