A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to the Homophobic Parents Caught on Video Throwing Their Gay Son Away

 

parents caught on vid

Another young person has been thrown out of his home for coming out as gay. I have written about this on a number of occasions covering such events in the United States, Nigeria and Uganda.

This time the event was recorded. Trying to imagine the evil some people can impart on their children is no longer necessary. Now we can hear them in their own self righteous voices

It started when the family called 20 year old Daniel Pierce to an “intervention.” He left his phone recorder going during the confrontation and was later posted online as “How not to react when your child tells you he is gay.” It has gone viral. In the video, Daniel , explains to what sounds like his mother, step-mother and father that he is gay. The choices this set of parents makes as a reaction are almost as bad as they possibly could be.

His mother makes a statement at the outset that becomes increasingly shocking as the video proceeds and the parenting adults collectively verbally attack and physically abuse the young man. The mother’s statement is “I have known since you were a young boy that you were gay.” If there was ever clear pointed evidence that Daniel was “born that way”, her comment would be it.

She knows who her child is, yet due to her own personal agenda she pretends he is making a choice and coldly rejects him as a result.

This is my open letter to Daniel’s parents.

To Daniel’s family:

Now you know.

You have handled this badly. I don’t know you, and I don’t know of what you are capable, good or bad. I hope that there are better people within each one of you than those displayed on that video.

I am a parent as you are. For me, contributing to my sons’ welfare, personal joy and life success is my purpose and mission in this world. I hope that somehow in your own warped way, that you want that for Daniel. I have written to children killed by parents who feared they might grow up as gay, and I can’t be sure those aren’t individuals who share your mindset.

To Daniel’s dad: I hear great frustration of not being thanked for having provided the food and “roof over the head” of a child for twenty years. Accomplishing that is no small feat- I have two sons, 11 and 12, and I provide for them. I have to. I will not get thanked for it. It’s cool, it is the gig I signed up for. Part of being a parent is being your child’s oxygen. They need us to survive, but they do not thank us as they take each breath. We just have to provide for them, because being a parent means you do that.

We seek to inspire our children to be the best they can be, and to do that, we have to know who they are. You all now know Daniel .

Choice is relevant here, but not for Daniel. It is for you. You are choosing only to accept him if he is as you want him to be, rather than who he really is. Instead of embracing this child that you nurtured through life, you cling to a bastardized concept of “the word of God” that has turned a religious practice into an exercise of superstition.

Where exactly you get this religious mandate is itself a mystery. The Bible does not define itself as being “the word of God”. It defines Jesus, and Jesus alone as being “The Word”. Jesus never once claims that gay people choose to be gay. The Bible directs us to the covenant of God, under Jesus, as written on one’s own HEART and HIS MIND (Hebrews 8). I believe that Daniel DID ask God, and God wrote back on Daniel’s heart and mind, “I made you gay.” God generally does not cc others so, you getting a copy of that directive is unlikely. That is what the Bible says and you can choose to believe it if you want.

To Daniel’s mom: At the beginning of the recording you tell him you love him. He says he believes you. I don’t believe you.

For me, my sons come first—before my dogma, before my standing in the local community, before anything.   If I was Abraham in the desert and Jason and Jesse were strapped to a stone slab, and a big voice in the sky was telling me to make a sacrifice of them to Him, I would turn to the heavens and say “Screw you.”

That’s how monumental my kids are to me—they are beyond biblical proportions of importance. All the real parents I know feel the same about their kids.

Daniel has very little choice here. He is who he is, and now thanks to your rejection, he will do what he has to in order to survive. Our community will come around him, love him support him. He will be our son now and we will give him healthy alternatives. Many in his situation do not get that chance. They end up on the street and within weeks are surviving through less than savory means. We will watch Daniel, and encourage him to grow. We will give him hope for his life, and a vision for an inspiring purpose. That purpose for him may or may not include a family of his own. We will show him how to find joy and fulfillment, and he will do it without you. Unlike you, we will let him know he can be his authentic true self.

Your choices are important ones that will affect the rest of your lives. Rejecting is a choice. Not caring for Daniel is a choice. Saving your face in the community over the well being of your son is a choice. What is your best possible choice? That would be a sincere re-evaluation of your priorities, bringing him home, and working towards a level of acceptance.

Whatever you choose, it will define you forever. You will either be defined as the people who worked to grow as parents, or the people who should never have been parents in the first place.

If you do have any love in you at all, it will fester and one day you will find yourself sitting upright in bed, having a better educated sense about the nature of the true God, and realize that you have made a horrific and terrible mistake. One that, at that point, you may not be able to fix.

You may truly be cold loveless shells. Certainly, it appears that one or more of you deserves to be in jail right now for assault. Instead of looking for healing, you may launch into a further tirade of homophobia and tell us about the vengeful God that you emulate.

You will not need to preach to us about hell, however. We will see it in your eyes.

 

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Posted in Bible, Family, Hatred, Prejudice, Religion | 70 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Guide to the Men’s Room for Single and Lesbian Moms

dad guide mens room evol 1

I am a fan of blog writer Shannon Ralph.  She recently wrote a piece that hit me right in my dad-spot called  11 Things Only the Parents of Boys Understand.  While my generalizations meter was on high guard as I read the piece, I was charmed.  I laughed.  I cried.  She killed me softly with her song.

So, it was with measured excitement I read my next Shannon Ralph, a tongue-in-cheek piece called A Lesbian Mom’s Struggle With the Men’s Room.  When I got to the end of the article, my tongue had long left my cheek, it was clucking.

From the perspective of the article, one would think that the men’s room was an ongoing display of male nudity and the epicenter for child molestation threats against young boys.  Her concerns were so great that she had resolved not to let her son go into the dreaded men’s room zone solo until about age 9.

Many of the comments in the discussion section from some other moms seemed to enforce the 8 or 9 year old age range as appropriate.  I was shocked.  My son’s have been going there on their own since age 6.

How could I see something like this so differently as someone with whom we clearly related in terms of the vision of our boy filled families?  I has to see if I was the anomaly, so I sounded out a bunch of dads.  Their attitudes were like mine—their sons were venturing in as early as 4 years old, and certainly were autonomous pros by 7 or 8.  The dads I talked to had no concern about predators, their leading concern was cleanliness.

Then I got it.  Just as the women’s room is essentially a strange territory to me—you know, one of those places where women grab all their social circle and head there together (what is THAT about???)—and likewise the mens room seems to impose that element of unknown onto some single and lesbian moms.

Rather than be pissy about perceived men’s room aspersions, I decided to be helpful instead.  Here is an insider’s view to aid the single and/or lesbian mom, with some tips and observations.  Bear in mind, this assumes the restroom is in a decent location.  Parks, beaches and locations where people camp out in the restroom would take extra scrutiny—and maybe avoidance all together.

  1. You have every right to check the facilities as a single or lesbian parent.  You are considering sending your opposite gender child into a location that you in theory, cannot go rushing into should you feel he has been gone too long.  For that reason alone, you have every right to ask the server if you can check the room.  Simple knock and waiting for a minute until it is vacated is all this would take.  (If the restroom is too busy for you to reasonably check it, it is also less likely to be unsafe.  Predators like a controlled environment.)  My partner and I were no stranger to women’s rooms when our boys were babies since those facilities often had the only changing tables.  We asked permission and jumped the gender line, you can too.
  2. Bodily exposure is not a men’s room requirement.  All restrooms are not created equally, especially in how urinals are configured and how exposed they are to other patrons.  Most are now set up with dividers, or the urinal itself is designed so that the modest can relieve themselves easily and out of sight.  Below are a couple of examples and some recommendations.  Here is a sampling to the various urinal options your son may encounter:

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This is the most common—urinals with privacy partitions. There is very little chance of exposure or visibility. Urinals that are lower to the floor are meant for kids, usually one such fixture is at either end of the urinal row.

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These are also common—urinals without partitions. The sides of the urinal are designed in a way that the user still can stay hidden if he stands properly. His neighbor may stand less hidden, but if the user avoids the temptation to glance over, things stay essentially private.

dad guide mens room 2

The stalls. Maximum privacy. The biggest caution here is the seat. Make sure that your son is instructed to lift it before peeing, or to wipe it down and use a paper seat guard before sitting on it. Unfortunately, a pee splashed toilet seat is a common issue in even the best restrooms.

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This is an older “what the heck were they thinking” design of urinal. Little privacy and pretty awkward. If your son does not feel comfortable using one of these—have him use the stall.

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Let’s call this “what the heck were they thinking” II , These are worse than the ones above however. Not only is there maximum exposure, but if one pees straight ahead, pee mist bounces back on your pants. If you pee towards the floor, it bounces back on your shoes. Avoid.

dad guide mens room 7

These are the new water-free urinals. Privacy protected, and the user walks up, does his business, and it flushes itself.


  1. Don’t pass on homophobic restroom tips to your son.  Teach respect instead.  In the comment section of Shannon’s article one mom was relieved to find online “help”.  “Vanessa” declared “There are YouTube videos for little boys that show him how to behave in the men’s restroom. There are unspoken rules apparently, and little boys who are frequently with women aren’t typically told that men don’t retreat to a bathroom to talk and primp. They may not know to keep a few empty spaces between them and another person in an empty bathroom.”  The sound you may be hearing is me pounding my head on the desk.  Sorry Vanessa, those are not helpful tip videos.  They are humor videos that play on straight guys having to deal with their homophobia while holding their genitals and interacting with other men.  Your son does not need to avoid any specific urinal, and he can follow whatever rules you give him in terms of greeting a stranger standing next to him.  What is important, is to make sure your son is respectful of people’s spaces and privacy.
  2. While your body does not have to follow him into the men’s room, your eyes can.  While almost every single dad I spoke to was comfortable with a younger age of autonomy in terms of going to the restroom, one factor was a requirement:  that the parent be able to see the restroom door.  Author of Free Range Kids  Lenore Skenazy states, “ the world is not a perfect place. Criminals do exist. But to operate as if predators are prowling behind every plate of Swedish meatballs, ready to pounce on a table full of children, in public, in broad daylight, is the stuff of bad Bruce Willis movies. <a watchful eye and> concern for those kids will keep them safe!…<A pervert attacking> all in the 90 seconds between the time the mom is <not present and then is>? Can anyone seriously think this is probable? Not whether it is POSSIBLE. Anything is possible. ..There’s a big difference between possible and probable — a difference that parents are being encouraged, by busybodies and sensationalist media, to ignore. That’s what is making parents so fearful these days: We are “What if?”ing ourselves to death.”  In other words, a parent watching the door, even from several feet, is significant protection.
  3. If your concerns are higher, use your voice to have full access to the men’s room   If you are still nervous or your guy is younger, then go full throttle protection.  Go to the mens room door open it (don’t worry, most doors are strategically placed so that this will not be invasive), and say in a clear mom voice  “OK, here you go.  Call me if you need anything and I will be right in.”   Not only will your son be now under the invisible cloak of protection of mom, but some patrons may expedite their business and clear space.  As far as some know, you are standing right outside the stalls.
  4. The women’s room will give you a heads up on legitimate concerns in the men’s room.  As I pointed out earlier, from those of us in the “know”, predators were not the concern of most dads, filth was.  We have all seen some amazingly disgusting things left in restrooms, stalls and even urinals.  Should you choose to do an arrival inspection, it is this situation that I would look most for.  Should you not inspect, you will likely get a good heads up by seeing how well the women’s room is maintained.  From what I have been told, neither gender can take a prize for being the least possibly gross in a restroom space… and the same cleaning crew maintains both facilities.   If the women’s room is a dump—the men’s room is likely not healthy either. 
  5. Reassess your safety paradigm.  Here is the good news: the restroom is likely safe.  It is highly improbable, like the odds of winning the lottery or being struck by lightning, that anything will happen.  The bad news has to do with another comment in Shannon’s article, she said, “Now, I know some perfectly lovely men … Men I respect. Men I love. Men I trust completely. But I am leery of sending my son off to the men’s room all alone with strangers.”  Here is the most likely portrait of someone who would target the son of a single or lesbian mom for molestation:  According to 4,000 admitted child molesters in the Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study:  “He’s married, just like 77 percent of the more than 4000 child sexual abusers in the Child Molestation Prevention Study. He is religious, like 93 percent of the abusers. He’s educated. More than 46 percent had some college education and another 30 percent were high school graduates. Like 65 percent of the admitted abusers, he is working.”  According to the Children’s Assessment Center, most victims know the perpetrator, who has targeted the family and worked to establish trust.  Single parent households are often at greater risk.  In other words, it may be more prudent for you to relax more in the public restroom arena, but make sure you have a healthy guard up with men who are seeking to be ones you “trust completely”.  For me, I have trained my sons in terms of what is acceptable in their own privacy and what violates it—no matter who the person trespassing might be.

So, single and lesbian moms, enjoy your evening out with your kids and have no fear of the dreaded men’s room.  Your son will appreciate the vote of confidence and the independence.  It is a rite of passage to conquer that private/public space.

Don’t forget, you are formidable.  You are a trail blazer in this society.  That mysterious smelly room behind the slamming door, will never hold anything over you.  It is within your control.

Your son will also see it as nothing to fear, and with your love at his back, he will know he can accomplish anything, from his solo trips to the restroom and beyond.

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Posted in Family, Living, Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Gay Dad’s Requiem for Robin Williams, the Icon of the Modern Father

 How Robin Williams Influenced Modern Fatherhood More Than Any Other Person in Today’s Culture 081214 robin williams dad

The shock of the news of his death will be forever carved in my memory. I heard it from one of my least favorite sources, Fox News. I was taking care of my elderly parents who insisted on having the conservative channel on, and the breaking bulletin interrupted their regular programming. Robin Williams was dead.

I had been filtering out the misinformation from the channel for the previous hour, but this report, sadly, had a ring of credibility. I jumped onto social media and announced it to my immediate base of followers. There was some push back as Williams had been the victim of previous hoax death announcements before. As more news sources picked up the story, it was confirmed. The unthinkable was true. Fox News went on to more disrespectful commentary of Williams, but I was too overcome to deal with small mindedness.

My instant grief over this celebrity was profound, but it took me a while to process and get some clarity as to why. Certainly, he was a man of incredible talent and accomplishment. He was a cultural icon and it is unfathomable to imagine the creative landscape without him. There was a deeper profound loss in the news for me, however, something very personal, and it took a night of sleep for me to fully get a sense as to what it is.

I am a dad. It is the part of my being with which I identify first and most strongly. As I awoke this morning, the first morning of a Robin Williams-less world, I felt a loss in the definition of what it is to be a dad. The icon depicting the spirit of the modern dad is gone.

The tapestry of Robin Williams characters had given me the rich definition of what it took. His enormous resume had everything on it, from alien to robot, to mythical genie, but , unlike any other artist, the golden chord running throughout was a comment on what was required to be a dad. Titles of his lesser known movies “Fathers Day” and “The World’s Greatest Dad” seem to underscore the point.

In the decades before Williams we had the Spencer Tracey style dads who ruled homes from a detached but lovable distance. We had the hero dad in To Kill A Mockingbird with Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch. In television we had Ozzie Nelson and fathers knowing best, culminating into the first significant depiction of all dad parenting in Fred MacMurray’s My Three Sons.

Fred MacMurray’s father image also carried into films such as the Flubber movies, and fittingly, Robin Williams was the modern heir who stepped into the Flubber dad shoes.

My first recollection of Robin Williams as a dad was in The World According to Garp. It was in this first venture in which he depicted the true complexity of modern fatherhood. Garp was a dedicated dad, but he was tragically imperfect. He had failure, guilt and resurrection. His story was strange and atypical, yet the spirit of what many good men, and good fathers felt was true.

Even monumental roles where Williams did not literally play a father still spoke unflinchingly to the behavior of fathering. From Aladdin to Good Will Hunting, Williams embodied the influential fathering figure inspiring a young man to be himself. In Dead Poets Society, he inspired boys whose actual fathers had emotionally abandoned them. William’s character taught them to not only “seize the day” but to look at life from different angles.

It was this concept, of not being constrained by predetermined limitations, that infused itself into what was, in my opinion, William’s most significant redefinition of fatherhood. His dad characters never stayed in their limited boxes, but broke free, challenged perceptions and grew.

Robin Williams was the most visible gay dad in cinema history to date. In The Bird Cage, he took a role that had been played by others in French cinema and on stage. He brought it the widest visibility in popular culture. In the film, his character navigates a very human fathering path with his son, one which speaks to me as a gay man raising my own sons. It is a path where “being there” for his son seems to include denying his own identity. From boy scouts to introductions to my sons’ newest best buds’ families, that path is all too familiar. Williams taught me how to bring life’s audience to the realization that being gay and being a father are far from mutually exclusive propositions.

Williams most compelling impact on the true nature of modern fatherhood was not as a theatrical gay dad however. It was also not as the dad who searches for his children in the afterlife, or as the dad who is a grown up Peter Pan, choosing fatherhood over the ability to remain a little boy forever. Those held additional insights to the modern dad, but not the greatest.

Williams most profound impact as a dad was when he donned a skirt, a fat suit and bifocals. It was not that he became Mrs. Doubtfire, it was that he was a divorced dad willing to become Mrs. Doubtfire. The Williams portrayal of Doubtfire said more about a man’s ability to break free of conventional wisdom and be a full nurturing parent than Sally Field’s Norma Ray said about women being union leaders.

The cultural persona Robin Williams brought to modern fatherhood was not the guy with all the answers, and the demand for authority. He was the all human guy who was learning to release his boyhood, and throw his full intentions to the well being of his kids, for whom he would make any sacrifice. His characters loved their kids beyond anything else. They trashed their own egos and identities for the sake of their kids and in the process evolved into better men. Modern dads have learned – – – we have a lot to fight, but if we stay focused on that love for our kids, we’ll be better men.

This, for me, is the heroic contribution of Robin Williams. He was the imperfect dad, but the dad who would do anything to get it right. He was my cultural role model dad, and what he depicted is what I have grown up to be. He earned respect while never pretending that he was anything more than human.

Dear Mr. Williams, I am a stranger to your real life and the demons you could not overcome. I mourn you, and I will miss you for what you contributed to me in my life, nonetheless.

Speaking for many modern fathers, I would like to say, “Thank you, Dad. We salute you and we will never forget you. The love our kids freely experience is all the better for having known you.”

 

 

For some other thoughts on Robin Williams and being a dad with depression, please read this important article

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Posted in Entertainment, Family, Living | 12 Comments

A Gay Man Searches for the Dad He Lost to Homophobia

A post by guest blogger Hart Reiniger

080614 looking for dad

My dad grew up in an isolated, rural community on the high plains, the eldest of six. His own father was absent for the first two years of his life, off in Belgium and Germany fighting Nazis and facing horrors as a POW that he rarely spoke of while he was alive. My dad didn’t know his father at all when he came home from the war in 1945.

My grandfather severely abused my dad physically and emotionally throughout his childhood. My dad used to tell my younger sister and me stories of that abuse that seemed surreal to my young mind. Even though my grandfather loved me very much, I never grew that close to him; I always held him at arm’s length. I had heard too many of my dad’s stories of a painful childhood and adolescence. I loved my dad very much and I was always angry with my grandfather for hurting him.

Perhaps because of the abuse, my dad learned to be extremely self-sufficient growing up. He would escape the pain of home regularly by disappearing into the smoky hills and windy bluffs of southwestern Kansas. He also had many stories of adventures along the many creek beds around his hometown. Sometimes he would be gone for days at a time, especially once he was old enough to drive. He fished and hunted for food. His knives and guns were his lifelines. He knew which plants were edible and which were poisonous. He tanned hides and built fires without a match.

My dad was a scrapper and a survivor.

He sought solace with his paternal grandparents who lived in the same small town. They knew their own son’s penchant for narcissism and anger and they took pity on my dad, putting him up and feeding him for weeks at a time during my grandfather’s many extended rampages. My dad loved his grandparents more than his own parents. They were kind and supportive, nurturing in a way his own parents were not.

My dad never respected his mother. He told me so on many, many occasions. In his stories of growing up he often expressed disdain for her because of what he saw as her impotence in the face of his father’s rage. It was clear to me from a very young age that he bore much anger toward her for not stepping in, for not being the mother he desperately needed as a child. He rarely had good things to say about her.

As a child this confused me. I loved my grandmother with all my heart. I thought she was the greatest grandmother anyone could have. We always lived far away from them and only saw them once or twice a year. As a child I longed to go to grandma’s house and literally grieved when we would leave. My grandmother loved me unconditionally and doted on me whenever we were there.

Over the years, my grandparents changed a great deal. My grandfather frequently expressed regret to me over the way he had treated my dad all those years ago. My grandmother expressed sorrow and shame for not defending my dad more from my grandfather’s abuse when he was young. But for my dad, it was too little, too late.

My dad married my mom when he was nineteen, she eighteen. I came along a few years later, my sister three years after me. Both my parents were high school graduates, my dad coming close to being valedictorian of his class, just missing it, though, because of a rebellious streak that frequently landed him in the principal’s office. He played hookie an awful lot to be outdoors, raise hell and chase girls. He always seemed very proud of that.

My dad was always infinitely capable, forever indomitable. His self-sufficiency was at once a necessity for his survival and his “fuck you” to a world that was hostile and to people who were never there for him. He didn’t need anyone and he had no qualms about saying so. My dad was a man’s man of the first degree, and most of the rest of the world was weak and stupid. Growing up, it was clear to me that you didn’t have to do much to end up in the ignominious club of the soft and reviled. My dad didn’t suffer fools lightly. Common sense was always more important to him than book smarts. You might not be able to quote Chomsky, but if you had a sense of adventure, an eye for the ladies and could survive alone in the wilderness with nothing but a Buck knife, a few fish hooks and some twine for a week, you were worth your salt in his eyes.

Growing up, my dad inspired awe in me. I looked up to him and respected him above all other men. He could take the worst of situations and turn it around for his family. Despite not having much money, we never lacked anything. I had a magical childhood in my dad’s shadow. He was affectionate and never afraid to say I love you. He was supportive and protective and gave me my freedom at the same time. He was masterful at comforting us after a loss.

My dad instilled his values in me and taught me many of the skills he had learned as a boy out of necessity. To this day I can hunt and fish. I can build a lean-to in the woods. I can rappel down the face of a cliff and I know which rope knots to tie to ensure my safety. I know how to coax a channel cat out of shallow waters with just the right bait. I know how to walk silently in the woods and how to prepare cattails and dandelion greens with wild onions for a delicious, nutritious meal. I can skin a jack rabbit and a rattlesnake. Drop me into any wilderness, and I’ll find my way out. I am the best navigator I know.

Some of my fondest memories are of the days he would take me bow hunting in remote areas of Routt and Moffat counties on Colorado’s western slope. We would start the day before sun up at Daylight Donuts on the west end of Steamboat. I would always have a bear claw and a chocolate milk. He would take his coffee to go. We would drive for what seemed like an eternity, park the GMC Jimmy and hike into the wilderness. We’d spend hours on hilltops looking into ravines with binoculars for mule deer and elk. Those days with my dad were like a real-life Wild Kingdom, full of every mountain creature imaginable.

During all the hunting trips I took with him, I never once saw him take a shot at anything. Once, toward the end of one season, just before dusk when the sun shone low through fall aspens, casting a golden aura across the entire world, we came across a doe, completely unaware of our presence. We had gone the entire season without bagging a deer, and my dad asked me if I thought he should take a shot at it. I said yes.

My dad drew his bow and took aim at the doe. He was ready to release his arrow when a fawn slipped out of the underbrush behind her. I cried out for him not to shoot, and he lowered his bow to the ground. We both breathed a sigh of relief and set out for the truck to go home. That was the last hunting trip I ever took with him.

My dad wrote poetry and played the guitar. My dad taught me how to be a man. He taught me how to think. He taught me how to question what others accept at face value. My dad taught me that a forest clearing is just as good a church as any cathedral, probably better. He taught me to take risks, but not to do so haphazardly. He taught me to be conscious of the results of my actions and how to think strategically. He taught me that I’m going to get hurt sometimes, and that all wounds heal. He told me once he thought I would make a good Buddhist. My dad’s favorite saying: it’s a good life if you don’t weaken.

When I was thirteen my dad began traveling abroad for work. His job was to bring power to places in the world that had never had electricity. It was his dream job. My dad spent the rest of his life traveling to exotic lands far from civilization on every continent, learning new languages, traversing terrain a mountain goat couldn’t climb to build steel towers and string high voltage electrical cable. He earned an amazing living for his family by being an adventurer. He also took us many places with him.

Thanks to his air miles, I traveled alone around the globe when I was nineteen. At one point on that trip I met up with him in Indonesia and followed him to remote regions of Java to train crews of men to maintain electrical high lines without shutting down the power. Dangerous work, for sure. But what else would Superman choose as his career?

I met him in El Salvador on two occasions in the 80s, traveling to once war-torn areas, to ancient Mayan sites, to pristine, undeveloped Pacific coast beaches. He visited me once while I lived in Costa Rica for a year, too. We traveled to an active volcano and explored the jungle together along the Pacific coast.

During my college years my mom and dad lived in east Africa for two years. I got to live with them for a couple of months the summer before I went to grad school. My dad was working on a long-term project to electrify remote areas of Tanzania, taking advantage of hydro-electric projects financed by the IMF and the World Bank. The three of us went on safaris. I filmed a lioness killing a zebra from the rooftop of a Land Rover, not 30 feet away. I stood atop that same vehicle in the bottom of a gigantic volcanic crater surrounded by a herd of wildebeest that stretched as far as the eye could see in all directions. We traveled to Zanzibar where I explored the ruins of a sultan’s palace now claimed by towering mango trees.

During my brief stay with them I fell ill and wound up in a Nairobi hospital, subjected to tests involving blood draws, injections of dyes and x-rays. My dad was by my side the entire time, looking out for me, worrying about me, telling me how proud he was of me and that he loved me. I recovered and was able to set out again on new adventures.

I hiked to a waterfall at the base of Kilimanjaro. I witnessed a flock of flamingos take flight from a salt marsh at Lake Manyara. I followed herds of elephants and families of giraffes as they meandered in an endless search for the greenest acacia leaves at Ngorongoro.

My dad nursed my mom back from the brink through two bouts of malaria while they lived there. He built a water tower and filtration system for their expat house and three others on the same compound. They enjoyed the cleanest, safest drinking water in the entire town. He worked doggedly day in and day out to come home to his wife and a beautiful, rustic house at the foot of a mountain that supported an ANC military training camp. The two of them survived cobras, green mambas, dysentery and potholes the size of craters. They were the happiest I had ever seen them.

My dad was beyond compare. He occupied an unreachable place in my mind. He was the ultimate, my hero. He was the die I would cast myself from. His was the standard to which I would hold all other men. He was the man of steel, beyond reproach, indefatigable and larger than life. He was self-made and followed no one. I loved him with every fiber of my being. I love him more now than I will ever be able to express.

My dad hasn’t spoken to me since 1997.

That was the year I came out to my family. I had gone to Naropa to get a second master’s degree and was living in Boulder. By this time my parents were living in rural central Missouri. My dad continued to travel abroad, only now he had formed his own company and was working for himself. I came out to my mom first over the phone. My dad was in Spain at the time. I couldn’t tell him myself because I was too afraid, too ashamed. I made my mom tell him for me. She resents it to this day.

You see, my dad is his father’s son. He can be prone to anger. He doesn’t go on rampages like my grandfather. Instead, he goes inward and seethes in his rage, fleeing the scene when it becomes too much to contain. His career of foreign travel has always served as a convenient excuse for him to be alone. Sometimes he’s gone for up to a year at a time.

My dad will be 67 this September. His body has begun to betray him. Decades of hard physical labor and even harder self-imposed exercise regimes have taken their toll. He has skin cancer, kidney problems, a chronically painful and debilitating condition in his lower spine and now, according to my mother, he’s developing macular degenerative disease.

I haven’t been face-to-face with the man since 2000 when my grandmother was dying. Watching her die in their home was surreal enough. To top it off, my dad refused to interact with me the entire time I was there. I had just started a new job in Boulder and had to come back home and get back to work. She died the day after I got back. My dad was alone with her when she passed.

Since ‘97, my life has been about reconciling the ideas of the loving dad I knew as a child and the dad who has abandoned me as an adult. That contradiction informs everything about me to this day. When he dies, I’ll go to his funeral. But it will be a unique experience for me, to say the least. I’ve been grieving the loss of him for thirteen years now. The rest of my family hasn’t had as much time to get used to the idea of him being gone. I don’t know what that day will look like, but I’m sure it will change me profoundly. I feel that sea change welling up inside of me already.

Every Father’s Day brings me another opportunity to go deeper into reconciliation with the idea of my dad. He was an amazing father growing up. He has been a heartless, cruel bastard since I’ve been an adult. It’s impossible to convey completely the complexity of family dynamics in such a short piece, but you get the gist of my experience. I love my dad more than I’ll ever be able to express. I also want to pound his face into a bloody pulp for abandoning me. Those two extremes exist side by side in me. I never would have imagined they could.

This seems to me the ultimate in human contradictions; it has certainly informed everything about me for the last thirteen years. Contradiction has shaped the man I’ve become. Growing up, my love for my dad was always punctuated by not a small amount of fear. He beat me as a child (albeit infrequently), sometimes with implements. When I became a teenager he was very clear that there would be no more spankings. From that day forward, he would hit me with a closed fist when I deserved it. I tested him on that claim once. Just once.

My dad is a man of his word.

I don’t have children of my own, probably never will. I’ll be the branch that fell off my family tree. I’m okay with that. My sister has provided my parents with four beautiful granddaughters. They live very close to each other. My sister spends her weekdays working in my dad’s home office. They share a large tract of land in the country where they have horses and can hike and fish. I’ll admit I experience a pang of jealousy when my sister tells me about the latest arrowhead they’ve found along the creek. Arrowhead and fossil hunting was always one of my favorite things to do with my dad.

Things aren’t easy for my mom, my sister or my nieces in this mess. They endeavor to maintain a relationship with me while trying not to piss dad off too much by bringing up the whole gay thing in conversation. He won’t speak about it and shuts down when forced to. For the next year he’s in the Middle East. He won’t have to confront it or any of us for quite some time. That seems to make him happy.

He loves my mom, sister and nieces, and he can’t be around them for too long. He loved me more than life itself when I was younger. Now I don’t exist. That contradiction is the air we all breathe.

I’ve had my theories about his vehement reaction to my coming out over the years. I’ve invented all sorts of stories in an attempt to make some sense of the senseless. In the end, none of the stories matter, though. Just like my dad, the events of my life have forged my personality. I am where I am because of them. As a Buddhist, I have obsessed on the karma that led me to this place of contradiction. That kind of obsessing has never gotten me anywhere good. It just leads to more suffering. Over time I’ve learned to choose how I will react to my world, to act in a way that hopefully sows karmically positive seeds for the future. Meditation has taught me how to sit in the midst of contradiction and allow it to be what it is.

My dad is an awesome man, and I love him more than words can say. He’s also a cruel, abusive asshole I’d like to see groveling at my feet for mercy some day. I love you, dad. Happy Father’s Day. And fuck you, motherfucker.

It feels good to say both those things. It also hurts. I won’t pretend it doesn’t.

This, too, is the Dharma.

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Freedom Reigns Over Hate

Let’s pause to celebrate another victory, where human rights wins over hate.

Scott Lively’s race to spread hatred around the world has been stopped in Uganda! Let freedom reign high, but the vigilance to keep hatred from ruling and ruining people must never let up. One more victory for humanity came true today.

Uganda

Southern Poverty Law Center ran the story here.

Posted in Civil Rights, Equality, Hatred, News, Politics, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Mom’s Perspective is Profoundly Changed by Amazing Closure With the Bully of Her Past

Bully Closure

Guest blog by Mindy Forsythe, author of  How My Eleven Year Old Son Taught Me That Having a Gay Character in ‘Train Your Dragon’ is Important

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”, so I was told a very long time ago. Today I know that words not only wound and scar; sometimes they leave young people feeling so alone and unloved that they turn to suicide. The LGBT community is sadly and painfully aware of how bullies crush spirits and ruin lives. I know firsthand how gay kids can be driven to suicidal thoughts when attacked by bullies. My son was one such kid. Thankfully, our intervention came in time to save him. His pain etched itself deep into my heart; it was a pain I knew very well.

Middle school involves the most awkward years of growing up when hormones are raging and self confidence is lacking. Those years were a living hell for me . I was quiet and studious with a bad perm and thick glasses and very poor fashion sense. I was being raised by my single mother who worked menial jobs for our survival while living with my grandparents. I was still reeling from the death of my beloved step-father and I was struggling to understand the abandonment of my alcoholic, biological father. I was a constant mess of raw emotion. I listened to the saddest music I could find, read the saddest books I could get my hands on, and wrote dark, soul searching poetry. I was described by the adults in my life as smart, talkative, and mature beyond my years. It was true; I was most comfortable around adults. Around kids my own age, I was a different person altogether.

At school I was painfully shy. I was the kid that walked through the halls with her head down hoping not to be noticed. Grades came easily to me, but I had nothing else…no extracurricular activities whatsoever because I was too afraid to try anything new.

I had few friends, but I did have one very important and special friend. I can’t even remember how we met, but from the moment I met her, I loved her. She was everything I wasn’t. To me, she was confident and beautiful; she played the saxophone and excelled at sports; she intrigued me. She was protective of me, and she knew all of my deepest secrets; she knew my heart. She held me when I cried and listened to me when I talked. She needed me too; she had her own amount of sadness, and she let me in to share her pain. She valued me and told me I was beautiful. When she said it; I believed it. She was the only person that kept me from losing myself to a very dark place. We were inseparable.

Looking back, I see that she was as lost and as vulnerable as I was. Although she was popular and well acquainted in school, our peers teased her relentlessly for her masculine tendencies. Sometimes their teasing was gentle and friendly, but by some people, it was mean and ugly. One time she wrote me a note, and it was signed, “Love you more than a sister.” A girl next to me, who I will refer to here as “Tormentor”, saw the signature and laughed, and a whole new hell engulfed me.

Her laughter was not the giggling, mouth covering, titter of adolescent friendship, but the ugly, hateful, vengeful sneers of hatred and disgust. “You’re gay!”

Her words, or rather the way she spat them at me with such utter disdain, sliced me. I had never even considered that I might be gay. I knew most of our peers suspected my best friend was homosexual. It didn’t matter to me.

I loved my friend with all of my heart. She told me she wasn’t gay even though I suspected she was, but I trusted what she told me to be true. I felt that only she would know.

Now with this sudden accusation towards me, I was 13 years old, and questioning my own sexuality. We had held each other through many nights of tears; I always found her closeness comforting. We often cuddled up for a movie night, but all of my other girlfriends did that too, and they were straight. I knew I loved her intensely, but I had a romantic crush on the eighth grade quarterback. No, I knew I wasn’t gay…even if my best friend was.

Yet, the acidic attack stung me. My world was turned upside down…not because this girl thought I might be gay, but because the daggers she spewed could kill the only person keeping me sane on this scary journey of growing up. I quickly came to assert myself and protect my friend. Something changed for me in that moment. Her words were meant to defeat me, but they helped create me. In that moment, despite being unwilling to reveal what I suspected to be true about my best friend, I became a lifelong LGBT ally. Meanwhile, Tormentor became obsessed with the idea that my friend’s outward expression of love made me gay and rallied her troops against me.

Unfortunately, Tormentor and her posse of followers rode my school bus and got off at the stop just before mine. One day soon after the note reading incident I noticed her crew did not get off at their own stop. I knew what was coming, and it was not going to go well. Sure enough, as I stood to get off at my stop, Tormentor and her lead follower I will call “Lackey” stepped into the aisle. I could feel my heart pounding as I hugged my books to my chest and rushed to make it home before they could attack. My haste was wasted because they were on me before the bus was even out of sight.

I refused to cry. Lackey pushed me…hard. I stumbled back, and she told me to take my glasses off so she could hit me. I snickered and told her she was nuts to think I would remove my glasses SO she could hit me! I wanted to hit her but could not. I found myself feeling sorry for her. Tormentor ran her mouth, but she made no move to help Lackey with her dirty work. Eventually they gave up on trying to get me to fight back. They left and I walked home telling nobody. From that day forward I avoided Tormentor and Lackey as best I could. They still found opportunities to throw obscenities my way, but eventually my lack of response bored them. By my freshman year they had found new targets, and I was safe from their attacks.

As high school unfolded, I found my identity and so did my best friend. We drifted apart. By college she was an out lesbian, and I was married. We reconnected after high school and had lots of good laughs about those tumultuous years of self discovery. Even then however, the memory of the biting words from Tormentor and Lackey made me sad and angry.

It turns out, however, the conversation was not yet over.

Twenty years after our original encounter, Lackey “friend “ requested me on Facebook. I laughed at the thought of her daring to request my friendship! Then I realized we were children when I knew her last. Curiosity got the best of me, and I accepted her request. As I perused her page, I saw that she was married with children and still living in our hometown. Everything on her page looked so peaceful and normal. I laughed at my surprise that she wasn’t a hardened criminal. She was a mom and wife just like myself. Then I got a message from her.

“I don’t know if you remember this, but I do and even if you don’t, I need to apologize for my behavior! This one day we got off the bus at your stop and I was being mean to you for absolutely no reason in this world! I just want you to know that I’ve never forgotten about that and I’m so very sorry for being like that to you. I had no reason to as you have always been so very nice, kind, sweet, and one of the most good-hearted people in this world. I just want you to know I’m sorry. I know it was a long time ago but I’ve thought about it a million times. And why would I do that other than because I was being pressured by Tormentor to do it and prove that I wasn’t afraid to fight someone. Actually, I was afraid, I was and still am NOT the fighting type, it’s just not me. I’m so very, very sorry, again, for my behavior. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me someday! You’re so sweet and have always been nothing but nice to me. I’ve wanted to tell you I’m sorry for years! ”

There it was. Did I remember? Yes, of course I remembered. I remembered so well that I had even shared this story as a teaching tool with my own children, and now here I was filled with emotion, crying my heart out over an apology so long overdue. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. She was scared. She was sorry. She did it because Tormentor told her to. She had never even known about the note! She bullied me because she had been trying as hard as I had been to fit in. I accepted her apology, and as we continued to chat, the news she shared with me left me sobbing deep retching sobs.

Tormentor’s true target was not me at all. It was not my best friend either. Her intense homophobia was for herself. Her own self loathing had eventually become so engulfing that she took her own life widowing her girlfriend and leaving behind a daughter.

My heart shattered for a lost, teenage girl that read a note over my shoulder and much to her own dismay, recognized herself. I became the target so she could send herself a message that she wasn’t the way she was, and by hating me, she would not have to hate herself. She feared herself so intensely that she had forged a war against anyone who represented what was inside her own heart.

My heart broke for her. All I could feel was a sense of mourning for another life that homophobia had taken. I was filled with a new perspective on my past, one colored, now, with forgiveness.

My scars began to heal .

More on Mindy’s story here:   The Real True Story About How Parents Adopted Out Their Child When He Told Them He Was Gay

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Why I Write as a “Gay” Dad

073114 why i write as a gay dad evol

I did not intend to write about this topic. A friend of mine, Henry Amador, blogger and founder of Dadsquared, addressed it in a piece called “The Battle Cry of the Gay Dad” for The Next Family. He captured the essence of the extra effort those of us who are gay dads have gone through to become fathers. He said, in part:

Only now we too are grown. We finally fit into our skins. We have passed your foolish tests and questions with flying colors. If we made it and we are here and we have children that call us dads then we have leapt over hurdles never imagined. We, like all other groups that have suffered at the hands of another, have risen above it. We have taken ownership of who and what we are. We have come to identify with what we are. We have come to be proud of what we are.

So you ask, why do I call my self a Gay dad? Well because I made it and that is what I am.”

I felt moved by his words and related to them. I felt compelled to share them, and soon thereafter, was being called on to defend them.

Another blogger and supporter of equal rights sent me a text. “Where does the battle end? Isn’t the ultimate victory call to call yourself a dad—without a qualifier?”

Here is my response, to him and to the world.

There are many paths to fatherhood, and there have been many great types of fathers. Unfortunately, there also have been the accidental and unwilling fathers, as well as the fathers who showed up and then checked out. Do we need to qualify each dad as to which of those groups he is a member? No. It is true that gay dads by definition are “intentional dads” in the vast majority of cases. Not only must we have sought to become one, but we usually had to plan, invest and sometimes train to qualify to become a dad. Does this inherently mean that a “gay dad” is better than a “regular dad”. Not always. I trained for three years, and fostered a number of children before getting my own. When they came into my life, I was not a parenting novice. That being said, there are no dads that I care to go up against in a competition. I know many awesome dads, most with some talent or other that I do not possess.

I do not call myself a “gay dad” because I think I am better.

Many dads walk into roles in their families that are handed to them. Parents of previous generations, popular culture, televisions, movies and even self-expectations have molded the roles. Gay dads have the entire parenting spectrum as an option. Gay dads may be “bread-winners”, “home-makers” or a combination. We work with our partners and pick up the parts of the parenting role that suits our talents or abilities. Many modern families with more and more stay-at-home-dads are doing the same.

I do not call myself a “gay dad” because I feel freer of gender identified roles.

Science is now telling us that gay dads are neurologically different than either straight moms or straight dads. A new study by neuropsychologist Ruth Feldman and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences observed that “gay fathers raising children with their husbands seemed to be both mom and dad, brain-wise. Their emotional circuits were as active as those of mothers and the interpretive circuits showed the same extra activity as that of heterosexual fathers.”

I do not call myself a “gay dad” because my brain apparently resembles the breadth of both a mom and a dad.

It should also be noted that I also do not call myself a “gay dad” in the day-to-day activities with my kids. In my talks with my boys I do not say, “Well guys, it is because I am your gay dad.”   I am just “Dad.” I do not walk into my son’s classroom and introduce myself to the teacher by saying, “Hi! I am Jesse’s gay dad.” I am just “Jesse’s dad.”

I do not call myself a “gay dad” every day.

Throughout the 1990s the Catholic Church called gay people “intrinsically disordered”, and declared that same sex parents were doing “violence” to their children. There are many who still believe these concepts. Currently, if I moved my family just a few hundred miles east, because I am a same sex parent, our legal family protections would be thrown into turmoil and protections for my sons would change. In Texas, two partners fathered a set of twins and neither of them were permitted to be listed on either birth certificate. Throughout the country, many kids who come out to their families are not only not told that someday they too could become “gay dads” if they wish, they are thrown out of their homes and make up the largest percentage of homeless teens in the country. Last year the Boy Scouts of America sent a survey out to all its participants asking whether I was worthy to be considered safe around other families children. The answer they got was “no.” Often when my writings are published, I am criticized by strangers who say things like “your children were underprivileged by being placed in foster care, haven’t they suffered enough without you depriving them of a mother?”

This is why I write as a “gay dad”. I write as one because gay dads are criticized, demoralized and discriminated against. I write as one because gay families are not yet seen as equal legally or socially. I write as one to give hope to any young LGBT people who are inspired to hold parenthood as a goal in their hearts.

I will write as one until a whole generation of people do not see being a “gay dad” as any different from any other parent. I will lay out the details of my life so that “gay dads” can become known and seen for the blissfully ordinary creatures that we are.

I will write as a gay dad so that if it turns out that one of my sons identifies as gay that he will not feel that life has dealt him a raw deal. In that moment he will see himself as completely whole and able to achieve his dreams.

He will see that, if he wants, he can grow up and be… just like his dad.

 

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