One choice each of us has in life is to be either a proactive or a reactive person. I think that the curse of the closet many gay dads faced or are still facing, predisposes us to be reactive in significant ways. Proactive individuals (regardless of gender) frequently take the initiative in situations that are important to them, and this affords them an opportunity to set, or at least influence, the agenda when and if it suits them. All too often, those of us who hang back find ourselves marching to someone else’s drum beat. If the stakes are low, no big deal. But if the outcome is one in which you have a vested interest, being the reactor can be costly.
Wherever they are in their journey, most gay dads face a number of high stake issues where being a center stage actor is critical. The most important area is the ongoing relationship with one’s kids. Whether it be issues of child support, custody, visitation rights, behavioral ground rules, disclosures about your being gay, or anything that relates to the complicated process of building a loving, trusting and secure relationship, you have to be right there at the table working with your former spouse (for most of us) to produce outcomes that are in your kids’ best interest. The more this can be a mutual and amicable process, the better, but even if it is not, don’t throw in the towel, no matter what. Your kids are watching and they remember.
Dating is also an area where taking the initiative pays off. No matter how beautiful your “gown” or how fragrant your cologne, you will sit out lots of dances if you wait for the other guy to whisk you away from the sidelines onto the dance floor. Seriously, I may look and sound bold at times, but when it comes to asking someone for a date or even a dance, I used to (I have snagged my permanent dance partner) die a thousand deaths to take the first step. I can’t tell you how many times I have been turned down, but I never gave up. I knew that sitting home watching reruns, waiting for the phone to ring, would never work either.
It was my taking a risk to say to Patrick one Tuesday evening at a GFGB meeting a few years ago “We ought to get to know each other, and do it soon.” Almost in the next breath, he asked “What are you doing Friday night?” And suddenly all those trips to Napoleon’s, Old South Church, Primetimers, Greater Boston Business Council, and other gay venues over the previous couple of years paid off for me.
These are just a couple of instances where being proactive rather than a reactor can make a positive difference in building a satisfying life as a gay dad. Taking the initiative is being assertive, and that is different than being selfishly aggressive which can lead to resistance and destroyed relationships. You probably will not always get what you want or need in transactions with others, but it is a sure bet you won’t get much at all if you sit on your hands.
If you are by nature on the shy side, you could erase the above, and say “that’s not me. Other guys might be able to, but I could never do that.” Don’t count yourself out. Sure, every “No thanks” hurts a little bit, but less and less, especially when they are interspersed now and then with that magical word “YES!” But hey, stay away from Patrick, OK? His dance card is full.