How My Personal Pride As a Gay Man Has Evolved Since I Became a Dad
Erik hasn't always loved pride season. That's changed since he became a dad.
Since Father's Day is right around the corner and Pride month has just officially kicked off, I thought it would be appropriate to write about how my personal pride evolved since I became a father.
I came out soon after graduating from high school. I would frequently travel back and forth between my home in Mississippi and New Orleans, allowing myself to finally experience what it was like to be able to be my true self. At the same time, I was horrified at the possibility of someone from my hometown seeing me partying in the gay clubs on Bourbon Street. After being submerged in religion and scrambling to keep up appearances my whole life, I feared that I would be alienated by my friends and cut off from my family if they found out. I saw that New Orleans had a gay pride parade but I made sure to stay so far away from it. In a way, I had no pride at all at that point in my life. I knew the life that I wanted to live, but I also knew the life that I had always lived and how it was in jeopardy of being taken away from me. How could I be proud of that?
I have to admit, I built up resentment to the celebration of gay pride. I grew angry at the people taking part in the festivities. Looking back on my feelings today, I wasn't angry at the people in general, I was angry in the way I saw a lot of them acting.
I saw straight families with children, grandparents, and people that had never even seen anything that had to do with gay culture and all of a sudden they were thrusted into being a spectator at a gay pride parade witnessing men dressed only in leather chaps riding down the street acting anything but respectful. Sure, glitter, boas and drag describe a lot of our community, but I felt conflicted because I had difficulty relating to it myself. I always felt like I existed in the interdimensional space between gay culture and mainstream society. And even the parts that I did want to take part in I would usually avoid because I was afraid someone from back home would see me and my cover would be blown. And indeed, it was. Someone saw me and word spread quickly. Being outed against one's will can be a painful experience. My relationship with my family became severely strained. I lost several friends, and many of the ones who stuck by me seemed to treat me differently.
Dads Erik (left) and Douglas with their two daughters
Over the years, I did become stronger. I developed a mentality that if a person didn't accept me for who I was, then they weren't a true friend. Living in New Orleans helped my thinking evolve. I no longer had to dwell on the judgmental views of my hometown. I needed to live for today and make it everything that I wanted.
After living in New Orleans for about 5 years, I met the love of my life. This August, Douglas and I will celebrate our 12th anniversary. The details in between then and now will be a whole new upcoming blog piece for our anniversary, so I won't get into specifics. I will say, we have grown so much in 12 years. I know I have become the person I have always wanted to be, and I know that it absolutely would not have happened without meeting Douglas.
One of the first pictures of Douglas and Erik, 2006
With the exception of being Douglas' husband, being a dad absolutely completes my life. The pure overload of joy that my girls give me on a daily basis fills my heart with love, patience and PRIDE. Today, I have an overwhelming desire to climb the gayest mountain I can find and scream as loud as I possibly can at the top of my lungs that "I AM A GAY DAD! WE ARE GAY PARENTS! AND OUR KIDS LOVE US!" In fact, I have so much pride that we have decided to march in this year's NOLA Gay Pride Parade!
Now, I can do what I wanted to do 20 years ago. I can march with my husband and two daughters and show everyone watching that we are just like them, except we are two dads. Two husbands. Two best friends that love each other unconditionally especially our children.
Today I understand that Gay Pride means something different to everyone. That's one of the things that makes gay culture so interesting and exciting. We are such an enormously diverse, creative, and determined subset of society. I may not be wearing drag or glitter to Pride this year, but I'll definitely have two things in common with all the other participants: pride in who I am, and a desire to be loved and accepted for who I am.
I would love for you to follow our family's journey!
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