Monday, December 6, 2010

Realtime: Outed By My Teenage Daughter

Those of you who have been following my blog may remember that I came out to myself in October after hearing President Packer’s address at General Conference.  A few weeks later, I came out to my two sisters, and in early November, I came out to my wife.

By way of review, I had told my wife before our marriage about my attraction to men and the issue had come up at least once in our marriage about 10 years ago, after admitting to her that I had looked at gay pornography.  I had not, however, ever uttered the words, “I am gay,” to her. (Nor, for that matter, had she ever asked me.) That’s what was very different about my disclosures in early November. 

Initially, my wife seemed to take the news very well, all things considered; but that didn’t last long.  Things very quickly became extremely “frosty.”  I accepted that she had every right to be angry, hurt, confused, etc.  I tried to back off and let her feel everything she needed to feel.  But after a couple of weeks, it was obvious that things weren’t getting any better; if anything, they were getting worse.  She never indicated any desire to talk about “it,” never asked any questions, never asked what I was feeling or thinking.

Meanwhile, we have a daughter who is a freshman at college.  A few days ago, I found out in the course of a rather intense discussion with my wife (which is the subject of another post) that, during Thanksgiving break, my daughter had asked her if I was experiencing some “confusion about my sexuality.”  Apparently, my daughter told my wife, “If you don’t tell me the truth, I’ll never trust you again.”  So, my wife responded affirmatively, after which my daughter then asked, “Is he gay?”  My wife again responded affirmatively.

Of course, I was upset when I discovered that my wife had told my daughter that I am gay.  I told her that the correct response would have been to tell my daughter that she should talk to me about the matter.  But beyond that, I was concerned about what was going through my daughter’s mind and what had led her to even ask the questions she did.

I had already planned to drive up and pick her up at school on Friday, so I arranged to come early so that we could have a chance to talk before heading home.  It was apparent as we started our conversation that she was “ok” with the concept of me being gay, and I was obviously very relieved about that.  In fact, she told me that she’d always love me, no matter “who” I was.  She then made a very interesting comment.  She said, “If you and Mom hadn’t raised me the way you did, I probably would have a really hard time with this.  But you guys raised me to be open-minded, tolerant and accepting, and that has helped me to accept what you are now telling me.”

I got to tell you – I was one weepy dad by this point.  To be able to talk about my gayness with my daughter, to see her accept that in me, to hear her express her love to me, and to be benefitted by qualities we have tried to instill in our children – all of this was pretty overwhelming.

(By the way, the above picture is from The Last Song, a movie I watched with my daughter over Thanksgiving break about a troubled relationship between a teenage girl and her father – who it turns out is dying from cancer.)

Once I was able to compose myself, I asked her what had prompted her to ask my wife about my sexual orientation.  She said that she had noticed a change in me after General Conference.  Then, particularly in the last few weeks when she was home (for various reasons, she was home from school numerous weekends in October and November), she had noticed a big change and had felt a new tension between my wife and me.  She said there were other things, but didn’t mention them.  My wife, however, had told me in our conversation that my daughter had also noticed changes in the way I dress (the purple shirt?), comments I had made (mainly about the Church), and other little things.

As she had reflected upon the changes in me, it seemed in my daughter’s mind that the changes had started following Conference Weekend.  As she thought about it, she recalled President Packer’s talk and the uproar it had caused (at least in certain quarters).  She had then started to put two and two together and had decided to ask my wife about it.  My daughter told me that, even though her deduction seemed logical, she was still surprised when my wife responded affirmatively to her question.

This experience with my daughter has given me a lot of hope in whatever my future holds for me (which is very much up in the air at this point).  I now have real hopes that I will be able to communicate to my children, particularly the older ones, who I really am.  They are accustomed to dealing with the person I made myself be (described here) in order to function in my marriage.  Now, I am hoping that as I become more comfortable in my own (new) skin, this will facilitate much better relationships with them – independent of my wife.

I look forward to being able to be authentically me with each one of my children, never having to hide my sexual orientation and letting them see my true self – not the false persona that was forged in order to survive and perform in my heterosexual Mormon marriage.

My daughter and I went on to talk a lot about my marriage, our family and the Church.  Our discussions were very serious and revelatory – but I’m going to have to defer writing about these other topics to later posts.

Suffice it for now to say that, even though there were some other major bumps last week, I ended the week – between what happened with my daughter and some other developments – on a positive note.  I’m grateful for that. 


  1. I am glad that the conversation went well.

  2. What a wonderful post and experience. I can imagine what a relief this must have been for you, and I'm happy for you and your daughter because of your closer relationship. That is *awesome* what she said about how she was brought up.

    I feel the same way but in reference to my own sexual orientation. I can accept it and myself and others because of the way my parents brought me up. I am glad that there are great people like my parents and you and your wife who make the world better both on your own, and through your children.

  3. Thanks, Mister Curie.

    And Trev, thanks for your comments as well. It is an interesting (but wonderful) feeling to be the beneficiary of character traits one has tried to instill in one's children ...

  4. I'm jeleous - I've yet to talk to any of my children. How do you even bring up this topic? (e.g. "can you please pass the potatoes to your gay dad?")

  5. its a little disturbing to be outed by other family members, my sister outed me to my dad- who then told my mom and my other sister - so yea.....I don't know what its like to have adult children, but sounds your daughter has the spirit...and took it in stride.

  6. Jon - I would recommend not bringing it up for the first time at the dinner table. :) My oldest son will be arriving home for Christmas, and that will be my next challenge. We are very close, but I still don't know how he will take it.

    Recover & Thrive - Well, that must have been pretty frustrating, to put it mildly. Hope they were all ok with it - but still, one would like to choose the time and place and method.

  7. Life seems to rarely work out according to "the plan" but it usually brings quite a few pleasant surprises and even some invaluable gifts. I think your relationship with your daughter is one of those gifts. And it's compelling evidence you're a wonderful dad.

    Sending good thoughts your way as you begin to open up with your other kids and other family and friends. Even if some of them aren't as accepting as your daughter, I still believe most people come around eventually because they will see YOU, not just "you in character."

  8. It must have felt like a wonderful gift to have her be so accepting of you, for who you are. I also think it shows how perceptive she is to the world around her, to those with whom she's close. She's able to analyze following her instincts: she joins her heart and her mind. Furthermore, she is able to articulate with such modesty and love: what a wonderful relationship.

    I do want to make a comment about dress styles: my husband wears a purple shirt. He wore them in our engagement pictures. He wears a scarf around his neck as "women" do ... I just returned from Europe where the dress codes are more androgynous and saw fashion that defies the American stereotypes of "masculine" and "feminine" with no problem at all. Men wear straight, tighter pants and colored shirts. It's a shame that we are so caught up in these stereotypes that have come to define what a man or woman can wear, say or do. Anyway, as they say in French, the clothing doesn't make the monk: L'habit ne fait pas le moine.

    I hope that your son will be as receptive.

  9. Pablo - Many sincere thanks for your kind comments and best wishes. She's a pretty exceptional daughter; don't know so much about her dad.

    Libellule - Thanks as well for your comments and insights!

  10. Obviously, you are changing faster than even you thought. The whirlwind that started two months ago has transformed you in ways that you didn't even notice, but your daughter did.

    I've been a voice of caution and patience at the speed with which I've seen you change in your perspective even from one post to the next. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the speed with which you are changing into the person you have always been, shedding the dead and decaying outer shell of your closeted life is the correct way to do it. It's like ripping off a bandage. Maybe my approach of being much more cautious and careful and measured and whimpy, leads to no such change at all...

  11. This is a wonderful post. Your daughter is a gem, no doubt about it! Maybe her example will help her mother in some way? I'm anxious to know "the rest of the story"...

  12. Beck - I am new at this, but I don't think there is a "correct" way to do this. I certainly haven't planned what has transpired in the last couple of months.

    I didn't ask for my response to President Packer's talk; it just happened, and it was not really controllable. I didn't ask for my wife's response to my coming out to her; what originally started out as me just telling her what was going on in my head was turned by her into something much bigger. I also didn't ask for the policy changes that the church made in early November, which had a profound effect upon me. Nor did I ask for what my daughter did.

    In short, none of these happenings were part of a conscious strategy; all of them have just happened, and I'm not sure I could have done anything any differently:

    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

    - Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

    Neal - It's good to see your comment. Thank you. I don't think her example will affect my wife, however, because they have very different "stakes" in the situation. Stay tuned ...

  13. Invictus -

    I rarely read Moho blogs anymore, but when I was at the stage in my marriage and family relations you were, I read Beck's and Scott Nicholson's quite often. When I saw the title of this post, I felt I had to read it.

    Let me say that my heart goes out to you. No other struggle is like ours. What you just went through - coming out to your wife and to your daughter, but mostly coming out to yourself and becoming okay with the fact you're gay - should be met with the utmost level of self-respect, love and acceptance you can muster for yourself.

    You've spent years and untold energy on trying to be someone else because of what you believed was the right course of action for you. And you learned, regardless of how hard you try, you are the man you were created to be and "he" insists on being acknowledged and loved. This man deserves to be happy, to feel transcendent love and to have a life that's integrated, not compartmentalized; that's actualized, not just pining away in another situation, wishing it were different.

    My ex-wife and I were married 19 years. We had two fabulous kids - an 18-year-old daughter who graduates from high school this year and a 15-year-old son who is a sophomore, who also happens to be gay and well-adjusted. We separated nearly two years ago and divorced this year.

    When we decided to separate, it was after a conversation that should've ended the marriage five years earlier, but "for the kids' sake" we hung in there, only to find our friendship disintegrate and a horrible "DADT" policy implemented. Staying together after that conversation became really toxic for us. Thank heavens for a therapist who walked me through my "next steps" and helped me understand that the most loving, compassionate course of action was to divorce. Also, I got some good advice, here:

    I can tell you that giving up my marriage and, quite honestly, leaving Mormonism took a lot of thought and courage, and not without some sense of loss, too.


    The life I live now is so much better and infinitely more honest and happier than what I had before. There isn't a day when I don't think how glad I am I made this decision and that I would never, ever go back to hiding, attending a church that doesn't allow me to be open about who I am and that I now have a church where I am not only accepted, but loved for exactly who I am.

    I wish you well on your journey. If you want to email privately, find me on Facebook - Mark Cochran and send me a note. :) I'd love to hear form you.

    All the best,


  14. Mark - To say thank you for your post would sound very trite. I SO appreciate you taking the time to write such heartfelt comments. You have obviously walked the walk that I am now on, and I appreciate so much your encouragement, counsel and understanding. I'm sure you understand how much they would mean to me. So, again: thank you.

  15. Invictus -

    You're very welcome, my new friend. It sounds like you're heading into this with so much honesty and emotional strength...I'm just so impressed with you. Keep writing and letting us know how you are doing! And while you're doing that, I'm going to catch up on your past blog entries! :)

    As an aside, regarding my own journey, fear was the real culprit and certainy was responsible for staying in my marriage far past a reasonable expiration date. Exchausted by "What happens if I...?" constantly tossing my emotions about, I had to do something that would put an end to the fear and heartache that held both my ex-wife and me hostage.

    What I learned, similar to the counsel, "There's never a good time, financially, to start a family" is that there's never a good time to leave your marriage.

    In fact, my wife told me she wishes, in retrospect, we'd done this sooner, so it would have given both her and me more time to recoup from the divorce, for her to get back into the workforce and for us to have some of our younger years to pursue other relationship possibilities.

    Yet, we opted to stay together longer so the kids had us together. Certainly we weren't perfect in our approach, but at least we now maintain a decent relationship so the kids aren't impacted as much.

    However you and your wife choose to move forward - whether toward divorce or working out some other situation - I hope you'll not compromise what you need to be truly happy. In other words, I hope the same level of love and compassion you have for others, that you'll offer it up to yourself as well. So often we self-sacrifice only to have our needs go unmet, leading to unintended feelings and behaviors coming out sideways. So often, we think "doing the right thing" is the "right" thing when another path will ultimately create a better place for us.

    Wishing you peace now. Lots of it.