Fathers have dreams for their kids — especially their sons. I think a dad sees his boy as a second chance to lead the life he wished he had lead himself; a chance to be the man he wished he would have become. Dads dream a lot of things for their sons, but I’d wager never that they’ll be gay.
I’m going to make a big confession right now. One that doesn’t make me the best gay man I can be: I’ve dreamed that my sons grow up to be straight men.
Does that make me homophobic? I’m ashamed to admit I think it does.
I’d like to try to rationalize this by arguing that life would be easier for them if they were straight, and I can offer some rather compelling arguments to support that position. Being gay opens a person to harassment, institutionalized discrimination and even physical violence.
But I also know that much of the country’s attitude towards gay people has changed dramatically since I was growing up. There are gay-straight alliances in high schools and even some junior highs. Thanks to the hard work of Equality Utah more and more cities are passing basic nondiscrimination ordinances that cover gay and transgender people in housing and employment. Salt Lake City has a gay council member, and in November the County Council will probably have one, too.
And isn’t vicariously living your life through your child about dreaming of a better future for him or her? If we’ve made this much progress in the 20-plus years since I’ve been out of college, just think of how great life will be for gay people in another 20 years!
But you know what? This really isn’t about them at all. It’s about me. It’s about me just like the guy screaming at his little leaguer has nothing to with the kid’s swing and everything to do with the dad’s failure to make the varsity team in high school.
For me, having gay kids would feel like I proved all those opposed to gay parents right: Gay people do mean gay kids. It would be like handing the Religious Right a slide for their anti-equality PowerPoint presentation.
It’s stupid. I know that. It’s completely illogical. I recognize that. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking it’d be better for everyone involved if Gus and Niko would just cooperate and grow up to like girls.
Right now, both my kids DO think girls are icky but in an age-appropriate way. Come to think of it, I LOVED girls when I was Gus’ age; it was the guys who turned out straight who thought they were gross! Hmmmm.
I’m being completely neurotic, of course. But in my defense, I totally have an obsessive-compulsive personality. Just ask my sister. She recently watched me succumb to my need for order as I rearranged a plate of little creamers at a restaurant so they were all facing the same way in a lovely display of symmetry. (Hey, she had to admit they DID look better that way!)
Also, I wouldn’t be the first parent to fret about how I may have influenced my kids’ sexual orientation. And if I’m being really honest, whether my kids are gay or straight is truly the least of my worries. So what’s the big deal?
Maybe writing this column has been cathartic for me. As the old adage goes, admitting you have a problem is the first step in overcoming it.
So, just like that dad who needs to let go of the fact that he simply wasn’t good enough to earn a letterman’s jacket, I need to teach myself to worry about what will make my kids happy, not how people may potentially judge me in the future.
My boys are going to be who they are — and there’s really nothing I can do about that. And I guess I’m cool with it. Because the bottom line is if I really, truly don’t care if they study law at Harvard, win Wimbledon or are elected to the U.S. Senate, why should I care about whom they chose to love?
I should know better. I do know better. I may once have been scared to tell my dad I’m gay, but that was my issue, not his. The reality is that it didn’t really matter: he loves me unconditionally. Not as his gay son. Just as his son. He loves me for who I am, not for whom he dreamed I might become. I owe it to him to love my kids for who they are, plain and simple.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.