Finding Out Your Dad is Gay
Guest reporter Olivia talks to a young woman about the experience of finding out that her father is gay.
Coming out can be a really difficult experience, but finding out one of your parents is gay is an entirely different experience. Grace (not her real name) is a 19-year-old university student who found out that the reason for her parents' divorce ten years earlier was because her Father was gay.
This all happened when she was 16. "It was a shock," says Grace. "My parents got divorced when I was six, so I wasn't told the reason why. I just grew up with divorced parents, like so many other people do."
"Then one day my Dad was talking to me late at night about my latest boyfriend fiasco while I was uncontrollably sobbing. His phone kept going off. I realised that his 'friend' John (not his real name) was texting him well past midnight. That's when everything - the frequent interstate trips, him asking us to stay with our Mum when John came to town and so on - came together in my head and made sense."
Grace asked her Dad whether John was more than just a friend.
"He said yes. That was my Dad coming out to me. He's never said the words 'I'm gay' to my brother or me. He's just let us work it out. Maybe he was nervous about telling me, thinking I would no longer accept him as my Dad. So much must have been racing though his mind."
Accepting How Things Are
Grace's Dad had decided to get married even though he was gay, and had kept his new partner out of the picture until his children were in their teens.
"I was angry with him for a while when I realised he married my Mother when he knew he was gay. She told me her feelings about it, which were, and still are, mostly anger and pain. But relationships are never easy. My Dad's made mistakes. We all do - in relationships and in life. Besides, he's my Dad and I love him. I accepted him for who he is - and his mistakes, like I know he would accept me."
Talking to Your Friends About It
After asking Grace whether she kept it a secret from her friends, she laughs a little.
"I didn't really invite people over anyway, because I found explaining the 'two houses' thing tiring. I would often not have certain movies, CDs, games and such at one house because they'd always be at the other house. I just found it easier going to my friends' places because they had everything in the one place."
"But later in 2009 I got a new boyfriend. I couldn't avoid inviting him over forever. So I told him about my Dad and my family. Despite being a religious Christian, he didn't seem to care."
"From then on I started telling really close friends and they have all been great about it. One of my friends told me that my dad being gay was 'awesome as', and that I was 'cool' because of it. Another told me that my life sounds like a soap opera. My Dad laughed when I told him that."
It's More Common Than You Think
Despite Grace's parents' separation and divorce, and her Dad coming out, she has always managed to cope.
"In the beginning, I was scared about telling people about my Dad. I was afraid of being bullied because he was gay and afraid of how my relationship with my Dad was going to change. But he's still the same guy. He just has another guy in his life now. My Dad is happy and I wouldn't want anything to change that."
Through talking to friends about her Dad, Grace found out that one of her friends also has a gay parent.
"My friend hadn't told many people about her mother being gay either. But we've always been able to talk about it to each other. It made me realise how there are more people out there whose parents divorce due to one or both being gay."
Furthermore, Grace's aunt - her Dad's sister - is a lesbian, and just recently had her civil union and her first baby via IVF. "And my Grandma thought she would only ever have two grandchildren," Grace laughs.
Finding Support If You Need It
Grace has always sought support from friends when dealing with the issues of her Dad, but she acknowledges that other people may feel they can't talk to their friends.
"There are plenty of organisations and places to seek support. If you don't feel comfortable talking to friends or family, then counselors at school or university, or organisations like Headspace (new window), Kids Help Line (new window) and Minus18 (new window) can provide support as well."
Grace offers this final piece of advice for people who find out their parents are gay:
"Although being straight is normalised through religion, the media and so on, it doesn't make being gay wrong. They're your parents, no matter their sexuality. Be supportive, like you would want them to be of you. Talk to your parents, friends, anyone you feel comfortable talking to. It will be much easier talking to someone about it than dealing with it alone."
If you or someone you know need someone to talk to, for any reason, about anything, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, 24 hours a day.
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