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When You're 40-Something & Dad Says He's Gay
By Mike, the Dad
My next birthday will be my 70th.
I have 3 married children in their early 40’s & 4 grandkids.
I was married for close to 40 years & have been widowed/single for the past 7. My wife succumbed to a decades-long struggle with a neurological condition.
My first manly, gay experience was within a year of my wife’s passing (no, not even once before then). At that time I also began dating women, usually in their 50’s with 1 or more children who had yet to finish college. Hmmmm.
My desire to date women expired & I pursued “casual & occasional” (a favorite phrase that I wore out) experiences typically with men either side of my own age. I was able to host; so most were married, partnered or had some nosy neighbors that prevented their hosting.
That is a very compact history & background. I hope you’re still reading. Something happened earlier this year. The closeted, casual & occasional approach to what I am & who I am, no longer felt right & stopped working for me. My attachment to my men visitors was limited at best & I suspect the same was true for them.
What I struggled with & excessively thought about, was if & when I would come out – primarily to my children. I both love & like my children unconditionally. They are mature adults & are no longer kids.
- When would be the best time?
- What should I say?
- Should their spouse be there?
- How would I sequence/frame the words?
- Why tell them anyway?
Last thing first – what if they found out somehow, some way, other than from me, that I was gay? That is what motivated me to come out to them. A surprise like that would be an embarrassment to them & I never want to be an embarrassment to my children. For months I scripted in my head (internal dialog) a preamble, a summary of my recent journey & a close. I decided to meet with each of my children along with their spouse. In this way, hopefully, nothing gets lost in translation & the spouses are reinforced as integral family members.
The first discussion was with my daughter (my youngest) & her husband. I walked them through my early widowed years, explained that I did date some women (they knew that) & that some were attracted to me. I then said that some men were attracted to me also --READY -- & that I was attracted to them. They looked a little surprised, but less than stunned.
Some lines / quotes / excerpts:
- I am still figuring out this journey/transition & I could use their support
- I haven’t changed but I know I’m not the same (pretty sure that is a “Wallflowers” lyric)
- I am not embarrassed or ashamed of who I am or what I am
- It’s a season of my life; it’s just different than the prior season
- I don’t do restrooms along interstates (to quote the Seinfeld line, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”)
- I don’t do bathrooms in airports (ditto, Seinfeld line)
- I don’t see a need at this time to come out to anyone but my children & their spouses
Appropriate hug & handshake followed. I wasn’t nervous or frightened before, during or after. Some friends had said this could be the scariest moment of my life. I did feel good/relieved on my drive home, but nothing as dramatic as a “ton of bricks taken off my shoulders” as had been experienced by others.
Sessions with my 2 older sons & their wives (within a few weeks) went very similarly to the session with my daughter. A fear that I had specific to my 40+ year old sons was for the next 20 years or so, they would be sitting around waiting for their “manly urges” to kick in, just like dad. Fears are typically self-inflicted & irrational & they are smart kids; make that adults.
I don’t pretend that my process or words are a prescription for anyone else on this planet in a similar life transition from husband/father to sole parent to gay father. But the journey need not be overwhelming & the coming out discussion with one’s children need not be the scariest moment of your life.
© 2015 Michael Thomas, all rights reserved. Used by permission of the author.