I was married for 19 years, have 4 beautiful children, and had just turned 40 when I encountered my first relations with another man. This was the first time in my life that I had feelings for a man, and questioned my sexuality. It was such a conflict for me. I was raised in a strict Catholic family, and we were taught that we would work hard in school, graduate college, get a job, get married, have children, and live happily ever after. But at the age of 40, those rules did not seem to fit how I was feeling. Am I really gay? Is this what I really want? Do I want to risk losing my relationships with my children? Will I lose my job? Friends? These were my fears as I addressed my sexuality.
For several years I dealt with the conflict of being married to my wife, being a good father to my children, but dealing with my sexuality and attraction to men. After several years of challenges and issues with my marriage and finally evolving to the decision to pursue a gay life, my wife and I addressed the situation. After months of tears, arguments, counseling, heartbreak, anger, we eventually could find a place of understanding. We decided it was best to separate and to get a divorce.
I needed to seek a life where I could be authentic… to myself, and to my children. I needed to spare my family of more lies and deception. I needed to be honest with who I am and who I needed to be. Divorce is not easy. It is hard on the two spouses, as well as the children. However, after individual and family coaching and counseling we had to answer the question our children were asking, “Why are Mom and Dad getting a divorce?” I prepared notes, I was coached by my counselor, I had anticipated every question possible, and expected each child to leave the room crying telling me “Get away from me... I never want to see you again!” However, my experience was different with each child. I told each of my children individually and their responses varied from “Oh.. Wow…OK…Dad.. Can you pass the salt?” to my oldest responding “Dad…it does not matter to me… you are still my Dad and I love you.”
The weeks, months and years that have passed raising my children as a gay father have definitely had their challenges. However, I do not regret coming out and addressing my sexuality. I feel very fortunate to be able to live my life authentically as a gay man, but also continue to enjoy the life-long benefits and joys of being a father to 4 beautiful children.
My counselor recommended that I reach out to the GFC Richmond to meet other fathers that have similar experiences to share. He recommended them as a support network to meet other gay dads to support me through my journey.
Describe your first meeting at GFC Richmond:
After several encouraging introductory emails with one of the leaders of the group, I was invited to the GFC RVA monthly meeting. My first meeting was a potluck dinner at a member’s house. I prepared a dessert to share with the group. I drove by the address of the house about 15 minutes early to make sure I knew the right location. I continued to drive around the neighborhood for about 30 minutes, with sweaty palms and a stomach of anxious nerves. “What if I see someone I know?” “Will I feel welcome as a new member?” “Do I really want to do this?” These were all questions that I had running through my mind as I was driving around the neighborhood and contemplating just heading out for a beer. But I was glad that I parked my car and walked in with my dessert in hand. I was welcomed with open arms. Several people already were expecting me, knew my name, and immediately introduced me to other guys. Not for one minute did I feel awkward. I remember saying to myself…”Wow… there are other guys that have gone through the same thing as me.” Several members took the time to sit and chat and share their experiences with me to make me feel comfortable. I immediately felt that this was a group that I would be able to build personal connections and feel comfortable sharing my journey and seeking the support to overcome my challenges.
Describe your biggest challenge as a gay father:
There were several challenges for me coming out as a gay father. The biggest challenge was dealing with the impact this change had on my family. My wife and I worked very hard to manage communications with our children and to try and minimize the impact on them as they were going through middle school and high school. Neighborhood gossip, social media, and mean-spirited parents and kids were the most difficult challenge.
Another challenge for me was going through the divorce and hurting my wife, my best friend, and the mother of our children. As I was figuring out my new life as a gay man, making new friends, and dating, I was celebrating a rebirth of myself. However, at the same time, it was hard to watch my wife grieve the loss of her husband and partner in life. Going through a divorce was hard on everyone, especially my wife.
What is your best memory at GFC RVA?
In addition to the monthly meetings and dinners, my best memory of the GFC RVA was going on our camping trip. This was such a fun event and it was great to see everyone out of their elements and socializing in the outdoors. We went on a kayaking / canoeing trip, slept in tents and cabins, cooked meals together, and even had a camp fire sing-along.
Why should new members join GFC RVA?
I would encourage gay fathers to join GFC RVA to socialize and network with other gay fathers. Talking to other dads that have similar experiences helps with any challenges that you may be facing. It is also rewarding to talk to other men that are going through their journeys and you are able to help them through their challenges. Socialize. Network. Inspire.