In the last few decades, in many parts of the United States, society has made great strides towards the acceptance of gay, bi and trans men. We can now live our lives openly, create a family, and marry whom we love.
But in some parts of the country, that more welcoming attitude was slow to arrive. Jeffrey Boyette, 53, grew up in one of those less accepting areas: a small town in North Carolina, where he was a member of a conservative, evangelical church. Filled with a desire to have a family, and without any exposure to or knowledge of a gay community, he buried his attraction towards men. As a result, in 1993, at age 27, he married a woman who was also his best friend. In the following years, their three children were born.
Jeffrey began a slow and difficult journey to come to terms with his sexuality, a journey that ended in his coming out to his wife about ten years ago, at the age of 43. The children (11, 12 and 13 at the time) took their parents' separation very hard. Making things even more difficult was the relentless teasing by their peers.
Fortunately, throughout the separation and the newly developing relationships between family members, their mom remained kind and gracious, determined to co-parent in a friendly way with her former husband. The kids continued to live with their mom, while Jeffrey spent as much time with them as possible, sometimes even crashing on the sofa during the holidays.
Over the course of two years, the kids came to terms with the new situation; slowly but surely, their understanding grew. Today, Jeffrey says, they exhibit limitless love and support.
Jeffrey soon realized his relationship with his faith would also have to change. After some searching, he found an LGBT-friendly church. He began to explore his sexuality, dated briefly and had his heart broken a bit. He has not dated in five years now; his focus is on his children, their education, and on developing friendships. He still feels somewhat out of place in the gay community, but, in his own words, he's "finding his niche." He now lives in Chicago, where he works as a speech pathologist.
He has never regretted his decision to put his children first. "My advice to dads is to not treat kids as an accessory but a calling. Always put them first over anything temporary that the culture might offer. It's worth every minute! And save for college … it's not cheap!"
His kids will all be done with college next year. Jeffrey is looking forward to learning what his place will be in their adult lives, and to finding out what adventures lie ahead.