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

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

Gay Muslim Single Dad Writes Op Ed on His Path to Self Acceptance

Maivon Wahid writes about the challenges of reconciling three separate, but equally important, identities in an opinion piece for Gay Star News

Maivon Wahid, a gay Muslim single dad living in Fiji, wrote an opinion piece for Gay Star News about the challenges he's faced on his road to self acceptance.

"I feel pressure on how I am supposed to behave and how I am perceived," he wrote oh how these competing identities play out for him, day to day.

Maivon described himself as an "odd" kid, who never quite fit in--something he still relates to today as an adult. "When I enter the masjid (mosque), I am always judged and questioned," he wrote. "Sometimes it's curiosity, but sometimes it's borderline bullying." He said he found a way to be both gay and Muslim, three years ago, when he met an openly gay Imam at a conference in Australia. "It was through him I was able to first appreciate who I was, then love who I had become and celebrate it."

Being gay in Fiji, he says also makes him feel the need to hide certain parts of himself. "In Fiji, I find the need to hide so many aspects of my authentic being," he wrote.

He also wrote of complications familiar to many single gay men who became dads from previous straight relationships. He writes: "As a single parent to the most beautiful son – I was married to my ex-wife for nine years – learning to become and celebrate the person you want to be is about more than just me; it's a legacy I want to leave for him and the next generation. Although it's hard to meet like-minded people (my dating life is non-existent!), in being myself, I believe I can show others it's OK to be you, and to love whoever you want to love."

Ultimately, despite the challenges he's faced, Maivon says he has found a way to reconcile these three identities into one. "Whether you're gay, Muslim or a single parent – or all three – there is a place and space for everyone," he wrote. "I have found my place in Islam, and am comfortable being the best version of gay I can be. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

Read the whole article here.


Gay Dad Life

Internet Conflicted About Advice Given to Closeted Gay Dad in the Guardian

Ok fellow gay dads: if you were the advice columnist at the Guardian, what would you have said?

Recently, in a post titled "I met my girlfriend's parents – and realized I once slept with her father," a man wrote into the advice column at the Guardian with the following predicament:

"Five years ago, I went through a bi phase and used to sleep around with pretty much everyone that came along, including other men. This changed when I fell in love with my new partner, who is everything to me. I recently met her parents and halfway through lunch realised that I had slept with her father. I was going to propose, but when my partner and her mother were away, he told me to end it with his daughter. I'm obviously in love – shall I just ignore him, or tell my partner?"

Pamela Stephenson, the Guardian's columnist, responded as follows:

"I am not sure you could ever have a comfortable future with your new partner. To tell the truth would be to court disaster: a probable break-up, plus the risk of a permanent rift between father and daughter and father and wife. Hiding the truth would lead to toxic secret-keeping that could be equally destructive in the long run. If this whole family was as open-minded and sexually open as you, it might be possible for you to become part of it. However, the father – your former lover – has made it clear that you will not be welcome. Walk away now, and avoid the massive pain that would otherwise be inflicted on your partner, her family and yourself."

Not all commenters agreed with Stephenson's advice.

"Assuming your girlfriend knows that you were bi until falling in love with her and that you slept with everybody in your path [which she deserved to know up front anyway] then you can give HER the option what to do with this bond, rather than leaving the choice to her dad," said one commenter.

Another said, "Walking away without explaining why would be callous and also allow the father to escape the possible consequences of his actions."

It's worth noting that none of these commenters, nor the columnist, are or will ever be gay dads, whose perspective on this bizarre situation may be uniquely valuable. Many gay dads have become fathers while still in the closet. And even those who became dads after coming out can still sympathize with the detrimental impacts of the closet on our lives and those of our families.

So what say you, gay dads, about this man's predicament?

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 Family Stories

Adopting an Older Child Through Foster Care Was the Best Path for These Dads

After learning more about older-child adoption through You Gotta Believe, Mark and Andrew decided it was the best way for them to form their family.

"Hey! I got adopted today! These are my dads, Mark and Andrew!"

Jeremy was 16 years old when he found out his new dads wanted to adopt him.

In late August 2017, husbands Mark and Andrew Mihopulos, 34 and 36 respectively, remember driving out to the east end of Long Island. They knew at the very same moment they were driving, social workers were letting Jeremy know they wanted to adopt him. "We expected Jeremy to be hesitant or feel mixed emotions," shared Mark. "We didn't know how he would feel about having two dads and about having white parents and family, as he is a black young man."

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Family Stories

Philippe "Swiped Right" on This Handsome Young Dad

At first, Philippe wasn't sure he could date a man who was a dad. But Steve, and his son Gabriel, have helped him realize a "fatherly side" of himself he didn't know he had.

"It's been one hell of a ride since the beginning," said 26-year-old Steve Argyrakis, Canadian dad of one. He was 19 when he found out he was going to be a dad and the mom was already several months along in her pregnancy. Steve, who lives in Montreal, was struggling with his homosexuality but wanted to do the "right thing," so he continued to suppress his authentic self. "I was so scared about the future and about my own happiness, that I had put aside my homosexuality once again."

A couple of months later, little Gabriel was born, and it was love at first sight.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

Ain't No Party Like a Gay Dad Dance Party

Gay dads singing and dancing with their kids is EXACTLY what you need to get your weekend started right.

Who jams to Led Zeppelin with their kids?

Who rocks some sweet moves to Kelly Clarkson?

Who sings along with their kids in the car?

Who breaks it down with a baby strapped to them in a carrier?

We all do! But these guys happened to catch it all on tape for us to enjoy! Thanks dads. 😂

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

This Dad Went 'Numb' After a Painful Failed Adoption, But Learned to Love Again

After a painful failed adoption that brought these gay dads to the brink of realizing their dream of fatherhood, Paul "went numb" for several months before trying, and succeeding, again

In the fall of 2010, what was suppose to be a non-committal daytime date in Seattle, ended up being 3 days of sharing life experiences, unpacking emotional luggage and the moment I realized I had met my future husband. Just under four years later, we were saying "I Do", and became Paul and Jamie Trudel-Payne.

Jamie, a devilishly handsome All-American freelance writer, came from a tightly woven, kind and virtuous household. While I, Paul, a cute (ish) bi-racial (Mexican/Caucasian) small business owner, came from a somewhat intrusive, rambunctious and very large Hispanic family. The desire and support received from both families was immense and just six months after being married, we began the adoption process.

Wearing rose-colored glasses we quickly learned that our adoption journey was going to be anything but rosy.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse