I am a daughter of divorce, and my dad is gay.
I recently read Breaking the Silence: Redefining Marriage Hurts Women Like Me – and Our Children when a friend of mine shared it on facebook. It has taken me a couple weeks to gather my thoughts so that I can share them in a cohesive, hopefully diplomatic post.
I want you to know that I feel sorry for Janna. The mental and emotional effects of divorce can be devastating on any spouse, and losing your children to the other parent undoubtedly feels impossible. I am sorry for the affliction that she feels, and for the loss of her children. I can NOT imagine what she is going through. I wish nothing but peace to the Jannas in this world, but I feel like her story is a little bit skewed, and I want to show the other side.
I grew up in a happy family. My parents were young when they had me, and their openness, youth, and deep love for each other and their kids was evident to anyone who came into our home. My parents were best friends, and I believed that we were the most “normal” family in the world. It turns out that my mom had known that my dad was gay for a long time. Together, they painted over the shakiness of their marriage with the reality of their friendship. They couldn’t live without one another, but an important part of their relationship was lacking.
When my dad first came out of the closet, my parents said that they were going to stay together. I was relieved that they were not getting a divorce and barely stirred by the knowledge that my dad was gay. Was it different? Yes. Was it really that bizarre? No. I had been raised to accept people for who they were, and I already knew my dad inside and out. Who was I to allow one part of him to overthrow all I knew about him?
But once the truth was out in the open, fights that had hidden behind closed doors bubbled to the surface. It was less than 4 months until my parents were officially separated. On December 1 of my Sophomore year, the divorce was final. December – an ending. 1 – a beginning.
I wish I could tell you that everything was immediately rainbows and butterflies, that my dad found himself and my mom found true happiness, that as a child, I was not affected.
But that would be a lie, and I’m not in the business of lying.
The truth is that divorce SUCKS (with a capital everything). That divorce was one of the hardest things that any of us had gone through. My parents went from being best friends to being agents of war. And my brother and I? We were what they fought for.
It’s amazing how having your parents fight for you doesn’t really make you feel loved. It makes you feel lost in the middle, like no matter what happens, it’s your fault that one of them is hurting. Thankfully, my brother and I were old enough that we were allowed a choice in where we lived, and we chose to switch between houses every week. Every Friday, we packed our things and headed from one house to the other after school. Living in two places was difficult, but it beat the alternative of choosing between our parents.
Thankfully, even though my parents were divorced and their wounds were fresh and barely healing, they did not talk badly about each other to us. Occasionally, they would catch themselves venting and apologize for what they said. They always reminded us that Mom and Dad loved us and what was going on between them had NOTHING to do with us.
So what does all of this have to do with Janna, the definition of marriage, and gay dads?
Janna states that “behind the happy facade of many families headed by same-sex couples, we see relationships that are built from brokenness. They represent covenants broken, love abandoned, and responsibilities crushed. They are built on betrayal, lies, and deep wounds.” Wow! this is a powerful statement, and the truth is that there is a portion of same-sex parent families that are built from brokenness.
But this is not caused by allowing gay couples to get married. This is caused by society forcing gay people to feel like they have to marry straight people to cure themselves. Sadly, it seems like Janna’s husband (similar to my father) got married to fix his gayness only to find that having a wife and kids didn’t change who he was. The truth is that many gay men left their wives before same-sex marriage began to be legalized. Eventually, they just couldn’t take the lies anymore. Hopefully, the way that we treat homosexuality as a society has shifted enough that gay men and women no longer feel like they have to get married in order to be fixed.
Of course, I am grateful that my dad married my mom or I wouldn’t be here. But if we are just talking about the brokenness of families, wouldn’t it be better just not to create a family that is doomed to be broken?
Janna does go on to express some legitimate concerns about her husband and his partner’s parenting. I have crossed out the concerns that seem to stem solely from Janna’s belief that just being around gay men is detrimental to her children’s development.
Their father moved into his new partner’s condo, which is in a complex inhabited by sixteen gay men.One of the men has a 19-year-old male prostitute who comes to service him. Another man, who functions as the father figure of this community, is in his late sixties and has a boyfriend in his twenties.My children are brought to gayparties where they are the only children and where only alcoholic beverages are served. They are taken to transgender baseball games, gay rights fundraisers, and LGBT film festivals.
Kids shouldn’t be around prostitutes and grown-ups-only parties regardless of whether the prostitutes and parties are gay or straight. Of course, just because your dad lives in the same building as a drug dealer doesn’t make your dad a drug dealer… or an unfit parent. Still, the fact that the kids are taken to grown-ups-only parties would make me uncomfortable as a parent. It is a shame that Janna is not in a place to talk to her husband about this issue. Perhaps if she wasn’t so vehemently against his lifestyle, he would be more open to her input.
But honestly, how many parents have not made mistakes? Maybe they haven’t all taken their kids to grown-ups-only parties where alcohol is served (though I would guess that many have), but can any parent honestly say they have parented perfectly?
My dad is not perfect. My dad, just like every other parent I have ever met, is an imperfect person who has made parenting mistakes. Painting a picture of him as the posterdad for gaydom would be a lie. And I am still not in the business of lying. No, my dad is not a perfect dad, but his imperfections and mistakes come from his fallibility as a human and a parent, not from his sexuality.
Let me repeat that: My dad’s imperfections and mistakes come from his fallibility as a human and a parent, not from his sexuality.
I believe that my dad helped shape my femininity. I believe that my dad taught me the importance of loving your children. I believe that my dad is a good, though imperfect, dad. Most importantly, I believe that the children of gay parents are far less affected than we would like to think. We say, “what about puberty?” but forget that single moms and dads have been fumbling through that awkward phase for decades. We say, “what about their sexual identity?” but forget that straight people raise gay kids all the time.
The truth is that no family is perfect. Having one mom, one dad, two moms, two dads, or some combination of the aforementioned is not going to magically make you a better or a worse person. It’s how your parents treat you and each other that makes the real difference. Gay parents are just as capable of loving children as straight parents. In today’s society, we should be thankful when any individual or couple wants to devote their lives fully to parenthood. Look at the children who live in this world unloved and uncared for. Now imagine, if all of them could have a gay dad who loved them as much as my gay dad loves me. I believe the world would be a better place.
Just to Wrap Up
Janna, I am sorry that the court gave your kids to your husband. If it truly was done simply to set a precedent without looking at who would care for the children the best, I am appalled. But please remember that the way you treat and talk about your ex-husband and his partner (and all gay people) is being watched by your children. In the short term, you may be able to convince them that dad is a bad guy for how he lives his life, but in the long term, the damage done by putting their father down for his sexuality will put a wedge between them and you.
To my readers, I hope that this snapshot into my life has given you some perspective. The next time you talk about gay parenthood, please remember that all people are capable of loving a child.
It’s been over a decade since my parents’ divorce, and everyone is doing well. My Dad did find himself even if it wasn’t immediate. My mom found true happiness. I’ve healed from the effects of divorce and am happily married to a wonderful man.
The truth is that building a family out of brokenness is a beautiful thing.
Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest. Bobbie Gross
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