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!
"Having grown up in the church and more conservative circles, I was always scared to come out," says Matt. "While I wouldn't wish some of these challenges on anyone, I wouldn't change a thing. Meeting David was worth everything, and having our daughters is such a blessing."
Life looks vastly different now for Matt and David than it did 10 years ago. From coming out and living their authentic lives, to getting married and forming a blended family in Madison, Wisconsin, these dads are excited about their future.
Matt and David both grew up in evangelical churches. Early on, they learned the value of family, and both knew they wanted to be dads. Yet they struggled to reconcile the teachings of their faith with their sexuality. They didn't feel they could live authentically as gay men of faith, much less become fathers and have a family.
"I used to believe I could not live as a gay man and be loved by God," Matt shared. "And be fully accepted and affirmed by my church, my work, and my friends? No way."
Matt spent years in therapy and suppressed his sexuality. He pursued a straight marriage, which included having two beautiful daughters.
"I was blessed in many ways, at least on the outside looking in. I had great friends, a solid church community, a job I loved, a beautiful family. And I truly believed I was following a path that was best for my faith, even if it meant I had to hide who I truly was," said Matt. "Externally I had it all. But deep down, I was crumbling emotionally and mentally."
In 2017, after much introspection, counseling, and studying, Matt decided to come out and end his marriage. The decision changed almost every aspect of his life: church, work, friendships, and his parenting journey were all deeply affected.
"Making the decision to pursue divorce was hard. I didn't want to hurt anyone, but I knew that for my kids and for me to fully flourish, I needed to live authentically… Even if that meant changing so much in my life," Matt says.
Once fully out of the closet, Matt began to date slowly. Through a crazy set of circumstances, he was introduced via text to David by a mutual friend. Both of them were coming from very unpleasant dating experiences and not expecting their texts would lead anywhere.
"When we started texting, we were annoyed with dating," said David. "We were venting to each other about others, but the conversation quickly changed to getting to know each other. We quickly realized there was a genuine interest there. After our first in-person date, we knew it was the right fit immediately."
"After David and I met, I knew he was a keeper," Matt exclaimed. "I wanted the girls to know him eventually, so I first had to tell them I was gay. I'd been setting the stage for awhile, so when I told them, they didn't even bat an eye."
Meeting David went extraordinarily well, also. "The first time the girls met him, our oldest proclaimed that I should marry David," Matt shared.
From day one, the girls have embraced David – first as daddy's friend, and of course later on as one of their dads. "Our girls have shown me ridiculous amounts of love from the very first day we met. For some reason I'll never understand, and without questioning, they opened up their hearts and lives to me, and have never looked back," said David. "I hope they always know that they're loved, they're beautiful, they're capable, and that they are worthy — just the way they are."
Added Matt: "The girls have been resilient in the face of much change and have embraced David as their dad. I mean, what's not to love? He's kind, compassionate, caring, loving. He brings good balance to our lives. I knew when I met David he would be a great dad. And after just a few dates, I knew he was who I wanted to do this crazy life adventure with!"
"It can be messy," Matt said. "We've hit plenty of speed bumps along the way. But we wouldn't change it for anything!"
As their family looks towards the future, they find themselves thankful for their past and its outcome, having just celebrated David and Matt's wedding on April 14, 2019 with their girls, friends, and family there to celebrate.