As more and more gay men choose to live an un-closeted life, more men who married women and had children have had one more tough choice to make—how to tell their kids they’re gay, and when to break the news. Do you wait till after the divorce, so the kids aren’t saddled with too much information at once? Or do you tell them sooner so the kids know a little more about why Mom and Dad are no longer together? Or do other circumstances interfere with any well-made plans?
We spoke with four men who generously shared their story of coming out to their children. The situations are as various as the men. If so inclined, drop us a line and tell us yours.
Greg, 49, Married 15 years, One Son:
When did you tell your child? Unfortunately, my wife and I do not get along, and we separated long before our divorce. I told our son that I was gay during that period, as he was about ten and figuring it out on his own. I did not want secrets, and I did not want him hearing it from a relative or anyone else. My ex-wife would not have told him—she respects me too much to do that, and my being gay is not why we don’t get along today. Although we are not friends, we both love our son and do our best to keep personal differences out of his life.
How Did He Take the News? Surprisingly well. He had been around gay men and women all his young life, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. He already had classmates with gay parents. One of the first questions he asked was if it meant he would turn out gay, which caught me by surprise. I remember telling him that I had no idea, that my being gay had nothing to do with it, and all that was important was that he be happy and live an honest life. It’s a 360-degree difference between when I told my parents I was gay. That was not pretty.
Randy, 48, Married 8 Years, Two Sons:
When Did You Tell Your Kids? I told my kids after the divorce because that was such a big issue in itself. My wife and I got married very young, and had kids very young, and I didn’t even know I was gay until we’d been married for a long time. We were high school sweethearts growing up in the Midwest, so that whole time in my life was baffling and a bit traumatic and surreal. My ex-wife and I had a strained relationship for a couple of years—she knew I was gay—and then it took another couple of years for me to tell my sons that I was gay. They were about 12 and 14 by then.
How Did They Take the News? They were actually surprised, maybe in part because my wife and I were such sweethearts. They weren’t hurt so much as they were confused—where we grew up “gay” was still pretty unaccepted by families. Luckily, and I mean that in so many ways, my ex-wife was there to help them answer any questions they might have. She and I had reconciled by that time, and she had custody. They were concerned about AIDS, and they told her that they didn’t want me to date men. So I had more talks with them. It was, and is, a gradual process, even as they are all grown up now. They do meet the men I date, they were very good friends with my ex-partner of three years, and we’re still one very happily family. I spend holidays and many weekends with them and my ex-wife and her relatives, and we all love each other very much. I’m the lucky one.
Dan, 52, Married 10 Years, One Son, One Daughter:
When Did You Tell Your Kids? I had planned to tell my children right after our divorce. Unfortunately, my daughter found some gay material in my room, by accident. It wasn’t deliberate at all. She was looking for something else.
How Did They Take the News? Not well. There was already the strain of the divorce, and then my daughter found out I was gay. She had no idea this contributed to the divorce, and she didn’t know I planned on telling her. She didn’t talk to me for a long time afterward, but my son did. It was a long healing process, and all I can tell anyone is how important it is to tell your kids.
Ted, 51, Married Nine Years, One Daughter, One Son:
When Did You Tell Your Kids? I was somewhat conflicted about telling my daughter, who was about ten—my wife and I had been divorced for about four years. I took her to the beach, and went on the rides, and then we talked about it. She started crying and said she wanted nothing to do with me. I only told her because she was so intuitive and was starting to figure it out. After her reaction, I decided not to tell my son, who was younger. He didn’t find out till he was about 14.
How Did They Take It? As I said, my daughter just cried, then told her mom that she knew I was gay, she just didn’t want to hear it. It took her a long time to reconcile with the news. As for my son, he found of book of mine called “Gay Dads,” and when I found out much later, we talked about it. He was very great. But he was a lot older.
Today, they’re the coolest kids with it.