Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guest Post: My father's side

My dad (who you may address as #1 Dad) volunteered to write a guest post about his side of the story when I came out as gay.  Enjoy!

This is Miller’s father, giving a different perspective about my son "coming out". My comments here may not make me sound as accepting as my son makes me out to be, because I have to say I wish he was not gay. My son said that parents are the hardest people to tell. Well, the hardest person to accept as being gay is your child.

My son never uses his first name on his blog, but I will give him the pseudonym “Bill” to make it less awkward. (My last name is Miller also.)

I wish I knew when someone becomes gay. Is someone born that way? Is it early in childhood, or during puberty, or at the age whenever they realize they are gay? This last age seems to vary quite a bit between individuals. I don’t know if it was just coincidence, but I wondered about my son at age 7 already, when he seemed a little confused. But maybe a lot of 7 year-olds are confused.

When Bill’s older brother was a toddler, I told him many times that he was going to grow up and be like Daddy, and that he could not be like Mama. But with Bill, I didn’t do that. So with Bill, I was already upset at myself when he was 7 that I didn’t do that when Bill was a toddler. I remember thinking, “Oh no, I hope it’s not too late.” I told no one of my thoughts. Over a few years, I imagined what I would do if he grew up and ever told me he was gay. It seemed easy enough, I would never disown or get angry or stop speaking to him as I have heard of other parents doing. (In reality, it was not easy.)

When Bill was in middle school, he had a girlfriend, and I was relieved. I felt silly for ever having worried. For high school, as he has mentioned on his blog, he went to a Catholic school, which was all boys except during summer school. Was that a mistake? Everybody relates to their own life best, and as for me, I definitely was very interested in girls before high school. I don’t think any high school could have changed that.

From near the end of high school through most of college, I kept wondering if Bill would tell me a secret. I didn’t ask for a long time, because if it wasn’t true, then he might take it as an insult. He says now he didn’t know it himself in high school.

Considering Bill’s family, going back 3 generations on either side, including brothers, sisters, cousins of parents, grandparents, etc., there are a lot of religious conversions. It seems that roughly half change their religion/religious affiliation during their lives. Many change upon adulthood or upon marriage. The idea that people or born, marry, and die in the same religion just doesn’t seem to apply to life in a big American city, and Bill grew up in Los Angeles. For Bill’s ancestors/relatives, from Asia and small-town America, it didn’t always apply either. So I never had strong expectations that all of my children would remain in the same religion their whole lives.

When Bill came out as an atheist, I almost told him that one day when he had children, he could not expect them to always have the same beliefs he had. But I was already wondering whether he had another secret, which would make children less likely. To me, this would be a revelation much harder to take. Finally, after months more, I just asked him.

When I told my wife, his mother, that Bill was dating someone, her first words were, “Is it a girl or boy?” This took me by surprise. I never knew she had the same suspicions.

I soon told Bill about a girlfriend I had as a teenager. One day she said to me, “I like boys, but I like girls, too”. That just weirded me out. Especially since neither one of us ever heard of bisexuality. I thought I had the strangest girlfriend on earth, and even she thought she was odd and was trying to determine whether she was a lesbian or not by reading books on the subject. We broke up soon after. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone why.

After Bill told me, I told other people about my gay son, but not people who know Bill. These were people closer to my age. The first told me his sister was a lesbian. The second told me he was glad that stage in his life was over, when he was figuring things out. (What did that mean? He is married to a woman now.) The third told me she was very concerned that she would hear the same thing from her own son. The fourth told me her cousin was gay. So this was easier than I expected – does everyone have a gay relative?

Then the next person I told went into a long Biblical spiel and implied that it was my fault and said I could change my son through prayer and telling him what the Bible says. I find it difficult to believe that anybody is straight just because the Bible tells them they should be. But I stopped telling anyone else. On the one hand, I rejected her setting the blame on me, and thought of how great my son is and how proud I am of everything else that he is. On the other hand, I wondered if I could have changed anything. Quite the opposite of bullying him with the Bible, I wondered whether when Bill was 11 or 12 or 13, I should have bought a Playboy magazine and “accidentally” left it lying around the house. (Ha, ha, I think that is a joke.)

I haven’t mentioned asexuality. I suspect many people are that way, especially many who never marry, and no one holds that against them.


miller said...

I'm always curious about people's attitudes towards homosexuality vs asexuality. Some people only have an issue with homosexuality, some only have an issue with asexuality, and some have an issue with both. The conclusion I draw is that people generally don't have a clear idea of what they dislike about gayness. Is it the same-sex attraction, or the lack of opposite-sex attraction? Or something else entirely? When I hear a person's reaction to asexuality, the different issues begin to disentangle.

Larry Hamelin said...

I'm always curious about people's attitudes towards homosexuality vs asexuality.

Well, I hope you know my attitude. As far as I'm concerned, each person's (consensual) sexuality is none of my business — subject to neither my condemnation or praise — except insofar as they choose to share the details in the interests of non-judgmental friendship. I've counted people of almost every variation of sexuality among my friends.

Anonymous said...

That's a difficult story to read; I expect it was even more difficult to write. Thank you to Bill's #1 Dad for going through with this.

It's astounding how much the ignorance of sexual orientation leads to distortions of familial love. That this father feared Bill would have the “wrong” sexuality, and that he could have prevented it, and would be at fault if he allowed it. A painful account.

I'm thankful to all the human-rights campaigners of generations past and present for shifting the social awareness, and for the scientists for giving sound reality-based explanations of sexual orientation.

They have allowed the perverse views that plagued Bill's #1 Dad to be soundly refuted today, on human rights and evidence, and allow him to come to the wonderful conclusion that he loves his son as he is.

Bill's Dad said...

It was a difficult story to write, but there never was going to be any question that I would always love my son, regardless of any secrets that would come out. Perhaps I didn't say that because I know that Bill knew that wasn't an issue. But I should have said that for any other readers.

Larry Hamelin said...

I'm a father myself, with sons about Bill's age (probably a bit older). There's nothing more admirable a father can say than that he'll love his children no matter what, especially when it's tough.

Norwegian Shooter said...

As long as fathers are getting all touchy-feely on this post, I'll chime in. I've found that parents will always have concerns about their children - but that the nature of the concerns are as different as the kids. My 6 yo son is autistic. Since we found out, I haven't had any internal debates or ambiguities about how it happened or what could I have done like miller's dad. (although my wife does) But I wonder if he'll be able to go to college or be in a lasting relationship. The math whiz kid's dad worries about getting the Fields medal. The star athlete's dad about a scholarship. So it's all the same, only different.

paul said...

Funny how life goes around. I am a father of two adult sons. There was a time when I too hoped they would not be gay, and did all the prescribed stuff I could to prevent it. I'm gay and they now know it and reject me for it... did I teach them to well? I never taught them to be anti gay. Part of me (selfishly?) hopes one of their kids is gay. I think it would be harder for them to reject their kids because they are doing every thing 'right' raising their kids to not be gay now that they are armed with the knowledge that dad is gay.

Anonymous said...

It's heartwarming to read about the love and understanding Bill's #1 Dad has for Bill and Bill having his father writing in his blog. Not only both of you respect each other as father and son and vice versa, you have a great friendship. What a blessing and Hallelujah! (no religious pun intended :-D since Bill is an atheist??) Regardless of the person's sexuality, it's more important that you have the love and understanding of your family and your loved ones. And you both have that.