I grew up in the 1950s, went through grade school and graduated high school, then went to college in the 1960s. It was not until high school that I had even heard about homosexuality. My high school years were traditional… I dated girls and had a good circle of friends. I had many male friends, kind of a rebellious small group of guys. But we were just friends and there was nothing more to our friendships.
I can remember thinking that a guy in sixth grade was good looking. And at times in high school I fantasized about guys, but never acted on these thoughts, and probably just buried them. In those days, you graduated from high school, went to college, graduated, got married, started a career, had a couple kids and got a dog and lived happily ever after.
I married a girl I had known since eighth grade and had dated off and on. We got engaged our Junior year of college. We were thought to be the perfect couple with the perfect family. That pretty much was true. I was faithful in my marriage for 20 years of my 22-year marriage.
It was in that 20th year when I was almost 40 years old that some life changes started to take place. I left my job after 15 years and was taking time to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. Little did I know at the time that one of the things I would discover would be that I was gay.
For a couple of years I was able to try different occupations, take some classes and I had more free time which allowed me to meet and hang out with new people. Several of these people would be the men who helped me discover my true sexual identity. During this time, it was a tug of war between guilt and pleasure. I would try “to stop” but couldn’t. My mood at home was a roller coaster, and my family certainly noticed. Also during this time, I took a new job and for the first time was working side by side with out and open gay men.
This changed my life dramatically. My mood and behavior at home was becoming more bizarre. I was terrified to tell my wife that I liked guys. I would rationalize to myself that perhaps she would understand this side of me and we could stay together. We had a great life together after all. We could still be a family with my two daughters, my wife and a husband who would rather have sex with men. Yeah right!
Finally, late one evening she confronted me. Only questioning me about why I was so moody all the time. I refused to discuss it and kept moving from room to room to escape her questions. My avoidance upset her and with a much more forceful voice, she asked me “What in the hell is going on?” I blurted out… “I’m gay!”
What I remember of the rest of that night were tears and lack of sleep. We talked all night I think. We kept this information to ourselves while we tried to figure out what to do. I was still hoping for some type of accommodation. We both went into counseling, separate and together. Over a three-month period, it was decided that indeed I was gay, and that no I could not have an accommodation (staying in the marriage, keeping the family together) and that I would be moving out. That was the worst day of my life.
While finally relieved and a little excited about my “new life”; leaving my home, my kids and my best friend was horrible. For three months, I did not have a place of my own. I couch surfed at friends’ houses. Starting all over again was difficult and one of my daughters was still living at home. On weekends, I would pick her up to spend time with her. When I dropped her off to return to where I was living I would cry all the way back.
In time you make your way, you meet new people, develop “your family”. You date, you enter into relationships, and now I have met the man I wanted to marry.
I have now been out and divorced more years than I was married. My former wife and I are on good terms, not the case for the first couple years. I hurt her but she has gone on to have a wonderful life doing things that perhaps she would not have accomplished if married to me. My daughters have been supportive and loving from the day I told them I was gay.
I was one of the four men who in 1997 got together and talked about an organization for guys that had been in marriages with women, with children and how important such an organization would be to be a resource and network for friendship and support. We wanted other gay fathers to know they are not the only ones going through this. The best thing for me is taking that step 20 some years ago to come out to my wife. To acknowledge who I truly am.
My life has been enriched by my marriage and my kids, but being comfortable and open with who I really am will be the crowning achievement of my life. No regrets, no looking back.