Copied from Gay Fathers of Greater Boston
Jack Vondras, Former President GFGB (1998-2000)
One of the questions that I hear the most from GFGB members is, “When is it best to come out to my kids?”. I guess it is a question that many of us have wrestled with over the years. Many dads have an opinion one way or the other.
I do not think there is a right or wrong response. Some will say it is easier when they are younger, others will say it’s easier when they are older. Some will say teens can’t deal with it because it gets in the way of their own sexual development. One new dad recently said to me that he didn’t need to ever come out to his 2 year-old daughter because he was a gay dad and she would just figure it out.
I’ll tell you my approach with my son, Peter, a number of years ago. I was out for years, had a live-in partner for years, and just about every friend we had was gay. We talked about gay issues all of the time. Peter participated in these discussions, and what couldn’t he figure out? I thought he knew I was gay.
When Peter was seven years old, his mother called one night and said that he was not getting the picture. He had said to one of his friends that he didn’t know any gay people. She asked that I have a discussion with him and use the actual words. She offered to do it if I wouldn’t, but felt it would be more sincere and real coming from me, as I am the one that is gay and out.
I was surprised and a little dumbfounded at the same time. So one night after reading his favorite bedtime story, “The Duke That Outlawed Jelly Beans” (a great book), I began a discussion by asking him if he knew any gay people? His response was, no he did not. He knew what the words meant and defined gay people perfectly. Well, I told him I was gay, and that my partner was my lover and we were a gay couple. He said he was very surprised and scared about being different from other kids. That information was very important. Peter would need to know other kids from gay families. Kids don’t want to be different, they want to fit in.
He has gone through so many phases since that time, I could fill a small book. About age nine, a teacher said he took on some other kids on the basketball court after one of them kept calling any kid that “messed up” a fag. He said “My dad is gay and he is not a bad person, so stop calling people that”. The kids went on playing and no one used that word again. That was Peter’s “in your face” phase. Now at age 12, as we were watching the Big Daddy Movie with Adam Sandler, when the gay couple kissed on the screen, I heard a nasty comment from the front of the theater where Peter, and his best friend, were sitting. After the film, Peter said it was kids next to him. He said his friend knows that I’m a gay dad and he doesn’t care. This was his “matter of fact” phase.
Recently, he asked if he would be gay because his dad is. Of course I answered the question. He will continue to ask difficult questions, especially in the coming years. I’m glad I came out to him and I’m glad he feels safe to ask me a range of difficult questions.
When it is best to come out to your kids depends on you. Are you ready? Are your kids ready? How much support will they have from their family and their community? And the most important question is: how much support will they have from you? If you’re interested in asking more questions on when to or how to, there are a number of dads that have different stories or experiences. Many of them positive, some of them not so positive. Some of their stories are pretty funny. Feel free to talk with us.