Notes from fathers to their sons have been all over the blogsphere lately. Two of them, one horrific and one good, have gone viral. The first was not a recent note; it was written five years ago but posted two weeks ago by the gay son to whom it was sent. The passage of time has not lessened its impact; the cold disregard it communicates seems as fresh in the son's life now as it was when it was sent. The second was written by a man who was moved by the first note. He is a soon-to-be father, and his note addresses a hypothetically gay son 20 years from now.
The first letter comes from a father that the religious right would embrace. They would see him as a man of principle and "tough love." They would see the second dad as weak and misguided but still acting within the rights of a father. I, on the other hand, am their worst nightmare. I am a gay dad. I am the parent that Bryan Fischer targets in a tweet about a hypothetical "underground railroad" to "deliver" kids from gay parents. People have told me to my face that my boys and I are not "God's best plan for a family." Given that the events that led to the formation of our family seemed very much by the grace of God, I have to say that I do not agree with their opinion.
My sons, Jason and Jesse, are 10 years old. They were born to different drug-addicted mothers, and I became their foster parent, and then their adoptive parent, and have had them since they were newborns. To them, my former partner and I are Papa and Daddy, respectively. Papa loves them and sees them on visitations, but he has other life-driving events that have taken him out of our immediate family. The boys love him, and even though he is not physically present much, he is very much a spiritual part of their lives.
So, to recap, I'm a gay, divorced, single parent, the nightmare of the religious right. And yet here I am, about to step up and share my perspective on these letters, but not really from the point of view of a gay man but from that of a parent, a dad. So I would like to address the two fathers and their notes, and then address my sons with a note of my own.
To the man of the first note: I cannot, in good conscience, call you a dad. In our modern society, the verb "to father" has come to mean merely contributing DNA material to an unborn child. You did that. Congratulations, you are now on the level of thousands of foolish teenage boys. At one time you may have been an actual dad, as well: loving, caring, and wanting what is best for your child. But five years ago you wrote a note to your biological son at a time when he needed you most, and you gave him less than the least you should have offerred. In my opinion, on that day, you ceased to be a dad. Your son is now the child of us, of the world, and we will nurture him and love him the way you should have, and we will pray that he knows that we are there for him in the ways that you are not.
We recently witnessed the spirit of a true dad in Tom Sullivan as he desperately tried to locate his son Alex at a movieplex in Aurora, Colo. We saw in Tom's eyes the true terror that only a loving dad could feel, the terror that something horrible may have happened to the son he held most dear. I can't even see my computer screen as I type this, because my eyes have welled up with tears as I think about the horror Tom must have felt when he realized that his worst fears were true and that Alex lay slain inside the theater. I cannot fathom the pain that Tom felt, and probably still feels. If it were either of my sons in that situation, and I in Tom's place, all I can imagine is a place without oxygen, without life, and a darkness so horrifying that I don't know if I would ever recover. Those are the feelings of a dad losing a son. Those should be the feelings of a dad losing a son.
It is from that vantage point that I look at what you have done willfully and voluntarily. To walk away from your son just because he's gay is not, in my opinion, just ignorant; it is hate-filled, ugly, and evil. I am sure there is some "walk-in-my-shoes" point of view here that I could try to see, but right now I do not see it, and no matter what it is, I cannot see a justification for what you have done.
To John Kinnear, the man behind the second note: You are a good guy, and you are going to be a great dad. That being said, your vision of your conversation with your hypothetically gay son differs significantly from the conversation I will have with mine. Below is a letter that represents what I will be communicating to my sons in the not-too-distant future. You will see the major difference: I don't want my sons to ever hide in a closet and then have "that" conversation at a later date, about anything. That may not be totally realistic, but as they walk their paths of self-awareness, I want them to have someone to talk to along the way: their dad.
Dear Jesse and Jason,
Hi, guys. You are about to become teenagers. Wow. It seems like just yesterday that God brought us into each other's lives through adoption and I had the absolute honor of becoming your dad.
I am so amazed by each of you. You are becoming fine young men, and when I have told you every single day for the last 10 years that I love you more than anything, I have meant it. I love our talks, our sharing, and how you tell me all about your days and how you feel about your friends. I love sharing books and movies and even hearing about the latest dilemmas and conquests within your Pokemon games. I even love that you tell me what you are afraid of, so that we can face those things together.
When you were babies, I imagined what each of you might be like when you grow up -- what your interests would be, what your hopes would entail, and what your lives would be like. You are now about halfway there, and I have to tell you, I could not be more thrilled. Getting to know each of you and the bond that we have in our souls is the most profound adventure I have ever known.
In the next few years you are going to change. You are going to grow up. You are going to discover within yourselves new tastes, new ideas, and new instincts. You know we have rules and principles to live by that make us good citizens and help us to never harm others and to be loving, caring beings. With those principles, I hope you guide the new and developing you that emerges. I also hope that you continue to feel free to share with me your feelings, thoughts, aspirations, and dreams.
Someday you will fall in love. As we have talked about, there are men who fall in love with women -- quite a lot of them, actually -- and then there are men who fall in love with other men, like Papa and I did. As you develop into the men you are going to be, your instincts will tell you which of these you are. Your instincts may also tell you that you are both. I don't know.
Here is the important point, however: I won't care. I only care that you are happy and the best you that you can be. I care that you strive for your dreams, that you are in touch with the spirit of the universe (I call Him God, but what you call him/her/it will be up to you), and that you treat all people well along the way. I won't care about the gender or ethnicity of your future spouse; all I will care about is that you honor and nurture each other and support each other's value as people, and that neither of you lose your identity behind the desires of the other.
Guys, I did not have you by accident. I did not have you because other people thought I should. I had you because I wanted you more than I have wanted anything, and I wanted to give you the greatest life possible. Earlier, I mentioned your dreams. These are mine.
There are things you will win, and there are things you will lose, but regardless, you will always have a champion: your dad. I am here for you, and I always will be.
You make me proud.
In our house, closets are now, and in the future, for clothes.
An earlier version of this piece appeared on evoL = .