I invited my dad to Sweden for his 60th birthday. I figured 60 was as good a time as any to start living a fabulously gay life. I wanted to show him the world that existed beyond his everyday Montana and I wanted to make peace with my past.
Never one to make a rash decision, my dad stewed over it before he finally bought his ticket to Sweden. It was the first time he'd ever come to visit me anywhere, seven full years after I'd moved away from home.
This trip forever changed our relationship.
We did the typical touristy things people do when they visit Uppsala, the small university town where I lived and studied. The rest of my dad's time in Sweden was spent attending Stockholm Pride events. We went to discussion panels that featured LGBT people from all over the world.
It was amazing, especially the day we went to the pride parade.
I was both excited and tense at having my dad with me. Here I was in Stockholm with him -- no dear friends in sight and no booze -- just us.
I suggested we make shirts, something to mark this big step for both of us. We bought t-shirts. Mine was yellow, his blue. We used black Sharpies and made our shirts on the floor of the mall.
It was fun to wear them and watch my dad as he was nervous at first, but then became happy and comfortable wearing his shirt that boldly stated "I'm not straight but ..." on the front. I got a few odd and dirty looks because my shirt stated "I'm not gay but ..." I just laughed them off and enjoyed the irony of the situation. Of course someone would scoff at me for wearing a shirt proclaiming my straightness at a gay pride event, especially in Sweden, except that if you read the back of my shirt it said, "but my dad is." So I was making a big, bold statement too. I was coming out publicly to hundreds of strangers alongside my dad.
The lady that took our photo had no idea that one day it would be used to start The Gay Dad Project.
Capturing that moment has impacted my life. My Dad and I have never been the same. We don't have a perfect relationship, but that week at Stockholm pride was monumental for us.
I remember thinking that someday this very photo and moment might change my life.
In 2012 I met other kids who knew what it was like to have a parent come out.
In August, 2012, we launched a website called "The Gay Dad Project." We used the photo of my dad and me at Stockholm Pride as our first banner image. Our homemade shirts soon became printed t-shirts that we wore to Oakland Pride in 2012 which we attended with my co-founding partner, Erin Margolin, and her dad, Larry Best.
In October, my dad and I flew to L.A. to tape an episode of The Ricki Lake Show titled "When Gay People Live Straight Lives," and a newspaper article from The Great Falls Tribune was picked up by USA Today the week the episode aired in November.
Erin and Larry made their TV debut on February 10, and their story was picked up by and appeared on Yahoo! News, Shine Yahoo! Canada, and MSN.
The past few months have been a whirlwind and sometimes I have to remind myself that it hasn't even been a year yet. It feels incredible, but it also feels right. The time to speak up and the time to talk is now. There are so many other kids like me, kids that have strained relationships with their parents and kids who have felt the strain of having a parent come out.
Erin and I want them to know that they are not alone. The Gay Dad Project is a place to read the stories of others and share your story with the world if you want. We welcome all stories and all family types -- not only families with gay dads. We are The Gay Dad Project because we have gay dads ... but The Gay Dad Project is about all families who may experience someone coming out as LGBT.
Our documentary is in pre-production and later we'll begin working on a book about and for families like ours. Sometimes I think back to Stockholm in 2009. I remember watching dad proudly walk down the street with a shirt announcing to the world that he was gay. I hope The Gay Dad Project can be a place for other kids and parents to announce to the world that they are whomever they are, too.