My friend Adam became a dad the old-fashioned way – he was married to a woman for 15 years. Like many couples raised Mormon, they felt the right course of action was to get married, even though Adam had confessed he was gay.
“I actually told her I was gay while we were dating,” he told me. “Initially, we went our separate ways, ultimately ending up back together. We both knew I was gay, but felt we were doing what we were supposed to do to ‘fix’ it. That included having three wonderful kids.”
For many kids, it must be a difficult transition when one parent comes out. Luckily, the Utah Pride Center has several programs to help LGBTQ parents and their kids.
One of those programs is Parents Like Mine. According to Jimmy Lee, the youth and family programs manager, “Parent’s Like Mine is for LGBTQ+ parents to discuss an array of timely topics such as mentoring, navigating extended family support, and discussing school safety, while hosting fun activities for kids.”
Monica Perez, the program’s coordinator added, “We want to foster a community-oriented environment for kids to develop a sense of pride for their own unique family dynamics and connect with other youth who share similar experiences.”
One of the many aspects of the program I think is great is the help it gives parents with the coming out process. “We’re here for parents who are thinking about coming out, those who have been out for an extended period of time, or those who don’t feel pressured to come out at all. We recognize that this journey is deeply personal, and all parents are invited to attend,” Lee added.
Our boys have always known we’re gay, but for Adam’s kids it was different.
“Two years ago, after 15 years of marriage, my wife and I came to the conclusion and agreement that we had given it our all, that we would remain friends, but it was time to go our separate ways,” he said. “Honestly, it was a relief for both of us.”
With that, Adam knew he would have to come out to his kids. “I sat my now 15- and 11-year old boys down and basically told them that I loved their mom but not in a romantic way, that I was attracted to men. I simplified it for my daughter, who is now eight, by saying I liked boys instead of girls.”
His kids have taken it all surprisingly well. His oldest son’s friends even think it’s cool he has a gay dad. (We hear that frequently too.) But they had a lot of questions. “One that reminded me of what phenomenal people they are was if anyone had made fun of me or given me a hard time about being gay. I told them only when I was younger and confused about myself.”
Lee cites the parenting group COLAGE’s suggestions, “Remember, it’s never too late to come out to your kids. Their responses can vary widely, so honor the process they need to go through themselves. And connect them with other kids who have LGBTQ+ parents.”
Adam advises parents who find themselves in a similar situation to love your kids, be there for them, and talk openly with them – about anything. “The most important thing you can do is be yourself and let them see who you are.”
Parents Like Mine meets the first and third Saturday of the month at the Fairyland Preschool, and is free. https://utahpridecenter.org/youth-family-programs/.