Right after Lindsey Vonn won her gold medal I called our best friends Sabine and John. I didn’t want to talk about Vonn’s inspired win or the frightening number of women who had tumbled down the icy mountain. No, I wanted to know if Sabine thought I could pull off wearing the hat Vonn had sported during her interviews.
Seeing how I’m comfortable being a gay man, she thought I’d look totally cute in it. John, however, wouldn’t be caught dead in it. Nor, she added, would my kids.
That’s right. All signs point to me being the dad of heterosexual sons.
Frankly, I believe having two dads is a huge advantage for young straight boys. Think about it: We know about being men and interacting with other men; but we also understand women a lot better than our straight brothers. We can be honest about teaching boys the lessons their straight fathers never learned — such as the fact that no one (not even lesbians) looks good with a mullet. And Bruce Willis is not a gifted actor; he plays the same character in every film, people!
But seriously, gay men are amazingly good role models.
We can teach boys about courage. It’s easy to be openly gay when you live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York. It takes a lot more guts to be openly gay in a place like, say, Salt Lake City. Moreover, with the State Legislature acting increasingly like the Taliban, they have deemed the most basic civil rights for gay men and lesbians a threat to the fabric of society. Letters to the editors of the major dailies frequently decry our attempts to get “special rights” — like not being fired for your sexual orientation is “special” — or worse, suggest criminalization of our relationships.
To live openly in this type of environment takes balls. I submit the nelliest twink walking the streets of Herriman exhibits far more courage than the toughest Navy SEAL stationed in Kandahar Province.
And we can show boys what respect is — for themselves and others. We understand what it’s like to recognize the inherit good in ourselves, even as every day religious, political and community leaders spout vile hate towards us. I’m often reminded of the struggles of my buddy Kevin in San Francisco. Unceremoniously evicted by his mom when he came out at 16 years old, he got a job, found someone kind enough to rent him a studio apartment, finished high school on his own, put himself through college and a couple of years ago finished law school.
I don’t know about you, but he’s the kind of role model I want my kids to have.
Gay men also can teach boys about acceptance. We’ve had to accept that we are different from 90 percent of the population. We’ve had to accept that a frighteningly large number of the world’s governments jail — or even kill — us.
But we also understand that at least in this country (and a growing swath of countries around the world) we don’t have to accept being treated this way.
And we know how to accept a helping hand. We have amazing straight allies willing to stand up for us. After all, the anti-bias ordinance in Salt Lake City was unanimously approved by a unanimously heterosexual city council.
The fact of the matter is that the boys out there can learn a great deal from us and our experiences. The experiences their straight male role models haven’t even dreamed of dealing with.
And yes, if the gay man in the boy’s life got the good taste gene, then that boy will grow into a man who knows that there’s really no such thing as “dress” jeans. If I had had that man in my life growing up, I probably wouldn’t be calling my female friends and asking about the attractiveness of stocking caps today.
One of the reasons I think Kelly and I are pretty good fathers is that we are able to look beyond the obvious role models for our boys. Gus and Niko can learn as much about backhand shots from their hockey-playing gay Uncle Pete as they can from their hockey-playing straight Uncle John. I just wish that there were more straight dads out there who understand the same is true for their sons.