Gay Dad Life

Why I Came Out as a Gay Dad at 40

Matt Mason realized he was gay at 16 years old. But it would take another 24 years, a marriage and three children before he finally uttered the words "I'm gay" aloud

When I came out, I felt completely alone. Like I was the only person in the world -- a 40 year old, newly-single gay dad with twin toddlers and a teenage son -- going through the coming out process. Obviously I wasn't the first, or the last, but it certainly felt that way while I was in the thick of it.

Now that I'm on the other side of coming out, I want to share my experience. I don't pretend to have all of the answers. But, perhaps I can provide someone contemplating coming out later in life some comfort, if not courage. Some experience, if not guidance. Maybe those who have already come out will be able to relate to my story -- we are not alone in this.

When Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, officially came out as gay, he ended his letter by saying:

"When I arrive in my office each morning, I'm greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don't pretend that writing this puts me in their league. All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I'm doing my part, however small, to help others. We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick."

That paragraph has stuck with me since the day I read it. This is the first in a series of essays about my journey. This is my brick.


Why I Came Out as Gay Dad at 40

I was barreling down the Iowa country highway in my old Chevette, jamming to Madonna's "Like A Prayer" album. It was 1989 and I was on the way home from my after-school shift at the local Dairy Queen. Out of nowhere, I was sideswiped with a life-changing epiphany: "Matt, you're gay."

I'm not exactly sure what triggered the realization, but there it was. I was sixteen years old. I lived in a rural, conservative and deeply religious mid-western community on a pig farm. As quickly as the thought came into my head, my inner-dialogue, knee-jerk response was even quicker, "Nope. No you're not. You can't be. You won't be."

Despite a bedroom covered in Madonna posters and a secret obsession with my mother's Mary Kay makeup and highest heels, I'd deny it all. And, that I did. It took me 24 years, a marriage and three children to actually utter the words "I'm gay."

It's easy to imagine why I wasn't ready to accept my reality at sixteen. I endured years of relentless teasing in middle and high school. My nickname was "Lamar" after the feminine character in "Revenge of the Nerds" (I still quietly shudder every. time. I hear that word). In my 7th grade class of fifty students, I was the only boy who didn't go out for football. I always got along better with girls than with boys. I felt lonely, ashamed and less-than for much of my high-school career. I spent every day trying to blend in -- to not be seen or heard.

Matt's son and twins girlsPhoto credit: Kliks Photography Iowa

What I couldn't have known at that age, is that the choice I made as a teenager would set me on a trajectory that would make it more and more difficult as each year, and major-life decision, passed, to ever become my true, authentic self.

So why, at 40 after getting married and having three kids, did I decide to finally come out? Why did I wait so long?

First, I was fortunate to have been married to my best friend. I started dating Tracey when I was nineteen. By the time I came out, I had lived more of my life with her than without. We thoroughly enjoy spending time together -- we have the same taste in and love for music, enjoy the same movies and television, our politics align perfectly and we make each other laugh. Often. It was a wonderful marriage in almost every aspect. Except, the whole gay thing.

To make the marriage work, we had to make compromises. But in the end, those compromises began to tear at the very fabric of the relationship. We went from making compromises to feeling compromised. Thankfully, we felt it simultaneously. It was time to end the marriage, but luckily we were both well-formed enough to know that even though our relationship as we knew it was ending, we needed to remain co-parents and friends forever.

There were children to consider -- Ethan was ten and the twins, Maren and Olivia, were one-and-a-half. I really had to think about what this all meant for them. This decision, how it all went down, was going to affect them for the rest of their lives. What I finally realized is that coming out, and becoming my true self, would likely be one of the best lessons I could ever teach them.

One, it showed them that Dad made a big mistake. I wasn't honest with myself or the people in my life, and I had to fix it. How I fixed it was critical. Being a responsible dad forced me to ask the question "what will my kids say about this choice?" when making any big decision. I know I'm a better person, and in a better place, for it.

I also wanted to be able to tell them that they should always be true to themselves. How could I give this advice living as a gay man in straight marriage and not feel like a fraud? I couldn't any longer.

The weight of hiding and being dishonest takes a lot of bandwidth -- more than I ever realized. Since coming out, I know I'm a better father. I'm lighter. I'm happier. I no longer have the dreadful voice in my head (think Bianca Del Rio) screaming, "You're gay and living a lie!" Most importantly, I can look my kids square in the eye and say, "Be you. Always be you." and they'll know that I damn-well mean it.

There's never a good time to come out. It's hard no matter when you do it. I waited until I was 40 and had twin toddlers and a teenager. Do I regret waiting so long? Sometimes. But, I'm also so thankful for three beautiful children that I probably wouldn't have, had I made a different choice at sixteen. How could I regret that? I don't. I accept it as my past.

If you're a gay dad in a straight relationship, my advice is simply this: come out when you're ready. Nobody but you can know when the moment arrives. Coming out isn't easy, but I can tell you from where I'm sitting, that the most painful of moments will pay off with a freedom, and a proud authenticity, that you just can't imagine today.

Show Comments ()
Entertainment

"To Have and To Hold" Features Gay Dads Co-Parenting with Ex-Wife

To Have and To Hold: Charlotte, on Oprah's OWN channel, includes two gay dads and the challenges and opportunities that arise while co-parenting with one of the men's ex-wife

A modern family of two dads and a mom are featured in the latest reality television show, To Have or to Hold: Charlotte, showing on Oprah's OWN channel. And we can't wait to tune in!

To Have and To Hold: Charlotte follows the real challenges couples face, from financial stress, to issues with intimacy, to the ups and downs of parenthood. Dads Joshua Anglero and Peter Anthonii, and mom Juliana Gutierrez are raising their two kids together and are ready to share what life is like as a co-parenting family.

Keep reading... Show less
Coming Out

How Coming Out Helped This Gay Man Find the Strength to Be a Dad

Steven Kerr shares the moment he came out to his ex-girlfriend. "From that moment on," he writes, "my strength and purpose have grown."

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Family Stories

One Gay Dad's Path Towards Realizing Being Gay and Christian are Not Mutually Exclusive

Gay dads Matt and David Clark-Sally talk about coming out, parenting as gay men, and reconciling faith and sexuality.

Coming out in your 30s is difficult. But coming out while blending a family, parenting two kids, and reconciling faith and sexuality? Some may call that crazy.

For gay dads Matt and David Clark-Sally, that's just what they did. And they couldn't be happier!

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

Judge's Decision in NY 'Compassionate Surrogacy' Case Involving Gay Dad Overturned

Though compensated surrogacy remains illegal in New York State, "compassionate surrogacy" arrangements are remain legal

Last week, an unanimous four-judge panel, part of the New York Appellate Division in Brooklyn, New York, revived a gay dad's petition to adopt his son born via surrogacy. The dad, identified as "Joseph P." in court documents, had earlier been denied his petition to adopt by a Queens County Family Court Judge, John M. Hunt. The Queens judge denied the petition because compensated surrogacy contracts are illegal in New York. However, the child born to Joseph was born via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning his gestational surrogate was not compensated.

The Appellate court's decision, written by Justice Alan D. Scheinkmanm called Hunt's decision "clearly erroneous," and held that a new Family Court judge should re-hear the case.

Judge Hunt's decision is all the more confusing since Joseph had actually already become a father via surrogacy in New York—three times over. In each instance, he used donor eggs and a friend serving, voluntarily, as the gestational surrogate. He had his first child in 2012, and then twins the following year. In all three instances, a Family Court judge granted Joseph's adoption petition, given that each child was conceived via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning no money changes hands in the course of a surrogacy journey between carrier an intended parent. This type of surrogacy arrangement is not illegal under to New York law. The social worker in Joseph's latest attempt to adopt, Gay City News noted, also gave him a favorable review, calling him "a mature, stable, and caring person who intentionally created a family of himself, the twins, and John."

Gay City News notes: "Justice Scheinkman provided a careful description of the laws governing surrogacy in New York. The Legislature provided that surrogacy contracts are unenforceable and treated as void. However, the only surrogacy contracts actually outlawed are those where the surrogate is compensated. It was clear to the Appellate Division that the Legislature did not mean to outlaw voluntary surrogacy arrangements, merely to make them unenforceable in the courts. Those who enter into a compensated surrogacy agreement face a small monetary fine and people who act as brokers to arrange such agreements are liable for a larger penalty. There is no penalty for voluntary, uncompensated surrogacy arrangements."

Read the full article here.

Entertainment

How Fatherhood Has Impacted Tom Daley's Diving Career for the Better

British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Change the World

One Gay Dad's Fight Against Hate in Superior, Nebraska

Brian Splater is refusing to let homophobic and transphobic elected officials in his town go unchecked

Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics

America's First Gay Dad Governor Heads Into the Lion's Den

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently became the first elected Democrat to speak at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver

Last Friday, American's first gay dad Governor, Jared Polis, became the first elected Democrat to speak at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he urged the Republican crowd to help him build a "Colorado for all."

"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse