Thursday, July 24, 2008


I wish my dad wasn't gay. I wish he liked women, and I wish he wanted to be with my mom, and I wish they were still married and still in love.

I wish we could all still have Christmas together and that she was not devastated by his rejection. I wish they could be grandparents together, and brag to each other about how musical and funny their grandsons are. I wish they had each other to worry about, so that I didn't feel so responsible for each of them. I sound like a little kid when I talk about this, don't I?

But it's important for me to separate out the divorce issue from the gay issue. The gay issue caused the divorce issue, but the divorce is what robbed us of all the things I just mentioned. I would still miss those things if they'd divorced for another reason.

But he is gay.
I don't believe this is a choice. I believe this is the way he was born, and because of circumstances of his youth (upper crust Boston brahmin growing up in the 40's), he couldn't admit it to himself for a very, very long time.
And for years after the divorce, I told myself that he made his choice as a young man and he never should have come out, even after he "discovered" later in life that he was gay. My sisters and I would talk about how, if WE had discovered that WE were gay 20 years into a marriage with children and a BMW and house in the suburbs, we would have carried the secret to our grave. We insisted that secrecy the honorable thing to do, and that coming out was pure selfishness--putting his happiness above ours and above our mother's.

What's hard to measure is the untold price had he NOT come out. We know the price of his coming out, and it was very high for all of us. I'm coming to believe it was high for him too. But how bad would it have been if he never had come out and had lived with the secret forever?

My mother, a total Type A control freak, has struggled with depression and anxiety her whole life. Things got pretty bad after they divorced, but who's to say they wouldn't have been much worse with the weight of that secret, unbeknownst to her, for another twenty years. How do you begin to unpack the cause (or, rather, the exacerbating factors) of your mental illness when you don't even KNOW you're living a lie?

Sure, I have had issues in my adult relationships with men, but at least I know where to start to dissect them (go into therapy and tell them your dad is gay and left your mom for a man. It gives you a lot of rich material with which to work!). If he'd never come out, I bet I'd still have the same issues, but have no idea why.

As for my dad....who knows if he would have made it? It is not uncommon for closeted gay people to become suicidal, and we all know the stories of closeted gay men who act out in dangerous ways that put their health, safety, and reputation at risk.
Not to mention that there is always a fundamental benefit, even if it takes a very, very long time to see it, to honesty and personal integrity.

Life is so, so, so, so short for all of us. How can I not wish for both my mom and my dad to be leading authentic lives? And had they stayed together, both would have been living a lie, even if only one of them knew it.
I have to believe that if the price of his coming out almost unimaginably high, the price of his not coming out would have been unimaginably higher.

To those of you who are in the midst of this process, or who are married to someone in the midst of this process, I promise you there is light at the end of the tunnel (although it will be a long and dark tunnel to be sure). You will have to grieve your marriage or your former life as if it were a death. You do not have to accept this gracefully or stoically. It fucking sucks. There is no rushing the process, and you can't progress to the next stage of grief and eventual acceptance without going through denial, anger, and intense, intense sadness.

But be gentle with yourself. This is not your fault, no matter which partner you are: the gay one or the abandoned one. Try to do the very best you can with the hand you were dealt.

Grace and strength can only come from truth. There is no shortcut, and there is no workaround. It may be impossible to believe, but everyone in your family will be better off in ten years than they would be if this secret remained in the dark. It took me years to believe this, but I finally do.

Thank you, Anna.

You put it well, and I certainly believe that getting to the good place you seem to be in now was not an easy journey. It all sounds familiar, but for me it is wonderful to hear a daughter find her voice, and give voice to truth like that. It cost my daughter an enormous effort just to admit to herself that she was angry with me for leaving--and it took long enough that when the blow did come, I had stopped bracing myself for it. Not a good time had by all...

Me, I wasted all day yesterday playing with photographs in Photoshop, and they weren't even all for immediate use here, or the photos I promised both my mother and my daughter I would "fix" for them...

I do not have a day to waste, given that I have to move an entire house in three weeks. I just wasted it, anyway. And here goes today... oops.

Here's what I'm not going to do today:

try to figure out why my newly-installed and endlessly formatted BlogRoll comes and goes like weather. Anyone out there know enough about Blogger to know how to nail it down so it stops disappearing on me? Sheesh!

Hang in there, everyone.


  1. Thanks for spotlighting my blog. Anna's story is by no means unique but rarely told or even talked of. I'm so glad she is willing to share it. While I don't think parents mean to brush aside the feelings of their kids during this difficult time I do think it happens and it's important to hear our story. The experience might be difficult to endure but usually the relationships grow stronger out at the other end.

  2. She touches on an interesting concept: life choices. Do people ever really consider that (anymore). Are they binding?

    I'm not trying to argue one way or the other, and my personal beliefs have definitely shifted over the years. But I know that I've made some.