My “boss” in the church was very direct with me, not holding anything back in telling me how she tells churches that are interested in me as their pastor: “The first thing I tell them is ‘He’s a gay parent.’” With that emotionally charged phrased — in which being openly gay is still considered breaking the law in the Presbyterian Church (USA) — I never hear back from a church. Miffed about this title, I asked my friend John (another minister who is a dad who happens to be divorced and is straight): “Does she call you a straight parent when introducing you to a group.” He chuckled softly and simply shook his head no.
Having authored the book “On Being a Gay Parent,” which is also the title for this column in qnotes, I live the life of a common criminal in my denomination. This means I’m radical, dangerous, delirious. In reality, I am part of a large crowd of other parents who are LGBTQ and ordained in my denomination and other Protestant denominations. However, unlike them, I am out of my closet. I first crept, and then burst out of it more than 16 years ago. I still see them, and talk with them, as we catch each other’s eyes, they wink or nod my direction, do the standardized “double-take” glance, as they hope we’ll “connect,” later, after the church meeting at First Presbyterian Church of (fill in the blank).
“He’s a gay parent.” I realize, sadly, that I will probably live with this title for the rest of my life. While I lived in the closet, married to my children’s mother, I was simply “a parent.” I wasn’t a “straight parent”: I was simply a parent, in which it was assumed that I was straight. But in a world overpopulated with straight parents, with many parents who are LGBTQ not out, those of us who are out have become an interesting anomaly. I’ve met moms who are lesbian whose children are in daycare centers in which they are always introduced to new parents as “the lesbian moms.” And I know another gay dad who is always introduced at his child’s soccer game as “the gay dad.”
In some regards, what I experience with the label of the “gay dad” is similar to others who are part of a minority group in this country, like the “African-American writer,” the “deaf teacher,” or my friend Richard, who is a “gay, first-generation Mexican-American, Catholic” writer. These labels and categories, which may in part explain part of our experience in life, tend to trap us in society’s one-dimensional stereotype. It reduces the complexities of our lives, simplifying the great challenges we face, regardless of our race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, ethnicity, nationality, age, or ability. There is simply no homogenous, formulaic community known simply as “the gay community” or “the African American community.”
Who am I? I am a son, brother, dad of two young-adult children, divorcee, a partner, who also happens to be a Minister of the Word and Sacrament; a pilgrim, a director of a religious non-profit, a professor, a writer, who is Caucasian, middle-class, transplanted Yankee…who happens to be gay. : :