Coming Out

Gay Dads Share Their Coming Out Stories for National Coming Out Day

We asked several gay dads to share their coming out stories in honor of National Coming Out Day, whose stories are heartwarming, instructive, and everything in between

As we celebrate National Coming Out Day, we look at some of the coming out stories of dads in our community. Their stories are as heartwarming as they are instructive for anyone looking for some advice on navigating the difficult, but empowering, coming out process.


#1. "Confide in someone who's been through it" -David Blacker

David Blacker (left) with his husband Alex Goldstone and their son, Maxwell

"I came out to my parents around the age of 26 when they visited me in California, where I had been living for a couple of years. My goal all week was to tell them, but no matter how many times I tried to bring it up, the conversation veered off to other topics. At one point I tried telling them while I was driving us to the beach; and I was so stressed out that I wasn't paying attention to how fast I was going, and ended up getting a speeding ticket (side note: the officer was super hot).

Finally, the last evening before they left, I made reservations at a nice restaurant in Venice beach and I was determined to tell them (I picked a noisy restaurant incase there were lots of tears). I kept trying to bring it up throughout dinner, but there was no good opening.

At last, I wrote a few words on a napkin and covertly passed it to my mom. It said: Ask me if I'm gay. And that was the ice-breaker.

It was stressful and uncomfortable, but I was and am fortunate to have my family's full support. I felt relieved afterwards, though it took some time for my family to believe that I really was gay (apparently my teenage Whitney obsession wasn't enough of a giveaway).

My advice to others who are still in the closet… before you tell the people most important to you, confide in someone who has been through it. Hearing other people's success stories will give you the confidence you need to come out, when the time is right. Just don't wait too long, because not being your authentic self is exhausting."

#2. "Take baby steps" -Clayton Shelvin

Clayton Shelvin (left) with his husband Andy Forester and their daughter

"At the age of 20, I was engaged to a woman. I was in college and at the time really was trying to convince myself that I was straight. During that time I met a friend who was gay. He began having conversations with me about his own coming out story and it unlocked a part of me that I hid for so long. It was that next year when the engagement was called off and I met a group of gay men who took me in and really introduced me to gay bars, dinner parties, my first PRIDE and true friendship.

The following year on New Year's Eve, I begin to feel that if I didn't share this big secret with my family, that I would explode. I have always been close to my family, especially my mother, and hiding this felt wrong. At midnight I called my sister and simply said the words...."I'm gay".

The next day I got a call from my mom asking me to come over for dinner. I arrived and she immediately took me into her arms and told me, "You're going to be okay, and I'm always going to love and I'm always going to support you."

I'd waited to hear those words forever. It gave me permission to live my truth and to allow myself to be happy. Different members of my family had different feelings about it and I lost a lot of friends, but I had to go through that to really find the people who would support me and who would always accept me.

My advice to anyone struggling to come out is to take baby steps. Find those people in your life who you know are going to lift you up and love you no matter what. Surround yourself early on with people like you and don't let fear or what others may think block you from finding your own happiness. The other side of the rainbow is filled with amazing memories, love and endless possibilities."

#3. "Love and accept yourself"  -Ryan Sirois Heller 

Ryan Sirois Heller with his two kids

"Well I can't say it was necessarily a shock to anyone when I came out. I think there were neon signs from an early age. That said, my sexuality was no longer a secret when I was 16 years old, which was in 2000.

I wish it were a more polished story, but truth be told at that age I was not only experimenting sexually quite a bit, but also with drugs. The two went hand in hand as I was dealing with a lot at that time, so I found comfort in rebellion.

My sophomore year of high school I had a party at the house while my parents were out of town. My cousin was at the party and saw me making out with a guy. The next morning when my parents realized the house was trashed, they pressed my cousin for information and he told them everything — about the drugs, about my sexuality.

So needless to say my parents took a huge blow and found out a lot of things about me all at once. My "coming out" was stained with drugs, sex and lies.

In regards to my sexuality, my mom took it best — especially because she already knew for quite some time upon her own suspicions.

My family in general was also OK. My father had a harder time and I remember distinctly him sitting across from me saying that he accepts me as his son but not my "lifestyle". Meaning my sexuality. He and I had a very rocky few years, but have an amazing relationship now.

After I came out, I became more promiscuous and fell into drug addiction. Although I was out, I never accepted my sexuality myself. I wanted everyone else to accept me but I was filled with so much shame about it that I didn't accept myself.

So for many years I struggled with addiction, sexuality, relationships. It took a long time to realize that it was me who didn't love and accept me. But today, with years of recovery and spiritual work, I've come to a much more forgiving and accepting place of myself and others. But it takes work and coming out is no one size fits all. And in my experience it's not a one time admission — it was a journey of acceptance. One that i still walk and am happy to share with others."

Ryan has written about growing up gay, coming out, addiction and recovery/acceptance in his book "King of Stars." Available on his website: RyanSirois.com

#4. "Living a life of lies is not living life at all" -Jeremy

Jeremy (right) and Josh with their two kids

I came out to my parents when I was 15 years old. It was one of the hardest things I did. I remember the tremble in my voice, the tears running down my face and the tightness in my chest.

My parents listened and asked questions like how long I've had these feelings and if I've acted on these feelings before. At the time I hadn't but I knew I was not attracted to women.

Immediately after telling them I felt a calm feeling come over me. I was at peace and finally truthful to myself.

Now, living in Utah, the Mormon church is very prominent, so my parents wanted to put me into counseling to make sure I was making the right choice. I went to a few sessions and I was told I could learn to suppress my feelings and become a normal person in society. They wanted me to pretend to be someone I'm not. I fought with my inner thoughts about this and ultimately decided to be true to myself.

The advice I'd have for others is always be true to yourself and don't let society pick who you can or can't be. Living a life of lies to fit in is not living life at all.

So much has changed in just the past 5 years when it comes to gay rights. Stand up, be honest with yourself, and be proud of who you are!"

#5. "Be ready for any outcome," -Jason

Jason (left) and Zack with their son

"It was Thanksgiving and I was a Junior in college. I was home for the holidays and I had already come out to my friends at school but felt ashamed / couldn't be myself in my own home.

My dad had passed away a few years earlier, so I was afraid to lose my other parent in the process of coming out.

Eventually, my mom could see how sad and depressed I was and kept pushing the topic of what was wrong. Eventually, I told her my secret, we cried and she asked a lot of questions. It obviously took her some time to get use to the idea of having a gay son, but she's never looked back and is my biggest supporter.

My advice to others looking to come out- you have to be ready for any outcome. It may take you a long time or a short time to come out... there is no time limit. But, it is important for you to live your authentic truth and be proud of who you are.

I never thought in a million years that I would be able to marry and have a kid...but being authentic has given me so much more in life."

#6. "I felt pressure to hide who I was..." -Richard

Richard Kocher with his daughter

"I was lucky to grow up in a very welcoming household and liberal area (San Francisco Bay). I was out to my family and my friends by the time I was 13. Everyone from my water polo team to my close friends to my high school classmates were very supportive.

When I joined the military in college, because of Don't Ask Don't Tell – I felt pressure to hide who I was again. Although I loved my job, I always kept a distance from my fellow service members fearing I could be kicked out. I left active duty a couple years later and gradually came out again.

Today, I'm married and have a 3 year old daughter. Post Don't Ask Don't Tell, I'm still a reservist and just finished serving at a navy expeditionary combat command that has been very supportive of me and my family. I was just selected for Commander and I'm happy to still be serving my country."

#7. "I was missing out on so much in life" -Michael

Michael Bellavia with his son

"I was a nerd and a goody two shoes growing up. That provided good cover to my sexuality all through junior high and high school even though I knew who I was. I basically used academics as my closet.

That lasted well into my mid twenties until I finally decided I was missing out on so much in life and I should start exploring. Soon after, I came out.

I remember that my sister basically pushed me out. She was upstairs in her room, my mom was downstairs in the living room, and I was on the landing of the staircase between floors. My sister was yelling down to her that I didn't want to go on dates with girls because I'm gay and my mom yelling up to her that that couldn't be true. A few minutes of this closet case yelling ping pong match went by and I fessed up to my mom. And I haven't looked back since.

Thankfully my family was very embracing and it was a safe environment to be myself."

#8. "I'm lucky to be who I am..." -Michael

Jeff and Michael (right) with their daughter

"1995 was a big year. It started out with me living and working at my brother-in-law's upstate NY garden center after I dropped out of college. I was extremely depressed. I had left all of my friends behind who I thought wouldn't accept the secret truth of who I was, but had no idea how to meet new friends who would.

I had a choice. I could stay in this prison and wither, or I could somehow find the strength to survive. And luckily I did. In February I cut off my hair (except for one braid, I'll blame it on the 90s) and I chose to live. I shared my truth with some new friends I had made, then my sister and brother-in-law who were very supportive. The weight of the world was lifted.

In April I met my first boyfriend while out one night at a local college (with the help of some liquid courage) and fell madly in love. In May I came out to my parents in an empty, too-quiet Chinese restaurant. Then after my own version of a "Call Me By Your Name" summer I followed my boyfriend who was moving to NYC and got my heart broken soon after I got there.

But it got me there. And I wouldn't be where I am today without any of it. I am incredibly grateful for my journey and wouldn't change a thing. I'm lucky to be who I am and so lucky for all I have. And it really does get so much better. Happy #NationalComingOutDay. #LiveYourTruth"

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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!

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Republican Utah Lawmaker, and Dad of Two, Comes Out as Gay in Moving Video

Nathan Ivie has many important identities he's proud of: Mormon, Republican, Utahn, father of two... and gay.

In a moving video posted to Facebook, Republican lawmaker Nathan Ivie finally admitted publicly something he's known since the age of 9: he's gay. Ivie, who serves as a County commissioner, is now the first openly gay Republican elected official in the state of Utah. His coming out video has already been viewed more than 25,000 times:

"There's no easy way to say this, I might as well just jump up and say it: I'm gay," Ivie says in the video. "That's my reality and that's what I need to talk to you about today."

In the video, Ivie reveals that he and his wife has separated. He refers to her as his "best friend and supporter," however, and that he is continuing to co-parent their two children with her.

"It's ok to be different, it's ok to live authentically," Ivie says in his video. "You can be gay and a Republican. You need to trust that people will love you for who you really are."

Jackie Biskupski, Salt Lake City's openly lesbian Democratic mayor, praised Ivie via Twitter, writing: "All the best to you, I love how a simple act of love among strangers helped you find your truth and that you are being embraced by family and friends."

Gay Dad Life

Gay Muslim Single Dad Writes Op Ed on His Path to Self Acceptance

Maivon Wahid writes about the challenges of reconciling three separate, but equally important, identities in an opinion piece for Gay Star News

Maivon Wahid, a gay Muslim single dad living in Fiji, wrote an opinion piece for Gay Star News about the challenges he's faced on his road to self acceptance.

"I feel pressure on how I am supposed to behave and how I am perceived," he wrote oh how these competing identities play out for him, day to day.

Maivon described himself as an "odd" kid, who never quite fit in--something he still relates to today as an adult. "When I enter the masjid (mosque), I am always judged and questioned," he wrote. "Sometimes it's curiosity, but sometimes it's borderline bullying." He said he found a way to be both gay and Muslim, three years ago, when he met an openly gay Imam at a conference in Australia. "It was through him I was able to first appreciate who I was, then love who I had become and celebrate it."

Being gay in Fiji, he says also makes him feel the need to hide certain parts of himself. "In Fiji, I find the need to hide so many aspects of my authentic being," he wrote.

He also wrote of complications familiar to many single gay men who became dads from previous straight relationships. He writes: "As a single parent to the most beautiful son – I was married to my ex-wife for nine years – learning to become and celebrate the person you want to be is about more than just me; it's a legacy I want to leave for him and the next generation. Although it's hard to meet like-minded people (my dating life is non-existent!), in being myself, I believe I can show others it's OK to be you, and to love whoever you want to love."

Ultimately, despite the challenges he's faced, Maivon says he has found a way to reconcile these three identities into one. "Whether you're gay, Muslim or a single parent – or all three – there is a place and space for everyone," he wrote. "I have found my place in Islam, and am comfortable being the best version of gay I can be. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

Read the whole article here.


Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Do We Have a Biological Right to Fatherhood? Absolutely, Says This Gay Dad

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Editor's Note: Below is an essay by Jay Bostick who eloquently lays out many of the reasons why he and many other readers were upset by a post we ran yesterday by Kevin Saunders titled, "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children." This post clearly touched a nerve! (Check out the ongoing discussion on our Facebook page.) While some of our readers appreciated Saunders' viewpoint, many others felt slighted by his reasoning for not having children, calling him everything from "self-involved," "selfish," and an "insufferable narcissist." Many other readers rightly questioned why Gays With Kids would even run an essay from a man who does not want children on (of all place) a parenting website.

The former point is a matter of opinion, but I'll offer some clarification on the latter. We agreed to run this post for two reasons. First, Saunders' perspective is unique among many adopted gay men. We have run countless essays on this site featuring adopted gay men who, inspired by their own upbringing, decided to give back by opening up their homes to children who need them. Saunders' experience, however, led him to conscience decision not to have children, a perspective worthy of discussion particularly by anyone who has been touched by adoption in some way. Secondly, as a 52-year-old gay man, Saunders is starting to find himself alienated from many in his LGBTQ peer group for his decision not to have kids. Again, we are so much more familiar with the opposite perspective on our page: when they become parents, many gay men find themselves ostracized from the broader, childless LGBTQ community. That the inverse is also starting to become true is a testament to the increase in LGBTQ parents in the United States, and an interesting dichotomy we believed warranted further exploration.

All that said, Saunders' essay is a matter of opinion, and one our readers (nor we) certainly don't have to agree with. This is why we were thrilled to receive this "counterpoint" to Saunders's essay from Bostick. We, at least, are enjoying the respectful exchange of ideas, and hope you are as well. Give Bostick's essay a read, as well as the original, and then let us know what you think in the comments or at dads@gayswithkids.com.

--David Dodge, Managing Editor

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I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Antwon and Nate became dads through the foster care system. Nine months after becoming licensed, they received a call on a Tuesday, and two days later, their daughter moved in. "It was very quick," said Nate. "Honestly, it was more just shock and nervousness for me."

As new parents, Nate took unpaid leave for two weeks, before going back to work part-time. Antwon didn't receive any leave.

"It's definitely important to have time off to bond, but it's also important to be financially stable when you do it," said Antwon. "I don't think you should have to choose between staying financially afloat or showing your kid love... and I don't think anyone should have to make that choice."

Only 15% of dads in the U.S. have access to paid paternity leave. We want to change this.

Watch Nate and Antwon's video to find out how:

Sign the pledge: www.dovemencare.com/pledge

Like Antwon and Nate, we're helping Dove Men+Care advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads! Over the next three months, we will be sharing stories of gay dad families and their paternity leave experience. Our goal is to get 100,000 folks to sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Dove Men+Care has collected over 30,000 signatures on the Pledge for Paternity Leave in three short months, in a mission to champion and support new legislation for federally mandated paid leave laws in the U.S. With the conversation growing on Capitol Hill, Dove Men+Care will target key legislators to drive urgency behind paid paternity leave policy and provide a social proof in the form of real dad testimonials, expert research and signature support from families across the country.

Our goal is to help Dove Men+Care bring 100,000 signatures to key policymakers in Washington, D.C. for their Day of Action on the Hill, and drive urgency behind this issue.

If you believe *ALL* dads should receive paid paternity leave, sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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