Derek McClary, 41, from Ontario, Canada, has known he was gay from a very young age. He was teased and tormented for much of his childhood, starting in the fourth grade and continuing through the end of high school.
Before moving away to attend university, he actually made a conscious decision to "straighten out" to make sure the bullying didn't follow him to his new life. It was during these years that he met the woman who would become his wife. The two graduated from the same program in 1998 and were married soon after in 2001. Two daughters eventually joined the family.
After more than a decade of trying to hide his authentic self, Derek had finally made the decision to tell his wife the truth -- that he was gay. While he struggled with just how and when to tell his wife, by January of 2014 he was forced into action. Sensing a possible threat that he would be outed became the impetus he needed to approach his wife one evening as she was cleaning the dishes after dinner.
Derek recalls that the two sat down and talked for a very long time. He summoned the courage to be completely honest with his now ex-wife. They agreed that they needed to work towards a separation, and, keeping their daughter's needs top of mind, they kept the communication open and honest.
Within a week Derek and his wife had confided in most of their friends and family. Before sharing the news of the impending separation with their daughters, they decided to take a family vacation to Walt Disney World. And they brought close family friends along with them. While all the adults on the trip knew about the impending changes that would soon affect the family, none of the kids did. As such, Derek remembers that the trip had some very surreal moments.
In March, the month following their family trip, Derek moved out into a condo that was close to the home in which his ex and two daughters would continue to live. "All in all it was as amicable as possible," shared Derek.
Coming clean to his kids
At first, neither Derek nor his ex-wife explained the true cause of the separation to their girls, who were 9 and 5 at the time. It wasn't until after Derek had been living in his condo for a couple of months that he and his ex-wife finally sat down with them to explain that their marriage ended because their daddy was gay. Derek says that they didn't really process the news fully as they were still hurting from the surprise of the separation.
"It didn't change their opinion of me," said Derek. "They told me that they still loved me." His eldest daughter was upset because she had just told all her friends about her parents' separation, and now she felt like she needed to share the reason behind their separation. His younger daughter asked if he wanted to "kiss boys" and then went back to playing.
Today, Derek co-parents with his ex-wife. While she has primary custody, Derek gets the girls each Wednesday and every other weekend. "We try to support and enable each other to be individuals as well as co-parents," said Derek. "Our relationship has its ups and downs, but for the most part we are consistent and supportive of each other and our kids."
"I really don't think I have this thing mastered enough to give anyone advice," shared Derek honestly, though as you read more we think you'll understand why we respectfully disagree.
"We try to communicate as much as possible. And our situation has definitely been helped immensely by the fact that we live so close to each other. Also, everyone knows about our situation...friends, neighbors and even teachers. In fact, some of the kids' teachers have responded in a real positive and amazing manner to my coming out and to showing the girls real empathy following our separation!"
Derek tries to model a decent, respectful life for his two daughters. He is more liberal than his ex-wife, which can sometimes cause issues. He works at balancing his need to express his gayness and liberal opinions in a way that doesn't impact his daughters' relationship with their mom and friends.
Living his authentic life
"Coming out is such a personal and emotional event in each of our lives," recognizes Derek. "It really should happen on your own time and according to your own terms."
Even so, the reality is that under the best of circumstances not everyone we know will be open to the news.
"I lost some friends because of my decision," admits Derek. "However, the opportunity to strengthen many of the relationships that I had and the chance to build meaningful new relationships while being my authentic self has been incredible! Only now do I realize how much being in the closet limited my potential."
Derek is clearly still very much enjoying his new life. "Coming out has brought out my true personality." explained Derek. "I'm in a gay volleyball league that has allowed me to meet many amazing guys who have become really supportive friends."
Derek continues, "I have the privilege of being out at work and in my community. The only real struggle I have now is when my eldest daughter catches me checking out guys. She rolls her eyes a lot!"
"It's not always an easy journey," Derek says, ending his story for Gays With Kids. "And it sounds cliché, but we really only get one chance at life. Being true to yourself is so incredibly worth it!"