It was his weekend to have my brother and me stay at his place. My parents divorced when I was 8 years old for made-up reasons I can’t recall now. He seemed nervous when he picked us up, and things were tense between him and my mom before we left. Something was up, but I was 14 and couldn’t have imagined what it was. He was taking the long way to his apartment and was smoking like a chimney. Turning down the radio, he said, “I need to tell you guys something.”
Was he okay? Was he moving? Getting remarried? Cancer?
Instantly, tears sprang to my eyes. I’m not sure why. I wasn’t scared or sad or mad. It was just a lot to take in so quickly, and I didn’t know what to do, so I just cried and cried until we got to his place. He asked if we still wanted to stay the night, and my brother and I both said yes because OMG so many questions.
He’d always known he was gay, but never felt like he could tell his family since they were super conservative and subscribed to the Westboro Baptist Church way of thinking when it came to homosexuality. Our mom was actually the first person he ever came out to. Go figure. But he loved her. Maybe not in a romantic way, but he loved her, and he wanted to try to be straight, to put who he was behind him and try to be “normal.” So they got married, got pregnant, and had a family. Then, a decade or so later, he decided he couldn’t live the lie anymore, my mom understood, and they divorced.
I know it’s weird and confusing and doesn’t make any sense. I lived it and have to explain it to people, and I still don’t understand. What I do know, though, is I was always, always loved fiercely by him. And that’s all you could ask for from a parent.
It took me a few years to really get used to the fact my dad was gay. That’s a lot to come to grips with. While he never changed, my perception of him did, and I don’t think that’s right or wrong. It just was.
I had to start seeing him as he was, and not only seeing him, but accepting him that way too. I had never known anyone who was gay so there were a lot of mental transitions that had to occur in my brain. Over time, it began to make sense in my head and my heart — normal, even.
I knew I had really accepted it when we were all watching a movie together, and he and I both agreed that Brad Pitt was hot. There’s nothing like bonding with your gay dad about how sexy Brad Pitt is to prove to yourself that you’re cool with his sexual orientation.
Having a gay parent makes me different, I know that. And I’m glad I didn’t have a typical upbringing. Whereas some lessons must be taught to children, I lived them. No one had to tell me that everyone deserves equal rights. The fact that my dad likes dudes shouldn’t disqualify him from receiving the same treatment as it would if he was into women. And if I want those things for my dad, then I want them for other people too.
No one had to teach me to accept those who are different from me. I live it. I love my dad and accept him for who he is which makes it easier to accept others. Different race, religion, background, orientation, shoe size — it doesn’t matter. Having a homosexual father taught me tolerance from the inside out.
And no one had to teach me that love is love is love regardless of who loves who. I knew that my dad loved my mom. I know that my dad loves his male partner too. Sometimes you can’t always choose who you fall in love with.
It’s not the norm to have a gay parent, but for the lessons I learned, I’ll take weird over normal any day. I love my dad, and I wouldn’t change him.