One of my primary concerns when I began the process of separating from the person I was married to and moving out was the well-being of our two children. The same was true for their mom: we were both concerned on how they would not only adjust to our divorce, but also how they would handle my being out and gay, let alone being in a relationship with a significant person. While I could be someone they could still draw support from and come to with any question under the sun, I could not see into their future and find out how they would handle the reality of being a child of a dad who is gay — especially in a Southern context. They would simply have to adjust and adapt internally and personally to my being gay, as well as being a child — a son, a daughter — of a dad who is gay and in a significant relationship. This brought me no succor.
While I have written and talked about coming out from the perspective of the out gay parent, I am also aware that my family is now typecast by some as a “gay family” and my children will be forever “marked” as the child of a gay dad. While I told them I was gay when they were very young, without doubt they’ve discovered they have the capacity to handle stark differences from other families in our so-called liberal community of Carrboro; they’ve survived, if not at times thrived, in the freedom to crack gay jokes in our household that would get them in trouble in school; and I’ve watched as they’ve become each other’s soul mate as they share the same dad in common who has risen above the tyranny of American normality of what it means to be “family.”
In other words, the children are doing well.
I can make this claim after attending the board meeting of COLAGE, a national network of offspring, young and old, whose parents happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer expressing. Some even go by the name “COLAGER” to identify themselves as being a child of someone who is LGBTQ. The adolescent and adult children I met there were amazing, each with his or her own story, coming from different parts of the country, in which all they had in common was something unique about their parents: the courage to raise their children in a loving environment, in a relationship that held truth and honesty highly. There were those folks who had two dads, some who had two moms; others had a parent who was transgender, male to female, as well as those transgender parents who are female to male. There were some with a parent who is bisexual, once in a same-sex relationship but now in an opposite-sex relationship. Of course, in the mix were intersecting identities of ethnicity, race, national heritage, gender, class and disability, to name a few. And, some of the COLAGERS were LGBTQI themselves, while others were self-identifying as straight.
What I found unique about these offspring who gathered at the board meeting is what I find in my own children: they are doing well. Why are they doing well? Because each person developed survival, if not thriving, skills within a society that is intolerant of differences, to say the least. These skills make them a little bolder in being who they are; they are more self-assured and less brittle, come what may. They are quick to question people’s assumptions about their families; and they have keen insights into another person’s soul while being in touch with their inner landscapes at their young age.
While I was scared to come out of my closet, partially in fear of what would happen within the life of my children, I can now report from the gay parenting front lines: the children are doing well.