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.