In honor of National Coming Out Day, I wanted to publish this excerpt from my book, The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads. This section covers how being a gay dad is like coming out over and over again on a daily basis.
Excerpt from The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads
Do you remember coming out of the closet? Were you anxious and maybe a bit paranoid? Did it take you a while to get comfortable in your own skin? Well, get ready for all of those emotions to come flooding back. Having a kid is like coming out all over again, on a daily basis—especially if you have an infant. Strangers everywhere, from people in line at the grocery store to those working behind the counter at the dry cleaners, will want to tell you how cute your baby is...and then they’ll want to know where his or her mother is. As your child gets older, you’ll be coming out to their teachers, coaches, friends, the parents of their friends, and more.
In the beginning, if you have an infant or toddler, you may be able to control the conversation and choose how you’ll respond to prying questions from strangers. While you’re waiting in the checkout line, do you want to go into the whole story about how your child was conceived and/or how your family was created, or do you just want to pay for your groceries and go home? Also, there may be times where you’re not sure if the environment you’re in is LGBT friendly. If that’s the case, maybe you don’t want to go into too many details.
When you have a toddler, or an older child who is able to speak, they may even be the ones outing you. They might be jumping up and down with joy to talk about their two dads, and the younger they are, the fewer filters they’ll have. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be proud of being a gay dad. To the contrary, I think you should be out, proud, and loud, and we should foster an environment where our children are proud of their families too. All I’m saying is that having a kid is like adding a spotlight to your being gay, and before you just had to worry about yourself. Now you have to think about your little one too, and they’ll be watching your every move. If you stutter or pause when responding to prying questions about your family, your children may pick up on you being uncomfortable, and they could start feeling that something is wrong with their family unit. So be ready for it, and practice what you’re going to say and do before you get asked the questions. Talk to your family and friends about it too, so they know how to respond when your child is present.
GAY MEN TALKING ABOUT HOW VISIBLE THEY ARE AS DADS
“The three of us going out in public together is like putting a neon sign above our heads that says: GAY DADS. We get the stares; most are welcoming, but we have had a few judgmental glares. It’s strange, going from being a couple that would not draw much attention (if any), to being a family that everyone notices. I knew prior to adopting that we would have to be out and proud because we would be more obvious, but I didn’t expect it to be as much as it has been. We talked to our family about being proud of who we are because if we act ashamed of our family, our daughter will grow up feeling the same way. I’ve had a few arguments with my mom for telling her neighbors that I have a wife, and we can’t have anyone showing our daughter that our family is less than any other.” —Chad Scanlon
“I’m divorced now, so people just see me and my son together, not two gay dads and a kid. Our son was three years old when we separated, and people don’t really ask me prying questions anymore. We’re lucky because we live in an accepting community, but I will say, though, airports are where it always got weird. There were lots of stares from people. I’m the type of person who just stares right back. I literally don’t stop until you look away.” —Frank Lowe
“At our daughters’ former nursery school, we were the only LGBT-headed family. During the second year with the school, I arrived late to an All Parents Meeting. It was standing room only, so I stood in the doorway near the front of the room. Everyone in the meeting was facing in my direction. A new parent had stood to ask the question, ‘Have we done outreach to try and diversify attendance? For example, have we reached out to LGBT-parented families?’ Every head immediately swung around and looked right at me, standing there at the front of the room. I just slowly raised my hand and, with a sheepish smile, said, ‘Um, that would be me?’” —Bill Delaney
“The questions have decreased drastically since Harper has been able to speak in complete sentences, and because she is determined to talk to everyone. She does not grasp the concept of ‘stranger danger,’ unless you are dressed as the Easter Bunny. We are now ‘outed’ everywhere we go. Whether we’re at the hardware store, our bank, or the TSA line—everyone knows that Harper has two dads. Harper either tells everyone, ‘This is my dada and this is my daddy,’ or she will quickly correct someone, with sass, if they make a comment about her daddy, and they are talking to Matthew.” —Trey Darnell
“Neither of us likes to harp on what we can’t change. We are visible. When we go out someplace, we are different and people let us know that—whether they are asking kind but inappropriate questions, or just staring and gawking at us. At some point it will just be. Don’t get me wrong, most everyone is kind to us and genuinely curious.” —Duke Nelson
“As a gay man, I feel I had to learn not to care about what people thought about me. Holding hands in public, a slow dance with my college boyfriend, a kiss in public...I’ve found that attitude serves me as a dad too. Whether I was changing a diaper in public, walking around in a freshly soiled shirt, or dealing with a tantrum, I feel being gay prepared me to ignore the gazes of strangers.” —Ian Hart