Coming Out

The One Thing This Gay Dad Would Do Differently if He Had to Come Out All Over Again

Matt Mason breaks down his strategy for telling the world of his impending divorce and identity as a gay man, and reveals the way he'd break the news to his son if he could come out all over again.

The match was lit. After a marriage, three children and 24 years of denial, I was finally ready to come out of the closet as a gay man. All that was left to ignite the fire that would blow up my life as I knew it was to drop said match.

But, where to begin?

I needed a strategy. It wasn't the kind of news that I could share via a Facebook post: "Hey! Big news! I'm getting a divorce because I'm fabulously gay!" No. My family's and my own privacy and reputation were at play. This had to be done delicately, thoughtfully and respectfully.


It's not the kind of news to share via a Facebook post: "Hey! Big news! I'm getting a divorce because I'm fabulously gay!"

A clear place to start was with the kids. The twins were one-and-a-half, and it's likely they would never remember a straight version of their dad. So, the focus went to Ethan, my eleven-year-old son. The strategy that I came up with was to tell him about the divorce first and save the whole "Dad's gay" part for later. Mainly, to give him time to process part one before he had to deal with part two. I didn't want to overwhelm him.

BIG. Mistake.

I was fortunate that my wife, Tracey, was incredibly supportive during this process. She was there beside me every step of the way. I will forever be indebted to her for allowing us to share this news as a unified front, despite the fact that I had so much to gain and she had so much to lose.

When we told Ethan that we were divorcing, it's no surprise that he cried and was incredibly sad. He wanted to know why. Beyond the twin toddlers, there was no fighting or discord in the house. This all seemed abrupt and incongruous in his pre-teen mind. I can't tell you the number of times he asked "Why are you getting a divorce?" and the canned response was "For an adult reason." He wasn't buying it.

Finally, after two weeks, I consulted with Ethan's child therapist. When should we tell him this bit of information. Is he developmentally ready for it? Will it overwhelm him? In retrospect, her advice was obvious: "Tell him! He's clearly trying to understand why his entire life is being upended. It's time."

I knew once the words "I'm gay" landed on Ethan's ears, I could never take them back. For the second time in as many weeks, I was going to change my son's life forever. I was terrified. Tracey and I sat Ethan down on the bed. I sat across from him. Trying to be the stoic father, I placed my hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eyes, and said, "I know you've been curious why your mother and I are getting a divorce. I want to share with you the reason why. Ethan, I'm gay."

He burst into tears, uttered a guttural cry I hadn't heard before. I hope I never hear it again. This went on for about 30 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. I felt the lowest and most regretful I've ever felt in my entire life. What kind of father breaks his child's heart? I had spent eleven years fiercely protecting Ethan from any kind of harm, and now I was the one hurting him.

"What kind of father breaks his child's heart? I had spent eleven years fiercely protecting Ethan from any kind of harm, and now I was the one hurting him."

Somehow, we muddled our way through the tears. After Ethan cried it out, the strangest thing happened. It seemed he had come to peace with the situation. He didn't feel much of a need to talk about it anymore, and he certainly didn't cry about it again. Tracey and I, along with his therapist, did our best to make sure he wasn't repressing or hiding something. We never discovered that he was. Perhaps he just needed to push to the other side of his new reality, and once he landed, he was fine with his future.

If there was any part of the coming out process I could do over, it would have been telling Ethan that his parents were divorcing because dad is gay all in one sitting. I've come to realize if there is an inevitable truth ahead, it makes more sense to connect the dots and have one tough conversation instead of two.


Matt's three childrenCourtesy of Sarah Smith Studio


The hardest part was done. Now, I had to tell everyone else. On one hand, I was paralyzed at the thought of having to navigate my way through coming out. At the same time, the excitement, the elation, of the possibility of living a new, authentic life after years of repression helped to propel me forward. After much thought and consideration, I decided to break the people in my life into the following groups:

My closest friends and family were tier one. They would get an in-person meeting or a phone call, and I would share all the news with them as soon as possible. I started setting up lunches and phone calls right away.

Tier two were old friends or distant family that I did want to share the information with, but, they didn't necessarily need to know right away. When I shared the news, I'd probably share all of it. Most of these folks were notified via an email, but there were a select few that I decided to call.

"Coming out is an exhaustive process and you need to focus your energy on those that you care about most."

People in my daily life that needed to know that Tracey I were separating, but they didn't necessarily need to know the gay news just yet, were tier three. Unless, of course, I decided to share it. These were co-workers and neighbors that needed to know for practical reasons, but it wasn't critical that they knew I was also coming out. It had nothing to do with shame -- coming out is an exhaustive process and you need to focus your energy on those that you care about most.

Finally, tier four were folks I choose not to say anything at all to--distant relatives, old classmates I hadn't talked to in years, for example. They would eventually find out, somehow. Time and the rumor mill would take care of this group.

As you navigate through the coming out process, be prepared for the unexpected. There were people that I considered close in my life that, for one reason or another, consciously or unconsciously, distanced themselves from me. I don't absolve myself from being a contributor. Perhaps I distanced myself from them. If I did, it was never intentional. In any case, I refuse to give it much time. I've worked too damned hard to get to a place where I don't hide, or have to change who I am, to keep people close to me.

Conversely, there were those that greeted me with love, acceptance and even congratulated me for my bravery (never, in a million years, did I expect this). I rekindled some old friendships during the coming out process. Becoming my authentic self allowed me to open up in ways that I had never been able to before, and it brought certain people closer to me. Imagine that -- people liked me, loved me, for being me. It's one of the great gifts coming out has afforded me.

Coming out can be an explosive process. But, I can assure you that the fire dies down with time. If my truth (or secret) was a 10,000 pound weight, each person I told that I was gay lifted at least a hundred pounds. People will eventually reframe their identity of you. You may make mistakes along the way--there is no rulebook for this. Just be thoughtful and considerate of those around you, and the rest will sort itself out. The pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow is worth it, trust.

This article is part of a series by Matt Mason, discussing coming out after 40. Read his first piece here, and be sure to follow him on Instagram at @majormattm

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Gay Dad Life

Son of Gay Dad Pens Article in Vice About Accidentally Finding Out About His Father's Sexuality

Julien cried when his father first came out, a moment he's always regretted. But he's found multiple opportunities to show his support since.

In an article for Vice Netherlands, Julien Goyet speaks about the experience of learning about his father's sexuality by accident, when his younger brother heard him repeatedly saying the word "gay" on the phone. When his dad confirmed it was true, Julian says he burst into tears. Though he was just a young boy at the time, it's a moment he's nonetheless always regretted.

"Through the years, I've often asked myself why I did that – why I couldn't have been more understanding. Maybe it was because I realised then and there that it would mean my parents were never getting back together."

Julien continues by saying he's thankful for the multiple opportunities he's had since to make up for that moment.

"Thankfully, four years after he came out to us, he told us about a secret boyfriend he'd had for a while, and we were nothing but happy for him," he wrote. "I can remember the moment he showed me a picture of his partner. It was a Saturday afternoon and he'd called me up to his office in the attic. I went upstairs and found my father behind his computer. On the screen appeared a picture of a handsome man, sitting in a cafe. "That's him," he said, with what I'm pretty sure was pride in his voice. It was weird to see the man my father had fallen in love with – he was handsome and cool, and, thankfully, I didn't feel the urge to cry this time. My father, now more comfortable in his sexuality, asked if I wanted to meet his partner."

With his mother remarried to another man and his father happily partnered, Julien concludes by saying, "now, I have two stepdads. We all celebrate Christmas together. Now and again my father and I have dinner at a restaurant in Amsterdam where burgers are named after drag queens, and he sometimes sends me selfies when he's partying at the Pride parade. I once tagged along with him to his favourite gay bar, where I met all the friends he's made there over the years. It's a place he comes often, and I had no idea it existed all that time. I'm happy that's changed."

Read the full moving essay here.







Above all, I wondered what it would be like to see my father kissing another man. That's happened a couple of times now and it actually feels just the same as when you see your own parents kiss in public – incredibly awkward but also kind of sweet. I'm happy he feels free to do so in his own home now. It's like he's been liberated. Now I wish he had done all this a lot sooner. But he told us he didn't want to confuse us, and he would have gone about it the same way if he had had a new girlfriend. "A divorce, a new stepdad, your father coming out – it all seemed a bit much for you kids," he said.

Now, I have two stepdads. We all celebrate Christmas together. Now and again my father and I have dinner at a restaurant in Amsterdam where burgers are named after drag queens, and he sometimes sends me selfies when he's partying at the Pride parade. I once tagged along with him to his favourite gay bar, where I met all the friends he's made there over the years. It's a place he comes often, and I had no idea it existed all that time. I'm happy that's changed.

Gay Dad Life

Former NFL Player Jeff Rohrer, and Father of Two, Comes Out as Gay and Marries Longterm Partner

Jeff Rohrer, a father of two teenage boys via a previous relationship with a woman, is the first NFL player to marry another man.

Allen Zatki

Retired NFL linebacker Jeff Rohrer, who played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1982 to 1989, recently came out as gay and married his longterm boyfriend last month. In an interview with the New York Times, Rohrer discussed his sexuality publicly for the first time.

"If I had told the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980s that I was gay, I would have been cut immediately," Mr. Rohrer said. "It was a different world back then, people didn't want to hear that."

Rohrer was previously married to a woman, with whom he had two teenager children, 15-year-old Isabella Rohrer and 14-year-old Dondillon Rohrer. His son is currently following in his dad's footsteps by playing on his high school football team.

"I'm sure there's going to be some people out there who have a negative reaction to this," Rohrer told the outlet, adding, "and I'm fine with it."

Mostly, though, he says the reaction to his coming out as been positive. In an interview with CNN, he said, "I have two teenage kids, everybody is extremely supportive."

Rohrer met his now husband, Joshua Ross, back in 2015 while he was still in the closet. "And if not for Josh," he said in his Times interview, "I'd still be in there."

In his interview with the Times, Ross said that several friends had questioned him on how he felt taking on the "extra baggage" of being a stepfather to Rohrer's two children.

"Baggage? What baggage?" Ross said, adding "We are adding two beautiful children to our wonderful modern family.

Congrats to the newlywed dads! Read the entire New York Times interview with Rohrer here.

Single Parenting

Coming Out to His Wife Was Painful, Says This Salt Lake-Based Dad of Four. But it Started Him on a Path of Authenticity

After Kyle came out to his wife, with whom he has four children, "she listened, she mourned and she loved," he said.

Kyle Ashworth has four kids from a previous straight relationship. After ten years of marriage, he came out to his wife. "It was the most painful and wrenching experience of my life," said Kyle. "In the cold morning hours that coming-out-day in March, I began a journey of authenticity and honesty." Today, Kyle is 36 years old and ready to live his next chapter. But before we get to that, we need to look back at what led him to where he is now: an out and proud single gay dad.

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Change the World

Study Finds Two-Thirds of Gay Dads Experienced Stigma in Last Year

The study also found that over half of gay dads have avoided certain social situations in the last year for fear of experiencing stigma.

According to new research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the vast majority of gay men and their children experience some form of stigma. The findings are based on a survey of 732 gay father across 47 states in the United States.

More gay men are becoming fathers each year, and have more options for doing so than ever before: including adoption, foster care, and surrogacy. However as the study's authors write: "Despite legal, medical, and social advances, gay fathers and their children continue to experience stigma and avoid situations because of fear of stigma. Increasing evidence reveals that stigma is associated with reduced well-being of children and adults, including psychiatric symptoms and suicidality"

Almost two-thirds of respondents, or 63.5%, reported experiencing stigma based on being a gay father within the last year. Over half, or 51.2%, said they have avoided situations for fear of stigma, in the past year. Importantly, the study found that fathers living in states with more legal protections for LGBTQ people and families experienced fewer barriers and stigma. Most experiences of stigma (almost 35%) occurred, unsurprisingly, in a religious environment. But another quarter of gay dads said they experienced stigma from a wide variety of other sources, including: family members, neighbors, waiters, service providers, and salespeople

Surprisingly (or perhaps not?) another source of stigma cited by the study originates from other gay men. "Gay men report suspicion and criticism for their decision to be parents from gay friends who have not chosen parenthood." The study also says gay dads often feel "isolation in their parental role."

The study concludes, "Despite growing acceptance of parenting by same-gender adults, barriers and stigma persist. States' legal and social protections for lesbian and gay individuals and families appear to be effective in reducing experiences of stigma for gay fathers."

Read the whole study here.

Gay Dad Photo Essays

5 Pics of Ricky Martin In Newborn Baby Bliss

He may be a superstar most of the year, but with a new baby girl at home, Ricky Martin is just a regular ol' dad deep in the throes of newborn baby bliss.

On January 1st, 2019 superstar Ricky Martin and his husband Jwan Yosef shared a post via Instagram announcing that they'd welcomed a baby girl named Lucia into their family.

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Gay Dad Life

Gay Dads Featured on Cover of Parents Magazine for First Time

Fitness guru Shaun T. and his husband Scott Blokker are the first gay dads to be featured on the cover of Parents Magazine

I literally never thought I'd see the day. Literally.

Gay fathers on the cover of Parents Magazine! Gay fathers being celebrated in a "main stream" publication about being parents. Gay fathers!

I don't want to get overly dramatic here, but this is a milestone. A massive cultural milestone.

Sure, gay dads have come a long way in being accepted in our popular culture, but to my eye we've never been on the cover of a big popular parenting magazine celebrating our parenting skills. As if we are the norm.

We are now - thanks to Parents Magazine.

This is a particular milestone for me because I have a bit of a history with the magazine and with parenting publications in general. My first job out of grad school was in brand marketing at Johnson's Baby Products where I did indeed run advertising in this particular magazine. Back then though we only featured married, straight couples. There were no other kinds of parents to feature back in the day! And if I'm to be really honest, they were generally white, married, straight couples.

I distinctly remember one photo shoot where I forgot to put a wedding ring on the "husband's" finger and we had to reshoot it. No photoshop back then!

Now admittedly this was before I was a dad and before I was out, but as the years went by and I embraced my own journey as a gay dad, there were no role models or pop culture markers to say that I (and other gay dads) were accepted. There were no Andy Cohens publicly making baby announcements. We were alone on our parenting.

It was hard. There was a constant barrage of straight parenting norms that constantly reminded us that we were different.
Not any more! Being a gay dad, or any dad, is now simply being a parent. A good parent. A loving parent. And we have Parents Magazine to thank for the reminder and endorsement, with hopefully more to come.

And I can't help but think, and actually know, that this kind of normalization will inspire the next generation of gay dads who will simply accept, without hesitation, that fatherhood as a gay man is a real, accepted, and normal option.

Bravo!

Sponsored

Broadway Husbands Talk Eggs, Embryos and Exciting News

The husbands explain what is considered a good egg retrieval.

In their previous video, Broadway Husbands Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna shared that they found their egg donor. In this video, the dads-to-be discuss their embryo creation process. And - spoiler alert - there are now frozen Hanna-Shuford embryos, and the husbands are ready for their next step: finding a gestational carrier.

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