I must have been about 11 or 12 when I started writing in a diary. Each page was gilded with gold edges and there was a tiny lock and key that secured the tab that wrapped around them, creating a private sanctuary for my deepest thoughts. Dear Diary, I would write in my large loopy script, and I’d be off and running about my day, my world, my life.
By my teens, aside from writing about boys, I shared with my diary how upset I was over my parent’s divorce; the moments I missed my dad and the ones where I didn’t want to see him ever again. Like most teen-aged girls, I was a hormonal stew just bubbling with all the flavors of my adolescence; a need for self-expression, understanding and attention, to name a few. Finding out Dad was gay during that time boiled me right over the top.
Writing my feelings of betrayal and confusion provided a relief unlike any other. My parents were coping with their new lives, and didn’t realize I might need to talk to someone about how it felt to hold a secret that was bigger than my understanding of it. My shame went onto those pages in my diary, a container to hold the loathing I felt towards my father who dared to be so different from everyone else’s.
As I sought out counselors on my own, I learned the power of my feelings, and my words, and put more of them on paper. Filling dozens of journals over the years has been my therapy, helping me to sort out the flood of thoughts in my head. Each entry creating a snapshot of a moment in time that allows me to remember vividly the tears, or the victory, or the embarrassment of the captured event when I have some distance from it.
Eventually, I became brave enough to share my words with others. I wrote slice of life essays on everything from motherhood to life purpose, rarely going into any depth about my family of origin. Dad loved my writing and it was the one thing I did that I knew he was proud of, although writing anything about him was tricky as he loved to debate our versions of how an incident unfolded. Arguing to defend my truth against his was too hard.
Then he died.
Like a capped well that has been opened and allowed to see daylight, my father’s death unsealed in me a deep reservoir of memories, assumptions and beliefs that I had held tightly inside for decades. Aside from a few rants to my mother, or even directly at Dad, my feelings about being his daughter had been kept in a dark, hidden place. Sure, I could talk about what I thought of having a gay dad, but how it felt? That was another thing entirely.
Rich with raw emotion, the journal entries since that time have become essays, and I’ve felt emboldened by my desire to speak out loud about this family secret. When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality I knew, on that day, that my relationship with my gay father would be the thread that ran through my book, a story that had been growing in me since I was a girl. I sought out other Rainbow Kids and found Laura and the Gay Dad Project, adding my voice to the growing chorus of gay families.
It feels safe to tell my story now, so I write for all those who struggle with family secrets, but even more so for those who struggle with accepting themselves and the people who brought them into the world. For when we have acceptance we can find peace.
My hope is that others will find solace in the truth of my struggle for acceptance of my parents, and the choices they made. And maybe, just maybe, my son accepts me and the ones I’ve made, too.