When life happens every parent faces the question of how a child may respond to this event/situation.
Will it hurt them? Will it make them confused? Will it bring us closer or pull us apart? Will they get angry, sad, or mad? Will this help them grow or will this stall their progress? Coming out is certainly one of those events that rattled my nerves and brought these questions up.
These questions can paralyze the first-time parent. I remember with my first child debating back and forth with my ex-wife as we tried to figure out between formula or breastmilk. I remember scrutinizing little things like day-care situations down to exhaustion so that we just ended up deciding one of us would always be home with the kid. All the small things aside, parents also make huge life decisions based on the well-being of the children.
But, what about those things that a parent can’t control? Those things are not as flexible as daycare settings. Well, I’ve come to learn that these things, although difficult, are things that affect our children in the most positive way because it is through these things a parent and a child bond through human experience and vulnerability.
The things we can’t control humble us and when our child sees us humbled by life their view of superhuman parent disappears momentarily and we become beings on their level. I remember seeing my father cry and it made me feel a longing and a love for him, even more so than when he fixed the car.
In his authentic vulnerability I would find myself reaching out to embrace him for his good, which is rarely the case for a young child. The act however, shows tremendous relationship building and strengthening.
This is what coming out did for the relationships with my sons. It placed me on a level playing ground with them. It showed them that we as people don’t have to have it all figured out and that it’s OK not to. It’s OK to adjust, change, and accept the direction of your life as life happens. It also showed them that we all catch ourselves at some point and have to stand up and face the truth. It’s in that moment that a person either evolves into a greater being or digresses into a depression. When I came out to my son he simply hugged me and said, “Wow dad… I see why you wrote a book about it!” and then we went on our way playing.
Life as I knew it changed in many ways after coming out and it has been so very fun to explore some of these with my son.
Before coming out I was the type of closet homosexual who displayed hyper and often toxic masculinity to shield my gay from being exposed.
I held in emotions, I acted tough, I said stupid things like “boys don’t cry” and “a real man knows how to yield an axe.” All the while there was this little boy screaming inside of me saying, “Let me out! I want out to dance, perform theater, I want to laugh, I want to cry, LET ME OUT so I can play with your son!”
Coming out opened up the possibility for our relationship to experience fun and play together in a real authentic way. It has allowed me to let loose with my kids, and to fully be present in their lives, not always concerned with how straight I am acting or if I’m teaching them the right way to grow into a “man.”
I can now help them to grow not into “men,” but people of strong values of love, truth, kindness, and authenticity. Our relationships have only become stronger by weaving it together with the threads of openness and vulnerability.
My Best Gay Self is a column by author, speaker, fitness coach and LGBTQ addiction and wellness advocate, Mark Turnipseed. He is also the Owner and CEO of Integrity Endurance, a network of personal trainers with the goal of fighting the opioid crisis through fitness. Visit www.markaturnipseed.com to learn more/contact or to find his book "My Suicide Race: Surviving the trauma of addiction, recovery and coming out."