At 19, I came out of the closet to my parents. It was a shock, but not a surprise. At the time, I wasn't quite ready to stand up to my parents' beliefs and hold true to my own. So I slunk back into the closet until I was confident enough to be authentically me. Along the journey, I butted heads with my dad on numerous occasions mostly because he is my dad and we're cut from the same stubborn, my-way-or-the-highway DNA. But that doesn't mean that I was unable to learn anything from him. And as Father’s Day creeps up on me, I'm reminded of all the life lessons I've learned from my straight father.
Lesson #1: Thanks, Dad, for teaching me the lesson of standing in your beliefs, and showing me the danger of being overtly bull-headed.
As the years progressed and I chose to marry a woman not of my faith, I once again found myself in the ring with my dad, this time wearing the religious boxing gloves. Never having seen myself as a prize-winning fighter, I suddenly found myself timidly stepping up to the center of the ring and saying, "But what if your religious beliefs aren't exactly true? Who's to say there's not a hundred different ways to be religious and spiritual besides the way you see it, Dad?"
Lesson #2: Thanks, Dad, for teaching me to never assume anything.
If I had assumed that owning a home would end in a disaster we wouldn't have bought the house, loved it, stayed in it until our first daughter was born and then upsized to the house that ended up being the financial boon during our divorce that enabled me to break the assumption that coming out late in life would leave me broke out on the street. Obviously, I didn't end up on the street, broke and homeless!
Within 13 years of the fabulous wedding, and with lots of parental interruptions over raising children, surviving marriage, being a "man" and creating success, I finally got the best wisdom I could from my dad on the day that I came out of the closet. He said, "I cannot accept your lifestyle and never will!" Ahem, needless to say, this Father's Day he is here, celebrating Father's Day and graduations with me and my partner, our two daughters, my mom, and my ex-wife.
Saying things in the heat of the moment never really works and allowing people to grow into situations, even if it takes years for them to grow, should be a best practice for life. My dad and I continue to agree to disagree about my "lifestyle choice" (because he treats my orientation like, you know, I ordered it in the drive-thru at Lifestyles R US: "Yes, I'd like to order a gay lifestyle with a side of bitchy queen, societal disapproval and add an extra dollop of second-class citizen.
Oh, and make that to go! While you're at it, make that lifetime supply so that I never get hungry for filling less than for being gay and who I am authentically to my core.") Even through our disagreements, the ups and downs, and the silence that hangs in the air through many of our conversations, there's one truth my dad taught me and it is the greatest Father's Day gift he ever gave me: "What you believe is what you believe. You have that right to your beliefs, and don't let anyone, for any reason, take that right away from you."
Happy Father's Day Dad from your gay son! Thanks for the lessons you never knew you taught me!
Rick Clemons, The Coming Out Coach
Certified Professional Coach (CPC)
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This article originally appeared on YourTango.com: "As Told By A Gay Son: 3 Life Lessons From My Straight Father"