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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A Dad Gives Thanks After Finally Saying These Words: "I'm Gay"

Cameron Call, a dad of three, came out this past July — and is thankful to be living in his truth.

Guest post written by Cameron Call

During this time of year when our hearts soften and we focus on our thank-yous and grateful-fors I feel it's time to share one of mine: I am grateful for courage. Particularly the courage to be vulnerable and finally allow myself to be seen. I've made some effort to be more real and honest the last little while when I post on here but social media still remains the world's most viewed highlight reel. It's so easy to keep up an appearance and maintain a certain reputation based on what we allow people to see. I admit that I have done this for far too long my entire life. I'm tired of hiding and I am sick of pretending.

Speaking of courage, I haven't had a lot of it throughout my life. I've always been an introvert, soft spoken, scared to share my ideas, rarely spoke up, etc. But things are different now. I'm different. For so long I've been afraid of admitting and embracing a certain truth about a part of myself. And that fear has motivated some life altering decisions throughout my 33 years of life.

Kristin and I finalized our divorce back in July after more than ten incredible years.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

One Dad's Plan to 'Co-Parent Like Crazy' with His Future Husband and Ex-Wife

"I see my daughter being raised in such a loving home," said Nick. "She'll understand equality and love, and I hope I will instill those qualities in her so that she spreads it to others."

When we asked 30-year-old Nick from Fort Worth, Texas, about his path to fatherhood, he told us it was a long story and to get ready. Nick became a dad through a previous straight relationship and only came out a few years ago, but a lot has happened since then.

Growing up, Nick was raised with the belief that he should, one day, become a dad and have a family. He was brought up Catholic, and was taught that his only option to have a family was with a woman.

At first, he didn't question this belief, but he distinctly remembers the first moment when he realized he was attracted to men.

"At around age 14, I remember getting in trouble in class and was sent to sit in the hallway and this guy came walking down the hallway and I thought, 'Oh, he's cute.'" After pondering that thought for a while, Nick began to look at other guys and soon realized that he was attracted to guys. "I never asked my parents, or any religious figures from church, about these thoughts that were rapidly swimming around my head—even when I was supposed to confess my sins in confession at church. I was terrified that the Father of the church would tell my parents and I'd be exiled or forced into being straight."

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Change the World

A Gay Fertility Doctor Opens Up About His Own Path to Parenthood

Parenthood is the "one and only job" held by the majority of the population, wrote gay fertility doctor Mark Leondires in a recent op-ed for The Advocate

Dr. Mark Leondires, founder of the fertility clinic RMA of Connecticut, has helped thousands of LGBTQ people become parents over the years. But in a recent op-ed for The Advocate, he discussed his own path to parenthood as a gay man, and some of the lessons he's learned along the way.

"Similar to most gay men I struggled with the coming out process," Dr. Leondires wrote. "I strongly desired to be a parent. And as a fertility doctor I knew this was possible. What was enlightening was after we had our first child is that in the eyes of my community, I went from being a gay man or gay professional to being a parent just like most of my straight friends."

Dr. Leondires goes on to say his reasons for opening up about his parenting journey is to offer some perspective LGBTQ people who are considering parenthood. "Once you have a family you will have this common bond with the vast majority of our population and something they can relate to — having children," he wrote. "You are no longer someone living this "special" lifestyle, you are a parent on a shared journey."

Being a parent is the "one and only job" held by the majority of the population, he continued. "It is also the only job you can't be fired from."

Understanding this commonality helped Dr. Leondires in his coming out process, he said. "I had to be proud of my family because I want them to be proud of our family," he wrote. "It wasn't about me anymore. The reality is that 5-7% of patients identify as LGBTQ+, and there may be a greater likelihood that your child might be LGBTQ+ because you are. Therefore, you need to be proud of who you are and who your family is, establish and maintain this foundation unconditionally."

Read Dr. Leondires entire essay here.

News

World's First Sperm Bank Opens for HIV Positive Donors

Sperm Positive, started by three non-profits in New Zealand, hopes to end stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood

"Our donors have so much to give," say the promotional materials of a new sperm bank. "But they can't give you HIV."

The new sperm bank, Sperm Positive, launched on World Aids Day this year by three non-profits as a way to fight stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood. For years, scientists have known that those living with an undetectable level of HIV in their blood thanks to antiretroviral treatments can't transmit the virus through sex or childbirth. Yet discrimination and stigma persists.

The sperm bank exists online only, but will connect donors and those seeking donations with fertility banks once a connection is made on their site. Sperm Positive was started by three New Zealand non-profits — Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc. — who hope the project will help disseminate science-backed education and information about HIV and parenthood.

Already, three HIV positive men have signed up to serve as donors, including Damien Rule-Neal who spoke to the NZ Herald about his reasons for getting involved in the project. "I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," he told the Herald. "I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus."

We applaud the effort all around! To read more about our own efforts to end the stigma surround HIV and parenthood, check out our recent round-up of family profiles, resources, and expert advice that celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV here.

Gay Dad Life

Top 10 Reasons You Should Date a Gay Dad

Jay Turner lays out the top 10 reasons you should consider dating a single gay dad

We're gay dads. Many of us were married to women, and for various reasons we eventually found ourselves single and looking for companionship from another man. Life is a little more complicated for us because we have kids. But that shouldn't deter you from seeking a relationship with a gay dad. In fact, there are many reasons why we make better partners than men without children. We are generally more mature, responsible, and emotionally available. We are also better communicators.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should date a gay dad:

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Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Change the World

9 Stories That Celebrate the Experience of Gay Fathers Living with HIV

This World AIDS Day, we dug into our archives to find 9 stories that bring awareness to and celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV

December 1st is World AIDS Day — a day to unite in our collective fight to end the epidemic, remember those we've lost, and bring much needed attention and money to support those who continue to live with HIV and AIDS. For us at Gays With Kids, it's also a time to lift up and celebrate the experiences of fathers, so many of who never thought they'd see the day where they would be able to start families.

Towards that end, we've rounded up nine stories, family features and articles from our archives that celebrate the experience of gay fathers living with HIV — the struggles, triumphs and everything in between.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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