WHO WE ARE
We are a group of ordinary gay guys from diverse backgrounds who are fathers and have a wide range of experience of the issues around being a gay dad.
GAY DADS STORIES
Turning my world upside down
I was 37 when I decided to do something about my sexuality. A late starter perhaps but at least I was going to prove to myself once and for all that I was not gay - only "curious". After all being gay was something that happened to someone else and gay men were not meant to be fathers were they? How wrong could I be? The first time I went to bed with a man proved that. I felt I had finally arrived home. I felt a burst of elation and excitement. Being gay was what I was meant to be.
Over the next few months I explored my newly recognised sexuality but with increasing feelings of guilt and depression. My head filling with questions of why me, why did I not deal with it earlier, what will this do to my children and family, what will it do to my wife? It was not uncommon for me to spend the 30-minute car journey to work in tears or to have to shut the office door while I slowly fell apart into a weeping mess.
At home I would look at the children thinking how I was destroying their childhood and their trust in me. How else could what I was doing be interpreted other than as a totally selfish act that would deeply hurt those I loved the most? The relationship with my wife started to fall apart with long silences, arguments and spiteful comments increasingly becoming the norm. The children also started to suffer and began to show signs of stress. Again this was proof of how nasty and selfish I had become.
It became clear that this situation could not go on and would have to be resolved. Easy to say now but at the time it took several more months to come to this conclusion. The catalyst for change came after about 15 months when I was made redundant. I was at rock bottom and took the view that I deserved what ever I got, so with the support of a few gay friends and my counsellor at Gay Men's Health (GMH), I told my wife. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do but it was the first milestone on the road to recovery for want of a better word.
Contrary to my expectation my wife was very supportive. In a way she was relieved that it had all come to a head and that I had told her and not kept her blaming herself for the problems with the marriage. We discussed all the options on how to deal with the situation but decided that it was better if we divorced. Over the next few months we told our families of our decision and the reason for it. Again I was fortunate to get the support not only from my own family but also that of my wife's. I finally moved out of the family home 12 months later to a flat 15 minutes walk away.
This was milestone 2 and heralded the next major dip into depression. This time however I was better prepared for it and set about putting together my survival pack. If I looked after my own health then I would be in a better position to look after my children while they were going through the marriage split.
I went to my doctor who allowed me the time and space to talk. He agreed to see me on a regular basis and suggested homeopathic anti-depressants. He gave me advice on health issues and directed me towards support agencies such as GMH.
I contacted GMH for help again. I was allocated a counsellor who helped me map out the issues in my life, take them apart and put them back together in a way that helped me come to terms with my new gay life and how it affected my parenting skills. This took several months of hard work that often left me empty and drained, but the rewards slowly materialized. At the end of it, I no longer consider myself to be a gay parent but a parent who happens to be gay, an important distinction as it takes the emphasis off being gay and on to being a parent.
Prior to starting my counselling I saw an advert for Gay Dads Scotland and contacted them. The first meeting was nerve wracking but it was a major relief to find people in exactly the same situation as me. This organization has been a big factor in helping me deal with being gay and a father. I found people who were 2, 3, 4 or more years further on than me. But importantly they had survived and could understand the stages in the process I was going through and were there to support me. There was help and advice on parenting issues in a gay environment. Listening to other gay dads discuss parenting issues helped me ensure that my ex-wife and I carried on working together to guarantee the well being of our children.
Slowly but surely life is improving. I have a partner now who has met my children and who is understanding and supportive of their needs. My children have been to events with the children of other gay dads and will be going again in the future. My ex-wife and I now have a better relationship than when we were married and we regularly discuss how the children should be raised and their futures. The children have 2 homes where they are relaxed and happy and are assured of their parents love. I am slowly coming out at work and have been on Gay Pride marches proudly holding the Gay Dads Scotland banner for all to see.
Finally milestone 3 came with the arrival of my oldest child's straight "A's" school report. Despite the break-up of his parents marriage he has felt safe and secure enough not only to maintain his marks but improve them, a wonderful result that gives me confidence that my children are OK.
I am now approaching 41 and writing this now it is difficult to see why coming to terms with being gay and a father was so difficult. Perhaps to the reader it looks that way too but I have had to do a lot of soul searching and work on myself to survive and come out the other side to be there for my children. There will be many more milestones ahead but I believe that I will get through them just like I got through turning my whole world upside down.
Coming Out to my family
When Jack took the difficult decision to divorce after 30 years of marriage, he did so with a heavy heart.
Not only did the 61-year-old still care for his wife but he was worried how his children would take the news that he was leaving their mother for another man.
Luckily for Jack, despite their initial shock, he is on good terms with his cherished three adult daughters. “When I came out as gay, some people were shocked but others said they had always had an inkling,” he said.
“For me it was a relief. I had gotten married at the age of 19, it was the done thing and I did love my wife. Being gay was not something ever discussed. The first ten years I lived a straight life and loved seeing my daughters being born and growing up but then these thoughts and feelings started to crowd my mind.
“I stuck at my marriage for my children’s sake, I wanted to wait until they had grown up. When I did finally come out, it was such a relief. I was finally going to lead the life I was meant to lead and not a dual life. I met someone, and it all felt right.”
Ten years ago Jack heard about the charity Gay Dads Scotland, which has seen hundreds of gay dads meet and gain support over the years. He is now their chair, keen to help others like the group helped him.
The group is a mix of married, separated, divorced and single gay fathers who are all interested in understanding gay parenting issues and how to provide themselves and their children with a positive life experience. Some of the group are openly gay whilst others are still coming to terms with their sexuality.
The dads meet monthly and come from all walks of life and a wide age group, with members ranging in age from their early twenties to those in their 70s. Around twenty meet regularly at a venue in Edinburgh.
When the last venue recently closed down, one of Jack’s daughters helped sort out a new meeting place. “For me I had a positive outcome, and nowadays people barely blink an eye when you say you are a gay dad. So society has moved on. But we still have the same parenting issues as anyone else. There are dads who have good relations with their exes. But others don’t and are having difficulties in maintaining contact with their children. When we meet we do an informal explanation of our situation and then open up the debate. We basically let people get things off their chest.
“There are many men is Scotland who feel very isolated as they try to deal with being a gay parent with no support. The group exists to help fill that gap.
“Sometimes the hardest thing is just plucking up the courage to go to your first meeting. When you hear other people relate their experiences it stops you feeling so isolated. Empathy from others can be so reassuring.
“I feel so much happier and confident now, and want to impart that support and experience to others. A man told me that he came out to his son, who is aged 19. The son said, dad I still love you, no-one under 30 will care in the slightest.”
* Gay Dads Scotland welcomes contact from affected dads - go to www.gaydadsscotland.org.uk or on their Facebook page @gaydadsscotland
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