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A Letter to My Dad

A wise person once told me that Christianity tried to make things black and white. I thought about it and found it to be true. “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not lie.” It all seems so simple.

There are questions, however, that do not fit this scheme; they lie outside the realm of right and wrong, theology and expertise. Answers exist only in belief and faith, both of which are intangible and elusive – that which cannot be proved or disproved; answers that exist not in the spheres of black and white, but in all the shades of grey.

I’ll never forget that day when my daddy told me that he was gay, or really happy, as he put it to make my face turn from its downward contortions into a slight smile. It was late at night on Christmas day and I had just had a long talk with my mother.

I had grown suspicious over the course of two or three years at my dad’s behaviour on the computer, visiting gay websites and seemingly pornographic sites. I had asked him on numerous occasions why he did that, and his answer was consistently that he was helping some gay men out whom he had met via different chatrooms.

At Mom’s suggestion I finally got up the nerve to ask my dad about his sexuality. “Dad, are you gay?” I was relieved when his answer was no; but I was not satisfied. But I figured I could trust my dad and leave it at that.

On this particular Christmas day, I was discussing with Mom the possibility of doing a school oral report on homosexuality in a philosophy course at school, when the subject came up yet again. For the sake of being reassured yet again by my mother that my dad’s answer had been the truth, I asked my mother. She urged me even more strongly to ask my dad.

I was disturbed. Was she being coy? Was his original answer a lie? I cried. The implications were too great for me to handle. I asked again and said that I needed to know. After some hesitance she went on to explain that she had once asked that question and that the answer that she had received was, “I don’t know.” Talk about confusion. I would have preferred a yes or no answer. I dove in a little deeper, not really wanting to know anything further, but needing to know. I asked Mom if she and dad still had conjugal relations. She paused and said, “Sometimes, on special occasions.”

I went to bed rejecting her suggestion that I talk to Dad before I went to bed. I brushed my teeth, picked up the dog from Mom’s bed and went to my own, knowing that sleep would probably not come for another hour or so. I cried and prayed.

I didn’t have a chance to say much. Dad was upstairs a minute or so later and after a few words with Mother, he came in and got me. I told him “Not now. I need to sleep.” He made me get up and follow him into his room where I complained that Mom should not have told.

I did not want to talk that night. I didn’t sit next to Mom. I didn’t sit next to Dad. How could I face him? I was already embarrassed by my questions. What business did I have asking the same questions that I had already received answers to? What reason did I have to doubt my father’s honesty?

He asked me what the matter was. I thought to myself, “What a dumb question” when he obviously knew what was to come. I asked Mom to explain.

Before she could say anything, he just came out and said it: “Yes, I’m gay.”

That was it. I cried again. My beliefs that I spoke of with such conviction when needed were being put to the ultimate test. My daddy was – is – gay.

A senior in high school, I was already accepted into the college of my choice and had a dream of becoming a Contemporary or Christian singer and my first thoughts were, “What is this going to do to my career?” How low is that?

My daddy, my best friend, went on to explain that four years earlier while my mom, sister, brother and I were on a trip to Cape Town to visit family, he came really close to committing suicide. It hit home. I couldn’t imagine life without my daddy.

For the first time I was told the true story of a man who tried for the longest time to fit into a society that dictated the rights and wrongs of sexuality and he could not; a man who tried programmes sponsored by our then church which claimed to be able to “change” sexuality back to the presumed norm; a man who married my mother and continued to struggle with his sexuality, telling her of his suspicions on their first wedding anniversary; a man who loves his wife and loves another man.

In the church I grew up in, homosexuality was a great sin separating men from God. It was a choice and those who chose to live a life of sin are damned to hell. Personally, I struggle with Christians and people in general who work so hard to condemn that they forget that the ultimate judge, God, is also the ultimate advocate for outcasts. I know that God does not make mistakes and I know that no person in his or her right mind would choose to live the life of a homosexual.

My next concern was if my parents were going to stay together. Why was my mother still there? As a studying minister, how did she view my dad’s actions? I developed a new respect for my mother and determined the cause of her depression that had often caused great rifts in the house when I was younger. My mom loved my dad and my dad loved her. It might not be the same as other parents, but it was a love, nonetheless, that many couples lack. I was later able to laugh at the irony in the situation. My parents had lasted and were still going twenty years into their not-so-straight marriage while my three aunts had each divorced and remarried.

I also wondered what I would do about dating. I have always dreamed of meeting a man like my father. My dad has always been sensitive towards things that most fathers and men in general I know are not. The next question that went through my mind echoed a similar question asked in the movie In and Out: “Is everybody gay?” I doubted any chance in this world at finding a good man, especially with my experience with guys at school.

I had two days to contemplate this new information on my own. I woke up the next morning wondering if it had all been a dream. No such luck. I tried to get used to the idea “My dad is gay.” Such a simple but loaded phrase. My dad had been scared to tell us. What would we think of him? What discrimination would we face at school if anybody ever found out? All legitimate worries, echoing my own. My sister found out two days later. It was a relief to have somebody to talk to and to cry with.

Nothing huge has changed, only my perception of my father and my role in his life. My mom and dad are still married; I still go to the same school; I have the same dreams. Life goes on.

This idea for publishing this surfaced two days after I found out and on the same day my sister found out. I have to face the facts. My dad is gay.

It shocked me to learn that there were many men in the world who were in the same situation as my dad: gay married men with children and satisfied to remain just so.

Assuming that there are many more gay family men out there who struggle handling their role in society just as my dad did, I have found my way to cope: a book of true stories on different men in the same situation as my dad might offer encouragement and above all, hope for those whose lives are caught in Shades of Gray.

Thank you, still crying during nights - I love my dad so much!!!


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