Growing up I always thought my family was painfully normal. My mother was a stay at home mom, whose pass-times included knitting and gardening; and my father held a management position at a large company, enjoying comic books and messing with computers in his spare time. We were a good Christian family, we went to Mass every Sunday and never fought.
Yet, the older I got the less perfect my family became. My dad lost his job, my parents started fighting all of the time, and by the time I was 12 we stopped attending Church all together.
Of course, being as young as I was, I decided to figure out what was really going on, because my parents refused to tell me why they were fighting. One day when my parents left together for marriage counselling, or as they put it, their “joint appointment”, I tore apart their room until I found my mother’s diary. A sense of guilt washed over me at the time, but I was determined to know why my parents no longer got along.
I read through it quickly, until I found the line that changed my family dynamic forever, “My husband is gay”. I must have read it a thousand times, over and over again as if it would change the words in front of me. My mind was spinning, how could that be? My dad had always seemed so homophobic. What did this mean for my family? I tried to pretend like I didn’t know, as if that would change what I had read or convince me I had just imagined it, but there was no going out. The truth was that I had a gay father.
A part of me always kind of knew he was gay, even if he hadn’t accepted it yet himself. He was always strangely obsessed with Enrique Iglesias, and he was never really interested in the stereotypical masculine activities. He always had strong opinions when me and my mom gossiped about attractive actors, but never seemed to have any when it came to actresses. Also, he loved Dolly Parton more than any straight man could. Honestly, most of my family and close friends knew even if we couldn’t say it out loud or find the words.
After I officially found out, I was furious, but it never really occurred to me to hate my dad because he was gay. What I did hate was my parents fighting, I hated deciding who would have custody of me, I hated that he had lied to everyone for so long, and I really hated that the family I grew up with was falling apart. I took a lot of this anger out on my dad, which is something I am not proud of. While he was trying to figure out who he was and what all of this meant, he had to deal with a moody daughter who ignored him every chance she got.
But time goes on, and I began to understand what was going on and forgave him, even if I never outright said those words. Instead I made a bad joke, telling my father after a failed parking attempt that he was so gay he couldn’t even park straight. It seems like a trivial joke, but at that point we hadn’t spoken in a week and it was the only way I could tell him that it was okay, I understood. After that I think we both knew our relationship was going to be alright, and that I was going to support him every step of the way.
I don’t think people realize how much having a gay parent changes your life. Not just in the sense that your family is not the typical wife and husband, but in the sense that every aspect of your lifestyle and relationship shifts. Me and my father are so much closer now that he isn’t lying. We check out guys together, go clubbing together, we tell each other everything, and are in constant contact. My first bar experience was with my dad, we went out to a gay bar together with his friends and drank until 2am. I remember him joking around that I was a wimp when I said I was tired at 1am, and he convinced me to stay until the bar closed.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My dad and I bond whenever we go out drinking with his friends, or really do anything together. Anytime my dad goes out with a friend I am always invited, and we actually share a few close friends.
With these friends, we attend multiple pride parades every year, it’s become something of a tradition. We always go decked out and proud, cheering from the sides and attending every event. Through these parades me and my father were accepted into the gay community, where we have received nothing but unconditional love and support. I know I can count on these people to pick me up if my dad is too busy, or be there for me to talk about something sensitive. They will sit around and gossip with me, or be there to share sangria with me during reading week. They take me shopping and threaten to destroy any boy who hurts me.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have this much support from my father and his friends, and I don’t know how I got along before I knew them. A few of them have actually lived with us, and I can say with certainty that when I was living with four gay men that we never left for anything on time – we all took a lifetime to get ready.
I am honestly so proud of how far my father has come, and how much he changed his life. I don’t think I ever saw him as happy as he is now, after coming out. He does not feel the need to hide who he is, and doesn’t take anyone’s bullshit – he is a strong, proud, gay man. I will never know how hard it was to come out to his family and friends after years of being a “happily” married man. But at the end of the day he’s still my dad; he likes comic books, he loves Enrique Iglesias, and he threatens all of my boyfriends. It’s just now he has boyfriends I can threaten too.